Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier recruit real world scientists to back up their new hero!

When Nadia Pym spreads her wings on January 4, 2017 with the release of UNSTOPPABLE WASP #1 by Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier, she’ll be the Marvel Universe’s newest super hero with a big brain to match her abilities—and she won’t be alone.

Each month in the letters page of UNSTOPPABLE WASP, space will be devoted to spotlighting real world female scientists and their work.

“I have to credit our amazing artist Elsa with the original idea,” says Whitley of the profiles. “I had been kicking around that I wanted to do some outreach to STEM and women in science and she came up with an idea. She would draw headshots and we’d do a little profile on female scientists. Her original plan was to post these on Twitter or Tumblr, but ever since I started working on UNSTOPPABLE WASP I’d wanted to do a letters page. I love letters pages and as engaging as Nadia is as a character, I thought it would be perfect.  Elsa’s idea of profiling female scientists from our audience was exactly what I was looking for.”

Celebrating science and the innovative minds working towards advancement in various fields fits perfectly with Nadia Pym’s character and the overall feel of UNSTOPPABLE WASP.

“UNSTOPPABLE WASP is all about young female super scientists setting out to change the world,” notes Whitley. “It made perfect sense to us to highlight female scientists who really are shaping our future. We already knew several women who fit this description and were comics readers, so the idea of sharing their awesome work with the rest of our audience seemed like something that had to happen. We look forward to learning about more amazing comics loving lady scientists as we open up to submissions and hopefully a few of [our] younger readers may even find something that interests them as well as the expert that they can ask about it.”

Marvel.com proudly presents a first look at the initial pair of scientific spotlights; for more, check out every issue of UNSTOPPABLE WASP starting with #1 on January 4, 2017!

 

Hello, you magnificent people!  Nadia here to welcome you to our letters page, “Agents of G.I.R.L.”

Why do we call our letters page that, you ask?  Well, that’s a really good question!  You’re so on top of things!  While we love getting letters about how much you love the book (Of course you love the book, I’m delightful!) we are also hard at work recruiting lady adventure scientists for G.I.R.L. (Genius In Action Research Labs).  And I may be able to fly, but even I can’t get to every lady genius in the world.

So send us your suggestions for comic-reading, nerdy-birdy science adventure ladies, and we’ll use this space to profile our new members.  Elsa even agreed to draw their pictures! Can you believe that?  She’s so nice and I love her accent!

But now I’m rambling, so here are our first new recruits: Rachel Silverstein (@irrelephantidae on Twitter) and Marina Chanidou (@MarinaLovesChem)!

What kind of work do you do?

Rachel Silverstein by Elsa Charretier

Rachel Silverstein by Elsa Charretier

Rachel: I’m a proboscidean paleontologist, meaning I study extinct elephant fossils. If you were wondering, not all paleontologists study dinosaurs! Of course, they’re cool and all, but ice age megafauna (large mammals) are what do it for me.

Marina Chanidou by Elsa Charretier

Marina Chanidou by Elsa Charretier

Marina: I am a PhD student at a UK university studying Chemistry, specifically Analytical Chemistry. I like to describe this as CSI but it takes longer and you usually don’t get any clear answers! Right now I analyze food samples, but my goal is to apply my method to archaeological remains and test them for residues of different food stuffs.

What excites you about your work?

Rachel: I think most people, professional paleontologists or not, would agree the field of paleontology is inherently exciting. I personally look forward to the collaboration aspect of it. Not all scientists like to work with others, but I prefer to share ideas and findings with my colleagues. Nothing excites me more than getting messages about new fossil elephant findings and the work being done on them.

Marina: This leads to the exciting bit. What I’m trying to do is more accurately identify what people in the past ate! Well, it’s exciting for me, okay? In modern samples I can identify even small adulteration of one type of food to another (for example traces of pork fat somewhere where there shouldn’t be any pork, or cheaper vegetable oils in what is supposed to be virgin olive oil). It would be very cool to do that for archaeological samples as well. (For example, did ancient Britons use olive oil, and if they did, was it imported from Greece or Spain or Italy?) The exciting part is that there is a problem and I’m working out the solution. There is no ready path, I am the one who will choose how I will go about answering this question and I will decide what to do every step of the way. It’s like a puzzle, but you don’t get a picture to tell you what it’s supposed to look like. You don’t even know if the picture is square, rectangular or a circle!

