198 – How to Destroy the Universe Without Really Trying

Art by David Wynne. Wanna buy the original? Drop him a line!

In which Excalibur goes 16-bit platformer; Alysande gets new threads; Shadowcat should probably just change her code name to Ripley; Captain Britain may or may not destroy the universe; Doctor Doom tries his hand at human resources; Excalibur is at home with weirdness; and no lizard needs breasts.

X-PLAINED:

  • Invisible Boy
  • Human heralds of Galactus
  • Excalibur Special Editions
  • Excalibur: Air Apparent
  • Excalibur: XX Crossing
  • Dr. Jonothon Cayre
  • Norm the LMD
  • Lava pits of Scotland
  • Some dubious herpetology
  • Eric the Cyborg (Coldblood-7)
  • Robert Cop
  • Special Man
  • Air-Walker and/or Gabriel Lam
  • A cosmic explosion
  • Captain Britain’s extra costume
  • Sidestep
  • An exceptionally awkward job interview
  • A counterintuitive plan
  • The other time-displaced X-Men
  • The best version of Angel
  • Angel’s third-greatest nemesis
  • Gladiator Hank
  • A very fancy vest
  • The best Excalibur Special Edition
  • The Phalanx vs. the Technarchy
  • Warlock vs. gender
  • Our thoughts on Avengers: Infinity War

Note: according to the letter column from Excalibur #54, at least some of the art credits for Excalibur: XX Crossing were incorrect, so some of our descriptions of who drew what in this episode are wrong. See the comments below for more information!

NEXT EPISODE: Shattershot!


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38 comments

  1. Gabriel Garbow says:

    It almost pains me to point this out, since Miles was so enthusiastic about much of the pencil art in “XX Crossing”… However, the issue appears to have omitted one of the artistic teams, thus throwing the credits off for many of the chapters. As someone who spent most of my teens and young adulthood ‘studying’ comic art, I feel fairly secure in asserting that the Meggan chapter was penciled by Brian Stelfreeze, again. Therefore, the penciling credits by chapter should be:
    –Lightle – Opening sequence
    –Lim – Capt Britain
    –Stelfreeze – Meggan
    –Turner – Kylun
    –Madureira – Nightcrawler
    –Lee – Shadowcat
    –Jones – Cerise
    –Leonardi – Team melee
    –Lightle – Closing sequence
    I hope this helps.

    • Miles says:

      Thanks for the catch! According to the Excalibur #54 letter column, Stelfreeze and Karl Story did indeed draw the Meggan story, and your list makes a lot more sense in terms of art style. I’ll add a note to the episode copy!

  2. Damien says:

    When you were listing the artists for XX-Crossing you missed out the Meggan/Avenging Angel being drawn by Brian Stelfreeze and Karl Story. They were incorrectly left off the credits and there was a correction in an Excalibur letter column. They definitely need credit for their amazing work.

    Coldblood 7 always reminded me more of Blade Runner than Robocop as the plot of the MCP story was very much based on characters appearing human but turning out to be androids. The whole thing was pretty disturbing particularly as the artist (Paul Gulacy) had a tendency to draw lifeless women at that time which imbued the story with extra creepiness. It was very much Robocop meets sex-dolls.

    Finally, do we all think it’s too late to convince Marvel to do a WWII Avenging Angel series? I’d love to see that.

  3. M says:

    Miles doesn’t remember the perfectly baseline human priest from that one arc of Matt Fraction’s Thor who became the herald of Galactus?

    I’m judging you so hard now! 😉

    • Damien says:

      Not a baseline human but every one should take a moment to remember the best Herald ever – Dazzler!

  4. Ggodo says:

    I think my big problem with Air Apparent is that Meggan should’ve just gone for the Metal Blades in the first place, and cruised through rest of those missions.

    Also, semi-unrelated, but it looks like the Strucker Twins have Magic cards now: https://www.reddit.com/r/magicTCG/comments/8l1grl/bbd_will_and_rowan_kenrith/

  5. The Lonely Sand Person says:

    I have to admit, I was pretty disappointed that a story called “XX Crossing” didn’t involve a gender-swapped version of Excalibur.

