Wednesday, February 19, 2014

July 1973 Part One: The Green Goblin Pays For His Indiscretions



The Amazing Spider-Man 122

“The Goblin’s Last Stand!”
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Gil Kane, John Romita & Tony Mortellaro


Moments after the death of Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man and The Green Goblin battle atop the bridge, with each promising to destroy the other, until the Goblin maneuvers his flyer so Spidey smashes into a cable and the villain takes off. Managing to catch his fall, Spidey spots the police on the docks near Gwen’s body and swings down, not letting the cops near her as he says a final goodbye. Admitting “Spider-Man killed her”, our hero is asked to go for questioning but instead angrily leaves in search of the Goblin. A stunned Peter enters the Osborn townhouse to confront his enemy, but only finds a still-freaked out and desperate Harry, who Peter abandons in favor of revenge. Spidey asks Robbie Robertson, who’s shocked by the news of Gwen’s death, for help locating Osborn properties. JJJ comes in demanding justice, but Spidey webs the publisher’s mouth shut and swings off. At his warehouse lair, Goblin gloats that nothing can stop him, and thinking Spidey will ambush him, heads out the side, where the wall-crawler attacks! Ruining Gobby’s flyer, an angry and determined Spider-Man quickly gains the advantage, and is moments from battering the Goblin for the final time—when the sputtering remote-controlled flyer heads towards Spidey’s back! But his spider-sense alerts Spidey, he ducks, and the flyer strikes the Goblin, killing him! However, a shadowy figure lurks, having witnessed the whole thing. Epilogue: Mary Jane is at Peter’s apartment when he gets there, but the shaken Parker wants no sympathy from her. MJ closes the door, staying inside to comfort her friend. - Joe Tura






Joe Tura: Another important issue of ASM, in that how the heck do you follow last issue. And in that Gobby had to pay for what he did. And it all comes together amazingly in the second of back-to-back masterpieces. First, we get an iconic Romita cover, which might be one of his best, even including the traffic on the bridge. Then another fantastic Conway script, with hardly any false words in the entire issue. I loved Peter’s monologues, equal parts introspective, profound and heartfelt. And the Kane/Romita/Mortellaro team is top-notch, especially the full panel, heartbreaking page 11. The Epilogue page is another fabulous one, with wonderful expressions and a solemn yet meaningful final “Click” of MJ closing the door, but staying by Peter’s side. Great, great stuff.


Scott McIntyre: Norman Osborn pays the ultimate price for his actions the previous issue and does it without pushing Spidey far enough to do it himself. It was close, Gerry brought him right to the edge of murder, before snapping him out of it. Spider-Man decides to bring Norman to jail, knowing full well it would be the end of his secret identity. It’s a powerful moment within a series of powerful moments. This entire issue is one long quest for vengeance.

Peter Enfantino: Like #121, this is an issue that loses not one iota of its impact forty years on. The greatest foe Spider-Man ever fought (and yet one that was used quite sparingly) is dead. What are we left with? Kangaroos, Shockers, Mindworms, Grizzlies. Meh. Gerry will keep the action and twists coming non-stop for the next 30 issues or so, but nothing will ever top this back-to-back gut-wrench. A parade of emotional images: Spidey pushing aside the cops on the pier; Harry's freaked-out pleas; the dazed eyes of Peter Parker when his mask comes off; the sheer fury of Spidey's blows delivered to a reeling Goblin; and, most of all, that heart-breaking finale. About as close to the perfect comic book as it gets, trumping even last issue's masterpiece.

Joe: Favorite sound effect: FFFFTT! When Spidey webbed JJJ’s mouth shut, web-head fans everywhere stood up and cheered! Including yours truly, of course. Close second: CHUNK! Gobby gets it right in the sternum, that stinkin’ rat. And you know, I felt kinda ambivalent about this back in the 70s. Yeah, he deserved it, but now who was going to be Spidey’s #1 villain? It’s different reading it today knowing that ol’ Normie is alive and kicking, that’s for sure.

Matthew Bradley:  Containing the death of the original Green Goblin, this probably merits Landmark status just as much as the prior issue, and in point of fact, I think I prefer it, even if Peter’s raccoon eyes are a bit much—while Marvel Tales cuts M.J. and the montage of Gwen!  Overall, the art strikes me as more representative of primary inker Romita (with back___ by Mort___) than of penciler Kane, which is perhaps fitting for such a historic entry, although it’s nice to have them both represented.  My biggest concern regarding Spidey’s run-in with New Yawk’s Finest was less that he’d inevitably be blamed for the death of another Stacy family member, and more that his obvious grief over Gwendy would raise new secret-identity problems.


The rarely-bequeathed High Quality Writing Shield
is taken out of mothballs
Scott: As stated, Peter’s concern for his identity is completely out the window at this point. He openly grieves over Gwen in front of police and bystanders. Also his head cold from last issue is totally gone now, apparently by sheer force of will. I agree Peter is drawn a little too crazy eyed, but aside from that, this issue is a worthy and sad follow up to last issue’s amazing storytelling. The montage is heartbreaking and beautiful and the final panel on page 10 is the sad final image we’ll ever see of the real Gwen outside of flashbacks.  Reading this again for the blog reminds me how much her death bothered me. Seeing beautiful Gwendy in eternal repose is shattering and propels the rest of the story. Peter’s icy attitude toward Harry is sobering (“and you’re absolutely no use to me at all!”), as is Harry’s distress seeing his best friend give him his back.

Joe: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention letter writer Henry Cooper, who asks The Spider’s Web “Whatever happened to the Kangaroo?” Are you serious, Cooper? So it’ll be all your fault when he shows up again!

Peter: In an interview with Back Issue Magazine (#18, September 2006), Gerry Conway said:  "For Gwen's death to have consequence, it had to be tied to Spider-Man's most potent enemy. For the Green Goblin's death, it has to be tied to a crime that's unforgivable... I think he was a natural character to use because of all the intermeshed lives." Artist John Romita remarks in the same interview: "...my impression was that in five years, I didn't think anyone was going to remember. We always thought we were just one slump away from (comics going out of business for good)." As related in Sean Howe's oft-quoted (around these parts, at least) Marvel: The Untold Story, in 1996 then editor-in-chief Bob Harras ordered an end to the quicksand known as "The Clone Saga" in the pages of the Spidey titles. His solution was to resurrect Norman Osborn and make him the mastermind behind the entire mess. Since our look at the Marvel Universe ends with December 1979, I will be mercifully spared and shall choose to believe that Osborn's nasty life and career ended atop his warehouse, Goblin Glider embedded deep in his chest.




