Review: Blue Beetle #1

September 23, 2011

I held off on writing this review for I initially didn’t know what I wanted to say about this first issue and my only prior knowledge of this character was from his run in the Teen Titans, which wasn’t long.  So I guess I’m coming into this one with mostly a new reader perspective…

SPOILER WARNING!

Read the rest of this entry »


Review: Red Lantern #1

September 14, 2011

Red Lanterns get their own book in this relaunch, and I’m going to flatly state this thing was a chore to read through.

SPOILER WARNING!

Read the rest of this entry »


ORIGIN STORIES: Marvel Evolution – Not Exactly The ‘Weapon X’ You Know And Love… But Close!

November 7, 2008

origin stories banner

Don’t ‘Game’ With TBS, OR You’ll End Up Paying For Lots Of Dinners!

Billy: “Hey. Sorry we couldn’t make it.”
TBS: “What?”
Billy: “Happy Birthday.”
TBS: “Oh. Thanks. I figured you guys were ‘busy’. Scumbags.”
Billy: “31? 35? Older?”
TBS: “…”
Billy: “So, question, at what exact age does one stop throwing birthday parties?”

captain-america01

More Random Thoughts You Could Care Less About

• Deadpool, Party Pooper – “I’m the party pooper!” Ha-ha. Yeah. Wait ‘til ya’ see the alt art on this card. Too awesome.
• Merc With A Mouth – The flavor text on this one was locked in the moment I found the art. Thankfully, TBS came through like a champ.
• Wolverine, Unleashed – More Wolverine close-ups!
• Sabretooth, Earth-295, Team Leader – Confession? I hate the art on this card.
• Extended Monologue – Not much more to say about this one, I should think…
• Hyperion, Earth-4023 – Does anyone else still visit ytmnd.com?
• Iron Man, Earth-2020 – The art on this card does not depict the actual Iron Man from the Exiles comic. Sorry, the actual art was either Unusable or too ugly. This piece was pulled from an old Iron Man comic from right before the Heroes Reborn relaunch.
• Trouble With Clones – Trouble With Dinosaurs? It’s intentional. I only wish I’d thought of it sooner. It would have been nice to put one of these “Trouble With X” cards in every set.
• Sublime, The Beast Almighty – Who cares about what the card actually does… the concept, the mythology behind it, the art? It’s just so damn pretty.
• The World – Very, very happy this one made it into Marvel Evolution.
• Weapon Plus Satellite – But not as happy as I am with this card! Super-Sentinels! Someone on the Realms mentioned that maybe all the Super-Sentinels in MEV were dual-affiliated with the old Sentinels team. I thought about it, but in the end it just didn’t feel right.
• Captain America, Weapon 1 – I mean, obviously I’m going to get a Captain America into every set I work on. Good always triumphs over evil, dudes. Oh, and hey! More Invaders!
• Deadpool, Earth-5021 – Remember what I said about the Iron Man art? Same holds true here, I’m afraid.
• Spider-Man, The Spider, Earth 15 – Okay, this guy is awesome for one reason and one reason only: Spidey Clone decks finally get their 1-drop Spider-Man!

ultimaton_mev-201

(…what the heck is that!?! Keep reading!!!)

Weapon X/Ten/Plus… and The Exiles?!? What IS the deal?

So far, you’ve seen a bunch of Deadpool cards and some Exiles Weapon X dudes. Cool, those we can handle. But then you’re asking yourself, what’s the story on The World, Weapon Plus Satellite, Sublime and Captain America?

“Billy, will this be the traditional iteration of Weapon X (with Exiles splash) or some garbage version of Grant Morrison’s abysmal New X-Men run?”

Well, obviously the guy asking that question has horrible taste in comics, since the Grant Morrison era has yet to be surpassed in terms of quality and innovation. Yeah. I just said that.

wolverine02

Okay, obviously, I’m a lot biased, so biased that I felt it necessary for players to be able to construct Weapon Plus curve decks. How exciting!

• Weapon 1: 2-drop Captain America from MEV
• Weapon 7: 3-drop XXX from MEV
• Weapon 10: 4-drop Wolverine from MUN
• Weapon 14: 5-drop XXX from MEV
• Weapon 13: 6-drop XXX from MEV
• Weapon 15: 7-drop Ultimaton from MEV*

QUESTION #2: Will we still see the other, older members of the team?

Yes. Expect a healthy dose of Maverick, Mesmero, Sauron, Garrison Kane and much more, including a sweet location titled “Department K”. See, there’s something for everyone… even those Alpha Flight “weirdos”.

Alpha Flight Deck-Builders Rejoice!

aurora_mev-174

TBS: “So good.”
Billy: “Rama-Tut redesign?”
TBS: “Oh… yeah, I guess. Man, why do you always have to rain on my parade, Billy Zonos?”
Billy: “Keeps you honest.”

Recommended Reading:
• Exiles Vol. 2: A World Apart
• Exiles Vol. 3: Out of Time
• Exiles Vol. 4: Legacy
• Exiles Vol. 5: Unnatural Instinct
• Exiles Vol. 6: Fantastic Voyage
• Exiles Vol. 7: A Blink in Time
• New X-Men by Grant Morrison: Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1
• New X-Men by Grant Morrison: Ultimate Collection, Vol. 2
• New X-Men by Grant Morrison: Ultimate Collection, Vol. 3
• Weapon X, Vol. 1, #1-28
• Wolverine: Weapon X HC
• X-23: Target X, #1-6

…and of course, there’s always Wikipedia for the epically lazy.

Next Week: …the end?

*No, his text box isn’t blank. Patience, my minions.


ORIGIN STORIES: Marvel Evolution – Mr. Sinister and His Marauding Marauders! Special Guest Stars, The X-Force!

October 31, 2008

*****START GENERIC, YET HEARTFELT APOLOGY*****

Well, so, um, uh… I was moving last week! Does that excuse me? Probably not, but I’m hoping the content of this article will make up for any sad bear feelings I may have unintentionally caused last week. DI apologies!

*****END GENERIC, YET HEARTFELT APOLOGY *****

TBS Wants To Date Me!

TBS: “Nice job with last week’s article, bra’.”
Billy: “I didn’t do one—oh, I see what you did there.”
TBS: “BWAHAHA! I am king!”
Billy: “Yeah? Nice Facebook, Douchey Mcdoucherson.”
TBS: “I do what I can.”
Billy: “Dude, I never see you anymore. Very sad.”
TBS: “Let’s have a date! I’ll drive up and you can make me dinner, and then we can see a movie at the local cinema, and then maybe, if you’re lucky, we can retire to the boudoir for a nightcap?”
Andrew: “Ah my gawd, SHUT UP!”

More Than You Ever Needed To Know About The Way I Think!

Let’s talk about the Marauders AND X-Force, shall we?

• Cable, Temporal Traveler – Yes, he’s got flight and range because he’s from some future alternate dimension, so no, he’s not the “616” Cable. Also, we loves the Highfather style beard.
• Domino, Probability Manipulator – Finding art for this card was super-duper hard, hence the Deadpool fist in the lower left corner of the frame. Ugly!
• Born To Run – I have a whole spiel about those stupid “Baby on Board” signs people put on their car windows, but I won’t bore you with it here.
• Techno-Organic Virus – Thank God for Patrick Zircher. What a master.
• X-23, Genetic Miracle – She’s slicing bullets—in half!
• In The Crossfire – This is a cover from like 15 years ago that I picked up in a dollar bin earlier this year. No-Prize to the first person to properly identify it.
• Rapid Strike – The art for this card changed a bunch, not because the previous art was bad, we just had too many good pieces to choose from.
• Endangered Species – Despite its back-up story nature, I rather liked this story.
• Psimitar – Rob Liefeld art for those Rob Liefeld lovers. Don’t be ashamed, you know who you are.
• Providence – Very happy with every aspect of this card. Good show.
• RL-9000 – Not sure if anyone got this, but the “RL” stands for Rob Liefeld and the “9000” is an allusion to the BFG-9000 from the Doom series. Also, if you don’t know what “defenestrate” means, for the love of God, look it up!
• Moonstar, Danielle Moonstar – Squeezing in that S.H.I.E.L.D. legacy, baby.
• Doop, Extra-Dimensional Void – I love me some Doop. Does this mean you’ll see more X-Statix characters in MEV?
• Cable, Mutant Messiah – Yeah, hindsight correctly perceives the art on this card as rather lame. Sorry.
• Bosom Buddies – Not much to say here, this card’s awesomeness is readily apparent.

Random, Alex – The flavor explains everything you need to know about this guy. He’s so ridiculous! This is definitely one of those cards that I feel was an epic design FAIL. I mean, is that ability random in any sense of the word?
• Gambit, Le Diable Blanc – Hey! It’s another alternate art card!
• Identity Theft – A late addition, suggested by the great Dave Humpherys, and we couldn’t be happier. That’s why Da’ Hump gets paid the big bucks. DING.
• Mr. Sinister, Robert Windsor – That flavor is pretty ribald, but I guess the editors thought it was cool, so…
• Gambit, Traitor – For the record, I hate Gambit, but I love you guys… dilemma!
Sabretooth, Wounded Animal – An X-Men affiliated Sabretooth… finally.
• Mr. Sinister, Molecular Manipulator – I love the look on his face, he’s like, “Huh? Yeah? I’m awesome, right?”
• Cajun Charm – Again, HATE Gambit, but man he’s got some good looking cards.
• Mystique, Raven – Now, Mystique? Love ‘er!
• Master Thief – Another great Gambit card. You’re welcome.
• X-Gene Decoded – Seriously, the art on this card is disturbing. Out of context, anyway. But still. What’s he been doing to baby Cable?
• Sinister Disciples – “Look at all our faces… we are so evil.”
• Mystique, Foxx – The Captain into Mystique? Janky-janks.
Three-Card Monte – Is this card any good? I don’t know, you decide… but either way, it looks damn cool. DAMN YOU, GAMBIT! Damn you for looking so good!

Who The Heck Are The Marauders?

If you’re clever and found the “hidden” spoiler, you know all about what’s going on with X-Force, so let’s not dwell on that. Let’s move straight to the Marauders.

