Wednesday, June 12, 2013

June 1971: The Beast That Shouted Brute at the Harlan of the Atom

Kull the Conqueror 1
"A King Comes Riding!"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Ross Andru and Wally Wood

A former warrior from the pagan island Atlantis, King Kull leads his Black Legion through the gates of Valusia, the kingdom he conquered. As he makes his way through the streets, the crowd murmurs with discontent, angry that a barbarian wears the crown. In his palace, the king grants an audience to a savage Pict who invites Kull to a feast on the western isles with the condition that he comes alone — the muscular monarch agrees to the terms. After the Pict leaves, Kull remembers the events that led to his place on the throne: his youth in Atlantis, his two years of slavery at the brutal hands of Lemurian pirates, his bloody rise through the ranks of the Valusian Black Legion and, finally, his victorious swordfight with the former king, Borna. -TF

TF: Hot on the heels of his first and rather brief Marvel appearance
in the inaugural issue of Creatures on the Loose (March 1971), Robert E. Howard’s barbarian king earns a solo series. The book had a sporadic publishing schedule, with issue #2 appearing in September 1971, while issue #3 didn’t hit stands until July 1972. So I have some breathing room. This one is basically an origin issue, filled with court intrigue. Roy’s writing is more grounded than his Conan work, missing the heights of its mythic and muscular poetry. From what I gather, the plot is a mash-up of three Howard stories: “The Shadow Kingdom,” “By This Axe I Rule,” and “Exile of Atlantis.” It’s an early Marvel assignment for Rossolav Andruskevitch — Ross Andru to you and me — who is teamed with fellow veteran Wally Wood on inks. Now let’s get this out in the open right now: Ross Andru’s run on Spider-Man was the bite that turned me into a Marvel Zombie in the early 70s. Sure, I spent my paperboy money to score back issues of the Romita and Kane eras, but Ross will always be the Spidey Boss in my heart. And, geez, the great Wally Wood on inks? Not too shabby. When you get a chance, check out Wally’s “Disneyland Memorial Orgy.” The guy’s got balls.

SM: Ross Andru. Great. Working with Wally Wood (who looks to have done a few solo panels), it's better than what would be Andru's norm, but some of his stylistic quirks make themselves known. Combining that with the overly packed origin going on, this is no Conan. There's something special about Conan that draws me in, and maybe it's just Smith's art. I'm actually surprised Wally Wood is on this title at all. He doesn't seem like the right artist for it. Even if I don't like Andru's pencils, at least he's dynamic, which is what this sort of book needs. Whatever the reason, this issue left me cold.

The Amazing Spider-Man 97
"In the Grip of the Goblin!"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

A reborn Green Goblin uses all the weapons at his disposal to fight off a hot-in-pursuit Spider-Man, from a pumpkin filled with hallucigen gas to a Goblin boomerang to a stun pumpkin to sparkler spray from his gloves. All the while Spidey knows he has to stop the Goblin since he’s the only one who knows his secret identity! A reeling Spidey manages to escape and the Goblin thinks he’s gone for good. Conflicted by the thought of having to defeat his best friend’s father, and still blaming his own selfishness for losing Gwen, Peter heads home. But when an angry Harry arrives at their pad, jealous of how MJ was making a play for Peter, he pops a handful of pills and passes out. The next morning, MJ plays up to Peter on campus, and as Harry storms off he’s met by a “friend” who sells him a bottle of new and improved pills. Peter tries to track down Norman Osborn at his office, but to no avail. Feeling “zingy”, Harry tries to reconcile with MJ, but she ends up setting him straight, which in turn makes Harry angrily confront roomie Peter. After doing a quick about-face, Harry pops more “happy pills” after Peter leaves to continue searching for his arch-enemy. The search leads nowhere, so Peter swings back to the apartment, where he finds Harry in trouble. But as he reaches to dial the doctor, the Goblin appears outside the window! –JT

JT: An iconic Romita cover starts us off with a bang, and inside Gil Kane takes the reins from Jazzy John for good, with fabulous results. It takes a little while for Frank Giacoia’s inks to settle in though as the first few action-packed pages seem a little less Kane-ish to me. But hey, this is not a comic book to nitpick, it’s one to enjoy from start to finish. Any Spidey vs. Gobby issue is going to be fun, and this one is certainly no slouch. Throw in the non CCA-approved drug storyline with Harry—complete with some fantastic panels from good ol’ Gil—MJ being MJ, Peter actually keeping his mind on the prize and only spending two and a half panels mooning over Gwen, and a rotten to the core, bad apple Goblin with more tricks up his sleeve than Penn & Teller, and you have the makings of an epic finale to this trilogy of terrific-ness.

SM: The trilogy continues with part 2. Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia do fantastic work here, with Romita as "Artist Emeritus," whatever that means in this case. The lines are clean and easy on the eyes. The Goblin is deadlier and more sadistic than ever, a reminder of what a great villain he was. I was always surprised by how much restraint Stan used in keeping him bottled up for so long. I guess it was necessary, since having the villain know Spider-Man's identity makes it tough to continually come up with reasons why he doesn't spill the beans. However, having Gobby's absence go on for so long elevated his status, especially with Stan peppering the book with references for years. Over on the bottom of page 7, Peter wonders aloud, "how can I guard my secret identity?!" Here's a tip; don't remove your mask outside in broad daylight, numb nuts.

MB: A Bullpen Bulletin notes that “Gil (Sugar-Lips) Kane has been doing such a great job on Spider-Man that Jazzy Johnny Romita, who’s been anxious for a change-of-pace, has eagerly turned the ol’ Web-Swinger’s reins over to garrulous Gil,” whose pencils he again inked last issue. This time Giacoia wields the pen, with Romita credited as “artist emeritus,” but it’s unmistakably Kane’s show all the way; nobody draws sweaty, stressed-out Osborns like he does.  The story admittedly has that mid-trilogy pacing—with much of the action deferred to the last chapter, and what there is served up right at the outset—yet the material is so strong, it doesn’t feel like merely a means to an end; Harry’s addiction is clearly groundbreaking.

PE: To me, a 4-star issue all the way. The action, as minimal as it is, is well choreographed, and the art is exquisite. Most of all, the soap opera stuff hits all the right notes. Is this really the same writer who's pumping out the turgid crap we're being subjected to over at Paptain America and the Falcon? Stan handles the pill-popping very well and that's a tough row to hoe in 2013, never mind 1971. Only question is: what's MJ up to and how could Peter have (eventually) married this conniving diva? That panel of an (ostensibly) OD'd Harry, lying lifeless on the bed, is a stunner. We know he ain't dead but did we know that back then? Bravo, Stan, this almost makes up for the 35-issue arc of Cap and Sharon chasing each other around the country. 