Scott: While I appreciated seeing the reaction to Gwen’s death played out quickly at the Daily Bugle, I wasn’t so thrilled at how easily Robertson is able to give Spidey his needed information. Fine, I totally buy being able to dig up what strange properties Osborn owns, but to find out that he was spotted there just forty minutes earlier is lazy. Who spotted him? Who did Robbie call? The police? Do they still have those cameras up all over the city? Or is there a Bugle snitch perched at the property of every prominent citizen in Marvel’s New York City? And why doesn’t Robbie wonder why Norman is the target of Spidey’s obsessive search?

Mark Barsotti: "The Goblin's Last Stand" completes the one-two k.o. punch delivered by Gerry Conway and the Kane/Romita/Mortellaro art team, so go ahead and insert the cliché of your choice - Historic! Game-Changer! Gutsy! Unforgettable! - because they all apply. We open with GG, gone full bat-guano psycho, taunting Spidey over Gwen's death. Not the best idea Normy has ever had, which he soon realizes and splits the scene, leaving Peter to deal with both a dead girlfriend and the cops. Typically – and I always hated this trigger happy trope – even the sympathetic cop blasts away at Spidey when he makes his exit. Burning with a lust for vengeance, PP, pausing only to change into his civvies, makes directly for the Osborn townhouse and finds Harry freaked out on acid. His fragile,
tripping-his-'nads-off best friend begs him to stay, but Pete doesn't even consider it. This is what the Goblin has reduced him to: there's no responsibility now; all that great power has a singular, blood-thirsty purpose: revenge.





Scott: Norman, of course, shows no remose and picks exactly the wrong thing to say, enraging his foe even further. His death is ironic and so well remembered that Sam Raimi reused it in the first Spider-Man movie. Rightfully, Peter doesn’t feel any better and as a victory, it rings very hollow. The final page, as noted, was cut from the Marvel Tales reprint. This loss was significant, while losing half the montage arguably wasn’t. This one page both shows what people think about MJ while simultaneously demonstrates there is more to her than we thought. It’s a beautiful, poetic ending to two very tragic and legendary issues. This is Spider-Man at its best and most sad. Peter’s life has just made a shift. Let’s see it unfold together.




Mark: After a quick stop at the Bugle for some Joe Robertson provided intel on a probable Osborn sighting, Spidey heads off for the High Noon showdown, a moment we've been building toward for more than a hundred issues, since GG was introduced way back in #14. Amped on fury & adrenalin, our hero makes quick work of Osborn and is on the verge of beating the "Filthy – worm-eating – scum!" to death before his moral compass overrides Peter's bloodlust. This gives the Goblin time to summon his remote-controlled flyer for a final sneak attack, but Spidey ducks and the flyer takes out Osborn instead, "crucified, not on a cross of gold (nice William Jennings Bryant shout-out, Ger) but on a stake of humble tin."

Peter, hero that he is, takes no pleasure in Norman Osborn's death, leaving that to us, the readers, who aren't required to hold the moral high ground. The story could have ended there, but Conway, at the top of his game, isn't done. He drops in a mystery observer to Spidey's departure from Osborn's warehouse, and closes with a great last page. Peter returns to his apartment to find Mary Jane waiting. He insults her, tries to drive for away and be alone with his grief, but the teary-eyed MJ stays, almost against her will. And the final three panels, silent save for the "Click!" of the closing apartment door, are truly affecting. This is a genuine classic, bidding farewell to two characters so pivotal that Marvel has dared not bring back one of them, even forty years later; the other, a villain so vital to the canon that his resurrection was almost required.

Five stars.








The Avengers 113
"Your Young Men Shall Slay Visions!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Bob Brown and Frank Bolle


We begin our tale as the Avengers repair the damage to the Statue of Liberty caused by Gog in Astonishing Tales. When a piece of the statue falls toward Wanda, the Vision saves her just in time. As they kiss, an enraged bystander launches a hate campaign, first by bitching on TV – and being edited out – then by sending hate mail to Avengers mansion while organizing some people top his cause. Before a group of like-minded men and women, he gives his spiel on how and why they have to kill the Vision: to keep androids from having a place in society. They plan to act as “Hitler’s Generals” did, by bringing the bomb to him. They remove their coats to reveal specialized outfits and call themselves the Living Bombs and take off to their target. The first suicide bomber gets close to the Vision after the Avengers mop up a group of militants and detonates, gravely injuring the android. He is taken to Henry Pym for hoped for repair while the Living Bombs grouse of their failure and plot a second attempt, even if it means they all must sacrifice their lives. They launch an attack at Stark Industries where the Vision is being worked on. After a pitched battle, the bombers are all killed by their own hand and the Vision pulls through. However, Wanda is enraged at the hatred of humans and vows to face the world with her lover – alone.
-Scott McIntyre




Scott: Bob Brown may not be one of Marvel’s best artists, but he’s better than Don Heck by a mile and twice on Sunday. He does well enough with a story that’s both topical and very dark. Rage over interracial coupling as well as the actions of suicide bombers are things today’s audience can still identify with. The body count of the Living Bombs is shockingly high and the only thing that keeps them from being truly terrifying is their ridiculous comic book style outfits. Strapping on a vest of C-4 isn’t dramatic enough, they have to wear red boots, skimpy shorts and helmets with plungers. The leader isn’t given a name; it doesn’t matter, he is identified solely by his hate.




Peter: I'm naturally inclined to roll my eyes when confronted by titles that riff on famous quotes (in this case, one from The Bible -- thank you, Wikipedia) as I hate pretension, especially in funny books. Luckily, that's the only complaint I have about this one, an incredibly dark and grim fable stocked with human bombs and racial turmoil. As wrong as they are, the Living Bombs are at least willing to die for their beliefs. A pity that, as Professor Scott noted, they look as though they're heading for a photo shoot for Quisp cereal rather than to their own private heaven. This is pretty heady stuff for 1973 pre-teens, about as far from the typical comic book material as is possible (just imagine this story in a 1973 World's Finest!). Thank goodness for a bit of comic relief: that exchange between Stark and Blake ("If you find the Thunder God in the same room where I found Iron Man -- say hello for me -- old friend!") perfectly embodies the sheer silliness inherent in hiding your real identity from the guy you're fighting beside. Even though I read the whole Mantis arc back as a wee lad, I'm happy to report that senility is good for one thing: making a story you've read fresh again! Who is that shadowy character beside Mantis? I've got a notion but I may be wrong.







Ka-Coom?
Scott: It was a foregone conclusion that the Vision wouldn’t die. However, it was still pretty cool to
have Don Blake come back and do something worthwhile. Tony’s winking acknowledgment of their identities was a nice bromantic way of tipping them and us off.  All things said, this was a solid issue, one of the best in months.

