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The Saga of Crystar and Its Weird Reintroduction to the Marvel Universe

Idle Time is celebrating fifteen years and, to honor this crystal anniversary, we’re gifting our readers with some pop culture sparkle!

Marvel's G.I. Joe #1 (1982)
Marvel’s G.I. Joe #1 (1982)

Years before Chris Claremont and Jim Lee set sales records with the X-Men franchise, and decades before Marvel Studios turned The Avengers into a household name, Marvel Comics was filling the 7-11 spinracks with four-color fun based on licensed action figure properties. The two most famous of those toy lines, G.I. Joe and Transformers, have continued to enjoy multimedia success, including comic book adventures with their new publisher IDW. Three other cult classic toy lines, Rom and The Micronauts, each with its own popular Marvel series tie-ins during the 80’s, as well as MASK, which had a short-lived life as a DC comic, have also recently joined IDW’s comicverse.

The Saga of Crystar (1983)
The Saga of Crystar (1983)

Some comic series, like Rom, ended up being more popular than the toy line they were designed to support. Other series, like Sectaurs and Shogun Warriors, died off quickly, right along with their die-cast and resin-molded counterparts. And then there was The Saga of Crystar: Crystal Warrior.

Instead of being produced to help market an existing property, Marvel’s creative council of Jim Shooter, Ralph Macchio, and Mark Gruenwald developed Crystar with the intention of then licensing the character and concept to a toy company. In Shooter’s own words, from the book’s introduction: “the friendly people at Azrak-Hamway, a.k.a. Remco Toys, might be interested in producing a toy line based upon our fantasy creation…” And the friendly people did just that.  Before the first issue of Mary Jo Duffy and Bret Blevins’s series even hit newsstands, Remco was rolling out production on a slate of wizards, warriors, and snazzy prismatic dragons.

treating your bro like a house lizard? some might say Crystar had it coming...
treating your bro like a house lizard? some might say Crystar had it coming…

That oversized first issue – a “Feature Length Fantasy in the Marvel Manner” – introduces us to the the world of Crystallium, and the sibling princes Moltar and Crystar, preparing to jointly rule the realm in the wake of their father’s recent death. But when Moltar quickly makes with back-to-back blunders, first killing their dwarfish uncle Feldspar, and then doing the same to his brother, all hell breaks loose.

Continue reading The Saga of Crystar and Its Weird Reintroduction to the Marvel Universe

Contest: Make Me a Mixtape 2012

Help me cross the finish line in this year’s Giant Race and win this limited edition “K Pack” poster!

Last year’s mixtape contest turned out even better than I had hoped. Although I didn’t make it through the entire entrant-created playlist, I am happy to report that I didn’t have to skip over a single track. Cade I. took home the Brian Wilson bobblehead thanks to the timely finish-line fist-pumper “Danger Zone” and Anthony E.’s stupid Spongebob theme song suggestion never made it into the rotation. [Although: my iTunes recently fished out that Painty the Pirate song for a Genius playlist built around The Decemberists’ “We Both Go Down Together.” Clearly the mischievous Apple AI isn’t bound to my iPod’s circuitry.)

Entering is easy: submit a song for my half-marathon playlist. I start the race, hit shuffle, and go. If your song is playing when I cross the finish line in AT&T Park, you win. This year’s prize is the “K Pack” promo given away at the recent Frank Sinatra tribute night. The only other way to get your hands on this sexy 16 x 20 poster is by scouring eBay, and them’s dangerous waters, matey.

Send one song selection to mdigino@gmail.com and I’ll add it to the playlist. I’ll announce the winner (and winning finish-line song) on the evening of Sunday, September 16th.

Another look at the fineprint:

  • Songs should be energetic and appropriately charged for running. I reserve the right to skip any song that is making me want to stop moving. Or a song that might incite me to dropkick my shuffle in the direction of Alcatraz (so please pick something other than “Church on White,” Erik).
  • Songs need to be five minutes or less. Sorry, Rob, can’t accept that Digitalism remix this time around.
  • I’m taking the first 40 song requests, and after that the contest is locked.
  • I’ll definitely be padding out the playlist with some songs of my own choosing, but if one of my picks is the last thing I’m listening to, I’ll award the prize to the most recent reader-nominated song that comes up in the shuffle.
  • If your song choice is obscure and I don’t have it, and it can’t be tracked down via all the usual outlets (iTunes, emusic, etc.), you may have to send it to me. After securing all the appropriate permissions, of course.
  • If someone already recommended your pick, I’ll email you back for a second choice.
  • If the prize needs to be shipped, winner is responsible for shipping costs.

