Behold! The Bronze Age! A new series

Regular readers of Curry Takeaways know of my many loves; including the Bronze Age of comic books.

What is the Bronze Age? It is a vague time period of comic book publishing. Most ages are determined by fixed events or dates in the history of comic book publishing – although even those are debated.

Only a contrarian disagrees that the Golden Age of comics began with the publication of Action Comics #1 and the debut of Superman (June 1938 – let’s please stop discussing cover date vs actual date; if you don’t know by now …).

There are more arguments over the beginning of the Silver Age, but the majority still believe it began with the publication of Showcase #4 and the (what we would now call) reboot of the Flash (October 1956).

The Bronze Age beginnings are more arguable. Was it when the price of comics went to fifteen cents? Was it when Jack Kirby left Marvel for DC? Some simply say 1970. This was when Kirby left for DC, Green Lantern became Green Lantern/Green Arrow and symbolized DC’s going “relevant” and growing up, many old-time writers and artists retired and were replaced by fans-turned-pros, Marvel published Conan the Barbarian, etc.

I do not really have a preference, although I lean more to the fifteen-cents-theory (early 1969).

The theories as to the date of the end of the Bronze Age is almost universal – the Crisis on Infinite Earths and the deaths of Flash, Supergirl and others in 1985.

Ages since have been of little interest to me – I just call anything since the Modern Age (some have coined post-Bronze Ages as the Copper Age and the Modern Age …).

I love comics in all of the various Ages, but the Bronze Age was when I first really read and paid attention to the comics I was getting (and saving).

Over the next few years on this blog I will share my favorite Bronze Age comics – sometimes going through entire series or a specific run. It will focus mainly on DC versus Marvel, Atlas, Harvey or Archie – but that’s because that is what I read.

They will be similar to other specific runs in the past (what I call the Adventure Line imprint, the Bicentennial issues and a few others) and may repeat some blogs. Forgive the reruns – I’ll keep them to a minimum.

I’d like to hear your opinions. Keep up the comments.

Enjoy.

Michael Curry

 

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!


 

Rich Buckler – RIP to a comic book great!

… and on Gardner Fox’s 106th birthday, I also honor a Golden & Silver Age great!

***

I was very sad to hear of the death of comic book artist Rich Buckler today.  Here is his Wikipedia entry (note his death had yet to make the page):

Rich Buckler (born February 6, 1949) is an American comic book artist and penciller, best known for his work on Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four in the mid-1970s and for creating the character Deathlok in Astonishing Tales #25. Buckler has drawn virtually every major character at Marvel and DC, often as a cover artist.

As a teenager in Detroit, Buckler attended the initial iterations of the Detroit Triple Fan Fair, eventually running the convention along with originator Robert Brosch in 1969–1970.

Buckler’s first comics work was as a teenager with the four-page historical story “Freedom Fighters: Washington Attacks Trenton” in the King Features comic book Flash Gordon #10 (cover-dated Nov. 1967). At DC Comics, he drew the “Rose and the Thorn” backup stories in Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #117-121 (Dec. 1971 – April 1972).

Buckler drew the first three issues of writer Don McGregor’s Black Panther series in Jungle Action vol. 2, #6-8 (Sept. 1973 – Jan. 1974), a run that Comics Bulletin in 2010 ranked third on its list of the “Top 10 1970s Marvels”. He fulfilled a decade-long dream in 1974 when assigned to draw Marvel’s flagship series, Fantastic Four, on which he stayed for two years.  During this period, Buckler created the cyborg antihero Deathlok, which starred in an ongoing feature debuting in Astonishing Tales #25 (Aug. 1974). Also during this period, Buckler hired the young George Pérez as his studio assistant.

Buckler collaborated with writer Gerry Conway on a “Superman vs. Shazam!” story published in All-New Collectors’ Edition #C-58 (April 1978). He drew the newspaper comic strip The Incredible Hulk for approximately six months in 1979. A Justice League story by Conway and Buckler originally intended for All-New Collectors’ Edition saw print in Justice League of America #210-212 (Jan.-Mach 1983). Buckler and Roy Thomas then created the World War II superhero team the All-Star Squadron in a special insert in Justice League of America #193 (Aug. 1981) which led to the team’s own title the following month.

