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The Long Weird Trip of ‘The Weird’
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T.E. Pouncey   |  

The WeirdThe rise, fall, and return of Jim Starlin’s science fiction superhero.

My favorite comic books have always been a strange mixture of imagination and death.

The technical marvels of planet Krypton spark the imagination, but the Superman story doesn’t begin until his world explodes.

Batman’s cool crime fighting tools, including the Batmobile, are wonderfully inventive but are driven by a mission that began with the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents.

Hal Jordan’s ring — fueled by imagination and will power — came to him as a gift from a dying alien.

And Jim Corrigan and Boston Brand wouldn’t even have become superheroes if they weren’t dead.

Death and imagination are also the key elements of The Weird, which began as a four-issue mini-series in 1987. The title character disappeared for 20 years and returned in 2006 as a back-up feature in the recently concluded Mystery In Space eight-issue limited series.

The original The Weird series, written by Jim Starlin and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson and Dan Green, began with an evil mystic bringing an evil energy being to Earth from another dimension. The portal opened by the mystic, Jason Morgan, also brought along another energy being, whose arrival interested the Justice League.

Green Lantern (Guy Gardner) tries to analyze it with his ring, Dr. Fate tries a few ineffective incantations, and Superman and the Martian Manhunter track the energy being’s movements. The Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Batman, and Black Canary also show up but provide no assistance other than cluttering some really nice art with word balloons that say things like, “I think you’re right, Batman! Look!”

The energy being (we don’t learn until issue #2 they call themselves ‘Zarolatts‘) drops by a genetic research lab and stops at a funeral just long enough to hijack the dead body of Walter Langley. From this, it creates a “shell” to contain his energy. The Weird emerges from an crackling electrical sphere as a human being with a enlarged right eye, who dresses like a cross between a ninja and a pirate Blue Beetle — who flies around in an insect shaped aircraft and has no discernible superpowers but wears a costume anyway — decides to name this new life-form “The Weird.” Talk about a pot calling a kettle black…

Anyway, the Justice League determines The Weird is full of unstable energy and may blow up like a nuclear bomb and destroy the world. They want to move him off planet, but The Weird has other ideas. He has the power to change his density (much like Marvel’s android, hero The Vision) and is able to fight or elude any of the JLA members trying to capture him. He tracks down the evil energy being that has bonded to Jason Morgan, but Jason’s apartment is vacant. With time to kill, The Weird shows up at Walter Langley’s home and visits Walter’s son Billy.

Why is that when a corpse gets reanimated, the first thing they all want to do is see family members? I hope if any of my dead relatives get possessed by an extra-dimensional energy being and return deformed and wearing tights, they have the courtesy to call first and don’t just show up in the backyard wanting to have awkward conversations.

The second issue of The Weird spends several pages recapping the first issue and even more time having The Weird explain to Billy who he is, why he is there, and why he has to seek out and battle Jason. The Weird has a good old-fashioned brawl with Superman and fights him to standstill, then drops back in on Jason, who is home this time, but has partially transmuted into a kind of green crystal being.

Mystery in SpaceDuring the remaining two issues of the original mini-series, some Macrolatts (the evil energy beings The Weird came to destroy) take control of Superman and Nuklon (of the old Infinity Inc. series), The Weird kills Jason, The Justice League fights the possessed Superman and Nuklon but only The Weird can beat them. The Weird has several pages of tearful farewells with Billy and then is taken to space where he explodes.

The story was alright and the art was great, but I couldn’t help wondering why this was a mini-series and not just a storyline in the monthly Justice League series. It seemed a waste to create a new superhero capable of defeating the combined Justice League and then kill him off at the end of the story.

But the real problem with the original The Weird mini-series was not that wrong things happen but that not much happens at all. A few fights, a little sentimentality and an inevitable conclusion. Hardly the stuff of comic book legend.
So I was very surprised to see The Weird revived as the backup feature for the eight-issue Mystery In Space relaunch last November.

Since the new storyline for The Weird was tied to the Captain Comet feature in the front of the book, explaining the plot would take longer than it would just to read the actual comics, but here are the highlights:

The first three pages of the latest The Weird story are disembodied word balloons floating in space.

By the third page, The Weird has formed some internal organs and after much more exposition, forms a skeleton around them. He recaps The Weird mini-series, stops talking to the reader and starts talking to himself, and discovers he’s on a city-sized satellite called Hardcore Station.

The Weird is co-opted into a religion called The Eternal Light Corporation, who manipulate him into being a holy hitman. If death and imagination are uneasy combination, it becomes even stranger when you add the element of religion.

The best thing about The Weird stories in Mystery In Space are how he is able to overcome the lies and shackles of organized religion, while still missing the comfort and sense of purpose that religion gave him. But it is a little odd (and who would expect less from a book called The Weird) that our hero become a martyr FIRST and THEN begins to question theology. Generally speaking, people do that the other way around.