Why would you encourage young women to getting into science?

Rachel: Young women should get into science because they want to! Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t be a scientist, regardless of what science you want to pursue. This is your reminder you can do it. Really. I’ve found female scientists to be the most supportive human beings on the planet. Even if what you do is a hobby, that doesn’t make you less of a scientist. Remember that, ladies!

Marina: Same reason I would encourage them to do anything: if they like it, it seems interesting to them or they are good at it, they should go ahead and do it! I would encourage all young women to take science courses at school anyway for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s really cool and you might like it! But even if you don’t like it, science teaches you a way of thinking. It teaches you that there are problems and there are solutions. And even if you can’t find the solutions now, you’re laying the groundwork for others eventually solving a problem. We are indeed standing on the shoulders of giants, but even a small change puts us higher than we were before. Science teaches you to work, evaluate, adapt and never accept something without evidence–and when the evidence changes, to accept it and change with it.

What female scientists (real or fictional) have inspired you in your work?

Rachel: I have to give a shout out to Dr. Katy Smith, a fellow female proboscidean paleontologist (who also reads comics!), as my inspiration. Dr. Smith has always been there to encourage me to continue my studies to my full potential and give help whenever she can with my work.

Marina: I can’t remember many fictional female scientists from the books I was reading when I was younger. But I did have a female physics teacher in high school and she was brilliant. A brilliant physicist and a brilliant educator. She asked us in class how many of us had taken something apart to see what it looks like and the people who raised their hands were mostly boys and me. She said it is okay for girls to experiment, to mess with things, to fix things and find out how things work. One day she was telling some of us a story about how she was running an experiment in the lab and it took more than 24 hours and she had to stay there and make sure everything was going well. Her boyfriend at the time was not impressed. She said “Sometimes men don’t understand that I will forget about a date if I’m in the lab.” That’s when I thought, “What’s not to understand? Of course the experiment was more important than the date! You can have a date any time, science is more important.” I was hooked!

Do you have a favorite example of clever/unusual/or nonsensical use of science in comics?

Rachel: As a paleontologist, I always thought the concept of the villain Dinosaur Man was hilarious. He reminds me of everything that went wrong in Jurassic Park, but in comic book-form!

Marina: Most science reads like magic in comics and I need to really suspend disbelief to follow it. That is one thing that I would love to be improved. One that I do enjoy very much and is surprisingly quite a realistic depiction of a scientist’s life is Blood Stain by Linda Sejic.

How long have you been reading comics? What was your first comic book?

Rachel: I’ve been reading comics since I was 12. I remember bringing them with me to class in middle school and trying to hide while reading them. I would read Marvel, DC, indie–anything really. My first Marvel comic I got into at a young age was Spider-Man.

Marina: I started reading comics when I was around six. My first books were Asterix the Gaul and Lucky Luke. Then I read a lot of Disney Comics, Carl Barks was a favorite creator. Finally, when I was 17, I went to an actual comic book shop. And picked up Medieval Lady Death! Sure, she was semi-naked, but she was a woman kicking ass in a world that wanted her gone!

Please send all of your suggestions for girl, lady, or lady-identifying geniuses to us at MHEROES@MARVEL.COM and mark your letters “Okay to Print”! You can also tweet at us using the hashtag #AgentsOfGIRL! Come back next month to meet more amazing science ladies!

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Artist Christian Ward crafts a unique look for the Inhuman sovereign!

Over the years, Blackagar Boltagon has filled many roles: leader of the Inhumans, husband, father, intergalactic ruler—and now, prisoner! Writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Christian Ward set up quite a challenge for the one-time king when they launched BLACK BOLT a few months back: escape from an epic space prison!

Teamed up with the likes of Absorbing Man, Black Bolt continues to figure out how to flee the seemingly inescapable jail in the stars so he can find his way back to his family. We talked with Ward about designing Black Bolt’s cage, working on the silent hero, and making his mark on a childhood favorite.

Marvel.com: This book has definitely taken Black Bolt in some unexpected directions. How has it been crafting these stories with Saladin so far?