Buckler worked for Archie Comics in 1983 and 1984, when that publisher briefly revived its Red Circle Comics superhero line, and he recruited Cary Burkett to write the Mighty Crusaders title. In 1985, Buckler returned to Marvel and briefly drew The Spectacular Spider-Man with writer Peter David, where they produced the storyline “The Death of Jean DeWolff”. He also served as editor for a short-lived line of comics by Solson Publications, where in 1987 he created Reagan’s Raiders.

He is the author of two books: How to Become a Comic Book Artist and How to Draw Superheroes. In 2015, he became an Inkwell Awards Ambassador.

 

I remember his covers of the comic books I collected during the Bronze Age, but as I searched for his comic book covers on the internet I was stunned at how prolific he was; at least with the comics I collected. He was everywhere! He, Jim Aparo and Ernie Chua seemingly accounted for 75% of DC covers in the 1970s! I may only slightly be exaggerating! Here are some examples of the man’s work. I still have all these issues …

***

Today also marks the 106th birthday of Gardner Fox, prolific comic book author whose writing helped create the Golden Age and whose creations still exist in one form or another. He was the creator or “… co-creator of DC Comics heroes the Flash, Hawkman, Doctor Fate and the original Sandman, and was the writer who first teamed those and other heroes as the Justice Society of America. Fox introduced the concept of the Multiverse to DC Comics in the 1961 story “Flash of Two Worlds!” …” (from Wikipedia).

 

Two comic book great are being remembered today. Thank you both for your wonderful bodies of work. You and your talent are both missed very much!

 

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – a look back on Season Two

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow just completed Season Two. And it will have a Season Three – something that was in doubt this time last year.

Season One was savaged by the critics and all but the most trollish of DC trolls. I liked it, I did. But I wasn’t as giddy about its first season as I was about the first season of Arrow or Flash … read my review by clicking on the link above.

This second season was better, per the critics and the trolls. And indeed it was.

I liked Season Two as well, but I still didn’t love it.

Why?

I have a hard time putting my finger on the why. And I figured out why while writing this review – which was partly my goal.

It was a better show than the prior season– they pruned the cast; the remaining members grew and the new ones were allowed more depth (a smaller cast allows that). They had a variety of Big Bads instead of one. The stories were fair despite the Pez-dispenser-like lessons of history.

Maybe it is unfair to compare it to the joy of watching Flash and Supergirl, where the glee (pardon the pun) of the cast and writers warm the viewers like the sun in spring. However, the show is better than the brooding and plodding Season Five of Arrow, which unfortunately followed its brooding and plodding Season Four.

Put it this way: I watch Flash and Supergirl as soon as I can (I tivo all my shows and watch them later) – usually the next day; with LoT I sometimes wait until the weekend; Arrow and some others (Agents of Shield, as another example) are watched in bundles of two or three episodes at a time because of their glacial story progression.

So LoT came in a distant third this year. The other CW shows have about six more episodes this season, so it is possible for them to blow it and make LoT look like the Mary Tyler Moore Show, but that is doubtful.

Let’s look at the hows and whys this season was better – or worse – than the first:

The cast was trimmed this season. Hawkgirl is gone.  Too bad. Perhaps with this “new” setting of Season Two the character would have been able to do more than mourn the death of Carter Hall and be the constant captive of Vandal Savage. The actress Ciara Renée deserved better.

Arthur Darvill had other commitments during the season so Rip Hunter was written out of most of the show. I thought it would be the death knell but it actually helped. Sara Lance grew into the role of the captain of our crew. Rip’s eventual return just showed us how crowded the cast was – we and Rip realized he was … well … not needed anymore. I hope he pops up from time to time.

The loss of Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart/Captain Cold was also a blow, or so I thought. Here was the best character of Season One (Mick Rory, now no longer Snart’s sidekick, steals every scene like the thief he is. The only good thing about Wentworth Miller leaving the show was Dominic Purcell’s ascendancy. He is wonderful – Rory was meant to be two-dimensional and ends up being the most well-rounded character of the show!).

