As “Professor Emeritus” Glenn was kind enough to clarify (having assimilated “The Mystery of Marvel Cover Dates” by Keith Srutowski in The Jack Kirby Collector #54), there were no issues of Avengers, Daredevil, or Thor dated October ’71. Until then, the comics had been divided into two groups with different dating methods, which helps to explain why two mags having the same cover date could contain different Bullpen pages and house ads. “The two groups [were] one month out of alignment. [But all] were aligned in November 1971, when the Group B titles ‘skipped a month,’” Glenn writes. “There was no month where certain titles didn’t appear on the stands…. Someone…simply decided to correct the cover date anomaly…by aligning all the cover dates.”
And now... October 1971!
Conan the Barbarian 10
"Beware the Wrath of Anu"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Barry Smith and Sal Buscema
Conan the Cimmerian and his comely companion Jenna enter a grand Corinthian city and, after escaping a skirmish with guards, encounter a pair of fellow thieves, one being Burgun the Gunderman from issue #8. Conan and Burgun decide to join forces, using a portly priest of Anu as their fence. After a particularly fruitful night of thievery, the pair delivers their loot to the temple of Anu to trade with the priest. But it is a trap and the city guards pounce. The Cimmerian manages to escape but the Gunderman is captured and quickly hanged before Conan can mount a rescue. Realizing the priest’s betrayal, the vengeful barbarian returns to the temple to confront the sniveling turncoat. However, the creepy cleric conjures up the Bull of Anu — a massive red minotaur — to slay the barbarian. But Conan manages to fend off the raging beast. The Bull, who cannot return to the heavens without tasting human flesh, turns to a less dangerous opponent and crushes the priest with his massive clawed hands. After the beast disappears back to the dark netherworld, Conan kills the soldier guarding the still hanging Burgun, stealing and burying the corpse of his fallen friend. -Tom Flynn
Tom Flynn: I must apologize for half-assing this one: I only had access to the Conan story from this Giant Size issue so I can’t report on the rest of the stories included. Sounds like there was also a 5-page Kull story, “The King and the Oak,” by Thomas and the Severins plus Lee and Maneely’s “Men of Shadow,” a reprint from The Black Knight #5 (April 1956). But I have a load of Kull issues to sludge through over the next few years, so consider that my penitence. I cannot imagine a single Marvel Zombie passing by this issue while slowly turning a comic book spinner rack back in the day. What a tremendous cover! Sensational Smith mayhem, hot cleavaged women, and our savage hero hanging off a rampaging minotaur’s horn. By Crom, it’s fantastic, if not totally accurate. We have an original Thomas story on our hands, ably abetted by Smith and Our Pal. It’s not my favorite issue so far, but miles away from the usual Iron Man dreck. Dig! Dig! The dark and dramatic page that illustrates Burgun’s hanging is probably Marvel’s high point for the entire month. One other point: from what I can tell by revisiting issue #8, Burgun was actually a Corinthian soldier not a Gunderman thief, but Mr. Smith draws him the same in any case. I could never tell those lousy Corinthians and Gundermans apart anyways.
Mark: Another winner from Smith and Thomas, the story opens with Conan and Jenna attempting to talk their way past the gate guards of a "great Corinthian City-State" at sundown. The guards don't buy Conan's story of being a fur trapper, but are called away by their captain to pursuit of the city's boldest thief and his apprentice, making their way across the rooftops. Conan spoils an archer's aim, saving the thief who quickly returns the favor by brick-bombing another guard about to behead our hero for interfering with law enforcement. After quickly arranging a rendezvous with Jenna, Conan joins the thieves in a rooftop race to the Temple of Anu, arriving just before the guardsman. The apprentice crook takes an arrow in the leg and drops the loot, but the trio reach safety, since the guards can't violate the sanctity of the temple. This first act unfolds in five breathless, beautiful pages before, relaxing inside, Conan learns the master thief is Burgun, the Gunderman he first fought then teamed up with in issues #7 & #8. These two have spent a good deal of time together, but only after Conan mentions Cimmeria do they recognize each other. We can only wish for complaints so minor in the rest of this month's titles. A fat, sweaty priest – oddly depicted with yellow, bloodshot eyes for one panel on page 6 for no apparent reason except henceforth I get to call him Old Yeller – is not only Burgun's fence, but also has the power to summon the Red Bull (insert power drink wisecrack here) of Anu, the temple's giant bovine protector from beyond the stars.
Scott: The cover blurb exclaims "ALL NEW STORIES!" as if this was a good thing. Actually, it is; this is a fine tale by Roy, very much in the spirit of the preceding stories. Almost too close, really, with another red-haired friend who doesn't survive the issue. Still, I can see why this series was so popular; it is markedly different from the law-abiding tales of heroes in the other books. Conan is a thief and a great one. While he does have an admirable moral code, he is still a criminal. He's also a killer, and he never agonizes of what he has to do. Something that would take the average Marvel Super-Hero ten pages to debate internally, Conan does in one swift panel.
Mark: Wounded thief Igon and just-arrived Jenna make goo-goo eyes at each other and go off for some vino, but Conan hardly notices as he and Burgun team up to loot the city for several nights running, always one step ahead of flatfoot Captain Aron, who's ordered by the Red Priest to deliver the thieves to the gallows or swing himself. Aron bribes Old Yeller to drop dime on the partners in plunder. Burgun is captured and swiftly executed, but seeing Aron and OY conferring hips Conan to the betrayal. Back to the temple he goes to extract vengeance. Old Yeller again summons Red Bull, who can't be banished until he's "tasted one human death" because Conan snatches the magic amulet from around OY's neck. Minor Gripes #2 and #3: why no depiction of Conan grabbing said amulet during their tussle, and why does our hero have bloody scars on his face for two panels on page 17? No time to sweat such questions as the raging bull punches down walls before Conan offers Old Yeller up for some rib-crunching. His death quota met, RB become non-corporeal and ascends into the heavens to claim his reward: "new stars shall fill a corner of the firmament from this night on." Anyone else guess Taurus? Conan shows badly injured Old Yeller "mercy of a sort" with the edge of his sword, then cuts Burgun down from the gallows, after taking out Captain Aron, and buries his friend beyond the city walls. A couple final gripes (why did RB split for the stars with Old Yeller still alive and why does Conan show a complete lack of jealousy/concern over Jenna, his saddle-mate since issue #6?) didn't diminish my enjoyment of another first rate yarn. Professor Tom comments that CTB has the best art at this moment in the Marvel U. I agree and will go him one better. It's the best book period, and by a fair margin.