While pondering all these great theological issues, The Weird gets knocked unconscious a few times, gets his memory wiped, gets his butt kicked repeatedly and discovers that his current body is a clone of Captain Comet.

The story ends with a battle between Captain Comet and The Weird. The Weird tells Comet that he is heading back to Earth, presumably to further traumatize Billy who has already seen his biological father die twice.

If The Weird actually returns as a major hero in the DC universe, it would not be surprising from a company that recently made Booster Gold interesting again and made readers actually feel bad for Black Adam.

The great thing about The Weird is that he spends so much time pondering the unanswerable questions — death, religion, and the nature of humanity.

The bad thing about The Weird is that he never seems to get any closer to the answers he seeks. Questions without answers are like plots without resolution — just a lot of echoes into a void.

Maybe in a universe full of death and imagination, that’s the best we get.

27 Comments »

  1. Awesome read. I never knew The Weird was so… weird!

    Comment by Groovespook — May 16, 2007 @ 11:53 am

  2. […] The long weird trip of “The Weird”: Geeks of Doom […]

    Pingback by ChugsAndJugs — May 16, 2007 @ 3:24 pm

  3. Nice article very “Weird” –I’m not familiar with the character myself -being more of a sci-fi guy. Definitely seems to have some interesting elements though.

    I like a story or tale that asks questions –but it can get very frustrating when the questions are never answered. Similar to the X-Files which at one point was my favorite show on tv until it become apparent that Chris Carter never had a clear plan or resolution to answer the main questions or mythology episodes of the show. Or the tv series Twin Peaks which was delightfully “Weird” but never really went anywhere. If done right unanswered questions can be very effective –but without a great payoff can leave the viewer or reader disappointed. Just finished watching another episode of LOST before reading this article –another series that asks a lot of cool interesting questions —that hopefully will not fall into the bad category of what you disliked about the weird and will hopefully answer the questions.

    Of course one of the best sci-fi authors Arthur Clarke was great at asking questions in his books but rarely if ever answering them –(such as his Rama series.) So like you said maybe that is the best one can hope for

    Comment by Pineappleman [via myspace] — May 16, 2007 @ 11:11 pm

  4. […] The Long Strange Trip of ‘The Weird’ Death and imagination are also the key elements of The Weird, which began as a four-issue […]

    Pingback by News Coctail — May 17, 2007 @ 3:59 am

  5. […] feature in the recently concluded Mystery In Space eight-issue limited series. […]

    Pingback by Prime News Blog — May 17, 2007 @ 8:53 am

  6. I’m not even close to being a comics fan (no offense intended, I’m just not), so a lot of these character references were lost upon me, but I still enjoyed reading this article. Pouncey (isn’t that one of the things Tiggers are?) has considerable skill with turns of phrase.

    Comment by Ladies and gentlemen: Rimpy [via myspace] — May 17, 2007 @ 8:56 am

  7. I disagree with the idea that people question theology THEN become martyrs. Its simple cause and effect, the role is thrust upon you forcing you to question its substance and validity. I think its course is well thought out in that it departs from the traditional old Hollywood script of this-bothers-me / thats-what-I-became syndrome. Its fresh and actually makes more sense.

    About the unanswered questions, when you get to a point in life when all questions are answered, you’ve stopped asking. It can sometimes be an uneasy view, because we are taught to seek resolution. I feel the best thing a writer can do is set upon you questions you will revisit long after youve stopped reading.

    -Sir Charles Karate

    Comment by Sir Charles Karate [via myspace] — May 17, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

  8. The Long Weird Trip of ‘The Weird’…

    Death and imagination are key elements of The Weird, which began as a four-issue mini-series in 1987. The title character disappeared for 20 years and returned in 2006 as a back-up feature in the recently concluded Mystery In Space eight-issue limited …

    Trackback by Comicne.ws — May 17, 2007 @ 1:37 pm

  9. As a supposedly big comics fan, I don’t know how The Weird completely escaped my attention. Guess I just scan too much for familiar faces and names. . . or breast-plates. I’m bound to come across the series sooner or later, and will definitely check it out. Regarding those big questions, I’m at the age where I doubt that I will ever know the answers, but intend to never stop asking anyway! And what if there really aren’t any answers? Would that really be so bad? What if we are only here for a fleeting cosmic micro-second, to love life and help each other through it, and then it’s over? Still seems way better than being a chunk of lava, or a tapeworm. Maybe we should just be happy! Discuss. And thanks, Mr. Pouncey, for the great article!

    Comment by DAVE! [via myspace] — May 17, 2007 @ 5:05 pm

  10. A fascinating, well-written write up. Kudos.

    Comment by Smarmy — May 17, 2007 @ 6:41 pm

  11. […] in the recently concluded Mystery In Space eight-issue limited series. […]

    Pingback by Cartoons Fans Lounge — May 17, 2007 @ 8:44 pm

  12. Having never read The Weird, I am strangly drawn to a character who is a holy hitman…. thanks to T.E. Pouncy for providing this insightful background for us!!! I think I may like all the pondering…..

