Don’t You Forget About Me: An Ode to Flatman.

22 02 2015

2620691-gla002First things first: If you are not reading and/or thoroughly enjoying Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s incredibly delightful little book, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, please take a long hard look in the mirror and attempt to figure out where your taste in comic books veered of course.

While it’s true, and quite canon, that Squirrel Girl managed to take out Doctor Doom in her first Marvel appearance, it wasn’t until nearly a decade later that she became a (not really) household name. During that time, Doreen Green (the aforementioned squirrel whisperer) answered the desperate recruitment drive of the Great Lakes Avengers in New York City, becoming the team’s newest member.

While their unquestionable enthusiasm for heroics is palpable, the GLA’s team members’ power sets are a bit odd and useless… at least in the eyes of the world’s more seasoned superheroes. Amongst this group of well-meaning do-gooders is Dr. Val Ventura, the mutant known as Flatman. With his two-dimensional elastic body and origami shapeshifting abilities, it’s no wonder why he is the second-in-command of these Wisconsin guardians.

Val Ventura, a doctor of “stuff” (yes, his doctoral background may be more questionable than not), was first introduced in the pages of the second volume of West Coast Avengers in 1989. His uncanny knowledge of fashion (while earning his PhD, he allegedly managed to squeeze in a few fashion classes) has proven an invaluable tool when it comes to solving crimes. At one point, Dr. Ventura was not only able to identify a particular woman’s shoe, but also describe it in detail. Think Sherlock Holmes with Carrie Bradshaw’s knowledge of footwear.

Through team identity crises (Great Lakes Avengers/X-Men/Initiative/Champions?) and battles against S&M slaves and killer Christmas trees, Flatman has (not really) left his mark on the Marvel Universe for better or worse:

1050235-flatman10Flatman knows the importance of gayming: In the time leading up to the incident in Stamford that begat the superhero civil war, Squirrel Girl was romantically involved with the New Warrior, Robbie Baldwin (a.k.a. Speedball). Following the tragedy in Connecticut and Speedball’s downward spiral of self-loathing, Doreen sought out the advice of her teammates, Flatman and Mr. Immortal. What could possibly dissuade a gay superhero from discussing boy trouble with his adorable co-Avenger? Obviously, a trip to Game Stop an all-night video gaming binge!

LivlightFlatman is supportive of his fellow LGBT brothers and sisters: Prior to his own coming out moment, Val Ventura was approached by Miguel Santos (a.k.a. Living Lightning) about joining the GLA. At this point in time, the Great Lakes Avengers were in the midst of a feeble recruitment drive and dwindling numbers on their roster. Unfortunately, Living Lightning’s interest in joining the organization immediately diminished when it was brought to his attention that GLA was actually an acronym for Great Lakes Avengers and not the Gay/Lesbian Alliance.

image5Flatman’s coming out story totally got one-upped “Penelope” style: Despite a love for Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blanks, Dr. Ventura was always quite adamant about being as straight as an arrow. Following a quarrel with their brief and former teammate, Leather Boy, fellow GLA member, Doorman, questioned the connection between the Greenwich Village, S&M, and the gay community. This led to Val unleashing a verbal rant about how not all gay men are into bondage while some heterosexual couples are. The tirade culminated with Flatman coming out of the closet to his supportive co-Avengers all the while Mr. Immortal arrived at the realization that he was “homo superior,” the next step in human evolution, thus stealing the thunder from Val’s big moment.

image2Flatman represents the fangurrrl in all of us: Super villains attacking the  downtown convention center in a random Wisconsin city isn’t something that happens every day. With that said, when a new incarnation of the Ani-Men did just that, Flatman and the GLA hopped in the Avengers Quin-Jetta with the intention of saving the day. You can imagine their disappointment to find that the A-list Avengers were already on the scene. Not one to let being benched ruin his day, Val squee-ed with delight over the opportunity of watching Hawkeye do what he does best.