    • Icon_UK says:

      We had that a while back, in Margaret Thatcher’s dream of hst Excalibur “should” be. See Episode 161, and the visual companion.

      Now if it had been XXX Crossing, I think it would have do be sold in a plain brown wrapper on the top shelf.

  6. David says:

    Re: Infinity War, I just about LOST MY MIND when Groot did the thing with the thing and then Thor did the thing.

  7. Voord 99 says:

    Having listened to the podcast and read XX Crossing, a couple of thoughts:

    – It’s not just “elucidating.” Hank-as-Roman also says something about Kurt’s “supernatural stature.” There are a lot of things about Kurt’s appearance that might provoke such a comment, but his stature? I’d say that he’s a little below average height, maybe.

    This reminds of reading early Dan Jurgens Thor, which contains a lot of these malapropisms. (And then the later part doesn’t have them, and is also really good for other reasons.) One acquires a whole new appreciation for Stan Lee’s willingness to open the [expletive deleted] dictionary.

    – I think there is some specific language about Kurt learning Latin in “Catholic school.” However, that he speaks it fluently is a *bit* of a stretch. And has a word for “teleport,”

    – Overall, XX Crossing is one of those stories where the idea has interesting possibillities that the story doesn’t really develop. The original X-Men occupy an odd position, because they’re not really the original X-Men. The original X-Men are Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, Colossus, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Banshee. The Silver Age X-Men are this thing that hangs around in the background of a series that really began in the ‘70s.

    So having Excalibur, a spin-off X-book that itself maybe doesn’t quite fit, confront this part of the X-past that doesn’t quite fit, could be interesting. And one can see how thematically that could work with the visiting the different pasts as part of the plot. But this didn’t really seem to do much with that, or with anything else, really.

    – I’m assuming that Cerise had been defined as Shi’ar in the main book by this point, because she was made to seem rather Shi’ar in this.

    • David Morris says:

      Yes, even if one was fluent in the Latin taught in the 20th century the chances of comprehension with someone speaking the colloquial Latin of 1500 years ago seem slight.

  8. Count_Zero says:

    So, to get “Count_Zero Contextualizes Comics Through Anime/Manga”, by this point anymore I mentally picture King Arthur as Arturia Pendragon (and me seeing the first of the Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel movies in theaters soon isn’t going to help).

    Other than that – I’m kinda surprised that Excalibur is as well known as they are (in-universe), considering the lion’s share of their adventures to date have been in alternate universes.

    • Icon_UK says:

      Makes you wonder if there were some alt-Excalibur teams visiting 616 during the Cross Time Caper and we’ve just never heard about them. There does sometimes seem to be tradeoff in mass to make up for such hops.

  9. Icon_UK says:

    Aunt May as Golden Oldie was indeed, the best Herald.

    Nice to have the Phalanx/Tehcnarchy difference so neatly summarised!

    Warlock and gender is a fascinating concept. He seems happy enough to identify as male, but I agree he probably viewed it as a coin toss to save the confusion of having to explain the glory that was the Technarchy approach to such things, to the poor, limited, relatively-binary-ish fixed-form entities who had been nice to him.

    He did eventually start referring to Magus, not as his father, but as “Siredam” which covers both a male and a female parental aspect, in human terms, so he seemed to be trying to expand the concept to his friends.

    Warlock also didn’t seem to have any dissonance during the time when he had Doug’s DNA encoded into his, during the “M-Tech: Warlock” series, when he could access Cypher’s powers as well as his own because he was now part human at some level… but it’s possible that was still, to him, an appendix, rather than fundamental.

    • Si says:

      I normally like Peter David’s writing, but his treatment of Warlock in the newest iteration of X-Factor just made no sense. He was in love with a lady robot and eventually had robot sex with her? They might call him a “him”, but Warlock has always been portrayed as sexless. It’s a whole other level of not getting his alien-ness.

      I’ll admit the character Danger makes no sense to me either, on any level, so that probably made it worse for me.

