The Mystery Men of January Part 2

Here’s the concluding post on super-heroes with a January debut:

Guardians of the Galaxy: originally a weird assembly of sci-fi rebels in a Sixties one- shot; Blake’s Seven by Gene Colan, a decade early. But, given a Dave Cockrum makeover and under the auspices  of Steve (Baby) Gerber, this dystopian future also included mind-blowing cosmic sex, canned infants, tribal mysticism and  psychologically disturbed heroes.

The 90s revival was more of a super-hero series, influenced by the Legon and spinning off futuristic versions of the X-Men, the Inhumans, Dr. Strange and Ghost Rider. This annual’s cover image is a homage to Barry Smith’s Conan and that kind of self-referencing was a fun aspect of the series.

The Outsiders: this dramatic cover disguises one of the biggest disappointments of my comic-reading adolescence. The late Joe Simon and Jerry Grandenetti serve up what might almost be a lost Golden Age story, given its quirky tone and grotesque cast of “freaks”. Imagine the Doom Patrol produced by the Kroftt Brothers. Unsurprisingly, not a hit…

Power Girl:  introduced by Gerry Conway as a strident and butch Earth-2 version of Supergirl, her abrasive manner was offset by her spectacular figure, under the pencils of naughty Wally Wood. Thanks to some terrible costume designs and a temporary Atlantean origin, PG has remained something of a c-lister although she did have her own title recently. But sassy broads never truly go out of style. She provides a foil to the younger Supergirl with her aggression and retro look.

Ms.Marvel: Like Power Girl, Carol Danvers is the distaff version of a male hero; her godfather, too, was Merry Gerry Conway and she was also a militant feminist, perhaps understandably, (partly) hailing from a militaristic culture. I liked her even better than PG- was it the toned tummy? the scarf? She quickly became a Chris Claremont woman ( angsty and introspective but a lead character in her own right)  but never quite escaped her borrowed Daily Bugle milieu. A Phoenix-lite makeover from Cockrum was too late to save her from limbo, figuratively and literally.

Redesign by Blair Campbell

After the outrageous Marcus Immortus storyline, Carol returned as the cosmic heroine Binary. More than  a decade ago, she was depowered again and Busiek turned her into an alcoholic. Despite decades of setbacks, Carol Danvers is one of Marvel’s premier heroines and yet, pretty much a C-lister, like Power Girl.  Currently a mainstay of Bendis’ New Avengers,  I hope  she adopts the Captain Marvel title one day; she deserves it.

Kitty Pryde: Of course, another Claremont female protagonist; the template for “cute girl super-heroes” and hence, the Anti-Terra. The Pryde of the X-Men began life as an awkward little Jewish girl with a defensive power and practically overnight, became a genius world-saver. Nonetheless, over 30 years later, she remains the Everywoman access to Xavier’s School: the Sarah Jane Smith of the mutant world. Charmingly brought to life by Ellen Page in X3 and, in my book, one of the five essential  X-Men.

Starman:  a Ditko amd Levitz space opera hero, drawing on cult Marvel properties of the 70s, like Captain Marvel and Star-Lord. His stories of imperial intrigue were very derivative but I like his bright, shiny design. This incarnation of Adventure was a strangely charming anthology title, which I didn’t fully appreciate at the time.

Elektra: Daredevil’s doomed love is, of course, a hired killer and at best an anti-hero. Without her, we wouldn’t have had the most famous iteration of Betsy Braddock. But, although one of Marvel’s most recognisable women and one of the most famous martyred female protagonists of the 80s, she’s a damaged and dangerous character. And not very nice.

Booster Gold: Like Hawkman, another hero who made a convincing transition to tv in “Smallville”.  I enjoyed his feud with another time-traveller, Fawcett’s King Kull (or Kr’ull as in  “cruel”) on Batman B&B. Booster had an interesting arc as DC’s Henry Pym in the 52 weekly series but, as a largely satirical swipe at sponsorship and celebrity, this golden boy leaves me pretty cold.

Next time: more 70s Secret Origins

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners and are reproduced here for purposes of nostalgia and comment.

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