Monday, August 15, 2005

The Return of the MacGuffin

One of the things I like and respect in the creative team of a comic is a knowledge of, and respect for what has gone before.

A little research into the situations, past and personality that make up a character really does lead to better stories. This has been getting ignored with greater regularity over the years. Now I am not a continuity purist and I'm not a fanatic about it, but a writer shouldn't throw out years of characterization or established background because they want a nifty throw-away scene...cough Bendis cough.

A non-Bendis example of what I find irritating is like the scene in 2005's Marvel Team-Up #11, written by Kirkman. In that issue She-Hulk and Carol (Warbird) Danvers are shown partying in a bar and drinking beer. This is after Carol has been consistently portrayed as an emotionally unstable alcoholic for the last 5 years. Way to write for the trades, man. I can't help but think that in ignoring the regular reader for the casual TPB consumer, comics are hurting their future. MTU #11 alone isn't going to cause the industry to come crashing down, but it appears to be a good example of the attitude of the companies towards its reader-base.

Paying attention to the history of a character can be fun and the fans like it. Case in point...The Green Glob.

The Green Glob first appeared way back in 1964 in Tales of the Unexpected #83, in the cover story King of the Nightmare Jungle.

Like a Silver Age Julie Schwartz concept-cover or Red Kryptonite, the Green Glob was a literary device used for the sole purpose of setting up a story. Originally the Glob was an invisible field of energy that could alter reality and do other fantastic things. It tossed people into situations that they would then have to spend the next 8 or 9 pages getting themselves out of. That the field was green was only for the benefit of the reader back then, as it was undetectable to the protagonists of the story. The Glob changed reality temporarily with the only permanent result being the lesson learned by the story's subject.

In it's premier issue the Glob transported a meek Earthman to a world where everything was shaped like a penis. In reading the story of a man who was elbowed out of a date by a rival, this makes sense. After beating up on giant carnivorous phallus-plants and electrical-discharge monsters, the hero having found his nerve, returns to earth and re-claims his girlfriend.

The Glob served as a plot device much in the same way Marvel's Captain Universe temporary cosmic hero did, providing impetus for a story. In fact, it is difficult not to compare the Glob to the Captain Universe concept and see that the former may have been the inspiration for the latter.

The Green Glob was featured in Tales of the Unexpected #'s 83-98, 100, 102-103. After it last appeared in the 1967 issue #103 it faded into comics obscurity.

In 1991 it returned as the MacGuffin in the Angel and the Ape mini-series by Phil Phoglio. In that story Gorilla Grodd captured the Green Glob, intending to use it's reality warping powers in another megalomaniac scheme.

It is somehow fitting that after it first appeared in a story about Wang-World, the Glob is now trapped in a mechanical vagina.

Eventually the hero Sam Simeon, the Ape half of Angel and the Ape, discovers that the Glob is a proto-type creation of the Guardians of the Universe, sent out into the universe to teach lessons to sentients. Sam fakes out Grodd and in doing so, allows the Glob to break it's programming. FYI, it's probably not a good thing to mess with Guardian-tech in the DCU. The Glob started acting a little unbalanced in the final panels. It's interesting to note the Glob now superficially resembles not only a power-battery, as befits it's origins, but also the Emerald Eye, another possible Guardian artifact.

Now that was a fun trip. Comic writers, please take note. Those who do not know the past are destined to pull things out of their ass.


  1. And yet somehow Jeph Loeb manages to not only introduce long forgotten silver age elements, but he does so via his ass...

    An even stranger example of what you are talking about here appears in the Wonder Woman story in Worlds' Finest #248-249 which features aliens that are supposed to be from Mystery in Space #73. And yet in the one off backup that is referenced, the aliens are never actually seen and in fact have all died out a million years ago.

    Why they should be tied into the aliens in the Wonder Woman story at all completely baffles me.

  2. I'm with you on the Loeb hate. It hurts my brain to think what he and Bendis combined will do to Marvel.


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