Christian Ward: I’m drawn to stories I can’t predict. I think that’s one reason why shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones” are so enjoyable. Reading Saladin’s scripts for BLACK BOLT [has] had those same unexpected elements and I’ve loved reading them. Bringing a story to life that you’re already enjoying in its script form is easy. I have a background in creator-owned comics; I’m used to working on books I’m personally invested in and working on BLACK BOLT with Saladin has felt no different.

I think he would agree that we’ve really clicked working on BLACK BOLT. It’s been an absolute joy and I feel very lucky to be working with Saladin. I felt like we’re telling one story together infused with all these personal elements. I definitely feel like we’re trying to say something with BLACK BOLT, whilst remembering it’s a super hero comic and it should also be a lot of fun. Even with his first comic, Saladin’s going to be [among] many peoples’ very favorite writers. He’s certainly one of mine now and hopefully this will be the first of many projects we do together.

Marvel.com: The story mixes elements from classic prison break tales with sci-fi and super heroes. Do you enjoy playing with those pieces and building new structures with them?

Christian Ward: I do! Lots of my previous projects—like ODY-C for instance—have been about clashing genres together. I love the tension you get from mixing disparate ingredients. With BLACK BOLT, as well as the genres you mentioned, I’ve been having fun approaching parts like a Gothic horror, not just with the scenery and the lighting but also trying to use page layouts to make it feel foreboding or claustrophobic.

There have been pages where I’ve tried to make the panel [borders] feel as much of the prison bars as the ones I’ve actually drawn. Becoming narrower and narrower as our characters are contained or crushed within them. It’s been fun to allow the different genres, like horror, influence how certain elements of the book look and even let each issue feel a little different. For instance, in issue #4 I’ve been playing with formal nine-panel grids and half tone textures as a way to exaggerate the old school comic book-ness of the issue. It keeps me on my toes and hopefully it keeps the [book] exciting from issue to issue for the reader.

Marvel.com: You’re setting much of the action inside of this jail. How much of it did you have designed ahead of time?

Christian Ward: Lots of great design is about tension and what Saladin had in mind for our prison was perfect to play to that idea. He had this idea that it would be equal parts Victorian gaol and [Jack] Kirby techno, so for every stone pillar there has to be this contrasting piece of insane, impossible machinery.

I read about Panopticon so I knew I wanted there to be eyes everywhere because big floating over-watching eyes are always creepy and it had to feel huge, I wanted Black Bolt to feel insignificant there. I certainly didn’t design a physical place like an architect would, rather I spent a lot of time thinking about how it would feel, or maybe how the inmates would feel being held there. I wanted the prison to feel intangible, like a monster glimpsed in the darkness, a place that was ever changing. Somewhere it would be impossible to get your footing or stay sane. An M.C. Escher drawing come to life.

Marvel.com: BLACK BOLT has incorporated some interesting characters from Absorbing Man to Death’s Head. How has it been putting your own spin on them and making them work in this story?

Christian Ward: The first thing I have to say is what a huge and continuing honor it is to be drawing these characters that so many greats have drawn before me. It’s very exciting to, as you say, put a spin on them. It’s a tricky balancing act to honor what’s come before and try to shine a different light on them. Hopefully success comes from loving the characters in the first place. For instance, when I was a teenager Death’s Head was my favorite character growing up in the UK. He was my Hulk, my Spider-Man, my X-Men. He was my number one. So when I came to design my take on him I let that love guide the design. What I love about the character—that’s what I bring to the forefront.

And oh boy, Absorbing Man! I love drawing Carl. This might be Black Bolt’s book, but I think Crusher’s the heart of it. It’s been so much fun to draw him not as a bad guy, but as a man, and try and make him feel real. Whereas I’m trying to keep Bolt at arm’s length I really want readers to feel very empathetic towards Crusher. I’ve really grown to love the guy so I hope that’s coming through.

Marvel.com: Does Black Bolt’s silence offer any particular challenges when you’re working from panel to panel?

