In which we meet Miles’s favorite X-Man; Longshot is Secret Wars II done right; we are fairly committed to the idea of Ann Nocenti as a post-apocalyptic daredevil superhero; Longshot is patient zero of the ‘90s; Ricochet Rita is the best; luck is a zero-sum commodity; Mojo is legitimately terrifying; and nuance is Longshot’s secret weakness.
The Body Shop
Several ill-advised body swaps
Rachel Summers Syndrome
The evolution of Art Adams
The metaphysics of luck
The secret origin of pouches
A large number of pop culture allusions
The social economics of jetpacks
A whole lot of social satire and commentary
Luck as a zero-sum commodity
Longshot and Dazzler’s star sigils
Finding (or creating) your comics community
NEXT WEEK: The Trial of Magneto!
You can find a visual companion to this episode on our blog!
In Episode 43, we talked at some length about Stewart Cadwall, the Steve Gerber caricature from Secret Wars II. As a follow-up, it’s our great pleasure to welcome Douglas Wolk for an extended look at the real-life context around the character. -R
As Episode 43 mentions, Stewart Cadwall–the whiny ex-comics-writer-gone-Hollywood who comes in for special opprobrium in Secret Wars II #1–is very clearly based on the late Steve Gerber. A little historical background is probably useful here. Gerber and artist Val Mayerik created Howard the Duck in 1973 (he first appeared in a Man-Thing story in Adventure Into Fear #19). Within a few years, Howard had become a pop-culture mini-phenomenon, getting his own comic book series and, in 1977, a daily newspaper strip. Gerber never actually won the Shazam Award that Cadwall brandishes (those were presented by the Academy of Comic Book Arts between 1971 and 1975), although he did win an Inkpot Award in 1978.
Marvel fired Gerber from both the Howard comic book and the daily strip in 1978; this article and its supporting documents go into extensive detail on that period. Subsequent Howard stories were written by Bill Mantlo, Marv Wolfman and a few other people, while Gerber went on to create the animated series Thundarr the Barbarian (of which Secret Wars II‘s Thundersword is a parody).
In 1980, Gerber wrote a graphic novel called Stewart the Rat, starring a Howard-esque character, drawn by former Howard artist Gene Colan and Tom Palmer (with permission from Marvel!), and published by Eclipse. The same year, he filed a suit against Marvel over the rights to Howard; the short-lived Destroyer Duck series, initially written by Gerber and drawn by Jack Kirby, was put together to raise funds for Gerber’s legal bills. By the end of 1982, though, Gerber and Marvel settled the case.
When Gerber returned to writing for Marvel a couple of years later, it was for a 1983 graphic novel and (what was to be a) six-issue 1984 miniseries published by Marvel’s adult-readers imprint Epic, Void Indigo, with Mayerik once again drawing. Void Indigo, set in L.A., was more or less the kind of “blatant gore” that the Stewart Cadwall character talks about; it was axed after two issues of the miniseries were published.
Secret Wars II #1, written by Jim Shooter, who’d become Marvel’s editor-in-chief in 1978, was published in March, 1985. (Shooter has noted that Stewart Cadwall’s last name was originally going to be Gadwall, as in the duck, and claimed that “Steve loved it. He even sent me a rave fan letter.”) Relations between Gerber and Marvel had by this point thawed to the point that Shooter asked Gerber to write a new Howard the Duck story in advance of the Howard movie that was then in the works–a planned two-parter called “Howard the Duck’s Secret Crisis II.” The script for the first issue appears here. It’s a very direct parody of Secret Wars II, involving the Brotherhood of Evil Prepositions: the Arounder, the Withiner, the Amonger, the Underneather, the Betweener, and Of.
Shooter admired it: he later called it “fitting, perfect revenge for Secret Wars II #1.” But he wanted to change the part of the script where Gerber savaged the Howard stories he hadn’t written. They couldn’t come to an agreement on it, and the new Gerber story was never drawn. The next Howard the Duck comic to be published, #32 (which appeared with a January 1986 cover date), had been written by Steven Grant, apparently several years earlier.
