Wednesday, April 17, 2013

October 1970: Captain America Stars in "Calamity on Campus Part XXXVIII!!!"

Astonishing Tales 2
Dr. Doom
Our Story

Having stopped the rebellion, Doctor Doom also stops the robot Rudolfo from escaping his dungeon, and Doom is actually shocked to learn it was the same robot who abdicated the Latverian throne to him! The Faceless One comes out of hiding, disclosing he has taken over The Doomsman android, who leaves non-stop carnage in his wake. Back at the castle, Ramona almost fires on Doom, but it was just a test by the Master of Menace. Armed with robot-smashing rifles, Rudolfo’s rebels march on the village, until Doom himself joins the fray, protected by a Nulli-Screen. The Faceless One then uses his spheroid to sneak into the castle, and he and Doom battle quickly to a stalemate, until The Doomsman barges in, torn between his two masters!

JT: There is a lot going on in this half issue, and it all flies by so fast, with quick Tony Scott-esque cuts, that it’s really hard to take it all in. That said, it’s a little bit of an upgrade from issue #1, and both Roy and Wally Wood do the best they can with limited space. The Faceless One, complete with old-school scuba helmet and dime store utility belt, makes for a fairly unoriginal villain, but Doom’s superiority complex and dastardly dialogue more than make up for it. But I have to say, with his bad attitude and incredible smugness, it’s no wonder the good Doctor built so many robot friends to keep him company.

MB: It’s a shame this series didn’t make it, because Doom really is one of the few Marvel villains, if not the only one, interesting enough to sustain his own strip. I like the Ruritanian milieu of the machinations behind the throne of Latveria, while the rocket-packs give the proceedings a retro Buck Rogers feel, and there’s a nice symmetry in focusing on the robot/android simulacra of Rudolfo and Doom.  It’s a pleasure to see Wally Wood associated with Marvel again (although, according to the Marvel Comics Database, “there is strong speculation that [future G.I. Joe writer] Larry Hama should be credited for” Wood’s work on the prior issue), especially as his distinctive style is so refreshingly different from their other artists’.

SM: I found myself strangely involved in this extremely well-drawn tale. Wally Wood does amazing work, the most realistically done art in the Marvel line. I'm finding myself swept into Doom's power struggles and the history of Latveria. I didn't like it much last issue, but this story picked up and got me going. The jet packs made them look like they were floating, rather than zipping around, and there a pleasant retro feel to the art. Beats the hell out of the Ka-Zar half of this book.

Our Story

A shirtless Ka-Zar, otherwise wearing well-tailored khakis, shows up at a swanky NYC hotel demanding to see Kraven. And the Hunter obliges, setting off a battle in the lobby that Kraven wins with the help of his Bola-Net and Tranquilizer Spray. But the powerful primitive was pretending, and breaks out of the net to call to Zabu, who Kraven holds captive 40 floors up. The slumbering sabretooth shakes off the tranquilizers and attacks a returning Kraven! The rascally Russian stuns the beast, only to take on Ka-Zar in a frenzied fight that ends up on the ledge of the apartment. As the mysterious Petrified Man shows up to soothe Zabu, the donnybrook rages on outside, until a stun blast from an injured Kraven allows him to escape. Then the Petrified Man tells the Jungle Lord he must be returned to the Savage Land, or both he and Ka-Zar’s homeland will perish!

JT: An action-packed cover promises some high-flying action from both tales, and in the case of Ka-Zar, Lord of the Jungle, it’s no lie. Terrific Kirby/Grainger battle scenes (some oddly-inked panels notwithstanding) are the obvious highlight, but Roy Thomas’ script is packed with fun asides from the hotel occupants and over-the-top, slightly clichéd dialogue that, coming from two of Marvel’s most over-the-top characters (who both have English as a second language), make for a most enjoyable 18 pages. Kraven has some bag of tricks in his arsenal too, like a regular Felix the Cat. And he’s not exactly a people person either, with statements like “Bah! Out of the way, you worthless human cattle!” How did he land a room at the Arlington Arms? He might be loaded, but I doubt he tips well, if at all!

MBLike its Amazing Adventures brethren, this story was obviously stockpiled by Kirby (inked once again by Grainger) before he defected, and with Roy replacing Stan, he’s writing both halves of the book for one issue; big changes afoot next time.  The art is, to say the least, a mixed bag: the figure of Ka-Zar on the splash page reminded me more of Barry Smith imitating Kirby than it did of Kirby, while his face in page 4, panel 3 and page 5, panel 3 (see left) looked…well, not like any drawing by Jolly Jack that I’ve ever seen.  At the other end of the spectrum from the recently departed King, let us note the arrival of the Petrified Man, whose name, we shall learn, is Garokk, and who will figure in tales of the Savage Land for many a year.

SM: More Kirby inventory and it's, well, pretty awful. Just the splash alone is freakish as is the depiction of Kraven in the center panel of page 9. WTH? Roy isn't helping with things like Ka-Zar and Kraven's "when vs if" dialog. The only cool aspect was seeing The Petrified Man; he looks like someone out of those old horror mags from the early 60's just prior to the FF's debut. I find it impossible to get into Ka-Zar's adventures. This half baked Tarzan just does nothing for me.

