Marvelution – The Shot Heard ‘Round the Comic Industry

By JediCole

The following article is based solely on personal observations from the period covered during a time that I was far more closely connected to certain aspects of the comic industry. This is not a work of investigative journalism so any inaccuracies are unintentional and the result of a personal lack of knowledge on specifics or faulty memory. This is meant to act as a memoir of a period when the comic industry was shaken to its foundations and the whole system of distribution of comic publications was inexorably altered. This is an informative article that shares a story little known by those not directly affected by the events I chronicle here.

If you have a good relationship with the owner of your local comic shop you might have heard the name of Diamond Comic Distributors at least once or twice. As distributors of comics published by the bigger companies (Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image) as well as countless smaller press publishers they have a virtual monopoly on that aspect of the comic industry. This is due primarily to distribution agreements garnered over a decade ago with DC Comics that gave Diamond exclusive access to their lines. Image, and Dark Horse quickly followed suite as Diamond was the largest comic distributor in business at the time. But what caused this dynamic shift in the nature of comic distribution that formerly had a myriad regional, national, and international players? You need look no further than Marvel Comics for answers.

Harken back to the late 90’s, the boom age of comics. Image Comics was founded and going full steam ahead. Wizard Magazine was the number one selling monthly comic collecting publication because its price guide assured its readers that their collections would put their kids through college. And Marvel Comics was enjoying print runs on such titles as X-Men #1 that were unrivaled in history. But then Marvel had been taken over by accountants who knew business but nothing of the business of comics. And as a result Marvel got greedy.

The first signs of this were not obvious. It is only in retrospect that a pattern was emerging, and an alarming one at that. It started simply enough with the acquisition of Toy Biz, the manufacturer of X-Men and other Marvel property toys. This would certainly insure that there would always be a Marvel license holder in the action figure market. Then came the purchase of the trading card publisher Skybox, another long-time Marvel licensee. Again it would appear to be a maneuver to keep the brand in front of collectors on all fronts. It was another purchase, that of a paper mill, that really raised some eyebrows. Now the publisher would control the source of their raw materials. It was during this period that Marvel also purchased (and essentially buried) Malibu Comics. This was not for their comic character properties but for their state-of-the-art computer coloring systems. Something Marvel lacked that this tiny independent publisher had despite a rather lackluster lineup of titles. (Does anyone even remember Prime?) Then came the bombshell. “Marvelution!”

This immediately followed their next acquisition, Heroes World Distribution, one of many comic distributors that existed at the time.  Marvelution was the banner under which Marvel Comics launched what they felt was a new age in comic distribution. Publisher owned and publisher controlled distribution. In short, Marvel would no longer sell their print runs to Diamond, Capital City, Friendly Franks, and the other comic distributors that previously existed. They would sell publisher-direct to comic retailers, essentially cutting out the middle man. Or so it would seem. But it did not stop there.

The publishing giant also made overtures toward retail distribution as well. Advertising for mail order comic subscriptions direct from Marvel began to appear in some of their books. These ads incensed some shop owners as they portrayed Spider-Man rescuing some would-be shoppers from a mugger and stating, “This shopping thing sure is dangerous!” The more alarmist of their numbers cried foul going so far as to accuse Marvel of suggesting that comic shops were in the “bad part of town” while trying to rob them of their customer base. While this may seem an exaggeration on the surface, there were also suggestions made my Marvel that they were planning a chain of retail shops similar to the Disney and Warner Brothers Stores in many malls at the time. This would effectively put the publisher in direct competition with their former customers. Looking back it seemed apparent that there were those at the head of the House of Ideas who dreamt of a time when Marvel Comics would own every aspect of their product from raw materials to retail sales.

But the retail aspect was largely speculation on the part of Marvel. Their real focus was MRV, their new distribution company. Overnight Marvel Comics ceased their distribution agreements with all of their distributors, putting them in a legal conflict with at least one of them. The effect on the rest of the comic industry was devastating! Prior to Marvelution, all publishers large and small would set their print runs based on the preorders from all distributors. With each new issue offered two months in advance there was ample time to work out these numbers and set a variable overage to account for damaged books and potential retailer reorders. Then the entire print run would be shipped out to the various distributors who would be stuck with any unsold copies.