Gerber didn’t write anything else for Marvel until 1988, after Shooter had been fired as editor-in-chief. He eventually wrote a few more Howard the Duck stories, including an issue of Spider-Man Team-Up that unofficially crossed over with a Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck one-shot (here’s Tom Brevoort’s commentary on it and Gerber’s response), and a Marvel MAX miniseries in which Howard became a mouse.
Douglas Wolk writes about comics and music for a bunch of places, and recently wrote Judge Dredd: Mega-City Two. His favorite mutant is Martha Johansson. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Art by David Wynne. Prints, cards, and travel mugs available until 2/15/2015 in the shop, or contact David for the original.
Heroes! (Secret Wars #1)
Villains! (Secret Wars #1)
Battleworld! (Secret Wars #1)
“Also, we’ll totally show up DC and Kenner!” (Secret Wars #1)
Doctor Doom: ever the opportunist. (Secret Wars #1)
This is the best panel of Secret Wars. You can stop reading now. (Secret Wars #1)
DON’T HELP DOCTOR DOOM UP. (Secret Wars #1)
“Damn,” thinks Doom, “If I could do that, those jerky heroes would NEVER have offered to help me up.” (Secret Wars #2)
So, yeah, that happens. (Secret Wars #3)
Johnny Storm: The smoothest man in the Marvel Universe. Also, this raises some questions. Why not spell out “four”? Does he pronounce it differently? Make a hand signal? IT’S A MYSTERY. (Secret Wars #4)
How did this get past the CCA? Who the hell knows. (Secret Wars #5)
Man, if I got super high with a guy I was into and then hallucinated Secret Wars, that would pretty much be the end of that relationship. (Secret Wars #5)
“Ohhhhh, the OTHER Spider-Woman.” (Secret Wars #7)
‘Kay. (Secret Wars #8)
Meet Klaw. (Secret Wars #9)
THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY THIS CAN POSSIBLY END POORLY. (Secret Wars #10)
Yeah, Colossus, but would you tumble 4 her? (Secret Wars #11)
Seriously, did these guys learn NOTHING from the Cold War? (Secret Wars #11)
Okay, that’s legitimately a pretty cool gimmick. (Secret Wars #12)
MEET YOUR PROTAGONIST. (Secret Wars II #1)
Stewart “Unflattering Caricature of Steve Gerber” Cadwall. (Secret Wars II #1)
Wellp. (Secret Wars II #1)
He’s never actually seen food, but damnit, he’s played River City Ransom! (Secret Wars II #2)
Can you imagine being any of the people the Beyonder interacts with? (Secret Wars II #2)
Remember that time Peter Parker had to teach a cosmic entity to poop? BECAUSE THAT CERTAINLY HAPPENED. (Secret Wars II #2)
Seriously, it’s all downhill from here. (Secret Wars II #2)
This will propel the plot of like two months of other comic books. Not even joking. (Secret Wars II #2)
So, then that happens. (Secret Wars II #3)
There is literally no romantic or sexual relationship in this series that is okay by any reasonable definition. Also note that AMAZING block of “next issue” text. (Secret Wars II #4)
Boom-Boom is the hands-down best thing to come out of Secret Wars II. (Secret Wars II #5)
Jim Shooter’s X-Men: “Mutant kid in need? NAH, LET’S KILL A DUDE!” (Secret Wars II #5)
Even the Thing is having trouble maintaining enthusiasm for this debacle. (Secret Wars II #7)
This is roughly how Rachel imagines Marvel Editorial circa 1985.
Reasonable. (Secret Wars II #8)
The Beyonder: Definitely a really sympathetic protagonist. (Secret Wars II #8)
GOD FUCKING DAMNIT. (Secret Wars II #8)
Remember this, because it will have hella repercussions down the line. (Secret Wars II #9)
Ah, Molecule Man, one of the unforgettable heavy-hitters of the Marvel Universe. (Secret Wars II #9)
Remember that time a bunch of heroes saved the universe by murdering a baby? (Secret Wars II #9)
In which we cover 21 issues in one episode; Secret Wars is a toy commercial; Jim Shooter’s X-Men are not the X-Men to which we are accustomed; Doctor Doom makes a surprisingly benevolent god; Secret Wars II is neither secret nor a war; The Beyonder learns to poop; and Boom-Boom is the best thing to come out of Secret Wars.