Snart, Hunter and Hawkgirl were replaced by Steel and Vixen – two characters who started off in comics of the 1970s but did not really come into their own popularity until the 1980s. They helped provide some missing muscle and exposition (Steel was an historian and Vixen knew where to find this Season’s MacGuffin). They began a more believable romance than last year’s Atom-Hawkgirl coupling.

The Season starts out promising: the Legends’ job is to find time aberrations and set things straight: zombies in the Civil War, Albert Einstein kidnapped by Nazis. They confront the Justice Society (the handling of their roster caused quite a kerfuffle amongst the DC purists). Then the Big Bads and this season’s major MacGuffin are introduced:

The Legion of Doom consists of past bad guys from the Arrowverse – Eobard Thawn, trying to save his existence from being destroyed; Malcolm Merlyn – John Barrowman sleepwalking through this worn-out character; Damien Darhke, the Big Bad from Arrow Season 4, again played by Neal McDonough who smirked and smarmed as thoroughly as he did in Arrow. After 20 episodes there and 10 here, I think the audience has been sated with Darkhe, thank you. Wentworth Miller was touted as a member of the Legion, but he was only in the last three episodes or so.

legends-of-tomorrow-season-2-episode-8-the-chicago-way

The MacGuffin was the Spear of Destiny – a major prop in the DC comic book universe and a nice addition here – the spear the Roman soldier used to pierce the side of Jesus. In the comics, whosoever held the spear would rule the world. Hitler possessed it and prevented Superman and the other Justice Society members from going to Europe and kicking his ass (hence the reasoning behind why Superman, Dr. Fate, Green Lantern and others didn’t simply … go to Europe and kick his ass).

In LoT the Spear of Destiny can alter reality – Thawne wants it to create a universe in which his ancestor lived and thus he continued to exist. The Justice Society took the Spear and hid it throughout history. Thus creating the plot thread throughout the rest of the show, leading to a final big battle at the season’s end.

The season finale seemed almost tacked on. They go back to a previous adventure in World War One to change their eventual defeat that allows the Legion to take the spear – thus breaking the #1 temporal law – don’t go back and meet yourself (which some of the members had already done in Season One, but I assume, like Star Trek 5, we are to pretend that never happened).

Odd that Season Two only lasted 17 episodes instead of the usual 22 or 23, which may explain why the season finale seemed so “tacked on” – now that I bring it up, this plot thread could have been completed two or three shows before even that … heaven forfend they do some done-in-one episodes as filler. Subtract the obvious filler – the Jonah Hex redo and the cross-over with the other Arrowverse shows and we have only 15 episodes. Couldn’t the other 7 shows simply be well-done stand-alone episodes to finish out the season and prepare us for any changes in Season Three?

They COULD have done some fun single-episode time-travel shows. In my primer (the link is above) I mentioned they were entering into Doctor Who territory: going to different times and meeting the famous and infamous. They did that (George Washington, etc.), but it didn’t quite click.

The budget is tight on the show, I know. Which is why Firestorm rarely appears (and why wasn’t Victor Garber given more to do? After he revealed his daughter as a time aberration and turned over command to Sara Lance, he practically disappeared. Fortunately, he was excellent in the Flash’s musical episode!).

Brandon Routh was demoted from the eccentric he played in Flash down to the flightiness of last season to now being an idiotic man-child. Brandon Routh and Ray Palmer deserve better. He and Stein should be the geniuses of the series; like Cisco and Winn, creating the weekly MacGuffins to help defeat the bad guy.

On the other hand, Franz Drameh’s Jefferson Jackson was promoted from last season’s wise-ass kid to the engineer. He should be helping the geniuses Palmer and Stein with the mechanical side of the MacGuffin-making.

***

OK, so what was it about Season Two that I did not like? While I still haven’t quite put my finger on it, I do have some ideas to heal the show’s ills:

The Berlanti method is growing thin. After five seasons of Arrow, three in Flash, and one in LoT, the Season-long Big Bad story arc is an idea whose time is over. Do what is being done in Supergirl and make the Big Bad only a major recurring (not constant) villain – as they did with Lillian Luthor/Argus and Rhea (Mon-El’s mother). Weren’t you tired of Thawne snatching victory away from the Legends at the end of every episode?

