The main villains of the 10-year-long, 27-issue Warren Ellis/John Cassaday masterpiece Planetary were a group who called ominously called themselves The Four. Basically, they were a perversion of the classic Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Fantastic Four, whose popularity maintains fifty years after their creation. Where the FF wanted to spread their technology and discoveries to advance mankind, the Four hid everything they found, jealously guarding their (usually stolen) technology and conducting bizarre experiments on human beings. Considering Planetary was an exploration of comics history, having the antagonists be a twisted parody of one of comics' longest-standing teams was a great touch on a great comic.
One of my favorite visual references to the old FF comics came from Planetary #6. I can't take credit for discovering this. I originally read it over at the Planetary Comic Appreciation Page, which, in my opinion, is the best source of Planetary annotations on the web. (Quite possibly, it is also the only complete one.) In the panel below, the disguised William Leather – the Four's Human Torch pastiche – reveals himself to Planetary field agent Elijah Snow:
Here is the original 1962 Lee/Kirby scene from Fantastic Four #4. Namor, the Sub-Mariner (missing since his Golden Age adventures) is revealed from his disguise by the Johnny Storm, the Human Torch we know and love:
I saw Iron Man 2 this weekend and enjoyed the hell out of it. It had pretty much everything missing from the first film: a superpowered villain from the get-go, alcoholism, Sam Rockwell … I could go on. Now, it wasn't a ground-breaking film that redefined how we look at crazy men in costumes and all such jazz I'd like to pretend people expect out of these films. No. It was explosions and witty dialogue and a drunk billionaire urinating in a giant metal suit to please a crowd. My expectations were met and, at the exact moment when Mickey Rourke (in a delightfully dead-on Russian accent) says the phrase “this software is sheet,” exceeded.
So, I got home and decided to read some Iron Man comics. It was suggested I start during Warren Ellis' “Extremis” arc. Right in issue one, something caught my eye. If you're not familiar with his craft, you should know that Ellis has worn his cultural interests on his sleeve throughout his entire career – Transmetropolitan's Spider Jerusalem, for instance, would repeatedly (and sloppily) quote the Pixies' lyrics as dialogue. The scene below, occuring at a Stark International complex in “Coney Island, NY” (my relationship to which I've written about earlier,) was a bit more unexpected:
If you're a fan of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, you'll recognize that as a rephrased version of the monologue which opens “Sleep” on Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven:
Again, considering this is Warren Ellis, I'm wasn't too surprised, but it was nice to see a wink-wink-nudge-nudge sort of reference. As opposed to, in the next issue or two, having a character parrot out a brief summary of the works of Terence McKenna's. There's something to be said for both subtlety and pleasing the pretension of your audience.