Scott: Jenna doesn't seem to leave with Conan, but she'll be back for one more story next month (perhaps they were juxtaposed). She isn't a lot of fun, but she did help broaden the stories by adding a dimension of continuity. Barry Smith's art is, of course, a beautiful sight and well worth the time. This issue is expanded to include a Black Knight reprint from the 50's and a short Kull tale based on a poem. Neither was particularly interesting. Professor Tom, you call your post "half-assing?" Mine too, I guess, as I found little in the two other stories to comment about. You missed nothing. So, I guess, combined, we've given our audience (hello?) a whole ass.
The Amazing Spider-Man 101
"A Monster Called... Morbius!"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia
Newly six-armed Peter is still stunned by the addition of his extra limbs when Gwen calls for a date, which he quickly turns down and tells her he’ll be out of town for a while. Pondering the potential perils of his abnormal appendages, Peter gets a phone call from Robbie Robertson for some photo work, which he also turns down. Contacting Dr. Curt Connors in Florida leads Spidey to Connors’ house in Southhampton, which he finds by hitching a ride on the LIRR after some shaky web-swinging. Cut to a ship a mile from shore, whose crew attacks a strange passenger—who turns out to be the vampire Morbius! When night falls, he feasts on the entire crew, then leaves the ship with dawn approaching, only to end up in the belfry of the Connors home! The next day, Morbius tries to feast on a frustrated Spidey, who can’t find an antidote to his unwanted arms, and after a quick battle, the vamp vanquishes our hero. Before he can drink, Dr. Connors bursts in, and the ensuing excitement transforms the scientist into The Lizard!
Joe: I like that Peter is continuing to make grown-up decisions in these pages. Yes, we have another let down in the continuing roller coaster romance with Gwen, and another work problem, but what’s a guy with six arms to do? Calling Curt Connors was a stroke of genius, but then again based on the last page, with the faceoff between Morbius and the Lizard, maybe not that smart…All in all, a solid debut for Roy Thomas as Spider scribe, with the usual great work by Gil slightly defused by Frankie G., but mostly Kane still shines, with a nice battle between Spidey and Morbius. The vampire is introduced here with no actual origin, which is odd for Marvel, but the last panel promises more action next month, and definitely leaves us wanting more! Morbius is an angry cuss, that’s for sure, then again he is a vampire, so being hungry all the time would make anyone cranky!
Scott: Oy. Where to begin? Well, the ridiculous plot, for starters. Peter Parker gets six arms thanks to being the worst scientist ever (no antidote? No checks? Just take a swig and hope for the best?). Yet, nothing interesting is done with them. We get page after page after page of Parker moaning about his plight, talking to himself endlessly, not to mention being a total douche to his girlfriend who just returned from London to be with him (I'll bet she's rethinking that choice). Luckily, Curt Connors has a house in the Hamptons that Spidey knew of (did we?), which is when Spidey says he's about to make his Long Island debut. Um, Parker, you do realize Forest Hills - where you grew up - is on Long Island, right? Then again, you city folk don't like to admit that. That's why we Long Islanders hate you.
John: Fortunately, I was able to get the insanity of the six-armed Peter Parker out of my system after the last issue. But that doesn't explain why he'd be such a dick to Gwen. I read this one twice—once in the IDW Artist's Edition, and then again in my original copy of ASM #101. One thing that stood out in the original color version was how often Morbius' complexion changed from pink to white and back again. But even that isn't that troublesome, as we're witnessing the debut of a cool Marvel 70s character, and the return of this reader's favorite Spidey Villain—the Lizard! Can't wait to see what comes next!
Mark: Spidey #101 was the first issue not written by Stan, and legend has it that new boy Roy, in
addition to tangling with Pete's six arms, also drove a stake into the Comic Code's prohibition against vampires by giving Michael Morbius a scientific rather than supernatural original. Great story but untrue: the Code (which allowed humorous blood-suckers throughout the '60's) lifted the official vamp ban on February 1, 1971, months before Morbius appeared. Remember that for the test, class, and on to the action. Our hero blows off Gwen and a Bugle assignment, since he can't make the scene with extra appendages, before calling Doc Connors to finagle the use of the doc's isolated Long Island summer home ("You know the address," Connors says. Because Pete's potion from last ish also made him psychic?), which looks just like Norman Bates' digs in Psycho. Not surprising since Roy shovels on the pop cult references like Big Bad John shoveling coal (about the only reference Roy missed): Tony Perkins, Love Story, Batman, John Carradine, I Am Curious (Yellow), Betty Friedan, Ed Sullivan, the Shadow and more. One supposes all the name-dropping was meant to be timely, but it quickly becomes clunky and intrusive, if now serving as an early-'70's time capsule.
Peter: Though the road is rife with incredible coincidences (Morbius gets off a ship in the sea and then swims ashore to the Connors place where Spidey just happens to be held up in), bad dialogue, and heroes who feel sorry for themselves ad nauseum, the trip is worth it when we get to the destination. It's all set-up for the eventual showdown between one of Spidey's oldest and most beloved enemies and a rookie who'll someday become a welcome addition to the rogues' gallery. Gotta say though, this six-arm stuff is for the birds. Just when we thought Peter's problems with his girlfriend were in his rear view, up pops four new obstacles to send us down into a "He loves me, he loves me not" spiral. The quicker Roy can clean up Stan's six-fisted mess, the better!