The Avengers 81
Our Story

This month's issue opens with cap, Thor, and Iron Man wondering if the split decision last time is a sign of the coming of the end of the Avengers. Black Panther isn't so sure, yet he still leaves to attend to saving the young lives of his students in Harlem while the others seek out Zodiac. Meanwhile the rest of the team goes with Red Wolf after Van Lunt to avenge the murder of the Indian's family. An aerial attack by Van Lunt brings down the Quinjet. After the crash the villain's henchmen capture the Vision and Scarlet Witch after Vision resolved not to put Wanda's life in danger by attacking. Worse, Van Lunt uses the same leverage to make the Vision his personal body guard. At the same time, Goliath and Red Wolf search in vain to find their two missing teammates and go to Red Wolf's local village to lead his people against Van Lunt. He has trouble convincing them of his identity to the chief, who does not want to come off as an "Uncle Tomahawk(!)" When Van Lunt's goons attack, and Goliath and Red Wofl defeat them, the tribe casts off their "Uncle Tomahawk(!)" label and join in the attack launching at Van Lunt's desert hideaway. However, he is protected by The Vision who, when confronted by Goliath, can "say no more!" As the giant and the android fight, Red Wolf and a group of Indians at atop a nearby dam, poised to destroy it. Van Lunt goes to stop them with Wanda in tow. Her hex powers return in time to keep the Indians from being killed, but the battle has weakened the dam. It collapses, sweeping away Van Lunt, Lobo and Red Wolf. However, Red Wolf appears in his civilian identity at the end, casting off his vengeance-ridden identity and resumes his life among his tribe.

SM: But what about Lobo? Is the poor wolf dead? And Uncle Tomahawk?!!!! Seriously? If there's a line between a message and effing stupidity, then we've pole vaulted right over it. Okay, sure, according to my friend Wikipedia, this is a real term, but it's just too ridiculous to contemplate.
Having the team split is being blown way out of proportion by the overdramatic Avengers at the start. Sometimes splitting a team is the best way to cover a bunch of crises. And having four Avengers "refuse to abide by a majority decision" doesn't make much sense when four Avengers vote to go one way, four vote to go another and the remaining one wants to focus on something else. There was no majority decision!

MB: In a comic book, it’s probably a given that when your heroes split up to tackle allegedly separate cases, it will be just a matter of time before those cases are found to be linked in some way, but we apparently have to wait until next issue for confirmation.  Meanwhile, John Buscema’s artwork is still being spoiled by that dingy look, and since the lettercol reveals that Tom Palmer has also colored every issue he’s inked except #80—where, significantly, it did not bother me—perhaps the trouble lies there.  It seems clear from this issue that the Vision/Wanda romance is already in the cards (while, in a curious juxtaposition, more than one correspondent in Captain America has suggested that she would be a better match for Cap than Sharon Carter).

PE: Witness: the umpteenth round of MARMIS played between The Vision and Goliath: "I could take ten seconds to explain why I'm about to pound you but why bother?" Marvel at: a multi-millionaire who can bring The Avengers to its collective knee but dresses his huge gang (must be at least a half dozen of these goons) in 1920s mobster wear! Guffaw when you realize: a Native American, with no super powers to speak of, not only survives the full force of a broken dam but has the foresight to pack an extra pair of civvies somewhere in the desert! Wonder in awe at: a middle-aged Marvel professor, direly in need of a nap, who actually finished this sub-par Roy Thomas story without falling asleep.

SM: The Vision could have explained to Goliath in five seconds by telling him that "Scarlet Witch is being held hostage by Van Lunt!" Instead, we get a contrived reason to fight because the Vision refuses to talk. Yet he can chitter chatter about everything fricking else. An okay ending to another two-parter. It could have been great, but thanks to some missteps, it's merely average. A waste of a great Red Wolf backstory last issue. Also, apparently the events in this issue don't happen at the same time as Captain America or Thor since both of those mags have their title characters either on the road or trapped with Satan. This is why Stan pulled the marquee characters out of the book, to keep from having continuity issues (which happened anyway). Getting them back in this title is great, it gives more motivation for me to read it, but I then wonder if this is happening before or after the current crises in the other books.

Conan the Barbarian 1
Our Story

In the Northern land of Vanaheim, the young mercenary Conan the Cimmerian has joined the Aesir in their war against the Vanir. After Conan comes to the rescue of Aesir leader Olav, the Vanir flee. While escaping, Volff, the leader of the Vanir, comes across a hidden temple occupied by an old man named The Shaman and his beautiful handmaiden, Tara. The Shaman promises Volff victory over the Aesir if he can deliver Conan. Meanwhile, Conan and the Aesir have caught up to the wounded Vanir army and engage the survivors. Suddenly, three winged demons appear from the skies, kill Olav, and capture Conan. The Cimmerian awakes to find himself caged in The Shaman’s temple. Using the Star-Stone, The Shaman conjurers up unearthly visions of the future, including one of Conan as King of all Hyboria. Enraged, Conan hacks through the bars of his cell and smashes the Star-Stone, unleashing an inferno that engulfs the chamber, killing The Shaman and Volff. Conan flees with Tara in tow. Outside of the destroyed temple, Tara transforms into one of the winged demons. As she dies, Tara informs Conan that he was to be her replacement as The Shaman’s cursed companion.

