The Greatest Superhero Halloween Adventure of All Time!
Gather ’round, boys and ghouls, and let me tell you the tale of a spooky battle between good and evil that took place on a Halloween night, much like this one. No, it’s not Batman’s Long Halloween. It’s not even Hellboy vs. the Boogeyman. The greatest comic book Halloween adventure of all time is X-Men Unlimited #21 from the extra terrifying year 1998, when Strong Guy, Multiple Man, Wolfsbane and the Beast defeated an army of demons and saved a wedding with the help of a flaming toupee.
I kid you not. It is just as amazing as it sounds.
For Halloween this year, I’m going to share with you my all-time favorite superhero Halloween story. You can keep your Batmen and Sandmen and Hellchildren, there isn’t anything better than a couple of B and C-list X-Men on a wacky adventure in a tertiary anthology comic! It’s got action, it’s got comedy, it’s got angst, and it’s got more nicknames for manly hairpieces than you can shake a witch’s broom at.
So join me after the jump – if you dare! Moohahahahaha!
We open with possibly the scariest thing in the entire world. Brace yourselves; this is not for the faint of heart.
Behold: my future!
At least as far as my parents are concerned every time I go to visit but don’t bring a girlfriend.
Melvin J. Weals is a fat, balding, hairy man who lives in his mother’s basement and works part time at a video rental store in Rutland, Vermont. Thankfully, in real life, I am only one of those things. Melvin is also a “wannabe warlock”, so he’s got me beat on career aspirations, at least. Melvin wants to become the new devil so that he can wield the powers of Hell against snobby video store customers. And more importantly, to win the heart of his lady love Helen, who happens to be marrying a much more handsome and probably all-together better human being than Melvin.
Since he only works part-time, our boy Melvin apparently spends the rest of his time studying dark incantations and reading grimoires. I wouldn’t even know where to get a grimoire, but now I kind of want one. Melvin also has a literal pile of comic books in the corner of his basement, because there’s nothing comic book readers like more than being mocked for reading comic books while they’re reading a comic book.
It seems Melvin has already secured the ancient talisman he needs to disrupt the wedding. He grabs the box off a high shelf and holds it over his head while standing on top of the big pile of comics, like a literal king of the mountain. Melvin is on the verge of possibly his finest hour, when the world will stop mocking Melvin Weals and fall under the boot of his demon army! Sounds like a good time to fall on his ass.
But we don’t have time to worry about Melvin anymore, because we’ve got to travel several million light-years away to a Lila Cheney concert! Who is Lila Cheney, you ask? Why she’s an intergalatic, teleporting, mutant rock star, that’s who! And why she doesn’t appear in comics more often is beyond me. All of those descriptive words sound amazing!
Lila is on the biggest, loudest tour of her career, but all of that is about to change when her bodyguard/boyfriend/number one fan/star of this comic shows up: Guido “Strong Guy” Carosella! And this was 90s Guido, back when his body was oddly misshapen and he sported a single sprig of white hair. Because he’s a big boy and can style his own hair however he wants. Apparently one of Lila’s crew members has picked up a radio transmission that aliens are about to invade the Earth. Being a respectable D-list superhero with exactly zero clout in alien affairs, Strong Guy decides it’s up to him to return to Earth and save the day! Lila, being an intergalactic teleporter, is his only way home.
A little time in the Room of Many Strong Guy Faces convinces Lila to teleport him back to Earth, and she drops him off at X-Factor headquarters – except that by this time, X-Factor had been cancelled, and their base is now a moss-covered vacant building. It’s probably infested with rats and meth heads looking for copper wiring to scrap. It’s a very real, very scary thing, trust me.
Fortunately for Strong Guy, it’s still the 90s, so he finds a working pay phone outside a convenience store. When the X-Men don’t answer, he rings up the only other people he knows: Multiple Man and Wolfsbane! They’re currently hanging out on Muir Island watching Moira MacTaggert and Beast try and cure Mutant AIDS. Because what better way to run a lab than to let two random people loiter around.