So who are they? The Marauders are a team of mutant mercenaries hired by Mr. Sinister to do his dirty work when he’s just too busy torturing babies, like Cable. They can also be described as a bunch of clones of aforementioned mutant mercenaries… and also clones of those clones… and so on, and on… OH! And recently, during the Messiah Complex event, the Marauders teamed up with the Acolytes (you know, those dudes that used to follow Magneto, but now follow Exodus? SEE: Brotherhood from the Marvel X-Men set), so you can surely expect to see both teams appear in Marvel Evolution. Together. On the same team. Expect to see the following characters and non-character cards:

• Acolyte Protection!
• Malleable DNA!
• Neverland!
• 4xMystique!
• 4xMr. Sinister!
• All the Marauders!
• All the Acolytes!

Heh, it kind of just designs itself at some point, don’t it?

All Killer, No Filler

You want another actual spoiler? Check out this baby:

…so, wait, this affects ALL of your attackers? For real? Hey, TBS…

TBS: “Sup, dawg?”
Billy: “Dude, didn’t that card used to say something like ‘target attacker’, as in it only worked on one guy at a time?”
TBS: “Oh, I went in and changed a bunch of cards after Hump soft-locked. Beefed ‘em up. You like?”
Billy: “And no one notioced?”
TBS: “I’m a computer whiz, dude, of course they didn’t notice!”*

Recommended Reading:
• Cable Volume 1: Messiah War
• X-Force Volume 1: Angels and Demons
• X-Force Volume 1: New Beginning
• X-Force Volume 2: Final Chapter
• X-Men: Blinded by the Light
• X-Men: Endangered Species
• X-Men: Messiah Complex
• X-Men: Supernovas
• X-Statix, Vol. 1: Good Omens

Again, Wiki, Wiki, Wiki!

Whew, we got there. Happy? Did I make up for missing last week? Are we friends again? If yes, tune in next week for more random happenings as I take a hard look at Weapon X, or as I like to think of them, my favorite team.

Call your mom!

*This is a lie. TBS gets derf’d on a weekly basis. For the definition of “derf’d”, please direct your e-mails to TBS. Thanks.


ORIGIN STORIES: Marvel Evolution – Exiles and Shift’ing Yo’ Pants!

October 17, 2008

What the heck is “Shift”? Go HERE for an explanation.

Andrew & Billy Talk About The Many Virtues Of TBS:

Billy: “He keeps his car really clean.”
Andrew: “He likes good Chinese.”
Billy: “He’s nice to the Vs. peoples…”
Andrew: “Um, he has nice hair?”
Billy: “No. He’s a good rock climber?”
Andrew: “Pfft!”
Billy: “This is really hard.”
Andrew: “Tell me about it.”

Catching You Up!

Exiles cards previewed so far:

Blink, Earth-295, Clarice Ferguson – That’s a cover we swiped. She’s standing in front of a downed Sentinel. Wait, did somebody say “Sentinels”?
Illyana Rasputin, Magik, Earth 4210 – I love how much this feels like an Underworld card.
Five In One – I like Mimic, I do, but as far as power limitations go, this has got to be one of the lamer ones. “You can only copy five at a time… why?”
Miguel O’Hara, Spider-Man, Earth-6375 – because you can never have too many Spider-Mans in Modern Age.
• Mimic, Earth-12, Infected – Ew, take care of that acne, dude.
• Panoptichron – Nice card, yes, but too bad about it depicting a crappy part of the run. What’s that? Claremont is still writing it? Nevermind.
• Blink, Earth-295, Dimension Jumper – This card has alternate art. OH, exciting!
• Mimic, Earth-12, Team Leader – Yes, this guy really is THAT bad-ass.
• Proteus, Earth-58163 – Ah, Proteus. I’m glad nobody cares that I couldn’t find a picture of the “actual” Proteus. Then again, Proteus doesn’t actually have a body of his own anyway.
• Shadowcat, Cat, Earth-Unknown – …pervs.
• Warp Shards – Artist correction! This is actually James Calafiore. Oops. .

It’s A Super-Dimensional Romp For The Entire Family!

Okay, I’m going to have to cheat you guys and only give you a short article this week. Sorry. Can’t be helped!*

Interested in spoilers? Try these:

• There are THREE Mimic character cards in the set.
• There are FOUR Blinks.
• Wolverine gets a couple of legacy cards in the Exiles section…
• …one of those cards is a character!
• 100% of the roster if filled with 98% of the Exiles from the comic.
• Weapon X characters from the Exiles comic do not appear in the Exiles section.
• Then what about Sabretooth, you ask?

What Will It Be This Time?

Because pretty much EVERYONE demanded it:

“Earth-Mojoverse”

“Third time’s the charm!”

TBS: “Seriously, guys? Why is it always like this?”
Billy: “Oh! He makes really good Vs. sets!”
Andrew: “Dude, he’s standing right there.”
TBS: “No, that’s fair… Legion was pretty stains.”

Recommended Reading:
1. Exiles Vol. 1: Down the Rabbit Hole
2. Exiles Vol. 2: A World Apart
3. Exiles Vol. 3: Out of Time
4. Exiles Vol. 4: Legacy
5. Exiles Vol. 5: Unnatural Instinct
6. Exiles Vol. 6: Fantastic Voyage
7. Exiles Vol. 7: A Blink in Time
8. Exiles Vol. 8: Earn Your Wings
9. Exiles Vol. 9: Bump in the Night
10. Exiles Vol. 10: Age of Apocalypse
11. Exiles Vol. 11: Timebreakers
12. Exiles Vol. 12: World Tour, Book 1
13. Exiles Vol. 13: World Tour, Book 2
14. Exiles Vol. 14: The New Exiles
15. Exiles Vol. 15: Enemy of the Stars
16. Exiles Volume 16: Starting Over
17. New Exiles Volume 1: New Life, New Gambit
18. New Exiles Volume 2: Soul Awakening

Again, a Wiki page exists! Go read it, if you haven’t already. Or like, I don’t know, read some comics?

Go away now! But stop by next week for a pair of previews (90’s style!) here on read/RANT! And then, of course, come back on Friday for another edition of Origin Stories to cap off the week. Later, dooders!

*I mean, who doesn’t know about patch 3.0.2?


ORIGIN STORIES: Marvel Evolution – X-Factor to the Power of Awesome!

October 10, 2008

…oh, hey. I didn’t see you there. How’s it going? Enjoying your Marvel Evolution previews?

In a little over a month the latest Vs. System expansion, Marvel Evolution, will be hitting stores. YAY! It’s been kind of a long wait, hasn’t it? Sorry about that. But! The unbearable wait is over, and like last time (and the time before that, and that, and…) a new set brings new preview articles. This time, almost all exclusively written by you, the fans!

TBS Is The Master Of Good Ideas!

Billy: “Hey, great idea extending the blog preview action from MUN.”
TBS: “I mean, evil genius?”
Billy: “If you say so.”
Andrew: “Why are you talking to TBS and not logged into the World?”
Billy: “Crap, let’s go pwn some noobs!”
TBS: “WoW has stolen your soul, Billy Zonos.”*

As If I Needed To Tell You!**

Here’s a quick list of the X-Factor cards previewed so far:

Cyclops, Mutant Messiah – Look for this version name to repeat four more times throughout Marvel Evolution. It was kind of a theme.
Concussive Force – The image for this card changed more than four times. Also, it’s a very powerful card… as many of you have pointed out.
Jamie Madrox, Multiple Man, Jamie Prime – This image, to me, cuts down to the core of Jamie Madrox’s personality. Love it. Also, TBS did a fine job figuring out all that messy identity crap. Kudos.
Re-Absorption – UGH, we hated the art for this for the longest time and always meant to find something better, but then I never did and at the time of the deadline we’d kind of gotten used to it.
• Cyclops, Man of Action – I wrote that version months before Fraction and Brubaker started referring to Cyclops as a “Man of Action” in their X-Men interviews. I mean, great minds think alike. :)
• Polaris, Back in the Fold – This card makes me so happy… for obvious reasons.
Multiple Man, Hydra, Army – Admittedly, his connection to Hydra is pretty suspect, but hey, it was an opportunity for subtle Crime Lords legacy and TBS loved it.
• Multiplicity – That movie was so lame. Sorry for referencing it.
• Strong Guy, Guido Carosella – I misspelled this guy’s name the most. I always wrote “Casserole” first.
• Iceman, Jack Frost – “Catch a cold.” Get it! Wait ‘til you see his other flavor text.
• First Class – the art for this became “available” at the last minute, and by that I mean, the latest Marvel Previews supplement came out days before the art deadline.
• Fearless Leader – the flavor here is extra cheese, but he actually says stuff like this!
• One Man Army – I regret not naming this card “One Man Gang” or “O.M.G.”
• Jean Grey, Jean Grey-Summers – You know, I KNOW this is Ethan and not Phil and yet somehow that fact slipped by me.
Cyclops, Astonishing X-Man – for the longest time, this was not the art for this card. Thankfully, I pulled my head out of my butt and fixed it. One of my favorite cards.

What To Expect From The “X”

In my mind, there are three unique versions of the X-Factor team, and as I was the one in charge of sorting out the team lists, you can expect to see all three versions of X-Factor represented in Marvel Evolutions. Do you require more detail? Sure.

You’ll see at least two of each of the members of the original group: Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast and Angel. However, the character art on the cards may not match exactly the look and feel of this incarnation.

Unfortunately, that is just one of the many harsh realities of using recycled art. Marvel allows us access to thousands of high quality images in their online database, but since said database is relatively new most of these images were uploaded from recently published comics. I mean, X-Factor was first published in the 80’s, folks, and the archivers just haven’t gotten around to scanning them in yet. Of course, we also have access to my rather large collection to pull images from, and we surely did, but scanning these comics myself came with its own set of unique problems. For one, no matter how killer my scanner is, using printed comic pages from the 80’s (or older) as source material is rough. Basically, when scanned, the pages look like crap… and retouching images is NOT my forte. But enough already, I’m sure I’ll find time to speak on this more at a later date when I get all my excuses in order.