Scott: The art is a real disappointment. Nobody looks right. Gil Kane's pencils are again let down by the inker and Roy's script is far from his best. Morbius was never an appealing villain to me and I always felt he looked rather ridiculous. I am actually so not interested in this guy, I had no idea this was his first appearance. I thought he started in a horror title, but since I've been following the chronology thanks to this blog, I'm learning all sorts of great stuff. What bugs me a little is that Peter's all set to spend his life as a freak, but doesn't consider simply having the extra arms amputated. Surely someone in the super hero union could help and keep his secret in the bargain (I'd say Reed Richards is a solid source - when he's not possessed by the Over-Mind or spanking Johnny). All in all, I can't wait for this to be over.
|Uh-oh Petey, this is an odd-numbered issue. Chances are she doesn't understand!|
Mark: After his escape to Bates Manor, er, Doc Connors' beach house abode, Pete's disarmament lab work comes a cropper. Meanwhile, less than a mile offshore, the crew of the S.S. Moron awake to discover their captain dead. Other crewmen have vanished at sea since they rescued Morbius, mid-ocean. The crew confront the vulpine, goateed stranger with the dead white eyes, but he's strong enough to fight them all off and escape into the bowels of the ship. Rather than pulling into port to report the trouble, our intrepid seaman decide to float around for the rest of the day and spend another night aboard, allowing Morbius - after apparently whipping up some nifty threads in the sewing room and hitting the anti-tanning bed to become flour sack white - to go full Bela on their sorry butts. After draining the ship of fools, our full-bellied fanger swims ashore and takes refuge in the belfry of, you guessed it, the Connor's crib. Come nightfall he attacks the weary, sleepless Peter, delivering an over the banister knock-out blow, courtesy of nice full page art from Gil Kane that almost made me forgot they were already on the first floor. Before Morbius can feast on his Spidey-snack, Doc Connors arrives and goes all green and scaly just as Pete wakes up, villain on either side, arguing over which gets to kill him. Despite its flaws, the action is fast-paced, I like Kane's depiction of the Goth-hipster ghoul, and hopefully the three-way battle ahead will redeem the less than stellar set-up.
Fantastic Four 115
"The Secret of The Eternals"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott
“From Beyond The Stars Shall Come The Over-mind, And He Shall Crush The Universe”…
Summoned by the powers of Agatha Harkness, the Watcher utters those solemn words to a stunned Fantastic Four. He relays to them the origin of the beings that called themselves the Eternals, the race that spawned the Over-Mind. They had science of such a level that death was unknown to them, nothing was beyond them-- except the savagery that drove them to conquer and destroy every world they could find. Between conquests they entertained themselves with “The Games,” arena-like battles against challengers both beast and man. In the ultimate such challenge, the Champion of Champions was selected, a warrior named Grom. But the ways of the Eternals couldn’t last for eternity. Thus, when they tackled the world of Gigantus, a planet so big it dwarfed galaxies, they met their match. Though the Eternals brought death to many of Gigantus, the latter outnumbered them by far. Lovers of peace and life, those of Gigantus nonetheless fought valiantly. Their world was destroyed, but enough of their people escaped to form an armada that crushed the Eternals in turn. A last ditch effort on the Eternals' part was launched, to sow the seeds of further destruction, eons hence, in our time…They called it the Final Project, and they transferred the mental energy of their surviving members into the body of Grom. They encased him in a protective chamber, and launched him into the void of space, to incubate until now. His tale done, the Watcher departs. The team considers their options, and Reed surprises them with his conclusions: he’s the only one with brains enough to fight the Over-Mind! What seems like a Stretcho ego flaunt soon comes to light for what it is—Reed has been influenced by the Over-Mind, and as he escapes, it looks like he’s headed for the other side! -Jim Barwise
Jim: It’s too bad the cover gave away the ending here. We’ve had at least three betrayals by Ben, but Reed? Now there’s a twist. The Over-Mind's origin, that of a super-race that once existed, may not be original, but it is one I have a guilty pleasure for. Galactus and the Watcher are two from this mag alone, and there’s probably as many from any other. Still it puts perspective on the scale of the foe they’re facing here, and hope of much, there isn’t! I have to wonder though, why such a powerful being would waste so much time on Earth; couldn’t he just wave his hand and… Poof! Perhaps he’s starting small after eons of sleep. Gigantus would have been interesting to know more about, I guess peace loving peoples don’t make waves the same way.
Matthew: [Insert sound of Professor Matthew heaving heavy sigh.] Maybe I’m just getting old and cranky. Here you have an issue filled with cosmic spectacle, grandly illustrated by my favorite art team, and I just found the whole thing as dull as dishwater. I won’t bother to grope for specific antecedents, but it all feels terribly familiar, while utterly lacking the sense of humanity in, say, the Silver Surfer’s origin. This seems to be Archie Goodwin’s first credit since he retired from Iron Man more than a year ago, but since he’s only scripting Stan’s plot, I won’t blame him. Unless something vital was edited from my Marvel’s Greatest Comics reprint (and I wouldn’t put it past ’em), the repartee by Tickle Me Ben seemed to be the only sign of life here...
Peter: I'd have to disagree, Professor Matthew. I thought this issue was the first signs of life in this title in... well, I'm too lazy to check back through the past months to find that last spark so I'll just say a whole lot of tedious mush. Of course, the good stuff had nothing to do with the FF but with the guest stars. These guys are a barrel of laughs. The Watcher's flashback segment, where he relates how The Eternals transferred the "brain-power" of their survivors into The Over-Mind and then shot him into space bears an uncanny resemblance to the new origin of Superman in this summer's Man of Steel film. Just a coincidence, I'm sure. Good to see Archie Goodwin back. By the way, these Eternals are not to be confused with Jack Kirby's Eternals, which won't show up on our radar for another five "years."
