231 – Life Bites

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

In which DC is out of our bailiwick; Random gets around; someone finally makes an explicit reference to disability politics; death has not improved the Chalkers; Strong Guy can’t catch a break; we’re all whole other people; Sienna Blaze has a crayon name; we totally want to play D&D with Evan Skolnick; a trading card does not a memorable character make; and we are 100% here for the mutant episode of Sesame Street.

  • X-PLAINED:
  • What happened to Fred Duncan
  • Beastwriting
  • Marvel’s 1993 Annuals
  • The speculator boom
  • X-Factor Annual #8
  • Uncanny X-Men Annual #17
  • Excalibur Annual #1
  • Charlie Ronalds (Charon) and his issues
  • A protracted Batman reference
  • How to string pearls
  • A dubious twist on the danger room
  • The pure joy of a child, but twisted and distorted like a shredded butterfly
  • Cloot (Satannish)
  • Howling Mad, by Peter David
  • The greatest enemies of X-Factor (but not really)
  • Cruel and arbitrary moralizing
  • The other X-Cutioner (Carl Denti)
  • A protracted illusion
  • The Amazing Icemaster
  • Metacommentary
  • An accidental trap
  • The death of Jason Wyngarde (Mastermind)
  • Resolution versus forgiveness
  • The other first appearance of Sienna Blaze
  • More wizard stuff
  • Khaos
  • Khaos & Gritty 4 Lyfe
  • Ghath
  • Irth
  • Mutants on Sesame Street
  • Cycling in and out of comics

NEXT EPISODE: Excalibur goes to space!


CORRECTION: Chris Claremont did not in fact write Dragonlance comics.


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27 comments

  1. CountZeroOr says:

    Quick note on DC’s Bloodlines event, that wasn’t the event that Azrael came out of – he was introduced just prior to the Knightfall event, which is where he (briefly) inherited the Cowl. However, it makes sense to think that – as Bloodlines happened contemporaneously with both Knightquest (Jean-Paul Valley’s brief tenure as Batman, and Bruce Wayne’s quest to get his ability to walk restored), and Reign of the Supermen (which introduced Steel, The Eradicator, New Superboy, and the Cyborg).

    As a brief aside, another forum site I’m on had an in-depth readthrough of the Death and Return of Superman event – including that part of the Bloodlines event. If there are no objections, I can post a link here – it’s a good read through (and a fun event – particularly since it was partially written by X-alum Louise Simonson).

    • CountZeroOr says:

      Oh, and while Clairemont didn’t write Dragonlance – he did write Star Wars – where he did the Clairemont-random-ancillary character introduction in one of his stories… albeit for an Imperial Stormtrooper who gets shot by Leia.

      (According to Wikipedia, while, as you mentioned, Clairemont didn’t write Dragonlance comics, Roy Thomas did!)

  2. Voord 99 says:

    Scattered thoughts:-

    – The Angry Claremontian Narrator is now the Jaded Claremontian Narrator. Plus, at the end, the X-Cutioner seemed to become the Sexy X-Cutioner. Which I suppose would be the Sex-Cutioner. Which is probably a thing that exists and no, I’m not going to put that into a search engine.

    – I must admit, while the Mastermind story isn’t 100% explicit that you’re supposed to forgive him, I think it’s putting its thumb quite strongly on that side of the scales.

    I mean, there’s this: “People make mistakes, Jason. Sometimes it’s a momentary lapse of judgment. Once in a while, it’s an entire lifetime spent charging off in the wrong direction. You’re one of the fortunate few who got a chance to make amends. And I was fortunate enough to have shared that experience with you.” Also: … this woman possesses attributes that are uniquely human. Such as compassion… …forgiveness… …and love. Things like Jean kissing Wyngarde on the forehead (when he’s dead, and it will do nothing to comfort him — it has to be an expression of how Jean is supposed to feel, I think). Etc.