Prior to the advent of the “direct market” distributors comics were sold in convenience stores, grocery stores, and newsstands via rack jobbers who would deliver new publications and remove the previous month’s periodicals, billing the retailer only for what sold. Under direct market distribution retailers purchased their comics on a sliding discount scale based on volume and on a non-returnable basis. Thus was the back issue market born! The comic shop owner would buy from the distributor of their choice, often one with a local presence that would allow them to get the books in the store far earlier and would have to place a minimum monthly order. The minimums were reasonable enough that even little “mom and pop” establishments could take on comic books as a sidebar. That is pre-Marvelution.

The first effect of this maneuver by Marvel Comics was to upset the volume of money all comic retailers had to devote to new comics. MRV had its own minimum order level and discount schedule based on volume. And all they offered were Marvel-owned publications and collectibles. Retailers were forced to meet the minimum order for their distributor of choice for DC, Dark Horse, Image, and other publishers and the minimum of Marvel as well (if they wished to continue carrying the most popular line of comics in the world). The effect was crippling to the smaller shops that had once thrived in the boom period of comic collecting. Marvelution arrived on the crest of the collector/speculator boom when people imagined comic books were a new form of investment. The result was that almost anyone who could come up with a business license and a bank loan could become a comic shop owner and survive the fiercely competitive market. That was when they only had one primary source.

Confronted with Marvel’s sudden foray into self-distribution the other venerable giant of the industry, DC Comics, had to act fast to adapt to the new market dynamic. Realizing the folly of MRV, the suits at DC chose a new path that would change the face of comic distribution to this very day. They ceased all business with every distributor except Diamond, the largest and most well established distributor of the day. What followed was an exclusivity agreement with Diamond that changed the relationship between the two companies and served as a model for other publishers as well. No longer would DC Comics sell their print run to distributors, instead they would maintain control of their published books with Diamond acting as a sales agent to the retail market. This resulted in a less profitable arrangement for Diamond which resulted in a consolidation of their shipping operations and the closure of multiple locations nationally and internationally.

Where DC lead the other two major players followed. Recognizing that Marvel had created an untenable situation in the distribution game Image and Dark Horse also ended their relationships with other distributors and penned exclusivity agreements with Diamond. A few of the larger independent publishers soon followed suit. Maverick small press publisher Dennis Kitchen continued his trademark bucking of the system by deliberately signing an exclusive distribution agreement with Friendly Frank’s, almost as a gesture of defiance against the maneuvering that was forced on the publishing industry. Unfortunately the damage was done and the remaining distributors, lacking access to the biggest publishers in the industry, began to shut down one by one.

Meanwhile at MRV the dreams of a self-distribution empire were dying on the vine. When accountants and business men take over an enterprise that does not conform to business school standards, their attempts to force those standards are always doomed to failure (like the ill-fated Techno Comics publication/retail store venture). Such was the case with Marvel’s efforts. The effect of Marvelution was that sub-distribution, comic shops and other entrepreneurs’ purchasing of comics in large volume from distributors and redistributing them to smaller retailers who could not meet distributor minimum monthly orders, was no longer an option. All retailers had to sign agreements that they would purchase only for direct sale to the end buyer. This coupled with the necessity of having to meet minimums from Diamond and MRV effectively robbed Marvel of a portion of their former customer base. Out of the gate MRV was hamstrung.

Added to the mix was poor management of this new operation on the part of the parent company. MRV regional distribution centers sprung up to ensure timely shipping of Marvel comics to all corners of the U.S. Some were staffed by as few as three people while others had an unwieldy staff of a dozen or more, each processing roughly the same volume of merchandise. There seemed to be no oversight on the part of Marvel into the day to day operations of their various centers. If my memory serves me the entire MRV experiment ended in less than a year. What began with considerable fanfare on the part of Marvel ended quietly with a return to Diamond Comic Distributors. To maintain some portion of the autonomy they previously enjoyed, however, Marvel opted not to have their titles listed in Diamond’s monthly catalog, Previews. The result was Marvel Previews, a separate publication that is a companion to Diamond’s catalog. If you have ever wondered why there is a separate Marvel only catalog now you know.

