Models and Marvels

Last night I read a friend's copy of "Models, INC." #1 from a month ago or so, and was shocked to discover that it's not the complete schlock it looks like. In fact, it was fun. It's cute. And with Wikipedia at hand it actually makes sense in the larger context of the Marvel Universe and ours! Of course, I'm not saying Wikipedia is required to enjoy this comic. It just helps.

The main character is professional model Millicent Collins (the blonde, at left). Sound familiar? It should, she had her own romance/humor series for almost thirty years "Millie the Model" (from #1 in 1945 till #207 in 1973). Her close friends Toni Turner and Chili Storm (the redhead, also at left) who appear in "Models, INC." are originally from that series as well.

The other major character at play here is Patsy Walker, the first romance/humor character from Marvel Comics. She premiered as a secondary back-up feature character in Miss America Magazine #2. She eventually took over the book. It was reamed "Patsy Walker Starring in Miss America" at this issue.

Stan Lee brought all of these characters officially into the cohesive meta-story he was building that has come to be called the Marvel Universe in "Fantastic Four" Annual #3, where Patsy and her friend Hedy Wolfe appear hoping to spy famous model Milicent Collins attending the wedding of Reed Richards and Susan Storm, the celebrity superhero couple Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman! Freaking amazing, right?

The Patsy Walker character eventually grew-out of the romance/humor genre and begged to be a super-hero. Suddenly, after hanging out with X-Men's Beast for probably ten seconds in Amazing Adventures #13, she's wearing spandex and calling herself Hellcat in the Avengers #144. So she's a super-hero AND a model. Some girls have all the fun.

Superhero secret I.D. Kyle Richmond's name is dropped several times and the Human Torch, Johnny Storm makes a pretty wonderful cameo.

On the other end of things, photographer Demarchelier is mentioned as are designers Anna Sui and Alexander McQueen. Then Dolce and Gabbana gets a mention in the Tim Gunn back-up story. (A long time mainstay of these humor/romance comics as you can tell!) And I would never have had a clue about any of that crap if it weren't for my buddy Dave Goren explaining everything as I read his copy.

This is one of the many wonderful things about mainstream comics! We get a game in which puzzle pieces come together to make a story, even one as small as this one about four professional models who are friends, part of a larger tapestry. The past! The present! All in one! Like all good art! Even if all of that was out the window, I'd still have had a ball reading Tim Gunn giving fashion advice to an A.I.M. henchmen.

Is there a lot of cheesecake in here? Yeah. Is there a lot of bad jokes and unnecessary sub-plots? Yeah... But it takes place very much in a double historical context of celebrities guest-starring in comics (from John Belushi, David Letterman, and Jay Leno to George W. Bush and a whole damn lot of Barack Obama). and old-school humor comics like Millie the Model and Patsy Walker. As well as the context of the Marvel Universe and the present-day fashion world. Personally, I find that fascinating.

And it was fun. And cute.

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