SM: We catch up with Harry popping pills and freaking out while MJ gives Harry the brush. I can't deal with Parker and his love beads, though. He never comes off hip and simply looks like an idiot. Of course, Harry's turtleneck with orange slacks and sport coat combo don't do much to impress either. I hated the 70's. This issue ends on another great cliffhanger. Many times the middle part of a trilogy doesn't do much but mark time for the climax, but in this case, everything builds: Peter's brimming with tension over his identity, Harry's addiction gets life threatening, and MJ comes clean about how she feels about Harry. Two grand slams in a row, can Stan pull it off in the end? Yeah, I think he can…

JS: Picking right up from the incredible splash page from the last issue, this one moves along at a brisk pace, but as my colleagues have noted, it doesn't get boring when Spidey stops to take a breather. Another winner from the Mighty House of Marvel.

JT: Man, you guys are right on! I think Stan always seemed to save his best stuff for Spidey and the FF, with the Avengers in third. Sorry if my Spidey bias is showing!

Fantastic Four 111
"The Thing -- Amok!"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by John Buscema & Joe Sinnott

Ben has walked out on the F.F. The ability he has to change to and from the Thing at will has come at a cost—his conscience. An angry Thing attracts attention, and he doesn’t like being told no. He tosses a couple of construction workers into the river, afterwards fishing them out. When the police come looking for him, a simple trench coat stolen from a passerby, and a transformation into Ben Grimm, have them missing him entirely. Johnny flies out to look for Ben, while Reed sends Sue and Franklin off with Agatha Harkness. The Torch and Thing do meet up, and a fire/rock match doesn’t help the F.F. win popularity. Crowds outside the Baxter Building petition for the end of the team, and the building’s greedy landlord takes full advantage, visiting Reed with an eviction notice. Mr. Fantastic sends him packing, and signals Johnny return with the “4” flare. He then asks the Torch to put up a signal for Bruce Banner, whom he reasons might be able to help figure out how to help Ben if anyone can. Bruce heads their way, but the excitement of a rampaging Thing brings out the one who has a grudge to settle with the Thing—the Incredible Hulk! -JB

JB: I liked this one more than expected. It wasn’t just the turncoat Thing joining forces with the Frightful Four etc.; he’s jut plain angry and wants what he wants right now. The excuse to bring back the Hulk is welcome, it’s been a while since he grace the pages of this mag. We’re getting more hints at the developing powers of young Franklin, as he senses things are amiss. I never quite got, or maybe I missed it, how the F.F. pay for their building anyway.

MB: Stretcho’s problems with his landlord are a welcome reminder of the early days, when mundane headaches like paying the rent on the Baxter Building set the FF and other Marvel super-heroes apart from their Distinguished Competition.  However, unless my Marvel’s Greatest Comics reprint omits some segue other than Stan’s “as the city’s mood grows angrier” caption, the appearance of the crowd picketing outside seems a little abrupt for a metropolis that has been saved so many times by the FF.  Yet I suppose that, too, might be a characteristic of the House of Ideas, one that perhaps Superman never had to put up with; at any rate, with all of this spectacular Buscema/Sinnott art on display, and a Thing/Hulk fight on deck, what’s not to like?

PE: A thoroughly enjoyable romp but I'd have preferred The Thing's anger to be a little less suppressed.  For instance, when he tosses a pair of iron workers in the harbor he immediately fishes them out. Doesn't sound like a Thing gone wild but, rather, a Thing blowin' off a bit of steam. Better to have let them soak and have Johnny rescue them. That would present a Ben Grimm over the edge. But, aside from that, and a poorly rendered Bruce Banner, this was a keeper. Two great comic scripts in a row! Welcome back, Stan (if it is Stan!). And Peter Parker/ Spidey makes, what, four appearances throughout the titles this month?

SM: We've been down this road before with the Thing and his cures gone wrong. This is a pretty straightforward retelling of the Mad Thinker's plot a few years back, which was itself a reuse of the "evil Thing" plot even earlier. What made the Thinker's version more enjoyable was that a) it was drawn by Jack Kirby during his peak period and b) the story had some feeling of forward motion and a reason for happening. This issue isn't bad, but it isn't good either. It is simply page after page of Ben going nuts and the rest of the team agonizing about it. Johnny gets some action and the public spits in his face, something Stan will play up in a few issues. It's annoying here and will be more annoying later. I realize the public can be seen as a bunch of chattering monkeys acting on impulse, but it still grates. Not much here except some nice art and a plot convenient cameo by Bruce Banner at the end. Next issue isn't full of amazing story either, but it's a Hulk vs Thing issue that was one of my earliest comic buys, so I always dug it. See you then.

The Incredible Hulk 140
"The Brute That Shouted Love at the Heart of the Atom"
Story by Harlan Ellison 
Adaptation by Roy Thomas
Art by Herb Trimpe and Sam Grainger

The Avengers try to free the Hulk from Psyklop but are transported away to a subway in New York. With no one able to help him, the Hulk gets shrunk down into a particle-sized world. He gets attacked by Worthos, monster pig-like creatures that he kills. A nearby city of green skinned people fends off even more of the pig monsters. The Hulk helps fight the beasts and becomes a hero to the people. A Queen by the name of Jarella welcomes the Hulk into the community. Since by custom, a warrior has to defeat the Worthos in battle to become engaged to Jarella, the Hulk lucks out. Things get even better after some sorcerers cast a spell that gives the Hulk Banner's mind. Figuring that Betty would be better off without him, Banner/Hulk gets used to being a ruler. He evens stops an uprising by a jealous rebel. Just before the big wedding, Psyklop finds the Hulk and takes him back to his laboratory. By this time, the Hulk has reverted back to his primordial angry self. He thrashes Psyklop around before leaving. The story ends with the Dark Masters getting ready to punish Psyklop for not providing them with the energy they were promised. -TM

An audible groan is unleashed from at least one MU professor
MB: Again we have Roy scripting Harlan Ellison’s plot—begun in Avengers #88—with the usual allusions to Ellison’s oeuvre (e.g., the quasi-title story, Dangerous Visions, “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman”), plus several nods to the original Captain Marvel (Holi, Moli, Billy Batson).  Yes, I know the takeaway here is the debut of our lime-colored love interest, but I’m gonna go all heretical on you guys and say I think there was a fundamental flaw in having that spell give the Hulk Bruce’s mind rather than merely translating.  Sure, he’s on the rebound from his Swarovski sweetheart and in need of a love connection, but he’s had somebody since Day One, whereas with 20/20 hindsight, I think of Jarella as Greenskin’s girl, not Bruce’s.