Guido fills in his pals about the alien invasion, and they decide to help. But rather than let Beast stay in the lab to work on a cure for the Legacy Virus, they drag him along for some fun and shenanigans. Also, apparently, he’s the only one of them licensed to fly the Muir Island mini-Blackbird. So he’s their ride. And because this is a comic, a research facility has its own supersonic mini-jet.
Meanwhile, we rejoin Melvin as he arrives at the Donnybrook Country Club in the only car he could possibly own.
‘Swank’ was the 90s version of ‘swag’, which, obviously, Melvin has in spades.
Melvin apparently overslept, so he missed his chance to stop Helen’s actual wedding. But he’s decided to just go ahead and open the gates of Hell at the wedding reception, like one does. He heads down to the reception hall basement – because he loves basements – and begins the incantations! Stop me if you’ve heard of some of these…
Elsewhere, our heroes join up with Strong Guy, who has since lost his shirt. But that doesn’t matter because they’ve got an alien invasion to thwart! However, Beast jumps at the chance to rain on their parade since he knows important people and they all tell him there are no invading spaceships in Earth’s orbit. Still, to humor these poor chumps, Beast runs a random inter-dimensional anomaly scan, because they’ve got one of those on board. Sure enough, they pick up on Melvin’s little demon play date and it’s off to Vermont!
Much to Beast’s grumpy displeasure.
You know what might cheer him up? A fashion show!
Rather than let their friend walk around topless, Madrox and Wolfsbane take Guido into the back of the ship, where they’ve set up a Shi’ar Wardrobe Transmogrifier. Back in the 90s, the X-Men were all about wardrobe transmogrifiers. It was how they explained all the various costume changes or repairs over the years. Professor X didn’t host a sewing circle every time Wolverine got a run in his yellow spandex.
What proceeds is a marathon of costume changes as Strong Guy tries to pick out a new superhero uniform. The results are exceptionally insane.
Personally, I dig the Halloween outfit.
I think this comic was a backdoor pilot for some kind of Strong Guy series, and that last one was supposed to be the real deal new outfit for our beloved hero. It’s actually pretty subtle for a 90s superhero costume. Not a pouch or belt in sight. And that little ‘SG’ logo is to die for. What a blast. Everybody had so much fun picking out a new costume, might as well celebrate with some classic mutant angst.
Way to ruin the mood, Strong Guy – and it won’t be the last time. The guy apparently hates happy moments. But more on that later.
Because right now they’ve arrived at the reception hall, which is not only hosting the wedding reception, but also a Halloween party! I knew they’d get around to mentioning the holiday eventually. The X-heroes are ready to rush in to stop Melvin, until Wolfsbane reminds them that as a furry wolf girl, a blue-haired monkey man and a giant mountain of chin, they kind of stand out. She suggests they go in undercover.
So even though we just got Strong Guy a new costume not two pages ago, it’s back into the Shi’ar Wardrobe Transmogrifier!
Our troupe of trouble-seeking trick-or-treaters head into the party in search of something suspicious. Meanwhile, Melvin’s demonic incantations have turned the sky into a swirling demon cloud, so they know something is up – but they have no idea what is it they’re looking for! Maybe a random appearance by the Green Lantern could light the way.
Beast heads back to the ship to see if he can’t do something about the demon cloud up in the sky, while the others continue searching the party for the anomaly. But they’re too late. Melvin’s incantations are complete, and he’s managed to open a portal to Hell right there in the basement of the reception hall. Now all he needs to do is put on the ancient talisman and he will control an army of demons!
It’s time, folks, time for…
With the power of the Hell Toupee, Melvin’s demon armies arrive and the walls of the wedding reception start bleeding. The guests run for their lives, though in all honesty, it’s probably not the worst wedding reception some of them have been to, amiright folks?
