With Great Power Comes Great … Debt. Marvel Comics’ 1996 Bankruptcy.

I have a blog where I discuss various legal issues. Sometimes the issues cross over with this more … nerdy-culturally-aimed blog …

Thought you might get a kick out of it …

Celebrity Spotlight: Marvel Comics

Bankruptcy affects people of every age, creed, sex or ethnicity from every part of the country. Even celebrities both loved and disliked have their financial problems and depend on the bankruptcy laws to get out from under crippling debt.

Sometimes even superheroes…

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From Den of Geek: my thanks for aloowing me to reprint their wonderful article…

Marvel Comics had grown in stature throughout the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s thanks to the often stunning art and storytelling in such comics as Fantastic Four and The Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel’s financial success had reached a peak by the early ’90s. But then a series of bursting financial bubbles and questionable business deals saw Marvel’s stock value collapse; shares once worth $35.75 each in 1993 had sunk to $2.375 three years later. An ugly fight between a group of very rich investors followed, and for a while, the company’s future seemed uncertain.

Yet somehow, Marvel fought through all the corporate intrigue which dogged the company in late 1996 and for many long months afterwards, and emerged from the rubble a decade later as a film industry behemoth.

In 1993, while Marvel and the comics industry as a whole seemed to be in rude health, Sandman writer Neil Gaiman stood before about 3,000 retailers and gave a speech which few in attendance wanted to hear.

In it, he argued that the success of the comic book market was a bubble – one brought on by encouraging collectors to buy multiple editions and hoard them up in the hope that they’ll one day be worth a fortune. This, Gaiman said, was akin to tulip mania – a strange period in the 17th century when the value of tulip bulbs suddenly exploded, only for the market to collapse again.

“You can sell lots of comics to the same person, especially if you tell them that you are investing money for high guaranteed returns,” Gaiman  said. “But you’re selling bubbles and tulips, and one day the bubble will burst, and the tulips will rot in the warehouse.”

The bubble Gaiman described had begun several years earlier, when comic books, once considered disposable items by parents, were becoming prized items by collectors who’d grown up with their favorite superheroes as kids. By the 1980s, comic book collecting had gained the interest of the mainstream media, which latched onto stories about Golden Age comics selling for thousands of dollars.

Publishers were themselves courting the collector market by introducing variant covers, sometimes with foil embossing or other eye-catching, fancy printing techniques. These were snapped up hungrily by readers, but also by speculators assuming that they’d stumbled on a sure-fire means of making money by storing copies up and selling them for a profit in the future.

While the comics were flying off the shelves, Marvel attracted the interest of a man named Ron Perelman. Often pictured with a broad grin and a huge cigar in his hand, Perelman was a millionaire businessman with a variety of interests: in 1985, he’d made a huge deal for cosmetic firm, Revlon through his holding company, MacAndrews & Forbes. In early 1989, Perelman spent $82.5 million on purchasing the Marvel Entertainment Group, then owned by New World Pictures.

Within two years, Marvel was on the stock market, and Perelman went on a spending spree: he bought shares in a company called ToyBiz, snapped up a couple of trading card companies, Panini stickers, and a distribution outfit, Heroes World. All told, those acquisitions cost Marvel a reported $700m.

Through the early ’90s, Marvel was buoyed by the success of Spider-Man and X-Men, which were selling in huge numbers. Sales of a new comic, X-Force, were similarly huge, thanks in part to a cunning sales gimmick: the first issue came in a poly bag with one of five different trading cards inside it. If collectors wanted to get hold of all five cards, they – you guessed it – had to buy multiple copies of the same comic. With the boom still in full swing, that’s exactly what collectors did – as former Comics International news editor Phil Hall recalls, fans were buying five copies to keep pristine and unopened, and a sixth to tear into and read.

Then, just as Gaiman predicted, the bubble burst. Between 1993 and 1996, revenues from comics and trading cards began to collapse. Suddenly, Marvel, which at one point seemed invincible as it grew in size, now looked vulnerable.

“When the business turned,” observed then-chariman and CEO of Marvel Scott Sassa, “it was like everything that could go wrong did go wrong.”

