Iron Man: and Call my Killer … Modok! Marvel Novel series #6

#6: Iron Man: and Call my Killer … Modok! by William Rotsler.

The author is a four-time Hugo Award winner for his art and the author of many Star Trek novels as well as the author of the novelizations of the movies Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Futureworld. He died in 1997.

By now the cover artist signs his work: Bob Larkin, cover artist for many Marvel magazines.

The book is “packaged and edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman.”  Len Wein is the co-creator of DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine as well as joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans

Released May 1, 1979; the book is 189 pages long, although the story begins at page 9.

Gratman: Evanier Electronics is mentioned as a business. Mark Evanier? He had no connection to Iron Man and at the time of this paperback, he worked mainly with DC Comics. However, the next book, #7’s Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts: Nightmare is dedicated to him, so it is likely.

***

AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics, a science-based terrorist group) attacks Tony Stark during a college lecture. Stark, as Iron Man, fights them off successfully but still sustains some harm to his already-damaged heart. Cue origin recap.

One of the sergeants in charge of the failed kidnapping faced AIM’s mysterious leader (we comic book fans – and those who remember the title of the book – have a pretty solid idea who the leader is). The kidnapping having failed, the leader thinks up another cunning plan – he shall create an army of Iron Man suits!

He activates two of his sleeper agents in Stark International to create a diversion to successfully steal the Iron Man armor blueprints.

Modok tries to sell the blueprints to the highest bidder, but Stark outmaneuvers Modok by auctioning off the Iron Man suit directly. At auction, it is bought by an Arabic businessman. Modok kidnaps the businessman and his suit.

Surprise! The suit is really Iron Man himself! He is defeated by Modok and unmasked as Tony Stark.  Stark is then forced to create a new Iron Man suit for Modok’s #1 henchman.

Meanwhile, Happy and Nick Fury & Shield find Modok’s hiding place and attack. Iron Man and the henchman in the new suit duke it out. Ol’ Shellhead then sets his sights squarely on Modok!

***

The author does an excellent job of juggling the superhero action and the “civilian” moments of Tony Stark, Happy Hogan, Pepper Potts and employees of Stark International – we even read moments with the AIM sleepers and soldiers. It makes the novel more … grown up.

It would have made a nice juxtaposition to show Stark creating the original Iron Man suit in Viet Nam with the new suit he was creating for Modok. It would have put the origin flashback near the end of the book, which may have been a drawback being too close to the big finish.

Speaking of that, twenty pages is spent recapping Iron Man’s origins in the jungles of Viet Nam. It is excellently done! The author tells us how Tony met and hired Happy Hogan in a later 15-page flashback. Modok’s origin takes about five pages. More than 20% of the novel is flashback.

Interestingly, I tried to listen to Tony Stark/Iron Man speak in Robert Downey Jr’s voice but could not. Despite his (deservedly) owning the role in the recent spate of movies, and being able to hear his voice in the recent comic books and animated TV shows (where such an imitation is likely done intentionally), I can’t hear Downey speak these lines. Only when he is Modok’s captive and Stark’s dialogue is more smart-alecky and defiant does the current version of Iron Man seep through.

And the author does a wonderful job, despite the sometimes comic-booky dialogue. It does not happen often, but when it does, it is jarring; especially considering how wonderfully the rest of the dialogue is written.

Examples: “Iron Man swears it!” and (I am not kidding you) “I, Modok, knew at once how he hoped to trick me. Me, Modok, he tried to trick!”

Yoda-speak this reads like does…

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.

 

Fantastic Four: Doomsday; Marvel Novel Series #5

#5: The Fantastic Four: Doomsday by Marv Wolfman.

Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans.

The cover is by “Buscema & Ledger”. I can only guess that the Ledger might be Peter Ledger – who did cover art for Marvel magazines at the time. Buscema is easier: John Buscema’s name is recognizable to any Marvel fan and was a regular artist on the Fantastic Four’s comic. The cover artist MIGHT be his brother Sal Buscema, but it is doubtful considering the stars of the book.

The book is “packaged and edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman.”  Len Wein is the co-creator of DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine as well as joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men.