image6Flatman knows the importance of “leaving something to the imagination”: The GLA’s most memorable battle was against Maelstrom as the super villain attempted to destroy the universe and all of reality (aren’t they all?). Following the team’s success, Flatman was apparently pulled from Big Bertha’s arms and into the vortex that Maelstrom had created leaving the larger-than-life supermodel/hero devastated. To everyone’s relief, the destructive phenomenon only claimed Dr. Ventura’s uniform, leaving the hero in nothing but his hirsute glory. Thanks to his flattened form, Val was able to remain modest and hide his naughty bits from impressionable eyes. It was a true “won’t someone think of the children?” moment. Conservative prudes everywhere rejoiced but then remembered that Dr. V doesn’t like “the v.”

image7Flatman has been where few superheroes have been before: Always on the lookout for new members, Flatman and the GLA (now the GLI) welcomed Deadpool to their ranks, as a reserve member, following the battle with Maelstrom. Within no time, the “Merc with a Mouth” wore out his welcome, engaging enemies with a copious amount of plastic explosives, watching nothing but porn and Maude on television, and becoming infatuated with teammate, Big Bertha. Unsure of how to breach the subject of evicting Wade from the premises and the team, Flatman attempted to verbally reason with him during bath time. In the end, Deadpool was no closer to resigning from the GLI and Dr. Ventura was left wishing that his body did not share a similar width to a bath towel.

image3Flatman shares our love for New York City: In a brief moment of lucid and smart-thinking, the GLA concluded that the best place to seek out recruits for their team was good ol’ New York City. Upon the arrival of their Amtrak train at Penn Station, Val sighed his adoration for the Big Apple and corrected Doorman’s presumption that the entire island of Manhattan smells like urine. Apparently, the acrid stench is actually only confined to 7th and 31st.

image1Flatman and his fellow Great Lakes Avengers have always represented the core of what makes a super hero super. No matter how pathetic or useless you may appear to others, true heroics always stem from the good intentions of a noble heart. For as long as there are superheroes like Dr. Val Ventura and his ragtag group of bizarre rejects, the villains of the Marvel Universe will always have a force to reckon with.

For further reading, see GLA: Misassembled by Dan Slott

Follow Shaun N. on Twitter at @datura1979.





Silk Stalkings.

6 02 2015

Silk-Spider-Gwen-850x560*Disclaimer: Unfortunately, this article has nothing to do with the wonderfully salacious 90s television series that starred Mitzi Kapture and Rob Estes.*

Spider-Verse is rapidly approaching its conclusion and it will, undoubtedly, result in a final culling of the various Spiders that have banded together to battle the Inheritors. Once the dust settles and the dead are mourned, one thing is certain, the Marvel Universe will be +2 in regards to female-led titles. Notable newcomers to the Spider-Man mythos, Silk and Spider-Woman (Gwen Stacy) are set to star in their own ongoing runs beginning this month.

For those readers not in the know, here is a brief origin breakdown of both characters:

Cindy Moon (a.k.a. Silk) was in high school when she happened to attend the same exhibition as Peter Parker when he was bitten by the radioactive spider that resulted in him gaining his powers. Coincidentally, after biting Peter’s hand, the same spider went on to bite Cindy’s ankle before dying. Once her powers manifested, Cindy was briefly trained by Ezekiel Sims before being locked away upon the discovery that the Inheritor, Morlun, was tracking her. Following the release of Uatu the Watcher’s secrets, Peter Parker discovered the existence of Cindy and, bearing false news of Morlun’s demise, released Cindy from the bunker.

Gwen Stacy (a.k.a. Spider-Woman, dubbed Spider-Gwen by fans and Marvel editorial) originates from Earth-65. In this reality, not only is Gwen a member of Mary Jane Watson’s band, she was also the one bitten by the radioactive spider and developed super powers. Following a failed experiment in order to become “special” like Gwen, Peter Parker mutated into a lizard-like monstrosity only to perish following a confrontation with Gwen. This would lead to Spider-Gwen being wanted by her father, the head of the NYPD, and local authorities.