Some in the industry went further, and argued that Perelman’s tactics had endangered the entire industry:

“[Perelman] reasoned, quite correctly, that if he raised prices and output, that hardcore Marvel fans would devote a larger and larger portion of their disposable income toward buying comics,” Chuck Rozanski, wrote CEO of Mile High Comics. “Once he had enough sales numbers in place to prove this hypothesis, he then took Marvel public, selling 40% of its stock for vastly more than he paid for the entire company. The flaw in his plan, however, was that he promised investors in Marvel even further brand extensions, and more price increases. That this plan was clearly impossible became evident to most comics retailers early in 1993, as more and more fans simply quit collecting due to the high cost, and amid a widespread perception of declining quality in Marvel comics.”

Whether Perelman was directly to blame or not, the consequences for the industry as a whole were painful in the extreme. Hundreds of comic book retailers went bust as sales tumbled by 70 percent. Suddenly, the boom had turned to bust, and even Perelman admitted that he hadn’t anticipated the dark future Gaiman had warned about in his speech.

”We couldn’t get a handle on how much of the market was driven by speculators,” Perelman said; “the people buying 20 copies and reading one and keeping 19 for their nest egg…”

By 1995, Marvel Entertainment was heavily in debt. In the face of mounting losses, Perelman decided to press on into new territory: he set up Marvel Studios, a venture which he hoped would finally get the company’s most famous characters on the big screen after years of legal disputes. To do this, he planned to buy the remaining shares in ToyBiz and merge it with Marvel, creating a single, stronger entity.

Marvel’s shareholders resisted, arguing that the financial damage to Marvel’s share prices would be too great. Perelman’s response was to file for bankruptcy, thus giving him the power to reorganize Marvel without the stockholder’s consent.

Marvel filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on December 27, 1996. Coincidentally, its highest debt of $1.7 million was owed to Disney. Over one-third of Marvel employees were laid off.

There followed a bewildering power struggle which raged for almost two years. A stockholder named Carl Icahn tried to oppose Perelman, and the financial press eagerly reported on the very public spat which ensued. Perelman, Icahn argued, “Was like a plumber you loan money to get him started in business; then he comes in, wrecks your house, then tells you he wants the house for nothing.”

The battle, when it finally ended in December 1998, had a strange outcome which few could have predicted: after a lengthy court case, ToyBiz and Marvel Entertainment Group were finally merged, but Perelman and his nemesis Icahn were both ousted in the process. Other executives with ties with Perlmutter were also severed, including CEO Scott Sassa, whose tenure had, all told, lasted just eight months.

They’d been pushed out by two ToyBiz executives who’d been on Marvel’s board since 1993: Isaac Perlmutter and Avi Arad. With Scott Sassa gone, they installed the 55-year-old Joseph Calamari, who’d been at the helm of Marvel in the 80s, as its new CEO.

With the financial intrigue in the boardroom settling down, Marvel began to turn its attention to a target it had been trying to hit since the 1980s: the movie business. The rest, as they say …

MArvel money

***

Please check my legal blog for other famous bankruptcies!

***

Cap money

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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!

 

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A Final Classic Christmas Comic!

Behold!

Bronze age Christmas

Special Christmas Edition

Marvel Classics Comics #36 (final issue), December, 1978

Cover Artists Bob Hall

“A Christmas Carol”

Writer:  Doug Moench

Penciler & Inker: “Diverse Hands”

Colorists: Francoise Mouly & Mario Sen, Letterer: Diana Albers

Editors: Rick Marschall & Ralph Macchio, Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter

***

Do you REALLY need a synopsis of the plot?

CC page 1

***

The story stayed true to the original book, complete with religious references left out of televised versions.

As the name for the penciller and inker shows, this was likely drawn by committee. They did a good job, not bad, but not spectacular. This panel, depicting one of the few action-oriented scenes of the story, still seems tame compared to the typical “Marvel Manner” espoused lo, that previous decade-and-a-half.

CC good panel

Whereas the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was as you would expect …

the final spirit

The art-by-committee is most obvious with Scrooge himself – his facial features changed from toothless and gaunt to Ben Franklin-esque. At times he looked like William Hartnell as Doctor Who!