TF: The Hyborian Age meets the Bronze Age in the “first time in comic book form” adventure of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Well, at least that’s what the cover says. In fact, a blond-haired character named Conan appeared in issue #15 of the 1965 Mexican comic La Reina de la Costa Negra aka Queen of the Black Coast. But since popular culture in Mexico played fast and loose with copyrights during the 1960s, we can safely assume that this was not a licensed situation. As the story goes in the late 60s, Stan and Roy noticed that Marvel readers were clamoring for a sword-and-sorcery hero. While both were fairly inexperienced with the genre, Stan told Roy to dash off a memo to Marvel publisher Martin Goodman about how there might be profit in paying $150 a month to license a major character from the pulp paperbacks popular at the time. Since Stan liked the character’s name best, Roy first approached the agent of author Lin Carter, the creator of “Thongor of Lemuria.” When he declined, Roy sent the letter to the estate of Robert E. Howard — but unbeknownst to Goodwin, Thomas upped the ante to $200. When the offer was quickly accepted, Roy, in a bit of panic, decided he better write the series so that he could pony up the extra $50 himself if Goodman came a knocking. Stan didn’t want to assign a major artist to what was a bit of a long shot, so Barry Smith got the job. As we know, Smith was basically a Bullpen pitch hitter, filling in for X-Men and other titles. But it actually made sense, since Roy and Smith had already collaborated on a story about Starr the Slayer, a Conan ripoff that appeared in issue 4 of Chamber of Darkness. And, by Crom, a legend was born — again, for “the first time in comic book form.” P.S. Not to wear out my welcome, but that last page is killer. And oh, spellcheck is useless on this damn comic!

JT: Great stuff, Prof. Tom! Having only owned a few Conans back in the day, I'm thinking I missed the boat on some solid story-telling. Crom!

PE: Though the first issue is a delight to read, there's really no evidence here of the cultural phenomena this comic would become. Barry Smith is still stuck in that cartoony mode he was in when penciling The X-Men and The Avengers last year but it also could be the inker he's saddled with, Dan Adkins. We'll see Barry's style morph and solidify over time on this title and, eventually, we'll be forced to nod in agreement with all the praise the strip accrued. There's no doubt, however, that elements of Conan are groundbreaking -- there had never been a more violent or sexual Marvel comic book (at least in the Silver Age); it's evident the barbarian's foes are not victims of flesh wounds and broken bones after their battles and the sensuality (though there's only a bit of bare bosom on display) is bubbling under the surface. I'd argue this is the second most influential Marvel comic book of the 1970s (after Giant-Size X-Men #1 of course) evidenced by all the spin-offs and rip-offs. This initial title managed to last 275 issues (December 1993), far outnumbering the original stories of Robert E. Howard. Credit the comic i.q. of Roy Thomas for guessing Conan would catch on with comic fans. I've never read a Conan comic in my life but this one's got me wanting more.

SM: Good lord, this was the best book I've read in months, a title that will grow quickly into something very special indeed. For now, it hints at this greatness around the edges. It is a fine start and Barry Smith is already breaking free of his Kirby imitations. It is still weird art, but it has power, life and energy (although the narration box at the top of page 2 is pasted right over a character's lower face). A great cover and a grim, unrelenting, humorless tone help cement the epic nature of this fantasy series. I was never a follower of Conan and I'm not a fan of "barbarian heroes" in general, but I'm looking forward to watching this unfold. This is also some of Roy's best writing. He obviously was into the character and the world of Conan and he drew me in effortlessly. An auspicious beginning and one of the few popular Marvel Mags to take place outside the rest of the Marvel Universe.

Captain America 130
Our Story

Steve is at the movies (RIP Roger Ebert) watching a film about himself as Cap fighting the Hulk. The typically rude audience is yapping throughout, bitching at how unrealistic Cap is in the movies and how he isn't "relevant in today's world." Now newly disgusted with everyone, Steve goes back on his bike to see America (hopefully the rest of America is less obnoxious). He's stopped by a road block and Cap goes on ahead right into a massive student riot. After saving the dean from the rampaging students, Cap is approached by a TV producer, who asks him to do a single appearance on television. However, a masked villain is behind it, planning to have Cap deliver an anti-youth address. Cap doesn't go for it and makes his own speech. The mystery villain has Batroc the Leaper, Whirlwind and The Porcupine attack Cap at the TV studio. Cap defeats them and they get away, and the mystery villain is still a mystery.

And Hugh Hefner as... The Hood
SM: This is one of the most episodic issues ever. One pointless event after another on a twisty path to nowhere. The guy talking in the theater looks like Rocky Dennis from MASK. Peter Parker makes a one panel cameo, for some reason assigned way out of town to take pictures of the TV show. WTF? Since when is Jonah Jameson interested in that crap? All around, another loser issue. Why did that douche go see a movie about Cap if he hated him so much? To score points with his girl? Cuz after that scathing review, he's probably talked his way out of a boning. And, again, why is Cap an out-dated square and the rest of the Marvel dudes a-okay? This book is tiresome and a real chore these days. Poor inking ruins Gene's pencils, poor writing ruins this title.  Don't even care who the mystery villain is, or why he knows Cap's every move along his random route. Next.

MB: The splash page admits this one “may not make much sense,” so maybe I should give it a pass, yet the aspect that bothered me the most was one Stan should’ve had down pat long ago, i.e., Cap’s character, since he comes across here as a wise-ass and a pill.  The Dick Ayers WTF Panel of the Month Award goes to page 8, panel 3, in which the left side of the student’s face has evidently melted; the runner-up is the next panel, where the same character appears to have been drawn by an entirely different artist.  And what’s with Whirlwind?  Cap seems to have forgotten they met in Avengers #46, yet his confusion is understandable, because Whirly is inexplicably wearing a new costume that bears no resemblance to the one on the cover!