Released April 1, 1979. The book is 191 pages long, although the story begins at page 9.

 

Empire State University is holding a reunion of all their alumni. Reed Richards and his college roommate Ben Grimm – otherwise known as Mr. Fantastic and the Thing – decide to attend. Unfortunately so does another alumni – Victor Von Doom!

Doctor Doom apologizes to his former fellow students for all he has done and offers them all a weekend in his kingdom of Latveria; where all can tour the castle, meet the people, etc.

Has Doom turned over a new leaf?

The EPU alumni are convinced, but the reader is quickly shown it is all a trap for the Fantastic Four: Mr. Fantastic is stuck in a maze filling quickly with acid; the Invisible Girl must use her powers to either block lethal laser blasts OR a poisonous candle, but not both; the Thing is attacked by endless automated armored knights; and the Human Torch is being suffocated in a sealed chamber!

Doom meanwhile breaks into the FF’s Baxter Building and enters the Negative Zone to absorb its power.

Having escaped their individual traps, the FF confronts Doom in the Negative Zone and follow him eventually to a final confrontation at Stonehenge.

 

Interesting that in the novel Dr. Doom’s origin is given several pages, whereas the origin of the FF’s powers were only given a line or two by the Thing.

Of course, Doom’s story is integral to the plot: his childhood, his mother, his father.

We meet Johnny Storm’s and Ben Grimm’s girlfriends, Frankie Raye and Alicia Masters, but little time is spent on them compared to more pages with Doom’s manservant Boris.  We also meet Anna, a Latverian national who befriends Johnny.

Wolfman does an excellent job translating these comic book characters into prose. This would make a wonderful two (or three) part story or an Annual. The Thing’s and Human Torch’s bickering, though, sometimes gets as old as it did in the comics. But Marv does a wonderful job showing their love for one another, as well as the relationship between Reed and Sue.

A few times the FF members stress they are a team, and a good team. I enjoy the later incarnations of the group when they say they are NOT a team, but a family. They are a family here, too. They always have been. And that is what REALLY gives them their strength.

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.

Captain America: Holocaust for Hire!!

#4: Captain America: Holocaust for Hire by Joseph Silva.

Released April 1, 1979

The book is 191 pages long, although the story begins at page 9.

Joseph Silva is a pseudonym for Ron Goulart. From Wikipedia: “Ron Goulart (born January 13, 1933) is an American popular culture historian and mystery, fantasy and science fiction author. … (of) … many novelizations and other routine work under various pseudonyms: Kenneth Robeson (pen name), Con Steffanson (pen name), Chad Calhoun, R.T. Edwards, Ian R. Jamieson, Josephine Kains, Jillian Kearny, Howard Lee, Zeke Masters, Frank S. Shawn, and … Joseph Silva.”  He also wrote (as Silva) #2 Stalker from the Stars.

The cover artist is Dave Cockrum, a comic book artist known for his legendary stints on Legion of Super-heroes and X-Men.

The book is “packaged and edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman.”  Len Wein is the co-creator of DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine as well as joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans

Gratmens: character Jake Sheridan mentions “great teams” and includes Rodgers & Hart, Laurel & Hardy and Simon & Kirby. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Captain America.

 

An African city is destroyed by an earthquake. We learn that it MAY have been a sonic device created by Dr. Gregory Crandall, a sonic scientist who has disappeared. We meet Dr. Crandall and his daughter being held hostage in a wintry villa.

Captain America, meanwhile, batters his way through New York’s underworld to find the doctor.

Also meanwhile, a Nazi (no spoilers, it is obvious with his mentions of a Fourth Reich and a Master Race), who we met in Chapter 1, was responsible for the African earthquake, as well as others throughout the world; makes a deal with a Texas millionaire.

Captain America reports to Nick Fury and Shield before heading to the chalet in which Dr. Crandall may be kept. They suspect the involvement of Cap’s old enemy – the Red Skull

Cap, Fury and Shield fight off the Skull’s forces in the chalet before the villain can escape with Dr. Crandall in tow. Some detective work leads our heroes on separate paths to Skull Island in the Pacific, but not before Nick Fury and the two reporters also investigating the story are kidnapped!