Christian Ward: It’s a huge challenge. I remember reading about the difference between TV, movie, and stage acting and the “volume” in which actors have to project or emote in each. Unlike in theater, for instance, on a giant movie screen the smallest of facial movements can be read. I’m aiming for giant movie screen acting here. I’ve always enjoyed comic book acting and it’s huge fun to try and convey all the subtleties of Bolt’s face. I really wanted to have him feel reserved and withdrawn from us but that as the story progressed the wall that he’d built up around himself—his own personal inner prison wall—would break down and we’d see more of those emotions showing on his face and in his body language. You know, as much as I love the big cosmic moments of the book, it was the challenge of drawing Bolt that made me take the project on and I’m having the time of my life with it.

BLACK BOLT #3 breaks into stores on July 5, with issue #4 following on August 2, thanks to Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward.

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Enjoy some lighthearted hijinks in the midst of intergalactic war!

We all know that the first Star Wars film changed the face of pop culture forever when it hit theaters 40 years ago today—but it’s not just the movie that’s celebrating that milestone in 2017. Star Wars comics arrived with force in 1977, and hundreds of issues later, they’re more popular now than ever.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re looking back at our 40 favorite moments from the history of comics from a galaxy far, far away—one day at a time.

Star Wars: Tag & Bink Are Dead (2001) #1

Star Wars: Tag & Bink Are Dead (2001) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

In 1966, a play known as “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”—later adapted to film in 1990—dared to retell “Hamlet” from the perspective of two minor characters. It offered a comedic take on key moments in Shakespeare’s masterpiece by implying that the bumbling duo in some way influenced key events.

Much along those lines, TAG AND BINK ARE DEAD delves into the background characters of “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back” to offer a little more “actual back story” to moments you’ve probably never thought twice about. Starting with the battle aboard Princess Leia’s Tantive IV that kicks off “Episode IV,” we follow two Rebels—the eponymous Tag and Bink—as they eventually escape Empire imprisonment and decide to disguise themselves as stormtroopers aboard the Death Star.

The comedic consequences result in “back stories” for moments like the lone TIE fighter that the Millennium Falcon encounters near the Death Star, the real reason Boba Fett showed up at Bespin, and how the Rebels acquired the shuttle Tyderium they’ll later use to infiltrate Endor in “Return of the Jedi.” Oh, and those two stormtroopers discussing “another drill” as Obi-Wan disarms the Death Star’s tractor beam? That’s Tag and Bink in inaction.

Writer Kevin Rubio masterminded TAG AND BINK ARE DEAD, and followed with a sequel in 2006—and this wasn’t the first time Rubio showed us “what really happened” in Star Wars movies. In 1996, he made a name for himself as the creator of “Troops,” a parody of “Cops” from a stormtrooper’s perspective largely responsible for ushering in an entire era of Star Wars fan films.

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McKeever and Miyazawa re-imagine Spidey's high school experience with Mary Jane Watson as the star!

Celebrate the Wall Crawler’s return to the big screen in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” by heading back to school with these adventures available on Marvel Unlimited!

High school’s rough for anyone, whether you’re a web-slinging superhero or a teenage girl with a crush on one. Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa explored the latter with a series of books called MARY JANE, MARY JANE: HOMECOMING and two volumes of SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE, though other creators helped bring the story to a close. 

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane (2005) #1

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane (2005) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Set in an alternate universe in which Peter, Harry Osborn, Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy, Flash Thompson and Liz Allan all attended high school together – Peter met Harry and Gwen in college in the 616 – these stories explore Watson’s ever-changing feelings for the masked man of her dreams!

Initially launched with the four issue limited series MARY JANE in 2004, the overarching story focused on a young woman dealing with the intensity of her feelings while creating a carefree persona. Mirroring the reasons readers initially fell in love with Spider-Man, Mary Jane worried about making money and appeasing her parental units, but not to make web fluid, she wanted to go to the homecoming dance. 

Mary Jane (2004) #1

Mary Jane (2004) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

In fact, much of the drama in this series revolved around the big dance, MJ’s desire to buy the perfect dress for it and also figure out who she wanted to go with. She and Harry Osborn might have seemed perfect for each other on paper, but she had another in mind: Spider-Man.

Of course, her best friend Liz Allan thought her crazy for wanting such a thing, but she really lost her mind after seeing MJ and Flash in am apparently romantic moment!

