Wednesday, December 11, 2013

February 1973 Part Two: The Debut of Thanos!

Adventure Into Fear 12
Man-Thing in
"No Choice of Colors!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Jim Starlin and Rich Buckler

Two speeding cars screech to a halt on a road running by a marshy forest. From one runs a man named Mark Jackson, from the other the police chief named Wallace Corlee, gun at the ready. The Man-Thing witnesses this, and feeling empathy for the escapee, he rescues Jackson from the swamp and gives him a makeshift bandage, having eluded the police at this point. As a way of showing his gratitude, Jackson relates to his benefactor how he grew up here in Topequa, where the blacks like he were treated as second-class citizens. A white girl who shared his hatred of life there befriended him; it was Jackson’s misfortune that Corlee had the hots for the same girl—who had turned him down. A lengthy vendetta saw Jackson get framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Corlee finds them, and the heated conversation reveals that Jackson hadn’t been as innocent as he had made it appear, having killed another officer, albeit after a lifetime of oppression. Feeling betrayed at having been lied to, the Man-Thing walks away. As fate would have it, Corlee shoots Jackson, only to be killed by the Man-Thing in turn, who senses his evil. -Jim Barwise

Jim: This one’s a pretty dark tale all round, in which no really comes out on top. Visual cues help create a memorable read (like the images in the Man Thing’s eyes) and help to impart the creature’s sense of loneliness. In the end nothing much has changed as the Man-Thing wanders off into the night. “The Face Of Horror!” is an enjoyable secondary story about an ugly man who ends up murdering the one man who could have helped him.

Matthew Bradley: Interestingly, having established an entire infrastructure for the Man-Thing last issue, Gerber temporarily abandons it (except for the catchphrase) to revert to the kind of effective mini-morality play we saw in #10.  Buckler trades his pencil for a brush in favor of that new kid, Starlin, who really does get around—and, we may recall, not only was brought into the fold by Riotous Rich, but also subbed for him recently on The Avengers.  The lettercol tells us that “next issue will feature the work of one of the most talented newcomers to enter the comix field in some time….Val Mayerik, whose pulsating pencils may also be glimpsed in Chamber of Chills #2 and various other Marvel mags”; the E.C.-flavored reprint is from Menace #8 (October 1953).

Scott McIntyre: A tough story, overflowing with an oppressive air. It's relentlessly grim, a pure tale of horror, evil and revenge. The best thing about it is the art, which is amazing to look at. Jim Starlin is great here, giving the characters steely resolve. Man-Thing himself looks powerful, but the problem is, he's little more than a prop; a dispenser of justice standing around waiting for people to piss him off enough for him to touch them. This makes him more like the host of an anthology title: sort of a monstrous Rod Serling.

Peter: What seemingly begins as yet another example of the rut known as the "Yes, I'm a Marvel writer but I'm also a human being and I cry out at all the injustices of the world" syndrome (essentially created by The Rascally One all those years ago) quickly evolves into something with a lot more substance, thank goodness. This is a really tough tale, made all the tougher by the decision made by Man-Thing when he learns Jackson has lied to him. Suddenly, all the blacks and whites are removed and we're left with nothing but grays. Gerber has very quickly ascended to the silver platform of Marvel writers (behind only Stainless) in only a handful of appearances.

Luke Cage, Hero For Hire 6
"Knights and White Satin!"
Story by Steve Englehart and Gerry Conway
Art by Billy Graham and Paul Reinman

Two wealthy sisters, Laura and Catherine Forsythe, visit Cage's office in sleazy Time's Square, just as he is finishing off punching out a group of hit men. The girls explain to Cage that someone is trying to kill their grandfather even though he is going to be dead very soon from polio. Cage takes the job to protect him and he goes to the Mansion where the ladies live with their grandfather. Mysterious dangers ensue as Cage saves the sisters from a chandelier rigged to fall on them and, later in the night, Luke is attacked by a group of remote-controlled suits of armor. They were just a distraction for the hero so someone could come in and turn off the grandfather's iron lung that has been helping him remain alive. Cage uses mouth to mouth resuscitation to save the old timer's life long enough for him to be taken to the hospital. As he goes through the family's diary, Cage comes to the conclusion that the culprit is none other then the butler, Ansel, really the sister's long lost brother Robert. The sisters had never met him before and believed he was dead. Cage confronts Ansel/Robert, who reveals that if grandpa dies before his upcoming twenty-fifth birthday, as stated in his will, all of his inheritance will be his. Ansel blames the family for his father enlisting in the army and being killed in battle. The villain tries to kill Cage with a blowtorch but is thwarted when the hero rams him in the throat with a table. In the end, Luke Cage is handsomely paid for a job well done. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: Good dialogue and decent artwork is burdened with a crummy plot line. I'm glad Cage was paid a bonus at the end by the sisters for his good work. He deserves it after putting his lips on the creepy old codger's mouth. The grandpa resembled the Crypt-Keeper. Man, that Luke Cage will do just about anything to make a buck.