Go back to fixing time aberrations. Not just on earth but through the universe. If you are going to emulate a TV show, you can do worse than Doctor Who. Introduce Kanjar Ro as an intergalactic tyrant. Introduce Krona as a time-meddler (he would make a good Big Bad AND be a nice way to FINALLY introduce the Green Lantern Corps into the Arrowverse)

Make “small” story arcs. The only good thing Agents of Shield has done in three years is having two separate story arcs this season – Ghost Rider for the fall and LMD for the spring.

And although the budget is not huge, PLEASE hire an historian. A real one. Nothing ruins a good story when you know the very premise is wrong. I realize this isn’t PBS, but stop using a paragraph or two from Wikipedia to get the gist of your background material.

For example: In one episode they had to find JRR Tolkien in the trenches of World War One. Tolkien knew a possible location to the tomb of Sir Gawain that could lead the Legends to a vial of the Jesus’ blood which could be used to destroy the Spear of Destiny … that lived in the house that Jack built. The Legends knew this because of a book Tolkien wrote about Sir Gawain. No such book exists – he wrote a translation of a lay of Sir Gawain, but not a treatise. And not during/before WWII…

While searching for him, they overheard a sergeant yelled “Fool of a Tolkien” to a sick soldier. Aha! This must be JRR! And sure enough …

The line was an homage to the line “Fool of a Took!” from Fellowship of the Ring. I bristled when I heard the line. It took away from Tolkien’s ability as a writer. It implied that he did not create the line – he just used what other people did. He did not. That is wrong.

“Lighten up,” you might say, “it was just a fun line.”

No it wasn’t. It was disrespectful. Same as when the Legends met George Lucas and the characters ended up in a pre-replica of the trash compactor scene. As with the Tolkien quotes, it diminished the genius and the originality of Lucas’ idea – a young lad and some friends are whisked away from their home by a quirky wizard to go fight a dark lord and his minions who are bent on ruling the … oh…

Never mind …

But it insults our intelligence as it insults the creativity of the historical guests (this is the same problem I have with Forest Gump or the “Marvin Berry” scene in Back to the Future).

Knock it off. It turns idols into thieves and it’s a short-cut by piss-pour writers for a cheap laugh.

***legends-of-tomorrow-season-2-aruba-slice-600x200

As I hoped, writing this little opinion piece has revealed what nags me about the show: if Legends of Tomorrow weren’t connected to the comic book characters I read and loved as a kid, I would not be interested in watching this show.

Compare that to, say, the superb first season of Arrow. I’d have loved that season even without the superhero lineage.

(Whereas Flash and Supergirl are too inextractibly linked to their comic books to say that. Were anyone to make those two shows renaming their leads they would face a copyright lawsuit faster than you can say “Shazam”. That’s a great line if you know the history of comic book litigation…)

But I repeat – I would likely not watch LoT if not for the DC roster. The stories and characters may not be great – but it’s the Atom! And the Justice Society! It may insult my intelligence – but there’s Jonah Hex!

***

So I still like the show. Perhaps the reason it gets under my skin so is that with some really simple (and inexpensive) tweaks it could be so much better. Instead of being fun in a frat-boy-“that-was-cool-wasn’t-it” way it could be fun AND thrilling. Season Two was an improvement over Season One. Season Three could be better still!

I cheer for the show – I really am rooting for it to do well; to be better! Stop emulating the storytelling-style of Arrow and Flash. You don’t need to. Do shorter story arcs! Do solo stories focusing on only one or two characters! When they meet real life legends – let them remain legends, not accidents.

Don’t emulate others. Be different.

Most legends are…

 

Original Material Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

 

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

 

 

Captain America: The Great Gold Steal by Ted White, a review.

Bantam Books published July 1968; 118 pages; the story starts on page 1! There are no illustrations or ads in the book.

This paperback book was NOT part of the Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books Marvel Novel series. In fact, this book was released ten years prior.

Because of the phenomenal success of the Batman TV show, in 1966 and 1967 everything comic book-y was all the rage.