Good luck!

AvX Contest: Week 13 Scoring Update

As much as I wish our contest-planning brainstorming session had predicted the impending battle between Storm and her soon-to-be-estranged husband Black Panther, I’m glad we had the good sense to expect a rematch between Ms. Marvel and the mutant girl who “ruined her life,” Rogue.

Week 13

  • X-Men Legacy 269
  • Wolverine & The X-Men 12

Hate to say it, but Legacy has turned into the Avengers Academy of the X-books. The interesting plots and intelligent dialogue of the Mike Carey days has faded into mediocrity. This particular issue, at least, seems to have some story details relevant to the main event. Plus I’ve always been a big Rogue fan, so it was rewarding to see her put Ms. Marvel on ice. This was a definitive bout, and even without the Vs. tie-in to announce a scripted winner, it’s pretty clear who came out on top as soon as Danvers gets tossed into Majik’s little chunk of Hell on Earth. Decision: Rogue.

I love that Jason Aaron is still a big part of AvX. Even with Hickman taking over the writing duties on the main series, we get Aaron and Bachalo in the pages of Wolverine & The X-Men. There have been scores of great Wolverine stories over the decades, but Aaron keeps making a case for being the best Howlett handler of them all. Plus fighting, plus Rachel Summers, plus an impending Shi’ar shakedown. Oh, and plus one more SNIKT.

Leaders through week 13:

  • Carly W. 37 pts
  • Chris B. 34 pts
  • Devin T. 33 pts
  • Ricky V. 31 pts
  • Josh D. 29 pts
  • J.R. W. 29 pts
  • Maricus C. 28 pts
  • Patrick O. 27 pts
  • Gus P. 26 pts
  • Josh C. 26 pts
  • Brett W. 26 pts

SNIKT Counter: 14

AvX Contest: Week 12 Scoring Update

So begins the second act of Marvel’s epic Avengers vs. X-Men event. Coinciding with the momentum swing created by the “Phoenix Five,” the torch has been passed to a new creative team for the focal book, beginning with this week’s sixth issue. Jonathan Hickman tags in for Jason Aaron, and Olivier Coipel enters the ring for John Romita, Jr. Good thing too… I was getting tired of trying to defend JRJr (“He has a great command of page layouts… he’s able to draw quickly and make his deadlines… he has nice hair and is always friendly at conventions…”)

We’ve moved on. And although we didn’t add a plot prediction option for “no more Avengers” to the contest ballot, the kicker out of Cyke-freak’s face at the end of this issue still feels like it came right out of the coming attractions trailer.

Week 12

  • Avengers vs. X-Men 6
  • New Avengers 27
  • Secret Avengers 28
  • Uncanny X-Men 14
  • Avengers Academy 32

With fewer expected one-on-one bouts to impact the Pick ‘Em Pool challenge, the judges are now starting to pay more attention to contenders for the MVP Wagering. Like Iron Fist, for example. The continuation of Bendis’s story arc in New Avengers (leave it to that guy to find another way to make Spider-Man seem important), coupled with Danny Rand’s kung-fu krazy-shield action against Emma-Phoenix in the main book, seems to play up his importance in the storyline. But the other tie-ins this week are just asking more questions than they’re answering.

Mar-vell is back! Oh, just kidding.

Like where does Rick Remender get off bringing back such an important character like Captain Marvel only to kill him off two issues later in this week’s Secret Avengers? Some contest entrants aren’t complaining, though.  They’re now halfway to scoring points on the “two or more characters die” option. Do we really think Mister Sinister is relevant, or is the latest issue of Uncanny just a cheap ploy to connect one of Gillen’s good pre-AvX ideas (Sinisteropolis) to the current goings-on in Marveldom? And, finally, is Avengers Academy the lamest of the comic titles bearing the “Avengers” name? Oh wait — that one’s no mystery.  Clearly, yes.

No points scored this week, so the leaderboard posted last week remains unchanged.

SNIKT Counter: 13

AvX Contest: Week 11 Scoring Update

bozhe moi!

Apologies to contest entrants who were waiting patiently for their Wednesday evening scoring update. But last night belonged to Matt Cain.

Week 11 is a big deal for our Avengers vs. X-Men contest. Prior to creating the ballots, we had knowledge of the six expected fights taking place in the Vs. tie-in series. The first three issues, two bouts apiece. The other nine match-ups were created based on previewed covers and advertisements. Three of those “anticipated” bouts have become a reality: Captain America vs. Cyclops; Red Hulk vs. Colossus; and She-Hulk vs. Rogue. The other six, however, may never become viable scoring opportunities.