Scott: A mystery worthy of Scooby Doo. The story is about as involving, with falling chandeliers, walking suits of armor and a spooky house. Cage is in the mix and he's an odd fit. Billy Graham, however, is now on his own and does really well. His style is well suited to the title and gives it a little more reality than when he was teamed with George Tuska.

The Incredible Hulk 160
"Nightmare in Niagara Falls!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Herb Trimpe and Sal Trapani

The Hulk is on a mission as he leaps across the land to interrupt Major Talbot and Betty Ross's honeymoon at Niagara Falls. After awhile the Hulk turns back into Bruce Banner, who rents a private airplane to drop him off at his destination. Just as they fly over the beautiful falls, Banner changes back into the Hulk.  Out of nowhere, the Hulk is attacked by Tiger Shark. Ever since he played his part in the death of Sub-Mariner's father, the Tiger Shark has been hiding out in the falls. Since the Hulk and Namor had worked together previously in the group the Defenders, the paranoid Tiger Shark assumes the Hulk is there to capture him for Namor. The two heavyweights brawl up and down the falls with Tiger Shark having an advantage in water. Tipped off about the Hulk by Talbot, General Ross and the troops fly in with fighter planes just as the fight is winding down. Growing tired of the conflict, the Hulk finally ends the match when he catches Tiger Shark and slams his head against a rocky wall. The Hulk then burrows through the rock out of sight from the military, popping up in a different location as he leaps away to continue his pursuit of Betty. -Tom McMillion

Matthew:  I was a little nervous when I saw Greenskin’s rather outré appearance on the splash page, yet this turned out to be a solid sophomore outing for the new creative troika, even if some of the characters admittedly look like Jack Davis drew them for Mad.  I certainly went in with high hopes, not merely because of the personnel, but because Tiger Shark is one of my favorite villains, and I think he was extremely well rendered by the Trimpe/Trapani team.  No idea what’s up with Betty repeatedly calling Glenn “lamb,” which doesn’t sound to me like a nickname for a honeymoon, but then again, we can’t expect married life for those two even to approach normalcy; meanwhile, Thunderbolt’s hatred for the Hulk continues to erode his morals.

Tom McMillion: I'll have to agree with my fellow professor, Matthew, about Tiger Shark, as he is one of my favorite villains of all time. While he always makes for a great Namor antagonist, Tiger Shark works even better when facing off against other heroes like the Hulk. This was an awesome action-packed issue and has always been a favorite of mine.

Scott: Some meta fun to be had here, as Banner comments on his constant wearing of purple pants when he buys a purple suit. Or is it purple? The color seen in the printing is a totally different shade. We're introduced to Spad McCracken, who will turn up in a few more years during a really fine trilogy with the Leader. Banner wigs out when he remembers Betty and Talbot are married "now and forever!" He certainly has a lot of faith in their relationship. Still, Betty is apparently out of her mind already, the weird way she keeps calling Glenn "Lamb" and following his irrational and physically abusive demand to leave for Canada in the middle of their honeymoon. Tiger Shark's not all that interesting and his fight with the Hulk is just the usual dust up. The art is serviceable and I'm not fond of Sal Trapani's inks here.