The second incarnation, the government sponsored team, will also be present: Valerie Cooper, Forge, Multiple Man, Havok, Polaris, Quicksilver, Strong Guy, Mystique, Sabretooth, etc… this is probably the least represented version of the team since finding art for them proved the most difficult. Believe me when I say I tried really, really hard. Obsessively hard.

The third, and most current incarnation, that being “X-Factor Investigations”, will OF COURSE be featured prominently. I mean, we know who butters out bread, if you know what I mean: Multiple Man, Strong Guy, Siryn, Wolfsbane, Rictor, Layla Miller, and M.

…and then a couple of odds and ends characters to satisfy those continuity minded fanatics.

As far as the X-Men dual affiliation goes, we used it pretty liberally, but only because most of the above character were in fact, at one time or another, card carrying members of the X-Men. But, that doesn’t mean we gave it to every single member of X-Factor. That would be lame. So, all the original members of X-Factor are dual-affiliated with the X-Men, but characters like Layla Miller and Valerie Cooper are not. And then there are some characters (Polaris, Caliban) who some of you will undoubtedly point out did not receive said most deserved dual-affiliating (that was an attempt to confuse with odd sentence structure). Well, that’s because for variety’s sake we decided to dual them with another team, and Hump was adamant about not breaking the “only two printed affiliations per character” rule. Sorry!

Okay, beside roster infos, what else can I spoil? Card names (and one piece of flavor) that I love and hope you love too!

• Fall’s Edge
• Cracking The Case
• Optic Blast
• The “X” Factor
• Vocal Minority
• “Please. This demeans us both.”***

Speculate away!

Spoiling Art, It’s What I Do!

And now, I give you the art for one of the cards that will undoubtedly become very annoying in drafts (if you can get him):

“Devolving Brute”

“He lost a finger on each hand. I’m sure that’d make anyone crazy.”

TBS: “I liked these better when they were on the main site.”
Billy: “Why? I’m my own editor here!”
TBS: “Exactly.”
Yip: “ARENA!!!”

Recommended Reading:
1. Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1: Gifted
2. Astonishing X-Men Vol. 2: Dangerous
3. Astonishing X-Men Vol. 3: Torn
4. Astonishing X-Men Vol. 4: Unstoppable
5. X-Factor Vol. 1: The Longest Night
6. X-Factor Vol. 2: Life and Death Matters
7. X-Factor Vol. 3: Many Lives of Madrox
8. X-Factor Vol. 4: Heart of Ice
9. X-Factor: Madrox – Multiple Choice
10. X-Men: Endangered Species
11. X-Men: Messiah Complex

Also, feel free to hit up the Wiki page, a great place to start.

That’s it for this week’s installment. If you have anyone questions, feel free to post them here in the comments section. The way my e-mail is setup nowadays it’s much easier for me to find (and reply to) your questions and comments about Vs. here. So yes, Ken Williams, if you wish to bitch at me, you’re gonna have to read and (OMG!) comment on a (THE HUMANITY!!!) blog.

*Yes, TBS often refers to me as “Billy Zonos”. Weirdo.

**I guess it’s tradition at this point to use these articles to redirect to previews, so why stop now? Also, special thanks to Captain Spud for maintaining this thread. It makes writing these up much easier.

***A phrase that has, after writing it, entered my everyday bag of tricks. Heh. It’s perfect for any occasion!


ORIGIN STORIES: The Origin of Barnacle, Chair Decks and Other Tales of Silly, Part 2 – I Got Another Confession To Make!

July 18, 2008

In Part 1, I talked about the “Chair Deck” conspiracy and gave a confession of sorts. Well, I’m not done clearing my conscience since this week I’ll be setting the record straight once again. What did I do this time? It’s more like what didn’t I do.

The “New” Defenders Can Kiss My Ass

About a million years ago, I wrote a section of a design article about Marvel Team-Up titled “Marvel Team-Up Design: Defending the Defenseless – An Underdog Story” on the old Metagame.com. Within said article, I relayed the following:

We decided very early on to use the art to reflect and drive home the disparity between the A and B teams. Of course, silliness ensued. If you take a close look at the B team character art and compare it to the A team art, you will notice that in almost every single B piece, the character depicted is either:

Surrounded by enemies . . .

 

Running away from battle . . .

Or getting humorously overpowered by monsters or demons . . .

(That last one is my favorite.)

Now look at the big four. What do you see? No embarrassing fruit cellar shenanigans, let me tell you (except for 4-drop Surfer; we just couldn’t help ourselves). I know what you’re thinking: “These guys totally hate my favorite characters!” That couldn’t be further from the truth. Everything we attempted here was done with extra love and infinite respect for the fans of the comics and the game. We would never purposely defame any character (Clumsy Foulup) or any team (The Skrulls).

What utter and total bullshit! Excuse me a second, I need to take this call…

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

…sorry. Mom says, “Hello.”

Yeah, you get the picture, right? Do I need to draw you a diagram? IT WAS ALL ON PURPOSE!!! THE NEW DEFENDERS SUCK!!! I did my best to make them look as silly as possible in the art and mock them in the flavor.

Alas, I failed. The artists we hired were too good and barely anyone notices. Sure, a couple of you complained about them, but the general consensus was that we did them all justice. BAH! Anyway, here’s the proof, some art descriptions from 2006.

Gargoyle.

Setting: A random fruit cellar

Action: Gargoyle is surrounded by giant demonic tendrils that have erupted out of the ground. They’ve wrapped around the Gargoyle and are pulling him down into the depths of Hell. More tendrils whip around the cellar, knocking jars from the shelves. Gargoyle resists valiantly, but he is definitely screwed.

Keywords: Surprise, Desperation, Embarrassing Death

 

Angel

Setting: Tar Pits

Action: Angel is trapped in the tar pits. His wings are covered in the black goo, which keeps him from escaping. Tar Monsters are closing in fast. Angel is going to die. For sure.

Keywords: Nightmare, Worst Case Scenario, OMG Why Do You Suck So Hard?

 

Iceman

Setting: Hell

Action: Iceman surfs on his ice slide right toward the viewer. Hot on his heels, fiery hell beasts claw along the melting ice slide. His body is dripping gallons amounts of water and the beasties are closing fast. He’s got no chance in hell! (HAH)

Focus: Iceman

Keywords: Melting Snowman, Snowball’s Chance

Oh, here’s something else you didn’t know: at one point, we even considered cutting them all completely from the set since the “ass-factor” was so high. A Defenders team featuring just Namor, Hulk, Dr. Strange and Silver Surfer would have been just as great, if not infinitely more awesome. Consider this, my stunned friends: What if The Big Four had received “Legend” treatment way back in Marvel Team-Up, similar to the Fantastic Four in Marvel Legends? WOW, I can feel the blown minds through the interwebs. So, if you’re a New Defenders fan, thank the gods… or Andrew Yip, but not me. I hate you and your irrational love for: Angel, Iceman, Brunnhilde, Devil Slayer, Gargoyle, Hellcat, Sam Parrington, Nighthawk, Beast, and Iceman.

So, in conclusion: I am a lying liar. Nothing I say or write is ever true. Fair warning.

I feel so MUCH better now. Short and sweet, baby! I’m off to see The Dark Knight, so if you have any questions or constructive comments leave those below and I’ll answer every single one personally. If you want to bitch about your love for the New Defenders, you can shoot me an e-mail at: idontgiveashit@HAHAHAHA.net.

DEFENDERS DEFEND!!!

    

Oh, and that stupid Howard the Duck art? That was me. HAH.

Howard the Duck

Setting: Sidewalk, New York – Day

Action: Howard the Duck in the center of the image, facing the viewer. He’s found himself lost in a sea of New Yorkers. All these tall, funny looking humans: pushing him, smacking him, crushing him. He’s crushing his hat over his head.  His trademark cigar springs from his mouth as he gives out a frustrated cry, “WAAAAUGH!”

Keywords: Lost in the Crowd, Dark Comedy, Howard the Duck Sucks

 

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The treatment of the Defenders in Marvel Team-Up is in no way related to treatment that Alpha Flight received in Marvel Universe. I swear.)


ORIGIN STORIES: The Origin of Barnacle, Chair Decks and Other Tales of Silly, Part 1 – Taking it to the “D” Street!

July 11, 2008

Last time  I gave you a pretty comprehensive breakdown of the Easter eggs in Marvel Universe. I thought about going further back in time and doing the same for Marvel Legends, Marvel Team-Up and Heralds of Galactus… but, it felt like too much of a “phone in”. So, I decided that this week, I’d still make that apathetic phone call, but in a less obvious way. I hope. Crap, telling you kind of defeats the purpose…

Inside jokes, or “skill testers” as some of you like to call them, are about the most fun thing to design when thinking up set skeletons. There are plenty of skill testers in MUN that are all very obvioys, so I want to rewind back and point out some of my favorites from my time in Vs. design. Let’s start with one of the most infamous:

The Chair Deck

The “what” deck? Some of you may remember a little 10K in LA where yours truly made his feature match coverage debut. If not, click the links. Since that was a lifetime ago, I guess it’s finally time to come clean on one of our lamest inside jokes ever. “The Chair Deck” was an idea that kind of blew up into nothing if you were a casual player, or something if you were a Pro Circuit player around that time. The joke began well before that 10K, but it was at that 10K where the joke spread throughout the community. I remember multiple threads about the deck popping up on VsSystem.com the weekend of that 10K. Why all the hysteria? How did it happen? How did we do it? I’ll tell you! Patrick, Antonio and I began seeding the 10K coverage with references to the mysterious and powerful “Chair Deck” on Day 1. What was in the chair deck? None of the players could figure it out, and we sure as hell weren’t telling. The only thing they did know was that it was very powerful and if anyone managed to figure out its intricacies, that person would be well on their way to winning the next PC!