Marvel wanted to cash in on the rage by publishing novel-length prose paperbacks of their superhero line. For some unknown reason, Marvel’s owner, Martin Goodman, did not want to license his two best-sellers – Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four – but he allowed an Avengers book, published in 1967 as The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker by legendary comic book writer Otto Binder.

The book tanked – either because of the poor-writing style (hard to believe with Otto Binder, but supposedly Binder knew nothing of the “Marvel Style” and Stan Lee did not approve of the assigned writer) or lack of promotion on Marvel’s part (perhaps because of Lee’s dislike of choice of author). The latter argument has some meat to it. If Marvel hyped this paperback the way it hyped its comics and cartoons, it would have done reasonably well. It would not have outsold One Hundred Years of Solitude, but …

Because the Avengers book was such a bust, the follow-up novel with Captain America was not published until July of 1968. It sold about 98,000 copies and only had one printing.

Author Ted White is the Hugo-award winning author of the Qanar series published by Lancer. He acknowledges his homage to Doc Savage in this Captain America novel.

The unsigned cover is by Mitchell Hooks who also did, among his many other works, the movie poster for Doctor No. Ted White also acknowledges his love of Ian Fleming in this Captain America novel.

And what a fun mix of Doc Savage-pulp and James Bond this story is!

Throughout this series of novels I read the book before looking up anything about it. That way I am not influenced by the reviews and commentary of others. All through the story I imagined this could have been re-written as a Doc Savage story with very little effort.

And I knew I was onto a Doc Savage homage when one of the characters was named Monk.

The prior (later) Captain America novel Holocaust for Hire was also pulpy fun, but for a younger audience. This novel was aimed at all ages.

A “tsk-tsk” goes to Mr. White for his dedication: “To Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, without whom there would be no Captain America”. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon created Captain America. Without them, there would be no Captain America. Even Stan would admit that.

An unidentified man was mysteriously killed searching for Captain America. The police and Cap discover he was killed by a laser to the back!! He had a gold ingot in his pocket – from the US Federal Reserve in the heart of New York.

Cap and some police officers head down to the vaults containing the billions of gold bars and find the thieves access from an abandoned subway tunnel – they had already stolen millions of dollars of bars.

Cap goes into the tunnel to find a thief still there! After dispatching the crook, Cap lifts the receiver of the radio in the tunnel. One of the lieutenants on the other end detonates an explosive in the tunnel – they think Captain America is killed!

But because of his incredible training and physique, Cap works his way out of the rubble.

The lieutenants of the gold thieves were named Sparrow, Starling and Raven. We learn they work for the Eagle – all very pulpish, too!

They eventually capture Captain America and resume their theft of the gold. Captain America escapes and follows the lieutenants to their lair on Staten Island where the identity of the Eagle is finally revealed!

The revelation and conclusion literally takes place in the last four pages of the story.

I particularly enjoyed the prose on Cap’s physical abilities – something straight out of a Doc Savage novel! For example – controlling his healing ability and consciously increasing his adrenaline to work his way out of the rubble caused him to lose seven pounds.

The author spends almost a quarter of the novel on Captain America’s origin. Since it was so well done I am not complaining. I enjoyed how he added more pulpish-ness to the origin. It was not just a chemical formula injected into weak Steve Rogers, but Rogers was also – prior to the injection of the super-serum – put through months of physical training, examination of his bio systems and even his DNA and RNA (acknowledging that Dr. Erskine was decades ahead of his time).  Interestingly, steel rods were put into his bone marrow for strength and to allow his bones to support the extra musculature. Early shades of Wolverine there …

Odd that the book begins with a two-page recap of the Captain’s origin, but then given much more details beginning on page 13.

As a super-hero book, The Great Gold Steal is good but not great. As the Marvel Novel Series shows, it is hard to transfer the visual impact of a comic book into prose form – as good as some of the stories are. The weaker novels are simply prose versions of the comic book.

However, as a pulp book, The Great Gold Steal is wonderful fun! Narrow escapes, bone-crunching battles and a dum-dum-duuuuummmm-style reveal of the true villain – not once but twice! Some bad guys are not as they seem!

