Friday, August 26, 2011

If I Had Been At the Wedding of Crystal and Quicksilver, I’d Have Been the One To Stand Up and Object…, Conclusion

Doug: Prior to today, we've read three installments of my essay originally intended for publication in the forthcoming (?) book Assembled, volume 3. Today we'll finish up -- feel free to leave us a comment agreeing or disagreeing with my position on this whole (what I call) fiasco. Here you are --

  • Avengers 110: Apr. 1973. Art by Don Heck/Frank Giacoia/Mike Esposito, story by Steve Englehart. Quicksilver makes his first appearance in the Avengers since he disappeared in issue #104. He appears on a visi-screen, arm-in-arm with Crystal. He tells how he was rescued and nursed back to health by “this girl, Crystal of the Inhumans.” After Wanda tells him how happy she is, she tells Pietro that she and the Vision have declared their love for each other. Quicksilver then erupts in anger and tells Wanda that he will never speak to her again, as long as she loves “that thing”. It’s an interesting point of view, especially given the battle Pietro had fought only “days” before that had centered on racism – the Inhuman/Alpha Primitive conflict.
  • Avengers 127: Sept. 1974. Art by Sal Buscema/Joe Staton, story by Englehart. Gorgon appears at the Avengers’ dinner table to invite them to the wedding of Quicksilver and Crystal, which takes the team (Thor, Iron Man, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Mantis, Swordsman) by surprise. Gorgon picks up on this immediately and gets a little peeved. He calls Pietro an “arrogant, posturing fool” and later states, “I’ve endured a great deal from Quicksilver for my cousin’s sake – endured it for many months (page 3).” Do you think there was anyone in the room who hadn’t felt equally as put out with Pietro over the years? Mantis tries to make peace; Wanda snipes at her for being a guest of the team for the Swordsman’s sake (in no small part due to Mantis’ romantic overtures toward the Vision), and states that the team will accompany Gorgon to attend the wedding. After arriving in the Great Refuge, the team participates in a carnival atmosphere in celebration of the royal nuptials. However, Maximus lurks in the shadows and begins to manipulate the Avengers, playing on the racism that exists between the Inhumans and the Alpha Primitives (see FF #131-132). Crystal asks Pietro to reconcile with Wanda before the wedding; he refuses, but is forced to confront her anyway when she enters the room – he says, “You may think it civilized to consort with a machine, but I do not!” Shortly after, Crystal is kidnapped by the Alpha Primitive construct Omega. The Avengers, FF, and Inhumans seek her return, and eventually Omega comes back and reveals himself (in one of the top 10 villain entrances of all time!) to truly be Ultron-7!!! Story continued in FF #150.
  • FF 150: Sept. 1974. Art by Buckler/Sinnott, story by Gerry Conway. Conclusion of the story begun in Avengers 127. The FF, Inhumans, and Avengers unite against Ultron-7, but it is young Franklin Richards who awakens from his long coma to destroy Ultron; in fact, in what may be the first use of the encephalo beams (see the "Bride of Ultron" saga in Avengers #’s 161-162 and 170-171), Ultron unwittingly revives Franklin’s latent consciousness. The book is divided in half, with the second part being the actual wedding of Quicksilver and Crystal. Thor and Iron Man muse on the subject of love, Thor pining for Jane Foster and the Lady Sif, IM for Pepper Potts. Medusa has a heart-to-heart with Johnny, who tells her that he feels like he has glass breaking inside of him. The ceremony comes off, and we are shown a monitor in a hospital room where Bob Frank (the Whizzer, in uniform, no less) watches his “son” Pietro while he heals from injuries sustained in Giant-Size Avengers #1. At the end of the story Johnny is smiling, and we assume that is that… Yeah, right!