Can Captain America make it to Skull Island and rescue all the hostages before the Red Skull can use his sonic machine to destroy the world?

 

By page 45 we flash back to World War II and a ten-page origin story for Captain America.  A little further along we learn the origin of the Red Skull. More pages are spent on the Skull’s story than Cap’s. Perhaps the average reader would not know about how the Red Skull became the Red Skull and survived after WWII. True, it showed the depth of evil within the Skull, but was not integral to the plot (compared to Doctor Doom’s thorough origin story in book #5 Fantastic Four Doomsday).

Nor is there much made of how Captain America still exists in the present day (he was frozen in ice near the end of WWII) and is only mentioned in a few lines. Perhaps the writer thought that was not as important or that most readers would KNOW that fact, but NOT know his origins.

Caroline’s escape from the chalet was VERY well-paced and exciting! Kudos to Silva!

Cap never takes off his mask – we never see anything about Steve Rogers and his private life. This echoes the comics at the time, too…

This book is the most pulpy of the Marvel Novel Series published to date. Perhaps it is the involvement of neo-Nazis wanting to conquer the world and our masked hero with no real civilian identity. Regardless, it was a fun read!

But something nagged me while reading the novel: a scientist was captured, our hero befriends the daughter of the scientist and, with the help of original characters and his frenemy from the comic book series (in this case, Nick Fury), confront and win over the mad dictator before he can use the scientist’s invention to rule (or if not rule, destroy) the world!  Sound familiar? It was also the plot to Novel #3: The Incredible Hulk: Cry of the Beast!

Red Skull discussing New York City:  “To crush them all beneath brick and stone and concrete, to send their steel and glass towers crashing down on them … “.  Well, reading THAT was uncomfortable…

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.

Incredible Hulk: Cry of the Beast! Marvel Novel Series #3

The Incredible Hulk: Cry of the Beast by Richard S Meyers. Released March 1, 1979, the first of the Pocket Book Marvel Novel series with a number: 3.

The author is a writer of fiction and non-fiction (including a story for Detective Comics’ 60th anniversary). He has also written for television programs from the New Twilight zone to Columbo to Murder She Wrote. He has written for Playboy, TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly. He was inducted into the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

The book is 191 pages long, although the story starts on page 11); there is no introduction.

 

While wandering the streets of New York City, Bruce Banner witnesses a mugging. No, not a mugging, a kidnapping. Foremost radiation specialist Dr. Maxwell Wittenborn was being kidnapped. This was the man Bruce came to New York to see!

Bruce tries to stop the mugging/kidnapping and is assaulted by the thugs. All Hulk breaks loose.

The person in charge of the kidnapping, who we later learn is named the General, gives the Hulk his card.  The next morning, Bruce finds the card and goes to the address.

It was a trap! Bruce and Dr. Wittenborn’s two adult children, Tony and Roseanne, are themselves kidnapped and taken to the General’s headquarters in Africa.

After a long sea voyage, Banner and Roseanne escape into the jungle where they fight off pygmy natives, African beasts and the General’s soldiers.

Finally captured by the General, Roseanne is kept prisoner as an … incentive for her father to keep working. Bruce is kept with other prisoners and made a guinea pig for the General’s gamma radiation experiments which, if they work, will help him destroy America!

 

The Incredible Hulk television show was going great guns by the time this paperback was published. Hence two novels in as many years (as well as a “video novel” – scenes from the TV show with word balloons – and a paperback of older Hulk comics).

This novel leans more to the television show than the comic book (compared to the previous comic-book leaning “Stalker from the Stars”). None of the comic book regulars are present – Betty Ross or her father, Rick Jones, etc.  Banner (still called Bruce here, but David on television) was a wanderer and become involved in a crime, albeit a larger one than usually explored in the TV show.

The CBS series never dealt much with world conquerors. But even so this novel deals more with the characters than the action – Bruce’s relationship with Roseanne, the Hulk’s relationship with Roseanne, even the parallel story of the agent assigned to infiltrate the General’s operation.