Cette édition est pleine de la merde
PE: If I had shelled over my hard-earned dime and a nickel for this swill back in the day, I'd have taken crayola to paper and written a Mad Marvel Missive to Stan and Gene (ignoring Dick) complaining about all the dumb stuff this issue has to offer. For instance, let's delve back into my pet peeve with this title: the general amnesia of the American public in re: the secret identity of Captain America. Only months before (in Marvel Time) everyone and their pet terrier knew Steve Rogers was Captain America. Now, ostensibly with the Neuron Beam Nick Fury and SHIELD unleashed upon the populace, no one knows who Cap is. Yet there he is, every issue, doing his darndest to let out that "secret." Here he not only engages in a conversation with a couple at a Captain America vs. The Hulk film (at least I think it's Steve -- you can't tell from the art) but also rides through town as Steve Rogers and returns on the same moped as Cap! And how about that Cap movie? When did Hollywood come up with a blockbuster starring two heroes and why weren't we informed? Was Captain America cut in on a piece of the profits or was he as screwed as Jack "The King" Kirby when it came time to reward royalties? I'll be relieved when we've exited out of these turbulent times when every little American town had a school riot but I'm fairly sure we've not seen the last of the "Producer who offers the hero a chunk of change to make a film" ploy. Why does Batroc Zee Leaper speak perfect English except for the cliched "French words" like Zee and Thees? Why would The Hood wear a Hood when he's all alone in his domicile? How long will this silly Easy Rider tour of Cap's continue? If I lived in the line of travel, I'd get out of town fast. Please tell me Stainless Steel is on his way quickly (he can even ride in on a chopper) to rescue me from such mediocrity. LOL-dialogue of the month has to go to Captain America when he chides the school's dean for hiding in his office while the students batter-ram his door. Not everyone carries a shield.

Daredevil 69
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Daredevil crimps the plans of the “Black Power” gang the Thunderbolts, but when the getaway truck crashes, he discovers that the driver is a teen. Carrying the kid to help, Daredevil is approached by . . . the Black Panther! In the hospital (staffed by a couple of nurses drooling over our masked heroes) the Panther explains that he was helping a schoolteacher “friend” to figure out what was wrong with the hospitalized boy, Lonnie, who now has no will to live. The dark Avenger had saved Lonnie and his Veteran brother Billy from being accosted by the Thunderbolts when they refused to join up. DD isn’t (yet) as forthcoming about how he knew about the gang’s plans tonight, but drags the Panther to the Thunderbolts hideout. Turning off the lights gives the Panther and Daredevil a distinct advantage and after a lot of biff, bang, boff and gunfire they, with Billy’s help, manage to stop the gang.  The dynamic duo drop Billy off at the hospital to save his brother, and after this, all is disclosed!  T’Challa (the Panther) admits he is Luke Turner, Lonnie’s schoolteacher, and says he knows that DD (astounded!) is Matt Murdock! Billy tells Lonnie he was working undercover for the D.A.’s office to stop the gang.  There’s more than we’ve seen in the Thunderbolt’s actions and our two heroes look forward to the second round.

NC:  Well, I have not a lot of knowledge about the Black Panther, but what an awesome couple!  I
thought this issue was one of the best racially motivated comics I have ever read.  Not too preachy, not too heavy, but with a lot of equality and compassion built in.  I loved the DD comments flying around:  “license from Sears and Roebuck”, “like a bat out of Helsinki” – Roy Thomas kept me on the edge of my seat and laughing my head off at the same time!

JB: Funny how the black nurse likes T’Challa and the white one Daredevil, even though they can barely see any skin under those costumes. The bit about the crooked cop helping the Thunderbolts out…is that a clue to the next part of our story? Despite coming from different worlds, the Panther and Daredevil blend smoothly; I could see them hanging out more often. DD often gets the more human villains (literally, not compassionately); this gives his mag the right grounds to explore some tough issues, i.e. the racism here.

MB:  Aptly, given the chemistry DD and the Panther showed as far back as #52, this issue was reprinted (uncut, for once) in Jungle Action #23, with a fantabulous John Byrne cover, when the Dreaded Deadline Doom struck the Panther’s own mag.  Well, if this isn’t a recipe for the perfect Gene Colan issue, I don’t know what is:  a story that takes place mostly at night or in the shadows, starring one guy who’s blind and another who’s dressed entirely in black.  Roy is obviously going for topicality on multiple fronts—race relations, gang violence, Vietnam vets, peaceful protest vs. militant resistance—but for me, at least, this tale avoids the preachy tone of so many others and comes across as an effective plea for brotherhood in every sense of the word.

SM: Ah good, another tale of racial strife. We haven’t had one of these in about fifteen minutes. Still, it was a decent enough issue, DD fighting crime in parts of NY Spider-Man wouldn't be caught dead in. Teaming up with the Black Panther is always a good time, but honestly, if he knows Matt Murdock is DD, shouldn't T'Challa come clean about his secret teaching identity? Some last minute product placement with a Coca-Cola reference at the very end, complete with logo. T'Challa tosses his friend's secrets to the wind by calling him Matt while outside and discussing his blindness while they travel. What a pal!

Fantastic Four 103
Our Story

Reed contacts President Nixon and convinces him to hold off Earth’s military from attacking Namor’s fleet of ships from Atlantis until he can try to reason with undersea monarch. While the Sub-Mariner was pushed into this likely war scenario by Magneto, the mutant (whose selfish intentions are not yet clear to him), he is cautious of a full-fledged attack. Magneto grows impatient, and uses his power to launch a missile from Namor’s ship. The approaching Fantastic Four detonate the missile. It seems a battle is imminent. Magneto takes advantage of the moment with his own plan. While the F.F. are busy with Namor, Magneto nabs an arriving Invisible Girl (nabbing her metal Aero-car that is), and likewise Lady Dorma, who thinks it is her hubby-Subby who’s running the show. When the F.F. and Namor see Magneto and his captive ladies on the view screen of the Atlantean ship, they see they’ve been backed into a fish tank, and the mutant holds all the cards.