Better to think of this book as a pulp novel. If this were a new Doc Savage or Avenger (Richard Benson, not the Marvel super-team) tale, it might have been better received.

Original Material Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Bantam 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.

Murdermoon! Marvel Novel Series #11 – Spider-Man and the Hulk!

Last but not least! Marvel Novel Series #11 concludes with a Marvel Team-Up, featuring their biggest (at the time … and today!): The Amazing Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk: Murdermoon by Paul Kupperberg

Paul Kupperberg is the creator of Arion Lord of Atlantis and Checkmate. He is the author of the “Death of Archie” storyline.

The book is 208 pages long, but begins on page 9 – making it the longest novel in the series. There are Spider-Man and Hulk illustrations at the beginning of each chapter (with no credit for the artists). Maybe they learned their lesson from the prior Avenger book: the illustrations match the star of the specific chapter – Spider-Man for the Spidey chapters and Hulk for old Greenskin’s chapters.

There is no blurb for the “next” novel on the back. Did they know this was the last one?

Cover is signed by Bob Larkin, known for his painted covers of 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.

 

Spider-Man thwarts a quartet of thieves in a government office. One felon gets away with plans and other documents of NASA’s next unmanned space launch. Spidey later learns more plans were stolen from the Johnson Space Center. He discovers through underworld contacts that the thieves were hired by an outfit near Niagara Falls.

After rampaging through Nevada as the Hulk, Banner awakes in a small town in Kansas where he finds work, a place to live, and new friends. An article in the local paper says a cure for gamma radiation may have been found in Chicago. Banner goes to Chicago and is incapacitated by the doctors who planted the article as a trap. They take him to their lair near Niagara Falls.

The scientists plant a device in Hulk’s ear to control him. When Spider-Man busts into the lab, they order the Hulk to attack!

The evil scientists launch their satellite that will hack into all other satellites in orbit, giving the scientists control over all the information in the globe! Can our heroes stop it in time?

 

J Jonah Jameson is not quite on the leash he was with Crime Campaign, but still within tolerable levels. Another nice bit of continuity is the mention of Cindy Sayers from Spidey’s (and Kupperberg’s) prior book!

This is a true team-up! It is not a Spider-Man story with the Hulk as a guest star or visa-versa. Each hero is given his own chapter – with the Hulk travelling the highways and byways of the good ole’ USA: Nevada to Kansas to Chicago to upstate New York … just to get him under Spider-Man’s radar.  But it reflects Hulk’s wandering and his interaction with us ordinary mortals so vital to the TV series. One nice bit shows us how Banner can afford his constant change of wardrobe!

Fun story and a great conclusion to the Marvel Novel 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.

Marvel Novel Series #10 – The Avengers!

#10: The Avengers: The Man Who Stole Tomorrow by David Michelinie

The book was published on September 1, 1979 and contains 192 pages; with the story beginning on page 9.

Chapters begin with an illustration of various Avengers; the specific characters shown are not necessarily the featured characters of the chapter. More thought could have gone into that. The artist(s) are not mentioned. More thought could have gone into THAT as well. One illustration I can confidently identify begins Chapter 8: the Wasp from the splash page of Avengers #83 (December 1970) by John Buscema. I’ve always loved that picture of the Wasp… Speaking of Wasp, it is strange they include members who are NOT in the story: Hawkeye, Black Panther and Wasp.

David Michelinie has written for DC and Marvel – including long runs on Iron Man and Amazing Spider-Man. Jim Rhodes and Venom were created and introduced during his tenures. By this time he had finished a superb trifecta of comics for DC: Claw the Unconquered, Star Hunters and Starfire.

The cover art is by the late Dave Cockrum, co-creator (at least) of Nightcrawler, Colossus and Storm. His work with the Legion of Superheroes and the X-Men has achieved cult status.

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

The back cover hypes the next book of the series.

In the Avengers animated television program, the team clashed with Kang in an episode called “The Man Who Stole Tomorrow”, but it had no other relation to this story.

***

An Inuit shaman enters Avengers Mansion during debriefing (they had just stopped an alien invasion) and, with the use of his totems, eliminates every member of the team and captures Captain America.

