Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ten Tales Of Terrible Titles!

I'd certainly be one of the first to admit that there are times when it's difficult to think of just the right title for a blog post--so just imagine a comic book on a monthly deadline, with its writer sometimes stuck for the story's title. As a result, we're going to get the occasional head-scratcher for a title--one that might look great emblazoned at the top of a dramatic splash page, but which is otherwise puzzling in terms of just what the heck the writer is getting at.

To give you a few examples, I chose the Incredible Hulk book at random, and wasn't disappointed. Let's start off with the Hulk's near-match, the Abomination:

In this story, the Abomination's last battle had put him in something of a coma for two years, a state which was broken by an explosion at ground level. The Abomination then battles the Hulk, still thinking that he'd only recently faced him, not realizing that two years have passed. So it's hard to make sense of the title as worded, as incomplete (and inaccurate) as it reads. If it's simply an adaptation of the Richard Dana novel about a two-year sea voyage, the similarity between the two escapes me.

The Juggernaut is similarly affected by wording that doesn't really apply:

If you're thinking that Thor is guest-starring in this issue, no. But aside from that, no one is out to try to kill the Juggernaut; in fact, if the title wanted to come closer to the mark, it might have substituted "stop" for "slay" (and maybe been a bit less Death Be Not Proud about it).

Next we move to outer space, where Counter-Earth orbits on the far side of the sun. And when you have a duplicate Earth, your title choices become exercises in alliteration:

Moving on, surely a review of this type without a title by Roy Thomas would be incomplete:

Leaving little doubt it's adapted from the 1969 film title (from the novel).  A letter writer went so far as to call it "the least-inspired story title" they'd ever seen, which is a valid point. Neither the Hulk nor the Valkyrie are being put out of their misery (nor is it even implied that they should be), and none of the events in the story resemble the odd marathon/mock derbies character study of the film. Even Marvel doesn't know what to make of it, responding to the letter writer with "Our title uninspired? Maybe...but, for a comics title, it certainly seemed offbeat to us and many others." I'd only suggest that lauding a title as "offbeat" is hardly a defense; an offbeat title lacking any foundation is a bit like pulling your story title out of a raffle drawing.

Another title with a play on words would be:

As groan-inducing as this title is, it at least has some reasonable connection with the story (though that hardly excuses it). Bruce Banner, at the time cured of becoming the Hulk, lies at death's door, having been shocked into a coma when the robot he'd been interfacing with and using against the Leader was destroyed, sending the deadly feedback straight back to him. It's decided that the only chance of saving his life is to subject him to gamma rays, thereby cursing him once more to be the Hulk.

But the hands-down winner of our little titles tour has to be none other than the Rhino. I'd once thought of the Rhino as mainly a Spider-Man villain--but he's been a major Hulk foe in a number of stories, and he probably deserved more respect when it came time to assign titles to them:

It would have been just awful if the story accompanying this title had featured the Mandarin, wouldn't it. The only "ring" I can see that would apply here is the ring of fire surrounding the Rhino later in the story. But that's too easy an assumption to make, so I'm probably wrong. Feel free to take a whack at it yourself.

This next title appears on the same page as a newspaper headline announcing that Banner and Betty Ross are to be married:

It's actually the Leader who's the one making such a fuss about saying no, though. The Rhino is just hired muscle against the Hulk.

Here's another title that twists around what's really happening:

In that story, the Leader takes over the Rhino's body, and threatens to cause death and destruction at Betty's wedding (this time to Glenn Talbot), just as he did at Banner's. When Jim Wilson tries to intervene, the Rhino/Leader brutally swats him down--and the Hulk is now doubly determined to destroy the Leader. So it's either the Leader's vengeance we're talking about here (in which case you could say the Rhino is enabling him to carry it out), or the Hulk's vengeance against the "Rhino," even though the Leader hasn't yet carried out his plan. It's a good thing the Hulk doesn't take the time to figure it out, or we'd never get anywhere.

And to wrap things up, a story which substitutes Doc Samson in battle against the Rhino:

Which I'm thinking is making some connection (however tenuous) to the fact that the Rhino is out to destroy a train, which is carrying a package he's been hired to recover. ("Train stop," get it?) I refuse to believe it has anything to do with the film "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," just because the story takes place in the southwest.  The silver lining here, however, is that I can definitely recommend the movie.


Required field must be blank said...

Believe it or not, there was a play with a title like that, and it wasn't Alice Doesn't etc.

The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore by Tennessee Williams from 1963. I only remembered the title - the rest of the details courtesy of Wikipedia.

A Fan of Your Blog

Comicsfan said...

Phil, thanks so much for the reference. It certainly makes any similarities to the story that much more confounding--Williams's play has even less reason to be drawn on here than "Alice"! Perhaps the scene where the Rhino takes refuge in an old abandoned mining town and arrogantly muses to himself brought the play to mind for Len Wein or Roger Stern, for whatever reason (and that's just me grasping at straws).

Doug said...

I like the focus not only on the titles themselves, but on the lettering. Those guys (letterers) were often the unsung heroes of our funnybooks.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...