    At a minimum, Jean considers Wyngarde to have “made amends” and Jean is displaying “forgiveness.” Obviously, the reader does not have to endorse that stance, but I don’t think the story undercuts or ironizes it in any way — I think we probably should take Jean as being presented as doing the right thing. Of course, one does not have to agree with the story about that. I think the minimizing of Mastermind’s culpability is a definite flaw, in fact.

    – I thought Jay was 100% right about how this annual sums up Peter David’s X-Factor. There’s all this stuff in it that’s good, but there’s also really terrible stuff.

    In fact, I don’t know that our hosts were hard enough on the “Your mother was no better than she should be!” twist. Because in context, it’s presented as making it entirely reasonable that Charon’s relatives refused to take him in when he was orphaned! I mean, what?

    Plus there’s the fascinating detail that Charon’s mother was a “high-priced hussy.” Presumably this is meant to explain why she and her husband could have appeared like well-dressed respectable people who could afford nice things like pearls instead of looking like the degenerates they were. When you bear in mind that this is “instead of being Thomas and Martha Wayne,” there’s a definite sense of “Fooled you! You thought they were decent WASP aristocrats who acquired their money the way the Lord intended, by inheriting it from ancestors who committed genocide in the colonial period. But no, they’re really those kinds of people.”

    It’s a shame, because I would rather like a X-story built around a Batman riff. One of thing that surprises me is how rarely discussions of the origin of the superhero genre in the interwar period take into account that masked vigilantism directed at terrorizing “criminals” wasn’t a fantasy, but something that was happening in real life on a large scale, although it trailed off in the 1930s. Mostly in the South, but not by any means entirely. (For instance, as our hosts are probably aware, Portland had one of the highest per capita Klan memberships in the country.)

    Now, there are a lot of different things that went into the origins of the superhero (which is probably why it’s such a fertile area for genre hybrids), and this is only one. But it is one: when you have a clone of the Shadow like Batman, who wears a mask and is explicitly about using private violence to terrorize the wrong sort of person, there is no way to say that is not (among other things) aligning itself with night-riding in some way.

    So an X-book would be a great place to pull out the way in which celebrating masked vigilantism, as superhero stories tend to do, involves occluding the way in which actual masked vigilantism has historically functioned to terrorize minority populations in the US.

    – I really liked the Guido back-up story, though. Especially the way in which the irony at the end strikes you: that the story is actually saying that, no, Guido has no hope that his fellow humans will ever behave any better, and the only affection he can hope for is from a dumb animal that (as the story has pointed out) cannot understand what is going on.

  3. Janna says:

    1. The only character that stuck around from Bloodlines was Hitman. I think Tom Taylor mentioned Hitman when he was on the podcast.

    2. Due to Marvel’s compressed timeline Charon’s parents could have died in the late 80’s but it looked like the 60’s to the reader. (Please send my No Prize.)

    • Mike Murdock says:

      It doesn’t solve the issue, though, unless Random ages more slowly. The point is the story happened when Strong Guy was a kid. Now that Strong Guy is an adult, Random is still a kid, which means he should have been born much more recently. It’s relative ages that are the issue.

      • Janna says:

        Let’s see… Random’s a shapeshifter. Mystique is also a shapeshifter and Mystique ages slower than normal. So, we can’t assume how old Random is from his appearance. (Send my second No Prize, please.)

    • Icon_UK says:

      Sparx also stuck around for a good few years after Bloodlines,and there was a team book for a short period of time, The Bloodpack!!!

      But yeah they mostly showed up to be killed off in crowd scenes come the next Crisis.

      • Janna says:

        I found an issue of Bloodpack in the quarter bin a few years ago. It was very bland and didn’t live up to it’s title.

        • Icon_UK says:

          IIRC even the members of the team felt it was a stupid name, but it’s what the marketing department went with.

          They were only called New Bloods because…. well, since they were created by aliens who were (for no adequately explained reason) analogues of the Seven Deadly Sins sucking on their spinal fluid (rather than blood) it all seemed a little… ad hoc?

    • Voord 99 says:

      Hold it a second. How come “Hitman” isn’t spelled “Hytman”? Wasn’t it a rule that everything had to look vaguely like Middle English? Because the one thing that everyone knows is that Chaucer is just so badass.