      • Icon_UK says:

        Has Warlock been sexless? “He” is the gender he chose when establishing communicating with humans and never corrected as his understanding of humans grew. “He” is not a neutral term, it has implications. I can’t imagine the New Mutants having a problem if Warlock said he’d like to identify as “she” or “they” from now on.

        In terms of a sexuality (as opposed to gender, sorry, I wasn’t sure which notion of “sexless” you were thinking of, so am probably overthinking) Warlock’s relationship with Doug (especially their Douglock merge) has enough undertones/Claremontian subtext to fairly easily be read as akin to a sexual relationship.

        Danger is an character I don’t quite get either, but she (and again “she” was a conscious choice on her part) is sentient machinery and as such is probably closer to Warlock’s concept of natural “life” than anything else he’s met that wasn’t a Technarch.

        Not to gainsay your own POV of course.

        • Voord 99 says:

          This is a difficult area, where one has to face up to how sexism and patriarchy are marbled into language. It’s both true and not true that “he” isn’t genderless.

          Historically, “man” has tended to be the “unmarked” category, with women as the marked category, different and lesser. “He” can be genderless, historically, as a generic masculine.* “Let him speak now, or forever hold his peace” does not mean that only men can object. But it’s complicated, because this does reproduce the idea that men are “normal” human persons, and that women are divergences from this norm, and therefore potentially less than fully human.

          If one compares “To boldly go where no *man* has gone before,” “man” is strictly being used as a synonym for “human being.” But one would have to be very naive not to see in this also a reference to exploration as a stereotypically masculine activity, and to courage as a stereotypically masculine quality — and that, seeing as Star Trek is largely about claiming to define what is human or what is best about being human, does reinforce the gender politics problems of TOS.

          Warlock was “he” because we have to be very vigilant not to default to “he,” because sexism. (And it was the ‘80s.) Similarly, the Impossible Man is a man, and it was a long time before it occurred to anyone that Skrulls might not default to male or have stable gender identities at all/

          • Icon_UK says:

            “Man” in the generic plural sense of “Mankind” is a broader implied category and I agree with your points about the problems that presents, but Warlock is an individual, so choosing “he” is specific to him.

            (I had a loooong diatribe about Trek here, but it was wandering into defining humanity rather than discussing gender identity, so I cut it. You can thank me later, because having re-read it you really should 🙂 )

            Impossible Man may be a man, but even in the 1980’s there was the Thing team-up story where Impy, thinking he was the last of his kind, then realised that he didn’t need to be, separated off a chunk of his own mass which promptly changed itself into the independent entity which became the Impossible Woman.

            See also Legion of Super-Heroes, where in the 80’s we got our first non-binary member, the entity called Quislet, who used “it”, but it took another thirty years for our second one, when in one of the modern reboots the character usually known as “Chameleon Boy” was reintroduced from the start as the genderless “Chameleon”.

            • Voord 99 says:

              I must admit that I’m not entirely comfortable with “Warlock is an individual.”

              I’m a bit worried that’s the same argument as “Starfire chooses to go around naked. Because she’s comfortable with her body, and that’s her choice. As an individual who’s proud of her Tamaranian culture! Who are you to tell her she can’t do that?”

              Which is based on ignoring the detail that Starfire isn’t a real person. She’s a creation of male creators and while she, in-story, isn’t trying to titillate readers of the comic, that doesn’t mean that she’s not an exercise in titillation.

              Now, Warlock doesn’t represent anything like as culpable as that. But I do tend to think that the reason why Warlock was represented as identifying as male when created has something to do with male being tacitly assumed to be the default norm. And that’s not automatically something that one has to respect and preserve — just as the fact that Sue Storm was endlessly going on about her “female intuition” in Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four does not mean that one has to replicate 1960s sexism as part of her depiction nowadays.

              This is a reasonably easy retcon, with free bonus metatextual commentary: just say that Warlock used “he” because the other New Mutants assigned it to Warlock, for the same reason that Claremont did.