    Comment by charles & johanna [via myspace] — May 17, 2007 @ 9:18 pm

  13. This is great. I love Weird stories.

    Comment by Steve Otto — May 18, 2007 @ 1:37 am

  14. A oh! looks like I missed a few issues. I know what I’m doing tommorrow!
    Awsume

    Comment by We come in peace, shot to kill shoot to kill [via myspace] — May 18, 2007 @ 5:31 am

  15. Great article, I think I’ll give The Weird a chance. The first cover alone makes it worth it!

    Comment by Celina Hernandez [via myspace] — May 18, 2007 @ 5:31 am

  16. liked

    Comment by Devilsthrill [via myspace] — May 18, 2007 @ 5:32 am

  17. Great comic i really enjoyed it

    Comment by Cody — May 18, 2007 @ 10:28 am

  18. It seems that this character ‘The Weird’ is a character that could use a whole lot more of exposition and development. Agreed, I personally have not read this comic, but I do know one thing;

    ‘COMIC BOOK DEATH’ IS A NEW WORD FOR ‘IRONY’

    Why update/re-use a character that inevitably dies? If a comic book writer bores of a particular character, they can kill them off. This has a snowball effect. a) A new writer brought in, will undoubtedly find a way/excuse to bring back a hero from the dead if they like them. COMIC BOOK DEATH = IRONY. b) A Comic Book Icon dies for the sake of flagging sales. COMIC BOOK DEATH = IRONY. c)A minor supporting/b-list character dies for some comic universe changing events [as seen in DCs Identity Crisis] COMIC BOOK DEATH= IRONY.

    So the point? Why must ‘The Weird’ die? Mini-series or not…I think its time the stranglehold of the Big Three is shifted!

    Your review Tim, allowed me to vent my opinion at least!

    Sam

    Comment by ¡CURSE OF LONO! ¡TEAM GOBLIN! [via myspace] — May 18, 2007 @ 12:11 pm

  19. […] in the recently concluded Mystery In Space eight-issue limited series. […]

    Pingback by Cartoons Plugin — May 18, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

  20. […] in the recently concluded Mystery In Space eight-issue limited series. […]

    Pingback by SearchRoads — May 18, 2007 @ 6:14 pm

  21. Very interesting review, sir- thorough and thought provoking. I liked it. I guess having dead relatives show up for a surprise visit in full superhero attire is still better than having them come back and try to eat your brains.

    Comment by *Olivia* [via myspace] — May 19, 2007 @ 12:38 pm

  22. excellent review my friend. intelligent and well-written. i picked up Mystery in Space at my local comic shop several weeks ago & noticed Starlin had brought back The Weird. i picked up the old mini-series back when it first came out & enjoyed it. i was buying just about everything i thought looked cool that the post-Crisis DC was putting out back then, so i was already collecting JLI & loved Batman: The Cult by Starlin & Wrightson (took me 15 years to get that one in TP finally..).

    so it was cool to see the character back now, and linked with Captain Comet, who i loved from the great 70s Secret Society of Super-Villains book. anyway, good work, and it’s good to know there’s officially 2 fans of The Weird on MySpace now….

    Henry

    Comment by Henry Covert [via myspace] — May 21, 2007 @ 2:05 am

  23. Good article, Tim. I read the original Weird series when it came out, but I didn’t know about the newer storyline. I’ll have to check that out. Great job on shedding light on an artistic area that would probably have gone ignored due to Paris Hilton’s upcoming lesbian love affairs–coming to a jail cell near you.

    Thanks,

    Bradley Mason Hamlin
    Mystery Island Publications

    Comment by Bradley Mason Hamlin — May 22, 2007 @ 9:08 pm

  24. Looks pretty “weird” to me.

    Comment by Motorcycle Guy — May 23, 2007 @ 9:46 am

  25. It sounds like it would be an interesting story, had they not tried to blend all of that stuff together. I think the real interesting part would be how it mirrors actual human life, with the fact that we don’t find all the answers we seek. There will always be another question to be asked about the answer to the previous question. Your review was brilliantly written. I loved the opening.

    Comment by Nathan — May 24, 2007 @ 11:34 pm

  26. […] in 2006 as a back-up feature in the recently concluded Mystery In Space eight-issue limited series.read more | digg […]

    Pingback by Hostgator — May 29, 2007 @ 4:07 am

  27. I remember this character. You have an excellent recall of factual data and a fanciful way of expressing this to your readers that I find engaging. You have the writing skills of a professional. Iwould be interested to read your humorous fiction. Kudos all around.

    Comment by Brother Other [via myspace] — May 29, 2007 @ 12:01 pm

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