Scott: I liked this issue. The long history of these "not Kirby" Eternals was actually pretty interesting, but the very idea of Gigantus is well beyond belief. I mean really, a planet large enough to dwarf galaxies? After selling us that bill of goods, someone on that planet claims "they have discovered us!" How could the citizens hope to remain undiscovered when this planet is so damned gigantic? Did they name their planet before they knew just how impossibly large it was? How could anyone map this planet, or communicate with people on the other side? It would take eons to get there. If it has light and heat enough to sustain the population, the sun must be many times larger. Wouldn't a star that incomprehensibly huge be seen by anyone looking up at night? Since only the planet was destroyed (by such small weapons, too), the star should still be there. A star that size going nova would obliterate pretty much everything. There's big and then there's "what the hell are you smoking?" Yeah, yeah, its destruction was the origin of Earth and other planets, which is an awesome discovery that was pretty quickly blown off as soon as it was made clear. Let's just ignore the whole Big Bang theory (Can't say that anymore without thinking those guys should be frequenting this blog). Was this ever mentioned again or was this whole concept just too stupid to be revisited? A quick "made to impress" statement opens up a real can of worms, and it was unnecessary. A planet that dwarfed Jupiter, for example, wouldn't have been impressive enough? It reminds me of those old 50's and 60's sci-fi TV shows that would talk about "the other side of the universe" as if it were just outside Pluto. Space is big. Impossibly, unimaginably big. Pizza delivery on Gigantus must have been one hell of a long wait ("hot fresh pizza in thirty thousand years, or it's half off!"). I checked the letter column regarding this story and only one reader mentioned the size of the planet being a question, mostly in regards to gravity ("he should be flat on the ground, unable to breathe, no matter how strong he was"). He was blown off with a "gravity works differently on Gigantus." I was a little disappointed not to see a Prof. Scott sized essay on the subject. And how many times can the Watcher drum up BS excuses to get involved? "I'd love to help you guys, but I can only watch!"
Mark: I didn't go back and re-read the first parts of the Over-Mind arc and probably haven't read this issue since it first appeared (gulp!) 42 years ago, but had no trouble getting into the story and felt Archie Goodwin did an admirable job scripting Stan's plot, in particular giving Ben some nice wisecracks. Yeah, the whole info-dump by the Watcher was already an old saw by '71, but at least having Baldy simply relate the war history between the Eternals and the peace-loving folk of Gigantus isn't outright trampling on the non-inference if rarely enforced Code of the Watchers. We get a concise (Roy Thomas obviously wasn't taking notes over at the Avengers desk) summary of interstellar war and one that (if you can swallow the whole planet "which dwarfed whole galaxies in size," idea, admittedly a Heimlich-inducing concept, but as the Bard said, "More things in heaven and earth, ye snarky bloggers...") works fine as the OM's backstory. I've always been a sucker for plots involving "evil Reed" (nicely portrayed by Big John in the last panel of page 26), as well as humorous depictions of Stretcho (page 27) that harken back to Jack Cole's Plastic-Man. Add the Thing getting tickled and top drawer art by John Buscema and quintessential FF inker Joe Sinnott and I'm reminded why this was about the time when I started to emerge from my post Kirby's-really-gone FF depression.
Scott: Great Star Trek shout out by Ben on page 10. I usually don't enjoy his constant griping
interruptions, but being a Trekkie, I let this go with a chuckle. Reed's sudden turn at the end gives us a fine cliffhanger and shows us what a real threat he is (although finding Ben's tickle spot was a little off-putting). His best line ever: "Not like me to do all the thinking? The one who inevitably saves the team? Where have you been?" If the FF were a live action TV series at this time, Jack Lord would have been a perfect Reed Richards, going by the last panel on page 26 ("Book 'em, Stretcho!"). The next panel, however, pole vaults way over the top in showing how Reed's attitude has changed. Jeez, Buscema, look up "subtle" sometime. To be fair, when Jack Kirby drew Reed "taken over by Doom" way back in issue #10, he gave Reed crazy arching eyebrows, so I guess all's fair. The story wraps up next issue and will be part of the Marvel Page Increase trickery, but it'll be a good wrap up with an unexpected ally. Looking at the Over-Mind's face in the final panel, I actually think Popeye would be the best man to tackle him. Just sayin'.
The Incredible Hulk 144
"The Monster and the Madman!"
Story by Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich
Art by Dick Ayers and John Severin
Bruce Banner is still being held captive by Dr. Doom in Latveria while the rest of the world believes him to be dead. Brainwashed by Doom's machinery, Banner orders other scientists around as they build a Gamma bomb. It seems like he's not the only one held against his will as Dr. Doom has also kidnapped his childhood love Valeria. Doom takes her into the lab to show off his new plans. Valeria isn't impressed. After she inadvertently mentions the Hulk, it causes Banner to change into the monster. Doom is prepared for this and he shoots the beast with rays from his armor that sooth him until he changes back to Banner. In order to take over the neighboring country without making himself look like a total creep in front of his love, Doom makes up a story that the neighboring country is going to attack them. The Hulk has escaped with the bomb and will destroy everything unless Doom activates it first. In reality, the brainwashed Hulk was set loose to attack the neighboring country by Doom. When his troops inform him that the bomb had gone off prematurely, without any of his enemies being hurt, Doom is shocked. Valeria reveals that she never believed Doom and knew what he was up to all along. Tricking one of the guards earlier, Valeria adjusted the machinery that was putting Banner under Doom's control. Banner reset the machine so that he would be acting under his own recognizance when he turned back into the Hulk. Thus, he made sure he was in a desolate area when the bomb went off so that there would be no casualties. A furious Doom orders that Valeria be taken away and tried for treason. As she begs for mercy, the Hulk comes back into the castle to teach Doom a lesson. Dr. Doom is able to fend off the rampaging Hulk's attacks until he has to save Valeria from falling overhead debris. The Hulk wins the battle after putting a bear hug on the tyrant. He decides not to kill Doom and then leaps off far away to be left alone. -Tom McMillion
Tom McMillion: The final battle was a little disappointing because it seemed short to me. This was still a good issue as you rarely see these two classic characters interact or come into conflict with each other.