              On the other hand, there’s the question of what was done with Warlock as identifying as male and whether that makes it a bad idea to undo that. I thought you brought up something important in your reply to Si about the ways in which the Doug-Warlock relationship is coded as a same-sex romantic relationship. Redefining Warlock as genderless probably does involve some element of erasure, and that’s not a road one should go down.

              Another place where it may matter that Warlock identifies as male is that so much of his character is built around heightened Oedipal stuff. Since one of our hosts has a degree in psychology, I’ll quickly shove in the note that, from an empirical point of view, Freud’s theories about childhood development have proven, let’s say, questionable. But from a storytelling perspective, that they’re invalid just makes them important in a different way, because it means that the immense success and popular acceptance of the Oedipus complex as an idea is a tremendously important cultural fact about the 20th century. It was a story that for decades we liked to tell over and over again, because it spoke to something about where we were.

              Obviously, the son overthrowing his father is a much older narrative, one that goes back to some of our earliest surviving stories from the ancient Near East. It’s a twisted coming-of-age narrative, obviously, and as such is ideally suited to the New Mutants. Freud purported to be explaining such stories as psychological universals, but (in my opinion, anyway – apologies to any remaining Freudians out there) what he was actually doing was retelling them and recasting them in forms updated to reflect the 20th century’s tensions around gender identity. That makes Oedipal stuff not only meaningful to explore, but great fodder for the New Mutants in particular.

              (The title is shot through with problematic fathers and father-figures. Magus is just the most extreme. Damn, I am talking myself into liking what Simonson did with Magneto.)

              One thing that concerns me, though, is when you put the Oedipal elements together with the coded same-sex relationship. At that point, this is open to the Freudian reading that Warlock is gay because he’s defined by his bad relationship with his father, and, yeah, there’s some Bad Stuff there.

              This comment is already far too long, but the next thing is obviously to layer in that Warlock is a vampire, and vampire stories are pretty much always about sex.

              • Icon_UK says:

                You raise, as alwys, some valid points, and I have to say I’d never considered the gay-subtext/bad-dad as a thing, though Magus’ disapproval of Warlock having merged with Doug is canon.

                My knowledge of Freud is limited to pop-culture, so I don’t feel qualified to comment on that.

                Of course, there’s also the real-world aspect of team building. Claremont was ahead of the curve in many ways, and the New Mutants had started with three females and two males, and (though they’d lost Karma) he’d just added two new female members in Magma and Magik, so he may have wanted to create a balance by adding more males (And referring to Warlock as “it” might have led to the assumption he was a robot.

                But yes, Warlock is a vampire and transmode virus was a much better analogy for STI than the Legacy Virus.

                • Ggodo says:

                  My Freud is limited to “My psych 101 prof said that nobody follows his views anymore and he was not worth discussing.” That and lots and lots of oedipal cocaine.

                • Voord 99 says:

                  Oh, I don’t really know all that much either. Just enough to know that it might be one of the more likely things to provoke an “Umm, actually…”. So I thought I should cover myself with a disclaimer.

                  But I think it’s the pop-cultural stuff that matters, or the cultural stuff, pop and otherwise. That can inform New Mutants no matter what the actual validity of all this is.

                  One thing that I don’t know about Warlock is why he’s called Warlock and his father Magus, which even at the time struck me as treading on Starlin’s toes. One wonders if there are all these call to arms in the MU, with people saying “We have to help Warlock fight Magus!” and other people saying “Wait, are you talking about Adam Warlock or the other one?”

        • Si says:

          Yeah sorry, I meant to type “asexual”, I have trouble with names sometimes. He’s never shown any romantic interest in anything, he hasn’t even humourously tried to woo a microwave oven, as robots often do. Part of that is he’s meant to be an innocent child, of course.

          I think he had a relationship with Wolfsbane in Excalibur at one point? But it being Warlock was a retcon, I believe. I don’t know, I didn’t read it.

          • Icon_UK says:

            Yes, it’s a complicated business, and I’m never quite sure I’m using the right words either, if that’s any consolation.

