Once in a while, I come across a more recent comic book or series that really makes me excited to go back and explore the origins of a particular character or idea. Such was the case when I first read Jason Aaron’s original Weird World mini series that was released as a “Battle Zones” spinoff during Marvel’s most recent Secret Wars crossover back in 2015.
Other than maybe “Where Monsters Dwell” by Garth Ennis and my good buddy, Russ Braun, the Weird World series really encapsulated why I loved the Secret Wars idea and how I thought it was a well spring for interesting content that wasn’t beholden to any previous continuity or history of these characters.
For example, I loved the fact that Jason Aaron used his Weird World concept to reconnect with obscure characters from Marvel’s extensive web of spinoffs such as the short lived Remco toy line “Crystar” (of which I was a huge fan).
Anyways, so great was my love of Weird World that it made me go out and buy a trade paperback of all the original Weird World comics written by Doug Moench and Mike Ploog in the late 70s early 80s. And I was originally so jacked to read that…
Until I started reading the follow up series of Weird World written by Sam Humphries that were released after that original Secret Wars mini series and found them…well…not so great as the original.
I dunno why that was the case, whether it was the lack of Jason Aaron as a writer or different characters or what. However there it was. A Weird World series that sort of sucked all the excitement out of me for this concept.
And as a result, that original Weird World trade sat in my read pile collecting dust, an innocent victim of my fickle comic book mind and forces beyond it’s control.
But that changes today! After 5 long years, I’m finally going to read the original Weird World saga trade for today’s read pile entry and report back to all you fans!
So without further ado…Did this series renew my faith in the Weird World concept???
10 Cent Synopsis:
In some far off land or dimension lives the realm of Weird World. It’s a place filled with Orcs and Swamp Serpents, Wizards and Dwarves, and most of all a curious race of elves of which our two main protagonists, Tyndall and his girlfriend Velenna, are a part.
The Elves of the series are generally treated with suspicion or worse given that their floating island of a home land called Klarn, creates a permanent shadow over the land, a shadow which breeds the most terrible of monsters!
As Tyndall and Velenna explore Weird World trying to find someway of returning to Klarn, they have multiple adventures which explore the overarching mythos of the Weird World saga, including how it was created, what Gods watch over it, and the mystical power brokers that seem hell bent on getting them killed by sending them on one strange quest after another.
Oh…and they meet a shifty dwarf companion named Mud Butt….’cause his butt is always dirty.
Things I Liked:
Well, I first have to say that I appreciate greatly the fact that this particular series gave voice to a sub genre of comics that really had been ignored for decades prior to it being released, and that genre was “Fantasy”.
Seriously, other than Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja, and a few others, fantasy comics were grossly underrepresented on the spinner racks at this time, so you gotta applaud Doug Moench’s pioneering vision to at least try in creating a brand new fantasy world that wasn’t a direct adaptation of any other previous form of fiction. I’ll elaborate further on that below as to whether I think that was a success or not.
However, one thing I always think is a success is when I get John Buscema art! As anyone worth his or her salt around GotS knows, John Buscema is probably my favorite artist of all time, and this is especially true when he gets to draw dramatic, high fantasy style books. This is not a knock against Mike Ploog, but there was absolutely no way that he was going to compete against John in this particular arena. You are talking about the man that taught us all “How to Draw the Marvel Way” and even if all you’ve seen is his Conan work, that should be plenty to convince you that he’s a master of this craft.
However in case you are still skeptical, below is an example of some of the beautiful spreads that John drew for this story. I will say that the only issue with these pictures is evidently the trade doesn’t do them justice given they were originally presented as 3 page fold out spreads, which if I can ever lay my hands on at a comic shop I definitely would pick up.
In particular, I’m a real fan of the final issue included in this trade from Marvel Super Special #13. It has finishes by the late great Marie Sevrin, who I’ve been a fan of since reading her issues of Dr. Strange after Steve Ditko left that book. I feel like of all the artists on this Weird World series, the tag team combination of her and John Buscema is by far my favorite, and really captures that high swashbuckling spirit which should be the hallmark of any good fantasy related property.
Things I Didn’t Like:
Boy, it’s really hard to say this, but I won’t lie that at times reading this series, it felt like pulling teeth. I kept putting it down, picking it back up, reading a couple more pages, putting it down again. I mainly blame this on the fact that there was no real hook that got me invested in this world. In fact, there were often times that I found myself just sort of “eye rolling” as the series somewhat trotted out tired ideas that had already been done in other fantasy stories, most obviously Lord of the Rings.
Again, I’m not saying this is a direct adaptation of Lord of the Rings, but honestly it might have worked better if it was, because at least then it wouldn’t have seemed so painfully obvious that there were more than a few thinly veiled “homages” to that successful book franchise. If it had been just a direct adaption then you’d at least get the comic book realization of those original concepts instead of just a copy of a copy.