Clues from his incantations lead the Avengers to Alaska. Another reference leads Iron Man and Vision to Atlantis to confront Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Namor tells them this shaman’s tribe worshipped Cap while he was locked in ice. Namor threw the Cap-sicle into the nearby river. It eventually made it to the sea and Cap was rescued by the original Avengers (in the classic Avengers #4). The Avengers and Namor defeat the shaman (as well as his totem Brother Bear) and learn that the shaman’s powers were not magic but highly advanced science.

They deduce the villain Kang the Conqueror gave the shaman the scientific doo-dads.

So Thor whisks the team – Captain America still frozen in the ice-like energy field – to the year 3900 and the battle is joined!

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Marvel Novel Series #9: a Marvel Superheroes anthology

#9: Stan Lee Presents: the Marvel Superheroes edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman

This is the most unique paperback of the series for several reasons:

  1. It is the only anthology of the series.
  2. It contains the only story that was originally in a comic book before being novelized (the Hulk tale)
  3. It contains the only story that was later adapted to a comic book (the Avengers tale)
  4. It ties with #10 for the longest book (208 pages, but is second in actual text pages)
  5. It is the only book of the series with a story written by a woman.
  6. (more personally) it was the only book I owned of the series at the time they were originally published. It was also the first time I read about the X-Men (I would flip over to the cover while reading to guess which character was which), Daredevil, Man-Thing and Ultron.

It says something about the quality of this book that I still remember most of it 37 years later: Tony Stark‘s techno-fear (he shivers and the temperature in the lab is automatically raised – what if Ulton is in control?), the Wasp’s disgust at the shade of green in Moondragon’s costume, the other Avengers calling Vision “Vizh” – as a kid I was fascinated at this use of phonetic dialogue, etc. (I already had some stories under my belt), Man-Thing smothering the Hulk, Nightcrawler, when told to teleport into an unknown cylinder asking, “What if it is solid?”.

 

The book was published on August 1, 1979 and contains 208 pages; the first story beginning on page 9.

Delineation pages divide the stories – a blank page, a title page with an illustration of the protagonists (or some of them in the case of the Avengers and X-Men) and another blank page before the new story begins. This only leaves 188 pages of actual text, making it actually the second-longest book of the series.

The cover art is by the late Dave Cockrum, co-creator (at least) of Nightcrawler, Colossus and Storm. His work with the Legion of Superheroes and the X-Men has achieved cult status.

Co-edited and compiled by Len Wein and 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.  Len Wein is introduced in the section reviewing his Hulk story …

***

The Avengers, “This Evil Undying” by James Shooter.

Speaking of the Legion of Superheroes … “Big” Jim Shooter began writing professional stories of the Legion beginning at age 14. He created Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, the Fatal Five and the Parasite (the Superman foe). He was Marvel’s editor-in-chief for nine years beginning in 1978 during the publication of this book series.

Through a post-hypnotic suggestion during their last battle, Iron Man revives Ultron. Ultron was last destroyed by the Scarlet Witch’s hex powers.

Iron Man, suspecting he might be manipulated, left a tracer for the other Avengers to find him in case he is controlled again. Good thinking. Iron Man WAS controlled and kidnapped the Witch, taking her to Ultron’s new lair.

The remaining Avengers – Captain America, Thor, Vision and Hawkeye – gave chase. The Wasp also joins in the fight- following Iron Man and the Scarlet Witch in her own way.

The final battle with Ultron is joined!

An excellent and fun story – one of the best of this series! It was adapted in comic book form in Avengers 201-202.

But the story wasn’t perfect- Hawkeye’s juvenile dialogue was grating even when I read it in 1979 – and I was the perfect age at which this story was aimed. Given more pages, his character could have been fleshed out. The “I am the weakest member which explains my sophomoric bravado” shtick (used a lot during the “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” days of the Avengers) was only touched on. He redeemed himself, of course, and showed him to be as heroic as any of the other more powerful Avengers, but by then I was sick of the shtick…

Captain America barked some commands and threw his Mighty Shield, but little else. The book focused on the members of the Avengers who hadn’t gotten their own novel yet … with one exception …

I wish there would have been more Thor!