Matthew: Granted a halfway suitable inker in Bolle, Bob Brown begins an intermittent stint with the Assemblers that lasts until #126 and incorporates one of my all-time favorite arcs, so you can guess on which side of the inevitable debate I fall.  The art isn’t flawless here, yet in my opinion it’s pretty solid, and I just wish that aside from that great title, Stainless had given him more to work with; it’s important to establish the anti-android backlash, but these people walking around with detonators on their heads seem sorta silly. Two ironies:  that we at last see a diversity of races and genders united...in their mutual bigotry toward the Vision, and that the most plausible element is Blake and Stark finally acknowledging each other’s “secret” identities.


Like Snap, Crackle, and Pop, each Living Bomb
was assigned his own death sound


Peter: The only thing missing from The Scarlet Witch's hissy fit in the final panels is the word balloon that screams "I QUIT!" As for the art, my faculty brothers have nailed Bob Brown on the head: he ain't Adams or Kirby but thank Odin he ain't Heck or Tuska. Jack Seabrook and I have discussed some of Brown's work on the DC mystery line at bare bones.




Captain Marvel 27
"Trapped on Titan!"
Story by Mike Friedrich and Jim Starlin
Art by Jim Starlin and Pablo Marcos



On Titan, Thanos uses the Mind-Cyclone to encode Rick/Mar-Vell’s mind within Isaac and, having secured the location of the Cosmic Cube (planted there by the Supreme Intelligence), departs for Louisiana’s Isles Dernières to secure it, leaving Super-Skrull in charge with his Unisphere for protection.  Mentor and his other son, Eros, free Rick, show him the ruins of Titan, and recruit Mar-Vell for its “free, fighting, true army”—now numbering three—as Drax interrupts the retrieval of the Cube, and Lou-Ann reaches the Avengers at Rick’s behest.  Mentor leads Mar-Vell to the Hall of Science, to erase the tapes that would enable Thanos to anticipate his every move, and Super-Skrull, duped with a useless globe, apparently dies during their battle. -Matthew Bradley


Matthew: This marks an early Marvel credit for inker Pablo Marcos, who for the next year or so will be represented almost exclusively in their B&W mags; I don’t recall his four-color oeuvre well, so I’ll wait and see.  The Thanos “War” is literalized as Mar-Vell first visits the oft-invoked Titan—complete with diagram—where Mentor uses that precise term; Drax’s Earthbound appearance is a tease, but he’s best used sparingly anyway, and it’s good to get a chance to know Eros and our wise patriarch better.  If I must reluctantly identify a flaw, it’s that Jim’s plot requires multiple flashbacks to past issues and the Kree-Skrull War, yet the fight to the “death” with Super-Skrull (an interstellar grudge match that goes back to #2 as well as avenging Savannah) makes up for it.




Tom Flynn: On the sage advice of Professor Matthew, I picked up Volume 3 of the Captain Marvel Masterworks, which includes issues 22 through 33, as well as Iron Man #55. I polished off the book in a few eager sittings as the series transformed from a bottom-of-the-barrel borefest to perhaps the most cerebral and ambitious comic Marvel was producing at the time. Sure, to me at least, it took Jim a few issues to hit his stride. And, again to me at least, this was the issue that he did. Things really start to get deadly serious and Mar-Vell is out in space where he belongs, not running around a derelict warehouse. I know this is late to the game, but Roy has an interesting story about Wayne Boring in his Introduction to the Masterwork. After decades as the premiere Superman illustrator, Wayne showed up at the Marvel offices with hat in hand. Now Roy knew that DC had sued Fawcett over the original Captain Marvel, claiming that the character was a Superman rip off. So the Rascally One decided to tweak the Distinguished Competition by putting Boring on their version of Captain Marvel. That’s called a lose-lose situation.

Scott: Man, I’m loving this. Jim Starlin, while inconsistent with some characters, is a fascinating artist in the Steranko mold. He’s apparently more at home with aliens. Thanos looks incredible, as does Eros and Mentor, even though they’re humanoids. There’s energy and life in the pencils. Rick looks wacky, but damn, the rage he feels when learning what Thanos has done is palpable. It raises the question as to why nobody removed his wrist bands, but why lose a dramatic moment over logic, right?




Mark: The stakes skyrocket beyond Titan as Thanos sets his dead-eyes on the Cosmic Cube, a prize with which Mentor's misanthropic issue (although you can make the case Thanos' real daddy is Darkseid) might well conquer the universe! Starlin and co-conspirator Mike Friedrich work in a lot of backstory and rehash (e.g. the end of the Kree-Skull War), but the groovy graphics and jump-cut editing keep things from ever bogging down. Still too much Slick Rick early, but we're appeased with the promise of Thanos vs. the Destroyer II. Mind-controlled Lou-Ann manages to make it to the Avengers before collapsing, and Mar-Vel gets his rage on enough to "kill" the Super-Skull. The story's scope expands exponentially, as does Starlin's burgeoning talent, and it's thrilling to ponder the outer limits of his canvas.

Scott: The Avengers jump to the usual conclusions as they see a young girl with Rick’s ID at the door, so Cap decides to meet her with force. Dude. She’s, like 18. The Titan War, as we call it, is excitingly illustrated. There feels like there’s more going on in these pages than in The Avengers or the FF. I would never have guessed that Captain Marvel could be this satisfying a read.   However, there’s less excitement in the cliffhanger. After a monumental battle between Mar-Vell and the Supa Skrull, we end on the question of Lou Ann’s well-being. Yawn.







Conan the Barbarian 28
“Moon of Zembabwei”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Ernie Chua

In a verdant rain forest south of the Vilayat Sea, Conan is attacked by a huge snake-dragon that coils around the surprised wanderer. The Cimmerian and the slimy creature tumble down a grassy hill and splash into a muddy bog. Just before the ravenous reptile can crush the last breath out of the barbarian, a knife hurled from the bog’s edge decapitates the monster. Conan’s savior boasts that he is Thutmekri from Stygia and instead of freeing the helpless barbarian from the deadly suction of the quicksand, he steals Conan’s sword and continues his march through the jungle with his men and slave-girl Helgi. Using the dead dragon’s body like a rope, the Cimmerian manages to snag a low hanging branch, pull himself from the bog and angrily head after Thutmekri and his black bandits — not before wiping Thutmekri’s discarded dagger on the poisoned fangs of the snake-dragon’s head. When Conan catches up to the Stygians, he finds the mortally wounded Thutmekri surrounded by his slain companions. The fading Stygian tells Conan that they were ambushed by Dalboor, a Zembabwei wizard who sought the graven golden icon of the Gorilla God that Thutmekri had stolen. Leaving Thutmekri to die, Conan heads off after Dalboor, soon discovering M’Gorah, the sole survivor of the Stygians. M’Gorah tells the warrior that Dalboor plans on sacrificing Helgi to the Gorilla God. When Conan and M’Gorah come across the slave-girl tied between two posts, the Cimmerian falls into a hidden pit. Laughing from above, M’Gorah reveals that he is actually the possessed vessel of Dalboor: with Conan trapped in the pit, the wizard beings the incantations that will summon the Gorilla God. When the monstrous carnivorous ape appears, Conan, bred to climb the jagged mountains of Cimmeria, clambers out of the pit and engages the sinister simian, plunging the poisoned blade into its neck again and again. Enraged, the wounded ape blindly kills Dalboor before succumbing to its massive wounds. Conan frees Helgi and they begin the long walk out of the hellish oasis. -Thomas Flynn