And that’s not to say that I felt like Doug Moench’s was just ripping off Lord of the Rings, because he does have a great degree of his own ideas throughout the series. But it was like listening to someone’s D&D campaign that they created right after seeing the LotR movies, and you can just feel the almost oppressive influence of that on every concept they deal out to the players. Oh, there’s a super evil wizard and he’s got dark warriors on horseback and there’s little elf people that are guarding this Macguffin item he needs to get back to restore his nasty world conquering powers…and…and…
And…it all sounds like Lord of the Rings.
That’s why I was actually a fan of the original couple of issues what with the floating island in the sky, as it was more anthology based as travel from place to place having little mini adventures as the mythology of Weird World unfolded in front of you. At least, that all seemed original compared to the second half which was mainly made up of the story line “Warriors of the Shadow Realm” from Marvel Super Special #11–13 that was pretty heavy on the LotR type stuff.
But even still, I had issue with that first half as well because it seemed so disjointed without the main LotR storyline that it was again hard to really care.
So it seems this series was damned if it did or damned if it didn’t. For me at least it seemed like a lukewarm retelling of the LotR story or a bunch of random fantasy stories only bridged by having the same two main elf characters. Either way, it was hard for me to get invested in either of those ideas.
Sometimes I like to use these sections of the blog to test the waters on some other topic I might want to cover in a future article. With that being said, who else remembers the toy line “Saga of Crystar” that I mentioned earlier as one of the main reasons I enjoyed Jason Aaron’s version of Werid World!?!
C’mon show of hands!
If you were a kid from the early 80s, I guarantee you had at least a couple of these figures. I mean, due to lukewarm response in regards to them, many of the characters ended up in bargain bins or on clearance so they were ripe pickings for 80s parents who needed a cheap toy option for a stocking stuffer or random good report card reward.
I personally had most of the set thanks to the fact that my older brother, Dave, also liked the action figure line and convinced my Dad to pick up most of them from said bargain bins.
In fact, I actually still have most of the figures given they were the types that weren’t easily confused with GI Joes or Star Wars figures due to their unique look and style. I mean Crystar was bright blue semi transparent plastic! It’s definitely not a figure you could mistake for say Snake Eyes or something.
Anyways, the history of this particular toy line is pretty substantial given it was one of the first Marvel forays into the development of an entire mythology and characters that they could then license to a toy company for development of action figures. So Crystar was actually the opposite of nearly every other toy related comic out there in that the toy company didn’t come to the comic company first and ask for related licensing materials to be made for their toy line, but the other way around.
As a result, Marvel still owes the characters of Crystar lock, stock, and barrel, which is why unlike say Rom the Spaceknight or the Transformers, Crystar still could appear in Marvel Comics continuity to this day, a fact Jason Aaron took advantage of with Weird World.
I’m one of the few people that I know that has read the entire 11 issue run of the original Crystar comic book series given my somewhat nostalgic love of this action figure property. If you would like me to give a write up of that in a future read pile, please leave a comment below! It would at the very least give me an excuse for writing it seeing that now that I’ve already started talking about it, I can’t seem to shut up about it!
In addition to having the recent interest in finally reading this series thanks to that Jason Aaron run, I won’t front that Weird World has been one of those books that has been sitting in the back of my head ever since I was a kid.
You see, I vividly remember the full page promotional ads for this book that appeared in the issues of Spider-man and Star Wars that I was reading as a wee little Andy, and like many of the video game ads and those bad ass Dungeon & Dragons one pager continuing stories, I often was so intrigued by those ads that I would make up my own stories about what really they were about.
Warriors of the Shadow Realm! Wow! That just sounds super cool. That’s gotta be all kinds of sword swinging excitement with dragons and swamp monsters! Right? Right?!?
Eh, this is one of those instances were your imagination is probably a better substitute to the real thing.
Not to say, that Doug Moench’s work on this is bad. He does have some neat ideas going on here, like the floating island of Klarn and how it got there. Plus, he did think out the internal mythology of his Weird World pretty well, so you can never fault a guy for being through.
However, most of it seems like generic “paint by numbers” fantasy stories, the kind that you’ve seen so many times, that you can almost predict what is going to happen next.
OH NO! The Wizard sends Tyndall to use the enchanted rainbow crystals to destroy the remains of Darklens because he does it, he will be seduced by its dark power, but gasp! The Wizard appears at Darklens’ tomb! He has come for the remains anyways! Gasp! Now he’s turned evil as predicted! You better cast it into the fires of Mount Doom…and…and…
…Yeah..there is no Mount Doom. That’s from LotR. But it’s so generic that for a second there if I would have said that was the case, you probably would have believed me.
Still though, the series does have that terrific John Bucsema art in it for several of the issues, which again you can’t beat in terms of this type of barbaric swords/sorcery style tale.
It’s just in the end you can’t shake the feeling that you’ve been a little jipped by the whole book. That it could have been something much more special in the end, like that Jason Aaron series that was it’s namesake. Instead though, it’s just a pair of elves that wander around Weird World solving mysteries like some sort of high fantasy Scooby Doo characters.
Oh and there’s this guy called Mud Butt….’cause his butt is always muddy. Yeah, that’s a thing in this universe…