The Chair Deck was promoted as the best, most broken deck to ever come out of R&D… unfortunately, as some would soon discover, it was the exact opposite. It was total BS. The chair deck was actually the derisive name given to one of the worst decks ever created in R&D, or so I’ve been told by the paragon of honesty, Patrick Sullivan. The deck’s creator? None other than “The” Ben Seck! Hey guys, this was back when TBS was first hired by UDE, when he still sucked and long before he was good enough to dominate players in Super Crossover Sealed at Vs. Worlds. So we know who created the deck, but who was originally responsible for spreading the hoax? As I said, the chair deck as a concept first broke through to the mainstream player community when the unlikely combination of myself, Ant and Sully were tossed together for some 10K coverage. I was still relatively new to this UDE scene, so that weekend was definitely a “get to know you” event for me. Sully, Ant and I hit it off right away. We hated the same things and laughed at the same kind of inappropriate “Nazi” jokes that we snuck into the coverage which were later removed by our crafty editors. Anyway, it was during this meeting of minds that Sully and Ant told me about TBS’s ridiculous creation.

We had so many laughs at his expense that we just couldn’t help ourselves, and despite calls from editing for us to “cut it out”, the chair deck jokes made it into the coverage. Now, to be clear, we never intended these jokes to develop into the hoax that some of you accused us of. We were just being immature and cliquey, taking advantage of our responsibilities as writers to poke fun at a colleague. We never thought it would be such a big deal… it it even was. The mind loses track. Anyway–

Now that I think I’ve pretty much covered all the explanations, maybe it’s time I told you what was in the chair deck and how it got its name. The deck is designed around the much-maligned Mobius Chair.

Yes, that POS New Gods legacy card from the Justice League expansion. For some reason, TBS thought this was a good card to build a deck around. I remember how earnestly he tried to explain the deck’s endgame to me after the 10K. Unfortunately, I don’t recall exactly what that endgame was. If you’re interested, be sure to ask TBS about it at Gen-Con next month.

Wait, that’s not all! The chair deck wasn’t just about the Mobius Chair, the joke was also all about cards with art that depicted characters sitting… in chairs! Cards like: Thanos, Protector of the Reality Gem and Cosmic Order and later, Darkseid, Apokoliptian Oppressor, Ancient Throne and Curse of Darkness (TBS loves him some chairs!). There are literally hundreds of cards in Vs. that fit this description. I dare you to research it and name them all!

Okay, to explain even further, chair in this case doesn’t actually mean “chair”. The use of the word chair is a synonym for another word or words, depending on the scope of your vulgar vocabulary. Look at the art on Cosmic Order:

What does it really look like The Living Tribunal is doing? Now read the flavor text. Who or what do you think he is really addressing with the statement, “Final judgment is upon thee.” You remember that scene from the first Austin Powers, the scene with Mike Meyers and Tom Arnold?

“Who does number two work for!”Mike Meyers

…exactly! That, in truth, is the heart of the “chair deck” joke… or, at least what it ultimately transformed into. I kick myself everyday for not including D-Man in the Marvel Universe release.

*sigh*

I had planned on writing about three other topics like my disdain for the New Defenders, cards based on TCG personalities and other nonsense, but we’re sitting at about a thousand words, plus pictures, and my lunch is getting cold. I’ll be back next Friday (the new home of ORIGIN STORIES!) with Part 2 (I SWEAR!!!). Until then, crack open those dusty DJL boxes and build a deck around everyone’s favorite latrine.

BEN SECKS!!!

As a special treat, a piece of unused art starring Rick Jones taking a #### in the Negative Zone.


ORIGIN STORIES: Marvel Universe – The Eggs of Easter

June 25, 2008

I wasn’t sure about writing this article. Easter Eggs are only Easter Eggs if everyone doesn’t know about them, right? But the more I thought about it, the more elitists and exclusionary that felt. And, everyone keeps asking me about it. Like, whether or not certain things were intentional. And since TBS included some of these in his article last week, I figured it’d be okay to share the rest with you here… which features a bunch that I’m sure TBS wasn’t even aware of. So sneaky! Oh, and for those of you who plan to take part in our Trivia contest at World’s, you may want to take some notes.

Without any further hubbub, I’ll just get right to it. A list of all the Eggs I can remember from Marvel Universe. Oh, and just as a working definition, “Easter Egg” will mean any flavor text, powers, versions or names that reference anything from outside Marvel Universe or the comics that directly inspired the characters and themes chosen. Everything else, like where the art came from or the more obvious versions, you can figure out for yourself. Or, if you’re stumped you can ask and I might answer. Deal?

The Marvel Universe Easter Eggs

  • MUN004, Captain America, The Patriot, Secret Avengers: “The Patriot” is a reference to the movie of the same name staring Mel Gibson. Hah! Mel Gibson reference!

  • MUN004, Captain America, Living Legend: The flavor text “Is this what we’ve been fighting for?” is something I thought Cap might say in the (at the time unpublished) Avengers/Invaders maxi-series upon traveling to the future and discovering that, well, the future stinks. Was I right? Too early to tell. Also, the version plays to the fact that Steve is still alive in the A/I maxi.
  • MUN035, Above The Law: Yes, one of the many references to an 80’s/90’s action movie. At some point in naming these cards, right before editing took over I think, it occurred to me that there existed a great wealth of potential card names in the Segal and Van Damme sections of the Internet Movie Database. Genius? I think so too.

  • MUN036, Atlantis Attacks!: A reference to the classic “Atlantis Attacks” event that ran through all the Marvel annuals some 20 years ago.
  • MUN037, Avengers Forever: One of my favorite Avengers stories is the 12-issue Avengers Forever maxi by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco from about 10 years ago.
  • MUN039, The Big Three: The JLA has The Big Seven. Well, the Avengers only need three.
  • MUN040, Charging Star: As previously stated, the name of one of Captain America’s moves from the Marvel vs. Capcom arcade game.

  • MUN041, Final Justice: As previously stated, the name of one of Captain America’s moves from the Marvel vs. Capcom arcade game. The “I never lose.” flavor is from a really funny Youtube video that Steve “Kamiza” Garrett posted on his LJ once. Ask him about it.
  • MUN042, Hard To Kill: Another Steven Segal movie reference. Classic stuff, man.
  • MUN046, Shield Slash: As previously stated, the name of one of Captain America’s moves from the Marvel vs. Capcom arcade game.
  • MUN047, Stars And Stripes: As previously stated, the name of one of Captain America’s moves from the Marvel vs. Capcom arcade game.
  • MUN048, Switching Sides: “Consider this a divorce” is a line from Total Recall. Arnold says it just after busting a cap in Sharon Stone’s head when he discovers she has once again betrayed him. Heh.

  • MUN054, Bullseye, Closer to God: The version is a reference to the Nine Inch Nails song “Closer”, which I guess is the music I hear when I think of him killing people. Plus, he’s got a God-complex.
  • MUN067, Speedball, Penance, Painmonger: “I am pain” is a line Pinhead says in one of the Hellraiser movies. Seemed appropriate, given the S&M tendencies of both characters.
  • MUN077, Dangerous Liaison: I mean, I’m not the only that’s seen this movie, am I? No, I’m not talking about “Cruel Intentions.” 
  • MUN079, Ruthless Aggression: Originally titled “No Mercy”, we changed it because TBS wanted to use the name for Ultimate Battles. We didn’t end up using it, by the way. Ruthless Aggression and No Mercy were both inspired by the names of WWE pay-per-view events. What, I used to watch wrestling.
  • MUN080, Sanctioned Killers: Not really an Easter egg, both I thought I’d offer a clarification. The art cropped wrong. You can’t really tell, but Bullseye is actually stabbing two US soldiers in the brains. Cool, right?
  • MUN083, The Wrong Stuff: You’d think it’s a reference to the epic space movie “The Right Stuff”, but you’d only be half right. Actually, it’s from the homage scene in Micheal Bay’s “Armageddon” where one of the Air Force trainers says, about Bruce Willis’ ragtag crew, “Talk about the wrong stuff.” 

  • MUN099, Life Model Decoy, More Human Than Human: The version is a line from the classic Sci-Fi movie “Blade Runner.” If you remember, Blade Runner was about replicants, or androids, trying to become human.
  • MUN106, Sentinel Squad O*N*E: This was some leftover art from… not really sure which set.
  • MUN128, Company Of Heroes: The name of a video game based on WWII. Good game and it sounded cool.
  • MUN129, I’m A Futurist: I’m sure the flavor “The best is yet to come” is taken from somewhere, I just don’t know where exactly. Or, it’s just one of those phrases that entered the American lexicon years ago. Like, “bread and butter.”
  • MUN131, License To Kill: An obvious reference to James Bond and his movies.
  • MUN132, Out For Justice: Another Steven Segal reference. Man, I love that guy!
  • MUN136, Security Clearance: Leftover art from Marvel Teamup. Yip and I had the idea to introduce the S.H.I.E.L.D. affiliation through a team-up card.
  • MUN142, Doctor Faustus, Johann Fennhoff, RAID: “Look into my eye” is a line from James Cameron’s Aliens. Look it up!
  • MUN147, The Hood, Prince of Pistols: The version is yet another reference to a Steven Segal movie.
  • MUN148, Hydra Recruit, Army, HYDRA: Leftover art from Marvel Origins.
  • MUN161, The Sleeper, Doomsday Device, RAID: The version is from the movie “Dr. Strangelove”, one of my all-time favorites.

  • MUN163, Cosmic Cube: Leftover art from Heralds of Galactus.
  • MUN164, Death Warrant: Yay! A Jane-Claude Van Damme reference!
  • MUN170, Assault on Helicarrier 13: The name is a reference to the John Carpenter film, “Assault on Precinct 13.”
  • MUN177, Ninjas! Ninjas! Ninjas!: The name of the card is the definitive answer to the question, “Who’s cooler, ninjas or pirates?”
  • MUN197, Bloodsport: Another reference to a Van Damme film.

  • MUN201, Hulk Smash!: The alternate foil art for this card is indeed the “face on a card” Jason Hager piece. The flavor text is a nod to Hager’s most famous creation, Evil Medical School and all its subsequent iterations.
  • MUN206, Annihilus, Anti-Matter Master: Our little nod to the fans. We all know the Negative Zone and the Anti-Matter universe are the same place, if only we could put all the characters on the same team. Le sigh.
  • MUN215, Cosmic Control Rod: Leftover art from Heralds of Galactus. Originally, this was intended as the long-awaited Annihilus character card, but he was cut in development.
  • MUN219, Gift For Death: From one of my favorite Thanos stories, this was leftover art from Heralds of Galactus or Marvel Teamup, I can’t remember at the moment.
  • MUN239, Clandestine Operations: This one is so obscure that only two people in the world would ever get it… me and my best friend from High School, Chris. The name of the card was wholly inspired by that man. I think it was sophomore year, and one of the words of the day in English class was clandestine. The teacher asked Chris to use it in a sentence. And he did. I don’t remember the sentence, only that he paired clandestine with operations and he said it in the most awkward, plodding way possible, just to annoy our teacher. “Claaaannn-dessss-tin-opppp-arrr-aye-shunnssss.” I guess you had to be there.
  • MUN240, The Elektra Situation: The name is taken from one of the chapter titles of the film “Pulp Fiction”.