During the height of Marvelution more and more small press publishers opted to sign exclusive distribution agreements with Diamond. Those that did not take this step still utilized Diamond as their primary resource to get their books into comic shops and the hands of readers. Diamond fell under the scrutiny of the federal government due to their inadvertent monopoly on the distribution market. While they were found not to be in violation of anti-trust laws, the investigation which the government was obliged to undertake despite the obvious circumstances leading to Diamond’s circumstances undoubtedly put a burden on Diamond and cost taxpayers untold amounts of money. All because Marvel was drunk on their success and seeming power in the industry.

So now you know some details of the decisions on the part of one publisher that effectively led to the end of competition in the comic distribution field for all time. Undoubtedly bankruptcy was the fate of most if not all other comic distributors in the aftermath of Marvelution as well as the loss of employment for their employees and even many working for Diamond during the necessary downsizing that followed. DC, Dark Horse, and Image were forced to reconfigure their own business models and take on the ownership of their print runs, the volume of which was greatly reduced as a result. And when the dust finally settled Marvel Comics had achieved nothing of value.

Perhaps it is only fitting that all of this occurred at the tail end of the comic book fever that had gripped the nation for nearly a decade and led to such antics as comic shops hiring armed guards to usher their shipments of the Death of Superman issue into their stores. It was the heady days of the bagged comic, the multiple covers, the foil enhancements, the embossing, and the myriad other gimmicks that ruled the day. The industry was destroying itself in so many small ways it is little wonder that one portion consumed another in the process. Marvelution has certainly left a lasting mark, though most people are unaware it ever happened.

Odd eBay #1: Monkeying Around With the Hulk!

Welcome to the first installment of Odd eBay. 

Have you ever been searching for some cool collectible on eBay and found some crazy and unexpected stuff in the process?  I thought it would be fun to share a few such discoveries that I stumbled upon during my own searches for things I was seeking or things I was curious about.  You never know what you might find on America's favorite auction site so I am going to do what I can to bring a few of the oddest things to your attention.

Whenever possible the auctions featured will be active at the time I post this article.  Naturally they will time out depending on their end date, but if you hurry you may be able to get in the running to own something really strange that is offered by an eBay seller.  Simply click on the description (titled "Exhibits") to link to the actual auctions in question.

Also please feel free to write to me if you stumble on a worthy auction and if I can I will include it in the next available installment of this series.

I was curious about what Mego Planet of the Apes figures might be going for these days.  From time to time I seek out potential new denizens for my Desk of Time Wasting Distractions.  What my search brought to my attention was the genesis of this very feature!  In fact I found not one, but two great auctions that helped inspire Odd eBay!

Exhibit A: So Why Exactly Do You Need the Rifle?
Let's start Odd eBay off with the auction that inspired this series, shall we?  What I love about this particular offering is the tenacity of the seller.  Have a few miss-matched odd and ends laying around that you can't find a home for?  Put them all together in a single auction and see if someone bites!  The fact that the But It Now price has been reduced from $12.95 to $10.36 is certainly testament to this.  I was riding the fence on this auction, but the savings of $2.59 really swayed my decision to go for it! 

So lets examine the contents of this most curious lot.  We have a crudely made (or rather well worn) hooded jacket that appears to be for the larger scale G.I. Joe figures of old.  It's wool-like texture would suggest a warm wrap for the Zira figure who is otherwise surrounded only by her primate shame.  The figure is Zira from Planet of the Apes, the Mego action figure from the 70's to be exact.  Mego tended to utilize one of about four or five male and a single female body for all of their action figures.  The heads, clothes, and accessories were what made them who they were.  Zira here has only her head to distinguish her from Wonder Woman or the all-mighty Isis.  But laid bare in her nakedness we see that all of the Mego women have on distinct physical feature in common.  Perfect child-bearing hips!  It is a shame that like their male counterparts of any body configuration they are sorely lacking in reproductive organs. 

As previously mentioned the coat that comes with this figure would at least offer the famous veterinarian and free thinker the opportunity to recover some shred of dignity, but why the curiously oversized rifle?  Were she a Rob Leifield creation she would be right at home with such cumbersome ordnance.  In fact it would be required that she bear some kind of firearms that were a minimum of five times their normal size.  This is sharp contrast to the feet of the artist's characters which are five times smaller than those of normal humans.  Perhaps it is simply a show of superiority better suited to a male figure in a similar predicament.  The rifle is a means to an end, dignity restored at the point of a gun!  Especially considering that our hapless future monkey-woman appears to have run afoul of Kevin from Sin City.  You may have noticed that she is lacking in the left hand department.