JB: I was surprised how much I enjoyed this issue. Namor wasn’t being duped too blindly, and Reed was on top of things trying to stave off WW 3. I should say President “Nixon,” since he’s not actually named. I’m fascinated by Agatha Harkness; too bad her part here is brief, but I know she’s in many issues upcoming. Is that a hint of boy Franklin’s abilities when she says, “Someday perhaps, we shall tell her just how much WE know”? Looking forward to what’s next…

MB: With typical restraint, a Bullpen Bulletin advises us, “For sheer, pulsating power—for spine-tingling scenes that stagger the imagination—combined with biting satire and raw, rugged realism from the pen of Stan Lee, you dare not miss” the Romita FF, inked by John Verpoorten.  Although I prefer Buscema’s forthcoming rendition, Jazzy Johnny not surprisingly does an entirely creditable job, particularly on the acid test, drawing the Thing.  Stan’s script for this continuation of the Magneto/Sub-Mariner trilogy is both fast-moving—no doubt accelerated by the absence of two pages from my Marvel’s Greatest Comics reprint—and eventful, avoiding that “middle-third syndrome” in which relatively little happens, and leaving us panting for more.

PE: MARMIS alert! MARMIS alert! In the same sentence, Sue exclaims to baby Franklin (about Agatha Harkness' abode): "I still get shivers each time I come here but at least I know you're safe here!" Huh? Sue and Dorma prove yet again that a Marvel dame's place is as a hostage. Seems as though, now that we've entered the second century of FF issues, it's just as unremarkable as the beginning of the first.

And starring Milton Berle as... Magneto!
SM: The first FF issue ever to be drawn by someone other than Jack and it's average. Not bad, really, and probably better than anyone had a right to expect. John Romita is not assisted well by John Verpoorten and his pencils suffer (Magneto looks a little too Snidely Whiplash kind of evil for me). Romita has said that he specialized in imitation, and Stan mentioned that when John takes over a title, most people don't notice the change in artist. I call shenanigans. It's obviously not Jack Kirby here. It's a decent enough time waster, just a prolonged battle between the FF and the manipulated Namor. The book hit a brief slump as it recovered from the loss of the King, but time has dulled the edges and it's not as bad is it once felt to me. Richard Nixon makes an appearance and, as usual, Stan grabs a catchphrase and makes him utter it in this issue and the next ("let us try to lower our voices"). It's obvious and cheap, but whatever.

JT: I had completely forgotten Romita tackled the FF. Maybe not the best choice for them, but it's Romita, so it's great!

The Incredible Hulk 132
Our Story

Thunderbolt Ross and his military troops finally have the Hulk in their clutches.  Imprisoned at a military base, the Hulk is unable to escape.  Jim Wilson leaves to go home since he feels bad for his role in setting the Hulk up last issue.  Ross assigns Major Talbot to follow him but Wilson loses him when he boards a mysterious small ship that has been waiting for him at his burned out slum.  The ship takes him to an even larger one that is used by the vile Hydra organization.  They want Jim to help them take the Hulk away from the military base and to convince him, they show him film footage of the Hulk being viciously attacked by various military weaponry.  Jim doesn't know that the footage is actually showing a robot Hulk used for testing.  Using his military pass along with tricking Thunderbolt Ross, Jim is able to free the Hulk from his bondage so that the Hydra ship can pull the Hulk up onto their vessel through the roof.  Once he's aboard with Jim, the Hydra boss makes his intentions clear as he gloats out loud how they will use the Hulk to rule the world.  When Jim tries to intervene, he is struck down, which causes the Hulk to break his shackles and to go on a rampage.  Jim is accidently injured when a blast bounces off the Hulk and hits him.  With the Hulk destroying their ship and defeating the hydra troops, the bad guys decide to escape in smaller vessels.  The story ends with the hulk landing back on the ground with Jim, vowing vengeance against the world if his friend doesn't recover.

TM:  I could have dealt without Betty's theatrics this issue, along with Jim Wilson quickly wearing out his welcome in just his second appearance but the jive talking Wilson is already starting to equal Rick Jones in the annoying category.  I know that the characters' dialogue is a product of its time, but I still can't help but feel that it was a little over the top, even for back then.  If Wilson was deemed so important by Ross then why didn't he just simply order him to be detained?  Makes a lot more sense than sending Major Talbot  (a major!) out to follow him like a spy through the inner-city.  The Hydra clowns also make for bad protagonists since it's hard to take them seriously as a threat.  Watching the Hulk mop up the floor with them is no different then watching him beat up on the helpless military.  The only thing to commend in this comic was the artwork.  I sure hope that Jim Wilson doesn't start up his own Ghetto Teen Brigade next issue.

MB: Once again, John Severin inks Trimpe’s work almost beyond recognition, leaving the reader to contemplate Hydra’s bizarre scheme, which is somewhat reminiscent of the Mandarin’s ill-advised attempt to form an allegiance with the Hulk in #107-108.  After they have executed this meticulously laid plan to obtain Greenskin, their attitude once he predictably wakes up on the wrong side of the manacle is, in effect, “Gee, he looks pretty pissed—maybe we should forget the whole thing.”  Really?  Did they somehow think that, because they’re dressed in green, he would feel solidarity with them?  And how about that great Air Force base security—a skinny ragamuffin walks in and pops open a vent, they airlift the Hulk out of there, and nobody notices?