The Invincible Iron Man 55
"Beware the Blood Brothers"
Story by Jim Starlin and Mike Friedrich
Art by Jim Starlin and Mike Esposito

Iron Man receives Drax the Destroyer’s telepathic warning about the alien Blood Brothers just as they attack, subdue, and transport him to the same Southwestern desert fortress where Thanos is holding Drax.  Flashbacks reveal that the disembodied entity Kronos created Drax—with the raison d’être of killing Thanos—to aid Mentor, ruler of Saturn’s largest moon, whose son was exiled for introducing weapons to Titan and then formed an army of “interstellar malcontents.” The computer Isaac fires a power beam from Titan, focused through Iron Man’s armor to free Drax, and they defeat the brothers, but Thanos escapes during the battle, leaving a robot double to delay the heroes, who barely escape his explosive booby-trap, and part as friends. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Suddenly, the fact that I volunteered to lighten Dean Enfantino’s load by taking the point on this series seems like no coincidence, because from a strictly limited and purely personal perspective, this is the single most influential Marvel Comic in history, laying as it does the foundation for my favorite comic-book arc.  The story goes that with sales in the cellar, there was felt to be no harm in letting plotter and penciler Jim Starlin open up his toy box and play with the “character conceptions” he’d been developing, including a couple of wannabes named Thanos (who, in retrospect, looks a little odd under Esposito’s embellishment, but still) and Drax.  That splash page, proudly displayed beside my desk at work, can set my pulse racing like nobody’s business.

Mark Barsotti: Never read this historic issue before, featuring the first appearance of Thanos and Drax the Destroyer. I'm a huge fan of Jim Starlin's upcoming runs on Captain Marvel and Warlock but this opening chapter of the soon-burgeoning Titan mythos, while no doubt a mind-blowing upgrade from the creative sink-hole Shellhead's title had become, merely hints at the creative explosion ahead. The art is spotty, which is a big surprise. Great splash pages (both the opener and IM and Drax escaping the explosion on P.30), but the Tony Stark into his armor depiction on pages 6-7 is pedestrian at best, and the Blood Brothers are furry, half-baked versions of the Thing (note the rocky eye brows). Starlin's abundant talent didn't emerge full-blown, but was a rapidly evolving work in progress.

Scott: More from Jim Starlin and he's got a real handle on some characters, but not others. Iron Man himself looks a little weird in some panels. However, Thanos (squeeeeeeee!) looks amazing in his large panel intro on page 21. The story of Drax, Mentor, Eros and Thanos is nice and epic and more interesting than much of what we've seen in this title in a very long time. Finally, characters who don't feel like second and third tier losers getting the best of Iron Man. This is easily the best Iron Man issue since the decade began.

Matthew: Can we just save some time and agree right now that Drax the Destroyer is one of the coolest characters ever?  He looks way beyond cool, has a cool concept, a cool name…you know, cool.  “Cool” as in I rank him right alongside Steranko’s Nick Fury (criminally mishandled by so many of his successors), the Vision, and, of course, Starlin’s “adopted children,” Mar-Vell and Adam Warlock.  But old Drax is pure, 100% unfiltered Starlin, with props to scripter Friedrich, who aided in Jim’s evolution as a writer.  No room to do the Titans justice here, yet their story lays down a classic modern mythology, and as a card-carrying Maudlin Man, I find the noble heroics between Drax and Shellhead—who looks absolutely fabulous in page 10, panel 1—inspirational.

Joe Tura: I'm with Prof Matthew mostly on this one. It's certainly one of the most memorable Iron Mans, and is also damn cool. I can't go all the way with the most influential ever tag, but noting it's his personal preference, let's just say that's good enough for me and I look forward to his commentary on future Starlins, whether here or in the faculty lounge.

Mark: Starlin opening up "his toy box," as Prof Matthew aptly expressed it, is a landmark moment, but Thanos and company really have nothing to do with Iron Man, and if supercomputer Isaac was shuffling resumes of earth's heroes for someone to help the Destroyer battle Thanny, a more powerful ally like Thor or the Hulk should have topped the list. But enough carping: Starlin's arrival, via whatever means or method, signals great things ahead. A final note: wish I'd bought a copy of Iron Man #55 for what I considered the outrageous price of around $60 during my eBay comic buying spree of 2004-2006. Sellers are currently asking $500 and up.

Peter: I was never a fan of Shellhead (as I'm sure I've put forth before) and I haven't been reading every issue every month for MU but, having read the comments by my colleagues, I thought I should give this one a taste. Meh. Not sure what these guys are fussin' about. Starlin's art looks Grade-A amateur fanzine mediocre to me and the whole "Cosmic Saga" concept belongs in another title (think: Captain Marvel, Warlock, or even The Avengers) not in one about an armored guy susceptible to heart attacks at the drop of a dime. I'll keep an open mind when that incredible "creative explosion" hits me in the eye.