SM: Herb Trimpe cannot draw Captain America. There, I said it. Otherwise, a great issue. Jarella finally joins the cast as Hulk's true love and she'll be around on and off for a few years. Sam Grainger does one more issue before John Severin returns next time, and it's fine work. I'm assuming Harlan Ellison came up with the Hulk "shrinking" plot, since he's credited here and none of the crap in last month's Avengers is mentioned beyond the intro. I really loved the Hulks trips to Jarella's world and would argue that it's a more interesting place for him to reside than battling the army and other menaces in our world. It's a shame he never wound up there for any length of time, I would have enjoyed "Hulk the Barbarian" for awhile. I guess the recent Planet Hulk did much the same thing, but without Jarella. Nah. Betty Ross is a waste of a character, Jim Wilson was yet another Civil Rights mouth peace, and nobody else was of any consequence. The final image of the hand of the Dark Ones was chilling. Something more in the line of Dr. Strange, but still pretty awesome.

PE: I enjoyed the heck out of this when I read it forty years ago and I'm pleased to say that, a few nits notwithstanding, I still find a lot to enjoy. We've all learned first hand how nostalgia can play funny tricks with the truth and this issue is no exception. I remember it being a multi-issue arc not a quickie. There's really no substance to this other than the usual Greenskin story line: Hulk find new town, Hulk find friend, Hulk fight bad guy, Hulk move on. I'm not sure why Psyklop felt the need to come calling for Hulk and whether Jarella's world will be destroyed whenever Bruce Banner gets around to laundering his action threads but maybe some things are better left unwritten. That full-pager of Psy reaching for the altar-bound Hulk is a stunner. One thing that wasn't apparent when I was knee-high to a grasshopper but leaps out and slaps me full across the face today is that The Rascally One's Harlan references became more annoying and nonsensical as the story progresses. The only one that actually worked was the title. "A Boy and His Dog" for a description of Hulk stomping a pig-wolf? Almost as cute as Ozymandias, Roy!

SM: The concluding irony of Jarella's world being in a mote of dust on the Hulk's leg is okay, but how would he ever find it again? Because he does. Consider it a bit: there are uncounted zillions of atoms, the odds of being in the exact right spot necessary to shrink down to the correct world are beyond astronomical. Now consider the Hulk is carrying that world (just that world or the whole "solar system?") on his pants. How long will they stay there? One slight breeze will jostle it loose, I'd be surprised if it stuck to his pants the entire leap to wherever he's going at the end of the issue. What if he does laundry? Maybe it's best not to think about it since, apparently, nobody involved did.  

MB: I’ve had some dealings with Harlan, by the way, first when I was a publicist at St. Martin’s Press and handled his 1988 graphic novel Vic and Blood: The Chronicles of a Boy and His Dog (with artwork by Richard Corben), and then when he graciously allowed me and my fellow editors of The Richard Matheson Companion to reprint his introduction to a 1990 edition of The Shrinking Man published by The Easton Press…a division of MBI, Inc., my current employer!  In spite of his reputation for volatility, my encounters with him have been nothing but cordial, and I’d like to think that if he remembers me at all, it is in a favorable light.  He would be back for another collaboration with Roy in Avengers #101 the next year and, in 1984, co-wrote Daredevil #208.

PE: The first, and only, time I met Ellison was at a Horror Writers of America meeting in Redondo Beach. I was talking to Clive Barker and Richard Christian Matheson (I love to drop names) when Ellison approached us, took his glasses off and cleaned them on my shirt sleeve. When I somewhat politely asked him what the hell he thought he was doing, he gave me a "cat ate the mouse" grin and shrugged. True story, ask Scoleri, he was there. Despite my overwhelming feeling that the guy's an asshole, I like some of his writing, in particular his non-fiction. Harlan Ellison's Watching and the two Glass Teats are enthralling commentary I've read cover-to-cover and back again and should be on everyone's shelf. I'm not sure how much of this story is Ellison's and how much is Roy's. Anyone out there seen any interviews with either man regarding this arc?

Daredevil 77
"And So Enters The Amazing Spider-Man"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Gene Colan & Tom Palmer

Daredevil’s nightly nocturnal contemplation is witnessed by Spiderman, who doesn’t realize that his own personal troubles are no worse than DD’s. While Matt dreams of Karen Page, D.A. Foggy Nelson is awakened from his slumber by two men demanding he accompany them. Meanwhile, coincidence has both Daredevil and Spiderman ending up in Central Park , where crowds have gathered to witness a brightly lit teardrop-shaped craft. It issues a voice, asking for Namor, the Sub-Mariner to come forth. Having been somehow drawn to the scene, the Prince of Atlantis comes forth, shedding a human disguise. DD enters here, and assuming the sea king to be the cause of trouble, takes up the attack. When Spidey arrives it becomes a two-on-one, a little more balanced. Soon the teardrop puts forth a burst of light, to reveal it as an entrance to some kind of craft. A woman steps forth and says she will take both Namor and Spidey along on a long journey. The craft and its passengers vanish, along with the memory of the incident. Matt returns home and just misses a call from Karen Page, now back in New York.  -NC & JB

JB: Despite a rather confusing plotline, I found this one a welcome change from the political lean of recent issues. It takes us back to the early days of DD, the Sub-Mariner from issue #7, and Spidey from #’s 16-17. Karen, Mary-Jane and Gwen look almost all the same, while the teardrop girl is more like the Black Widow!

NC:  Yes, I agree with Prof. Jim about the weight of the political issues however, in this one, Spidey
and DD really drone on with the self-pity!  Holy moly – I don’t think women have that much power over men – or superheroes (or maybe I’m just jealous because it just doesn’t work for me that way).  I did like the way the mystery was drawn out and we have 3 separate stories that will surprise us in later issues . . . not even Daredevil issues!  Good sales technique I think.

MB: Spider-Man guest-stars with both DD and Cap this month—right in the midst of the classic drug trilogy in his own book—after Gene warmed up on drawing him in last month’s Captain America; I guess even back then, they weren’t worried about overexposure.  The plot is haphazard, the misfire with Karen at the end is tiresome in the extreme, and the art is variable, as Palmer’s inks seem to erode the advantage of Colan’s lengthy history with Namor, while Gene’s rendition of Spider-Man is nothing special. Recreating the pattern from #73 and Iron Man #35-36, this takes place in between Sub-Mariner #39 and 40, cover-dated one and two months hence, respectively; coincides with Conway’s takeover of the latter; and introduces an SF/fantasy twist.