Exhibit B: Monkey Strip Poker
If you thought the previous auction was awkward, you are in for quite the surprise!  Planet of the Apes and Mego were very good to the birth of this series.  From the generous birthing hips of Zira above to a clear illustration of what happens when apes drink too much nectar and begin to ignore the teachings of the Law Giver. 

Check out Zira's go-go boots!

Up for auction we have a veritable dumping ground of incomplete vintage Mego Planet of the Apes figures.  That in and of itself would not be be all that unusual.  What sets this lot apart is the fact that each one of the figures is in a different state of undress.  If you ever wondered what was going on with the apes of the future Earth (oh, was that a spoiler?) before Taylor and his fellow ill-fated astronauts arrived this may fill in some of the blanks.  Successfully evolving out of the dung-throwing stage of their ancestry, the proud civilization that the apes held in such regard had a dark underbelly similar to that of the former masters of the globe.  While the intellectual caste of the orangutans sought to suppress knowledge of the recklessness of man they no less turned a blind eye to their own society as it traveled headlong down the same crooked path.

The seeming class-by-species order that prevailed on the planet, a kind of natural selection version of A Brave New World, is illustrated perfectly with this auction.  Participants in a harmless game among friends close enough to see each other au naturale and still maintain personal and professional dignity, Dr. Zaius, Cornelius, his mate Zira, and General Ursus (these were happier times after all) find themselves at the end of the deck in the simian version of strip poker.  Zaius, in typically intellectual orangutan fashion, has managed to survive nearly the entire game without losing a stitch of clothing.  The lesser chimpanzees have done fairly well for themselves and are almost equally matched in their skill at card playing as evidenced by their current state of dress.  Ursus however, true to his caste, has no head for games of skill and forethought.  He is a soldier first and foremost.  And in a world largely devoid of conventional warfare, a soldier's life is defined by how many lousy humans one can kill or capture.  And judging from what his nakedness reveals about his manhood, he is as unlucky at love as he has proved at cards.

It is important to point out that Dr. Zaius, in addition to being a prominent figure in the High Council, is also an avid fisherman.  That he elected to wear his waders to the evening's festivities is a testament to not only his passion as an angler, but also the natural confidence in his own intellect that insured after quick donning of his galoshes he will be out casting flies and bagging some delicious trout shortly after this party wraps!

Exhibit C: Super...Awkward!
Some things go together well.  Peanut butter and jelly.  Peas and carrots.  Romeo and Juliet.  Then there are things that were never meant to be combined under any circumstances.  Such is the case with super-heroes and Stretch Armstrong technology.  That goes together like waffles and motor oil! 

What we've got ahold of here is the ad proof for an advertising spot that ran in comic books way back in 1979.  It was a toy line from Mego called Elastic Super Heroes.  Since they had licensing for characters from both Marvel and DC Comics they produced figures of both publisher's characters at the time.  Did they choose the obvious characters that were most likely to display a kinship to ol' Mr. Armstrong?  HELL NO!  Do you really think that Plastic Man, Mr. Fantastic, or Elongated Man are all that marketable?  Mego was in business to sell toys to kids, not make leaps of logic.  This is certainly illustrated in the choices of characters to produce in such a malleable format.  From the Marvel camp they went with Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk (yes, it's true) and as you have seen they gave the same treatment to Superman and Batman from DC.

The decision to create versions of these super-heroes that could be stretched to a good couple of feet and contorted in inhuman ways is silly at best and down right frightening at worst.  It is the ad campaign illustrated above that takes it to the latter.  On the right we have the Man of Steel made a man of rubber doing his best rendition of "Potsie" Weber in the photo booth shot used in the intro to Happy Days.  The old "reaching around yourself with your back turned to make it look like you're making out trick" is a classic.  Hell, even James Bond resorted to it in Diamonds Are Forever!  It seems like the Last Son of Krypton has taken a nip of Jimmy Olsen's Elastic Lad serum (or was it exposure to an alien virus that made the bow-tie wearing photographer into the red-headed stepchild of Reed Richards?) and is trying out some new abilities that were not in his former catalog of powers.