Marvel Spotlight 8
The Ghost Rider in
"The Hordes of Hell"
Story by Gary Friedrich
Art by Mike Ploog and Jim Mooney

Ghost Rider burns Roxanne free of her bonds, and stands prepared to defend them both from a re-animated Crash Simpson, who must sacrifice them in order to claim eternal life as promised by Satan.  Crash discovers that he cannot raise a hand against Roxanne, and Ghost Rider resolves not to harm Crash while his daughter is present.  Satan grows impatient with the stalemate, and transports the two combatants to Hell itself, and wraps Ghost Rider in the tentacles of a serpentine demon.  GR tries to convince Crash that Satan offers only empty promises – the eternal life Satan dangles is bound to be spent here in Hell, as Satan’s servant!  Crash lunges toward GR with a flaming sword – and slices him free of the demon’s entanglement.  Crash vows to help GR escape, as Satan screams that they have no hope to defeat him in his domain.  Crash kills an attacking demon, only to be crushed in its dying grasp.  GR leaves Crash’s body on an altar, which belongs to a hooded skeleton who vows to deliver Crash to his deserved rest.  GR then blacks out, and finds himself restored to Johnny Blaze, and reunited with Roxanne.  Roxanne speaks of a disturbing dream, as Johnny realizes that she is mercifully unaware of how close she came to death at her father’s hand.  The cycle show then packs up and moves to Arizona.  Once the crew has settled in at a local rodeo, they are confronted by an Indian shaman calling himself Snake-dance, who warns Johnny not to make his planned jump over Copperhead Canyon (whose ownership is in contention between a local tribe and the US government).  Johnny ignores the warning, and rides out into the desert.  Day turns to night, as Johnny again transforms to the Ghost Rider.  GR easily fends off an attack by serpent-men who are loyal to Snake-dance, so the shaman conjures four giant snakes – an illusion which GR fights off.  Snake-dance then transforms himself into a single immense snake, and pursues GR.  GR tries to outrun the snake by jumping the canyon, but his cycle (tampered with by a servant of Snake-dance) explodes in flame, as GR plummets to the jagged depths of the canyon.
-Chris Blake

Chris Blake: There easily could have been two completely separate issues drawn from this one crowded story.  In the space of two pages, we see: Johnny returns from Hell, Roxanne appears unaffected by her ordeal, Johnny and Roxanne close up the show, a menacing thought balloon from tour manager Slade, a flight over the Grand Canyon, and Johnny threatened at gunpoint (in Arizona now, not New York where we were four panels ago) by his Indian driver when Johnny refuses to back down from the Canyon jump.  It’s enough to flip you over the handlebars.  The issue starts out rushed, and the would-be GR vs Crash battle becomes confused by Crash’s unpredictably variable states of mind, as he raves accusations at GR one moment (which convinces Roxanne that Crash is not truly himself), then is hesitant to act against his daughter’s life, then is single-mindedly bloodthirsty toward GR, and finally clear-headed and selfless in Johnny’s defense.  These thought processes might not have seemed so random if Friedrich had recognized the dramatic possibilities in the character study available to him – instead, we are sprinted past Crash’s bizarre final moments, and then inexplicably thrust into the Arizona desert, without a second thought from Johnny about his life-altering encounter in Hell.

Matthew: This reads like a Silver-Age Thor where Stan wound up one plotline in the first half, and then started a new one in the second.  Crash Simpson’s afterlife career as a would-be filicide has ended in the best way it could, at least for Rocky (although I suppose the jury is still out on the fate of his soul), and it seems apt to place GR in the Southwestern setting of his sagebrush namesake, to which I consider him well suited.  I do have mixed feelings about the artwork:  I think Mooney’s inks are characteristically capable, but I’m sure there are those who are disappointed to see a style as distinctive as Ploog’s so heavily, shall we say, domesticated; a jeer to the justifiably anonymous colorist for transposing Roxanne’s pigments in page 3, panel 5.

Chris: Jim Mooney’s inks bring a different look to Ploog’s pencils, and it’s fine, but not necessarily an improvement.  Some of the moodiness of Ploog’s pencils, which Frank Chiaramonte was able to complement, are lost in Mooney’s straightforward approach to filling in the artwork. 