SM:. Jim betrays the Army while being duped by Hydra and Roy bends over backward to make sure General Ross is reasonable about it. Does this sound like Thunderbolt Ross to you? The guy who verbally beat the crap out of Rick Jones every chance he got? This smells a lot of a "Ross is not a racist" than anything else. The softening of old Thunderbolt continues while Betty freaks out. Again. Ugh. At least they had the sense to make her mentally unstable in the issues to come. John Severin sketches another issue, pretty much burying Trimpe's own style in a so-so story,

The Invincible Iron Man 30
Our Story

 After demonstrating some new technology to Prof. Goro Watanabe, an expert in detection devices; his assistant, Toru Tarakato; and his daughter and secretary, Fujiko, Iron Man accompanies their expedition to investigate electro-magnetic emissions from an island in the Sea of Japan.  The appearance of a flying monster seems to confirm the legends of a demon, Zoga the Unthinkable, but after the expedition flees an initial encounter—during which Toru mysteriously vanishes—we learn that Zoga is a machine operated by the masked Monster-Master, funded by the Red Chinese.  Back in Japan, their warnings are ignored until Zoga attacks, and when Stark’s parabolic mirror downs Zoga with its own laser beam, the Monster-Master is unmasked as Toru.

MB: Writer Allyn Brodsky’s brief stint begins inauspiciously with this homage to the Japanese kaiju eiga (monster movie), a subgenre that had ironically entered a steep decline after the illness and death of special-effects wizard Eiji Tsuburaya.  The characterizations and subplots are as rushed and sketchy as the artwork, with Chic Stone’s inks giving Don Heck’s pencils absolutely no help whatsoever…and if you didn’t guess that the conveniently absent Toru would turn out to be our villain, go to the rear of the class.  The pièce de résistance is the cover, which not only depicts a scene found nowhere inside, but also manages to get wrong the bad guy’s name (the Monster of Death) and his entire m.o. (attacking Shellhead with a samurai sword in some Japanese village).

JS: I'll admit I'm a sucker when it comes to Japanese monster movies. But even I found it somewhat disturbing that (with very few exceptions) almost every Japanese character that populated this issue was drawn without open eyes!

SM: Japan is threatened by a giant laser firing dragon. Really, so now we're doing Rodan riffs? Yes, it turns out to be a robot controlled by a Shogun Warrior (the toy) reject, but still. Iron Man exposes his identity and nobody catches it; on page 2, he says "Now you see why I am unwilling to license the secret of these rays!" It's common knowledge IM is Stark's bodyguard and not an inventor. Oops. With the scheming Asians and Don Heck at the pencils, this is sort of a throwback to the Tales of Suspense days. Only much, much longer. A poorly drawn by the numbers tale of sinister businessmen and revenge filled America hating Japanese. Another cover dominated by Iron Man's ass.

JS: For what it's worth, I'd just as soon read Marvel's Godzilla and Shogun Warriors titles than another issue of Iron Man versus a generic Japanese Giant.

The Amazing Spider-Man 89
Our Story

Peter/Spidey is more than content that Doctor Octopus is “kaput” after last ish’s climactic plane explosion, until he spots a Bugle story that says there was no trace of Ock in the wreckage. Randy Robertson (son of Robbie) spots Pete and asks him to commit to an air pollution protest, but stopping Doc Ock takes precedence. Hiding in the shadows, the diabolical Doc vows to crush Spider-Man forever! After an hour of swinging and searching, and a quick aside to everyone’s favorite cigar-chomping curmudgeon J. Jonah Jameson, Spidey spots the metal-appendaged madman trying to wreck the city’s main power plant! He engages the angry and determined Ock in a balls-to-the-wall battle that’s as evenly matched as it is ruthless and power-packed. But when Ock topples a water tower, Spidey races to stops it, balancing it on his back on a rooftop ledge to try and save the crowd below, which he does! Then Ock seizes his opportunity and throws the wiped-out wall-crawler off the roof, seemingly to his death!

JT: “Sugar-Lips” Gil Kane, famed for his fantastic Silver Age work on DC’s Green Lantern and Atom, takes over penciling duties on Amazing, the “personal choice” of Jazzy Johnny according to the Bullpen Bulletin, but with Romita on inks and as “artist-emeritus”, this issue seems like a hybrid of the two at times, but at the same time a smart transition. Kane’s style is on display immediately though, with the nifty angular views and overhead shots of facial expressions. The best panel in the book is "where? where? where?" you ask--Page 9 (below), which lets everyone know this is a different take on Spidey for sure. Kane’s action scenes are a little more frenetic also, yet more than worthy of his predecessors. There are times when it looks like Ock has ten tentacles instead of four. Kane also gives Ock a slight makeover, slightly thinner with a shaggier haircut. Then again, surviving a plane explosion will do that to a guy. All in all, as much as Romita is the quintessential Spidey artist in my opinion, we are in for a treat in the coming months. And honestly, as a kid I wasn’t the biggest Kane fan, not that you’d think that from what I’m writing here. Now about that nickname….

SM: When Gil Kane is inked by Romita, it looks like only Kane's layouts remain. The rest is pure Jazzy John. Thank God. This issue-heavy story lacks the free-for-all energy of the last issue, but it's not bad. Too much commentary about pollution though, which suddenly everyone is concerned with. I mean, Randy Robertson mentions it, then a few pages later, Jonah and Robbie are talking about it. Jonah sums it up nicely: "Everyone's into pollution." Yeah, for this issue anyway.

MB: Breathless Bullpen Bulletins map the post-Kirby world:  replacing him on Thor and the FF will be, respectively, Adams and Romita; the latter, as “artist-emeritus,” will oversee Kane, his hand-picked successor on this mag; Buscema will take a leave of absence from the Surfer in favor of Trimpe and focus on the Avengers.  As it turned out, the Surfer was kaput, and Buscema soon took over both Kirby titles, but Kane’s gig will be more enduring, alternating with Romita on Spidey’s pencils for three years.  With Johnny inking him here, the transition is smooth, but Gil’s exuberance infuses the “Where?” montage, the expert full-page shots, and the feet literally overstepping the panels in a kind of 3-D effect, making the figures leap off the page.