With the recent loss of both She-Hulk and Elektra, perhaps these ladies can help fill the void left behind on the monthly pull list. But, what is a Strong Female Spider without a Spider Rogues Gallery. Thanks the the long history of Peter Parker and the various empowered folks that team up with him on a daily basis, Silk and Spider-Gwen may not have long to rest, after their current battle, before a Strong Female Villain comes calling.

Who deserves to be the recurring nemeses of Silk and Spider-Gwen? Here is a who’s-who dossier on some of the obvious and not-so-obvious dastardly vixens that would probably enjoy a row with one or both of our new Spider-heroines:

1703387-shriek_._amazing_spider_man_393_vFrances Louise Barrison/Sandra Deel (a.k.a. Shriek): Following years of abuse at the hands of her mother, drug use, a gunshot wound to the head, and obtaining powers of sound/emotion manipulation while trapped in Cloak’s dark dimension, it’s no wonder that Shriek’s sanity leaves a lot to be desired. Introduced during the Maximum Carnage event, Frances escaped Ravencroft mental institution with Carnage and, together with their “adopted children” (Carrion, Demogoblin, and Doppelgänger), took part in a homicidal murder spree throughout New York City. This was obviously thwarted by Spider-Man and co. Later, she attempted to force her “son”, Carrion, to kill his birth mother in order to be acknowledged as his true mother. Most recently, following a reunion with Carnage where the couple was pursued by Deadpool, Shriek was hired by Owl and Boomerang to join the ranks of the Sinister Sixteen.

1532411-ruby_thursdayThursday Rubinstein (a.k.a. Ruby Thursday): A member of a villainous team of geniuses, the Headmen, Thursday Rubinstein developed a surgical procedure to replace the head of a human with a malleable, organic computer. Her early encounters with the Defenders and She-Hulk would solidify her as a formidable foe. Later, she would survive an assassination attempt by Bullseye and battle Hellcat during the events of Civil War. At one point, Ruby was broken out of The Raft by Wolverine to assist him in taking down Romulus. This plan was foiled when Romulus threatened the life of Ruby’s daughter, forcing her to turn on Logan and impale him with the spiked tentacles which she was able to mold from her head. Her recent attempt to assist Dr. Bong in opening the multiverse was stopped by a surprisingly silent Spider-Man (laryngitis can’t keep a good hero down).

482801-ff1Elizabeth Rawson (a.k.a. Knockout), Danielle Forte (a.k.a. Mindblast), Beatta Dubiel (a.k.a. Bloodlust), and Leeann Foreman (a.k.a. Whiplash): The quartet known as the Femme Fatales’ first physical encounter with Spider-Man came when the women were hired to attack a Baltic ambassador’s plane as it arrived in New York City. Knockout’s superhuman strength coupled with Bloodlust’s feral ferocity, Mindblast’s telekinesis, and Whiplash’s retractable whips almost proved too much for Peter Parker to handle. Nevertheless, they were defeated and went on to join Superia’s Femizons in their battle against Captain America. Following the events of M-Day, Bloodlust was depowered but Mindblast retained her mutant abilities, joining Caroline Le Fay’s Doom Maidens and recently being spotted in Madripoor. The whereabouts of Whiplash and Knockout remain unknown.

202163-45888-aspCleo Nefertiti (a.k.a. Asp): The mutant villainess known as Asp has the ability to generate bioelectric energy blasts that cause both paralysis and death in her targets. As a member of the Serpent Society, Cleo has battled the likes of Alpha Flight, Captain America, and the Eternal, Sersi. During the Dark Reign era, Asp was picked by Norman Osborne to serve as part of Delaware’s Initiative team and took part in the assault against Asgard. Despite her criminal past, she has proven loyalty to her friends, namely the reformed villain, Diamondback. Her staunch opposition to the Superhero Registration Act led to her joining Captain America’s team of “Secret Avengers” during the Civil War event. All good deeds aside, Asp was most recently prevented from completing a bank heist by the mutant messiah, Hope Summers.

