Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rise, My Pets: Peter David

Some comics writers have characters they keep coming back to, over and over again, whether they had a hand in creating them or not. Sometimes they even pluck a character from obscurity and make them matter.
With that in mind, I give you, the pets of Peter David. I won’t promise they’re not all from X-Factor.

Aquaman: (Aquaman #1-46, Aquaman: Time and Tide #1-4, Atlantis Chronicles 1-7) Though David is a writer who jokes often, he made the king of Atlantis no joke. I mean, come on, he gave the dude a hook for a hand! David turned Aquaman into a Thor of the seas, helped give Atlantis itself a rich history and boosted the quality of his supporting cast. During David’s run, artist Jim Calafiore gave the character perhaps his second most-famous look: shirtless, long hair, beard, hook hand. Your move, Flash.

Doc Samson: While Hulk and X-Factor are largely two different books, they both featured memorable appearances from resident Marvel headshrinker Leonard “Doc” Samson, the man with the long, green hair and the Ph.D. Samson helped David’s Hulk work through his mental issues, and he also analyzed X-Factor in the “X-Aminations” stories, two of David’s best standalone works (the first one is perhaps most memorable both for Quicksilver’s speech about how slowly the world moves to him and a dated, but still funny to people in their 30s, Ren and Stimpy reference).

Hulk: (Incredible Hulk Vol. 1 #328-467, Vol. 2 #67-77, various mini-series & specials including Future Imperfect) David is to Hulk what Chris Claremont is to the X-Men, spending 12 years giving the character depth and breadth, control over his personality, intelligence, gray skin, green skin and a beard. David gave us such memorable Hulk concepts as Joe Fixit, the gray Hulk-as-Vegas bouncer, and the Maestro, the Hulk that ruled a dystopian future. He picked up and fleshed out Banner’s childhood of abuse at the hands of his father, a holdover from the Bill Mantlo years. And he synthesized the many shades of Hulk into one intelligent, green smashing machine. He also worked with a series of well-known artists, from Todd McFarlane to Dale Keown to Gary Frank. David wrote a great little essay on his time with the Jade Giant – including getting canned for refusing to re-savage the Hullk – for Entertainment Weekly, which you can read here.

Jamie Madrox: (X-Factor Vol. 1 #70-90, MadroX #1-5, X-Factor Vol. 3 #1-50, 200-262) Madrox the Multiple Man began his membership in X-Factor as one-half of the team’s comic relief, alongside Guido “Strong Guy” Carosella. A subsequent writer, J.M. DeMatteis, killed off Madrox via Legacy Virus, but like any character worth his dupes, he got better. David wrote a 2004 Madrox mini that saw Jamie send his dupes out into the world to accrue knowledge and then be reabsorbed, or join the priesthood or S.H.I.E.L.D. or become a future assassin or any number of things. This formed the basis for a new X-Factor series, in which Madrox, Guido, Wolfsbane and a whole bunch of other second-string free agents formed a mutant detective agency occasionally dedicated to solving the mystery of M-Day.

Polaris: (X-Factor Vol. 1 #70-90, X-Factor Vol. 3 #230-262, All-New X-Factor #1-present) The first time Peter David spent with Polaris was in an epilogue issue of X-Factor, before David’s all-new, all-different team. In it, Strong Guy talks her into striking sexy poses for his enjoyment. You’ve come a long way, baby, despite Chuck Austen’s best efforts to turn you into a jilted crazy witch woman. Polaris returned to David’s X-Factor fold late in his second round with the book and took on the painstaking task of decluttering her origin, which saw her go from Magneto’s third kid to not and back again. Polaris is now leading her own, corporate-sponsored X-Factor team in the book’s third iteration, a team that includes the next person on this list.

Quicksilver: (X-Factor Vol. 1 #70-90, X-Factor Vol. 3 various issues, All-New X-Factor #1-present) If “X-aminations” (X-Factor Vol. 1 #87) and “Re-X-aminations” (X-Factor Vol. 3 #13) are two of David’s best standalone issues, Quicksilver was one of the best parts of both those issues. In the first X-am, Quicksilver complains about how slowly the world moves relative to his superspeed. In the second X-am, Quicky is a Terrigen Mist drug pusher on the cusp of igniting a Silent War with the Inhumans, who wanted their supply back. Essentially, post House of M, Pietro had become Chang from Community, mentally unbalanced and ready to doublecross at a moment’s notice. In the current X-Factor series, Quicksilver spies on teammate Polaris on behalf of her ex, Havok, who leads the Avengers’ Unity Squad.

Rick Jones: David loved the Hulk’s human buddy Jones – arguably the Marvel Universe’s answer to Sherman of Mr. Peabody and Sherman – so much that he took him into space with him, making him part of the cast during his Captain Marvel runs in the late ’90s and early 2000s, during which Mar-Vell’s son Genis-Vell carried the mantle Marvel and DC shared/fought over for decades.

Spider-Man 1962: (Spectacular Spider-Man #103-136) David’s first work for Marvel, who had originally hired him to work in sales. David wrote what is often considered one of the best Spider-Man stories, "The Death of Jean DeWolff." Spider-Man is, in many ways, the perfect character for David, who can do funny without letting it overwhelm an entire book. Spider-Man quips, but he also experiences heart-wrenching tragedies. That’s prime David wheelhouse.

Spider-Man 2099: If you’re looking for a sign that the wave of 90s nostalgia is on and knows no bounds, look no further. Miguel O’Hara is likely the most memorable relic of the 2099 universe (quick: name one X-Man 2099!). Writer Dan Slott gave David the alley-oop by bringing future Spidey into the present and setting up David’s current series.

Strong Guy: Just kidding. Seriously though, X-Factor is awesome.

Dan Grote has been a Matt Signal contributor since 2014 and friends with Matt since there were four Supermen and two Psylockes. His two novels, My Evil Twin and I and Of Robots, God and Government, are available on Amazon.

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