A-Z

My Marvel Life Presents: A-Z of Comics part 6 – F

F is for Fahrenheit

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Lauren Jeanette Pennington first appeared in Stormwatch #2 cover dated May 1993 as part of the Image comics’ UN Crisis team Stormwatch. This comic was published as part of the Wildstorm imprint, which was bought by DC in the mid 90’s. .Originally part of the second team (Stormwatch 2) she was a seedling. A human being whose body reacted to radiation from a passing comet during or shortly after her birth. Once these abilities manifested, she found she had the power to generate and use flames. Recruited to Stormwatch, she took the name Fahrenheit. During the first 30 issues, she appeared in less than one panel per issue and very rarely said anything. For the most part she was like a background character, used mainly to show the scale of the organisation. Around issue 30 of that series, she was brought into Stormwatch 1 and played a much larger role in the title and in the conflicts within. After the Fire From Heaven story in 1996. Stormwatch was restructured and she was given a team of her own to command. She led the team for high level threats and reprisals called Stormwatch Red. The reason I like her within this series, is that she’s relatively normal. She doesn’t have the world on her shoulders like her colleagues Battalion or Winter, nor is she physically different from human like Hellstrike or Fuji. She’s a normal looking American in an international team, but it’s never shown to be anything other than what’s where she’s from. It’s not one of those American’s leading the world type character, or the look how brash and loud she is character either. She’s an average woman, who feels the need to do this job, to protect those who need protecting and uphold the rules that everyone can follow. She is also part of one of my favourite pages in Stormwatch  vol 2.

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The best part here is, she worked he way through the ranks. She wasn’t put on the team as a pet character, or had a leading position from the start, but was a person who started low and ended up well thought of. Many promotions (especially in these quasi military things that show up all the time in sci-fi) come as a result of losses. She was promoted, because she was one of the last people qualified who hadn’t already been killed. Before the end of Stormwatch vol 2, she ended up in a relationship with Stormwatch Prime’s Hellstrike and became good friends with Flint who was on her team and the two often went bar hopping or in her words “Trawling for men” Like most of the Prime and Red team members, Fahrenheit was killed during the WildC.A.T.S./Aliens special before the Wildstorm universe was rebooted to little fanfare.

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The lesser characters in a team book can often become more compelling than the main characters, especially if a writer puts the work in.

F is for Forceworks

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Force Works was one of those e-XTREME comics from the 90’s and came about from the ashes of the West Coast Avengers. Composed primarily of Iron Man, Century (an alien from their first mission), US Agent, Wonderman (who died in issue 1), Spider-Woman and team leader Scarlet Witch. They were a take no prisoners sort of group, taking problems out before they became a crisis. Written by the excellent writing team Abnet & Lanning (DnA) and with a rotating array of pencillers and inkers, this was a comic that suffered every excess that the decade could throw at it. The writing was of less quality than the DnA team would later provide to Marvel’s cosmic comics and other projects and the art was….yeah, lets not go there. The reason I mention it, is that it was an Avengers related title that renamed itself to get better sales than Avengers projects were getting at the time. (Yup hard to imagine in the post Bendis era) like many Avengers related comics, it suffered in the crossovers and ended during Avengers: the Crossing (Again, lets not go there) the interesting thing though, is that it’s not a bad idea. A more agressive and militaristic Avengers like time has been done again and again (Ultimates) the split in ideology from Iron Man and other Avengers (Civil War) and the team being mostly made of ex-villains (Thunderbolts) all of these came later. I did a blog on the 90s comics and there’s a great podcast called 90’s comics re-trial which does similar. The 90’s got a bad rap, but given the market led trends and editorially mandated crossovers, there’s a lot of good 90’s stuff buried in all this shit. I suppose I am saying that even crappy titles are worth a second look and I remember the first year of this comic not being half bad.

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F is for Fourth World

There came a time, when the old gods died.

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With those words was created a universe of characters. When Jack Kirby one of the main architects of the Marvel Universe left Marvel Comics in 1971 he was quickly snapped up by DC, who offered him whatever he wanted to do. He worked on the poor selling Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen book and re-imagined it as a high concept sci-fi series. It had the hallmarks of Kirby, fantastic art, imaginative visuals and tons of action, it was also the first corner of Kirby’s magnum opus, the Fourth World.

The fourth world was composed of four comics titles, sharing a thematic connection as well as many characters, most of which Kirby created. The titles were the aforementioned Jimmy Olsen as well as The Forever People, Mister Miracle and the primary title The New Gods.

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The New Gods was Kirby all over, most creators made superheroes, fewer created legends, but Jack Kirby, he went for gods. The primary focus of New Gods was the ongoing cold war between the utopian New Genesis and the nightmarish Apokolops, the planets formed when the old gods died.  New Genesis was ruled by the benevolent Izaya, known as Highfather. He looked like halfway between a king and a shepherd. Apokolips was ruled with an iron fist by Darkseid. (Who  I covered in D)

The two kings of their worlds exchanged sons to uphold a non-aggression pact. This led to Izaya’s son Scot “Mr Miracle” Free being raised in a brutal orphanage on Apokolips and Highfather raising Orion, son of Darkseid. Darkseid was searching for the anti-life equation, a pseudo-mathematical formula which would give him unlimited power and control, he found that some of it could be found on a small planet called Earth.

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Mister Miracle was the further adventures of Scott Free, who escaped Apokolips and made to Earth to succeed Thaddeus Brown as the new Mister Miracle, escape artist supreme. He along with Thaddeus’ assistant Oberon and Scott’s love Big Barda, performed acts of amazing danger and excitement, whilst trying to escape the clutches of Darkseid’s minions. A similar story to the Forever People which was about a group of teens from New Genesis, escaping their boredom to explore Earth and prevent the evil of Darkseid infecting this interest new planet.

These descriptions do not do the comics justice. They were exuberant, dynamic and full of fantastic ideas just in these 30 or so issues, ideas that have been the back bone of many DC stories both on the page and on the screen. Here’s a list of some of them.

Highfather

Orion

Darkseid

Kalibak

DeSaad

Mark Moonrider

Big Barda

Mister Miracle

Virman Vundebarr

Granny Goodness

Baron Bedlam

Metron

The Source

The Source Wall

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One of the many things from these series that stands out is the Mother Box. This was an idea in 1971, just so we are clear. It provided information, helped keep people connected to one another, a source of light when needed and an alert system. Doesn’t that sound like a really futuristic smart phone?

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The Fourth World was Kirby’s unfinished masterpiece, but he managed to do a farewell to it in the Hunger Dogs graphic novel, which has since allowed many writers and artists to play around with these ideas to varying degrees of success.

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These characters have an iconic status just by being what they are. There’s a reason why when DC did the Nu52 reboot, the first villain the Justice League battled was Darkseid. The original Kirby series are available in trades and I would highly recommend reading them. They are beautiful works of art, drawn by a man at the height of his powers and jam-packed full of crazy ideas and spectacle.

 

 F is for Fly

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Ta ta for now

Next Time: G

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