SM: Wow, this book is a downer. Spider-Man is a guest star and he still gets a full third of the book to bitch and moan about his life and assuming Daredevil, a guy whose identity Spidey does not know, has no idea what it means to have problems. What a douche. Worse, Mary Jane Watson comes to Peter's apartment and someone doing the coloring made her blonde! He apparently thought it was Karen Page, no doubt because Gene Colan didn't draw MJ's face, since a blonde MJ is Gwen Stacy. There's a pretense of a story here, but the mystery teardrop thing takes a back seat to the soap opera. We'll follow up in Namor's own book, but this double-crossover was hardly necessary and feels a lot like place holding. DD seems like a guest in his own title. Karen comes back and looks like Mary Jane a few pages earlier. She and Matt play telephone tag at the end and when he doesn't pick up in time, it is presented like it's the end of the world. What, the guy can't be taking a dump? The blurb for next issue is "Beware the Bull!" That should have been the title of this story.

Good guess indeed!

Captain America and The Falcon 138
"It Happens in Harlem!"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by John Romita and Artie Simek

After a rough night of feuding and Falcon failing to nab Spider-Man, Cap zooms off, leaving his partner "hiding something" just as Stone Face attacks. Falcon holds his own until Stone Face's car clips him after Redwing attacks the driver. Soney's none-to-bright goons take the unconscious Falcon. Stone Face neither unmasks him nor does he care there's "something under his belt." That "something" is Spider-Man's Spidey Tracer. Peter Parker checks on Harry (whom the Falcon thought was Spidey last issue), makes him feel better and then goes off to find his new sparring partner. Meanwhile, Steve Rogers can't find Falcon as his day job, but Sam's nephew Toby (formerly Jody) tells him Stone Face is gunning for him. Redwing arrives and leads Cap to the Falcon (stopping en route due to a rain delay). While Falcon is trussed up, Stone Face threatens the state Governor's representative who wants to build an office building in Harlem. Stoney says if the Gov doesn't pay a million bucks, Stone Face will trigger "riots and burnin' like ya never saw before." Spidey bursts in, rescues the Falcon and, after one more scuffle ("you're welcome, Falcon"), they patch up their differences. Cap, Falcon and Spider-Man tackle Stone-Face together. Spidey rescues the Gov's rep and is out of the game. Cap and Falc finally nab Stone Face, but then a mysterious man in a car summons cap on a secret errand. And nothing will ever be the same again!!!! -SM

SM: At last, a good issue! John Romita takes over the art on his own. There's no inker mentioned, so I assume he's inking his own pencils here. Very well done! There are one or two panels that look almost like Gil Kane drew them (see above), but overall, this is Johnny's show and it's grand. He is obviously a better plotter than Gene Colan but there are some slip ups, one I have to pin on Romita, since the artists do a lot of the plotting. Last issue, Peter Parker left Harry with the excuse of getting the evening papers for "the sports scores." He comes back this issue through his window and now Harry thinks Peter has been sleeping behind his locked door. If this is true, then, to Harry, Peter is a real crappy friend. As far as Harry knows, Peter came back, saw Harry was gone and just went to sleep. Granted, Harry could have had a last minute date, but after his adventure, wouldn't he be banging on Peter's door all night instead of simply waiting for Parker to wake up? The wrap up of the Falcon's attitude with Spidey is nice, with both achieving respect for the other. I'm sure this will only last as long as it takes to get to the next Marvel Misunderstanding, but it's cool to see them patch it up instead of Spider-Man leaving under a cloud.

MB: With Romita taking another break from Spider-Man, a Bullpen Bulletin warns, “don’t think you’ve seen the last of Ring-A-Ding!  Johnny is about to start pencilling none other than Captain America and the Falcon, effective with the current ish. (After all, since Spidey himself is the guest star, why not?)”  Regular readers know that as much as I admire his predecessor, I never thought Colan was right for this title, so the return of Romita—who penciled #114, and apparently inked his own work here—is good news.  It also appears to have inspired, or at least coincided with, an upswing by Stan in this story’s conclusion, marred somewhat by a resurgence of the MARMIS and, worse, the Falcon’s shocking ingratitude to his rescuer, Spidey.

SM: The other goof I mentioned in the synopsis, calling Jody Toby. I would have assumed it was another character, but Stan goes to the trouble to make the connection. It's fun to see even super heroes stymied by the weather, but man those costumes really have to stink of sweat and mildew. Stone Face's plot is barebones and kind of insulting, really. While I recognize the era of racial unrest, he makes his people look like puppets and animals looking for any excuse, even a false one, to do violence. This really doesn't put the Civil Rights movement in a positive light and it makes it look like "whites are reasonable and blacks are ready to destroy the city at any moment." What makes me crazy is that, in the comics anyway, the people are ready to destroy their own neighborhood! Really, who wins in that situation? Not the protestors, certainly not. Again, a really good issue and the end of the miserable period that preceded this. While Stan's preaching will continue until he steps away, his work is always better when teamed with Romita.

PE: Obviously the days of Stan worrying about the MU timeline are long gone. I thought at first that Harry might have the shakes because, over in The Amazing Spider-Man, he's become a pill popper but no, he's just shaken from his run-in with The Falcon. Not to mention the problem of explaining how Spidey could be fighting The Falcon, The Goblin (in ASM), Daredevil and Sub-Mariner (over in DD) all at the same time (and showing up at The Daily Bugle in civvies in Fantastic Four as well!). Busy month for our human arachnid. Another hero turns on a dime after a whopping MARMIS: The Falcon, after spending two issues stalking and attacking Spidey with no provocation, completely changes his tune in the space of one panel. Suddenly, he's telling Cap "Hey padnah, don't make the same mistake I did and beat on this here innocent guy. 'Twas all my fault!" 