All the while, a nerdy kid named Peter Parker started appearing more and more in Mary Jane’s life, first as a tutor and then as more of a friend. We all know how that relationship evolved in one version of the Wall-Crawler’s history, but to see what happens in this one, you’ll just have to read all of SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE which ended with a five issue limited series second season volume in 2009.

A Tangled Web

While MARY JANE and SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE didn’t see the title character become a super hero, that’s not the case with every other version of MJ from the various realities. In EXILES we met a version of Watson who not only became Spider-Woman, but also joined the Avengers as seen in EXILES #20. She and the dimension-hopping Sunfire strike up a relationship as they all battle the spreading threat of the Phalanx aided by Asgardians. Later, during a time when the team found themselves displaced on various dimensions, Sunfire and MJ got to spend six weeks together before the Exile teleported away on another adventure.

In the next installment we take a look at the all ages books SPIDER-MAN ADVENTURES!

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Take a look at the history of Kitty Pryde and Peter Rasputin's star-crossed romance.

The on-again-off-again roller-coaster romance of Kitty Pryde and Peter Rasputin’s become the stuff of legend among X-Men fans, and it’s about to receive a new wrinkle in X-MEN: GOLD #9, out August 8.

The two star-crossed lovers first met in UNCANNY X-MEN #129 when Kitty first walked into the original X-Mansion and met the man-mountain mutant called Colossus. An inauspicious beginning to such a star-crossed love story, to be sure, but by UNCANNY X-MEN #174 they’d recognized their attraction to each other and shared a kiss or three.

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #129

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #129

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Peter threw the first monkeywrench into the mix right around the time he’d returned from the first Secret Wars in UNCANNY X-MEN #183 and declared his love for the alien Zsaji to Kitty, though said Zsaji’d perished by that time. Ms. Pryde ratcheted up the anti-feels by joining Excalibur and heading into a hot-and-heavy thing with a guy named Pete Wisdom—a relationship Peter gave his “blessing” to, but also kept one metallic eye on. 

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #183

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #183

What is Marvel Unlimited?

When the Legacy Virus later tore apart the mutant population, Colossus seemingly sacrificed his life during the chaos in X-MEN #110, prompting Kitty to sort out her feelings for the big lunk and insure his ashes traveled back to Russia. Imagine her surprise when Peter turned up hale and hearty in ASTONISHING X-MEN #14, strange situation which led to a passionate reunion and a new outbreak of dating. 

X-Men (1991) #110

X-Men (1991) #110

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Alas, right around the time of the X-Men’s latest disagreement with the Juggernaut and his power source Cyttorak in UNCANNY X-MEN #543, Kitty broke it off again with Peter when she disagreed with his well-intentioned noble thoughts to die for her in battle. Sadly, that meant that she and Colossus’ couple-ness still existed in a state of suspension when Kitty got stuck in a giant bullet traveling around the solar system in GIANT-SIZE ASTONISHING X-MEN #1. Peter tried to move on with his life, but to his credit, he tattooed “Katya” in her memory on his chest in UNCANNY X-MEN #507

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #507

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #507

  • Published: March 18, 2009
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: February 11, 2011
  • Rating: T+
  • Writer: Matt Fraction
  • Penciller: Terry Dodson
What is Marvel Unlimited?

No good mutant hero ever stays lost, though, and so Kitty Pryde returned to Earth, thanks to Magneto, in UNCANNY X-MEN #522 and reclaimed her claim to the big metal guy in UNCANNY X-MEN #522…which of course hit the skids by UNCANNY X-MEN #543. The former Shadowcat struck up a few new relationships in the aftermath, in particular with Iceman in WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #14, and with Star-Lord in X-MEN: THE TRIAL OF JEAN GREY #1-6

Wolverine & the X-Men (2011) #14

Wolverine & the X-Men (2011) #14

  • Published: July 25, 2012
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: April 08, 2013
  • Rating: Rated T+
  • Writer: Jason Aaron
What is Marvel Unlimited?

Today, Kitty’s done with star-hopping scoundrels and Peter’s, well, Peter, and the two of them, as seen in X-MEN: GOLD #1, believe they can fight alongside each other as “just friends.” But, anybody who’s ever been in their position knows that trick never really works, right?

Stay tuned…we should be finding out whether or not our beloved Kitlossus will ever be a thing again very, very soon.

