Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jack Flag(!!!!!!!!!!)& other obscure Marvel Heroes.

If you read my previous post on the Guardians of the Galaxy #9, then you probably understand what the title of this post means. If not, allow me to try to explain. I grew up collecting comic books in the 1990's. To be honest, most of the back issues I purchased when I began to collect comics again these last 6 years have come from the 1990's. For me, some of the best comic books I've ever read have come from the 1990's. Now, I know that most people would call me stark raving mad to make such fantastical claim, but that's me.

I'll always have a special affinity for certain comic books/characters/writers from the 1990's. I especially love the more obscure Marvel characters from the 90's, such as Darkhawk, Sleepwalker, X-Man, Quasar, The Green Goblin(Phil Urich), The New Warriors(especially the second series)and the Slingers. I could go on and on about these characters, who I bet most people have never even heard about. It's my love for obscure characters from the 1990's that brings me to the guy this post is named for, Jack Flag. With the exception of Ed Brubaker's current run, my favorite issues of Captain America were written in the late 1980's through the mid 1990's by the late, GREAT, Mark Gruenwald.

I really did love Mark's work on Cap, and I would recommend anybody to give his work on Cap(or the awesome Squadron Supreme from the 1980's, or to a lesser degree, Quasar)a read. The guy was REALLY talented and was taken from this world all to soon... Anyway, in the mid-90's, Mark was developing a storyline in which Cap's(Steve Rogers)body was deteriorating, and he was slowly inching towards death. In preparation of his eventual death, Cap took two novice heroes under his wings and began to train them, with the hopes that the two of them would be able to help fill the void left by his death.

These two trainee's were Free Spirit(Cathy Webster) and Jack Flag(Jack Harrison). I was immediately drawn to Jack Flag, with his red, white and blue hair and the ludicrous weapon he used during his first few forays into crimefighting... Jack would use a souped-up boom box that would fire concussive blasts... Only in the 90's could you find something like that! Well, Jack winds up running into Mr. Hyde and winds up getting doused in the same chemicals that empowered Hyde himself. Due to this exposure, Jack gained super-strength and durability, much like Hyde himself had.

While Cap became sicker and sicker, Jack and Cathy were his constant sidekicks, working with each other, alone or with Cap when he required their assistance. Ultimately, Mark Gruenwald left the writing duties of Captain America to Mark Waid, and Cap is cured of his illness, and Jack and Cathy are written out of the book, since Mark Waid wanted to refocus the comic on Cap, not his sidekicks.

It was explained that Cap asked Cathy and Jack to man his hotline(yes, Captain America had a hotline, where you could call in tips regarding super-villains... It was the 90's, EVERYBODY had a 1-900 hotline!). With Mark Gruenwald's death, Jack and Cathy wound up in comic book limbo, you know, that place obscure characters wind up when they are forgotten by everyone. Unfortunately, Jack's story didn't end happily...

When Warren Ellis took over the Thunderbolts after Civil War(and ruined the team... But that's another post for another day)Jack Flag returned, fighting against the unconstitutional Super-Human Registration Act. Jack wound up taking on the entire Thunderbolt team, and made a pretty good showing for himself, managing to stymie the team and escape into a back alley... Or so he thought.

It seemed that Bullseye was laying in wait and when Jack made his fateful escape into the alley, Bullseye jumped him from behind and stabbed Jack through the spine, paralyzing him, and pretty much ruining the Thunderbolts comic book in the process for me. After that act, I lost more and more interest in the T-Bolts(who were at one time a favorite comic of mine), until I finally gave up reading the comic at all... Which is a damn shame, considering I'd managed to collect every back issue of the series... Oh well.

So, Jack was now paralyzed, which quite frankly is a fate worse than comic book limbo. At least in limbo, there is always the chance that some writer might one day think of something to do with a forgotten character. With poor Jack being paralyzed, I figured that would be the last I ever saw of the kid with the boom box and the American hued hair.

Imagine my delight when I read Guardians of the Galaxy #9 and not only saw Jack Flag, but was overjoyed to see that he was given a large part in the story that played out within that comic book. To me, Jack was always one of those characters that COULD have been more if circumstances were different for him... He had the look, he had the personality, he had the powers, he had the connection to Steve Rogers, all he was lacking was a comic book. One of the things that I really like about the writing team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning is that they are like me! You can tell that they have a deep respect for the work of Mark Gruenwald, and have recently been using characters that Mark had developed/created, such as Quasar(Wendell Vaughn)over in Nova, and now Jack here in the Guardians.

Sometimes, I think that some comic book writers feel that they can do whatever they want to lesser known characters, since these characters don't have a vocal fanbase. This was most evident by Christopher Yost's disgusting treatment of the characters he inherited in New X-Men. Over the span of a few short months, Yost killed off about 40 mainstay's on the New X-Men, including Wallflower and Icarus, basically for no reason... This pissed me off to no end. I don't know/care if NOBODY else cared about Laurie Collins or Jay Guthrie, I CARED about those two characters. I CARED deeply about them, and for no goddamn reason, Yost killed both of these potential filled characters in the most non-heroic ways possible...

It was this act that made me refuse to purchase any comic book that carries Yost's name on the cover. If he has no respect for the characters he's writing about, why the hell should I respect him or the comic books he writes. Hell, I would ask anyone who reads this blog to boycott any comic books written by Christopher Yost.

The point I am trying to make is that EVERY comic book character has fans, even the most obscure ones. You may hate some characters personally, I knew this guy who thought Sage from the X-Men was the greatest character ever, while I absolutely HATED Sage! However, I would never advocate killing Sage off, because I know that at least that one guy really enjoyed reading about her, and I wouldn't want to deprive him his favorite character. I might have been the ONLY fan of Jack Flag, but still I was a FAN. I was crushed by what Warren Ellis did to him.

I'll NEVER forgive Christopher Yost for what he did to Wallflower and Icarus. Once again, I might have been the ONLY fan of those two characters, but I cared enough about them to plunk down $2.99 a month to read about them. Basically in closing, I just want to say a huge "Thank You" to Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning for giving Jack Flag one more chance. I don't know how long Jack is going to stick around the Guardians comic, hopefully for a good long time, but I'm just glad my last image of Jack won't be that of him laying paralyzed on a hospital gurney. I can now remember Jack, even though he is stuck in a wheelchair, acting as heroically as he did back when he first appeared in the 1990's. For that, I am eternally grateful to both Dan and Andy. This act, along with their always well thought out stories have made me a fan of their work for life.

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