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

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?”


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!


(…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.


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!


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!


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!


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!

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:


“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!

…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!

COMIC-CON ’08: Vs. R&D and Other Crazies!

Enough time has passed that I think I’ve finally recovered from the experience that was Comic-Con. I’m going to keep this post light. This means, I’m only going to show you the “good times” and speak not of the “bad times”. And yeah, there were tons of “bad times”.

First, Pictures With Vs. R&D New And Old:

Patrick Sullivan stares deer-eyed into the camera.
The Hump is soooo bored with life.
• Rules Guru, Paul Ross demo’ing some WOW.
Me and Cate Gary, editor supreme.
• Former VS. Designer, Matt Hyra can not be bothered to smile.
• “No one wants to demo MUB, Billy. Does that make you sad?” –Ben Seck
John Fiorillo and Billy Zonos… man crush!

…And Now For Something Completely Different, Ballsy Fans In Costumes!

Ms. Marvel wants me bad.
• OMG! I met Isaiah Bradley!!
• Marvel’s Spider-Man and Black Cat.
• A couple of Teen Titans… is that a sock in his pants? I hope so.
Han Solo never looked better.
The American Dream and Me.

That guy, right there: Costume of the Year! Notice me trying hard as hell not to laugh?

For a complete picture account from Comic-Con, follow this link to my Flickr page.

p.s. my birthday is in five months, someone buy me this.

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

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…


…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.


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



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?



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.



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.)

Meanwhile… read/RANT! Welcomes Lebeau To The Team!

Hey guys, we have a new regular reviewer over here at read/RANT! and his name is… Lebeau! Welcome to the team, dude! This guy is so fast; he’s already reviewing stuff before I even got the chance to introduce him. Check out his excellent Action Comics review here. Great start, Lebeau, and I expect plenty more where that came from.

Some of you may be asking, “How did this come about?” Well, allow me to explain. The other day, Lebeau sent me a PM on VsRealms asking if we were still accepting new reviewers and if yes, then he would like to be considered. First of all, we are always looking to expand our reviewership. Second, the criteria to be added is thus:

1) You must have a WordPress account.
2) You must love comics.
3) You must love talking about comics.
4) You must ask.

That’s it. Just ask. Wanna join up? Just ask. All are welcome!

“Hey, can I join your group?”Lebeau

“Um… sure. What’s your e-mail?”Me

And literally three hours later, Lebeau was posting his first review. It’s really that simple. If you have passion, we want you. If you’re all talk, well… to quote the esteemed Al Pacino, “Don’t waste my mother####ing time!” In other words, don’t be a “Deranged Bear”.

“OMG SQUEE!!! CAN I JOIN!!!”Deranged Bear

“YAUS!” – Me


Bear was one of the first members, besides me, to join and he has yet to write a thing in five months. What a bastard. Yeah, I know he’s busy with his weekly column over at the Vs. Blog (pretentious title much? Huh? HUH! HUH? HUH! How’s that taste, Rod-ree-go?) and his bi-annual podcast with his hatemate Ludin “RocketJerk” Romero, but c’mon man! Where’s the follow through?

(I realize this post has collapsed into flames of passion, those secret feelings that have long festered in my belly are bubbling to the surface… I apologize for this unprofessional behavior. The above statements are in no way meant to incite a “Blog War” (although, that does sound kind of cool, yes?) Let’s get back to praising our newest member.)

On second thought, I’ve praised enough. Don’t want to swell his head. So, in conclusion (which is what you say when you’re ready to wrap things up), read/RANT! currently boats six semi-regular reviewers, with 2-3 regular features a week, such as Desiato’s Trade Secrets, Bruce Castle The Archives, Series Review, Origin Stories, etc… as well as daily comic reviews by pretty much everyone on the list. We got tons of content. This isn’t self-indulgent back-patting, as much as it’s just me being super excited that the dream of creating a safe haven for comic book discussion among peers has reached the next stage.

Before I close it out, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved with giving this blog that friendly, community feeling and for being so darned dedicated. You are the guys that make this experiment in fun worth it. Readership outside of the Vs. community has also increased, so I’m looking forward to hearing from those guys in the coming months, but… I’m even more excited about the possibility of adding more reviewers to the staff. So, if you want in, now is the perfect time.

It’s a ‘Call To Arms’, bitches!

DC Universe Preview: Kyle Rayner, Parallax

Vs. System has some of the greatest fans in all of fandom. True story. When faced with the possibility that one of the “Big Two” might be disappearing from our beloved game, they banded together to create what has so far been a truly worthy unofficial counterpart to Marvel Universe. And no, they didn’t pay me to say that or bribe me with the gift of submissive internet wives. It’s the damn truth. Have you guys been watching the previews? As excited as I was about the idea of this fan-created set, I’m even more excited to be a part of it… if only in a very small way. Not only do I get to preview a card, I get to preview a bad guy. I love the bad guys, they always gets to do the coolest shit, and what a monster of a bad guy this one is!