  • MUN243, Realm Of The Mind: We in R&D have a certain affection for Professor X and his massive bald dome. This card idea offered the perfect opportunity to showcase it for everyone’s enjoyment.
  • MUN246, Loki, Laufeyson: Leftover art from Marvel Teamup. He was going to appear as 7- or 8-drop legacy for the Masters of Evil.
  • MUN251, Magneto, House of M: The flavor “Go in peace before I send you I pieces” is not just a play on his text box, it’s also a paraphrased line from the classic 80’s Sci-Fi thriller “I Come In Peace” starring the Punisher. Okay, maybe “classic” is too strong a word.

  • MUN255, Torture Chamber: This was a piece of art I wrote for Heralds of Galactus. Yip deemed it as “too graphic”, so it was placed in the art bank for safekeeping.
  • MUN256, I Am Doom: Anther piece of art that was leftover from the Heralds set, originally a location and titled “Liddleville.”
  • MUN270, Cammi, Annoying Sidekick: In the flavor, Cammi is referring to the movie “E.T.”

  • MUN285, Death, The Second Force of the Universe: Her original version was “The High Cost of Living” but was quickly changed in editing. Damn, almost got that one through. Heh.
  • MUN286, Fin Fang Foom, He Whose Limbs Shatter Mountains: Leftover art from I don’t know where, just glad we had it.
  • MUN294, Alias Investigations: Leftover character art from Marvel Teamup.
  • MUN301, Code White: Leftover art from the Avengers set.
  • MUN302, Collateral Damage: Hey, it’s a reference to an Arnold movie that no one saw! Brilliant!
  • MUN305, Flattened: Hey, did you know we already made a card with this name? Check your X-Men starters! Oops.
  • MUN306, Frog Of Thunder: “All glory to the Thor-Toad” is indeed another reference to Futurama. Also, we forgot that we already used this art. Oops again.
  • MUN311, I Got ‘Em All!: As stated in TBS’ article, this was taken from a comic that referenced Vs. System which as you know references comics but is now referencing itself as seen in a comic… whoa, the post-modernity of it all is blowing my FRICKING MIND!!!

  • MUN312, Invasion Plans: “So begins the dawn of our invincibility” is a line from the G.I. Joe movie. Destro says it so it must be cool.
  • MUN314, Losing The Argument: I thought it’d be cool to include art that showed that Superman is not the only tough guy in comics that can cry.
  • MUN317, No Retreat, No Surrender: Oh, another reference to a Van Damme movie.
  • MUN321, Rogue Squadron: There’s so much going on here that I’m afraid to talk about it. Those that know, get it. Those that don’t should ask the ones who do.
  • MUN323, Sleeper Cells: Sleep Cell was a really good show on Showtime a couple of years ago.

  • MUN324, Slobberknocker: Another WWE/WCW/WWF reference. 
  • MUN327, Trouble With Dinosaurs: I really like that Hitchcock movie “The Trouble With Harry” and this was just a nod to that. The card was originally titled “The Trouble With Dinosaurs.”

That’s a pretty exhaustive list right there, but I’m sure I probably missed some. I had planned to post the original art description for the official Easter Egg of the set, the alternate art Hulk Smash!, but I can’t seem to find it. These days, I believe it may only exist on some UDE mail server or lost inside Andrew Yip’s inbox.

I hope this was an enlightening read and that it taught you something about the silliness of set design. Or, maybe you didn’t learn a thing. Depending on what kind of feedback I get on this, which is usually verbal since no one that reads these can use a keyboard apparently, I might do the same for one of the other sets I worked on, like Marvel Legends or Marvel Team Up. That could be fun.

SEE YA’ AT WORLDS!!!


ORIGIN STORIES: Dr. Doom, Latverian Monarch – BEHOLD, THE POWER OF DOOM!

June 4, 2008

Hey, look at that! Another week and another Origin Stories. HAZAH! Another trip into the Silver Age! Today, I want to talk about one of my favorite stories and how we translated it to Vs. The story in question takes place in the first volume of the Fantastic Four, issues 57-60, during the height of the Lee/Kirby run.

READ ME FIRST: The thing you have to remember about comics from the 60’s and especially about comics written in the “Marvel way”, is that they didn’t have story arcs in the way we recognize them today. No part 1 (of 4)’s and stuff like that. The comics ran with one continuous storyline that could go on for years, perhaps decades (okay, maybe not decades). One of the ways they got away with this was by seeding multiple subplots throughout each issue… kind of like the way soap operas are written… not that I would know. Anyway, within the four issues I’ll be reviewing, there are multiple subplots starring such notable heroes and villains as Wyatt Wingfoot, Black Panther, Sandman, The Inhumans, and of course the Silver Surfer and Dr. Doom. Sometimes the different plots intersect. So, if all of a sudden the Inhumans show up in the Doom story, don’t be confused. I’m only showing you part of the story, the part that’s relevant to the Vs. cards that were inspired by this chunk of issues, so bear with me. If you’d like to read the issues without commercial interruptions, then you can find them reprinted in Masterwork or Essential collection form. Alright, on with the show.

PREMISE: Dr. Doom lures the Silver Surfer to his court with the cheesiest of royal invitations. Those panels will also serve as exhibit A in proving a case for the Surfer’s extreme gullibility. Doom greets the Surfer as a “humble servant of my people”. Some of you may recognize that line as it has appeared as Vs. flavor text. Okay, here’s where things turn sour. Like, if a dude invites you to his castle and then starts talking about how power has ever been his god, warning bells should be going off in your head. Seriously, how naïve is the Surfer? Now, I know back in the day, his origins had yet to be fully fleshed out, but this guy is still a full grown man on the planet he’s from, he can’t be this dumb! He just can’t! No one who could understand t he sacrifice it would take to turn an immoral being such as Galactus away from his home planet could be this naïve. Anyway, Lee addresses this later in a little caption box seen here, so I’ll leave off for now.

Next, Doom convinces Surfer to show off a little of that Cosmic Power. Oh Surfer, how wonderfully the good Doctor has played you. With a weapon like that, he could destroy the entire universe! Quick, get it away from him!

“Give it to daddy, son.”- Silver Surfer

In this wonderful full page spread, Jack Kirby just shows the heck off. You go, Jack! Yeah, you figured correctly, Silver dude. Doom is a ruthless, conniving basticth. Don’t trust him. Hey, we know this guy, right? Yeah, we’ll get back to him. Heh, funny. I know this was written in the 60’s, but Doom’s dialogue sounds like it was lifted right out of one of our President’s speeches on “glowbull terrah”. OOP, let’s not get political…

“Ah, to be on the London stage again…” – Dr. Doom

The Doom figure in the second panel is my favorite of this entire issue. He just looks so ridiculous. You kind of almost believe him. Especially the part about the peasants dancing in the streets. But then—

“Not the ultimate punishment!”- Lowly Peasant

I’d really like to know what the “ultimate punishment” is exactly, but unfortunately, we never get to find out. At least not with the Silver Surfer watching. Of course, Doom recovers nicely.

“You had me at hello.” – Silver Surfer

Losing Patience, Doom puts his foul plan into motion. While distracting Surfer with the tranquil images of space, he orders his scientists and robot lackeys to help him get dressed… and then gives it to him from behind. Yeah. He steals his powers.

“I can’t believe you fell for the oldest trick in the book!” – Dr. Doom (or, Dark Helmet)

And what does Doom do with unlimited POOOOOOWWWWEEEEEER?

“WEEEEEEEE!!!” – Dr. Doom

Oh, and scare the locals. And tear up their property. Man, Dr. Doom is a bigger dick than Superman.

Well, it’s one issue later and Doom is still a douchebag.

“I got you so bad!” – Dr. Doom

These next couple of scans are ridiculous. Doom repeatedly visits the Surfer just to taunt him. Jeez, man. Isn’t there a world out there you need to conquer or something?

Finally, he decides it’s high time to enact his ultimate master plan. The name of said plan?

Now, let us turn our attention to Doom’s thrilling battles with the Fantastic Four!

How to take down the Fantastic Four in 4-Easy-Steps:

Predictably, after the defeat of the greatest super team in history, Dr. Doom can’t help but gloat.

STATION BREAK: Enjoy this word from out sponsor… (…I have no idea.)

OUT-OF-CONTEXT: Surf’s up!

Reason #1 why the Silver Surfer is very, very lame.

Reason #2 why the Silver Surfer is very, very lame.

WHAT-THE-RANDOM: Who was asking about the Watcher?

I love the Silver Age. So many “meanwhile, back at the ranch…” moments. This is just an example of one of the many outdated devices used back then. Because the Marvel Universe was touted as a “shared universe”, Stan Lee needed to explain why every time someone like Dr. Doom was about to take over the world, the rest of the heroes of the Marvel Universe didn’t show up in each other’s books and kick his steel-played ass. This time, for some odd reason, he felt it was necessary to explain why the Watcher hadn’t shown up to help the Fantastic Four. Understandable, I guess, since he was introduced in this very comic less than a year earlier. But the reason Lee gives is utterly riddick. Birth of a new species? Get outta here!

Ok, so how does this travesty conclude? Well, Step 1, get Reed Richards to build an Anti-Cosmic Flying Wing. Step 2, program it to annoy Dr. Doom. Finally… oh, who cares? Click here for the wordy explanation.

Wow, that was a long and painful journey, huh? Where did we end up… oh, it’s time to fill more white space with art descriptions!

