Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Cousin Dick Archives: Secret Wars II and Amazing Heroes letter
Back in the days when I was young and carefree and buzzed on beer, I made fun of Marvel under the nom de plume, Cousin Dick. Cousin was a redneck trucker who loved everything by Al Milgrom, especially the infamous maxi-series, U.S.1, about a trucker with a cybernetic skull. Cousin lived in Butte County with his chief aid, Joe-Bob. Cousin loved everything from Marvel Comics and hated anything published by the Dumb Communists (DC Comics). As you can tell from that, Cousin was an ultra conservative who hated liberals so much, he’d drive through Berkeley in his truck just to run a few off the road. Cousin loved Marvel and Al Milgrom so much he founded the U.U.U. (US1 Utilitarian Union) an exclusive club devoted to his fanboy beliefs. So exclusive was this club that it only had two members, Cousin and Joe Bob. Their secret headquarters was the Garage of Solitude in Cousin’s ramshackle home. Cousin was never married because his #1 sweetheart was his “rig”, the awesome trailer truck known as Betsy. Cousin professed the ideals of the U.U.U. through many letters that were published in the pages of Marvel Comics, First Comics The Badger, and this one from Amazing Heroes #86 (Jan 1986 but around the end of 85).
Before you read the letter, we need to set the scene for the state of Marvel Comics in late 1985. The first Secret Wars maxi-series from 1984 to 1985 was a massive success. Marvel needed a sequel to this mega hit very quickly. Jim Shooter tapped Al Milgrom to draw Secret Wars II which began in the summer of 1985. While I love a lot of comics in the 1980s Jim Shooter era, Secret Wars II wasn’t up there in the list of classic comics. The first series was fun, but the second one was a rambling mess that just seemed like a vehicle to keep the party going. Topping that off, Secret Wars II featured a personification of the cosmic creature known as the Beyonder. In the first series he was very mysterious, perhaps on a scale with Galactus. In the sequel he looked like David Hasselhoff in a white jump suit with ultra slick jerry curls. Kind of like a white version of Rick James. Cousin couldn’t resist writing a letter about this Marvel masterpiece. For some reason he sent it to the magazine Amazing Heroes, but even more baffling, the magazine actually published Cousin’s rambling manifesto!
Crisis refers to Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was being published in 1985. Cousin didn’t like too many DC Comics, but the ones he did like were published in the 60s and being thrown away by this event. Super Powers was a line of DC Comics action figures made by Kenner, some of them based on Jack Kirby’s New Gods characters, which competed against the Secret Wars Marvel toy line. Mac Davis was a country singer that Cousin admired, with a #1 hit in the 70s, Baby, Don’t Get Hooked On Me.
Secret Wars II had a tie-in with almost every mainstream Marvel comic being published in 1985. Of course it could not be in Marvel Tales (a reprint title), Conan (the world of barbarians), or licensed titles like GI Joe. Star Comics was Marvel’s kids line. Cousin didn't see anything barriers between these characters--to him the entire Marvel line was one big cosmic corral!
IDEAR: some people with southern accents pronounce the word “idea” like “idear”. My family is from the south so I know this is not an exaggeration.
Assistant Editors month: a Marvel stunt where the assistant editors took over the books for one month in the 1980s.
Kitty and Wolverine: a mini-series that Al Milgrom drew, the weirdest mutant team up ever. If there was any one DC Comics superhero that Cousin loved, it was the golden age version of Vigilante, Greg Saunders, the country singer who fought crime with a lasso. He also liked Pow-Wow Smith, Tomahawk, and Super-Chief.
Al Milgrom was a good sport about all this hazing. One day I received a package in the mail from him with giant artwork he had done for the U.S.1 comic book series. Despite all the trouble I gave him I thought he was a good artist, inker, and his Marvel Fanfare anthology series had some of the best Marvel Comics stories and artwork!
There was some fallout over this letter, believe it or not…stay tuned for the sequel. Nuff Said.