We interrupt this regularly scheduled Super-Blog Team-Up for an nWo-style takeover featuring some very bad dudes from the DC Universe! Cue the music!
I was pleased & privileged to accept the return invitation to 'stand in' for the dearly (at least for now) departed Super Bloggers - and to mark the occasion, I thought I'd adapt an unused Where's The Trade? idea with a brief profile of some of my favorite comics 'stand-ins' - the bad boys from the planet Angor, THE super-villain team to beat in early 90s Justice League comics & cheeky Marvel villain analogs: The Extremists! I'm amazed that, for a group based on such a throw away idea (analogs of 4 top Marvel villains -- and Dormammu), creators have been using some version or another of the Extremists in comics for almost 30 years!
Before I cover the publishing history of these true Harbingers of the Attitude Era, I invite you to check out the other late spring offerings from some fellow blasts from the #SuperBlogTeamUp past:
Though introduced together, the legacies of these analog teams couldn't have been more different. Squadron Supreme went on to be featured in several guest-starring appearances, mini series, and trade paperbacks printed in human ashes, while the Assemblers never got a push - they slipped down the card, forgotten for almost 20 years.
|The Assemblers: Not-Quicksilver, Not-Scarlet Witch, Not-Yellowjacket & Not-Thor|
The 1st appearance of the Assemblers in JLA #87 can be found digitally, collected in color in the series of JLA Archives, vol. 10, specifically - or in the more recent JLA Bronze Age Omnibus vol. 1. You can also find the story reprinted in black & white in Showcase Presents: The Justice League vol. 5. It's typical early Bronze Age JLA - decent plot with good, if unremarkable Dick Dillin/Joe Giella illustration. If you're reading this, you probably don't need my recommendation to pick up those early 'Bwah-Ha-Ha' Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire JLI issues, but I'll give it to you, anyway - they can be found in single issue format, trade paperback, hardcover omnibus & digitally - you really can't go wrong with these excellent comics.
|4 top Marvel villains -- and Dormammu - the Extremists' template|
This collection of mega-powered malcontents began as a team of ordinary, everyday industrial thieves. But a botched bomb heist & run in with (because this is a Marvel-ous origin story) MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF RADIATION mutates these unnamed criminals into a stable of monster heels! We've got Lord Havok - leader of the team inside his powerful, shiny suit of armor. Imposing & bug-like in his massive shell, Havok is a reimagined Dr. Doom. Gorgon is a flabby, brutish lech - metal claws for hands & thick strangulating tentacles growing out of the top of his head - the Dr. Octopus of the Extremists. Tracer is quick, athletic, ferocious - and insane. An alternate universe Sabretooth. Dr. Diehard wields the forces of magnetism - so he could only be a Magneto analog (though he does carry Daredevil's 'Double D' emblem on his chest). And the strangest-looking & most frightening Extremist is Dreamslayer, the Dormammu stand-in (they can't all be winners, I guess) with his stocking feet, tattered cape and energy ball of a head, who taps into some pretty serious magical power - so serious that he's able to pull the location of the DC Earth from the Silver Sorceress' mind, and with a quick teleportation spell, The Extremists discover a new world to conquer! What follows is a series of confrontations with Justice League Europe, whose membership at the time included Captain Atom (team leader), Power Girl, The Flash, Rocket Red, Crimson Fox, The Elongated Man & Metamorpho. In the long history of the League, its heroes had yet to meet such a sadistic, brutal group of villains as the Extremists. They killed - they didn't think twice about it. They'd grown bored on their home planet - it's populace had been wiped out by the Extremists' emmployment of their planet's stolen nuclear weapons. They loved to fight - the tougher the opponent the better. The Extremists are DELIGHTED to meet some super-hero resistance on this 'new' planet. Upon first meeting their foes, the JLEers are beaten handily - it's basically a squash match! And things get pretty dark when the League is teleported to Angor, prisoners on a desolate world, leaving no one to stop the villains back home who've hijacked Earth's nuclear arsenal and hold hundreds (thousands?) of missiles in orbit - an all too literal Sword of Damocles - in place to force Earth's surrender.
|The muscular bulk & reflective material in the design of the Extremists plays to Bart Sears' strengths as an illustrator|
'The Extremist Vector' is one of my very favorite Justice League multi-part epics - it's got a little bit of everything: awesome villains, high stakes, twists & turns - and provides a much needed signature victory for the young Justice League Europe team.