Tom Flynn: Another single-issue outing, freely adapted from the Robert E. Howard story — at least according to the splash page. I might need some help from Professor Gilbert on this one, because I’m a bit stumped. I could only find info on a Conan tale called “Red Moon of Zembabwei,” not written by Howard, but instead L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter for the July 1974 issue of the magazine Fantastic. (It was later reprinted in the paperback collection Conan of Aquilonia, published by Ace Books in 1977.) But we’re still in 1973 at this point, so that doesn’t make a lick of sense. Huh. Oh well. Can’t say that I was blown away by this one, but it has a fair amount of action and two ferocious monsters. At one point, Conan makes like Tarzan, oops I mean Ka-Zar, swinging on vines to escape the meaty mitts of the Gorilla God. By the way, why would anyone want to pray to a Gorilla God? Sheesh, those things will kill ya when you least expect it. Heck, even when you most expect it. Which is often. Thutmekri looks a bit like a roguish Billy Dee Williams and at the end, Conan promises to free blond and busty Helgi — eventually. Hmmm. If I had read this one as a greasy 8-year-old, I probably would have assumed that Conan was looking for a bit of friendly conversation and a few home cooked meals. Nowadays, I chalk this up as perhaps the most overtly sexual ending in the history of Marvel. But that could just be me.

Gilbert Colon: Thutmekri is from "Jewels of Gwahlur," but that story sounds different from "Red Moon of Zembabwei," even though the pseudo-African setting matches.  No trace of Dalboor and M'Gorah, or Helgi, but "Beyond the Black River" does feature "the gorilla-god of Gullah."  It's a mystery why Marvel's story is attributed to Howard when the title “Red Moon of Zembabwei" clearly belongs to L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, though the plotline doesn't seem derived from the "Red Moon" story either.  Someone at Marvel must have fed all these elements into a blender to make a mishmash milkshake!






Captain America and the Falcon 163
"Beware of Serpents!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Sal Buscema and John Verpoorten


The Eel and the Viper get ahold of their outfits, which power them, and escape from prison, to join the waiting Human Cobra, becoming the Serpent Squad. Meanwhile, Cap and the Falcon escort Peggy and Sharon Carter to their huge mansion in Virginia. Peggy’s memory has returned, however, she is still in love with Cap and assumes he feels the same. While walking the grounds, Cap and Peggy come upon Dave Cox, a young vet who lost his arm in Vietnam. He has since become a Conscientious Objector, which Peggy considers cowardice. Back in New York, the Serpent Squad hatches a scheme: the Un-Selling of Captain America.  Learning Cap’s location, the squad attacks just as the Falcon was about to split for Harlem. Cap grabs the Eel who electrifies his costume, badly burning Cap’s hands. Sharon and Peggy arrive, but the snakes have made their point and leave. Cap’s hands are bandaged, making him pretty useless in  a fight, but he joins the others in a search for the villains. Cap and Peggy wind up at Dave Cox’s cabin where Peggy goes off on her feelings about his refusal to fight. However, when the Squad arrives, Dave proves his steel when he stands up to them at the near coast of his life. By the time Cap and Falcon wrap them up, Peggy has changed her mind about Dave and Cap vows to help her rebuild her life. -Scott McIntyre




Scott: The Serpent Squad makes for a decent villain team, even if the Viper’s ex-advertising exec identity is still pretty cheesy. There’s lots of good, old fashioned action here, interspersed with the soap opera of Peggy and her expectations of returned love from Cap. This is a fairly ridiculous storyline since, as Dean Paste Pot says, it’s only going to be so long before she realizes Cap loves her (very much) younger sister. I’m sure it doesn’t help that older Peggy looks like Martha Washington. In the issues to come, Peggy will seemingly grow younger and much hotter.



Mark: Enough is enough! I have had it with these mother fudging snakes in this mother fudging comic!

Okay, it's not that bad but still hard to fathom that Stainless was so bereft of ideas that he let ex-ad exec the Viper slither back on the scene with his hoary slogans ("Let the deadly poison of my darts wash your blues away!"), bringing the Eel and the Cobra with him. The Viper's notion for the "Un-selling of Captain America" will soon vault the title to great heights; for now we have to settle for a middlin' slug-fest (and given that the Falc apparently goes full-on Larry Talbot next ish, "middlin'" might well be a blessing).

Scott: Dave Cox is a pretty interesting addition to the cast. He won’t be prominent, but he makes a great statement and fits in well with Cap’s mythos. Captain America is the most understanding dude on the planet. Marvel’s answer to Superman apparently, so he’s all sorts of cool with Dave’s Conscientious Objector , even though Peggy is a total bitch about it. The art is good, if not amazing, but it’s got energy. A well-written yarn this month.




Matthew:  The credits call Stainless and Our Pal Sal “the author/artist team supreme,” but whether you agree or not, it’s interesting that they are also doing Defenders at a time when it has become rare to have the same pairing on multiple titles; the days of Stan and Jack doing almost everything are long gone, and in its own way, that’s perhaps just as well.  I wouldn’t award them that accolade on the basis of this particular issue (inked by Verpoorten), although there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it, and as a fan of super-teams, be they heroes or villains, I welcome the original incarnation of the Serpent Squad.  The Peggy Problem is clearly unsustainable, and will last only until she realizes the ex-popsicle is no longer her beau.

Mark: Beyond the reptilian hissy-fit, we find Cap's new super-strength gone missing, Sharon Carter staying mum about her and Steve's romance for the sake of just-revived older sis Peggy (who thinks her & Cap are still gonna pitch woo), and one-armed Vietnam vet Dave Cox, giving voice to some not-too-preachy post-Big Muddy pacifist sentiments. None of the above are particularly noteworthy but all at least demonstrate Englehart trying to add layered story-telling to the by-rote long underwear punch-ups.  