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Jedi Knight Kerra Holt returns!

Each week Star Wars Spotlight combs through the digital archives of Marvel Unlimited to showcase one classic story from that distant galaxy filled with Jedi, Sith, princesses, scoundrels and droids.

STAR WARS: KNIGHT ERRANT introduced readers to Jedi Knight Kerra Holt, a warrior who had made powerful enemies in the form of crazy Sith Lords Daiman and Odion. With STAR WARS: KNIGHT ERRANT – DELUGE, she returned to continue fighting their evil influence in the world, but found other shades of it as well.

John Jackson Miller returned to the character he wrote in KNIGHT ERRANT, this time joined by artists Ivan Rodriguez, Iban Coello and David Daza. Like its predecessor, the 2012 five issue limited series took place 1000 years in the past before Luke Skywalker came to power. In this era both Jedi and Sith counted many members in their respective fold.

In the case of Jedi Knight Kerra Holt, she made it her life’s mission to defend the forgotten people of the galaxy from the evil of the Sith. As the story kicked off, that mission lead her to a familiar place, her home planet Aquilaris and against a familiar foe, Sith Lord Daiman.

Star Wars: Knight Errant - Deluge (2011) #1

Star Wars: Knight Errant - Deluge (2011) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Upon arriving home, Holt found more than a few surprises waiting for her. First, Zodoh the Hutt attacked the Sith’s slave camp and, even worse, her people had become so addicted to a spice called Deluge that left them wanting nothing, including their own safety.

The Jedi decided to strike back against the Hutt’s forces on her own, but discovered some fellow fighters on her side: Captain Jenn Devaad, Grace Command and the volunteer Devil Squadron.

At the same time Zodoh threatened Sith Lord Odion and Arkadia Calimondra to give him his own piece of the pie in their area, or else the attacks would increase. Meanwhile, Kerra joined up with Devil Squadron. They intended to leave Aquilaris, but then Zodoh showed up with a flew of Stormdriver ships, intent on networking them to create enough rain to drown the entire world!

As the story unfolded, we learned the truth behind Devil Squadron and their true intentions as they visit various worlds, none of which sat well with Holt. After clearing up some grievances, Jenn and Kerra focused their efforts on their true enemies: the Sith Lords.

From the Jedi Temple Archives

Consider this a major spoiler for DELUGE, but Devaad eventually admitted that the time-release boxes of supplies the Devil Squadron left behind on worlds didn’t hold food as originally stated, but instead the drug Deluge. Their plan revolved around leaving many, many samples behind in hopes that the Sith soldiers would take one hit and become hoplelessly addicted. They didn’t exactly care that regular people on the planets became addicts themselves because the people of that sector didn’t reach out to help Devaad and her people when they needed it the most. Eventually, she realized that all people can be lead towards hope and fought alongside Kerra Holt to strike an impressive blow against the Sith.

Legendary comic creators Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson tackle “Empire Strikes Back” in the pages of STAR WARS #3944.

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Darth Vader Versus Darth Maul—'Nuff Said

We all know that the first Star Wars film changed the face of pop culture forever when it hit theaters 40 years ago today—but it’s not just the movie that’s celebrating that milestone in 2017. Star Wars comics arrived with force in 1977, and hundreds of issues later, they’re more popular now than ever.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re looking back at our 40 favorite moments from the history of comics from a galaxy far, far away—one day at a time.

Star Wars Tales (1999) #9

Star Wars Tales (1999) #9

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Of all 24 issues of STAR WARS TALES, perhaps no single story better embraced the idea of creating noncanonical stories that fans really want read better than “Resurrection” in issue #9 (2001). Here’s all you really need to know: Darth Vader versus Darth Maul.

Ron Marz’s story begins with Vader and a squad of stormtroopers landing on Kalakar Six, a Mustafar-like lava planet, where a tip has led them to tracking down Rebels said to have stolen the Death Star plans. Turns out, it’s a trap laid by a cult of Sith followers who do not believe that Vader was meant to be Palpatine’s true apprentice, and—oh, yeah—they’ve resurrected Darth Maul to do something about it. Rick Leonardi’s pencils beautifully illustrate the epic duel to follow—one of the best lightsaber fights ever written into comics.