In other words, from here on out, all eyes on those game-changing plot twist points. And keep your fingers crossed for that Rogue/Ms. Marvel showdown. Feels like it has to happen…

Week 11

  • AvX: Vs. 3
  • X-Men Legacy 268
  • Avengers 27

Legacy 268 is the closest we’ll ever get (I hope) to a Frenzy solo book. Other crossover comics have tangential connections to the main storyline, but, unlike this trip to imaginary Narobia, Africa, where warlords have been subjugating women and handing guns to children for decades, those crossovers have been decent. Pass.

Avengers 27, for example, continues the exploits of Protector as he betrays his fellow Avengers for the glory of the Kree Empire, turning over that little chunk of bottled Phoenix power to the Big Green Head. I’ve always been a fan of Noh-Varr, the cockroach kid, as he’s one of the few Grant Morrison creations just weird enough, and just awesome enough, to worm itself into legitimate continuity. So here’s hoping Bendis and Simonson can keep him interesting and relevant long enough to support my dark horse MVP prediction from a few months back.

Finally, and most importantly, Vs. 3 gives us the two scoring chances we were all looking forward to this week. This all-Russian, all-Blue Moon issue might be the silliest of the already literacy-optional series. In fact, the dialogue is so pointless that it didn’t even faze me that half of it was written in Cyrillic. Thing and Colossus punch a lot, and the Big Russkie reflects dramatically on the demon inside him. Decision: Colossus. In the second half of the double-feature, Peter’s little sister gets a chance to reflect on the demons around her. And Black Widow shoots them. Remember that scene in the Avengers movie where ScarJo is popping caps in alien ass, prompting all the uninitiated theater-goers in your vicinity to wonder audibly about whether or not she has any powers? It’s like that, but with limbo monsters, and a fat soulsword through her back. Because Russians fight dirty. Decision: Magik.

Leaders through Week 11:

  • Carly W. 34 pts
  • Ricky V. 31 pts
  • Chris B. 31 pts
  • Devin T. 30 pts
  • Josh D. 29 pts
  • Maricus C. 28 pts
  • Patrick O. 27 pts
  • Gus P. 26 pts
  • J.R. W. 26 pts
  • Tyler 24 pts

This week’s thumbs-up goes to the contest leader: Carly W. has called every one-on-one bout correctly thus far, and with only six left on the ballot (none of which are guaranteed match-ups), her perfect batting average might be assured. Of course, if it comes down to the tiebreaker, she’s screwed. Doesn’t look like we’re getting anywhere near 150 SNIKTs…

SNIKT Counter: 10

AvX Contest: Week 10 Scoring Update

Those definitely qualify as new costumes.

Didn’t we make that an option? Didn’t we say that “Phoenix force inhabits someone other than Hope” should be a predictable plot twist? No, reviewing the original ballot, clearly we did not. Why? Because of that previewed New Avengers cover with Iron Phoenix Phist. Oh yeah. So blame Danny Rand. Otherwise… we would have had three scoring opportunities this week!

Week 10

  • Avengers vs. X-Men 5
  • Uncanny X-Men 13
  • Avengers Academy 31

I’ve become a big fan of Kieron Gillen over the last year or so. His work on Uncanny X-Men and Journey Into Mystery last summer were the highlights of an otherwise forgettable Fear Itself event. In the newest Avx tie-in of Uncanny, he’s finding ways to connect the “lights” of his Generation Hope, as well as the menacing Unit character from his sorely missed S.W.O.R.D. series, to the developing Phoenixmageddon.

You never let me do ANYTHING, Tigra! I hate you.

Over in the pages of Academy (thus far the lamest of the tie-ins), a bunch of super-powered kids demand to be taken seriously by their judgmental guardians and prove that just because you’re young, that doesn’t mean you’re incapable of making responsible decisions. Oh, and there’s nothing in the whole world harder than being a teenager. And no one truly understands me and my parents hate me. Surfing is cool and we’re all about being edgy and aloof. Utter crap. Wonder who the target audience is for this rag? Buuuuut… it does give us our first plot twist scoring chance since week 5. Juston Seyfert and his salvaged Sentinel robot are officially ordered to “fight” the “escaping” X-Babies in this issue. He’s a student of the Academy, so judges rule: The Avengers deploy a Sentinel.