177788-22950-calypsoCalypso Ezili: The psychotic Haitian voodoo priestess known as Calypso gained her mind control and resurrection abilities after sacrificing her younger sister. Early appearances saw Calypso associated with Kraven the Hunter and she found sport in fueling his hatred of Spider-Man. To her dismay, this would lead to Sergei’s suicide. Later, she asserted her influence over Curt Connors, the villain known as the Lizard. Together, the duo almost successfully killed Peter Parker. Still distraught over Sergei Kravinoff’s suicide, she went on to attack his illegitimate son, Aloysha. Following her defeat at the hands of Spider-Man and the Hunter’s son, she was taken into custody by Aloysha under the guise of acquiring information about his father. Instead, the priestess was slain by Kravinoff. As she has demonstrated a regenerative ability in the past, it is likely that her demise is not permanent.

scorpiaspdrmn1Elaine Colls (a.k.a. Scorpia): While undergoing psychological treatment at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, Elaine Colls was recruited by Silverman to retrieve the cyborg, Deathlok. An enhanced suit worn by the original Scorpion was given to her and she attempted to complete the mission with Beetle and Hydro-Man. The ambush was stopped by Spider-Man despite Elaine proving herself to be quite a competent enemy. She later sought revenge against Silvermane, after her employer betrayed her, and went on to join the Sinister Six in order to prevent Peter Parker’s clone, Kaine, from killing any more of Spider-Man’s rogues. During her attack on Carnegie Hall, in order to fulfill an assassination order by a local drug cartel, Elaine was defeated by both Spider-Man and Black Cat. Her last know location was within the ranks of the Doom Maidens as they battled Valkyrie and her Fearless Defenders.

150827-44979-gypsy-mothSybil Dvorak (a.k.a. Gypsy Moth/Skein): Raised by Gypsies, the mutant known as Gypsy Moth possesses the ability to telekinetically manipulate fibers and fabrics. An actor filming a remake of Dracula in Romania wooed the young woman and brought her back to America. It wouldn’t take long before fears about her lover’s infidelity began to boil over, resulting in Sybil attacking various social gatherings in Hollywood. A confrontation with Jessica Drew at one such gathering would lead to a long-standing rivalry between Gypsy Moth and Spider-Woman. Much later she joined Hawkeye’s team of Thunderbolts. Her decision to eventually leave the group was due to her inability to seduce Songbird, a challenge that she had set for herself. Like Asp, Sybil was a member of Delaware’s Initiative team during Norman Osborne and H.A.M.M.E.R.’s time in power. As of late, she has teamed up with the White Rabbit as part of the Menagerie, a group of animal-themed super villains. Spider-Man was able to prevent the team from completing a diamond heist in Manhattan.

378072-81106-quicksandQuicksand: The Vietnamese villainess known only as Quicksand was once a scientist employed at a nuclear facility. An onsite accident granted her powers similar to Spider-Man’s nemesis, Sandman. In retaliation for her transformation, Quicksand attacked the nuclear reactor of the plant in an attempt to cause a meltdown. This disaster was prevented by the arrival of Thor when the Asgardian hurled the entire facility into another dimension. During the superhuman civil war, Quicksand was apprehended by the Thunderbolts and registers under the Superhero Registration Act. After escaping from The Raft during the Fear Itself event, fisticuffs would ensue between Quicksand and former Initiative members, Thor Girl and Cloud 9 in Philadelphia.

Regardless as to what villains emerge from their hidey holes to scrap with the new webslingers, it is certain that they will have their work cut out for them. Both Silk and Gwen have been thrown right into the proverbial deep end of the pool in the current battle against the Inheritors. Let’s see if they can keep swimming.

What baddies would you like to see make the ranks of Silk and Spider-Gwen’s rogues gallery. Feel free to voice your wishes in the comments section!

Follow Shaun N. on Twitter at @datura1979.