Probably because of this, we get no origin recap – this is because the way Bruce Banner became the Hulk on the television show is different from the comic book version. The writer did not want to alienate either audience and stuck to vague statements by Banner regarding “bringing out my inner demon”-sort of thing.

When released, this was the kind of novel that would attract readers who were NOT necessarily into comic books. Kind of like the audience of the television show…

A good beginning for a third book in a series!

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.

The Incredible Hulk: Stalker from the Stars – Marvel Novel Series #2

The Incredible Hulk: Stalker from the Stars by Len Wein with Marv Wolfman and Joseph Silva. Released January 1, 1978. Really? So says Amazon; if so this paperback was published before Spider-Man’s Mayhem in Manhattan, which has always been listed as #1. …

Len Wein is known for co-creating DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine and joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans.

Joseph Silva is a pseudonym for Ron Goulart. From Wikipedia: “Ron Goulart (born January 13, 1933) is an American popular culture historian and mystery, fantasy and science fiction author. … (of) … many novelizations and other routine work under various pseudonyms: Kenneth Robeson (pen name), Con Steffanson (pen name), Chad Calhoun, R.T. Edwards, Ian R. Jamieson, Josephine Kains, Jillian Kearny, Howard Lee, Zeke Masters, Frank S. Shawn, and … Joseph Silva.”

No mention as to who does the interior art (pictures of the Hulk at the beginning of each chapter) – it is from various Marvel comics, house ads, etc. The internet says the cover is by Bob Larkin.

The book is 174 pages long, although the story begins at page 9.

For the first few pages there is a brief introduction by Stan Lee. He hypes the popularity of the Hulk TV show and explains the characters Rick Jones and Thunderbolt Ross. Both characters are integral to the comic book but neither of whom appear on the television show.

I never liked Thunderbolt Ross: in this novel, as in the comics, Ross is so two-dimensional he makes J Jonah Jameson look like Hamlet. A little goes a long way. WARNING: playing a drinking game where you take a shot every time Ross says “halfwit” may lead to alcohol poisoning.  It is to Thunderbolt Ross was “dolt” and “clod” were to (Tomb of) Dracula. It’s not so bad, but if the book is read in one sitting (and that is easy to do – in a good way, like a great old pulp magazine) its use is frequent.

Gratmens: Buscemas café and Leiber garage are place-names in the book, named for Sal Buscema who drew the Hulk for ten years (it could be for his brother John, who drew the Hulk for only a few issues, but my money is on Sal) and Larry Leiber, Stan Lee’s younger brother who at that time was penciling the Hulk newspaper strip.

The origin of how Bruce Banner became the Hulk is given its own chapter early in the novel. Compare that to the two-page origin of Book #1 starring Spider-Man. This makes some sense – Hulk’s origins are less-known to the general public and varied greatly from the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno-starring television show.

 

Rick Jones wanders into the town of Crater Falls looking for Dr. Rudolph Stein, a contemporary of Bruce Banner who is also known for his research into gamma radiation.  Rick learns Dr. Stein is missing – he wanders the woods and finds the crater from which the town founded its name.

While searching the woods Rick finds a murder victim bathed in green gamma radiation (the identity of the body is a SPOILER and won’t be revealed here). He calls the local sheriff but the body disappears before anyone else can see it.

Also, at night the entire citizenship of Crater Falls walk zombie-like from the town into the woods. Rick’s attempts to find out what is going on is rewarded with a thump on the head (at first) and then by his disappearing – just like Dr. Stein!

Meanwhile, Bruce Banner is hunted by General Thunderbolt Ross – who finally manages to capture the Hulk!

Banner escapes Gamma Base when he hears of Rick’s troubles. Rick’s phone went dead during a conversation with Ross and Rick has not been seen nor heard since. Banner goes to Crater Falls, meets the same citizens Rick did, learns of Stein’s disappearance and investigates.

As the title suggests, our green goliath comes in contact with an alien menace that can control the minds of puny humans.

The Hulk and his friends must find a way to stop the evil alien Sh-mballah while also fighting off the hypnotized citizens of Crater Falls!

