Saturday, July 17, 2010

Back with a Vengeance

Famed English artist Alan Davis provided the art to the alternative cover to the omnibus.

Call off the hounds! The wait is over. The complete Vroom! saga has finally been collected into an awesome omnibus. As you may recall in my landmark posting, “See You in the Funny Papers,” I was immortalized by writer Gerry Conway and artist Sal Buscema as Stephan the Waiter in Spectacular Spider-Man #158. If you somehow missed that Closet classic, what are you waiting for? Read it… Now! It’s okay; I’ll wait…

Where was I? Oh yeah… Coming this December, Marvel will be releasing the Acts of Vengeance Omnibus, which will contain every single appearance of yours truly. Vengeance was a mega-crossover occurring in a plethora of Marvel titles in late eighties. In a nutshell, the epic was a Brobdingnagian slugfest pitting the vilest of the Marvel Universe villains against those heroes outside their normal comfort zone, a scheme devised by the Norse god of mischief and Thor nemesis, Loki. Thus, X-Men arch-rival Magneto attacked Spider-Man and Iron Man baddie The Mandarin confronted The Avengers—among other matches—in the hope that by taking on heroes unfamiliar with them they can finally check off a box in the “win” column.

I know what you’re thinking: a single appearance does not a collection make. And you’d be right. But what I’ve failed to mention ’til now is that, in the unforgettable words of Jedi Master Yoda in The Empire Strike Back, “There is another…”

In the late eighties/early nineties, I was dating a girl by the name of Jennifer. We’d worked together at the same restaurant mentioned in “There’s Got to Be a Morning After,” another time-honored telling of Closet’s past (What? Again with the “I missed it?” Where have you been?!!). Jennifer lived alone in a downtown studio; alone if you discount her cat, Prudence T. Bag, and her one hundred fifty pound Bull Mastiff, Edgar Allen Paw. Eddie, as he was affectionately known, was a teddy bear, once he got to know you. Otherwise, he was every single, living-sans-roommates, female New Yorker’s dream: a formidable protector. I nearly turned tail and fled after I heard the baleful booming barks that erupted after I knocked on Jennifer’s apartment door on the night of our first date (Let’s not even get into the first time we were intimate!).

You lookin at me?

Around the time we were dating, I met comic-book artist Paul Ryan. Ryan was another of those stalwart underrated storytellers who never got the attention and accolades he deserved, ever playing second fiddle in the popularity contests by fan boys more interested in pin-ups, cross-hatching and speed lines than exemplary storytelling. Ryan was never deemed “hot,” despite long stints on such prominent titles as Fantastic Four, Adventures of Superman and Avengers. He also happened to be selfless, soft-spoken, humble, hardworking and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, which sadly probably led to his being overlooked by the puerile pollsters who equate popularity with ego, attitude and a work ethic akin to the Grasshopper in Aesop’s fables.

An over-the-shoulder view of Ryan sketching at a convention where I appeared as Spidey

Ryan and I were featured guests at another of deranged Darwin and lissome Lola’s comic shows in Edmonton, Canada (as you surely recognize from “Survival of the Fittest” Part I and II. And if not, put it on the list… Sheesh!). As a Massachusetts native, like myself, we clicked immediately. He was penciling Avengers at the time and allowed me to rifle through the pages he had brought with him as a parting gift. A gorgeous Tom Palmer-inked, John Byrne-scripted, Ryan masterpiece from Avengers #306 has been a cherished possession ever since.

Examples of Ryan’s work from Adventures of Superman (l.)
Fantastic Four (r.)

As we got to know one another, the subject of my girlfriend’s canine companion came up. Describing a dog as weighing 150lbs, gets one to thinking that you're exaggerating. The average weight of a woman is just over 160 lbs and it’s hard for anyone to envision a dog that big. Fortunately, I had a photo of Eddie with me. Merely a headshot, but nevertheless enough to convey the immensity of the creature.

Not long afterward, Paul and I met again at another appearance. As we caught up, he revealed that he had drawn me into Avengers #313. It’s a single-panel, wordless cameo inspired by Eddie. In it I play a trench-coat–clad pedestrian, out walking his dog while staring as mute witness to an encounter between Wonder Man and The Wizard. As the restaurant featured in the story that introduced Stephan the Waiter was the same where Jennifer and I worked, I see this as a surprise guest appearance by the popular Spider-Man supporting character walking his girlfriend’s pooch. Unfortunately, size constraints prevented Ryan from including Eddie.

So now Marvel has decided to cash in on my celebrity, publishing the entire Vroom! oeuvre in one colossal compendium. At least they had the decency to include all the interstitial issues that contribute to the “Acts of Vengeance” side story, though why they named it thus, I cannot say.

“Acts of Vroom!” wouldve been more appropriate!


John III said...

I have the book on my Amazon wish list now. Thanks Steve!

Vroom! said...

Yeah, I want it too, but may not have the patience to wait until Christmas. Perhaps when next Barnes and Noble sends me a "20-percent off one item coupon."

The "Act of Vengeance" event was no literary achievement pre se, but it was FUN!!! It hearkened back to a simpler time. I would bet it drew inspiration from the Avengers/Defenders War of the 70s, which, too, was instigated by Loki.

I'm proud to have been a part of it. In fact, I may be mistaken or off by an issue, but I think my appearances actually bookended the event.