The Avengers 89
"The Only Good Alien..."
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger

In Miami, Captain Marvel is surrounded by the Avengers, who assure him they only want to talk. Mar-Vell, of course, would rather duke it out, and there's a fight which is stopped by a ray blast from Rick Jones(!). They take Captain Marvel to Cape Kennedy Hospital where they put him in a chair and apparently torture him. Flashback Alert! Rick is finally achieving some success as a singer, but right in the middle of a set, he is contacted by Mar-Vell who shows him a way they could be separated from each other (Rick is Billy Batson to Captain Marvel's…uh…Captain Marvel). By showing him images of Reed Richard's plight in the Negative Zone (see the prior issue of Fantastic Four), he figures if Marv-Vell can fly out through Reed's portal (heh heh), Rick and Mar-Vell can be separate entities at last. Rick agrees and switches places with Marvel for the journey to the Baxter Building. Instead of calling ahead, Mar-Vell beats up a guard, decides to fly to the FF's floors while being nasty to Rick. Not that I blame him, the little snot. When Mar-Vell arrives, the offices are empty. The FF are gone, but he trips an alarm which alerts the Avengers, who are on house-sitting duty. They arrive at the Baxter Building in time to see Mar-Vell open the Negative Zone portal. Rick jumps out and both are now in the real world at the same time. But Annihilus came through as well! The Vision tricks the villain, who goes right back into the Zone. During the excitement, Mar-Vell absconds with the Quinjet towards Florida, to steal a rocket and return home. They learn that Mar-Vell has picked up strange possibly lethal radiation, so they go after him. The flashback finally ends and we see the torture chair is really a device to cure him of said radiation. Meanwhile. Ronan of the Kree has found Mar-Vell on Earth and he sends a sentry to kill him! -SM

SM: So, the events of last issue are destined to never be explained. Okay, well who cares, the Kree-Skrull War begins at last! Although, at this point, nobody reading knew just how far reaching and complicated this run would be. It will veer off a few times, visit The Inhumans, and then go back and try to fix a ten year old Fantastic Four plot hole. It starts off, really, like any other issue of late: mid-action to hook and then dissolving into a flashback. When I first read this storyline in hardback edition, I wasn't familiar with Roy's Avengers storytelling format. It felt fresh there, but now, after covering this title for awhile, it's well past its expiration date. It no longer hooks, it irritates. There's no reason why these stories couldn't be told chronologically. Once in a while, it's effective, but now, it's stale as last weeks bread.

MB:  All of a sudden we’re at the start of Roy’s legendary nine-issue Kree-Skrull War; my, how time flies.  This was Marvel’s first mega-epic (as opposed to, say, a “mere” epic such as the original Galactus trilogy), and although it’s not my favorite, I salute its scope and ambition.  I’ve only read it once before, so I’m interested to see how I’ll respond to it now.  I’ve always loved Roy’s loyalty to Mar-Vell, and it’s worth noting that as far back as Captain Marvel #2, he made a reference to the Skrulls’ “centuries-old intergalactic rivalry with the Kree.”  I also like that he followed up on a question many of us were undoubtedly asking, namely, couldn’t Reed’s Negative-Zone portal (a nice FF tie-in) put an end to Rick’s and Mar-Vell’s tag-team exile there?

SM: Luckily, the art is excellent, although I hate the look of Captain Marvel's mask beneath his hairline. I like the style of his hair going over the top so you don't see the points. The peaks look ridiculous. Not sure I like the way Rick is drawn either, but this will change as Neal Adams takes over soon (Neal!). As stated, Rick is a snot and I love how Mar-Vell gives him the hairy eyeball for Rick letting him stew in the Negative Zone for weeks at a time. Sometimes months! Yet when Rick is in there (and is only there for 3 hours a stretch max), he is immediately bitching! His singing career is a joke, and his manager Mordecai P. Boggs (come on…), looks ridiculously evil. Did anything ever come of this guy?

PE: I'd heard "The Kree-Skrull War" spoken of in hushed tones around the camp fires at Geek Lake when I was a youngster but never got a chance to read its wondrous pages (I was a late bloomer when it came to The Avengers; my first "original buy" was #107) so I'm looking forward to learning what all the fuss was about. That said, I hope the whole is more exciting and jointed (as opposed to "disjointed") than the opening chapter, which is confusing and, ultimately, meandering. Most of what goes on in the first half of this isue (with Mar-Vell, Ricky Rick, and Annihilus) has no bearing on the second half. It just seems a way to connect titles. That's a cool thing to do (it's why we're MZs after all, right?) but it has to have some substance and not come off as throwaway. Though I've never been a follower of Mar-Vell (other than the past issues I've read for MU), I do know how he exited the Marvel Universe. Can one of the knowledgable profs enlighten me as to whether this big blast of radiation the Cap absorbs in The Neg-Zone is at least a tad bit responsible for his ultimate demise?

SM: The continuity with the FF and the Hulk stories are nicely done, with the bulk of the team doing the Psyklop thing and the FF on Whisper Hill (no mention of Reed with Professor X and the Avengers, though - maybe it was too complicated for a simple mention). Crappy flashback aside, this is a fine start to a complex and, frankly, meandering epic that will be referenced for decades after. The Avengers title finally contributes something important to the Marvel Universe.

JT: I will admit to having read only about half of the Kree-Skrull War as a fledgling Prof back in the day. Will that make me lose tenure?

Astonishing Tales 6
Ka-Zar in
" 'ware the Winds of Death"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Barry Smith & Bill Everett

Heading towards home after defeating the Sun God, Ka-Zar and Tongah wake to the fleeting sight of a strange light in the distance. Suddenly lightning strikes and brings with it a god from the sky! A similar storm in England sees a young girl, who we later learn can “feel” people in her mind, rush to the estate of Lord Kevin Plunder (aka KZ himself), claiming she must speak with him—or he will die! Meanwhile, Tongah explains the legend of Damon, whose lover met a tragic end and his sorry drove him mad and he “brought a drowning flood upon the Savage Land”. Now Damon has returned, and it appears he’s flooding Tongah’s village. But Ka-Zar stops him from going after Damon foolishly, until the vengeful (and quite boastful) god strikes! Trusty Zabu saves the loincloth-garbed duo, as Tongah’s brother and sister see the strange light, and we end on Damon in a fury of rage and bloodlust! -JT

JT: Kind of an interesting setup, although this Damon character quite literally falls from the sky, out of wunderkind Gerry’s imagination. He’s certainly not a nice fella, and is made all the more angry by some nice Barry Smith and Bill Everett art. The mysterious bird (that’s woman to you non-Brits in the classroom) who shows up at the Plunder estate adds to the setup, although if the next issue is “The Final Hour” I do believe we’re in for a quick reckoning. And is it me, or on page 16 does KZ look like a bleached blond Steven Tyler of Aerosmith? And what’s with the title? Is ‘Ware really a shortened form of “Beware”? Is it necessary to clip the word or is that Savage Land-speak? Oh, you wacky wunderkind…..

MB: Conway and Smith (who’s apparently making quite a name for himself with another scantily clad hunk o’ beefcake, Conan) provide consistency alongside Ka-Zar’s third inker in as many issues, Bill Everett.  Having missed the last two installments, I can only compare Wild Bill’s work with that of Sam Grainger in #3, but while they are probably not considered Barry’s specialty, several of the facial shots here do not reflect well on the new team.  I am also forcefully reminded, after Gerry’s recent underwhelming efforts on Daredevil and Iron Man, how much promise I—and clearly the higher-ups at Marvel—thought he showed with that first half-issue; perhaps this strip is simply more up his alley than Horn- or Shellhead’s exploits.

