The Magnificent Wanderers

One of the things I've learned since becoming an amateur comic blogger is that there were a lot more non-Legion heroes and teams in DC's 30th century than I realized. (In addition to the Heroes, there was the Legion of Subs, The Uncanny Amazers, and the subject of the present series:  The Wanderers.)

The Beginning of the Wanderers' Journey

Originally created by Jim Shooter and Win Mortimer, the original Wanderers (Quantum Queen, Psyche, Ornitho, Immorto, Dartalg, Elvo, and their leader Celebrand) first appeared in Adventure Comics #375 (DEC 1968).  Interestingly, they were introduced as having been in existence prior to the Legion of Superheroes; and, in fact, to have been around long enough to have developed a respected reputation by the time the Legion met them. (Comicvine)

I guess the thing that was originally intended to set the Wanderers apart--as their name suggests--was that they were not stationary, but ranged (or "wandered") about the galaxy fighting evil.  They fit into the "masterless ronin" hero type.

Though I can't prove it, I suspect the earlier success of two movies may have been a direct contributor to the creation of the Wanderers.  In 1954 legendary filmmaker Akira Kurasawa released his movie The Seven Samurai.  The "samurai" in this case were actually ronin, a term that more specifically meant they were "masterless samurai."  Wikipedia proclaims the movie, "one of the most remade, reworked, referenced films in cinema."

In America, it only took six years before John Sturges released a Westernized version of the story, The Magnificent Seven, which was equally-successful in its own right.  Flash forward another eight years, then, and Shooter/Mortimer bring us the tale of seven, wandering heroes (i.e., ronin) going about the galaxy righting wrongs.  Indeed, it's interesting that when Shooter and Mortimer introduce the Wanderers, they do so with the implication that these aren't new heroes...that, in fact, they pre-dated the establishment of the Legion of Superheroes itself!

If my math is correct (and excluding reprints), the original Wanderers appeared in only five issues:
My intention in the coming weeks is to start by examining the original Wanderers and their adventures.  This will be followed by a series looking at the Post-Crisis version of these characters. 

Next week, we'll kick things off by looking at the Wanderer's original leader, Celebrand and (hopefully) their debut in Adventure Comics #375.

Photon and Yondu: what's a little extreme blood loss between friends?

The final installment in this little series on the supervillains of Force takes a look at everyone's favorite fin-headed femme, the fantastical Photon!

For those acquainted with Guardians of the Galaxy lore, the first time you saw Photon you knew her story was a big deal.  That's because prior to Photon's appearance, everything we "knew" told us that the Guardian Yondu was the last survivor of Alpha Centauri.

When Jim Valentino and company began bringing us the regular adventure of the Guardians in 1990, they started teasing the possibility that there might be another survivor from the very first issue:

Guardians of the Galaxy #1(JUN 1990)
Guardians of the Galaxy #3 (AUG 1990)
After all that build-up, and watching Yondu begin to have hope once more that his people and culture might not be extinguished from the universe, you really felt the pathos when Photon definitively rejects both him and her heritage.

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 (OCT 1990)
Guardians of the Galaxy #15 (AUG 1991)
However much it broke Yondu's heart--and face--Valentino & co. make it really difficult to be too upset with Photon.   When these two crazy star-crossed would-be lovers meet next in Guardians of the Galaxy #15 (AUG 1991), we finally learn why Photon has such homicidal feelings for her people.  Apparently, she was born a Centaurian mutant.  Much like on Earth, this wasn't exactly well-received by the majority of the Centaurian society.  After her parents sacrifice their lives in the effort to save her from the mob, the little girl wound up alone and helpless in the forest--on the verge of slow starvation or falling prey to some beast herself.

Guardians of the Galaxy #15 (AUG 1991)

Guardians of the Galaxy #16 (SEP 1991)
The background relationship between Photon and Yondu sets us up for the dramatic final appearance of Force in the Guardians of the Galaxy.  Issue #16 opens with the two teams once again face-to-face.  Though everyone is there, the initial drama centers pretty quickly around the last remaining Centaurians.  Following an Old-West style stare-down, Photon makes the mistake of lunging for Yondu; who, in turn, slices her jugular.

Guardians of the Galaxy #16 (SEP 1991)

This leads Interface (who had located Photon as an infant and adopted her as a child) to access his inner element-manipulating daddy bear to save his baby and make a quick battlefield amputation of his own.

Rather than allowing futuristic science to grow him a new hand, Yondu opts to take a simple golden stump loaded with weapons as his penance for having...defended himself against someone attempting to take his life? (I guess even if you adopt a super-ascetic and self-flagellatory position, there's no reason you can't wear a little bling at the same time, amiright?)

While both Centaurians are off in sick bay, Interface and the Guardians Martinex are able to confab.  Turns out that both Force and the Guardians are were engaged in quests related to the young messiah-child known as the Protege who has been created by adherents of the Church of Universal Truth to serve as their god.  The question is, who will be the caretaker and teacher of this awesomely-powerful child.

But at this point, I'm running out of time and running the risk of spoiling the fun you could have reading Guardians #16 for yourself. 

