Well, it’s finally time. Issue one had a good idea. Issue two was slightly uncomfortable. But here is issue #3. The writing is good, the art is good, everything else is crap. Time for my rant!
Thundercats: The Return #3
WildStorm (June, 2003)
WRITER: Ford Lytle Gilmore
PENCILER: Ed Benes
INKER: Rob Lea
COLORING: WildStorm FX
LETTERER: John Layman
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Kristy Quinn
EDITOR: Ben Abernathy
Right from the first page the assault on a childhood favorite begins. It’s bad enough Ed Benes is drawing Wilykit so sexy and in a skimpy outfit…I mean there are only cloth straps around her breasts and barely long enough to be called a skirt around her waist. When you think about it, Wikykit was probably 13 at best when the cartoon and the last miniseries ended. This story takes place five years later so she’s about 17 now, not even legal in most US states. NOW she’s in a skimpyier (somehow) bikini washing Mumm-Ra, who calls her his concubine. Merriam-Webster defines concubine as “a woman with whom a man cohabits without being married: such as (a): one having a recognized social status in a household below that of a wife, or (b) mistress”. In other words suggesting that Wilykit isn’t just Mumm-Ra’s attendant. That would be bad enough. No, no, now we’re suggesting she’s having SEX with Mumm-Ra! Is that even possibl…you know, I really don’t want to think about it or sex will be ruined faster than visiting an actual porn studio to see how fake it really is. Let’s just move on. Oh, I wish I could but we aren’t done with suggested sex.
Lion-O, Panthro, and Snarf make their way to the new Castle Plundarr, with a spell by Mumm-Ra blocking the Sword’s “sight beyond sight”. Mostly because he wants to see the surprise on Lion-O’s face when he sees what’s happened to Cheetara. Let’s see: Panthro was working in the mine, Snarf was going crazy, and (SPOILER) the added trio of Thundercats are dead. We’ll get back to that when that’s revealed, I think next issue. Tygra is being force to work for Vultureman because of his architectural skills. What’s Cheetara doing? Is she being forced to use her great speed to act as a scout or messenger? Are they using her psychic powers to track down free Thundarians or attempt to spy back on Mumm-Ra since they don’t want to be here? Oh, no. She’s chained to a wall. Monkian talks about wanting to have “fun” with her, and Vultureman says he’ll protect her if she would help uncover the secret of Tygra’s whip, which Tygra insists can only be used by a Thundarian. And based on Wilykit being called a concubine, the way Cheetara’s clothes are ripped (just barely friendly for mass-market comics), and Mumm-Ra talking about what’s been done to her, I can only conclude….
CHEETARA IS BEING USED AS A RAPE TOY FOR THE MUTANTS! (or at least it’s implied)
Even if she isn’t (and someone who knows please, PLEASE tell me I’m wrong because I really want to be very wrong), she’s still chained to the wall and some kind of torment or torture is being done to her for the Mutant’s pleasure. Think about this. The male Thundercats are being used in service to Mumm-Ra or the Mutants in some way. The females are being abused, except for Pumyra, who’s dead. What the everloving @#$%$#%#$^#$^% is wrong with this picture? Why would you do that, Gilmore? Oh, and who does she blame? LION-O! We’ll get to that next issue, too. Oh, and she and Panthro are an item now for some reason. Sure. (CORRECTION: Reading this review in early 2022 and I wrote the wrong name down. She and TYGRA are an item. Makes a bit more sense and that’s also what the re-imagined series did but I don’t know when that started.) That doesn’t make anything better or worse, but it’s kind of out of nowhere since the only Thundercat she was ever remotely implied to find attractive was Lion-O, and that lasted an episode. The issue ends with Mumm-Ra offering to let the former Thunderkittens go free if Wilykat leads the Thundercats into a trap.
Look, I don’t care how good the writing is. I don’t care how much you prefer a supposedly mature story, or a darker story. THIS IS MY CHILDHOOD! This is why I made the joke in that Jake & Leon comic about a gritty remake for Super Grover, or the Black Lantern Johnny DC. If this is your kind of story, fine. The problem is they did it with MY KIND OF STORY. MY kind of characters. MY kind of universe. A safe, happy place from my youth that was already a good story to my adult self without concubines servicing 1000+ year old mummy-men that used to be a childhood crush. (Wilykit, not Mumm-Ra. That’s just gross.) Without women being chained to the wall to be used for torture or possibly a rape toy (because in more modern comics rape is a thing that happens to women as a plot rather than a message)! Without characters I like being killed for shock value because of course none of the fans or the original were fans of the new characters shoved in to make more toys for LJN. Well, I liked the new characters. I liked the old characters. Wilykit was my Thundercrush and Cheetara was the Thundercrush of others. They’re the only female characters and they get treated worse than the male characters since they get violated while the boys do actual slave work.
This issue. THIS ISSUE is why I hate this miniseries with a passion. Is it well-written? Do the character voices match? Yes, WHICH MAKES IT EVEN WORSE! This is taking my childhood, forcing it to be “adult” (or some perverse idea of what “adult” and “mature” are), and ruining my precious memories of something I love. AND THIS KEEPS HAPPENING! The Dynamite take on Voltron and the Phantom. DC’s new take on He-Man, even the not-rage-inducing(-yet) Thundercat crossover. The “Decepticon Justice Division” in the Transformers comics. Heck, the crew of the Lost Light, although at least I have the new version of Robots In Disguise when Cartoon Network actually airs the darn thing, or Rescue Bots. This is not updating a classic favorite. I still love these shows for what they are as much as my childhood nostalgia. To see them changed into everything that bothers me about modern comics, to know that new stories in the style of the shows I loved and still love is impossible because they’re in the hands of someone who only sees “kids stuff”, to realize that everything I love is HATED by modern writers, to listen to fans of those kinds of works tell me they’re “better than the original” induces a rage as a fan, as a nostagist, and as a storyteller whose style came from the action shows and comics I grew up with that you can’t possibly imagine.
Yes I DO take it personal (although not to the point of death threats over a work of fiction…give me some credit) because it’s people telling me that what I love and part of what inspired who and what I am today as a person and a storyteller is crap and that I should embrace the dark and depressing world these people think is the “real world” instead of only one part of the real world. Intended or not it comes off as a rejection and violation of everything I love and stand for, and you can tell me I’m taking this too seriously but that’s to not understand the influence these stories had on a boy escaping the torment of bullies, how I see heroes (look bad at this morning’s Masters Of The Universe review) and how I see the world. Maybe someday when it happens to something that shaped who you are, what you enjoy, or even your creative influences you’ll finally understand why I hate this comic, or the WildStorm crossover with Battle Of The Planets, or the IDW take on Transformers, or DC’s current He-Man, but at least those don’t include underage concubines and wall-chained rape toys made out of beloved characters! (Although Transformers did give us forced sex-changed Arcee.) Avoid this series and this issue in particular can go to hell!