SM: Once again, Barry Smith is the only reason to give this feature a second look. It's easy to confuse the visuals with his Conan work, especially since Damon is apparently from the same line of red-haired warriors in that book. Must everyone be from Scotland? It took me a second to remember Ka-Zar's real name is Kevin Plunder (can you blame me?). Damon is a pretty decent character, better than this series deserves. Actually, he would be a better fit in Conan.

PE: There's some pretty pitchers here but the story's full of pretension and, well, I don't know what else. It's almost as though Marvel offered Gerry Conway a tenure on The Mighty Thor, so he sat and wrote out a batch of cosmic-related scripts, then Marvel reneged but assigned him Ka-Zar, so he changed the names of the characters and pushed on. I just don't see storm gods and jungle lords mixing. Don't get me wrong, it's neither awful nor unreadable, it's just choc and cheese. The truncated format doesn't help either.

Doctor Doom in
"The Tentacles of the Tyrant!"
Story by Larry Lieber
Art by Goerge Tuska & Mike Esposito

A session of the Doomrack leads Dr. Doom’s prisoner to reveal that vibranium is created in the kingdom of Wakanda. Doom puts together his handy scanning device, that forms a hawk and takes off across the skies. After quickly dispatching a would-be poacher in a show of force (ZISTT!), Doom sends the scanner South toward Wakanda. And once it gets there and detects the vibranium, Doom naturally destroys it, then hops into his handy nuclear-powered excavator. The machine burrows downward into the earth and swiftly rumbles through the surface in Wakanda. But a quick call to T’Challa, the Black Panther, leads the hero to blast off toward his home, where he’s met with an erupting volcano and a panic-stricken populace. As Doom finds a secluded spot within the volcano to repair his ships damaged neutron regulator, T’Challa sneaks up on him and confronts the insidious invader! -- JT

JT: Dr. Doom faces off against another “guest star of the week”, this time the heroic Black Panther, who will do anything to protect his homeland, even take ten minutes to get there from NY via his mini Concorde! Now, I like Doom, he’s one of my favorite Marvel villains, but man, Felix the Cat’s bag of tricks is useless compared to what Doom pulls out of his bolted-together butt! Look, it’s my Doomrack from which I can torture a fool into revealing whatever I want him to! Look, I can build a scanning device from behind this wall panel and make it look like a hawk! Look, my ship that can burrow into the earth is ready the exact second I plan to use it to get me some vibranium! No need for testing, mind you. I’m Doom, dammit! You would think the Panther would be no match for intellect like this, but we have to wait for next ish to find out. Halfway decent Tuska art and a bombastic Lieber script, although ultimately not a lot happens in this half a comic if you stop to ponder.

MB: Lieber, Tuska, and Esposito hold down the fort for another issue, although all three are heading out the door when, as a Bullpen Bulletin tells us, “Genial Gene [Colan] will soon be lending his magical touch to the Dr. Doom series…And, if you’re wondering about Wondrous Wally Wood, here’s another bombshell: You’ll find his awesome artistry appearing in the new, sensational Kull the Conqueror…!”  Tuska’s layouts are rather interesting:  twice he uses a full page to depict not a single shot, but more of a montage, executed without panel divisions.  Faces are usually his weak suit, so it’s fortunate that both Doom and the Black Panther—a new antagonist for a new plotline, just as in Ka-Zar’s sister strip—are masked.

SM: Larry Lieber gives Doom more miracle science as Doom magically assembles a scanning device in the form of a hawk. Jeez. Tuska's art again fails to impress, showing us a buffoon like henchman who is particularly bloodthirsty (someone has to be, Doom is a real pansy in this series). The first panel on page 4 looks a lot like Kirby's work. Weird. Wait, did I call Doom a pansy? He wipes out a poacher who tries to shoot down Doom's hawk-scanner. Of course, this guy was flouting the endanger species law, where the guy Doom was torturing was just an innocent. Ugh. The art is a jumble. On page six, Doom smacks aside some dude we didn't see on the previous page. All we see now are he feet as he goes flying off panel. This half-issue feature is short, but still padded with full page panels, all leading up to the final 'hanger where Doom, now in Wakanda, is about to fight the Black Panther. Will the Panther win and we find out Doom was just a robot? I have no idea, but I wouldn't be surprised.

PE: Hilarious in that, two pages after Doom insists a prisoner be released rather than slain as Doom's "no savage," he zaps a poacher into microcosmic atoms! And, not to be a stickler for details, but someone explain to me how having the "speed and agility of a jungle cat" will save you from a "living cauldron of molten lava" when you dive into an erupting volcano.

JT: Well, Dean Pete, he's not called "Logical" Larry Lieber....

The Invincible Iron Man 38
"When Calls Jonah..!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by George Tuska and Mike Esposito

Tony takes a chance and hires Harlem ex-con Frankie Majors, whom gangster Anthony Gardenia framed for murder when Frankie defied his boss, Jonah, and who mastered electronics as a model prisoner.  Iron Man warns Gardenia, the new Jonah, to keep his hands off of Frankie, but is ignored, and Tony is shot in the shoulder while helping Frankie defend himself from Jonah’s hoods.  When Frankie quits, ostensibly to return to his lucrative life of crime, Iron Man—his arm in a sling (“Oh what a giveaway,” per the Pythons)—follows him to a warehouse where his girl, Louise, is being held hostage, and the two men manage to turn the tables on their enemies just in time for the police to show up in what was apparently Frankie’s set-up all along. -MB

MB: Tuska’s back and Shellhead’s got ’im…for the vast majority of the next 70 issues (although not, ironically, next month’s).  Unfortunately this dog of a story—which, we are not terribly surprised to learn, was plotted by “Amiable Allyn” Brodsky, surely not back by popular demand—is not a very good vehicle for his return, with this whole “Jonah” storyline the worst offender.  We meet the mob boss on page 3, where he is portrayed as this shadowy figure, as if to conceal an identity that might have some significance; by page 7, he is gone without explanation, and we are told his henchman has taken not only his place but also his name.  Why?  There seems to no significance to it, nor does either Jonah have a distinctive shtick, so why not just show us the original’s face?