Dr. Doom, Latverian Monarch
Setting
: High above Castle Doom, Latveria
Action: This piece depicts the story wherein Dr. Doom robs the Silver Surfer of his Power Cosmic. There’s a hole in the roof, and through it we can see Doom’s laboratory, a Dr. Frankenstein style workspace. Dr. Doom hovers above the Castle, having just burst through the roof of his lab. His back arched and head tilted toward the sky. Green energy explodes from his gauntlets, producing energy trails and highlighting his armor. We get the feeling that he’s laughing maniacally beneath his steel mask.
Focus: Dr. Doom
Keywords: Frenzied, Ultimate Power

Another less well known “character” was also snatched out of this story and later debuted in the Marvel Legends expansion. That’s right, we saw him earlier. Here’s his art description:

“Pacifier” Robot
Setting
: Latverian Village – DAY
Action: The Pacifier robot stomps through a Latverian Village, firing randomly with his hi-tech head and arm-mounted guns.
Focus: The Pacifier Robot
Keywords: explosions, chaos, hulking armor

This is the part where I tell you about the prototype designs for 8-drop Doom and the Pacifier Robot. Well, not today! Surprisingly, both characters managed to hold onto their initial designs all the way through development. Huh, it just happens sometimes. What can I say? Or, I’m lying. Damn, dude. Scanning and cropping all that art is serious work. I’m tired.

So, like last time, I want to toss out some extra Vs. System art. This time, instead of artist related, I’m going to give you character related and obviously, that character is Dr. Doom. Enjoy.

   
   
   

Whew! That was a doozy of trip to the 60’s. Come back next week and perhaps we’ll talk about the newly released Marvel Universe. As always, feel free to hit me up with all your Vs. System related questions and comments. Speaking of… this Friday marks the end of my weekly preview wrap-up articles over on VsSystem.com. Make sure you check out the final episode as its chock full of answers to all the questions you’ve been asking for the past couple of weeks on VsRealms and TCGplayer.com.

SEE YA’ IN SEVEN!


ORIGIN STORIES: Forgotten Flavor – The Warsong of the Kree

May 21, 2008

I have to admit, this week’s edition is a bit self-indulgent. And not because I think I’m so clever and I can’t wait to tell you about it!* Alas, today’s trip down memory lane is mostly due to sheer laziness. I don’t need to research this week’s topic! Or re-research it. There are no comics to read! Or scan! It’s just me, my horribly organized files and my memory. YAY!

Judging from the title, some of you may have already guessed what the hell it is I’m talking about. Good for you. For those that have no idea, allow me to explain. Way back when we introduced the Kree affiliation in the Heralds of Galactus expansion, most people had no idea who the E-F-F they were, save for the diehard Avengers fans like myself and a few others on Realms. The way we Vs. flavor “artists” usually handle this is through the prodigious use of flavor text. Since this was my first set, and the inclusion of the Kree was my idea, the responsibility of explaining just who the hell the Kree were fell on my massively capable shoulders.

Now, there were two ways to approach this epic task. 1) You could write a bunch of boring one or two sentence “origin blurbs” for each character and non-character card. Or, 2) You could write a bunch of witty one-liners. I guess there’s actually three choices, since you could do a combination of the two… which is what we usually do. BORING. And now, I have to make another confession: writing the one-liners is way easier than writing the origin blurbs. If you scan the Marvel sets that followed MHG, you’ll find that we used the one-liners tons more often than the origin blurbs. The secret IS out. I’ve unmasked myself! Look, they’re just more fun to write, plus it lets you put in cool Easter Eggs, like the flavor text for the 7-drop Punisher from Marvel Legends.

“It’s time.”

Come-ON! That’s from like the greatest Chuck Norris movie of all-time!

Back on topic: Method 1 is boring and Method 2 is lazy. Method 3 is what we always do, so… what about Method 4?

METHOD 4

In a nutshell: No factual character history. No witty dialogue or banter. No Easter Eggs. Just make it up from scratch.

Once I realized that it was actually OK to just “make it up”, it was extremely liberating. Is this cheating? Not really. It’s being creative, damn it! The way I figured, it was better to write something original and memorable that conveyed through subtext (I mean, not in this poem, but you get the idea) the flavor of the given character, non-character or team than to paraphrase some piece of research (WIKIPEDIA!!!) in an unoriginal and boring way. Can we agree on that? Good. I thought so. Otherwise, I’d have to stop typing right this instant.

After minutes and minutes of hard, hard, hard thinking, I came up with the following poem to be placed on five separate cards– Ronan the Accuser, Kree Public Accusers, Kree Commandos, Kree Soldiers and the location, Hala:

Our Purpose, Empires to Pave

Our Ambition, Races to Enslave

Sons of Pama and Kree-Lar, We are Kree.

 

Our Policy, Planets to Devastate

Our Design, Systems to Subjugate

Descendants to the Stars, We are Kree.

 

Our Future, Universes to Posses

Our Fate, Dimensions to Oppress

Race Supreme, We are Kree.

 

Your Doom, Utter Annihilation

My Destiny, Eternal Veneration 

Loyal Servant, I am Kree.

 

Take Heed, Enemies of Our Fatherland

You will never stay our hand

Unyielding Will, We are Kree.

What’s that? Where did those first two stanzas come from?

 

Why, that’s the flavor text for the Kree Commandos and Kree Soldiers cards, silly boys. Why were they cut? It was deemed that there was already too much text on those cards, so the flavor was left off. This happens quite often, but it was the only time that I actually cared. I mean, I spent a lot of time on this damn thing. And now, finally, after years of quiet anguish, I’ve brought them to you, the people… my loving fans.**

Now that you’ve finally read the original poem in its entirety, does it change your feelings about the Kree one way or the other? Yeah, me neither. I just needed to get that out of my system… my OCD was acting up. With that finished, we can talk about some other design elements, like art descriptions and card development.

Conveying the flavor of a team always starts with the art. For the Kree, I was going for this militaristic/fascist/Nazi type feel, and of course, Yip would then follow through on that idea by designing a play pattern to match the art and the flavor of these little pink and blue aliens. Here’s a bit of what I gave him to work with:

Ronan the Accuser
Location: The Planet Hala– the capital city Kree-Lar, the center of the Kree Empire– the Citadel of Judgment– the Citadel’s architecture is Kirby-esque, with rounded edges and funky symbols etched on the walls.
Action: Ronan the Accuser stands on a balcony atop the Citadel of Judgment. Ronan stands with one hand behind his back, and the other holding the massive Universal Weapon (his hammer). He stands tall but his head is slightly down-turned. His shoulders are broad and imposing, giving us the sense that the weight of the empire is on his shoulders. His expression is serious with no hint of emotion.
Focus: Ronan the Accuser
Keywords: Imposing, Judgment
References: Fantastic Four Vol.3 #13-14

Hala
Setting: Hala (Kree Homeworld)
Action: Ariel Shot: We’re looking down at the technologically beautiful cityscape of Hala. The Architecture is Kirby-esque. The Kree are a militaristic society, so the foreground should include epic monuments dedicated to famous war heroes.
Focus: The Monuments
Keywords: Technological Sophistication
References: Operation Galactic Storm

…and then came design. We started work on this set in late September/early October. By Late November, this is what Ronan The Accuser, Starforce looked like:

COST: 5
ATK: 9 / DEF: 9
TEXT: When comes into play, name a character. Characters with the chosen name cannot use payment powers or be exhausted to pay costs.

Um… wow. I guess Hump decided that the world wasn’t ready for this kind of 5-drop yet. By early December, Yip had added Cosmic and a lot more text:

COST: 5
ATK: 9 / DEF: 9
TEXT: When comes into play, name a character. Cosmic: Characters with the chosen name cannot use payment powers or be exhausted to pay costs. Whenever becomes stunned, you may return him to his owner’s hand.

Ok, so this guy got the major nerf by adding the Cosmic keyword. Still seems pretty riddick. By early January, Ronan had begun his final transformation…

COST: 4
ATK: 8 / DEF: 7
TEXT: Press. When comes into play, each player cannot play plot twists or flip locations from their resource row this turn.

Except he had Press!!! Ah, what could have been? Imagine actually playing Ronan in a Kree deck… anyway, from there, he quickly morphed into the 4-drop that currently inhabits such decks as SKRULLS, SKRULLS, SKRULLS!!! and “Joe Boo” Endgame Stall.

That’s it for this week’s Origin Stories, thanks for reading. If you’re looking for some great Kree stories… sorry, there really aren’t any. Hah, I kid. I believe they traded Avengers: Operation Galactic Storm last year or the year before and the Live Kree Or Die 4-parter should be in one of those Kurt Busiek Avengers Assemble hardcovers. Which one? No clue. Check out Amazon.com, maybe they can help you. I’ve done enough. Jeez, I wrote you a whole fricking poem, ya’ douchebags!

Alright, check back next Wednesday and maybe I’ll have something cool to say about the good Dr. Doom. And: keep checking VsSystem.com for Marvel Universe Preview updates and join me there Friday for the Negative Zone Team Preview.

YOUR MOTHER!!!

* Well, obviously there’s some of that. I am a very, very arrogant man.

**SHUT UP! You know you love me, girl!


ORIGIN STORIES: The Red Skull – Tales of an Astonishing Nazi Übermensch

May 14, 2008

Earlier today, Desiato had the pleasure of previewing Red Skull, Johann Shmidt, Hydra on this very blog! I assume most of you have already browsed his terrific analysis of the card, so I won’t waste time reiterating his brilliance (especially not the parts where he implies my genius, since I am far too modest). What does concern me is reviewing the sordid history of the man who wears his skull on the outside. Now, as one who has read nearly every Captain America comic ever printed, I know a great deal about the Red Skull and his shenanigans. Not saying that to brag, it’s actually more of a problem than anything else. What to reveal, what to leave out? Let me sum up then… the following is an extended and abridged (huh?) summary of the true Red Skull’s history according to Marvel.com, with bits of my own tossed in for freshness. If you already know everything you need to know, you can skip ahead to the next section where I review the comic that inspired this version of the Skull.