            I’d agree that Warlock is mostly asexual, but that’s from a human perspective. His species does not reproduce sexually and he was born on a technorganic production line. He is acknowledged as the offpsring of Magus, his siredam, and how THAT all works has never been explicitly made clear.

            Warlock is a mutant Technarch, inasmuch as he has emotions that most of them do not; he has compassion, cowardice and, I’d suggest, love.

            I would further suggest his relationship with Doug is as close to an explicitly sexual one as it’s possible to get between a Technarch and a human. They have a strong relationship, are emotionally involved with each other, and have done the Douglock merge (Which our beloved hosts described back in episode 63 as “Subtext: not just for the ladies!”) and whilst it’s not sexual in a purely human sense, I think it is in the context of their specific relationship.

            Warlock learns and grows and his may be his closeness with Doug and his other friends (and spent some time with Doug’s DNA fused with his own, so this may have expandedd his idea of what sexuality means to him, and Danger as an entity is sort of an inbetween state human and Technarch.

            Douglock in Excalibur (who I privately think of as Dougloock 2.0) did have a romantic relationship with Wolfsbane (Of course the fact that Rahne then goes off and starts a somewhat dodgy relationship with Elixir (one of her pupils), does suggest that Rahne might have a preference for (literally) golden skinned blond guys, but that’s neither here nor there 🙂 ).

            I count Douglock 2.0 as a distinct entity from Warlock, as Warlock’s memories and personality didn’t inform any of his choices and even his Doug memories were second hand and not “his” (The comparison I usually use is that he’s got them like he’s got someone else’s family photo collection, which might be meaningful and informative, without being something one has a personal link to). Douglock 2.0’s choices were his own.

            I _might_ have ovrthought this one over a period of several decades, sorry that you’re caught in the resulting backwash! 🙂

  10. That Guy From ECCC With The Family Of On Point Hair says:

    I feel like any discussion of Megaman 2 requires a link to this work of genius:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opADNvgeZYY

    Hope you’ve got your leaf shield.

  11. Kitiny says:

    Still no xfactor? 🙁

    • Miles says:

      We accidentally got way ahead of ourselves with X-Factor. Since we try to keep our coverage of all the titles lined up with each other based on when they came out, that means we have a big gap. Look for some X-Factor stuff in next week’s Shattershot episode and then another full X-Factor episode a few weeks or so after that!

  12. Jack Cameron says:

    Miles, if you fancy a drive north to Tacoma next weekend, we have a theater playing Robocop on the big screen next Saturday night.

    https://www.facebook.com/events/2113126128923643/

  13. Michael Heide says:

    Dr. Jo Cayre sounds like an obvious pseudonym for a certain Gotham clown.

    Also, Air-Walker needs a handlebar mustache. It would improve his design by roughly 2000%.

  14. Porthos Fitz Sh'iar Empress says:

    The same year as XX Crossing (1992) Spider-Man #25 came out with a similar story where Arcade seeks revenge against Cap Britain and Spider-Man using VR tech (yes, 90s virtual reality headset technology, it was a big deal for a few months that year I guess); I remember buying both XX Crossing and this SpM issue at the same time so to me they always get kind of mashed up together. Excalibur is in the issue so briefly that I doubt you all would cover it but I just wanted to mention it since the timing of the publication for both seems intentional and the SpM issue is a fun, quick read to act as a sort of addendum to the special Excalibur issue.

    Also, thanks for the mention of the Robocop fan remake, never heard of it but did I enjoy watching it this weekend; sadly my husband hated it but that just made us laugh even harder.

  15. CitizenX says:

    I have a feeling that the reason there were so many Excalibur special editions all came down to the fact that Mojo Mayhem made a ton of money. There’s an Art Adams interview where he talks about getting a nice royalty check from that book.

  16. Karl Hiller says:

    While Googling Robert Cop toy images, I found what might be the xenomorph-headed baddie that Kitty fights, if he took off his armor and was a naked dude underneath. Coincidence…..? http://www.bloodywhisper.com/specialman-robert-cop-and-the-rise-of-the-knock-offs.

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