Daredevil and the Black Widow 101
"Vengeance in the Sky With Diamonds!
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Rich Buckler and Frank Giacoia

DD sets out to tackle the man known as Angar the Screamer, but before he can, the powerful man shows why his voice is so deadly. Matt finds himself falling in another dimension, using his Billy club to stop his fall. In reality he is still in the San Francisco street, and swings into…a wall. He regains consciousness to find two cops watching over him. The curious thing about Angar’s power is that its victims can’t remember exactly what happens—yet DD can. He reasons that while the Screamer’s power must affect the brain chemically, the memory loss is done optically, thus not working on him. Daredevil returns to Natasha’s apartment, and is stunned by her return from what he thought was a more permanent stint in the Avengers. He fills her in on what’s been going on. Meanwhile said villain visits a San Francisco mansion where he meets up with the person controlling him. Called simply “the Man,” he has a remote control to an electrode in Angar’s brain that can control him with pain. Matt has his legal work to attend to as well, where he disagrees with partners Kerwin and Jason on the intended guilty plea of his clients. Ironically it is Matt, kidnapped by Angar shortly after as “bait” for Daredevil, who gets some insight into his opponent. Angar really seeks to end the violence people like “the Man” cause, but has gotten caught up by fear and anger. He lets Matt go, in time for the police to see DD enter the scene. But still under control, Angar feels obliged to attack.  The Black Widow joins the fight, and threatens Angar at point blank range with her Widow Sting. He ceases any hallucinations, but escapes. Matt is more worried about Natasha’s apparent willingness to kill in his defense. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: An interesting continuation of the Angar story, affording him a bit more character. We see he came from a place of wanting peace, before his dream was corrupted. The power he has is interesting in itself; the visions he makes others see, then forget, are sometimes memorable. Glad to see Natasha came to her senses and came back. I don’t really buy her as an Avenger despite the recent Marvel movie.  Good to see Matt stands his ground on the legal front.

Scott: Rich Buckler adds a lot of life to these pages. Tasha is back and she’s got a darker edge, willing to kill if necessary. Angar turns out to be a pitiable villain, a poor  S.O.B. under the thumb of a yet unrevealed maniac. It’s all good fun with lots going on. I love how Buckler avoids drawing Matt’s eyes, keeping them closed or otherwise in shadow. Some hints of things to come at Matt’s job, probably setting the stage for DDs eventual return to NYC.

Mark: Angar the Screamer is a prototypical Steve Gerber character, a counter-culture causality who doesn't want to rule the world but save it, by any means necessary. He's also off his nut and a bundle of contradictions, from the swastika on his hippie headband, to being a post-Woodstock prophet of psychedelic chaos, who's really in thrall to "the Man," the same unseen mansion-dwelling Machiavellian who powered-up unfortunate street acrobat Mordecai, who subsequently exploded – the perfect simile for Gerry Conway's run (drunken stumble?) on the book finally going boom.





Matthew:  I can see from the reviews of his early Avengers work that we’ve got some real Buckler fans among the faculty, but don’t get too excited about this issue, as it’s a one-off, well inked by Giacoia.  This is a shame, not simply because Riotous Rich does such a good job, but because, in my opinion, it’s here—after four months of scripting Conway’s plots, filling in the middle of Englehart’s trilogy, and penning the inevitable memory-lane anniversary issue—that Gerber comes into his own on the book.  Hippie-from-Hell Angar is the perfect San Francisco villain, one against whom Steve gives DD a slight edge, and as I recall, the remainder of his SF stint (much of it centered on the firm of Broderick, Sloan, and Cranston) has a distinctive flavor.

Mark: Angar is made of richer clay than the underwritten and ultimately ridiculous Mordecai. Beyond whatever four color fate awaits him, Angar represents hard core angry youth of early '70's, post-idealism, who saw that the peace and love hippie credo had failed to remake the world and were ready to try violence and disorder, if only they could define the revolution.

No one could, of course. So tune out Nixon, turn up Sabbath and Bowie and got any 'ludes, man? Gerber gives us the Last Angar Man, still raging against the machine in '73, but even more than the "system" he hates his own failure to articulate an alternative. All he could do is scream.








Fantastic Four 136
"Rock Around the Cosmos!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott

Johnny, Ben and Medusa revive Reed after the battle with the now deceased Gregory Gideon. They head for home with Thomas, Gideon’s son. Unknown to them, a henchman of Gideon survived the battle, and has taken on some energy from the machinery. He makes the perfect “victim” of a Skrull known as the Shifter, who creates a whole alternate world from Slugger Johnson’s brain. The Fantasti-Car crash lands when it’s controls fail, but the FF manage to make it safely to the ground, just in time to witness…A group of youth, on flying “bikes”, who attack a huge golden dome with blasts from their machines. The FF soon become targets, before another flying group, essentially on the side of the law, come forth from the dome in defense. Basically a 1950’s mad-world created from Sluggers brain, it finds Johnny, Medusa and Thomas captured by the “Youth Party,” and Reed and Ben by the “Protectors Of The Nation.” Both sides seek a powerful weapon developed by a genius called “the Brain,” which will give its group power over the other. To this end, they hypnotize our heroes into readiness to battle for their cause. -Jim Barwise

Jim: A fairly complex story that required me look back to clarify some details, this 1950 mad-world is pretty intriguing. An interesting picture of what might come from someone’s fantasy of a hybrid between their favourite realities freed of all limitations. The cover (with Slugger, now the Wild One) is slightly misleading, as is often the case, but this time the actual story is better than expected. The Buscema/Sinnott art is great as usual; with a rather effective split-screen interpretation of the dual events.




Scott: A very strange issue, setting up the conflict to come. We bid a fond farewell to Gregory Gideon and The Dragon Man. The dream world is an interesting conglomeration of styles and technology, but the story is so thick, there’s little room to relax and enjoy the adventure. Slugger Johnson looks a little too young to have graduated high school 25 years earlier. His face is so bland, we have to be reminded when we last saw him – page 7 of the same issue! I enjoy the Shaper and this looks to be fairly interesting, but it’s all a tad abstract for me.