The inspiration for Kyle Rayner, Parallax comes from a little story we like to call “The Sinestro Corps War,” which ran through the Green Lantern books last summer. The event centered on Sinestro (ah, the title is not ironic, although still hard to say) and the formation of the Sinestro Corps, the fear-based opposite of the Green Lantern Corps. Very early in the story, Kyle Rayner (still Ion at the time) was captured by Sinestro and his brutal (I’ve been marathoning Metalocalypse) minions. They, of course, tortured his candy ass and as the coup de grâce, they ripped the Ion entity out of him and replaced it with the now freed Parallax creature. SICK! And then he goes insane. Eventually, his sanity is restored when Parallax gets evicted. However, and this is the suckiest part, after the exorcism, Kyle does not resume his role as Ion. The Guardians (hate those guys) “demote” his ass to Honor Guard, forcing him to work with that over-sized child, Guy Gardener. Okay, enough paraphrased history. Let’s talk about the broken-stally-ness that is this card.

First of all, this effect isn’t anything new to Vs. System. You may recall it first appearing on the 7-drop Punisher, Angel of Death from Marvel Legends. That card was good, but this card is bonkers. What makes Kyle a million times better than Punisher? Well, tons of stuff, actually! For one, you don’t need to deal with a clunky additional cost to recruit. Unless you were running Rogue/Mimic, missing a Punisher recruit on the way to turn 7 completely hosed your strategy. This is probably why we haven’t seen much in the way of tier one decks that involve the abuse of the 7-drop Punisher, Wolverine, Juggernaught or Invisible Woman. Wolverine.dec doesn’t count and neither does Family of Four. Those decks don’t live or die on their 7-drop plays. But, I digress as we can argue this at a later date…

So, why is it so much easier to fulfill the additional cost to recruit clause on this card? Oh, because of cards like Carrying The Torch and The Captain. The Captain is the most obvious way to cheat this card’s cost, but it’s also a simple matter to ditch a Sinestro into your pile and have your 5-drop of choice Carry The Torch. Or, I guess you could just play the already previewed 4-drop Sinestro with the Reign of Terror effect. Whatever.

Another reason this card is so much better than Punisher? He’s a 6-drop. This means, obviously, you’ll get more use out of him in the course of a game, and for stall decks this means that your “lock turn” could come as early as turn 6. This is key in today’s turn 3/4 metagame. This guy’s also got flight on Punisher, although I don’t think you’ll be using him to attack much. His effect is just too good. In fact, the only time I can see you attacking with Kyle is if you can’t afford to lose any endurance to his effect… which brings me to…

The real cost of this card: Your endurance. Your life. Your essence. Which, in my opinion, isn’t much of a cost at all. On most turn 6’s, your opponent will send their 4- or 5-drop into your 6 to try and bait out the activation, allowing the lower and less useful drop to “take one for the team.” So, Kyle’s effect will usually cost you 4-5 endurance. No biggie. But, if you’ve been doing your job correctly, you may leave him no choice but to send in his 6-drop or pass. Imagine playing this guy in a Doom or Spider-Man deck? Exhausting everyone but their highest drop and forcing the pass? Smells oh so sweet, baby! From a play pattern perspective, this card reminds me of another metagame defining 6-drop of days past. The 6-drop Sinestro, Green Lantern of Korugar (IRONY, at last!) played in a similar way. Sometimes, for fear of losing their whole board to his auto-stunning ability, opponents would just pass their attacks. Whether or not the designers had this in mind is anyone’s guess, but I like to think they did. It’s just too sweet to have happened by accident. Or, I could just be losing my mind.

What’s also interesting to me is that the loss of endurance to pay effects is a theme reminiscent of the Marvel Knights. I wonder about the synergy of a deck with the curve 4-drop Sinestro/6-drop Kyle/7-drop Punisher? Or, how about tossing Deadpool, Merc With A Mouth into the 5-drop slot (the how is up to you!)? And Rogue at the 4? Some torch carrying for good measure and we got ourselves a pile of jank! The possibilities seem endless, but this card definitely screams “stall deck” to me. Maybe that’s personal bias, but I just don’t see this guy fitting as nicely anywhere else. That’s not to say you can’t play him as your primary 6-drop in a beatdown or curve deck. He’s got very respectable stats and his effect is good in any build. But, I’m a min/maxer. I want the biggest bang for my buck, dudes.

There you have it. A quick glimpse at one of the strongest cards previewed so far. I’ve given you some obvious food for thought, but I have by no means been exhaustive. I’m already thinking about other ways to abuse this guy, but I think it’s more fun for you guys to discover the possibilities for yourselves.

I have to admit though, these DCU designers have made me jealous. I kind of wish I’d designed this card. Kudos!


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
: 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
: 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.


ORIGIN STORIES: Forgotten Flavor – The Warsong of the Kree

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?


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

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:

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:

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…

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.


* 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

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.


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.


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

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.


*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

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.