The nature of the JLE's victory over the Extremists should have made the extra-dimensional 'Outsiders' -- unavailable -- for further adventures - but avail themselves, they would, in issue #3 of Justice League Quarterly (Summer 1991), where in a story plotted by Keith Giffen & illustrated by Mike McKone, we get our best look yet at the planet Angor. Thanks to Walt Disney-doppelganger Mitch Wacky's (with help from JLI's own Mr. Fixit, Kilowog) desire to crack the dimensional (and chronal) barrier into Angor's past in a crusade to prevent the Extremists' origins (and therefore the destruction of his home planet), we see just how closely the New York of Angor was intended to resemble the NYC of the Marvel Universe. True Believer, Angorian New York was THE hub of super-hero activity in that dimension. At a meeting of the Assemblers (here called the Justifiers - blame Crisis), the creative team gets to poke fun at the Avengers, once again, with parodies of Iron Man, Hawkeye, the Wasp & Giant Man. As if this issue were an episode of the Twilight Zone, Mitch Wacky's quest doesn't turn out quite the way he planned, and we get to witness, first hand, the violent births of Lord Havok, Dr. Diehard and their fellow hardcore stars. Mike McKone's super-detailed work (here inked by Bob Smith) is always a treat, and the New York of Angor is an enormous spectacle of super heroic activity (and NOT just because Mitch, Kilowog and the JLI are reduced to the size of insects in this story).
|Born in hellfire|
The above mentioned stories: 'The Extremist Vector,' Justice League Quarterly #3 & 'Breakdowns' are what I would consider 'essential' Extremist reading, but unfortunately due to circumstances, are unlikely to find their way into any trade paperback or omnibus collection. Comics are a collaborative medium, however - and the efforts of talented creators like Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, Bart Sears, Mike McKone, Darick Robertson & others make these stories worth checking out in single issue format.
The Extremists would improbably turn up again, causing trouble for Supergirl in Peter David's 90s series - I was impressed with David's adherence to previous Extremist continuity; the inclusion of guest star (and former JLE member) Power Girl to help Supergirl/Matrix tackle the temporarily revived conquerors in a handicap match was a nice touch. The Extremists would also be recruited to job for the (Old Teen) Titans in DC's water-treading 2015 event, Convergence. These were both decent enough outings - Leonard Kirk's depiction of the Extremists in Supergirl was fairly on model, but he & Convergence: The Titans' Ron Wagner just weren't able to capture the malevolent majesty of the Extremists the way Bart Sears & his JLE inkers were (Chuck Wojtkiwicz came close in a Justice League storyline I won't be mentioning here).
|Leonard Kirk's Extremists were pretty much on model in Peter David's Supergirl|
Despite their dastardly deeds & vile characterizations, the Extremists have somehow slithered their way into my heart - yet I find it baffling that this team, based on a 45-year old throwaway idea still gets some play in whatever passes today for the DC Universe. While no where near as significant as the similarly 'analogous' Squadron Supreme, I'd argue the Extremists' legacy & relevance have (thus far) outlasted those of the Assemblers/Justifiers/Champions of Angor/Retaliators - and it's unusual to have the heels of a particular concept outstrip the babyfaces that way - but the Extremists are compelling foils & even with only one major grudge match with the Justice League under their straps - while they might not have the drawing power of a Despero or Starro or Injustice League, I'd still put them up there in pantheon of the League's greatest foes (cruiser weight division).
And speaking of vile bands of interdimensional rogues, like the Extremists, there's another such group that it's impossible to keep down - and that's the Super-Bloggers! Please stay tuned for the return of that infamous confederation this summer!