Mark: This is probably my favorite post-Kirby issue of the FF, due to my then-burgeoning fascination with the "Nifty Fifties," an interest sparked in large measure by George Lucas' best movie by a wide margin, (yes, a 100 million Star Wars geeks can be wrong) American Graffiti. Before I rave on about Thomas & Conway's '50's riffage, let's deal with other biz. The opening scene tries to address (not very successfully) why Reed remained unconscious after the explosion that freed Sue, but how Ben, Johnny, and Medusa figured out that the Torch's flame might re-start Gideon's "blasted ray-device" and thus revive Stretch-O is anyone's guess. It works (natch) and our heroes head back to the Baxter Building, with still-dying-of-radiation-sickness Tommy Gideon in tow. Yet a troubling after-action report (P. 5) informs us, "Amidst the debris of battle, several human forms lie beaten and unmoving." I understand the FF's concern for the kid, but just leaving Gideon's wounded henchmen buried in the rubble won't win them the Humanitarian of the Month award.




Matthew: The first half of a transitional two-parter, “conceived and plotted” by Roy (don’t those usually go together?) and scripted by Gerry, with the Buscema/Sinnott artwork that I always fear I’ll start taking for granted.  Well, that ain’t gonna happen while I’m looking at this luscious splash page, a nicely composed tableau with Reed and Ben looking especially, shall we say, definitive; I also heartily approve overall of how both Big John and Roy handle Medusa.  As for the story…I didn’t live through any part of the ’50s—my least favorite decade for film—and ironically feel more of an affinity for the ’40s, so that aspect of it left me cold, but I know it’s old and familiar territory for Roy and, I’ll admit, the rendition of the Shaper is pretty damn excellent.

Mark: The Shaper of Worlds is one of those pops-up-out-of-nowhere aliens with the convenient power to bend reality into whatever pretzel shape the story demands. Here the Shaper (looking like a Skrull with an English dentist) seeks out one of Gideon's aforementioned henchmen, Slugger Johnson, a Fifties greaser who never coulda been a contender in adult life and thus pines for his misspent youth. One wave of the Shaper's hand and we're in Unhappy Days, a neo-Fifties nightmare, where the "Youthies" ride rocket-cycles and wield guitar ray guns. Buscema and Sinnott (simply credited as "Artists") bring the concept vividly to life, giving the "Fuzz" 3-D glasses and star-spangled uniforms, their girls pre-Madonna bullet-bras. Johnny and Medusa side with the Wildman (Slugger re-born) led rebels, while Reed and Ben go with the square Patriots, headed by Loyalty Oath-demanding Senator McHammer. Both duos are quizzed by their presumptive new allies, Mr. F and the Thing in gameshow torture booths, Johnny and Medusa bombarded by a jukebox that goes all the way to eleven. And we get a two-panel glimpse of the ignored black underclass, an almost subliminal reminder that real life in Jim Crow-era America was less than nifty. If memory serves, the story's conclusion is a let-down, but the Shaper's twisted, through a glass darkly take on the Fifties gets a big Fonzie-like thumbs up.






The Incredible Hulk 165
"The Green-Skinned God!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Herb Trimpe and Sal Trapani


The Hulk plods along behind Dr. Omen's submarine as a slave worker, just waiting for his chance to escape. Omen's son Filius, with the aid of the other mutants, sneaks the Hulk back onto the ship and informs him that a group of them are planning a revolt. They reveal they have longed to experience what life is like on land. Choosing him as their god-like savior, Filius and the others proclaim the Hulk to be their leader. One of the rabble rousers has second thoughts so he tips Omen off as to what the others are planning. When the group, led by the Hulk tries to take over, Omen unleashes his latest experiment: Aquon, a giant fish-man monster. During their battle, Hulk and Aquon tear a hole in the submarine that causes water to gush in. The torn hole is quickly repaired and Omen, along with Filius's help, seals off the area filled with water where the two brutes are battling. When Omen drains the water, Aquon is sucked out of the sub into the ocean while the Hulk is able to stay on. The submarine ends up going to the surface. Filius and his rebel brothers rejoice on land, ecstatic to have finally reached their dream. Their happiness is short lived as they start exploding since their bodys aren't used to being in this type of pressure after being deep underwater for so long. Omen lowers his sub back into the ocean and he leaves Filius to drown. -Tom McMillion





Tom McMillion: This was a pretty good conclusion to this two part story. I liked Aquon and would have preferred his fight with the Hulk a little longer. Omen's creation looked a lot like a blue Wendigo minus the hair. I can't say that I was saddened to see the Filius gang start exploding at the end (pretty gruesome for a comic book in the early 1970's) as they just looked too annoying the way they were drawn. Kind of like a bunch of Ooompa Loompas mixed with Wyatt Wingfoot.


Scott: Captain Nemo – sorry, OMEN – fends off this rebellion of the blocky people he calls his children. It’s a middling adventure, with decent art and flashes of a more interesting story on the outer fringes as Talbot and Armbruster leave to rescue ol’ T-bolt. Betty at least admits she didn’t settle for Glenn after Banner broke her heart. I never rooted for Betty and Bruce, anyway. They never really demonstrated any real reasons for being in love, nor did they have chemistry.

Matthew:  Crap, only one more issue left for the Englehart/Trimpe/Trapani trio, after which Sal will head for, um, greener pastures, yet I don’t have negative memories of successor Jack Abel, so I’ll try to stay optimistic.  Can’t recall just when I acquired this, but it’s always weird—and usually disappointing—to see the conclusion of a cliffhanger years later, and this is no exception.  Aquon, in particular, seems like what my Dad would have called (more literally in this case) “a big nothing,” while Herb and Sal suddenly give old Greenskin a bizarre, bug-eyed expression in page 15, panel 4; I will give everybody points for the ending, which is perhaps predictable and certainly gruesome, but undeniably ballsy for what is, after all, a “family comic.”




Scott: The finale of this tale is as dark and depressing as any they’ve done before. It’s sort of sad, really, but the Hulk’s moralizing doesn’t sit well with me. The frustration about fathers and sons is a good point, but coming from the Hulk, it doesn’t make sense. Well, I guess it will when Bill Mantlo makes something out of it much later. Up next: Jack Abel!




Peter: Between the death of the Goblin, the multitudes of slain barbarians, the suicides of the Living Bombs and the violent deaths of Omen's henchmen, this could be the most violent month of Marvels we've yet encountered (and we're only half done with it). Good thing we're in the hands of one of the greatest comic writers of all time as Stainless can make you feel pity for a batch of nameless grunts we didn't know much about. The deep-sea men look so at peace, souls elated, just before their bodies make like popcorn kernels on high heat. Our final image, of Finius descending to a watery grave while his father does... nothing... is about as tragic as it gets. Great issue.