Of course, it has since been revealed through “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” that Maul survived his encounter with Obi-Wan, but a canonical Vader versus Maul lightsaber battle never actually occurred. Luckily, fans craving an awesome showdown between Sith Apprentices can always turn to STAR WARS TALES #9 to scratch that itch.

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The Star Wars Tales anthology offers a quartet of superb stories!

We all know that the first Star Wars film changed the face of pop culture forever when it hit theaters 40 years ago today—but it’s not just the movie that’s celebrating that milestone in 2017. Star Wars comics arrived with force in 1977, and hundreds of issues later, they’re more popular now than ever.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re looking back at our 40 favorite moments from the history of comics from a galaxy far, far away—one day at a time.

Star Wars Tales (1999) #1

Star Wars Tales (1999) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

You have to admire the idea behind STAR WARS TALES. Though Star Wars fans can be sticklers for the importance of continuity across all media, TALES decided to eschew all that and focus one thing: fun stories. Each issue features a series of unrelated vignettes designed solely to entertain, without the burden of needing to stay in line with any canon but that of the four films released to this point.

STAR WARS TALES #1 illustrates the series’ ideals beautifully with four completely independent stories, each unique in tone and setting. For the Prequel fans, we see Master Qui-Gon Jinn instilling his wisdom to Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi as they explore the planet Arorua in the years before “Episode I.” After that, Timothy Zahn presents a Mara Jade adventure set between the events of “Return of the Jedi” and HEIR TO THE EMPIRE; Mara returns for a cameo in a Galactic Civil War-era Darth Vader story by Ron Marz.

But it’s Peter David who not only takes the idea of having fun with Star Wars and runs with it, but also delivers the most memorable story of the bunch with “Skippy the Jedi Droid.” Remember the droid that Uncle Owen almost bought, but it had a “bad motivator”? As you’ll learn in this delightfully non-canon exploit, that’s Skippy—also known as the much less fun-sounding R5-D4—and the “motivator” for that event occurring had nothing to do with malfunctioning electronics. It’s a must-read for Star Wars fans just looking to enjoy themselves—which should be all of us.

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The secret agent comes in from the cold for an evaluation!

The client, who goes by Nick Fury or Nick Fury Jr. in some circles and previously was known as Marcus Johnson, is an adult male in above average physical fitness. Although he lost one of his eyes in an incident of torture, he seems to have no long-term physical consequences from the incident beyond that loss. Additionally, he reports no further physical concerns stemming from it. The psychological toll of the incident and the series of events that have cascaded from that moment have not yet been properly accounted for, in the opinion of this writer.

In brief, as noted above, the client was known as Marcus Johnson. He, in fact, had identified as that for most of his life. However, it was revealed to him that he was actually born as Nicholas Fury Jr, the son of the former S.H.I.E.L.D. Director (amongst other accomplishments). He found this out while under attack by a series of super villains and various mercenary types and just after the death of his mother.

During this tightly packed series of episodes—each one being significant enough to change one’s perspective on their own life—Fury also met his biological father, a man he had no awareness of being related to. However, their meeting was short-lived, marked by violent confrontations with many who wished one or both of them dead, and Fury almost immediately went into hiding after and has been rumored to either have died, to be living in exile, or even, according to one particularly far-fetched sounding story, have taken up the role of some kind of cosmic nearly omniscient monitor.

Nonetheless, Fury felt motivated and/or inspired by his genetics to follow in his father’s footsteps and, alongside his best friend Phil Coulson, joined S.H.I.E.L.D. He seemed to be a natural for the work, using his military service, strong tactical mind, and natural charisma to adapt and excel despite a relative lack of training in spycraft.

Unfortunately, S.H.I.E.L.D. quickly proved to be a disappointing experience as the client was betrayed and nearly killed while on a mission by his team, a group of HYDRA infiltrators masquerading as S.H.I.E.L.D.

Now the client is operating solo and underground, looking to do what he describes as “the work of S.H.I.E.L.D., the work they should do,” in a freelance capacity.