  • FF 158-159: May-June 1975. Art by Buckler/Sinnott, story by Thomas. Quicksilver is sent on a secret mission from the Great Refuge to find the FF. Pietro somehow gains admission to the Baxter Building and confronts the Torch in his usual gruff manner. Johnny reacts with his flame, tells Pietro that the niceness he displayed at the wedding is over, and they proceed to tear the place apart. As Quicksilver reaches out to grab the Torch, Johnny hits him with a low blow, “Didn’t Magneto ever teach you not to play with matches, Quickie (#158 page 14)?” Johnny goes on: “All I know is I worked hard playing the good loser while you married the girl I was in love with. Heck, I even made nice with you at the wedding… But there’s nothing says I’ve gotta put up with you on my own time (ibid)!” The remaining members of the FF arrive to stop the melee, and Pietro relates a story of an attack on the Great Refuge by Xemu, Master of the Fifth Dimension (a story that hearkens way back to Strange Tales #103). The tale concludes with a combined assault on Xemu’s army by the FF and the Inhumans and a romantic interlude between Johnny and Valeria, whom he’d met years earlier in the 5th Dimension. Quicksilver witnesses it and comments, “Bravo for you, Johnny Storm. You’ll be happier, and so will I, when you stop thinking of Crystal as your girl when she’s now my wife (#159 page 27)!”
And that’s about it – for the most part, the romance of Johnny and Crystal isn’t mentioned very much again. For me, the marriage of Crystal and Quicksilver truly provided no additional plotlines that superseded what could have been done had the marriage of Johnny and Crystal come to pass in its own natural time. As the Avengers and the Inhumans had no real connection historically, I’m not sure where Roy was going with this. It further frustrates me that not only could one not predict where the story might go, the fact of the matter is that the story didn’t go. In effect, Crystal and Quicksilver were basically written out of their respective books for years.
Some have argued (most notably to this scribe on the message boards) that this marriage served to link together all of Marvel’s major teams/families: the Avengers, the FF, the Inhumans, and the X-Men (through the historic relationship between the Maximoff twins and Magneto). In contrast, a deepening of the romance between Johnny Storm and Crystal would have allowed for an infinite number of possibilities for the free-wheeling Torch to settle down/not settle down, certainly some in-law problems, friction between Johnny and Ben (and perhaps a storyline wherein Ben and Alicia were married or Ben was at least faced with having to deal with his self-distance from Alicia), and over on the Avengers side the presence of Pietro in the storylines that led to Wanda and the Vision’s marriage. Could there have been stories written that forced Pietro’s heart to soften toward the Vision? Might they have had to team up, possibly to save Wanda? How would Pietro have reacted to the return of Simon Williams and (in late volume I and certainly volume III) Williams’ increasing love for Wanda? How would Pietro have dealt with the John Byrne-dismantling of the Vision? Formerly, the Vision’s takeover of the world’s computer systems? A voice, obnoxious as it might have been at times, was silenced, for all of these possible plotlines never saw fruition due to Pietro’s removal from the pages of Avengers and Crystal’s removal from the pages of FF.
The next time we saw Crystal in any significant page-time, she was again a member of the FF in a forgettable run by Englehart. Issue #305 provided all the details any reader would need concerning her now-failed marriage to Pietro – the infidelity she’d perpetrated in the pages of the second Vision and the Scarlet Witch mini-series and Quicksilver’s subsequent descent into madness. Sue thought in that issue, during conversation with Crystal, “I know you mean your promise – and I would have trusted the bright and shiny teenager I used to know, absolutely! But you’ve grown up fast, Crystal. Please don’t hurt my brother…(page 19)!” Crystal also served the Avengers, but by then she’d become somewhat of a caricature of all that could go wrong for a pure-hearted, beautiful young girl – she was estranged from her husband and playing the field in a newfound freedom. The purity was gone…
As I said, I just really don’t get why, 30 years ago, Roy went the direction he did… Or, did Stan set the ball rolling in Fantastic Four #105? Was Archie Goodwin a conspirator in FF #’s 117-118? Shoot, given the Marvel method of creating comics, were some of the artists to blame? All I want is an explanation, and sadly I just feel like there isn’t one, nor would there be that would meet my satisfaction.
But that’s what is great about comics – maybe someday…


david_b said...

