The Greatest Stingray Comic Ever Written!
I don’t know why, but I’ve been on a real tirade about the superhero Stingray for awhile now. I’ve always been a fan of the character, ever since I discovered him flipping through some of my dad’s old comic book periodicals when I was a kid. He’s just plain neat, with a really cool costume.
And this past week, I discovered the greatest Stingray comic ever written.
Big props to Henchie chipsiup for pointing me towards last week’s Deadpool #7, which featured a back-up Stingray comic written by Tim Seeley, with art by Mike Norton and Veronica Gandini. The comic also features back-up stories about Terror, Foolkiller, Slapstick and the other Mercs for Money, but I didn’t read them. So maybe this was also the greatest Slapstick comic ever written. We’ll never know. All that matters is that Seeley, Norton and Gandini have produced something truly amazing.
I say this without sarcasm or irony. I’m not making fun of anybody. I’m literally just a really big Stingray fan, and this creative team fulfilled every single possible nerd desire I could possibly have about the character. They explain why he’s teamed up with Deadpool and the Mercs for Money, it gives us insight into Stingray’s personal life, and more important than that, it’s the greatest possible showcase of just how cool Stingray can be.
So join me after the jump, if you’d like, to see just how amazing I found this short little comic. SPOILERS, in case you want to go out and find it yourself. It’s pretty freakin’ great, you guys.
To set this up, Stingray is Walter Newell, an oceanographer who invented a special diving suit to explore and work on the ocean floor. That it looks like a superhero costume and is modeled after stingrays is just icing on the cake. That’s the kind of world Newell lives in. He debuted in the late 1960s as a supporting character in the Submariner comics, and eventually he went on to join the Avengers for a brief time. Mostly he’s just been a minor character, popping up every now and again for a little adventure here or there.
Heck, he even made a brief appearance in the 90s Iron Man cartoon! Skip ahead to 3:55 in the video — though in doing so, you’ll miss the badass theme song.
And yes, there was a 90s Iron Man cartoon. It was pretty cool.
At any rate, most recently, Stingray has joined Deadpool and his super team, the Mercs for Money. It’s basically Deadpool and a bunch of other crazy, violent characters making money as mercenaries. And Stingray joined them for some reason. Reading his bio, as a former Avenger, it’s not clear why.
But Seeley, Norton and Gandini make it crystal clear, my friends.
The story starts with Deadpool and the Mercs for Money battling a band of pirates who have commandeered a cruise ship. The lead pirate, who has fashioned herself after an old Submariner villain named Black Patch, is making her escape on a jet-ski. Stingray is called in to help, and he does, comically.
And his teammates tease him relentlessly about it afterwards.
So you can see the obvious set-up here, and it’s pretty great. The scene ends with Stingray collecting his paycheck from Deadpool and then leaving the rest of them to continue the party. He’s got work to do. He transforms into his regular costume and he calls his wife to check in on her and the kids. I didn’t even know he was married!
The issue then begins in for real, with the greatest, most earnest Stingray story ever written. What follows is a tour of Stingray’s life, told through art and story. In his conversation with his wife, Stingray explains that he’s taken the job with Deadpool for the money. Science doesn’t pay all that much, and as a family, they need the extra money. What family out there doesn’t have similar struggles? Walter clearly loves his wife and his kids, and they seem to have a nice little bond. It’s a shame he has to be away from them, but that’s life nowadays.
While he’s having this conversation, Norton and Gandini draw some amazing undersea visuals. And that’s the real clincher for why this short story is so great. Whereas Stingray comes off as a joke to the rest of the Mercs with Money, they’re all violent, greedy psychopaths. Whereas Walter lives a pretty stunning life. They joke about him being the team’s Aquaman, but just look at the world he inhabits.
He dodges falling rocks, he does battle with a shark, all while having a nice, normal conversation with his wife. We already know that Aquaman isn’t really a joke, and Seeley and the art team defend both Aquaman and Stingray with this simple, gorgeous sequence.
We obviously won’t be getting a $130 million-grossing Stingray movie anytime soon. But Seeley, Norton and Gandini tell a short story that defines the idea that ‘there are no bad characters’. It’s all about how you use them. And while this short probably wouldn’t guarantee a Stingray ongoing series, it’s still a fantastic look into the life of a nice, content C-list superhero. He’s not a star, but he still lives in the Marvel Universe and has a pretty cool life.
The story ends in the best way possible. Stingray arrives at one of his underwater hydrobases, and he touches base with Steve Rogers.
How cool is that for an ending? Stingray isn’t some has-been former Avenger, he’s still on friendly terms with Captain America. Heck, he’s reporting on the weird Deadpool activities to Cap, who I think is working with SHIELD these days? Yeah, that sounds about right.
So there we have it. A simple little back-up feature in the latest issue of Deadpool turns out to be the greatest Stingray comic ever written or drawn. This is one of the reasons I love comics so much. A very minor, even obscure character that I have loved since childhood can still get a random and amazing comic written about them in 2016. That’s just fantastic.