At the party on the other side of the building, Strong Guy discovers the doorway down to the basement, which is glowing from the Hellish light inside. He smacks Madrox, popping out a duplicate, and orders the dupe to warn Wolfsbane and Beast about what they’ve found. Madrox is a little pissed that Strong Guy would just smack him around for dupes, but that’s what friends are for. The dupe meets up with Wolfsbane to compare notes. Beast has built a machine that should close the Demon Cloud Portal Thingy outside, but they don’t have much time. So Strong Guy starts smashing his way through the wall into the demonic wedding reception – where Hell Toupee Melvin has claimed his bride.
Don’t worry though, our heroes are hot on his tail!
Or no, wait, Strong Guy decided to first change back into his new uniform. Because a real hero can’t confront a demon army in all that Frankenstein makeup. He’s got to look his best for the big save.
So did he have the costume on underneath the Frankenstein getup? That still doesn’t exactly explain away the green makeup and neck bolts. Or did he run all the way back to the ship to use the Shi’ar Wardrobe Transmogrifier, hiding from Beast so as not to get scolded about priorities?
Still, can’t blame a guy for wanting to look his best when he saves the day.
Strong Guy informs Melvin that he and his pals have successfully emptied the reception hall, evacuating the wedding guests and the party-goers. That means Melvin’s demon army won’t have anyone to snack on when they arrive. And how can Melvin possibly control his demon army if they don’t get their people kibble?
But wait, look! The reception hall is still full of people!
Vampire Multiple Man for the win!
I mean, granted, that’s a lot of effort for something that really didn’t need to be done. What did it accomplish other than give Melvin a fleeting moment of hope that his plan might succeed? They wanted to get his hopes up one last time before dashing them completely. We all know Madrox will go to any length to set up a good joke, but way to really knock a guy when he’s down.
Speaking of which, Melvin runs back down into the basement and promptly falls on his face.
Oh Melvin, all you wanted to do was love.
The moment of truth has arrived! The demon army is coming through the portal, the demon cloud outside is getting bigger and bigger, there are no people to eat, Melvin is a loser; what are our heroes going to do?
They only thing they can do: put on a toupee and save the world!
Do you know what that was right there? That was the honor code that demons have to live by! Rock!
Those demons understand the demon honor code. Strong Guy is wearing the ‘toup’ and so they’ve got to do what he says. Also, why hasn’t the word ‘toup’ caught on yet? Probably because men are still so afraid to admit that they’re even wearing toupees to give them a fun nickname. From now on, everybody start referring to that thing on Donald Trump’s head as a ‘toup’. The world will be a better place.
The demons retreat and close up their portal, which coincides nicely with Beast’s attempts to close the Demon Cloud outside. So who saved the day? Strong Guy and his Hell Toupee or Beast and his anti-Demon Cloud ray?
Either way, Halloween is saved! The bad guys are gone! Strong Guy is a hero! And Lila Cheney teleports back to Earth to pick him up. Everybody starts saying their fond farewells, and then Strong Guy – killer of happy moods – sticks his foot in his mouth once again. He tells Lila that he can’t leave yet because he hasn’t seen all of his old friends yet, like Alex Summers – who, when this comic was published, just so happened to be dead.
Take that, good mood! We’ll have none of you today!
And that’s how Strong Guy leaves his friends, cut off from even finishing his ‘I love you’. Halloween is clearly not a time for happiness and love, it seems. That’s got to be one of the most depressing endings ever. We better find something to cheer us back up. Say…whatever happened to that alien invasion Strong Guy went to Earth to stop in the first place?
Oh those wacky Jamaican aliens! All’s well that ends well, I suppose. The demon army was stopped. Both the wedding and Halloween were saved – though I think that party was a total bust – and Strong Guy awkwardly made his friends think about death and stuff. What better way to celebrate the holiday than being reminded that your friend is dead?
And what better way to celebrate than with the greatest superhero Halloween adventure of all time! I hope you enjoyed this story. Tune in next time, when Strong Guy really does become the ruler of Hell, though he doesn’t need a flaming toupee to do it.