Matthew: If you will all indulge me in yet another shout-out to SuperMegaMonkey’s Marvel Comics Chronology, the blogger himself (“fnord12”) is in rare form regarding this arc’s “crazy subtext”:  “You’ve got Crash Simpson, nearly buck naked with a flaming sword jutting out of his crotch, and he’s Johnny Blaze’s step-father trying to kill his daughter, who Johnny is dating and who is dangling off Johnny’s arm dressed in a skimpy ritualistic outfit.”  And Mark Drummond—who I hope is reading this and immediately joins our faculty—pleases my petty side with a typically informative comment:  “Friedrich revealed in a Comic Book Artist interview that he had a really bad drinking problem at this time, and remembers nothing about writing this (and other) series.”

Joe: Is this the loudest comic book of the month? So much yelling and shouting in both demonic and human voices, it probably sounded like a Chuck E. Cheese on Saturday afternoon. The action is frenetic and simply crazy. Almost like three comic books in one. Poor Johnny can't catch a break it seems, as he's thrown into one diabolical situation after another, ending with a Wile E. Coyote moment!

Shanna the She-Devil 2
"The Sahara Connection"
Story by Carole Seuling
Art by Ross Andru and Vince Colletta

Jakuna Singh, Agent of SHIELD, comes to Shanna, the She-Devil for help: a huge villain known as El Montano (which translates in some language other than one found on earth as "The Mountainous One") plans to steal a spaceship headed for the moon and load it with heroin. This, El Montano theorizes, is the best way to get the "narcos" of the world to bid top dollar on the drug. Our foxy femme and her two she-cats, Ina and Biri, head to Montano's fortress and take on the obesely fat slob and his killer wolf pack. In the end, El Montano becomes a victim of his own bad eating habits and the troop of slaves he's been keeping, and Shanna is left to wonder, once again, why all the really bad guys live in the jungle. -Peter Enfantino

Peter: Where to start? I could point out, yet again, that this is the furthest thing from a feminist strip I've ever read. Was Carole Seuling told to ixnay the dialogue in which Shanna wonders why she has to wear a thread-bare loincloth and sun herself, propped up on one of her cats, while, half a world away, Mary Tyler Moore and Bea Arthur are delivering blows to male chauvinism? Jakuna Singh's plan, to send one (admittedly hot) babe and two cats to save the world, must have eventually made its way back to his boss, Nick Fury, no? And I'm still kind of scratching my head at El Montano's grand scheme to send a billion dollars worth of heroin up in a rocket. Best of all, it seems as though Seuling was trying to preach the sins of McDonald's and Herfy's (look it up, those of you under forty) rather than housewifery; El Montano's final flight from the long arm of the law is peppered with numerous references to his huge rolls of blubber and his hardening arteries. I'm going to like Ross Andru's Spider-Man in a few months time but here he can't decide if Shanna's got (in the words of Al Pacino in Heat) a greeeeeeat ass! or no ass at all. An extra half-grade for the scene where Ina and Biri tear apart one of El Montano's henchmen but I would have really dug seeing the censored panel of the cats' muzzles dripping with gore!

Matthew: As Stan says in his intro from The Superhero Women, Shanna’s debut “was illustrated by Lonesome George Tuska, but when his superb style was needed to interpret Iron Man and other features, that’s when Ross [Andru] stepped into the breach and bestowed upon us [this] delightful little delicacy…”  Andru, “who draws dynamite females—and just about everything else,” closed out the book’s brief run, all of it inked by Colletta, who has aptly been called “a great leveler” for his tendency to make everything look like, well, Colletta.   That tendency is in evidence here, as Vince steamrolls over Ross’s pencils with typical insouciance, although a seasoned Andru-fan can still discern his style amid the debris; Seuling’s story is solid.