The not-particularly-secret origin of Secret Wars
The Wrecking Crew
Titania and Volcana
Secret Wars II
The Passion of Jim Shooter
What people do
What it means to be Spider-Man
Boom-Boom (Tabitha Smith)
The time a bunch of superheroes saved the universe by killing a baby
NEXT WEEK: Legion, with Si Spurrier!
You can find a visual companion to this episode on our blog!
This ridiculous motherfucker who is now THREE PEOPLE. What the hell, Fantomex?
This isn’t Cyclops’s worst vacation. Hell, it’s not even his worst honeymoon. (X-Men #176)
Wolverine and Mariko: dealing with relationship issues like grown-ups. We choose to believe that wearing a mask that looks like your hair is a prerogative of adulthood. (X-Men #176)
You’d REALLY THINK Scott would know what an octopus looks like by now, but I guess he was blindfolded for a lot of his time in Octopusheim. (X-Men #176)
Scott! The sea’s a lovely lady when you play in her. But if you play with her, she’s a BITCH! Play in the sea, yes, but never play with her. You’re lucky to be here! You’re lucky to be ALIVE! (X-Men #176, with sincere apologies to the late, great Spalding Gray. Seriously, go watch Swimming to Cambodia. And Monster in a Box. And Gray’s Anatomy. Now.)
Yeah, good luck with that, Sparky. (X-Men #176)
Val Cooper: Definitely the sister of Special Agent Dale Cooper.
The early ’80s: A more innocent time, when all a hero needed was coke and epic shoulder pads, and you could kill Wolverine by slitting his throat. (X-Men #177)
Why is Alex dressed like an elf? (X-Men #177)
As diversions go, that’s a pretty impressively orchestrated one. Go, Brotherhood! (X-Men #177)
CYCLOPS WHAT THE HELL IS EVEN WRONG WITN YOU (X-Men #178)
“Get the asprin, Rogue. I feel a crossover event coming on.” (X-Men #178)
Awyeah. (X-Men #178)
Why is Kitty wearing an unbranded Fantastic 4 costume? Who the hell knows? Do we even need a reason, at this point? (X-Men #178)
99% sure Cyndi Lauper wrote a song about this. (X-Men #179)
This is innocuous in context, until you realize he’s sniffing a dead teenager in a morgue. (X-Men #179)
Aw, Leech. (X-Men #179)
LOOK AT THIS FUCKING WIZARD LOOK AT HIS HAT LOOK AT HOW HE CLEARLY BELONGS ON THE SET OF FLASH GORDON (X-Men #179)
Professor Xavier engages in a rare moment of being absolutely delightful. (X-Men #178)
I like to imagine that Kitty and Doug’s side adventures are the subject of a mid-’80s feature film starring Jenny Lewis. (X-Men #180)
Sky closure is the best closure. (X-Men #180)
Literally the only worthwhile panel in all twelve issues of Secret Wars. (Secret Wars #1)
“I’ll see she’s raised as if she were my own. HOPE SHE LIKES BEING DROWNED IN PUDDLES.” (X-Men #181)
Oh. That guy. Again. (X-Men #181)
This Erica Henderson drawing of Warlock and Cypher doing Troy and Abed in the Morning may be the single nerdiest thing Rachel owns, and that’s saying something.
In which Cyclops is the worst at vacations, Mystique is your favorite MurderMom™, Havok is eternally ABD, Kitty Pryde does science, Callisto doesn’t give a damn about her bad reputation, Xavier has a Troy Barnes moment, Miles may be the only person with fond memories of Secret Wars, and Rachel finally gets to make Spalding Gray references.
Uncanny X-Men #176-181
Scott Summers’s second-worst honeymoon
Project Wideawake (more) (again)
Public displays of affection
How X-Men age
A sewer wizard
The other X-Men Forever
Next Week: The New Mutants gets weird!
You can find a visual companion to the episode – and links to recommended reading – on our blog.