SM: After the awfulness of Don Heck, I'm actually glad to see George Tuska back on the job. Yeah, it was that bad. Damn, Gerry Conway totally stopped me short with Tony's wisecrack about a job applicant beating his wife. Was it supposed to be funny? It wasn't. It's too out of left field to be earnest and Tony's got a stupid smile on his face, sitting with his hands behind his head. What the hell? Overall, it's a decent enough story, with Frankie Majors an interesting character, but the confusion with the bad guys doesn't do this any favors. No idea how long Frankie sticks around, but his detailed intro would indicate a new supporting character. There's a quick scene of Kevin O'Brien tending to Tony's injuries and Tony mentions the chest plate keeping his heart beating. I thought the heart transplant did away with that. Or did I skim too much recently? This book is a fricking chore to get through, so I'm sure my lapses are forgiven.

At long last... quality art returns to the pages of Iron Man!

JT: I was so hoping Jonah would turn out to be lovable old J. Jonah Jameson. Now that would have been a hoot! Oh, well no reason to hunt this one down... 

Sub-Mariner 38
"Namor Agonistes!"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Ross Andru and John Severin

It's all doom and gloom as Atlantis prepares for Lady Dorma's funeral. As he walks about in a perpetual state of mourning, Namor dwells on his past. He recalls how his people originally tamed the ocean sea against monstrous creatures. After settling down they built a underwater city from the wreckage of Atlantis. We see how Namor's mother met and married a surface dwelling man. Later on, Subby's first encounters with air breathing humans end in tragedy as he mistook them as robots because of their underwater breathing apparatus. He cut off their breathing tubes before they were pulled back up for air where they most likely died. Namor goes on to further recall his first attempt to reason with the people on land and how it did more harm than good. In the end, Dorma is given a regal sendoff. Namor has a breakdown as he addresses the citizens, blaming himself for not being a better leader, before he steps down as King. He swims off, vowing never to return again. -TM

TM: I wasn't too excited about reading another re-telling of Namor's background but this issue did it right. I'm not all that familiar with his first appearances from way back in the day so I'm not sure if all of this had been covered before or was knew. Either way, the artwork was superb.

SM: It's interesting how John Severin's inks can overwhelm the main artist's pencils. The splash page looks nothing like Ross Andru's work. I'm no fan of John Severin, but he does tone down Andru's melodramatic figure layouts and I found it all easy enough to enjoy. We get a detailed retelling of Subby's origin and it's pretty nicely done. I particularly like the double panel of Captain McKenzie and Fen's love at first sight. The rest of the issue is a pretty well detailed recap of Namor's history. It's some interesting stuff, a primer, I imagine for the issues to come. Namor leaves everything behind and the series heads in a new direction. Overall, nicely done.

MB:  “Honest John Severin has just returned to the fold,” says a Bulletin, “teaming up with Ross (Boss) Andru to bring you one of the most electrifying Sub-Marinermags of all.”  I  have no idea what the circumstances were behind Severin’s return, but—at least in this case—he has considerably more success than Esposito did last issue at inking Andru’s rendition of Subby, even if the absence of one Buscema brother or another is keenly felt.  Meanwhile, the credits tell us that this transitional story, in which Namor mourns the loss of his beloved Dorma and reflects on his origins before renouncing the throne of Atlantis, supposedly forever (we’ll see), “owes an enormous debt to and is hereby dedicated to Bill Everett, first writer/artist of the Sub-Mariner.”

The Mighty Thor 189
"The Icy Touch of Death"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott

Odin sends Thor to Earth to assume his human guise as Don Blake, reasoning that this may keep Hela from finding him. While the Death Goddess plots in her misty realm, a visitor who seeks to betray the Thunder God appears: Loki. He tells her that Thor is hiding on Midgard.  Before he can say anymore, Balder appears. In an attempt to save Thor, Balder had begged Karnilla the Norn Queen for help. And help she gave, after the brave one swore allegiance to her alone, the price for her help. Balder manages to keep Loki from saying anymore, until a weary Hela sends them back to Asgard. Loki runs for cover, Odin finds Balder, and forgives him his renouncement of Asgard, taking the unconscious and weary warrior to a place of rest. Volstagg is dispatched to Earth to warn Don Blake of impending…death. “She” arrives, where Odin has created illusions of Thor to buy his son some time, illusions that fade once Hela strikes at them. Walking the Earth, Hela plots to bring forth her prey; she threatens to take the lives of two firemen; as they age rapidly, Don Blake hears the news on the radio, and changes to Thor. He won’t allow her to take innocent lives, instead surrendering himself—to death. -JB

JB: This tale is essentially a new one, but ties nicely to the Infinity saga because Hela has been the real menace all along. And menacing she is; walking the streets (and air above them) disguised as a tall dark seductive reaper. The scene where she takes the lives of the hoods who seek to rob her, and her earlier reflections on the livings’ fear of the peace she ultimately brings to all, raise the question, is she really a villain at all? It will be interesting to see how Balder, who goes so far as to swear service to Karnilla, and renounce Odin, will deal with his tangled desires when he awakes from his recovery.  I’m curious how Loki found his way to the land of death; you’d think it would be off limits for anyone, even him, to visit. The All-Father himself has done some growing up the last while; he forgives Balder, knowing the brave one's motive was one of love for his friend, and has taken an active part in the defeat of Infinity and (not yet sopped) Hela.

PE: Nice beginning to this new arc does what none of the chapters of the previous storyline could do:
involve me. When I saw that final panel in #188, I feared the worst but Stan rebounds nicely and gives us a story jam-packed with action and drama. Lots of great segments here: Hela pondering why man fears her; Balder letting slip that Karnilla's love for him is not unrequited (at least I think this is the first time we've heard him admit that fact); and most resonant of all, the despondent  Mighty Thor surrendering to the Goddess of Death. That look on his face is present right from the opening panel, when his "woe is me" attitude offends his pop and sends him scurrying, tail tucked between his legs, for earth and the patient patients of lame Doc Blake (how does his secretary even schedule appointments around Ragnaroks and Crime Circuses?). This is a Thunder God we're not used to, free of arrogance and bravado. It's a good change for a bit, methinks. Nitpick time: When Volstagg visits Blake to warn him that Loki is aiding Hela, the doc carries on the conversation as though he's Thor. Do they share brains or, while Doc Blake is sitting in some kind of Asgardian Neg-Zone reading the latest Handicapped Doctors Monthly, does one always magically know what's going on with the other? Rule book, I need a rule book!

MB:  One of the most surprising aspects of this issue of Thor is just how little of the titular God of Thunder there is in it; even if you count the “faux Thor” images created by Odin to trick Hela or his appearances as Dr. Blake, he is nowhere to be found on more than half of the 19 total story pages.  Equally surprising is just how little we mind, while enjoying the comedy and drama involving our Asgardian regulars, the Balder/Karnilla odd couple, and particularly the statuesque Goddess of Death (“Is she on stilts, or somethin’?”), whose prominent presence justified Stan’s inclusion of this story and most of the next in The Superhero Women.  Of course, the fact that the art by Big John Buscema and Joltin’ Joe Sinnott knocks our socks off comes as no surprise at all.