 

By the time this paperback came out the Incredible Hulk TV show was in full vigor. The book was an obvious attempt to cash in on the success of the show. That’s not a criticism.

The story leans more toward the comic books – the regular comic book cast is present and the Hulk fights off super baddies with onomatopoetic names (“Whence Comes Vrloom!”).  It’s no spoiler to say Hulk fights off a Cthulhu-esque alien.

And by the way, an alien buried beneath a small town who mentally manipulates the citizenry pre-dates Stephen King’s Tommyknockers by nine years. To be fair, though, that science fiction trope has been around for decades.

Should I ever meet Len Wein or Marv Wolfman I would ask them about how they collaborated – did they each do a different section (“You do Rick Jones and Crater Falls and I’ll do the Hulk/Gamma Base stuff”) or did they Lennon-McCartney with their typewriters back-to-back telling each other their ideas?

A great read – very comic booky. Even moreso than the previous Spider-Man novel which was in itself an excellent read. A comic book in prose, which is the whole idea of the series, isn’t it? This story even has sound effects!  Chuff! Karash! Kaslam!

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.

More on The Warlord – a supplement to a prior blog!

A supplement to a prior blog:

See my original review of the Bronze age comic book Warlord from DC Comics.

To quote my review of the series Warlord: “(issue #2’s) … story does not end in a cliffhanger per se, as had the previous issue, but it had an open ending. Yet “The End” was prominently written on the final page. Did Messers. Grell and Orlando know this was the last issue? Did they know it would come back in a few months?”

 

Scoop is an excellent e-newsletter and I recommend anyone who enjoys my blog to subscribe.

Recently Scoop featured an interview with Mike Grell and he addressed Warlord’s hiatus:

“ … when I turned in pages I would pick up the letter pages and stand in the office and read through it, proofread to make sure there were no errors that needed sent back for corrections before I did the finished inks, when it came to issue 3, I was in Joe’s office and at the end of the book instead of saying “Next Issue” it said “The End.” I turned to Joe and said, “This is wrong. It says ‘The End’ but it should say ‘Next Issue.’” Joe said, “Yeah, well, Carmine cancelled the book.” I said, “He can’t do that, he promised me a year’s run.” And Joe says, “Yeah, well, he lied. He does that.”

“Fortunately for me and for the Warlord, within a couple of weeks Carmine Infantino was out and Jenette Kahn arrived on the scene. It turned out that Jenette was a pretty astute cookie and she had studied the entire lineup very thoroughly before she ever took over the company. I come to find out that Warlord was one of her favorite books. She looked at the production schedule and said, “Where’s the Warlord?” I told her, “Well, Carmine cancelled it.” She said, “Carmine’s not here anymore, put it back.” So that’s how Warlord got continued on past issue 3.”

 

So the mystery is solved!

 

Read the entire interview, where he also talks about his time on the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Interview with Mike Grell ©2017 Gemstone Publishing, Inc., Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, Diamond International Galleries, and/or the Fandom Advisory Network. They hold all rights.

 

Constantine returns!! (to CW Seed)

Excellent news:

Read my original review of the Constantine.

Read the original article reprinted below: http://comicbook.com/2017/01/08/constantine-picked-up-by-the-cw/

The CW has just announced it has picked up Constantine as an animated series for CW Seed during its Television Critics Association panel.

The show will feature Matt Ryan, who starred as the title character in the fan favorite but short-lived NBC show.

Fans can expect the episodes to be 10 minute in length similar to the Vixen series that ran on CW Seed. Right now, episode count is expected to be either five or six. The show, like Vixen, will exist in the Arrow-verse which consists of Arrow, Flash, Legends Of Tomorrow & Supergirl.

While fans were expecting another live-action cameo from the character, they will be more than pleased with this. Back at New York Comic Con, Ryan told our own Russ Burlingame that while he was at the time doing the voice for Constantine in Justice League Dark, he’s learned “not to rule anything out.” He said that in terms of an Arrow return, he’s open to it because: “I love the character.”

Both Constantine and Arrow, like all of DC Comics-inspired TV series, are produced by Warner Bros. TV.

 

Article written by James Viscardi- 01/08/2017.