Sub-Mariner 58
"Hands Across the Waters, Hands Across the Skies"
Story by Bill Everett and Steve Gerber
Art by Sam Kweskin and Bill Everett

Last survivor of the alien race destroyed (in issue 56) by the army of Atlantis, the gorgeous Tamara is taken in and embraced by the underwater city. She asks only one thing of Lord Vashti: to have her spaceship repaired so that she may bring the women of her planet back to earth to live underwater in peace. With the blessing of Namor, Vashti grants the girl her wish and even hands her over a helper, a beast known as The Haag. Unbeknownst to all around her, the girk is actually stealing the weapons of the city to use against it. Once her ship has been repaired, she begins a destructive rampage stopped only by the might of the Sub-Mariner. After destroying Tamara's ship, Namor brings the girl back to Atlantis to stand trial for her actions. Lord Vashti is forgiving and leaves the alien in the hands of his Prince. -Peter Enfantino

Matthew: Everett aptly quotes ex-Beatle Paul McCartney in his title (“Hands Across the Water, Hands Across the Skies…”), since the lettercol tells us that deadline problems necessitate a new m.o. requiring a little help from his friends.  Luckily, his final art overshadows the layouts of Sam Kweskin (aka Irv Wesley), whose work recently blighted Marvel Premiere #5, while new kid Steve Gerber scripts his plot, beginning a year-long stint that will last almost until the book’s cancellation. Those interior monologues for Namor and the fetching but treacherous Tamara are engrossing, gaining back some of the gravitas Subby had lost under Conway; he looks good, too, and it’s nice to see that the Atlanteans have wisely selected Lord Vashti as their acting governor.

Peter: The art's not as dynamic as it was just a few issues ago but, Monday morning quarterbacks that we are, we know there was a good reason for that. The story is a bit meandering but it's energetic enough. Everett seems to have forgotten he already had a resident Subby babe (Namorita) and decided to introduce another. As long as they resemble the classic Everett femme, I'm on board. The Haab seems like nothing more than a scaled Hulk clone, spouting clipped dialogue like "Fight make Haab hungry!" and, my favorite, "Now Haab knock brains from meat!"

Scott: An action packed follow up to issue 56, but it lacks the gravitas of that tale. However, it is a logical progression, if a little by the numbers. I am unconvinced of Tamara's sincerity since it seems to come out of the realization she's outnumbered. This story does bring Namor back to Atlantis, hopefully his return to the throne will prove to be an interesting journey. Bill Everett's art is quite good, but missing some of his signature style. I wonder if there was some ghosting going on. The layouts are credited to Sam Kweskin, whoever the hell that is. Perhaps that made a difference.

The Mighty Thor 208
"The Fourth-Dimensional Man!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Vince Colletta

Thor and Hildegarde return to Earth, stopping at the Avengers mansion to consider their course of action. When Thor lets his tension get the better of him and tells Jarvis to leave them be, Hildegarde reads him the riot act and leaves in disgust. The next morning, Thor apologizes. Meantime, the landlord of the building housing the offices of Don Blake, Karl Sarron, turns out to be more than he seemed. In Blake’s now barricaded office, he pulls out a device called a Dimensional Oscillator that opens up a path whereby he communicates with his home world; a world where the sky is white and the stars are black. Sarron is actually a being named Mercurio, sent by his people to steal the electromagnetic field of Earth to strengthen their own world. He turns the Oscillator on himself, transforming him; but it runs out of power, leaving the process incomplete. Thor feels drawn to Blake’s office, where Mercurio awaits—then attacks. His right hand burns anyone it touches, his left, freezes them. The “fourth-dimensional man” plans to drain Thor’s power to complete his transformation. When the Warriors Three soon join the action, now on city streets, it gives Thor a chance to leave and form a plan. With the scientific knowledge of Don Blake he confirms his course of action, and returns as Thor. He hurtles a steel girder at his foe, then melts it with a blast from his hammer. The resulting “iron rain” coats Mercurio, trapping the power within him, consuming him. -Jim Barwise

Jim: Were he not to return in the near future, one might think that this adventure with Mercurio was no more than a delay in the search for Sif. Visually, both he and his world are memorable, but their motivations are hardly unusual.  Neat cameo by the Vision, who underscores the mixed bag of feelings the Asgardians have at being exiled on Earth. 

Matthew: For a change, I am pleased with this book’s current direction, not least because, whatever the reason, Vinnie seems to have done less damage than usual to Big John’s pencils.  I find the somewhat more straightforward “Tales of Midgard” refreshing after Gerry’s latest cosmic extravaganza, and although Mercurio is hardly a unique or top-tier villain (doesn’t Marvel have several of these thermodynamic types of guys?), I see that he will be back here in another six months for a three-parter.  It’s fun to learn that the seemingly minor role of landlord Sarron had a greater purpose all along, and the contretemps between Thor and Jarvis was nice character stuff…but I don’t buy that the Assemblers could pick up Asgard on their monitor.