SM: Halfway through this issue, which I enjoyed a great deal, I remembered that I read this in The Superhero Women long ago. It's a fine story with lots of great moments, although I thought it out of character for Thor to actually hide from a challenge as Don Blake. However, it gave the others a chance to come out a little and show their stuff. John Buscema draws a great Loki. A nicely told tale with one of those "no way out" endings that fans love so much. I actually think I'll go ahead and read the next issue a little early, since I forgot how this one ends.

Conan the Barbarian 6
"Devil-Wings Over Shadizar"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Barry Smith

In the wicked city of Shadizar, Conan encounters two quarrelsome thieves, Fafnir and Blackrat, who had just killed a shopkeeper and stolen his gold dinnerware. After relieving the bloodthirsty bumblers of their booty, Conan enters a tavern to quench his thirst. Worried that he will be implicated in the murder, a beautiful blonde wench named Jenna takes the Cimmerian to a blacksmith to melt the loot into a golden heart. Afterwards, the young lovers wander through a shadowed grove only to be attacked by red-robed cultists. Conan is knocked unconscious and Jenna is taken to a towering minaret to be sacrificed to the Night-God. When he comes to, Conan disguises himself in a red robe and makes his way inside the minaret. The Night-God, a huge bat, appears and flies off with Jenna. Conan leaps on the fearsome creature’s back and kills the savage beast with a flaming torch. After they crash to the ground, Jenna tells her Cimmerian champion to rest and heal his wounds. Conan awakes to find Jenna, and the golden heart, gone. -TF

TF: Ladies and gentlemen, we have … nipples! Yes, for the first time, Conan’s chiseled chest has the proper protuberances. Not sure why it took six issues: was there some kind of Comic Code restriction or was it a chaste policy on Marvel’s part? Whatever, it’s a no-brainer: by Crom, Conan is a half-naked man not a smooth Silver Surfer! I wonder if Barry Smith and returning inker Sal Buscema got a bump in pay because of the extra detail? This issue also marks the brief debut of recurring characters Fafnir and Blackrat. Roy Thomas made no bones that the pair were a tribute to Fritz Leiber’s fantasy heroes, Fafhrd and Gray Mouser. At this point, Conan the Barbarian has settled into a glorious groove: the stories are not very complicated and quite linear, but each issue is wonderfully written and dramatically drawn. Roy’s scripts have a muscular and musical quality and Smith and Sal are all about sensational and sinewy action.

SM: Roy is back to penning his own, rather than adapting Robert Howard's tales and it kind of shows. It's a simple "save the princess" sort of thing, but it's still a good read and does an adequate job of establishing more of Conan's ethical standards. I enjoyed watching him decide what to do with the gold he had no problem stealing from the people who stole it before him. In the end, he loses it, but is apparently content with the memories. He's in interesting character, I echo the thoughts of my fellow faculty in previous entries; he needs to start having longer adventures. I see the reason for having single-issue stories to get us up to speed with this world, but I think we're ready for some arcs. I sound like a broken record talking about Barry Smith's evolving and beautiful art, but damn, how is this the same guy who came to Marvel doing bad Kirby imitations for X-Men? Each issue is more ornate and gorgeous than the last. I am going to be truly sorry when he leaves. Most of the other regular artists are, that this point, "typical Marvel." Barry Smith makes this title special.  

Also this Month

Marvel's Greatest Comics #31
Millie the Model #190
Monsters on the Prowl #11 ->
Our Love Story #11
The Outlaw Kid #6
Rawhide Kid #88
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #88
Western Gunfighters #5
The X-Men #70

Escaped (and wounded) convict Jim Lowrey splashes through a murky swamp, evading prison guards and moccasins, and discovers a shack housing a very strange man. The tenant tells Lowrey that he's been a homeowner in the swamp since the days of Ponce de Leon and attributes his fine skin and general good health to the Fountain of Youth surrounding his shack. The con laughs off the man's story until he realizes his bullet wound has completely healed and he looks five years younger. Deciding this is his ticket to success, Lowrey forces his host to at gun point to lead him out of the bog. On the way, the man reveals that the fountain grants youth but there's a price: you can't leave the swamp. As he ends his explanatory, he crumbles to dust. Jim Lowrey returns to the shack and ponders whether his "sacrifice" was worth it. Written, penciled, and inked by Ralph Reese, "Escape" is a nice little gem hidden away in a title filled mostly with reprints. I fondly remember quite a few of Reese's credits in the early 1970s and, even as a kid, wondered if the name was actually a pseudonym for Wally Wood. Of course, it turns out, Reese studied with Wood (and actually collaborated with Wally on "Warmonger of Mars" in Creepy #87) and obviously the master rubbed off on Reese. -PE

Were the Code boys on vacation when this one went through?


  1. Boy, if the name weren't already taken, we might have to start calling this "Howard University," where, coincidentally, my daughter's boyfriend is a graduate student. But since more REH means more from Professors Flynn ("muscular and musical") and Colon, I say bring it on!

    Professor Joe, I think your "Spidey bias" may have blinded you to the fact that Stan hasn't written THE AVENGERS for about five years now!

    "Crowds outside the Baxter Building petition for the end of the team..." We'll see this kind of thing again in the Overmind saga, and yet again when Gabriel arrives; Stan really ran the well dry with that one (as he would with the landlord nonsense). And you'd think the FF would consider relocating to Chicago. Ingrates!

    Dean Enfantino, the cancer that killed Mar-Vell was supposedly a result of his battle with Nitro in #34. (Alas, he DID inhale...)

    1. Well, I was thinking Stan's best of all-time, not just recent history, but i hind sight, maybe Thor should have been third....

  2. Peter,

    Having known Harlan for 32 years (gulp) now, he really isn't an asshole, but a genuine mensch (who admittedly can act like an asshole at the drop of a dime if the mood strikes him). I suspect the cleaning his glasses thing was meant as a goof. Not that he needs me to defend him. And yes, his non-fiction is great, but saying you like him mainly for that is saying you like the Rolling Stones for Mick's lips, IMHO.
    Interesting link from Comic Book Resources about how Conan was almost cancelled after issues #7 for declining sales:

    1. Mark-

      Goof or no, I'd never pull that on someone I didn't know (or someone I actually knew) even if I was a big shot writer who can punch out TV execs with the best of them.

    2. Adrian Samish had a glass jaw.