The Dark Knight Detective on the other hand has always had to rely on being the pinnacle of human achievement both mentally and physically.  I doubt that such prowess ever included being able to unhinge his skeletal system in such a way that would result in the extreme lotus position occurring above.  That makes being pressed into a postage stamp of titanic proportions by the maniacal Colonel Gumm seem comfortable, even relaxing, by comparison.  One is left imagining that this ad might once have been seen by David Carradine leaving him thinking, "If only...". 

Exhibit D: Smashing No More
Mego it seems was hell-bent to make unusual decisions when it came to their super-hero toys.  The Pocket Super Heroes line was not immune to this process.  This toy series featured DC and Marvel characters in a compact 3.75" format that must have seemed ideally suited to couple with rehashed Micronauts vehicles as evidenced by the Hulk Explorer seen below!

The Incredible Hulk seems incredibly happy to be darting about the town in his green and yellow conveyance.  Part Rascal, part go-cart, and part Jack Kirby creation it seems a rather curious vehicle for the Jade Giant.  Captain Kirk posited the question, "What does God need with a starship?!", in the god-awful Star Trek V: The Undiscovered Country.  Similarly we are left to ask, "What does Hulk need with an Explorer?"  Throughout his decades-long history the Green Goliath has simply bunched up his calf muscles and sent himself hurdling skyward in a reckless game of leap-frog whenever the travelin' jones was upon him.  Unlike Batman or even Hulk's own contemporary Spider-Man who once had a vertical surface-gripping dune buggy (it's true folks), the original "Hulkster" never owned a motor vehicle.

The answer to this compelling question (should you be allowing it to compel you thusly) is a simple one actually.  Easily 20 years in advance of its publication, Mego foresaw the arrival of storylines that would bring us the so-called "Smart Hulk".  Since this was the inevitable progression from a gray Frankenstein's monster-looking brute to an avocado hued powerhouse of pent-up rage to something better still, Mego understood and addressed children's need to play out this scenario.  Absent the necessity to lash out at a world peopled by "puny humans" to sate his unquenchable thirst for destruction, the stronger, more loving Hulk would want to turn his attentions to the cerebral pursuits of his gentler side, that of the pacifistic Bruce Banner. 

Now a man of science, albeit a yard wide and rippling with enough potential energy to stun a rampagin herd of elephants, the new Hulk turned his attentions to scientific disciplines and the pursuit of knowledge.  When traveling from a research laboratory to an archaeological dig and then to a meeting of Nobel laureates once does not wish to inadvertently cause destruction simply by arriving on the scene and leaving size 48 footprints irreparably stamped into the pavement.  So utilizing his newly found mental capacity Hulk opted to drive around in a retrofitted (and vastly enlarged) vehicle from the Microverse (complete with puffy missile launcher) that was previously owned by none other than Acroyer himself!

Exhibit E: Why is MJ Packing Heat?
You have to love toy customizers.  They take something that is already there and make it into something that is not.  And may never be otherwise.  In some cases the work is exquisite, almost indistinguishable from something mass produced.  In some cases it could not be more obviously the work of a ham-fisted toy maker wannabe.  And in some cases the work seems solid enough, but the choice of base figure leaves a bit you wondering if perhaps some other figure might have been a better choice.

This customized Super Hero Squad figurine of Mary Jane Watson, a.k.a. Spidey's Squeeze, is a prime example of this kind of scenario.  I don't know how much re-work went into this particular customization job, but I suspect it was just a matter of some minor repainting to perhaps change the costume color scheme and get the "drapes" the right color.  However, whatever character this was in its former life before it was taken off the card and retrofitted as if it was the original Star Wars trilogy in the hands of a mad George Lucas of more recent years had a distinguishing feature that was decidedly not one for which the future wife (maybe or maybe not depending on recons) of Peter Parker was known.  She is brandishing a huge pistol! 

Perhaps there were no female Marvel characters who have received the cherubic Super Hero Squad treatment that were sufficiently generic to take on the role of a supporting character.  Certainly MJ with web-wings (Spider-Woman) or a sword wielding sextet of arms (Spiral) would have been even less marketable than this custom job.  But if you want to command a $12.95 price tag for your hard work, perhaps you should chose a character that better fits the look of the figurine you have in hand before grabbing the old paint pots and going to town.  Just a word of advice from JediCole!

The next two auctions will have closed by the time this feature goes live.  Such is the nature of the beast it would seem. 