Scott: This one and done story didn't do much for me. The homeless Asgardians still go on trips or bum around Avengers Mansion. It's nice to know an orbital satellite can pick up and find Asgard. Is this the first time it was even hinted that Asgard is floating around out in space somewhere instead of some otherworldly dimension? The Fourth Dimension Man is pretty boring and his name conjures up images of villains from the early years, such as The Carbon Copy Man and The Radioactive Man. Thor's early bitch slapping of Jarvis, the soul searching and subsequent apology feels like just so much padding. A dull time waster.

The Power of Warlock 4
"Come Sing a Searing Song of Vengeance"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Gil Kane and Tom Sutton

As Adam taunts Triax the Terrible with his origin as a warthog, Astrella arrives and urges Carpenter to negotiate, leading the inexplicably terrified Triax to fly his two hostages atop a tall tower.  The Apollocraft attacks, trapping Adam inside a liquid that quickly solidifies, so Col. Roberts orders a counterstrike, despite Dave’s pleas to trust in Adam, who frees himself and destroys the flying sub by narrowly evading its heat-seeking missiles.  When Triax hurls Eddie from the tower, Adam is too weakened to catch him in time, and Roberts, with his son “dead—by my own blind action,” begs him to save Ellie; Triax, his flight suit damaged in battle, falls to his death as well, while in a coda, government scientist Victor Von Doom detects a global peril... -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: This is a rare case where the cover boast (“And then, monster—if he dies—so do you!”) is more than mere hyperbole, although Adam intended only to bring Triax, misidentified thereon as Trax, to justice, not to slay him.  Friedrich takes the bold and surprising step of killing off a significant supporting character, handling the death and its aftermath quite well; the black border and wreath on the last page struck me as a nice touch.  Nobody depicts enraged characters quite like Gil Kane, and while I respect the opinions of the anti-Kane contingent among my fellow faculty members, I consider this strip blessed, if you’ll pardon the pun, to have his distinctive flair for action and heightened emotion, both of them seen here in abundance, well inked by Tom Sutton.

Also This Month

Chili #21
Combat Kelly and the Deadly Dozen #5
Crazy! #1
Journey Into Mystery #3
Jungle Action #3
Kid Colt Outlaw #167
Lil' Kids #10
Marvel Tales #41
Marvel Triple Action #9
Millie the Model #200 ->
Monsters on the Prowl #21
Our Love Story #21
The Outlaw Kid #14
Rawhide Kid #108
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #107
Supernatural Thrillers #2
The Gunhawks #3
Vault of Evil #1
Wyatt Earp #32
The X-Men #80

It would be easy, forty years on, to view Marvel's February 1973 slate of 38 comic books as a flooding of the market but the truth is that DC still published more titles (42) than their closest competitor. Marvel's slice of the sales pie, however, was growing larger (even though comic sales, across the board, were falling): In 1968, DC's two biggest sellers, Batman and Superman, combined for sales of over 1.4 million copies compared to Marvel's twin titans, Fantastic Four and The Amazing Spider-Man (with a paltry 718,000). Half a decade later, the gap had narrowed to under 10,000 copies! One year later, Marvel was finally on top.

Two new titles, a revamping of the "humor" title, Crazy (which would be revamped yet again within a year) and another horror reprint title, the EC-influenced Vault of Evil, debut this month. As of February 1973, Marvel published 65 comic-sized titles and over half were composed of reprints. If you bought every single title, the total would be a whopping $13.00 (or roughly 13 lawns).

Meanwhile, Millie the Model achieves a milestone only one other Marvel title can claim as of February 1973: 200 issues. Not bad for a humorous female comic strip (a genre which had definitely peaked some time before 1973), but sadly Millie would only last another 7 issues. In December, the title will be made redundant by another wave of premieres. -Peter Enfantino


  1. With "Knights in White Satin" and "Hands Across the Waters, Hands Across the Skies," we've got titles this month with musical references. And I guess you can toss "Come Sing a Song of Vengeance" in there as well. Didn't Jim Nabors sing that one?

