Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Bad comic book ideas of the 20th Century

Marvel Premiere 30 featuring the Liberty Legion

Nostalgia gets us right in the gizzards. Ordinarily sensible human beings turn to mush at the sight of simply ridiculous ideas from childhood, like Space Hoppers or the Two Ronnies or Showaddywaddy. We need to stand up, tell ourselves we're adults, and then admit that some things are simply crap. There, it feels good, doesn't it?

My generation, who were called Thatcher's generation (though as a rule we hated her as malicious and vile), then Generation X (which was strange, as it meant nothing and was also a rubbish punk band liked by our elder siblings) are now forty or so and starting to have power. Which is why garbage ideas like bringing the Champions back get serious consideration. They were awful, I'm afraid. Go and read them. I'll review one, I promise. Werewolf by Night? Tosh. And don't get me started on Bloodstone or the Human Fly. They were not worth bringing back, and for the sake of those younger than ourselves we must not succumb to temptation.

Which brings me to the nostalgic indiscretions of an older generation. The Invaders, and particularly, the Liberty Legion. The generation who were writing and editing in the 1970s were those who had grown up during the Second World War, at the birth of comic books. These comic books, now prized possessions worth thousands, were junk. Read one of them. They're badly written, mass marketed crap. Now you're going to say, "Ah but look, different times, don't judge etc etc". Which is another way of saying, "Yes they are crap, but people liked crap in those days". Somewhere amongst it, little companies were producing comic books to make soldiers feel just a little bit better about the hideousness they faced. And that was OK. But out of the context they were produced, these books were awful. And when the Invaders were revived in the 1970s, set in the War and with the same style, it felt badly wrong.

What's awkward about the Invaders is that it was set in the most vile, destructive conflagration in the history of mankind. Tens of millions died. In bombing raids which wiped out whole cities. They starved or frozen or were nuked. They were shoved into gas chambers. No superhero came to help them. Ordinance faced ordinance, and the greater mass of weaponry won. Namor and Captain America did nothing, cause they didn't exist. If they had, shouldn't they have gone and killed Hitler? Why didn't the Invaders destroy the train lines going to Auschwitz? Or the gas chambers? Or knocked out the V2 rocket bases? Mixing real genocide and imaginary superheroes is plain bad taste.

The Liberty Legion was an attempt to produce a spin-off from the Invaders. The Invaders generally fought in Europe, which was as would expect, since that's where the war was going on. But the Liberty Legion were going to fight Hitler in ... New York. To quote Captain America "And if I can judge that heaping round of applause correctly, I'm betting they'll be glad to have the Invaders bearing down on the Axis hordes in Europe, and the Liberty Legion protecting the home front for the duration". Yes, America was going to have its own superteam to protect it from a non-existent threat, while hundreds of thousands of its soldiers were being sent abroad to face injury and death. Just bad, bad, bad. Now I've no problem with people in wartime staying at home, especially if they're taking part in the war effort, but these people are supposed to be fighters, for god's sake. So go where the fighting is. I kept half-expecting Bucky to say, "Hey Cap, I've had a word with Blue Diamond, and he's agreed to switch teams. He's going to take part in that parachute drop into occupied Byelorussia, while I'm going to stay in Manhattan scoffing bagels, doing the Jitterbug and listening to Charlie Parker."

Oh yes, and I'm pretty sure women in the early 1940s didn't wear skirts as short as Miss America's. What would have happened to the war effort if they had?


Anonymous Fred62 said...

I actually liked the Invaders when they were first published during my adolescence, but later on the same distaste you expressed came over me. Even accepted as pure fantasy, stories of super-powered heroes during WWII just don't work. I recall reading somewhere that they explained the reason Superman didn't just go to Berlin and grab Hitler and bring him to justice for all the crimes he'd committed even before launching the European half of WWII was that he didn't get involved in "politics", which is just silly. Maybe someone already did it in the wake of 9/11, but it would be nice for a major super-duper character to break the 4th wall and just say, "hey, you know, my cohorts and I can save the universe a thousand times over from the likes of Dr. Doom, Galactus, Thanos, etc, but we're just creatures of imagination, much like that God fellow many of you worship. We couldn't save the millions killed by the Nazis and we couldn't save those poor people in the World Trade Center. We're stuck in our own play universs and can't save people in real trouble in the real world."

11:07 pm  
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