Exhibit F: Congratulations You Two...I Think
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then the Star Wars saga has nearly been flattered to death over the years!

With flattery like this who needs disdain?  That is certainly a question that the folks over at the Skywalker Ranch were posing when this monstrosity was first produced.  Everyone wants to drink deep from the wellspring of success that was the Star Wars franchise.  And since it was not a public spring most had to elsewhere and lap what they could out of similar and less lucrative sources.  This figural coin bank illustrates that principle perfectly.  Looking like the hideous love child of Darth Vader and R2-D2 it had to have been intended, in its day, to catch the wave of consumer enthusiasm that made George Lucas' star-spanning saga a cultural phenomenon and a personal empire-building success.

That the seller got the $5.99 opening bid was something of a surprise I must say!

Exhibit G: It's LIKE Star Wars
Far be it from Avon to miss out on a potential cash cow.  Their independent representatives could always use an unexpected bonus in the form of a little something that appeals to the children of their clientele.  Or at least to the parents of those kids who just don't know any better.

Back in the 70's Donny and Marie Osmond were famous for being "a little bit country" and "a little bit rock n' roll".  This "Galactic Robot" necklace from 1979 is a little bit R5-D4 (the droid with the bad motivator in Star Wars) and a little bit work drone from Silent Running.  Such mash-up look-alikes were not uncommon in the late 70's.  everyone wanted to cash in on Star Wars (as seen above).  What sets this piece apart, if the auction post is to be believed, is that this particular piece of dubious jewelry was offered by Avon!  I suspect this was the case as they commonly sprinkled non-cosmetic consumables amidst their beauty product offerings each month.  I guess it had not occurred to anyone back then to simply seek a proper Star Wars license and really get a new cash cow.  Or cash bantha as the case may be.

Action Figure FAIL! #1
This is a special sub-feature to the Odd eBay segment which will be included only when something that fits the category perfectly crosses my path on eBay.  The title and concept were suggested by Mrs. JediCole when I first told her about this feature.  As luck would have it I stumbled upon something that seemed to fit the bill.

Essentially Action Figure FAIL! will showcase a toy or action figure auction that fails miserably in some way.  The core concept was to illustrate how wrong many sellers get the products they are selling - touting Buck Rogers figures as "rare Star Wars toys" or coupling He-Man with a pile of accessories from G.I. Joe and BraveStarr.  In this case it is not the seller's offering so much as the way in which a silk hat is put on a pig AND it is entered into the Miss America pageant!

Ladies and Gentlemen!  The Thing as Michigan J. Frog!

Okay, so you have your rip-off Mexican bootleg figurine of the Thing.  You know that it is not a classic vintage figurine but a more modern remake that is completely unlicensed and (technically) illegally marketed.  What do you do?  You OWN that!  Not only does this seller freely admit the origins (for which I give him a tip of the hat for his honesty and sincerity) he staunchly defends this particular piece for its uncharacteristic workmanship!  He accurately points out that such knockoffs are generally poorly made with terrible materials and no attempt being made to clean up any excess plastic from the molding process.  It is the fact that such flowery phrases as "shows off the great sculpting" and "rather nice in and of himself considering who made him and where".  This is a bit of what is known as "polishing the turd".  Only Leni Riefenstahl could have done a better job of packaging something terrible in an a form that makes it seem somewhat appealing!

This one is a fail in that the figure being offered is not only a knockoff but also looks like Benjamin J. Grimm is not only now the Ever-Lovin' Yellow-Eyed Thing, he has also joined Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the whole Loony Tunes gang in their opening song and dance number!  That and the arbitrary $34.99 opening bid price.


The Apocrypha #1 - One Hell of a Letter!

Welcome to the first installment of a new humor feature for The JediCole Universe.  I often tell people that I "dabble" in writing.  While more often than not any given writing project becomes part of a vast collection of incomplete manuscripts and voluminous notes and drawings, a few find their way to completion.  One of my favorite types of writing is a kind of stream-of-consciousness writing in a humorous vein.  To showcase some of my work of this variety I have created The Apocrypha as it seems an appropriate title for this work. 

What follows is a piece I wrote back in 2000 for my self-published mini comic Genre.  The anthology comic featured comic stories and art by myself and various friends and included this story in the the book as kind of palette cleanser between the various illustrated features.  It is time it enjoyed a much larger audience than it did as a comic that almost no one has ever seen.  Perhaps in the future I will reproduce some of the comic stories from Genre on this site. 