PE: Gil Kane steps in as Romita shuffles over to FF and leaves me gasping with open maw: "John who?" Seriously, I grew up believing Ross Andru was the greatest Spidey artist who ever lived but the evidence given forth this issue may have me amending my statement. The story's a wall-to-waller with no time given for personal problems or advancement of the whole "Does Gwen love me or not?" nonsense. Only Randy Robertson makes an appearance and that's to berate Parker for not protesting air pollution. The reason these poor Marvel characters of the 1970s had lousy love lives is because there was always something new to protest just around the corner. If Parker hangs around with Randy long enough, he'll get scolded for not showing interest in civil rights, involvement in Nam and the suffragettes.

JT: An air pollution protest? Oh, those crazy 70’s kids! Lots of fun stuff from Stan in this issue beyond that, including Spidey’s “Ol’ Jameson’s too cheap to leave anything around worth taking!” and JJJ’s “Everyone’s into pollution, but he’s my own special hate”! Good to see the sound f/x are still tops, including “BRAKKOW!” and “FZIK!” on the same page. (Yes, I loved these things in the old Batman TV series too, what can I say…) Did anyone else notice that might be a question mark the crowd is forming in the final panel? Or do I just need more sleep?

SM: This is an all-out fight issue with Doc Ock back after being thought killed last ish (well, not really). Very little involves Pete's social life with only Randy making an appearance. Gwen is mentioned in that conversation but nobody else other than Jonah and Robbie pop up. I actually missed the gang. Spider-Man has always been more than an action title and the lack of supporting cast plays that up. Next issue, though, we'll see a shake up of said cast.

The Mighty Thor 181
Our Story

Sif and the Warriors Three have arrived in Hades, to find  “Thor”--in the body of Loki—imprisoned in a clear globule. Their attempts to free him are futile, as Mephisto toys with them. Thor conceives a plan: using the power of Loki he controls while in his brother’s body, he causes Sif’s sword to impale a nearby dragon, who angrily uses his flame to melt the globule. Back on the Earth’s surface, the other Thor (you know, Loki) makes his demands of world domination known to the United Nations, having sealed off the building from the outside with a barrier. Balder is there, and engages “Thor” in battle, tricking him into admitting in front of the world’s leaders his true identity. Ironically, it is the sheer goodness of the Asgardians that save them, as Mephisto can stomach no more, sending them back to Asgard. Thor returns to Earth and uses the magic of Loki he currently possess to draw his evil brother to him. He goads Loki into tossing his hammer, keeping him busy for the sixty seconds it takes for the hammer to become a walking stick. This breaks the spell, and the brother’s spirits are returned to their own bodies. Loki flees, vowing to return in victory next time.

SM: Joe Sinnott's inks aren't fitting well with Neal Adams' pencils, but it matters not. This is a wonderful, epic, action filled issue. It goes at a good pace, wrapping up the central conflicts in due course. Returning Thor to  his rightful place is done naturally and well, although I rather thought they merely looked like each other rather than having swapped bodies (even the recap at the top of the issue supports this). If only their appearances changed, their abilities would be unaltered. But maybe I'm just confused.

JB: Funny how Odin all of a sudden “knows” that Loki is in Thor’s body and vice-versa; before he was willing to send “Thor” packing and throw away the key. I’ll have to keep in mind Mephisto’s weakness, if I ever end up in his realm; just be loving to the guy and he’ll feel so sick he’ll send you home. Thor’s cleverness in saving the day was commendable, but why didn’t the hammer return to Loki pronto, if he was able to lift it anyway?

MB: Not that I’m complaining about his replacement, naturlich, but it’s a pity that Neal Adams (who has just won an Alley Award as Best Pencil Artist, according to a Bullpen Bulletin that milks much humor out of Stan losing Best Writer to Roy and Best Editor to Dick Giordano) did just these two issues, with the frosting of Joe Sinnott’s inks making a perfect confection.  The layouts, less Kirbyesque this time, contain some awesome effects:  the “border” provided by the visage of Thor-as-Loki (page 3), the juxtaposition of Mephisto’s and Loki-as-Thor’s poses (page 7), the visualization of Thor’s soul (above).  Neal makes an interesting choice with page 16, for even though that earth-mover dwarfs “Thor,” the fact that he is lifting it emphasizes “his” power.

SM: Mephisto defeated by "the stench of goodness" was a trifle corny, but what better way to defeat Satan. Neal even gives us a nice parallel picture of Mephisto and Loki as Thor at the top of page 7. Obvious, but still nice. I hate to say this, but I don't miss Kirby. This title sustained the energy and made for a really good time. Top marks for this one.

PE: Sinnott's a stellar inker but I can't help feeling that having him work on Neal Adams' pencils is like having The Osmond Brothers' producer calling the shots on Highway 61 Revisited. The genius is still on display but it's muted a bit. Nice trick on Thor's part to fool Loki into throwing the hammer (and thus making the switch back to common tree branch) but it once again brings up that nagging question (nagging to me at least): how can Loki lift Mjolnir when his father considers him inadequate? Definitely a case of the rules being rewritten over the years. Gotta love that classic panel of Loki with a shiner! This month's Bullpen Bulletins almost hints that Neal's tenure on The Mighty Thor is long-term rather than the sadly abbreviated two issues we're blessed with. Not that I'm dissing Big John's upcoming stint, mind you. (Outrageous plug department: we'll be studying Neal Adams' work on the DC mystery line in a few weeks time over at Bare Bones.)