      • Janna says:

        I should explain, Tommy’s is a hitman, therefore the title of the book is his job title. But, he hangs out at a bar with other hitmen. So, shouldn’t the title be Hitmen? But, Dogwelder is a dude who weld’s dead dogs to people, but it’s also his superhero name. It’s a weird book.

        • Voord 99 says:

          Oh, I’ve read it. I was just making a dumb joke about the ‘90s’ general belief in the magic power of the letter y. Apologies if you took it as a jibe directed towards a beloved piece of Ennisian inventive cynicism.

          • Janna says:

            Nah, no offense taken. I just never get a chance to talk about Hitman. (Wow, X-Plain the X-Men is the most polite place on the internet.)

            • Voord 99 says:

              Well, I seemed to upset kakopolvr quite a bit with my snarky Oscar Wilde reference on the subject UXM #303, so I’m erring on the side of caution at the moment.

          • Icon_UK says:

            The homophonic-typo name (see also one of my favourite quotes from a villain; “Hi, the name’s Hi-Tek! Make sure the papers spell my name wrong”) is a comic book tradition that goes all the way back to Jack Kirby himself! See examples such as Makkari and Sersei of the Eternals, Darkseid and Izaya of the New Gods and… well, there are a goodly number.

  4. Sheliak says:

    I remain convinced that the Bishop parents just had radically different ideas about appropriate names for their children, and the only compromise possible was letting one of them name the first kid and the other name the second.

    Khaos’s secret origin is indeed a delight.

    • Voord 99 says:

      I think that when Lucas was very young, he was teased by the other children for having a weird old-fashioned name, and so his parents decided to give their next child a normal name like the other children would have.. It was good luck for Shard, as otherwise she would have been called “Katherine,” and you know how cruel children can be.

  5. Mat says:

    I love the Grover/Beast combo so much!

    • Icon_UK says:

      For all that X-Men: The Last Stand is a bad movie and the actor himself seems a little weird, Kelsey Grammars Beast would be awesome to see on Sesame Street.

    • W. H. Rad says:

      Beast as written by Scott Lobdell in “Nightlines” would be the best.

      Beast as written by Grant Morrison would tell Grover lies.

  6. Devin says:

    I wonder if Cloot is a reference to Klute, the movie Jane Fonda starred in where she played a sex worker (and won an Oscar for it)? If the (awful, not funny) punch line is that the summoner was the son of sex workers, I wouldn’t put it past David, from everything you guys have pointed out about how far he’ll go for a name gag.

  7. OMG, hilarious. Thank you, gentlemen, from the bottom of my nerdy heart!

    Your mention of watching Excalibur roll dice in a comic reminded me that if you’re into that sort of thing, maybe check out NEW WARRIORS #68, in which I managed to spend nearly an entire issue depicting the team playing Risk. 🙂

    • W. H. Rad says:

      I am impressed that you managed to write such an entertaining issue of Excalibur with your D&D character in it that two people who have been featured in an X-Men comic as themselves were jealous of it. Well done.

  8. UHHH, the X-Cutioner’s the worst!

    • W. H. Rad says:

      Quite late, but I would like to posit that Siena Blaze was worse than X-Cutioner. Her powers, apparently, caused damage to something integral to continued life on the planet Earth all so she could make flashy entrances.
      https://marvel.fandom.com/wiki/Siena_Blaze_(Earth-616)

      X-Cutioner was just confusing and mean. At least this time when Colossus can’t transform the resolution doesn’t involve Masque.

      • Icon_UK says:

        Yeah, Siena Blaze always seemed like the sort of character who would have a very short lifespan as a villain since, as she can’s dial her powers down, EVERY time she uses her powers as the link says;

        “The released energy would tear a hole in the local electromagnetic field and repeated use of her power would theoretically destroy the planet.

        Even limited use of her abilities could potentially cause catastrophic ecological changes to the planet.”

        This is someone you get into a series like Guardians of the Galaxy, or in fact anywhere off planet.

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