Johann Shmidt, like most malcontents, was orphaned at birth. His mother died in childbirth and his father committed suicide the very next morning. Christ. Kind of makes you feel sorry for the guy. Anyway, Johann led a sad and lonely existence, begging, thieving, hard laboring and bellboying till the fateful day his path crossed with that of Adolf Hitler. By chance, he was present when Hitler was furiously berating an officer and swore he could train Johann, a simple bellhop, to be a better National Socialist. Sensing his dark inner nature, because that’s one of the many powers truly evil dudes have, Hitler decided to take the young Shmidt under his wing. Upon the completion of his “evil” training, Hitler gave Shmidt a uniform with a grotesque red skull mask, and so emerged the Red Skull.

His role was to be the embodiment of Nazi intimidation, while Hitler could remain the popular leader of Germany. The Red Skull was appointed head of Nazi espionage and sabotage. He was spectacularly successful, wreaking havoc throughout Europe in the early stages of World War II. The propaganda effect was so great that the United States government decided to counter it by creating their own super soldier in the form of Captain America. These titans of competing political ideologies soon clashed in a series of engagements throughout the war, ending with a final battle that left the Skull buried under the rubble of a bombed out building. Because he was immediately exposed to an experimental gas there, he remained in suspended animation for decades. You know, so he could pop up again for later use.

Johann was eventually rescued in modern times by the terrorist organization HYDRA, who the Skull quickly subverted to his own ambitions of world conquest and the death of Captain America. The two enemies resumed their war. At one point, he came into possession of the Cosmic Cube, the first of a handful of times, but still failed to defeat his nemesis Captain America. Soon after, the Skull’s health began to fail and he had Nazi geneticist Arnim Zola create for him a new body using stolen tissue from Steve Rodgers.

Under the alias of Mr. Smith, the Red Skull had the head of the President’s Commission on Superhuman Activities arrange for the Taskmaster to train John Walker to become the next Captain America. Skull’s goal here was to disgrace the image of Captain America, but once again, his plan fell apart when Steve Rodgers, then going by the codename The Captain, thwarted his plans… mostly by kicking his ass. During the confrontation, the Red Skull’s “Dust of Death” doused his own face and caused his flesh to melt away and his skull to turn red once again. You’d think that if that happened in real life, the victim would die of shock. Lucky for old Skully, he’s a super soldier.

During his heyday, the Red Skull controlled multiple criminal organizations, including the Watchdogs (a group of right-wing militiamen) and Scourge of the Underworld (an organization devoted to murdering super villains). The Skull is usually ignored by other villains because of his Nazi background. See, bad guys have standards. Even Dr. Doom only works with him under the most extreme of extenuating circumstances. It seems that the only guys he can rely on or his fellow Nazis, like Arnim Zola and Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, the leader of HYDRA. In fact, Strucker and Shmidt are such good friends, that Strucker allows him access to the full compliment of HYDRA’s arsenal.

Recently, while trying to relive his former glories by reconstituting a damaged Cosmic Cube, the Red Skull was assassinated by the Winter Soldier, under orders from the former Soviet general Aleksander Lukin. Lukin wanted the power of the Cube for himself. Lukin’s master plan? To bring the Russian state back from the brink and elevate it once more to Superpower status. However, when the Skull was shot, he was able to transfer his consciousness into the nascent Cosmic Cube. When the Winter Soldier delivered the Cube into Lukin’s greedy hands, the Red Skull transferred his mind into Lukin’s body. But the process wasn’t a total success. Once inside Lukin’s mind, the Red Skull wasn’t able to overpower the home team, only managing a stalemate. Currently, the two men are trapped like rats inside Lukin’s head.

Where Did The Card Come From?

The version is a nod to the Skull’s past affiliations with HYDRA, and you’ll see a RAID versioned Skull as well, but the origins of the art is what I’d really like to talk about. Back in 2004, during the whole “Avengers Disassembled” event, Marvel decided to disassemble and re-launch a bunch of the ancillary Avengers titles like Thor, Iron Man and Captain America with each title’s final arc receiving the “Avengers Disassembled” banner. Robert Kirkman was tapped to write the final Captain America story and turned out what in my mind could be one of the greatest Marvel works of his career. See, I don’t always hate on Kirkman.

The story is very simple: Red Skull uses one of Captain America’s former flames to entrap and murder him. All goes according to plan, yet not, when the hordes of HYDRA, Batroc the Leaper, the Serpent Society and Mr. Hyde all get involved and threaten to derail the Red Skull’s murderous ambitions. Of course, with the help of Diamondback, Captain America overcomes them all! Eventually, it’s down to Red Skull vs. Captain America in a no holds barred brawl for it all!

A notable piece of interest: this arc also offers up one of the final appearances of Nick Fury before going underground in the wake of the disastrous Secret War. Oh wait, but that’s not Nick Fury! Who the hell is that guy? Image inducers!!! Kirkman really nailed the naïve and fun loving aspect of Cap’s personality in this arc. The scenes with Cap storming the HYDRA base are some of the best the story has to offer. When the lowly HYDRA crony yells “GET HIM!” Cap turns the tables and does the getting. Yes, HYDRA agents do take coffee breaks. Well, this is just embarrassing.

In part 2, Batroc shows up, only to get his face smashed, in the most deserving way. THIS is why you will never see a Batroc the Leaper in Vs. System. He is too TEH lame. Hey look, it’s the Red Skull and he’s wearing some fancy armor! Is that a “head force field”? HAHAHHAHA… I want one. Oh, and Steve gets laid. Nice… then the stupid Serpent Society crash the party and things take a turn for the silly.

This is fun Cap. I miss him. Can we get a four issue mini starring fun Cap, please? So Cap and Diamondback wreck the Society and make plans for dinner later that night. When Diamondback heads home to change, Red Skull is there waiting for her. Since the Society messed up the old “poison” plan, he tells her to come up with something new. She hesitates. He asks why. She replies

…and then Red Skull has a reply of his own: a swift neck breaking. Ouch. No Cap, she’s not there. Sad times. With Rachel out of the way, the fight begins with a savagery never before seen in a Captain America comic! Double ouch!! Could Red Skull actually defeat the great hero of the American People? Nah… not while Life Model Decoy Diamondback (WHA?!?!) yet draws artificial breath! The real Nick Fury shows up, stops the fight, explains the plot in great detail and then disappears with the LMD and the defeated Red Skull. How the Red Skull escapes custody in the months leading up to the re-launch is a bit of a mystery… whatever, there’s enough time to ponder that one later, right now I’d like to discuss a more pressing matter, like say… Steve Rodgers sexing up a robot!?! Um, how did this get past editorial? What’s even more inappropriate? The real Diamondback’s eagerness to take her doppelganger’s place in the sack.

Yuck.

All in all, it was a fun couple of issues and a fitting, yet awkward end to a mediocre series. And then came… Ed Brubaker. But that’s a story for another time.

Red Skull and The Marvel Universe

I can’t really reveal much in the way of designs, since the Marvel Universe set hasn’t even shipped yet, but I can toss out an unused art description from Marvel Team-Up.

Red Skull, Johann Shmidt
Setting: Streets of a European City – Night
Action: The Red Skull stands in front of a burning building, firing a Luger pistol at the viewer. He is dressed in an SS uniform, but let’s keep the Swastikas out of it. The buildings should look European, preferably a real-world building in London, Paris, or Berlin.
Focus: Red Skull

Red Skull

It was decided that one Red Skull, the communist Albert Malik, was more than enough Skull for MTU and that we’d save the real deal for the next Avengers re-feature… which just so happens to be Marvel Universe, a set that includes not 1, or 2, but 3 brand new Red Skulls. He is a legend, after all.

That’s it for this week’s Origin Stories! Hope you enjoyed Desiato’s preview and this retelling of the Red Skull’s lowly origins. Check back next Wednesday for more behind the scenes info and keep checking VsSystem.com for Marvel Universe Preview updates. Join me there Friday for the Crime Lords Team Preview where we learn a little bit more about HYDRA, A.I.M. and RAID.

DRAFT MORE WEB OF SPIDER-MAN!!!


ORIGIN STORIES: Stop Me If You’ve Seen This Before – Where the Art Comes From and Other Fables

April 30, 2008

I could lie. I could say this week’s topic isn’t an ego-fuelled tirade. I could say this isn’t me being overly sensitive or defending what doesn’t need defending. And I could also say this isn’t directly aimed at one self-proclaimed “Chosen” podcatser with an affinity for Superman and long, meandering asides… you bastard!*

“WTF, I’ve seen this before! It’s recycled! I can even find and scan the comic they stole it from! You guys suck!” – Random Hater Esq.

Yes, you have seen it before. Yes, we primarily use previously published art for our Marvel Vs. sets. Yes, you can find and scan the comic. No, it’s not stealing. Yes, we do suck sometimes. Yes, I feel comfortable admitting that. I mean, Three Ton Boulder is obviously stains. All of this is fine, except the joy some people take in pointing out where the art is originally from. I’m not talking about the people who do this in that scavenger hunting way. Those people are cool. I’m talking about the people who do it as a means to embarrass us. Those people are less cool. I don’t understand it. It’s not like we’re trying to cover it up. I certainly don’t care. Hell, if you want, you can e-mail me and I’ll tell you exactly where I found every piece.**

Okay, I’m veering dangerously off-topic. Ranting inanely wasn’t exactly the point of this article, as much as I want it to be. That was just unforgivably petty venting. I apologize. What I’d actually like to achieve in today’s column is to show you the recently UPDATED art gathering process for Marvel Vs. System expansions. We’ll go through it step-by-step in order to give you guys a greater understanding of the work and love that still goes into creating Vs., regardless of the art we use. Without further ado, let’s jump into…

STEP 1: Reading Comics Time

Everything starts with research. Always. This translates to me hitting “the vault” and pulling a bunch of comics out of “the wall”. Then, I read said bunches of comics and taking bunches of illegible notes. For Marvel Universe, I probably re-read around 300-500 comics. For Marvel Evolution, it was considerably less, around half that since the set is much smaller and has a tighter focus.

Once I’ve finished my research, I construct a set skeleton including every character I want in the set divided into all their little teams with non-character cards and other junks. Once I get the characters where I want them, I fill in costs, versions, dual affiliations, flight and range, keywords, etc. Here’s an example of an early pre-R&D set skeleton for Marvel Universe:

Using this file as reference, I make a list of all the pieces of art I’m going to need to create each card. In the past, I’d just insert the art descriptions directly into this file and then ship it off to Yip to pass along. But today we obviously do things a bit differently. What happens next?

