Cross-posted to 80-Page Giant…
In 1956, Atlas Comics (precursor to Marvel) began publishing Dan DeCarlo’s short-lived humor series Sherry the Showgirl. In 1964, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko introduced the villainous Kraven the Hunter in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man. In a storyline beginning in 2012, Stan Lee, his brother Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk paired the two up in the Spider-Man newspaper strip.
Stan Lee has the weirdest ships you guys seriously
Yeah, an O’Malley variant cover. You heard.
yeahhhh — colored by Nathan Fairbairn, btw
I would buy Marvel comics if they all looked like this.
So here’s a snapshot of an unusual and short-lived trend in animated adaptions. You had these villainous characters across three franchises who were inspired by the original “insidious Oriental,” pulp villain Dr. Fu Manchu: Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon, Dr. Julius No in James Bond, and the Mandarin in Marvel Comics’ Iron Man. All were fairly major antagonists - two were essentially the heroes’ arch-villains. You couldn’t leave them out of an animated adaption, but their original portrayals were maybe not so audience-friendly in more enlightened times. What do you do?
Apparently, you make them green.
Of the three cases before us, Ming’s hue-shifting in 1986’s Defenders of the Earth makes the most internal sense; he was an alien emperor from Mongo, after all, so there’s no reason his pigmentation had to be like those of us puny earth-men. However, it would seem the Hearst Corporation didn’t feel like this alteration was enough to move Ming away from his roots - the 1996 Flash Gordon cartoon would take the idea one step further and make him into a straight-up lizardman.
The Mandarin, meanwhile, was given an in-story explanation for his greenness in 1994’s Iron Man cartoon: the alien gems that gave him power changed his skin color, turned his ears pointy, and buffed up his physique. The logic behind this explanation is given a strange twist, though, by other information in the very episode that depicts it… everything in “The Origin of the Mandarin” points to the Mandarin not being of Asian descent before his transformation. He was archaeologist Arnold Brock, whose character design and portrayal compared to his companion Yinsen implicitly point to him being a white American before going green. It results in his ensuing choice of supervillain name being at best an extension of his stated desire in the episode “to find his destiny” in central Asia, and at worst utter nonsense. “Yes! With this green skin, my elf ears, and the gems I stole from a spaceship belonging to an alien dragon, the world shall fear me as… a bureaucrat of Imperial China!”
Dr. No, though… I have no idea what 1991’s James Bond Jr. was thinking. Compared to the Nehru jacket and clean-shaven look he sported in the film, his animation model actually ramps up the stereotypical elements, which is not helped by his newfound tendency to employ ninjas. Because… half-Chinese/half-Germans hire ninjas all the time? There was no explanation as to why Dr. No became green, but considering he was supposed to have died in his eponymous film, maybe he was actually undead…
Were these character alterations related? Defenders of the Earth and Iron Man were both by Marvel Productions, but produced almost ten years apart - and James Bond Jr. was by a different studio entirely, Murakami-Wolf-Swenson. No, at best, it seems to have been a very strange series of coincidences: to avoid propagating Yellow Peril stereotypes, these three villains instead became part of the Mean Green Machine.
Which is probably still better than being on the Green Team, all things considered.
Defenders of the Earth was a Marvel Productions cartoon of the ’80s that brought together characters from three King Features Syndicate comic strips - Lee Falk’s The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician, plus Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon - to create a “brand new” group of world-saving, alien-beating adventurers. A friend once described it as a show that teamed “your grandpa’s favorite superheroes” together; not only is this an apt description for a cartoon that starred characters who first collectively hit newspaper comic pages in the 1930s, but the observation might explain Stan Lee’s apparent enthusiasm for the project. Lee, at the time part of Marvel Productions out in California, not only wrote the first issue of Marvel’s DotE tie-in comic, but the (admittedly quite catchy) lyrics to the show’s themesong.
One thing that always struck me about Defenders of the Earth - aside from the somewhat random decision to make Ming the Merciless green - was a note that I spotted in the credits, which is reproduced above. “(This is 27th Phantom)”. For those who don’t know, the Phantom is a lineage-based adventure hero, with the mantle passed on from generation to generation to create the illusion of the Phantom being immortal. The note made me wonder: since DotE took place in the (nebulously established) future, did someone on the production staff sit down and work out the chronology of Phantoms-yet-to-come? Did Lee Falk, who was still alive at the time, make the call from on high?
The most fascinating thing about this note, though, came to me with hindsight. See, I was a regular watcher of another animated take on the Phantom franchise, Phantom 2040, which was produced in the ’90s. Phantom 2040 starred the 24th Phantom… which, I deduced, made the Phantom of Defenders of the Earth the grandson or great-grandson of the Phantom from Phantom 2040. This meant that I was watching a character whose descendant’s adventures were chronicled years before his own show was ever on the air.
With that, I had blown my own mind.
And then there was that time I stayed at a hotel and discovered a freebie Avengers promotional comic that was all about Tony Stark shilling the Wyndham Rewards club. (Oddly enough, I was not actually staying at a Wyndham.)
Stark really does not strike me as a Continental Breakfast kind of guy - or a breakfast before noon guy, really, and you know you can never find anything at hotel breakfast bars after like 10am. On the other hand, that penultimate panel of the assembled Avengers being incredulous is amazing.
Story by Fred van Lente, art by Brad Walker. Part 2 of 2.
And then there was that time I stayed at a hotel and discovered a freebie Avengers promotional comic that was all about Tony Stark shilling the Wyndham Rewards club. (Oddly enough, I was not actually staying at a Wyndham.) Love that panel at the end.
Story by Fred van Lente, art by Brad Walker. Part 1 of 2.
Stop shipping them. Tony and Steve especially. Want to base ships? Read the comics.
Have I read enough comcis for you??
you’re right. i just reread all those comics
and you’re totally right
there’s no context here
wow this ship has no base to it
i can’t find one thing that’s shippable about them
it’s not like, idk, tony has a captain america memorabilia room or anything. or that he has posters and pictures of cap, just cap, around his mansions. that he has captain america collectibles. that he pays, what? 2 million? for steve’s original avengers card.
it’s not like steve has a signed iron man helmet in his apartment. nope
it’s not like tony was so torn about the civil war that for the first time in his life his grief was too big to drown in alcohol
it’s not like they constantly go around spouting praise about one another’s genius/azure eyes/moral compass/compassion. lol no
it’s not like marvel writers heavily imply that the biggest reason tony stark wanted to wake up at the end of dissassembled was for steve.
it’s not like the others avengers refer to them as mom and dad.
it’s not like despite being polar opposites on so many different issues, they’re still bffs. no.
it’s not like after steve died tony had hallucinations/dreams about him. nope
it’s not like they kissed in the 616 universe or got married in another universe.
it’s not like they come to each other’s aid, wherever, whenever. nuh-huh.
it’s not like other characters tell them to get a room or talk about how much they love each other
it’s not like marvel ships them or anything. like, they would never purposefully sandwich panels of steve kissing someone and tony being in unbearable pain or anything. pshh no.
is that enough for you guys? can you get off your high horse of “they’re superheroes, they’re manly, they can’t be gay”? can you shut up now? i would just like to point out: they. get. married. in another universe. but married. i’m sorry, but in my opinion, that’s pretty canon. jussayin’.
They just wanna be Superman and Batman.