Lots to chime in here with, off-subject for a moment, I really like that shot of Sue in FF# 305; this exchange seemed very affirming and natural. Like shown here, I still think Laura Dern (back in the 80s/90s) would have been a MUCH, MUCH better Sue Richards than Jessica Alba. Except for Ioan Gruffudd and perhaps Chiklis, everyone was miscasted there. OK, back to today's discussion.

Doug, THANKS much for showing these scenes, none of which I've ever seen before (except Avengers 127 and FF 150). As discussed before, lots could have transpired with Crystal and Johnny married, but the last thing writers in the 70s wanted was another marriage in the FF.

I do agree Quicksilver could have gone in several positive directions had situations been written to bring out more depth, aside from his and Wanda's backround under Byrne in the Avengers.

Much like Namor, you could have taken another of MU's resident arrogant jerks and had him play more into Vision's plight or the kids him and Wanda produced.

I do like the falacy played up here where he was detesting years of mutant resentment, then displaying the similar hatred towards Vish, perhaps for the same 'purity' stance he gave Crystal depicted here. This hypocracy explored would have provided much fodder for minority readers to explore and comment on.

Instead, a Shooter-ran Marvel reduced Pietro to madness.

Dougie said...

Firstly, I have to take issue with "forgettable" as a descriptor for Englehart's FF. I think in an era of Silver Age nostalgia, this Eighties serial was very daring. The power of sex and sexual jealousy overtly handled in the context of Marvel's First Family!

As for Pietro, I find the painful humanity of this arrogant, hypocritical outsider quite moving. He had a tragic trajectory springing from a breakdown with the most prosaic of causes: marital infidelity. The real crime was that it all went away, dismissed as manipulation by Maximus (logical but unsatidfactory.

Fred W. Hill said...

I suspect David B's theory is likely correct -- Johnny & Crystal were broken up primarily to avoid having another married couple in the FF, which sounds stupid but the most plausible explanation. At least Crystal wasn't killed off or paired with a fiend like Norman Osborne as with poor Gwen. Of course, all of this provided a lot of drama for everyone involved.

Anonymous said...

Crystal was such a bore I was glad when they dumped her from the Fantastic Four. As far as I was concerned, let her stay on the moon forever.

I do wish Quicksilver had stayed active with the Avengers. He has personality in spades.

Dougie said...

I wouldn't say Crystal was a bore. She had seemed a geninely nice kid- for inbred royalty. Compared to the haughty mystic Projectra over in the Legion, Crystal was likeable and supportive. I wondered why she'd become a soap opera bad girl in the second Vision/Scarlet Witch seies. I'm sure Englehart would have advanced her as a spirit in the end.
Is she still married to Ronan in the current continuity?

Anonymous said...

There is an explanation for the splitting up of Johnny and Crystal. It's provided in a very good interview book called "Comics Creators on Fantastic Four" which came out on 2005. Tom De Falco interviewed numerous creators on the FF, including Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, and John Bryne. In the Roy Thomas interview, the question is asked, "Why did you suddenly break them (Johnny and Crystal) up in FF#131 by revealing that Crystal had fallen in love with Quicksilver?" Roy's answer: "I was just trying to shake things up a little bit....I had no great feelings for Crystal as a character. She wasn't even one of the major Inhumans as far as I was concerned. I thought it would be fun to get rid of her and I liked the idea of bringing in Quicksilver." Also, keep in mind that this was during Roy's first run on the FF in 1972, when it appeared he was doing a number of things to shake up the status quo including temorarily splitting up Reed and Sue (#130) and bringing in Medusa (#132).

Anonymous said...

I predict when the time is right Johnny and Crystal will get back together and it will be retconed that Luna is Johnnys secret daughter with Crystal conceived in issue 118 of F4.

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