Saturday, November 25, 2006

B-Sides #1

B-Sides #1, November 2002, Marvel Comics
writer: Brian David-Marshall
artist: Brett Weldele
letterer: David Sharpe
colorist: Matt Madden
assistant editor: Lynne Yoshii
editor: Andrew Lis

Most, if not all, of the most popular Marvel Comics characters were created with some vulnerability that incited their own self-loathing and thus the readers' sympathy and interest. Although each superhero's fantastic abilities usually took center stage in their adventures, this proverbial Achilles heel drove their subplots and character development, not to mention a drive to rid themselves of their weaknesses once and for all. For instance, for as many times as Spider-Man saved the city from some macabre villain's dastardly plot, Peter Parker always secretly longed for his peers' acceptance and friendship. Stan Lee thought comicdom's young audience would relate. He was right.

But that was then -- the mid-'60s. Nowadays, kids revel in their differences and awkward quirks, and in most cases, they usually try create a few new quirks that are all their own. The kids in The Craptacular B-Sides, with strange and seemingly useless abilities that even the superhero community seems to ignore, don't have to worry about that. Fateball, for example, has some combat skill, but ultimately, her prophetic magic 8-ball is the real source of her power. Alas, she can predict the future through a series of yes or no questions, but she can do very little to actually change it. Mize can make bad things happen, and in so doing, bad things usually happen back to him. Jughandle, the most contrived of the three, can create a pocket dimension that he and his friends can dwell within -- which he seems to use mostly to spy on chicks. Hey, who wouldn't? So, in this issue, the three come together at the request of a clever shyster who wants to start his own super-team, and they decide to finally make a difference . . . yes, in the world, but also for themselves -- for their own damaged self-esteem.

As could've been predicted, I don't think the B-Sides are around anymore, which in the context of this first issue is actually quite surprising, because I appreciated the writer's realistic look at adolescence through the superhero lens, and the artist's jagged but compelling visuals, both of which reflected the melodrama and cynicism the characters needed to exhibit to remain believable for today's young audience. Yes, Stan Lee cornered the pathetic teenager market, but he also assumed that teenagers sought refuge from their awkwardness. As I said before, nowadays, they embrace it, complete with Napoleon Dynamite gear courtesy the local Hot Topic. Fortunately, Marvel Comics is adaptable to our dynamic youth culture. The impression may not last, but I think it counts, and for teenagers, sometimes that's all that matters.

Plus, as a diehard Cloak & Dagger fan, any comic book that acknowledges their role in the Marvel Universe -- "There were no Spider-Mans in this group. Heck, there weren't even a Cloak and Dagger." -- as prevalent in any way is a-okay by me. Does that put Marvel's original runaways on the A-and-a-half side?

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