No joke: Some comic storylines that make you go ‘huh?’
Comics may only be limited by their creators’ imaginations (and editors’ edicts), but every once in a while, you come across an issue or storyline that makes you wonder how anyone came up with it, let alone agreed to publish it.
Sometimes these stories turn out good or even great. Sometimes they don’t.
Here are a few stories I’ve read that sound like April Fool’s jokes but really happened.
Hulk becomes a Las Vegas leg-breaker
After apparently kicking the bucket in the ’80s, the Hulk resurfaced working as hired muscle for a casino owner and going by the name Joe Fixit.
This was a more intelligent, ruthless Hulk than the “Hulk SMASH!” version. Use of pronouns and skin that was gray instead of green helped him blend in (a little) in Sin City.
Odd as the concept was, it worked. It gave the Hulk a place to belong, however briefly, and has become a recurring character element.
Maggott’s mutant power: His prehensile, autonomous digestive system.
Introduced in the late ’90s, Maggott was big, blue, mysterious and accompanied by a pair of massive metallic slugs named Eany and Meany.
Eventually, we learn the slugs are his digestive system and he turns blue and super-strong when they eat. That’s right: His intestines are his sidekicks. The bizarre revelation comes in a dead serious story about his childhood in war-torn South Africa, but at least it’s an original power.
Maggott is a punchline to many fans, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the guy.
The Pope Nightcrawler conspiracy
Nightcrawler’s ordination as a Catholic priest is hastily revealed to be a plot by the Church of Humanity. That mutant-hating group was then revealed to be a plot by a former nun who was raped by a priest and wanted to exact revenge on the Catholic Church by having Nightcrawler named pope and then revealing to the world that he’s a demonic-looking mutant.
The story was too dark to laugh at the absurdity, and it trampled on the character’s distinctive faith.
Spider-Man’s deal with the devil
J. Michael Straczynski’s great run on Amazing Spider-Man ended not with a bang, but more of a sad trombone sound ending in a burst of flatulence, aka “One More Day.”
It was driven more by editorial mandate than Straczynski. Marvel had painted itself into a corner, with Peter Parker publicly revealing he was Spider-Man and going on the run. Aunt May winds up at death’s door after being shot by an assassin.
Marvel devil Mephisto makes Peter and his wife Mary Jane an offer: a healthy Aunt May and restored secret identity in return for their marriage? Peter and MJ do the deal, for which Aunt May would have backhanded them both.
History changed so that Peter and Mary Jane decided not to tie the knot. Otherwise, most stories happened the way they originally did. Nobody (except bitter fans) remembers the marriage.
The other changes – especially unringing the secret identity bell – were all positive for Spider-Man. So the most logical assumption is that Mephisto’s goal was to get Peter and Mary Jane to live together and have sex without being married.
Marvel was not, of course, endorsing the sanctity of marriage. Some editors and writers felt the 1987 marriage made Spider-Man hard to relate to and wanted the old status quo back. Rather than killing off MJ or having them divorce, they had their flagship hero MAKE A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL and not put a ring on it.
I wish I could say April Fool’s.
Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic Support Group.