Scott: We kick off with Ross showing Talbot, Doc Samson and Betty the last films they took of the Hulk and Betty has another meltdown when Ross mentions the Hulk is dead. Why was she even included in these things? She's always hanging around, having no other purpose than to spout off the usual "and you may have killed the man I love!" She's such a burden. Yet Ross lets her participate and allows her to "get it out of her system." Fat chance, Thunderbolt. And what the hell, did Samson break her neck accidentally (see below)?
Matthew: This month, the resurgent—or is that insurgent?—Gary Friedrich not only succeeds Stan (albeit briefly) on Captain America, but also shares credit with Roy both here and in the current Ka-Zar yarn, with his fellow Howlers vets Ayers and Severin concluding this two-parter. Trust Roy to keep Doom in play, now that his strip is simultaneously ending, and even to revive the Valeria storyline he and Larry Lieber introduced in Marvel Super-Heroes #20; it’s as heartening as watching his continued loyalty to Captain Marvel, currently on display over in The Avengers. Once again, either the somewhat more simian Severin-inked Hulk is improving or I’m simply acclimating to him, although the difference in pencilers could clearly be a factor, as well.
Scott: Doom's got a girlfriend! Doom's got a girlfriend! Ahem. Anyway. While John Severin's inks do wonders, Dick Ayers' dire layouts are apparent. Stilted action poses, lots of portrait shots and face close ups. I didn't think Banner looked all that different from normal. He's well groomed for a change, with a nice neat part in his hair (maybe it's on the wrong side). The coloring is off in the original issue. Banner's pants change color with his skin; blue when he's Banner and purple when he's the Hulk. Speaking of which, why is it suddenly so damned easy for Banner to freak out and morph into ol' Greenskin? Now all someone has to do is mention his name and bam! Hulk Out! Was it because Ayers couldn't draw anything exciting? Why was he even employed? Was he related to Stan? Anyway, Doom effortlessly knocks out the Hulk who again promptly becomes Banner again (never mind all the issues where the Hulk can sleep for weeks and never change back - I wish someone would put some thought into this). Really, this story is breathtaking in its mediocrity. I understand the appeal in mixing up villains, but Doom vs the Hulk just doesn't feel right. Maybe a better written and drawn story would prove me wrong.
Peter: At one point, Vik scolds his beloved Valeria for not recognizing the famous scientist Bruce Banner. Not to worry, Val, I didn't recognize him either. Doom doesn't exactly come through unscathed by Ayers and Severin either. In some panels, that mask of his seems to float in the air. This bump in the road before we get back to Herb Trimpe makes me wonder if I'd have added The Incredible Hulk to my must-buy list if I'd picked this issue up instead of #159 (the first Hulk I ever shelled out for). Probably not. Still not sure what Doom's master plan involving the Green Goliath was.
Captain America and the Falcon 142
"And in the End..."
Story by Gary Friedrich
Art by John Romita and Joe Sinnott
Nick Fury and Sharon have finally shaken off the Grey Gargoyle's influence. Falcon and Fury are hip to get moving, but Cap won't start until he knows Sharon is okay. This incident has put their feelings in perspective, reuniting the erstwhile couple at last. Speaking of couples, Redwing the magic bird arrives safe and sound, making the Falcon's day. Fury, ever the realist, suggests they shake it and stop the Gargoyle from getting his hands on Element X inside SHIELD HQ, where he locked himself inside last issue (no hurry, Cap, keep snogging your squeeze). The guards do their best, but the Gargoyle is too much for them. Cap and Falc use their well-honed gymnastic tricks to get inside through the installations glass dome (Fury wanted a skylight, hang the security risk). The Gargoyle finds Element X and turns it to stone for safe transport. Meanwhile, in The City, Reverend Garcia (who was assaulted a few issues back and saved by Officer Steve Rogers) gets a visit from the Commissioner and Leila. With her huge afro to back her up, she spouts more bigotry and hatred, saying Steve attacked the hoodlums in an act of racism. She accuses the Commish of a whitewash and threatens Harlem will burn if true. She dismisses Garcia's rebuttal as "the white man's lies" and leaves. At SHIELD HQ, Cap and Falc fight the Gargoyle. Cap shouts some threats to GG, actually sending a hopelessly ambiguous clue to Sharon and Fury. But since Sharon now has ESP, she has "a feeling" of what Cap wants to do, so they head to the Rocket Control Center. Cap and Falc lure GG into the rocket with Element X and blast him off into space. Now the Grey Gargoyle cannot threaten Earth - even though this madman is still in possession of this dangerous element. -Scott McIntyre
Scott: After pages of what the Falcon himself calls "Soap opera," they finally take off after the Gargoyle. God forbid the personal life takes a back seat to saving humanity. Not sure why SHIELD would have a big "easy-break" glass dome on the roof, other than to let Cap dramatically smash his way in. Gary Friedrich feels he needs to remind us that the Falcon is black, although (as Dean Peter will observe below) I never heard anyone of color outside Dolemite talk like Sam or Leila (or any of the Harlem residents when they really get going). Leila is, again, grating. And again, the writing makes it look like the people of Harlem are unwilling to do anything but destroy. The white commissioner speaks in rational tones, using reason and logic, while Leila simply fires off more hatred and rhetoric like "this slum's gonna burn, baby!" Is it because it's forty years later (oh my God - forty years)? Or maybe it's because I'm white. I don't know. I realize I've touched on this repeatedly, but since I keep reading it, it still rubs me the wrong way. It will all build to a major story point next issue, but it won't do their cause any favors. Honestly, Spider-Man handled the Civil Rights issue much more deftly using Joe and Randy Robertson.