Amazing Adventures 19
Killraven in
“The Sirens of 7th Ave”
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Howard Chaykin and Frank McLaughlin

Killraven’s power saves him from the sirens’ call, but then mutants strike! With the help of comrades M’Shulla and Hawk, the trio fights them off until a Martian tripod shows up. Fleeing on horseback, they’re met by a giant lizard-beast that Killraven tricks into tripping up the tripod! Then they attack a slave ship on the docks and commandeer the ship, until another tripod attacks—but Killraven has the ship reverse engines so they smash the Martian vessel. One of the evil Martian masters vows to know more about the rebels, just as their camp is attacked by Skarlet, Queen of the sirens! She captures Killraven and has him brought into The Arena, where he’s forced to fight a creature named Slasher, who the orange-haired hero defeats easily. Freeing his friends, Killraven tells them The Keeper’s story, then vows that “man will end—The War of the Worlds!” -- Joe Tura


Don't try this pose at home.


Joe: I’ll say one thing, this is far from later Chaykin like Blackhawk, although it’s not too bad. Just that the story moves along at such a breathless pace that there’s no room for the art to do more than keep up. Decent enough all around, and certainly holds the interest at the least. Killraven is an interesting character, with strange powers and a Ka-Zar-esque bravado, not to mention they share the same hair stylist. We also meet some of his second bananas this month, although they’re nearly useless. Plus a first look at the adorable and cuddly Martians. Ewwwwww….

Mark: The 2nd installment of the Wells/Marvel mash-up, "The Sirens of 7th Ave," pulls off the Houdini trick of being mediocre without completely losing momentum. The Howard Chaykin art is largely pedestrian, even when displaying fresh battle choreography in the scene where Killraven lures a giant mutated sewer 'gator between the legs of a Martian tripod, taking out both. There's a dash of Howie's top-shelf stuff, e.g. the splash page of a Martian "Master," a grotesque lump of satanic silly-putty with black opal eyes, an ancient-cave maw mouth and a couple dozen Doc Ock arm whiskers-tentacles, but mostly the art's work-for-hire schlock.


A bold fashion statement...

Peter: The promise I saw jumping out at me last issue here dwindles into a "Eh." What seemed so dense and well-constructed now looks needlessly complicated and meandering. Hopefully just an off issue. Speaking of "off," this issue gives a perfect example of why inking is so important. Last issue's Neal Adams gives way to this story's Frank McLaughlin. Frank ain't no Neal, boys and girls. "Awful" is not a word I've ever used in the same sentence as "Chaykin," but I'd not be far off. And how about that splash panel? Has a human being ever been posed like that naturally? Why do I get the feeling William Friedkin grabbed copies of this issue and handed them over to the costume designers on Cruising? Diapers adorned with stars.

Mark: The titular sirens don't get to do much but show off their lingerie for a couple pages before fleeing from a mutant attack. We meet Killy's comrades in rebellion: Arrow, Hawk, and M'Shulla (can ya guess which one's black?), with nary a personality on display among them. Our hero starts trumpeting what he learned from the Keeper, that the "Masters" aren't demonic, but invaders from another world,  although why this would make the resistance fight any harder is unclear. Killraven is captured by Skarlett, Queen of the Sirens (much more modest than her pole-dancing sisters) and made to battle in the Arena (once Madison Square Garden), where he quickly dispatches another mutant, sending Ock-whiskers scurrying for the exit. Readers who missed the far superior opening installment would be tempted to do the same.



Creatures on the Loose 24
Thongor, Warrior of Lost Lemuria in
"Red Swords, Black Wings"
Story by George Alec Effinger
Art by Val Mayerik and Vince Colletta


In the Dragon City of Thurdis, a brawl ending with a dead Thurdan officer lands the mercenary Thongor of the Black Hawk tribe in the prison keep.  Before he can be fed to the vampire flowers, Thongor’s old friend Ald Turmis breaks him out of his cell and rearms him with Sarkozan, sword of his fathers, the two parting ways afterwards.  Upon failing to steal one of the Sark’s dragonlike mounts, the fugitive Thongor makes his escape from “this most foul of cities!” in the Sark’s floating sky-ship instead.  Clever enough to pilot the flyer, Thongor sets course for the misty spires of the City of Kathool.  After a sleep, Thongor finds that his “stolen engine of the skies” has been blown off course into the “the darkest, most impenetrable jungles of Chush.”  He awakes to the glancing blow of a “Grakk!,” a pterodactyl-like lizard-hawk.  When Thongor tries to ward off the bird-monster with “the bow of the strange blue nomads of the far western plains” stashed aboard the airboat, he not only loses the newfound weaponry to the jungle floor below, but also ends up smashed unconscious.  The taloned grakk meanwhile clutches the airship’s keel, lowering it into the “fearful jaws [of] the dwark, jungle-dragon of the lost ages!”  




A lighthouse mysteriously appears in a desperate fishing village plagued by shipwrecks in “The Lighthouse from Nowhere!” (Strange Tales #87 reprint), and a school teacher, believing that “nobody gets something for nothing,” concludes that there is more than meets the eye to this unworldly and unasked-for gift in their midst.  Penciler-inker Steve Ditko’s striking pharos is reminiscent, in silhouette, of the early War of the Worlds art of Henrique Alvim Corrêa and Warwick Goble in a way that functions as a possible visual clue to its true purpose.  -Gilbert Colon

Gilbert: Adapted by George Alec Effinger from Lin Carter’s novel Thongor and the Wizard of Lemuria (“the famous first adventure of the mightiest warrior-hero since Conan”), the Valkarthan barbarian’s second outing at Marvel is more intriguing than his first.  For one thing, while we never see the Little Shop of Horrors vampire plant, we do get a keel-girder airship that could have been built in the same workshop as the Hyperion, the dirigible from Disney Legend sfx artist Peter Ellenshaw and his design team that discovers a lost Viking civilization in the film The Island at the Top of the World only a year later (1974).

Penciler Val Mayerik and inker Vince Colletta’s Edwardian interpretation of the airboat is a vast improvement over the Ace edition cover art which featured a glass-fiber motorboat as if drawn by Popular Science, not to mention the 1970s-era science fiction art spaceship on the Berkley edition, and for several reasons.  For one, it is more in keeping with the spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs that Carter was striving to infuse into his Robert E. Howard world, as well as being something a circa 500,000 B.C. Viking-like savage would at least have a ghost of a chance at piloting.  Oddly, the “floater” appearing on the cover (by artists John Romita, Ernie Chan, and Morrie Kuramoto) looks nothing like the flyer inside the issue’s pages.  In fact, it more closely approximates the Ace cover speedboat, with a riveted ironclad hull replacing the bright white fiberglass.  (The cover artist trio also throw in a redheaded harem girl absent from the story, and Mayerik and Colletta’s Tyrannosaurus rex-like jungle-dragon is replaced by an optically enlarged reptile straight out of One Million B.C.’s central casting.)