Sub-Mariner 30
Our Story

As he contemplates his pathetic life while walking along the beach, Rick Jones comes across a seemingly possessed Sub-Mariner.  Subby seems ready to attack so Jones transforms himself into Captain Marvel.  The two powerhouses fight it out until Namor collapses from a migraine.  He is taken back to Jones's pad where he awakens, seemingly unaware of what has been transpiring in the last few days of his life.  Since he is now calm, Jones takes Subby along to a bar that he is playing music at.  Once the band is underway, Namor flips out again, when he has visions of the earth exploding in a nuclear holocaust.  Jones reverts back to Captain Marvel and after another brief fight, Namor's memory comes back to him.  He remembers that while trying to swim home, he came across a strange machine along with an underwater vessel.  Inside of the ship, a creepy fat tycoon named Mr. Markham, boasts about how his Molecular Polluter machine will destroy the ocean unless the nations pay him an exuberant amount of money.  Namor prevents Markham's goons from completing the construction of the device, but in the ensuing battle is hit with a grenade that causes him to lose his memory and to be afraid of the ocean.  No longer suffering from the concussive effects of the grenade, Namor and Marvel head out to stop Markham before he completers another Polluter.  The heroes easily dispatch of Markham's hired henchmen.  Markham confesses that he stole the plans for the two devices from a scientist after he killed him.  The story ends with Subby and Marvel flying the last contraption into outer space where it explodes.

Tom:  Not bad for a story guest starring Rick Jones.  Captain Marvel isn't that bad either.  I'm just wondering what happened to the pathetic Markham?  He's kind of like a wimpier and uglier version of the Kingpin.  Well, I don't care enough to look him up on the internet so I guess he wasn't that great of a villain. 

SM: <sarcasm>Yay, Rick Jones!</sarcasm>. Actually, for a second I thought he was Peter Parker in the splash page, but then I noticed his guitar and red jacket. I have to say, this issue had me laughing hysterically when Namor freaked out on page 10. He was, no doubt, triggered by Rick's "lyrics" but I just figured Rick's singing was so hideous, Namor snapped.

MB:  I have some reservations about this whole molecular-polluter plotline, which falls into the category I call “far-fetched even by comic-book standards” (What was your Plan B if nobody paid, and you turned the sea radioactive?), and having that concussion grenade induce selective amnesia seemed an awfully lazy way to set things in motion.  Ending this encounter on such a sour note served no purpose that I’m aware of, and I can hear the obligatory diatribe about Rick’s lyrics from at least one colleague, but I have no complaints about the artwork as Buscema and Gaudioso soldier on.  Fun fact: per the lettercol in #34, this was intended as a fill-in issue of Captain Marvel, with Namor as the guest-star, and wound up here when that title went on hiatus.

SM: This feels more like a Captain Marvel story than a Namor adventure, with the flashback explanation more suited for a guest star than the title character. Is it possible this was created for Mar-Vell's mag and was in inventory? Rick, of course, has a fat mouth and offends Namor in the last three panels. What a douche. I've really grown to hate this kid.

Also this month

Chamber of Darkness #7
Chili #17
Harvey #1
Kid Colt Outlaw #150
Li'l Kids #2
Marvel Super-Heroes #28
Marvel Tales #28
Millie the Model #186
Our Love Story #7
Outlaw Kid #2
Rawhide Kid #80
Spoof #1 ->
Western Gunfighters #2

Why Stan thought it a good idea to publish another Mad rip-off a mere and change after Not Brand Echh went down in flames is probably lost to history and bad memories. It might not even have been Stan by this point. Maybe The Rascally One was feeling amorous and full of bad one-liners and puns threatening to burst from his insides. At any rate, someone told Roy, Marie Severin, Stu Schwartzberg, and Len Wein that it would be hilarious to do parodies of Dark Shadows ("Darn Shadows"), Marooned ("Maroonded"), and The Mod Squad ("The Clod Squad") without telling them the strips themselves would have to include some funny stuff. Those titles are knee-slappers though, ain't they? Inexplicably, this would be a one-shot until the sophomore issue popped up out of nowhere in November 1972. Until then, let's call this Poof!


  1. I'm tremendously excited about the advent of Conan...or, to be more precise (since I never read Conan comics), about the advent of Conan Commentator Professor Flynn, as we should probably call him to avoid confusion with Professor McMillion. TF brings a great new voice to the faculty, and I'm proud to have encouraged him to join our ranks. Wouldn't have expected to read about the Cimmerian with such interest until "my" Tom got hold of him. Obviously, Carter and/or his agent changed their minds, but I presume you (or somebody) will cover that in detail when the time comes.

    Professor Joe, as for the Faceless One, just you wait!

  2. Aw shucks! Can't tell you how much fun it's been so far.

  3. Amen to dat!
    Welcome Professor Flynn. Now to find someone who specializes in Marvel black and white magazines. Any takers?

  4. We're reaching the point where I can remember the stores and the days when I bought some of these issues. I thought Spoof was funny at the time. And can someone please explain Captain Marvel's pose on the Subby cover to me? It looks like he's clawing the water and should be letting out a big "Meow"!

  5. Faceless One: Who knew Mysterio had a brother in law?

  6. I hadn't previously realized that the 1st issue of Conan came out a month after Kirby's last issue of FF was published. Seems to be a perfect border-line for the Silver & Bronze ages, made even more apt as the end of Kirby's tenure at Marvel also included the last issue of the Silver Surfer's 1st series, featuring a seriously ticked off Surfer drawn by an equally ticked off Kirby. One era dies, a new one begins