STEP 2: Gathering the High Quality Digital Art & Ideas

Marvel is so cool. So cool. Using the master list I’ve created through my research, I send an e-mail to Marvel requesting the art we need, with references to where it’s from and everything so it’s easy to find. Then, they e-mail me back with the requested high quality images, usually with the word balloons removed, within a few weeks. I download it onto my computer and BAM! Super smooth process FTW! Sometimes, things get tricky though. Sometimes Marvel can’t seem to locate exactly what I’ve asked for. When this happens, we break the glass that’s labeled “Break Glass In Case Of Emergency.”

STEP 3: Tagging Pages and Panels

It’s at this point that I try deciphering the illegible notes I took during my research. Obviously, I can’t make them out. They’re illegible. This means I have to go back through and re-do some of my research. Pain in the ass dot com. What this means: Billy tags all the pages and panels of the art he needs. Billy tags this because Billy will have to scan this all in by hand. Usually Marvel does this for us, but like I said, sometimes you got to break that glass.

STEP 4: Scanning My Life Away

For printing purposes, the quality of the images we use have to be a certain DPI. It’s a very high number. Since the scanner I own is a POS, I have to go into work to use the one there. It’s like some top of the line deal with all kinds of cropping and retouching features. It’s like from the future, but not, because it was invented by some inventor guy for this specific purpose. I think he works in Shipping & Receiving. Anyways, it usually takes a couple of days to get everything I need locked and loaded, so I make a week of it and stay in Carlsbad with friends. Or, social retards like these guys:

STEP 5: 30 Minutes or Less

After I’ve pretty much collected every piece we’ll need for whatever the current set is (I gathered over 350 images for MUN***), I take them home and organize all the image files by name and version and whatever. Then I burn it all onto a DVD (these files can be very large) and drop it in the mail. Someone, the guy that opens mail I guess, takes the DVD and downloads it onto the master server… and there it sits until we lock the file.

STEP 7: Repeat Any of the Above Steps If Necessary****

We’re human, we make mistakes. Sometimes, mostly last minute, it’s decided that one or a dozen pieces I’ve submitted don’t work. Either we’ve changed the file and dropped a specific card or the art just doesn’t fit properly in the card template. This can be annoying… if you’re not prepared with your backups! Always have a backup plan, dudes. But sometimes it’s too late to change anything and then stuff like this happens:

…which is exactly what you would expect.

Well, that does it for this week’s edition of Origin Stories. I hope it was fun and informative. As you can see, we spend more time finding quality art than we ever did writing it. In all honestly, I was just as sad to see the original art go as the rest of you, but I think what we got now is almost as good as what we had. Admittedly, there’ve been a few snags along the way. We’ll call them “growing pains” and hope you forgive us our trespasses.

Hey, need more Vs. knowledge? Keep checking VsSystem.com for Marvel Universe preview updates and I’ll see you there Friday for the Thunderbolts Team Preview.

QUIT CRYING!!!

*I kid, of course. Heh.

**Please limit your requests to 2 per e-mail and one e-mail per month. I’m not made of time, damn it!

***You always need backup images, just in case.

****What’s STEP 6? Look, some steps were added to pad the article and make the process seem more sophisticated than it actually is and some steps have to remain secret for now. You know, trade secrets and all that.


ORIGIN STORIES: Wolverine, Canucklehead – The Writing on the Wall

April 23, 2008

In light of last week’s epic undertaking, I thought I’d keep it light today. Does anyone remember the four issue stint Warren Ellis had on Wolverine in the late 90’s? No? That’s okay, allow me to educate.

Not Dead Yet is a story about revenge told in intercutting flashbacks. 10 years ago, Wolverine knew a Scotchman by the name of McLeish. McLeish was a killer for hire, so right away these guys had a lot in common. But this is a friendship one of these men would not survive. The problems start when Logan discovers that McLeish has killed his girlfriend’s father. Of course, this shit will not stand, so Logan chases McLeish down and blows him up. Guy should be dead right? Wrong… and not even close. Flash forward to the present… Logan’s just chilling in the East Village on his way home. In his apartment, he finds a dead body and a bomb. BOOM, Logan’s sent flying through the window to the streets below. Sensing his old nemesis is alive and well, Logan goes about trying to track the dead man down. Too bad he’s suddenly attacked by a bunch of randoms who play bumper cars with his body. The story continues from here, with more flashbacks and more “dead man tracking” and more bad guys with adamantium bullets. Logan eventually locates the dead man McLeish and a final confrontation is had. One of them doesn’t walk away. This isn’t a “THE END” story, so it’s easy to guess who. I’ve spoiled the ending but I don’t want to spoil the details, because that’s where the real fun is. Find this story and read it for yourself. It’s worth the effort, I promise.

The genius of this tale is Ellis’ ability to strike while the iron is hot. Sure, his involvement on the title was a direct result of the artist, Leinil Francis Yu, soliciting him about doing a Wolverine project, but that really is beside the point. This story just wouldn’t have worked if Wolverine wasn’t adamantiumless at the time. This is an Ellis trademark of late, quickly getting in and out of a mainstream superhero title, and here we see one of the first instances of this practice. Some of you may hate this. Recently, Ellis announced that he’s leaving Thunderbolts to jump onto Astonishing, and in a little over a year, he’ll probably jump off that to do something else. This is monumentally confounding for diehard fans. We want our favorite creators to remain chained to every project they undertake. But, we have to understand that these creators get bored, and what’s more, they don’t own the copyright to these characters. It would be an extremely unwise business move for a top name creator to remain on a book he can’t make royalties on. And, in the long run we the fans would suffer most. If Ellis didn’t end Nextwave, would we have his stellar Thunderbolts run? If he doesn’t leave Thunderbolts, do we get the chance for an epic Astonishing run? And does a guy like Ellis still have the time to write all his creator-owned projects? Sure, he may be writing too many right now, but that’s a subject of another rant… anyway, I’m going off-topic, let’s get back to Vs.

Moving over to design and development, the Wolverine art request was inspired by this specific image:

 

Using that image as reference, I wrote the following request. Keep in mind, the setting was altered a bit to fit the “New York” theme I’d set up for the rest of the Spider-Friends. This is a perfect example of what happens when the comic to card conversion is more of an interpretation than a direct translation. Like when a screenwriter adapts a book into a movie. They both share the same common themes, but the key differences are in the details.

Wolverine, Canucklehead
Setting: Back Alley, New York – Night
Action: Wolverine’s in the center of the image, ripping his bullet riddled street clothes off. He’s mask-less and bleeding from multiple gun shots wounds to the chest. He has an angry look on his face; the wounds have soured his mood. On the alley wall, there’s a bit of graffiti which reads, “Not Dead Yet”.
Focus: Wolverine
Keywords: Un-killable Scrapper, Savage Beast

With all the Wolverines we’ve done in the past, I was surprised that “Canucklehead” was available for versioning. Of course, we had to use it. Especially since the last time we saw him in MHG, he was the ‘Skrunucklehead”. There’s nothing we love more than parallels in flavor and in design.

In late May of 2006, Yip began design work on Marvel Team-Up. He started with Spider-Friends and jumped around from there. By early June, he shipped me his first draft. First drafts are usually only partial files. About a third of the cards have full, fleshed out designs in their text boxes. Another third have little flavor ideas, like sketches about which direction the designer is thinking of going. And the final third are usually blank. In the first file, Wolverine had the following text box:

ATK: 13 / DEF: 11
TEXT: Pay 2 DEF >>> Ready Wolverine and he cannot cause breakthrough this turn. Use this power only once per turn and only while Wolverine is attacking.

A version of this power would eventually move to the Dual Loyalty Moon Knight, Fist of KhonShu. A month later, in July…

ATK: 13 / DEF: 12
TEXT: Reservist. Wolverine can’t be stunned while attacking while you control Spider-Man.

Hey, it’s the final version of Wolverine! Not quite. A week later Yip sent this one over…

ATK: 12 / DEF: 11
TEXT: Pay 3 DEF >>> Wolverine gets +3 ATK this turn. Use this power only once per turn.

Okay, what the heck? This design was eventually discarded when the Spider Friends began taking a firmer shape. The Spider Friends would be paying ATK as a team, so paying DEF was out of the question. Paying DEF would be reserved for more aggressive teams like Sinister Syndicate. By August, Wolverine had reverted to the earlier, superior design…

ATK: 13 / DEF: 12
TEXT: Reservist. While you control Spider-Man, Wolverine can’t be stunned while attacking.

Not Dead Yet stands as one of my favorite Wolverine stories of all-time, and certainly one of the best pieces written by Warren Ellis. That said, I was incredibly happy with the way Wolverine turned out. The art we got back for it was excellent and Yip’s design was solid. He may not be game-breaking, since his ability only shines when you have the initiative, but he’s still a solid card and deadly in draft when taking the evens.

That’s it for this week’s Origin Stories, thanks for reading. If you’re looking to pick up the trade of Wolverine: Not Dead Yet, it may currently be out of print. But don’t despair, you might have more luck tracking down the single issues (Wolverine Vol. 1 #119-122) than locating the sold-out trade. Check back next Wednesday for more behind the scenes infos and maybe a spoiler or two about the next set. Or, that last part could be a lie. You’ve been warned. Also: keep checking VsSystem.com for Marvel Universe Preview updates and join me there Friday for the S.H.I.E.L.D. Team Preview.

BE SOMEBODY!!!


ORIGIN STORIES: Spider-Man Robot – How Kang Almost Murdered the Avengers and Lived Happily Ever After.

April 16, 2008

Hey True Believers!* Welcome back to another week of Origin Stories. Today, let’s talk about the underplayed Spider-Man Robot and how because Andrew Yip can’t read, he didn’t turn out quite as planned. Read the rest of this entry »


ORIGIN STORIES: Red Shift – The True Story of My Secret Shame

April 9, 2008

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ORIGIN STORIES: Death’s Embrace… about a boy and his comics.

April 2, 2008

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ORIGIN STORIES: Those “Other” Secret Invasions

March 26, 2008

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