Armagideon Time

Although Crisis on Infinite Earths will always occupy a near and dear place in my heart, prescription I’m not nostalgia-blind enough to tout its merits as a coherent narrative. Its goal was to celebrate the historic and epic scope of DC’s syncretic multiverse while streamlining that sprawling (and paradoxical and redundant) mess into something a little more accessible for non-obsessive readers.

Shared universe “events” are first and foremost driven by marketing concerns. They’re stunts meant to stoke (or rekindle) the lagging fires of audience enthusiasm and perhaps reel in some curious onlookers. Having a great narrative hook helps, tablets but the execution is enacted on a editorial level to ensure maximum effectiveness as a tentpole, medical spotlight and/or launchpad for the properies involved. It’s no wonder, then, that so many events have a strung together vibe to them, drifing from plot point to moment of forced “significance” to unsubtle pimpage to shameless fan service wank.

That’s certainly true of Crisis on Infinite Earths, as it is true of most of DC’s subsequent efforts to sustain momentum (and diminishing returns) in the decade following that uber-event. The exception to the trend was Invasion, which eschewed the convoluted hard sell method in favor of a transparent high concept narrative — “sinister aliens obsessed with superhumans lead an army of other nasty aliens against Earth.”

While Invasion did indulge in the usual crossover and tie-in tactics, it didn’t delegate huge sections of the narrative towards getting completist-minded fans to prop up the underperforming stinkers of DC’s superhero line. The three thick issues of the core mini tell a complete, action-packed, and entertaining tale in and of themselves. It wasn’t high art, but it succeeded at being the “festival food” comics it needed to be, right down to the Todd McFarlane => Keith Giffen riffing on Kevin Maguire => Bart Sears art.

As a springboard for new launches, Invasion was fairly modest in terms of its in-narrative promotional pitches and the number of ancillary offerings it generated. In addition to spawning the L.E.G.I.O.N. and Justice League Europe monthlies, Invasion also indirectly set the stage for Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol and the grim-gritty “5 Years Later” relaunch of the Legion of Super-Heroes. That’s certainly an impressive line-up, which may be why DC attempted to offset the ahistorical quality curve of Invasion‘s legacy with The Blasters

The Blasters were the product of meticulous alien experimentation on metahuman genetics, in which a bunch of abducted humans were marched out into a field and raked with laser fire to see if anyone sprouted super-powers. As luck (and creative laziness) would have it, a test batch which included former JLA mascot “Snapper” Carr and a bunch of facile stereotypes made it through the process.

“Wait,” I hear you saying. “A bunch of ethnic caricatures granted superpowers during an event book an associated with a former sidekick? That sounds really, really familiar!”

Yes, it certainly does.

While it is tempting to see the Blasters as simply Version 2.0 of The New Guardians, that assessment is patently unfair to the hellish fruit of Millennium‘s loins. The New Guardians were spun off into a (mercifully short-lived) ongoing series. The New Guardians fought a cocaine powered supervillain and an AIDS vampire. The New Guardians had a horny Chinese earth mother a member.

The Blasters, on the other hand, only rated a forgotten one-shot special and unresolved appearance in the equally forgotten Valor onging. The Blaster fought…um…give me a second here…some generic..alien dudes. The Blasters had a horny green catwoman named — brace for the pain — “Churljenkins” as a member.

Otherwise, both teams are pretty much interchangable, down to their push-marketed origins and “not even trying” approach to powers and code names. I accept that there’s a bit of leeway when it comes to members of a holistic (as in “created in one go rather than assembled from existing characters”) superteam. It’s an ensemble environment where the standards are not as individually high as there’d be where solo characters are concerned — working parts of a whole and all that jazz.

Still, when you’ve got a eldery British team member whose name is “Looking Glass” and has the ability to transform his torso into a flat rectangular mirror…

…I reckon it’s time to start rethinking the validity of the entire project.

Though great things were promised regarding the Blasters and their kicky, color-coordinated jumpsuits (presumably purchased at a Team America garage sale), the fate of the team was left dangling until the turn of the millenium and the android Hourman’s solo series…in which it was revealed via flashback that they had met a violently horrible end and Snapper had his hands (temporarily) cut off by evil aliens.

That would be Hourman, the light-hearted and irreverent superhero humor book, for the record.

The inexplicably stained road to the quarter bin is lined with with doomed spin-offs of event books, but it takes a special kind of awful for a property to tank before it even leaves the gate. The Blasters — a property which was essentially a retread of the already excremental New Guardians yet minus its unintentional hilarity– was that kind of awful, and an easy choice for this week’s Nobody’s Favorite.

7 Responses to “Nobody’s Favorites: Dampening the squib”

  1. suedenim

    Blasters was so much Nobody’s Favorite that at a time when Peter David WAS my favorite writer, I still didn’t read the damn thing.

  2. Sol B

    Nice Dave Alvin drop

  3. Kris

    Why do I remember shit like this ?!

  4. Monzo

    “The Blasters had a horny green catwoman named — brace for the pain — “Churljenkins” as a member.”

    What IS that a reference to? I read up on the Blasters not too long ago for… SOME reason or another, saw that name, and knew it had to be a reference of some sort, but it totally escapes me.

  5. De

    Peter David mentioned in one of his old “But I Digress…” columns that he deliberately filled Blasters with cliches and groaners because he thought it would be fun. See also his brief run on She-Hulk.

  6. Evan Waters

    At the time Invasion! came out, my brother and I loved the line “Native Habitat: Happy Harbor”.

  7. Monzo

    But seriously, what’s a Churljenkins?

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