Saturday, December 5, 2009

December Answers From the Vault part 2

Welcome back to part two of this month's Answers From the Vault. Yesterday we fielded questions about the dearth of female supervillains, the lack of Image discussion at the Vault and why more superheroes don't wear pants. as hard as it is to believe, though, we have an even more exciting pile of queries today, so put on your thinking caps and let's jump right to the questions.

Or, actually, let's not. Before we get to them, we do have a little addendum from yesterday. Fervent comic book lover Chesley was wondering if we might be able to provide pictures of female supervillains Cheetah, Moonstone and Mist for her, and since we aim to please, here they are. Both Cheetah and Moonstone have gone through a number of costumes, but I went with this slightly savage but not outright feral version of Cheetah, while for Moonstone I decided to go with her classic original costume. And, of course, Mist only looks like this when she is using her powers; otherwise she's just a slightly butch goth girl who could be serving you lattes at the corner Starbucks. Hey, if her archenemy Starman doesn't wear a costume, why should she have to either?

Click on this to make it slightly larger:

Okay, now on to the questions.

Why is Mary Jane the hottest chick in comics? -- Ben

Well, I'm not sure I agree with you, but I don't necessarily disagree with you either, so I'll just answer the question under the assumption that Mary Jane Watson is the hottest chick in comics. I think the reason she is the hottest is because she's not just hot, she's also cool. She's accessible. She seems like someone who would be fun to hang out with and would accept you for who you are. In other words, even though she should way out the reader's league, she's not some unattainable ideal.

This goes hand in hand with the popularity of Spider-man himself. He became an icon because he's just an average nerd with average nerd problems; he could be you or me, but more probably you, because I'm a little cooler than that pencil-neck Peter Parker. Yet, Mary Jane still dug Peter; and if we could be Peter, then by extension, Mary Jane could fall for us.

But of course, if we're Peter, then our relationships will likely be erased because we sealed a deal with Satan to destroy them. So that equation isn't necessarily all positive.

What's the best issue of What If? -- Ben

For those not familiar with What If?, the Marvel series told hypothetical stories about what would have happened if key moments in Marvel history had gone differently. For example, what if the Fantastic Four hadn't defeated Galactus in Fantastic Four #50, or what if Phoenix hadn't died in X-Men #137? It was a cool series, though slightly limited by the fact that you had to already be familiar with the original story for the new ones to mean anything. Because of this, in the second What If? series, they eventually started just creating alternate realities that didn't necessarily have a jumping on point in continuity, making them more accessible but less meaningful.

Ben's fellow reader Rob pitched in with his own pick, which is What If? #29, featuring "What If the Avengers Defeated Everybody?", which spins out of the classic Avengers story in Avengers Annual #2, which itself is already an alternate universe tale. As an Avengers fan, I have to say that's a fine choice, though I would probably go with What If? #3 as the best issue, which tells the story of "What If the Avengers Had Never Been?", which shows what would have taken place if the Avengers had disbanded in Avengers #3.

But for sheer WTF purposes, my actual choice is going to be What If? #14, featuring the tale of "What If Sgt. Fury Had Fought World War II in Outer Space?", which is a strange blend of Nick Fury's WWII adventures with Star Wars for reasons that still escape me.

I strongly suspect, though, that each person's individual favorite issue of What If? will be strongly influenced by which original stories they liked the most, so this is a hard question to objectively answer.

Why doesn't Aquaman get any respect? -- Rob

Thanks for the question, Rob. Another fellow reader, James, also jumped in to answer this question, suggesting that it might be worth the time to check out this anti-Aquaman rant, which does, in fact, go a long way towards explaining why Aquaman doesn't get much respect.

But, as it happens, I think there's a simpler reason: he's not Namor the Sub-mariner. Namor, you may or may not know, first debuted in 1939, while Aquaman didn't appear until two years later, in 1941's More Fun Comics #73. What was more fun about it? Well, that issue also is the debut for Green Arrow, meaning there was, in fact, another character in the comic that was more fun than Aquaman. But the point is that comics already had a big name hero that had underwater powers; and, more to the point, Namor was also granted a truly unique and interesting personality among superheroes, being the original anti-hero, which led to compelling battles against other heroes (like his opposite number, the Human Torch) and character development.

Aquaman, conversely, didn't have any of that; he's basically a bland, whitebread version of Namor. He's not as visually compelling either. So while some fine writers and artists have done their best over the years, and there is a dedicated but small fan base for the character, Aquaman's main crime is that he is not, and will never be, Namor the Sub-mariner, no matter how many times DC tries to grit him up to make him more like the original.

Can I call you Brother Power the Geek? What is your favorite riddle? Who are you voting for on December 8? -- Lance

Thanks for the questions, Lance. For those of you who don't know, Lance is a hardcore comics fan, so he probably already knows the answers to all his actual comics related questions. Still, I'm happy to answer these as well.

1) I'm afraid that Brother Power the Geek is still copyrighted by DC Comics, which likely also has a side agreement with legendary creator Joe Simon, who developed Brother Power the Geek for DC back in the late 60's. I'm sure it would be a fine nickname, but for legal reasons, it wouldn't be advisable.

2) I actually don't care for riddles. Sorry, Edward Nigma! For the most part, I think riddles are kind of annoying. About the only one I can think of off the top of my head is the old "what walks on four legs in the morning..." groaner. By default, I guess that would be my "favorite," which is a bit misleading since it implies that I don't find it trite and annoying. Because I do.

3) Lance is referring to the Massachusetts Democratic primary on December 8 to fill the Senate seat made vacant by the death of Edward "Nigma" Kennedy. There are four candidates; three of them are viable and one is Steve Pagliuca. As you can guess, I won't be voting for ol' "Money Pags," because he's such an empty shirt that he actually makes Mitt Romney look like a man of substance, which is almost boggling to contemplate. Hey Steve: you can buy name recognition, but you can't buy competence.

That leaves Michael Capuano (who seems competent but also irritable, angry and petty in many of his debate appearances); Alan Khazei, who has a lot of social programs and interesting ideas and details plans and positions on every major issue and thus, as you might expect, is badly trailing in every poll and has no chance of being elected; and Martha Coakley, the Attorney General of the state, who has had solid debate performances as she sits back and grins while the others blow themselves up on stage.

So who am I going to vote for on Tuesday? Well, if it looks like Coakley has a big enough lead in the polls, I might vote for Khazei just to bump up his numbers for future races. Otherwise I'll have to vote for Coakley to make sure she gets in. Not that Capuano would be a disaster, but why take a chance.

Okay, that wraps it up for this month. We'll be throwing the doors of learning open to the internet public again some time next month, so if you didn't get your answers this time, don't worry. We'll get to it sooner or later.

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The Avengers-What If's were my favorite, too. What If? the Hulk went Berserk was probably my favorite, though. Remember that one?