Finally, in the main book, what is formally being titled the conclusion of Act I, the Phoenix force makes contact, ignores the tainted Hope, and sets up camp in five of the most annoying X-Men. We may not have allowed for a “different host” eventuality, but we did create the two or more characters get new costumes plot twist, and five is certainly more than two.

Leaders through Week 10:

  • Maricus C. 28 pts
  • Carly W. 28 pts
  • Ricky V. 28 pts
  • Patrick O. 27 pts
  • Chris B. 25 pts
  • Devin T. 24 pts
  • Gus P. 23 pts
  • Josh D. 23 pts
  • Josh M. 22 pts
  • Tyler 21 pts

Special recognition to Patrick O. who was the biggest climber: predicting both of this week’s plot twists, he rocketed up ten points to find himself in fourth place, just a point back from the three leaders.

SNIKT Counter: 10

AvX Contest: Week 9 Scoring Update

Although I appreciate the premise of the Vs. series, and am happy to defer to the scripted & printed “winner” acknowledgements regarding one-on-one bouts, I do enjoy the good impromptu ass-kickings. And when Gene left me a voicemail today, mercifully spoiler-free, saying, “Rogue versus She-Hulk, and we’ve got a clear winner,” my eyes widened. Newsflash, contest entrants (for those of you unable to read through the lines): I’m backing Team Avengers. Yes, one of your judges is biased. When it comes to Rogue, however, that white-streaked southern beauty can do no wrong.

Week 9

  • Wolverine and The X-Men 11
  • X-Men Legacy 267

Aaron’s latest installment of Wolverine and The X-Men drops Chris Bachalo for Nick Bradshaw on art detail, and maintains its must-read tie-in status. More from the Shi’ar Death Commandos, and the back-story on Wolverine’s betrayal of Hope from Avengers vs. X-Men 4.

The scoring fun this week comes in the pages of Legacy 267. Christos Gage was being pumped as a writer-to-watch during Civil War, but in the ensuing years I feel like I’ve just been watching him churn out one mediocre book after another. Since taking over for Mike Carey on this book, however, he’s back on my radar. Even if it’s just for choreographing, along with artist Rafa Sandoval, one of the best all-out melees in recent memory. Hey, it’s still comic books. Let’s enjoy it. Especially when the sexiest mutant in Marveldom goes old-school badass to take down Ms. Greenskin. Decision: Rogue.

Leaders through Week 9:

  • Maricus C. 28 pts
  • Carly W. 28 pts
  • Josh D. 23 pts
  • Ricky V. 23 pts
  • Josh M. 22 pts
  • Tyler 21 pts
  • Chris B. 20 pts
  • Janson W. 20 pts
  • J.R. W. 20 pts

I also want to give a special shout out to Brien Bell who must be thoroughly enjoying this event. We all love unexpected twists, and clearly this entire storyline is nothing like Brien expected. He’s batting 1 for 7 in the bouts department and is tied for last with eight points. Go Brien! Yay for surprises!

SNIKT Counter: 8

AvX Contest: Week 8 Scoring Update

The only book under the AvX banner this week is Remender and Guedes’s Secret Avengers 27. Yes, it looks like Mar-Vell has indeed been resurrected… but that’s only halfway to the “two characters come back the dead” scoring opportunity. So no action on the contest front this week.

Instead, here’s a chance to sum up the reading chronology for the last two months. Use it to catch up and, moving forward, we’ll list each week’s tie-ins and crossovers in a more convenient checklist fashion.

Week 0

  • Avengers vs. X-Men Program Guide
  • Avengers vs. X-Men 0

Week 1

  • Avengers vs. X-Men 1

Week 2

  • New Avengers 24

Week 3

  • Avengers vs. X-Men 2
  • Wolverine and the X-Men 9
  • Avengers 25

Week 4

  • AvX: Vs 1
  • Uncanny X-Men 11
  • New Avengers 25
  • Secret Avengers 26

Week 5

  • Avengers vs. X-Men 3
  • Avengers Academy 29

Week 6

  • Wolverine and the X-Men 10
  • New Avengers 26
  • X-Men Legacy 266

Week 7

  • Avengers vs. X-Men 4
  • AvX: Vs 2
  • Avengers 26
  • Avengers Academy 30
  • Uncanny X-Men12

Week 8

  • Secret Avengers 27

No change to the leaderboard from last week.

SNIKT Counter: 5

AvX Contest: Week 7 Scoring Update

Most satisfying “crack!” ever.