The client, in session, seems resistant to the idea of admitting to vulnerability, perhaps understandable given the norms of the spy community and the existing pressures of masculinity. However, the amount of upheaval he has experienced in his life over the past year or so is undeniably disruptive. Even if the client would not quality for a formal PTSD diagnosis, his life has been so altered that it seems impossible that he would not be experiencing any kind of ramifications from those experiences.

Additionally, he showed up in my office of his own accord as I have reminded him. While he might be strong, while he might be traumatized, he nonetheless felt the need to seek out psychological counseling and/or support which means that neither he nor I should simply hand wave at what he has experienced as of late.

Through contacts, I have been able to acquire his S.H.I.E.L.D. mental health records done by Doctors James Robinson and ACO. They can be found in his file here on August 2 in the file marked NICK FURY #5.

Psy D. Candidate Tim Stevens is a Staff Therapist who would never suggest he has experience in spycraft, but, you know…wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

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The Conqueror encounters Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for the first time!

Since the early days of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Kang the Conqueror has agitated the Avengers and then some with his mastery of multiple eras and desire to add the Marvel Universe to his empire. On November 14, the time tyrant takes on a new role as central antagonist in the “LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2,” creating a campaign that crisscrosses all reality and space.

Before you play the game, discover the story behind this agent of chronological chaos with the History of Kang!

When one examines a being such as Kang, a master of time-travel among other incredible accomplishments, one must remember that what we perceive as a linear progression of history here in the present-day may actually not be so according to Kang himself. Slipping in and out of time along his personal chrono-line, he’s created false representations of his career to modern scholars and historians—in essence, simply because one may encounter the man at one time, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not a Kang from an earlier time in his life.

After Nathaniel Richards abandoned the guise of Pharoah Rama-Tut and adopted that of Kang the Conqueror, he entered into direct conflict with the Avengers, and thus created an enmity with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for all time.

His first sally against the present-day Avengers came during the earliest line-up of the team, but also one of their strongest. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Giant-Man, and The Wasp responded to a call from the Pentagon to investigate a UFO and instead met Kang in all his new-found glory. The despot explained his past persona as Rama-Tut and then proceeded to proclaim his reign over the planet. The Avengers, of course, defied him and battled until their unfortunate capture.

This first encounter ended when young Rick Jones and his so-called Teen Brigade created a diversion and freed the heroes from Kang’s holding cells, Giant-Man used a new acid-base solvent of his design to destroy much of the Conqueror’s personal equipment, and the despot escaped back to the future to lick his wounds. During the battle, the heroes found Kang to be arrogant, full of his own superiority, and disdainful of anything the present-day could offer next to his own 30th century technology.

Avengers (1963) #8

Avengers (1963) #8

  • Published: September 10, 1964
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: November 13, 2007
  • Penciller: Jack Kirby
  • Cover Artist: Jack Kirby
What is Marvel Unlimited?

After he realized his mistake in confronting the Avengers directly, Kang later schemed against them by remaining in the future and sending a Spider-Man robot to first lure the group into a false sense of security, and then waylay them one by one. The Conqueror’s plan worked beautifully until the real web-slinger swung in to destroy his artificial doppelganger and help the Avengers turn the tide once more against Kang.

In this second encounter versus the famous team, Kang’s superiority manifested again, but when he realized he’d been defeated, he devolved into near-hysterics, proclaiming everything he’d done “was all in vain.”

Time passed and Captain America took the reins of a smaller team of Avengers consisting of himself, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and The Scarlet Witch, sometimes referred to as “Cap’s Kooky Quartet.” Looking in on them from the future again, Kang reasoned the team’s then-current status made them ripe for his revenge and so transported them to his far-flung century. His mistake manifested in his revelation to the heroes that he’d fallen in love with a princess named Ravonna, and might err in his judgment in any dealings with her. Cap’s team helped the princess in a war between her kingdom and Kang’s immense forces, but in the end those same forces turned on the despot and he in turn allied himself with Ravonna’s people to save her.

This adventure highlighted Kang’s capability to love another human being, despite his high-minded and frankly wicked actions. Sadly, as the Avengers faded away to return to their own time, Ravonna, her eyes open to Kang’s good side, fell dead from an assassin’s cowardly strike. The Conqueror, having failed to conquer love, turned away to harden his heart for the next battle against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Check Out: AVENGERS (1963) #8, #11, #23, #24

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