The Mystery Men of May part three

Welcome to the third -and shortest- post for May in  my series on superheroes who made their first appearance in each consecutive month. This time, we’re looking at some Young Lions who inherited moribund trademarks.

The one-and-only appearance of  Cap’n Terry Dactyl-Lee

From the autumn of 1975 and issue 97, where they levelled JFK airport, I followed the All-New X-Men first with fascination and then with Marvel Zombie devotion up until fairly recent times. I think I finally bailed in the mid-90s, after the introduction of Scott Lodell’s Generation X. Although it was a heady brew, Claremont’s tropes of Amazonian women and their intense friendships , Byzantine family trees, obscure villains, mild bondage and occasionally sickly whimsy weren’t entirely the attraction. No, it was the costumes.

As rejected or unused pitches for the Legion of Super-Heroes, these X-Men had a futuristic look that was quite at odds with the prevailing design aesthetic of Marvel-which was essentially John Romita’s vision. Obviously, Wolverine and Banshee as pre-existing Marvel characters (albeit slightly tweaked) were exceptions. But the fringes, chevrons, cut-outs and other elements in Dave Cockrum’s designs – and the Star Trek accoutrements – made this Marvel’s answer to the LSH: a teen(ish)  superhero soap with sci-fi elements. Without the X-Men (and maybe Claremont, Cockrum and Byrne!) the success of New Teen Titans and the Legion in the 80s simply would never have happened.

I think it”s interesting how the much- more- powerful All-New X-Men mirror the previous, far-less-successful band of mutants. Putting aside the bafflingly-popular Wolverine, a character whose killer instinct and machismo I find wearing, both teams include: an acrobatic guy, a kid who transforms the substance of his body, a Bird-Guy and The Girl. Just a thought for any future revamps of the merry ones.  Also, although there had been heroes from other nations in the past   ( such as the Blackhawks, the  Black Panther and the Black Knight), the  make-up of the All-New X-Men paved the way for The Global Guardians, Alpha Flight and Justice League International.

I came back to the X-Men three times:  for X-Treme X-Men, Alan Davis and X-Men Forever.  The latter really caught my interest with an annual drawn by Mike Grell; the wheel had turned full circle.  By the way, I hate the way Cyclops is portrayed these days and will be dismayed if he’s killed off in the AVX cross-over.

Sharon Ventura

The second, colourful iteration of Ms. Marvel was a psychologically unstable heroine. Excellent work on emancipation and equality, gentlemen. Folded into the late 80s FF by Steve Englehart, Sharon Ventura was an implied victim of rape who developed a tentative, romantic relationship with the Thing.

she thing

A cosmic ray-fuelled transformation into a “She-Thing” nearly destroyed her and later Sharon- returned to human form- was a pawn of Dr. Doom. The MC2 imprint depicted Sharon as the estranged mother of Ben Grimm’s kids. When Carol Danvers came back in the Buisek/Perez Avengers, Sharon Ventura was quietly ushered offstage for good. Surely one of the most maligned heroines at the House of Ideas.

There is a new Ray these days but for almost two decades, this “legacy” version of Lou Fine’s Quality Comics hero has been on the periphery of the DC Universe.  Ray II made his début in a miniseries and then returned in his own ongoing title; he was even a member of  Justice League Taskforce. A mash-up of Marvel’s Nova and Sunspot from the New Mutants, Ray II was a 90s version of Firestorm: the “noob” who bumbles into adventures with the Big Guns.

I liked the visual for The Ray but he was always overshadowed by other characters, including Conway and Milgrom’s Disco Era Nuclear Man.   Really, if you wanted to chart the journey of a Legacy Hero, you turned to Wally (Flash) West or even Kyle (GL) Rayner in the 90s. The recent revamp of The Ray- a Korean -American kid- indicates DC still likes the name, however.

Blue Beetle III is not a character I  know from comics  (although I did see his first appearance in Infinite-ugh!-Crisis ). Instead, I know him best from his cameo in Smallville and from a number of  appearances on Batman: Brave and the Bold. He was one of the first super-heroes my nephew could name (“Bwoo Beetle!”). I’m surprised he wasn’t added to the New 52 Justice League instead of Cyborg  from the Titans: Jaime is a mash-up of Spider-Man and Iron Man with a dash of Transformers.The armour is modishly fussy and I think an Hispanic kid is a shade less hackneyed than Perez and  Wolfman’s  bionic Mal Duncan. When the whole, sucky New 52 90s revival is over, hopefully someone will have the sense to put the NTTs back together and promote Bwoo Beetle to the League.

Coming soon: More 100 page Super-Spectaculars

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners.

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