“Groovy Gary,” his output was prodigious, with 1-5 credits every single month during his first three years (1967-70), mostly war, Westerns, and humor. But is he ready to take over the Sentinel of Liberty from The Man, and to do justice to all the ravishing Romita/Sinnott artwork? In answer, I offer one example: aside from the ludicrous Element X inherited from Stan’s 75% of the arc, this issue contains references by Cap or Falc to Plan D, Maneuver K, and Operation L. Are we to believe that they have Plans A-Z, Maneuvers A-Z, and Operations A-Z? That’s 78 tactics right there. I can just hear the howls of derisive laughter from Dean Enfantino.
Peter: Loses one star in my rating for daring to evoke The Fab Four in its title. All those issues I derided Stan Lee for trying to write hip ghetto jive for his black characters, never knowing it could get worse. "I hear you knocking, brother! How about lettin' me in?" to "Outtasite! Keep jivin' like that, and I may be able to make a soul brother out of you yet!" makes me wonder if Gary Friedrich ever heard an African-American speak outside of Shaft or Blacula. How about the ever delightful Leila (with her insanely thin waist), who scolds Steve Rogers' boss with a "Don't you be sweatin' my name, whitey! Just hear what I'm layin' down!" I imagine that, if Gary were scripting this series today, all the whiteys would talk like Eminem. About that retirement, Stan...
|"Just get me a muvvaflubbin' burger, whitey!"|
Scott: The "message" Cap sends to Fury and Shaon is laughably vague. He only uses to word "control" one time, but Sharon picks up on it because Cap "keeps mentioning" it. Perhaps if he really did, it wouldn't seem so lame, but there it is. Sharon "has a feeling," alluding to her psychic powers that are never mentioned after the previous issue, but it's a lazy shortcut to setup the climax ("Control? Control what? Control Room? Control Panel? Maxwell Smart from Control? What does he mean?"). Beyond this, the story is really exciting and the Gargoyle turns out to be a much more fearsome and effective for than he ever was. Unlike last issue's all out action, this one is better paced with short interludes giving us a breather. This was an excellent multi-part saga, especially compared to the last few years worth of preaching and bad plotting. The art, again by Romita and Sinnott, is drool worthy (just don't let it hit the paper). The cover promises an "Unbelievable Ending" which is more than just hyperbole. I really can't believe SHIELD would allow the Gargoyle to stay in orbit with the ultimate weapon. Nobody wants to fire a missile and blow it to smithereens? Or capture it? Or SOMETHING? Ah well. Come back next time for "The Ghetto Ablaze!" That ought to be fun and stuff.
Peter: So, am I right that Cap, The Falcon, and Fury all conspire to trap The Gargoyle in that rocket and blast him off into space to die? No food on board, I'm assuming. And how is it safe to leave the canister of Element X on board? We all know he'll find a way off that space ship and he's going to have that deadly weapon when he does. Stay tuned. Future science fiction writer Steven Utley (who passed away this last January) chimes in on the raging political debate going on in the "Let's Rap With Cap" letters page.
The Invincible Iron Man 42
"When Demons Wail!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by George Tuska and Frank Giacoia
Tony and Marianne, plagued respectively by nightmares and ESP powers, draw together as Kline charges his mutant minion Mikas with destroying Stark, selecting Marianne as the crux of his new plan. Jasper emerges from his coma while Crandal betrays Iron Man into the hands of Senator McJavit; determined to prove his innocence by refusing to break out, the jailed Iron Man is set up when a vision of Marianne in danger makes him race to her rescue. Revealed as an operative of Kline’s, McJavit is summarily destroyed, having served his purpose, and Iron Man battles Mikas—who calls himself Soulfather, drawing his energy from lava—in a strange landscape where he is haunted by the fear that he has failed Marianne, and apparently defeated. -Matthew Bradley
|"Howd'ya do I...see you've met my...faithful handyman..."|
Scott: Soulfather? Wow. Considering the time, I'm actually surprised they wasted this name on a white guy. Will we later see SoulGodfather? He feels good! Yikes. I suppose they can't always fall back on established villains and the new guys can't always be gems, but right off the bat, this fella looks and sounds pretty awful. Tuska's cartoony style again provides us with a craptacular Iron Man villain (I stand my by assertion that Iron Man has the most dire rogue's gallery). It is, however, finally good to check up on Jasper Sitwell. He doesn't stand well (see what I did there?) but it's been months, I was afraid he was forgotten.
|Imagine what Don Heck could have done with all this naked flesh!|
Matthew: Instead of my usual lament about Gerry’s growing pains, I’d like to offer a positive word (to the presumed impatience of the Tuskaphile legions, for which I make no apologies) about George’s art, although obviously, inking mainstay Giacoia shares in the laurels. I don’t generally classify George as one who excels at depicting beautiful women, but the pulchritude portrayed on page 3 is just one example of why I think of him as at least partially underrated; as far as I’m concerned, his limitations center on faces, and even then only some of the time. Conversely, as I’ve always said, his action scenes are strong, and this issue sports commendably varied layouts (e.g., page 5, emphasizing Kline’s dominance), with two nifty full-page shots of Shellhead confronting Mikas.
Scott: Iron Man, like so many marvel heroes' thinks things to himself that he already knows, simply to catch us up. While that's considerate of him, it stands out because of the sheer volume of inner monologue provided by "paid by the word" Gerry Conway. Marianne Rodgers sleeps in the nude. Now we know. We also know she doesn't lock her hotel door, since Tony can just burst in at any time. Then again, this was probably her hope all along, since she sees him and immediately wants him to hold her. Tony still can't handle emotional relationships, judging by his pleas for her to not cry. Why do women like him again? Oh, right, the money and stuff. What the hell kind of wacky message is on that computer tickertape on the bottom of page 14? Puh-leez, less artsy, more fartsy. Nothing particularly poignant followed, so what was all that about? The whole issue dissolves into a strange disco sensation nightmare. The story just seems to stop, like they ran out of pages. Maybe I've had too much 4th of July weekend fun, but this was a mess.