We’ve reached the end of Act I in Jason Aaron and JR Jr.’s Avengers vs. X-Men event. This week’s release of issue four means we’re one-third of the way through the series. If this was a hockey game, now is when things get interesting. Or, in the case of a Sharks playoff game, when the teal & black quit playing.

Fans get a bevy of AvX books this week, every one of which features a fist-in-face slugfest on the cover.

Brian Bendis and Walt Simonson continue developing their Kree/Protector sub-plot in the pages of Avengers 26 (which, coupled with the Shi’ar intrigue simmering in Wolverine and The X-Men, is giving this event the kind of cosmic gravitas that Secret Invasion was lacking). The most exciting thing about Avengers Academy 30 is waiting to see whether or not Hercules is going to drop a “cool story, bro” (he doesn’t). And in Uncanny X-Men 12, Namor kicks the shit out of Luke Cage (not a ballot option) before cracking his knuckles for a rematch with The Thing (this one would’ve been judged a draw).

Spidey’s cute and all, but… please.

But points were definitely up for grabs in the pages of the main book, Avengers vs. X-Men 4, as well as issue #2 of the one-and-only tie-in series, Versus. While searching for Hope in The Savage Land, Captain America, on the phone with Iron Man, gets temporarily distracted by that Cajun douchebag Gambit (I will never understand what Rogue saw in that punk). “Tony, can you hold on a second — I need to wipe jambalaya off my shield.” The Versus story, penciled and written by Steve McNiven, makes it joyously clear that this was nothing more than a minor inconvenience for the good Captain. Decision: Captain America.

Match numero dos takes place in Latveria. Spider-Man has had some history with the original Juggernaut… but this ain’t Mamma Marko’s baby boy. Colossus has little patience for the wall-crawler and, frankly, when he quips “That means I have to be unstoppable too,” neither do I. Decision: Colossus.

The leaders through Week 7:

  • Maricus C. 25 pts
  • Carly W. 25 pts
  • Josh D. 20 pts
  • Ricky V. 20 pts
  • Janson W. 20 pts
  • Josh M. 19 pts
  • Brian H. 19 pts
  • Gus P. 18 pts
  • Brian S. 18 pts
  • Tyler 18 pts

SNIKT Counter: 5

Raffle Prize #2: The AvX Starter Kit

But wait — there’s more! Since we’re one-third through, we decided to hold another raffle for all eligible contest entrants. Congratulations to Cade I. for winning this fabulous Avengers vs. X-Men starter kit! Cade walks home with Avengers vs. X-Men #1-4, the Avengers vs. X-Men Program Guide, the Free Comic Book Day re-issue of Avengers 1, Kieron Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men 1, Avengers Roll Call, a folded Jim Cheung AvX full-size poster, an AvX mini-poster, an “I Stand with The X-Men” poster, an “I Stand with The Avengers” poster, an “I Stand with The X-Men” button, an “I Stand with The Avengers” button, and two cardboard AvX drink coasters. Whew.

AvX Contest: Week 6 Scoring Update

Another relatively quiet week in the AvX world. Bendis’s The New Avengers 26 adds more to the Iron Fist-Phoenix connection, and presents an interesting dark horse MVP candidate in the person of Leonardo da Vinci. Gage’s X-Men Legacy 266 seems like it should have presented us with a scoring opportunity… but looks can be deceiving. The fight between She-Hulk and Rogue (an “anticipated bout” on your score card) never really gets going. After the initial engagement, the Avengers bring in their “secret weapon,” spoiling any hope at extended green-tinted one-on-one bashing in the next issue. For clarification: this doesn’t go down as a “draw”; the bout is off for now and no points will be scored. That could all change in coming weeks, though, so stay tuned.

Winners and losers? Let’s hope so. The “draw” option is boring.

On the topic of draws, however, is a great piece of conversation between Cyclops and Wolverine in this week’s third and final tie-in, Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men 10. “There’s gonna be real winners and losers this time.” That’s a great thing to see in print, especially from the guy running the show on this event. Nobody gets excited about a tie. Except European soccer fans. Although I suppose seeing the future of Hope resting on a series of penalty kicks might be fun. Who would each side elect to tend goal?

No points scored this week, so there aren’t any changes to the leader board posted for Week 5. We are imposing a deadline for the Facebook-like bonus points: after next Wednesday, May 16, the points for liking The Institute or Comics & Collectibles will be added to each entrant’s total. After that, you’ll have missed your chance at two free points.

SNIKT Counter: 4