The original concept came from a conversation about some aspects of classical Greek mythology and the role of Heracles (or Hercules if you prefer the Roman) in a great many of the sagas.  Naturally I had to take things in a skewed direction that led to me committing it all to paper a few days later.  While much of the story is based on my own foreknowledge of the myths, I did not research specifics so if there are any folklore and mythology scholars who happen upon this missive I apologize in advance.

Please feel free to post your thoughts on this story and look for more humorous tales in the near future.

Cause and Effect in Hades
A Memo From Hell



     As you are no doubt aware, your nephew has again graced your realm with his dubious presence.  I really must formally protest this latest intrusion.  You have to speak to your brother, Lord Zeus about his son's behavior and unscheduled visits.  With this in mind a full report follows of Heracles' exploits during his time in the underworld and the aftermath thereof.

     Heracles arrived in Hades in the late afternoon through one of the too numerous subterranean tunnels (an issue I have addressed in the past and will not dwell on at this time).  As is so often the case when the living arrive at the River Styx, Heracles needed only pay Charon the requisite fee and he was across with full access to the various realms, most specifically the one in my care.  Granted, I do not hold Charon personally responsible.  He is a most efficient boatman, but ultimately little more than a vending machine.  Place the proper fee in his hand and your passage is booked.  Lacking a brain (which undoubtedly rotted out Milena ago), our good ferryman lacks the cognitive ability to discern the living from the dead.

     Once on the opposite shore, the living are generally devoured in short order by your loyal guard dog Cerberus.  However, upon catching wind of Heracles' scent, he promptly tucked his tail between his legs and beat a path to the lower caves!  It appears that Cerebus' recent abduction from the shores of the Styx to the court of King Eurystheus had a far greater impact on the animal than anyone had imagined.  This of course left Heracles with an unopposed path to the realm of Tartarus. 

     What followed was perhaps the most dreadful crime yet perpetrated on Hades by this dreadful demigod.  Losing no time, he proceeded directly to the cliff face upon which Prometheus was justly imprisoned.  Breaking the criminal free of his bonds and escorting him promptly out of Tartarus and Hades as well.

     This particular infraction has no doubt reached you attentions, hence the lack of detail in this portion of my narrative.  What stands at issue now is the effect that Prometheus' absence has had on Tartarus.  The great eagle charged these many years with the daily task of devouring Prometheus' liver arrived to find the staple of his diet conspicuously absent.  Not content to skip a meal, the tenacious bird of prey began to search for a suitable substitute.  Accustomed to encumbered individuals, the enormous eagle soon found Sisyphus, at the time midway through his daily task of uphill boulder rolling.  Harassed by the hungry bird snapping rapaciously at his back, the hapless Sisyphus lost control of his monolithic burden.  What followed was a horror unparalleled in all of Hades.

     The boulder, now no longer directed, rolled perilously down the hillside at great velocity, crushing to pulp both Sisyphus and our highly trained, liver-pecking eagle.  However, the losses were not limited to the infamous hillside.  Unhindered, the giant stone continued to roll across the plains of Tartarus until it came to rest in a nearby pond.  Unfortunately, the pond in question was the receding pond devised to torture Tantalus.  The result was that the retracting fruit tree nearby was splintered, the waters of the receding pond were irreparably displaced, and Tantalus, of course, was subsequently flattened.

     In the aftermath of this transgression, my staff and I have devised a pair of suggestions that should be implemented at your earliest convenience.  First, I request the employment of a giant or Cyclops to screen new arrivals to Hades before they board Charon's ferry.  This would allow a dual line of defense against the encroachment of the living.  Secondly, in order to salvage some good from this tragedy, I request that the next prime criminal remanded to my care be condemned to clean up the dreadful mess on the hills and plains of Tartarus, only to have the entire event replayed the following morning, requiring his janitorial services anew.

     As you know, we in Tartarus take great pride in the torments we prescribe.  The loss of not one but three inmates in the course of an hour has taken a devastating toll on morale.  I believe that the implementation of these suggestions will have a most positive effect.  I thank you for your attentions to the details of this recent tragedy.

About this blog


Powered by Blogger.

Recent Articles

Search This Blog