"And a House Whose Name is Death!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by George Tuska and Jim Mooney
After being laid out from a violent encounter between the sorceress Aunt Serr, her mutant rock son Karl, and her niece turned witch Lucille, Namor encounters a giant that attacks him. Both Namor and the giant take a hard fall that knocks them both out. Namor is visited by two otherworldly metallic men, who read his mind before traveling off. When Namor recovers, the Giant offers to make peace with him. He takes Namor to a bar that is filled with creatures that were once human before Aunt Serr experimented on them. Despite their freakish appearances they still consider themselves lucky, as the other townsfolk were killed by Serr. Namor leads the monsters in a search for vengeance where they confront the sorceress. As he battles Serr, Karl, and Lucille, the creature crew goes into her basement where they find the machine that had transformed them. The giant destroys it, causing the evil mansion to implode. Lucille does one last act of kindness for Namor when she uses her powers to blast him out of the house before it destroys him. During this tale Diane Arliss and Stingray fly out to find Namor while Mister Tuval in Boston begins to lose his mind as he sets out to create his own Black Sea community. -Tom McMillion
Tom McMillion: Anybody can tell from reading this issue's summary that way too much nonsense is going on. I like monster stories as much as the next guy but when you combine The House of Dracula, Freaks, and an episode of The Outer Limits, there's just too much weirdness going on. Why was it necessary to bring in the metallic beings, currently involved in some story with Daredevil and Spider-Man? A pathetic attempt to boost sales or is their appearance a foreboding for Namor's next adventure which further sidetracks him from his quest to find his father?
Scott: Gerry Conway again spews prose all over the pages. I'm all for reading being fundamental (that's why we have RIF), but if I wanted to read that much, I'd crack open that Nelson DeMille novel I've had on my nightstand for months. I always felt that comics work best when the words support the pictures, not the other way around. The illustrations should be able to tell the meat of the tale on their own, with the writer on board to fill in details, provide realistic dialog and characterization, tying it all together. Gerry didn't feel that way, apparently. He goes on and on, plastering verbosity over George Tuska's art. It's too much. It slows the pace to a crawl and the story isn't interesting enough.
Matthew: Completing Conway’s bold trifecta, the Mr. Kline storyline from Daredevil and Iron Man spills over into his remaining monthly title (several months later, he would even retcon it into Captain America #151 during his stint on that book). Once again, Tuska is well-served by a good inker while visualizing Gerry’s script, in this case Jim Mooney, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, whether you love it or hate it, his work is almost hard to find among the monolithic slabs of narrative captioning and barrage balloons of dialogue, a trait that afflicted Gary Friedrich’s early Hulk efforts. To add insult to injury, this torrent of verbiage can bring little clarity to Gerry’s disjointed storytelling, which leaves many an unanswered question.
Scott: More to the point, this tale could have been told in another book very easily. Each Marvel character has a distinctive style of tales, for the most part. While they all can have the same sort of mind-numbing brawls, the big guys cover different parts of the dramatic spectrum; the FF has cosmic adventures, Spider-Man deals with petty crooks and more realistic personal life, the Hulk battles the army and wrestles with identity issues, and so on. Namor was in a unique position to detail the life of a monarch who is neither at home with his own people or on the surface. Constantly under stress and siege, Namor would deal with crises from without and within, defending his people and attempting to claim a rightful place in the world (he also went on various quests for shits and grins). This story, mercifully wrapping up, felt like it should have been written for the FF (an adventure on Whisper Hill) or, if he had his own book at the time, Dr. Strange. This was so "not Namor," it was actually dull (again, the overwriting did not help). It felt really off and I found it impossible to enjoy. As I mentioned, the Sub-Mariner likes to go on quests. Well, he allegedly has one now. Let's stop wasting time with this stuff and go find daddy already.
Astonishing Tales 8
"Battle of New Brittania!"
Story by Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich
Art by Herb Trimpe and Tom Sutton
A plane crash lands in the Savage Land, with a woman parachuting to safety. Ka-Zar and Zabu race to help, saving the occupants from the dangerous Lizards Who Walk Like Men. The one outsider claims he and his fiancée Barbara, the parachutist in question, were looking for Ka-Zar, using the crude map he left with his servants in England. Barbara is attacked by Germans on giant pliesosaurs, but saved by British on winged creatures, who are soon engaged in battle with Germans on different winged creatures. Barbara is brought back to “New Britannia” a remote part of the Savage Land, with no knowledge of K-Z, where the English battle the Germans as if WWII was still going on. K-Z battles some Man-Apes in search of Barbara, then his makeshift raft is attacked a geyser, leaving him, Zabu and their companion in peril! –Joe Tura
Joe: Boy, this one is a doozy. I mean, all over the place! Plane crashes, evil Lizard-Man, Man-Apes, Nazis, crazy Brits, giant sea monsters, a damsel in distress, giant winged monsters, crazy stories about WWII, giant speeches by our hero, etc. All covered in 12 or so pages! And well, I still don’t know what the heck is going on here. It’s almost fun, but on a second read, just kinda messy. Messy art, messy script, messy hair. Good thing Ka-Zar takes over the whole book next month! Yeesh.
Scott: The art by Trimpe is pretty lackluster, but Tom Sutton's inks try to capture some of the Barry Smith flavor. You can see it every so often, but it all still falls pretty far short. The story about guys fighting World War II is right out of 60's TV (either Gilligan's Island or Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea - your choice). Why had this series gone on this long? Was anyone reading it?
Matthew: This title made the jump to the larger 25¢ format a month early, accommodating a 10-pager in which Len Wein, George Tuska, and Mike Esposito detail the background of Zodiac member Gemini. Mike Friedrich (thanked in the credits “for getting it all together”) prominently featured the Brothers Link in the Ka-Zar strip that takes over the entire book for the next twelve issues, which I won’t be covering, before being spun off into a solo series. Here, our two-man creative team doubles in size as Gary “No Relation” Friedrich joins Roy, wiping the slate clean and channeling Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Caspak novels with gleeful abandon, and Herb Trimpe hands the inking chores over to Tom Sutton with not-half-bad results.
