Monday, September 18, 2017

Will Cast Spells For Change

It's an unexpected pleasure to profile another of the Stan Lee Meets... series from 2006-07, where Lee meets and chats with a handful of Marvel characters, an issue at a time, with one or two supplemental stories of the same flavor included. I honestly hadn't expected to return to the series, putting as much stock as it does in the novelty of Lee meeting with his creations, which on its face doesn't seem like much of a draw. An interesting question to ponder might be whether this series would be so entertaining if the reader didn't get the "inside joke" and had no idea who the actual Stan Lee was or how he relates to Marvel Comics, but of course that wouldn't likely be the case. Lee developed each of these characters from the ground up--and while each story is told from a humorous angle rather than a nostalgic one, it still boils down to a bit of harmless fun and, needless to say, very light reading.

Previously we took a look at Lee meeting up with the Silver Surfer; this time, though, Lee takes a turn toward the occult, even if it's not quite what even he expects to find.

The double-page spread to be found as you flip from page one certainly gives one the impression that this story will lean heavily toward the nostalgic, as beautifully as artist Alan Davis's reminiscent collage frames the thoughtful Lee on his evening stroll. Yet when Lee enters the familiar domicile of Dr. Strange, the images and impressions he's brought to mind of the character's adventures from days gone by are quickly replaced by visuals of a more commercial nature.

Eventually, Lee receives his audience with Strange, who is deeply immersed in the more mundane review of his taxes rather than a tome of incantations or the Orb of Agamotto. Lee is rather taken aback by it all--but rather than an explanation that would have a more mystic rationale, he receives instead a lesson in hard realities from this sorcerer supreme.

Basically Lee's story is something that could have appeared in Not Brand Echh or any of Marvel's other humor titles, only without the characters rendered in parody. But while I've made the following observation before, it bears repeating: those readers at the time who were paying the $4 cover price for this series' issues may not have felt like laughing.

That said, the second story of the issue by Brian Bendis is quite amusing in itself, while taking subtle but certain aim at those long-time Marvel readers who decried the abrupt change in direction in Marvel's comics that arguably sapped its characters and titles of the things that set its line of books apart from the pack while making the characters and concepts more corporate-friendly. And the familiar alien who channels those readers and consequently comes off as a wailing loon who's taking this all way too seriously is the Impossible Man, who returns to Earth to find that all the fun things and people he grew so fond of on our world are nothing like he remembered.

The message that Bendis appears to be trying to send defies subtlety at this point--but as if to underscore the intimation that Impy is flying off the handle here by harping on the fact that Wolverine is now with a different team (or, more broadly put, insisting that Marvel's characters remain as he remembers them), the calm and collected reply that he receives from the listener who's all but tuning him out effectively dismisses his rant with a one-word response no doubt meant to settle the matter.

With Impy's next stop, Bendis shows that he can be a good sport about it all by not sparing from his observations the Marvel Bullpen itself--grown into a busy pitch forum obsessed with churning out new product and packed to the brim with a plethora of editors who are part of a hierarchy of self-important titles.

Finally pointed in the right direction, our perplexed Poppupian arrives in Hollywood where, after being stampeded by paparazzi, he's greeted by the one who can hopefully put things right.

The scene makes for a splendid ending to the overall theme of farce throughout the issue, all things considered; and if you come away feeling duly chided for feeling as Impy did about the Marvel Universe of old, take the "'nuff said" carrot you were offered and join Lee and Impy at the Ivy for a posh lunch. Just make sure Lee gets the check--it's the least he can do, considering the "change" his readers contributed to the company's coffers.


Anonymous said...

This most made me chuckle!
Many thanks. ;)


Anonymous said...

I meant "this post." Arggh.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Strange looks a bit different nowadays - he wears a blue cloak and he's lost the huge collar. I've just downloaded Dr. Strange & The Punisher (a team-up) and in a few days I'll be downloading Volume 4 of Dr. Strange (the series which began in 2015).

Anonymous said...

The Dr. Strange/Punisher team-up is called "Magic Bullets" - very fitting :)