Monday, October 03, 2011

Modern Silver: Alan Moore's 1963 Part I

In 1993, Alan Moore collaborated with several artists at Image Comics on a project that alternately was an homage to and a spoof of the Marvel Comics of the 1960s. The intent was to contrast how comics were back in the Silver Age with the comics scene of the 1990s. The series as it stands is pretty terrific, although in the end it was done in by the 1990s lunacy, as a planned 80-Page Giant which would have had the 1963 characters confronting their then-current counterparts was never completed. Owing to ownership hassles involving the separate characters featured in the series, it has never been reprinted and probably never will be. But enough of that modern crap, I will try to treat this comic as a genuine 1960s artifact.

Mystery Incorporated is obviously intended as a Fantastic Four tribute, and it largely succeeds. The opening features a man breaking into their headquarters, opposed by three of the members:
No particular surprise, the fourth member is the intruder himself, just testing their defense systems. I love the opening, because, as with similar sequences in the early issues of the Fantastic Four, it serves as a painless introduction to the various powers of the individual members. We can quickly identify their FF counterparts: Crystal Man is clearly intended as a Mr Fantastic knockoff, Kid Dynamo is the Human Torch, Neon Queen is the Invisible Girl and the oddly named Planet (whose face resembles more the Moon) is the Thing.

For the most part the members of Mystery, Inc. behave the way their counterparts in the FF did, although there are a few differences. For instance, Kid Dynamo is the younger brother of Planet, and is apparently competing with Crystal Man for Neon Queen's affections. We get a quick origin (they gained their powers on a space flight when they encountered alien technology on an asteroid), followed by a scene where they read their fan mail. As in the real FF, there's a letter questioning why they need a girl with such useless powers on the team.

Then we get the real story. Neon Queen encounters a real intruder:
But although he seemed a trifle ill just before she attacked him, he gets healthier, and continues to walk backwards, then suddenly vanishes in a flash of light. The whole team investigates:
Of course, that's a little nod to the endless gadgetry in the FF HQ, most specifically the Negative Zone. Kid Dynamo flies off toward the computer room to see if the intruder did any damage there, while the rest of the team continues to inspect the area, looking for bombs and other devices that might have been left behind. Planet wonders if the intruder could have been Apocalypse:
A clear reference to Stan's ubiquitous and alliterative footnotes. Suddenly the defenses of the MI's headquarters act up against them and we get another look at their powers in action. Meanwhile, Kid Dynamo discovers that the intruder is still in the computer area. They duke it out for a bit, but the mystery man eventually captures him in a box:
Meanwhile Crystal Man has doped out what really happened. The intruder was a visitor from the future:
So instead of coming from the computer room, he had gone to to the computer room, as of course Kid Dynamo has already discovered. They race off to rescue him, but he and the intruder are both gone, so the issue ends with the other three dashing headlong into the Maybe Machine.

Comments: Moore captures the essence of the Silver Age FF in this story nearly perfectly, and Rick Veitch's pencils and Dave Gibbon's inks have the look and feel of mid-1960s Kirby goodness. The comic even includes a Bullpen Bulletins knockoff with this hilarious spoof of Stan's name-dropping:
There are two pages of letters, discussing (imaginary) previous issues, and even some faux-1960s ads:
Overall I give the story high marks; if it were an actual Silver Age comic it would surely rate in the top 100 comics of that era. Well worth the read if you can find it.


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Anonymous said...

I remember those, though not this particular one--I think my favorite was the Dr. Strange riff, Johnny Beyond.

Allan said...

I loved 1963 -- though I remember it wasn't terribly popular with fandom at the time. I thought it evoked the feel of the Silver Age very well, and it was a great shame that the ginat-size finale never appeared.

Doc Savage said...

No One Escapes the Fury and Horus, Lord of Light were my favorites. Love these comics so much! N-Man is another winner. Least favorite: Johnny Beyond, but then Dr. Strange was never my cup of tea either.