The Brothers Link in
“This Badge Bedeveiled!”
Story by Len Wein
Art by George Tuska and Mike Esposito
Two policemen answer an alarm at the Futura Research Labs, including officer Damian Link. They nab the bad guys, only to find one of them is Link’s brother Joshua! After a quick flashback on both brothers’ stories (Joshua a bad seed who found the road to ruin, Damien a straight-shooter who turned adversity into fighting for law and order), the two are knocked into some experimental rays while grasping hands. The crooks take Josh back, with his hair turned white, and they kill Damien’s partner. After Josh’s identity is announced on the radio, his cohorts try to off him, but as Josh manages to get away, he’s shot—and his astral form contacts brother Damian! With the power of two men, Damien fights off the crooks, but finds himself estranged from the brother he arrests—just as they find themselves connected like never before!—Joe Tura
Scott: This poor man's Twilight Zone is okay, but nothing I'd ever want to re-read. Did anything come of The Brothers Link?
Joe: So what exactly was the purpose of this story about the Brothers Link? I don’t have a clue why it’s included here, other than it’s kinda “Astonishing” I guess. Plus, it’s a great way to pad the “full, fabulous 52 pages” (per Roy Thomas’ Bullpen Bulletin), for better or worse. Meaning more Ka-Zar might have been worse. Turns out the brothers are really Gemini from the Zodiac. But would readers of this mag know that? Um, probably not. But, don’t worry, they’ll be back in about a year on these pages. Can’t wait! Hopefully they’ll bring along my favorite Link: Lancelot, the Secret Chimp!
Dr. Doom in
“…Though Some Call It Magic!”
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Longing for his long-lost gypsy mother, Doom is led into a dungeon of his castle by faithful servant Boris. Turns out, according to the village folk, every year Doom conjures demons, namely Satan, and battles him for his mother’s soul. The dark one chooses Kagrok The Killer to fight Doom and they battle to a standstill, with the weary Doom left to lick his wounds and vow to try again next year. – Joe Tura
Joe: This is it for the mighty Dr. Doom in Astonishing Tales, even though the final page promises “Deathmasque!” is the next tale. (Although Prof. Matthew saying he sees “Shadowmasque” makes me think they changed it later for some ridiculous reason. Either way, it’s moot.). Not sure what the heck is going on here either other than some welcome background into Doom’s past, which nearly makes him a little human. Some decent Colan/Palmer art, but all in all, much ado about not-so-much. A longer Doom tale with less Brothers Link might have been better.
Scott: This was an interesting tale. Was this the first inkling of the fate of Doom's mother's soul? It had a great build up, but I was a little disappointed when it went back to the usual physical contest. Had this been a battle of spells, it would have been a nice turn and a little more interesting. However, it was nice to have Doom pursue a goal that could have been accomplished. We know he won't take over the world or kill Reed Richards, but he could rescue his mother's soul. What would that change in the Marvel Continuity? So props for generating some actual suspense. A little, anyway…
Matthew: Perhaps inevitably, this strip undergoes one more change in personnel—with Palmer replacing Giacoia as Colan’s inker—even as it ends, although the last page (“Next: Shadowmasque”) and the lettercol suggest that the cancellation was unexpected. Consciously or not, it gives Doom’s distaff counterpart, the Black Widow, an object lesson in how to go out in style, and at least in this context, Palmer seems to be an improvement. Conway, who consistently did more interesting work in the short-lived split books than in his concurrent, higher-profile monthly titles, spins an atmospheric tale of Doom’s annual wager with Satan for his mother’s soul; big stuff for 10 pages, but Gerry keeps it curiously intimate, and thus effective.
Scott: Someone should point out, if it hasn't been already, that this is the last month before the Marvel Banner appears over the top of each cover. Say good bye to old, for the 1970's have now truly arrived.
Also this Month
Millie the Model #192
Monsters on the Prowl #13
Our Love Story #13
The Outlaw Kid #8
Rawhide Kid #92
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #92
The X-Men #72
I ain't got nothin' to say about Sgt. Fury #92. I just think it's a great cover (by Herb Trimpe). It also happens to contain a brand-new story penciled by Trimpe (written by the heretofore unknown Al Kurzrok). Even The Outlaw Kid got in on the quarter-sized action this month. The cover for #8 screams "Six-Gun Pay-Off PLUS: 6 more wild-and-woolly Outlaw Kid classics" but, sparing no expense, the boys also throw in a Stan Lee penned tale from Kid Colt Outlaw #64 (September 1956) featuring pencils a-blazin' by Reed Crandall. But, of course, this 10-year old MZ salivated most over Monsters on the Prowl #13, a giant-sizer collecting four classics by Lee, Kirby, Heck, and Ayers, as well as a brand-new monster tale written, very much in the vein of "the old days", by wonder-boy Gerry Conway. A newspaperman working for a National Enquirer-esque rag is desperately searching for proof that a race of men lives underground. At least he thinks he's found that proof when an incident inside a newly-excavated subway tunnel comes to light. Impersonating a city employee, the reporter goes down deep and finds himself "In the Shadow of Tragg -- He Who Walks Beneath the Earth!" Rather than a man-sized "inter-terrestrial" Tragg is a giant rat who walks upright. Tragg just wants to be left alone but that's not good enough for our "hero" and eventually he draws the creature out of the tunnel. Now that the creature is on a rampage, the only avenue left for survival is to set one of the subway cars in motion. The trick works and Tragg is killed under an avalanche of dirt and cement. It's not that the story's all that great (or original, for that matter) but it's an almost letter-perfect impersonation of a Lee-Kirby giant monster story from, say, pre-hero Tales of Suspense. It helps that the 6-pager is penciled by Golden Ager Syd Shores. Ah, nostalgia for a 1971 comic book that was meant to invoke nostalgia for a 1961 comic book. Now, that's deep! -Peter Enfantino