Talk about hands-on management: Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter could still kick out a wonderful and readable tale! This could have easily been made into a full-length story with more action added (going after Ultron’s mechanical robotic “army” – two, count ‘em – with more time spent on Hawkeye, Cap and Thor). Why wasn’t it?

***

Daredevil, “Blind Justice” by Kyle Christopher.

Christopher is the pen name for Martin Pasko, an Emmy-award winning writer known by us Bronze Age fans as a writer of Superman family of stories and the Swamp Thing revival. His origin reboot of Dr. Fate is still considered canon.  He also wrote Bronze Age Wonder Woman and the World’s Greatest Superheroes comic strip.

Comic book scribe Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Flash) lists this story as one of “the five most underrated Daredevil stories you must read” (http://13thdimension.com/the-five-most-underrated-daredevil-stories-you-must-read-by-mark-waid/) and with good reason!

A man and woman are put in witness protection after finking on the local mafia. They are treated so improperly by the government they come out of hiding and hire Nelson and Murdock to sue. The mob, headed by the Owl, go after the couple (and Foggy) with lethal force. Daredevil discovers a mob informant within their circle of office staff and friends (that’s as close as I can get without spoiling). Daredevil’s origin is also recapped.

The story is secondary compared to the parts detailing Daredevil’s abilities. His ability to “see” even though blind is superbly explained throughout the short story. He can read emotions by hearing pulse rates and heart beats; he determines body language by sensing air currents. He can read newsprint due to the shape of the ink on the paper. Describing these details in prose is handled better than when tried in comic book form – at least when Pasko is writing it.

***

The X-Men, “Children of the Atom” by Mary Jo Duffy.

This would have been among Duffy’s first work in the industry. Her first Marvel stories were in 1979: the start of her long run on Power Man/Iron Fist, an excellent story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Old Republic in Star Wars #26 (a personal favorite) and issues of Defenders and Marvel Two-in-One.

She gives us an excellent story that serves as a great primer for the X-Men. Considering the complex weave of the franchise over the past few decades, it is tempting to call the story simplistic, but it is not. It is a wonderful short story.

For ten pages we are introduced to Salem Center and Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Professor X and six of his students: Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Banshee, Storm and Colossus.

American and Soviet missiles are straying from their projected paths during an international test. Professor X deduces they are affected by a magnetic anomaly barely traceable at the Arctic Circle.

Who could be behind it? (I know! I know! Ooo! Ooo! Mr. Kotter!)

The X-Men go to the magnetic anomaly and find the stronghold of the supervillain of the piece … a mutant named …

No, not the Toad!

***

The Incredible Hulk, “Museum Piece” by Len Wein.

Len Wein is the co-creator of Marvel’s Wolverine as well as being the one who joined him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men he also co-created DC’s Swamp Thing. Here he writes of the Hulk meeting Marvel’s version of the muck-encrusted mockery of a man. In a literary sense, Len Wein shows us his Man-Thing.

This is the only story in the Marvel Novel Series what was a comic book first – a prose story adapted from Incredible Hulk #s 197-198 (also written by Len Wein).

The Hulk battles local Florida police and ends up carried by a helicopter to the everglades. After battling alligators and snakes, the Hulk finally rests and changes back to Banner. Bruce finds a small, mute, grey-colored man and befriends him just as they are attacked by pirates. Yes, pirates.

Turning into the Hulk, he dispatches the pirates quickly but then confronts their master – the Collector! The Collector turns the grey man into the Golem and orders it to attack Hulk.

The Collector also has Man-Thing in his sway, and orders Man-Thing to attack Hulk, too.

Hulk and his two friends are locked in a pod and kept docile by ankle-bracelets. Turning back into Banner, he easily slips through the ankle-bracelets; Golem and Man-Thing then slip through their bracelets easily due to their powers.

Hulk befriends Scheherazade and eventually confronts the Collector and his minions: alien warriors, soldiers from history, etc. Man-Thing and the Golem join in.

It’s a Monster Mash and an incredibly fun story! It was a good comic book, too!

 

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.