All of this is significant since it points to Marvel’s assertion, in the “Creature Features” letters page of issue #27, that “...the Thongor series differs from both Conan and Kull [because of] the element of the weird Lemurian ‘science’ which created the Nemedis [flyer].”  Unfortunately this innovative hybrid sword-and-sorcery-meets-science fiction twist does nothing to mitigate the fact that, so far, Thongor remains a Conan clone in look, temperament, and career, having not yet distinguished himself from REH’s iconic barbarian.  

Still, the George Pal Atlantis, the Lost Continent scientific angle invites promisingly unique storytelling possibilities if it remains rooted in an anachronistic technology at least theoretically believable for the Iron or Bronze Age of Lost Lemuria (e.g., Jules Verne or da Vinci rather than Star Trek or Logan’s Run).  This “steampunk” science was hinted at last issue with the mad sorcerer’s breeding vats.  Artists Mayerik and Colletta were smart in resisting the temptation to draw them as something contemporaneous with the reigning sterile 1970s design of the day (Coma or THX 1138), preferring to present readers with a classic mad scientist lab that would do Doctor Moreau or James Whale proud.  These original machinal wrinkles onto prehistoric fantasy fiction, courtesy of Carter, add another layer of fantastique fun to an already fantastical genre.  



The Monster of Frankenstein 4
"Death of the Monster!"
Story by Gary Friedrich
Art by Mike Ploog and John Verpoorten

The monster pauses in his attempt to keep his two friends, Walton and the cabin boy, alive and recalls an encounter with a strange race of primitives. The tribe befriends the tragic creature but his peace is short-lived after a rival band of warriors wipes out his friends. Back in the present, the Frankenstein Monster watches as his two friends die but not before learning that a descendant of his creator, Viktor Frankenstein, lives near the village of Ingolstadt. A ray of light appears.
 -Peter Enfantino

Peter: Dense with text (during a 12-page stretch in the story there are no more than 2 word balloons), I can imagine this being tough going for an 11-year old Marvel Zombie. I assume the message would have been loud and clear and that's why Roy chose to take this title down a different road in a few issues' time. This is great stuff, absolutely top-notch, rivaling the stories that Universal imagined would follow the original novel. The non-linear story line, the deaths of the entire supporting cast, and especially the scene where the monster says a prayer over his fallen friend are all very adult themes and Gary Friedrich does a dazzling job of juggling all the elements. The art is exquisite and, with the near-simian barbarians, Ploog gives us all a sneak peak of what he'll do with Planet of the Apes in a year's time. About those barbarians: was Roy urging Gary to use wisps of Conan to boost flagging sales of Frankenstein?

John: Compared to the first few issues, I actually thought the art this time out wasn't quite up to par. Based on the credits, I have to assume that turning over the inking reins to John Verpoorten is the cause for the drop in quality. Story-wise, I enjoyed this part of the back story in which our monster has a Conan-like adventure, leading up to his being frozen in the ice where we first encountered him. I won't even mock Frankenstein's monster donning a pair of antlers.





















5 comments:

  1. Another lovely write up for Spidey. Spider-Man’s "usual suspects" is one of the finest in the Marvel Universe. In the first year or so alone, Spidey was given some his most powerful and memorable adversaries; The Vulture, Doctor Octopus, Electro, The Rhino, Man-Wolf, The Sandman, The Lizard, Mysterio, Kraven the Hunter, the Chameleon, The Enforcers, and so on. Steve Ditko’s fertile imagination gave readers one heavyweight fighter after another. All of them were immediately successful, but none turned out to be as personal for our hero as The Green Goblin.

    When first introduced, he was really little more than a mysterious, if kind of cute, minor league robber with a flying broomstick and little bombs. His identity and origin were kept secret throughout the Ditko run, and while he was interesting, he didn’t really reach the heights of “arch enemy” until John Romita took over the art chores. Honestly, I never felt Gobby was Spidey’s #1 villain until Romita and Stan made him such a personal adversary and limited his appearances. And then he was gone.

    Who is left, you ask? Doc Ock, The Vulture, Doctor Octopus, Electro, The Rhino, Man-Wolf, The Sandman, The Lizard, Mysterio, Kraven the Hunter. .. The Rogues Gallery for Spider-Man was so strong, it would keep the series going, even with jackasses like the Gibbon, the Kangaroo, the Mind Worm and Ross Andru.

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    1. Always with the Ross Andru!

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    2. Oh, it's just gettin' started. :-)

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  2. If Gerry Conway's comics writing career is remembered for nothing else, it will be for Amazing Spider-Man #'s 121 & 122. I was not quite 11 when I read these mags and this was by far the most intense drama I'd ever yet encountered in any comic and over the next 10 years in which I continued to collect comics, only the Dark Phoenix saga in X-Men came close to matching it. And I find it astonishing that the reprint editor left off that final page -- that entire scene, with Mary Jane deciding to stay to comfort Peter after his emotional outburst at her was one of the significant building blocks in their relationship as friends and eventually lovers. And count me among those who think that Norman Osborne should have stayed dead, but then we can count those stories 20+ years in the future as happening in an alternate universe from those of the Silver & Bronze ages.
    Captain Marvel #27 ranks as the next most significant issue of the month in my regard as by this point Starlin has moved into the ranks of Marvel's best artists/storytellers. This was my intro to both the Super Skrull and this space-age epic. Once again we see a green-visaged, purple clad miscreant thoroughly pummeled and decidedly shown to have dead -- not vanished in an explosion or falling to apparent doom, but dead on the ground (I can't even remember how S.S. was brought back but I do recall thinking that it didn't square with that last image of him in this ish).
    Then we have Englehart's literally explosive issues of the Avengers and the Hulk. I got both these mags off the racks and the parallels escaped me at the time. One group willing to kill themselves and others in the name of hate and another that unwittingly brought about their own destruction through their insistance on experiencing a world full of life long denied them.
    FF #136 was the only other one of this set that I got when it was new and it occurs to me that this particular story could only have worked within the '70s, with a young thug reminiscing fondly about the era of his adolescence a decade and a half past, with growing tensions between an elder generation terrified of change and a growing young generation eager for change, as well as a long abused minority rightfully anxious for even more change. It just doesn't seem likely that a 30-something thug of 2014 would really want to relive the exciting times of the 1990s, with a three-way match of grunge-punkers vs. heavy metal headbangers vs. gangsta rappers. Well, maybe Morrison might do something interesting with that.

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  3. When I first got Creatures on the Loose # 24, the first thing I hoped to find in the story was that "harem girl" on the cover. I have a real one-track mind when it comes to sword and sorcery stories - if there's no "wench" anywhere in the story (including a villainous one, as in Conan # 12), something is missing.

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