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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

USENET fandom - Marv Wolfman speaks out (1984)

Before we had the World Wide Web, we had UseNet. Developed in 1980, UseNet allowed a collection of computer users to interconnect via dial-up modems and post messages onto newsgroups (which resemble BBSes). Anywhere and anytime comic fans are able to congregate, you know they will be exchanging opinions and ideas about comic books - particularly DC comic books. In today's segment, Chris Sheehan examines what online comic fans were saying about Crisis on Infinite Earths. Please note: usernames have been removed for privacy reasons.

Marv Wolfman was apparently, at the very least, a passive UseNet follower/reader/commenter. Today we’re going to take a look at some of Mr. Wolfman's own thoughts on some of the titles he was involved with circa Spring 1984. This comes to us via netterhack BB.

In a post called "DC Comments from Marv Wolfman" dated April 2, 1984, BB shares the following:

Vigilante: The thought of this book becoming grim is a bit odd, as I always considered this one as such. It was a street level book, that often draws (or invites) comparison to Marvel’s Punisher... if Frank used NERF guns. I do suppose an argument can be made that the series grew darker as it went on, leading to an unforgettable final issue written by Paul Kupperberg.

The issues Marv mentions that Alan Moore wrote are #17-18. Now, this is a grim little tale that tackles the subjects of pedophilia and prostitution. The story’s ending is particularly disturbing. Vigilante teams with a woman named Fever, who runs over the molester with a car, and spins out the wheels of the car on his body for bonus splatteriness and gore!

Love the mention of Crisis: Earth (History of the DC Universe). I always get chills looking at the earliest advertisements for the series that would become Crisis on Infinite Earths... It always makes me feel like we’re seeing something we shouldn't. Just imagine the brainstorming sessions going down during this time! He/They were literally deciding the fates of some of our favorites as this missive was posted.

Titans: Issue #44 (Tales of the Teen Titans) was huge for many reasons. Not only, as is mentioned above does it uncover Deathstroke the Terminator’s origin... it is also the first appearance of Dick Grayson as Nightwing! Slade Wilson’s son Joey (Jericho) also debuts here... AND it is part of the legendary Judas Contract story line. For a Titans fan, it doesn’t get a whole lot bigger than that!

We learn that Deathstroke was trained by Captain Adeline Kane (who would eventually become his wife) in the art of guerrilla warfare. He would volunteer to undergo a bit of experimental medical testing, meant to overstimulate the adrenal gland (an attempt to evade truth serums). The experiment wound up unlocking Slade’s mental potential, affording him the ability to utilize 90% of his brain... as well as granting him superhuman physical attributes.

We also come to learn that Deathstroke lost his eye at the hands (or bullet) of Adeline when their son Joey was held captive and had his throat slashed. She blamed the event on her husband, and attempted to shoot him... he survived, thanks in great part to his superhuman speed and reflexes... but still lost his eye.

It’s amazing to consider the chase for sell-outs back during this time. Today we hear about print runs selling out, however, due to the speculator-variant cover onslaught, we can tell that these didn’t quite "sell through"... they were over ordered so we can get our hand on that super-rare 1:1000 Wolverine as a taco cover... and will, for the next several years clog dollar bins from coast to coast. Back in the 80’s though? It feels like a sellout actually means something. We remember these issues. [Walt] Simonson’s Thor, black-suit Spidey, Judas Contract. All classics.

Omega Men: This was one I never really followed... though, for whatever reason, still collected. The first Doug Moench storyline is perhaps most famous for being the first appearance of the Main Man himself, Lobo. The Omega Men themselves first appeared in a Marv Wolfman-penned Green Lantern story, in which they watch over a sector that the Lanterns are not allowed entrance into.

Star Trek: This is literally the first time I’m hearing that Marv had any involvement with this series, and have come to find that he served as editor for some of the DC Comics run with the property (after writing and editing it for Marvel). Not much to add, I never was into Star Trek... and wouldn’t know a Vulcan from a Tribble if they both knocked at my door.

I left the last bit in just because I was tickled that even back in 1984 people were referring to posted mail as "snail mail". I would have never imagined that the term would have been coined so early a point in digital communication. I mean, I feel like we’re still somewhat in the infancy of what the Internet can truly do... back in 1984? We’re talking the fetal Internet! By the way, if you wanna contact Marv Wolfman... disregard the 666 address above, they don’t live there no more.

That’s gonna do it for this installment. BB’s post like many of the time, went unanswered (and unless the message somehow got "lost", he never followed up those 1-2 days later like he said). That’s the way things went back when you had to dial in... if you could dial in. Still, gotta wonder how many folks wrote in to Marv at the DC offices because of this missive though! As always, if you have any additions or corrections, please feel free to contact me in care of this website. Thank you for reading.


Can't wait for the next installment in this series of articles? For more of Chris Sheehan, check out his highly recommended Chris is on Infinite Earths blog.

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