  2. I bow down to no one in my admiration and gestation of Professor Flynn, but he does himself and the staff a disservice by not telling the whole story. Not only was "Come Sing a Searing Song of Vengeance" a big hit for Jim Nabors (God, I can still hear him hit that high note on "Triiiiiiii- a-----x!" as if it was only yesterday) but the original version, by Muddy John Lee Boadum, actually hit #106 on the "Bubbling Under" chart for April 15, 1956.
    In addition to the previously noted musical references, it's no longer speculation (as of this minute) that David Bowie based his "Panic in Detroit" on this month's Hulk saga, "Nightmare in Niagara Falls." Decades later, Bruce Springsteen would revisit the "Blood Brothers" on his Greatest Hits album. All in all, a good month for music lovers

    1. My musical knowledge stops at Motorhead and Jim Nabors. Though I do maintain the second chair in the Ozone Park Didgeridoo & Vibraslap Orchestra. You should hear us do Pink Floyd's "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict." Transcendent. Oh, we also do "Hot Pants."

  3. Of this week's selections, I only got the Thor & Hulk mags off the spinner rack. Solid entertainment for my 11 year old self, and I actually think the scenes between Thor and Jarvis were a nice touch, showing even a god of thunder could be all too human but also honorable enough to recognize that he was in the wrong and apologize. Trite for adult readers, but still meaningful for the kids who were still the prime audience for this fare in 1973. Much later I did get the Man-Thing, Warlock & Iron Man yarns, the latter in one of the Marvel Milestone reprints. Of the original Warlock run, I only got one of them off the stands, although I later was a big fan of Starlin's version. Gerber would also become one of my favorite scribes. I've a hunch he was the one responsible for using the McCartney lyric for the Subby title. He wasn't quite up to the top of his game yet, but he was already showing a unique personality as a writer.

  4. To our jaded, hard-to-impress Dean:

    Keep reading Starlin. Coordinates set for "creative explosion," oh, Captain, my Captain...

  5. Good afternoon faculty members. I couldn't help noticing there's no Marvel TeamUp review either this week or last week. Was that magazine not published this month?

  6. That's correct, Anonymous. MTU was bimonthly at first, so the next issue (#7) was published in March, and should be covered here in two weeks' time in our March 1973, Part 2 post. Coincidentally, however, February is the last month to be MTU-less, so hang in there, friend!

    And, for those who read these posts the second they go up, the senior faculty has now located and added my missing review of SHANNA #2.

  7. Scott: ...The layouts are credited to Sam Kweskin, whoever the hell that is.

    Do your homework if you are going to disparage somebody name...

    In the early 1970s, Sam Kweskin briefly returned to freelancing for what was now formally Marvel Comics. He both wrote and penciled a six-page horror tale, "Revenge from the Rhine", in Journey into Mystery vol. 2, #3 (Feb. 1973), and then succeeded Sub-Mariner creator Bill Everett on that character's comic-book title following Everett's death; Kweskin and Everett together penciled issue #58 (Feb. 1973), with Everett inking and Kweskin penciled or laid out #59-60 and 62-63.

    As Kweskin wrote in a 2002 e-mail excerpted in an article by comics historian Ken Quattro:

    I did have lunch with Bill [Everett] one day after he had had a heart attack somewhat earlier that month, and [Marvel publisher] Stan Lee suggested we get together for me to get the 'feel' of Bill's approach to a strip that he had developed. And so I began doing Sub-Mariner. ... Whether [editor-in-chief] Roy Thomas or Stan or I decided it was not in the cards to continue it after a few issues, I can't remember, since at the time I was also president of my own small ad/art agency and responsible to several employees.

    1. Disparage? Nope, just snarky unfamiliarity. Don't get yer panties in a bunch over the interwebs.

    2. I'm a little late in jumping to the defense of one of my professors but I should remind "Anonymous" (I love the anonymous ones) that the MU was staffed by comic lovers not comic historians. We all have our opinions and the number one goal with MU was to entertain and to enlighten NOW AND THEN. I knew of Sam Kweskin, but only through my reading of the pre-code Atlas horror comics (good, solid draftsman). I would venture to say that seven out of ten Marvel fanatics wouldn't have been able to name a single credit for Sam if not for the art of googling.

  8. "Sam Kweskin, whoever the hell that is..." was my Dad.

    1. Thanks for the info and without answering my snark with more snark like Captain Anonymous above. Sorry if my off the cuff dismissal of an unfamiliar name in the Marvel pantheon offended you.