Next week, I'll start a new series (hopefully with much better time management).

A Snark by Any Other Name...

Today we profile the character I consider the least inspired of Jim Valentino's cosmic ne'er-do-wells, Force.  In terms of his look, Scanner is pretty uninspired.  He's your run-of-the-mill reptilian character (think the Lizard from Spider-Man).  However this unremarkable look is amplified within the context of the Guardians of the Galaxy, where it appears that about 30% of the galactic population was some sort of reptilian (e.g., Badoon, Skrulls, etc.)

You could be forgiven if you weren't entirely clear on Scanner's species.  Comic Vine calls him a "Snark" (which I seem to vaguely recall having read in one of the old GotG books), while the Marvel Wiki identifies him as a denizen of the planet Zn'rx.  Turns out that apparently both are correct.  Zn'rx is Scanner's home planet; but according to Aelfyre Whitemane neither this word nor the proper name for its denizens can pronounced.  Therefore, Whitemane took to calling them "Snarks." (Power Pack #1 (AUG 1984)

Unfortunately, I ran out of time before really getting into the person of Scanner as he appears in Guardians of the Galaxy #15 (AUG 1991).  However, you're welcome to go back and review the issue and share your thoughts in the comments section.

Force's Brahl-fullest member

Despite their status as "villains," most of the members of Force have at least some redeeming/sympathetic qualities.  Regrettably, that trend doesn't hold for this week's focus, Brahl.  If, based on his name, you were expecting some sort of bruiser-type character along the lines of Broadside, you're about to be disappointed.

Brahl actually had a much longer pedigree as a Guardians opponent that the rest of Force.  He was first introduced as a member of the Korvac's Minions of Menace (in Thor Annual #6 (DEC 1977).

Does Korvac remind anyone else of a cosmic Michael Scott?

Anyhoo, Brahl hails from a relatively primitive, dictator-led volcanic planet call Achernon.  The Marvel Wiki describes Achernonian culture as "superstitious, self-centered, and hedonistic."  (Bear that in mind as we try to process the actions of Brahl as a member of Force.)  Brahl is part of a subset of Achernonians that possesses--for unknown reasons--the ability to become immaterial at will.

Guardians of the Galaxy #14 (JUL 1991)
If you remember, when last we saw Force, everyone but Brahl appeared unconscious if not dead.  In this issue we learn that they were, indeed, only knocked out...though the various non-Brahl Force members seem to have rather dramatically recovered from the butt-whoopin' they took from Malevolence.  What's even more unbelievable is how meekly the majority of Force seem to have accepted their new compulsory vassalage to Malevolence. 

She's a (Cosmic) Brick House

Back in the 90s, Broadside was not exactly one of my favorite Force members.  I didn't much care for her balding orange power-lifter look.  As with Eightyfive, it's hard not to see many of the derivative elements in Broadside.

Her status as the team's resident physical "heavy hitter" recalls earlier examples such as: She-Hulk, Titania, Thundra, et al.  Even at that, however, with age I've come to have a greater appreciation for the subversion of having a woman be the powerhouse--especially in this case since she was clearly intended to be the Force-counterpart to the Hulkish proportioned Charlie-27.

On that note, Valentino & company did give Broadside some interesting character depth via her crush on Charlie-27.  I figure some people will see that as sexist or diminishing or whatever, but I don't buy it.  Love...the desire for natural.  Everybody feels this, and most people feel it for members of the opposite sex.

Guardians of the Galaxy #11 (APR 1991)

Furthermore, it seems to be pretty common for people to seek out lovers who they perceive to be their "equals" in terms of status, wealth, power, etc. etc.  Given Broadside's powers, it's natural that she would have a difficult time finding a man who considered her equal--thus, the excitement when she met the last Jovian.  On the basis of their earlier fight, however, I seriously question whether Charlie is her "equal"...maybe he's the least-weak option she's found. 

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 (OCT 1990)

Speaking of Broadside's powers, the mechanism by which they worked was also derivative.  According to the Marvel Wiki, she "channels a planet's gravity" into her body to augment her strength.  Comic Vine, in contrast, says it's the planet's mass that she she channels.  Either way, this power set immediately reminded me of another one of my forgotten favorites, Earth Lord.

Guardians of the Galaxy #13 (JUN 1991)
In the previous one-page appearance of Force (in Guardians of the Galaxy #11) the members were assembled on the bridge of their ship pondering the nature of an "anomaly" headed straight toward them.  The anomaly is revealed to have been neither Firelord, nor the Phoenix (as the reader might have assumed) but instead Malevolence, daughter of the demon Mephisto, who first crossed the Guardians in Guardians of the Galaxy #7 (DEC 1990).

Though we don't see it, obviously Malevolence apparently threw down on Force almost as soon as she arrived.  They're all out cold except for Brahl, who negotiates to aid Malevolence in exchange for his chance to get revenge on the Guardians. 

And on that note, we'll end this post.  Next week:  Brahl!

The Magnificent Wanderers

One of the things I've learned since becoming an amateur comic blogger is that there were a lot more non-Legion heroes and teams in DC&...