But it was drawn moodily and darkly. It looked like it came from DC’s horror line. One expects to see Cain, Abel or Destiny bookending the chapters. It was also wordy, more akin to a DC Silver Age comic than Marvel. But this affected the entire series, if “affected” is the correct word. I certainly didn’t mind…

Carol marvel method

Like most of the series, it was a canny and thorough version of the story the issue depicted. They even did the Welsh miners and the boat. Almost every movie and TV version of this story skip the Welsh miners, the lighthouse keepers and the boat. Anyone expecting a Marvel or comic booky twist to the story (even if in just style and layout) will be disappointed.

***

I loved this series and this was its final issue. Appropriately this is also my final Christmas Edition of Behold the Bronze Age.

Look for more in the new year! Merry Christmas and, of course …

final panel

***

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!

 

We wish you a Merry X-Men (Uncanny X-Men # 143, that is…)

Behold!

Bronze age Christmas

Special Christmas Edition

Uncanny X-Men #143, March, 1981

Cover Artists Terry Austin & Rick Parker

“Demon”

Writers: Chris Claremont & John Byrne

Pencilers John Byrne, Inkers Terry Austin

Colorists Glynis Wein, Letterers Tom Orzechowski

Editor: Louise Jones, Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter

From Marvel Wikia:

Flashback – The X-Men’s first battle with the N’Garai, specifically Storm’s destruction of the obelisk which was the nexus of the gateway between their world and ours. The X-Men believed that, with the obelisk gone, the gate was sealed, but a lone demon slowly crawled from amidst the rubble, free in our world.

In the present day a couple out looking for their first Christmas tree. Quickly their happiness became ashes – the N’Garai demon killed them swiftly and then feasted upon them, body and soul.

Meanwhile at the X-Mansion Kitty was learning how the Blackbird ran, backwards and forwards, when, to her relief, Angel interrupted to let Xavier know that it was time to be going. In the entrance-way, Logan introduced Mariko Yashida to Professor X. A mistletoe prank of Kurt’s with Mariko drew Wolverine’s ire, but things were soon set aright, although the mood was tense. Kitty lightened it by playing a similar trick on Colossus, who blushed deeply. Then most of the X-Men departed: Wolverine and Mariko, Angel off to see Candy Southern, and Professor X, Peter, Ororo, and Kurt off in the Rolls. Kitty Pryde was left in the mansion alone.

Kitty, feeling lonely, tried calling her parents with no luck. Scott called to wish everyone a merry Christmas. Finding only Kitty in the mansion, he promised to call tomorrow. He then found Lee Forrester to see about taking a job as a sailor. He is a little surprised to find that Lee is a woman when he was expecting the ship captain to be a man.

Still at loose ends, Kitty decided to work out, using a Danger Room exercise program. However, her work-out was interrupted by the intruder alarm activating in Ororo’s room. Not wanting to disturb the police over what may be something as simple as a fallen branch, Kitty decided to investigate only to discover the N’Garai demon.

Kitty lead it on a merry chase through the mansion, phasing through walls with it fast on its heels. Losing it briefly at one point, she tried to make it to a phone to call the other X-Men. The demon was waiting for her, however, and while she phased in time, she still felt the claw as it scythed through her incorporeal form.

She escaped to the Danger Room, air-walking up to the control booth to use the room against her. The demon was taking its time to show, however, and she was starting to wonder just how smart it was when it entered the control booth instead of the room below. Kitty backpedaled into the Danger Room and it pursued her through the ‘unbreakable’ glass. The Danger Room came alive, and Kitty managed to barely keep just ahead of it and not get nailed by the room. Of course, the demon just tore through everything the room had to offer, but it delayed it long enough that Kitty got a good head-start, out of the Danger Room and to the rail-car to the hangar. Halfway to the hangar the demon ruptured the rail, forcing Kitty to travel the rest of the distance on foot.

Weary from exertion, Kitty got into the blackbird, its turbine engines pointed down the tunnel, the only realistic path for the demon to follow into the hangar. She started going through the ignition checklist. At the last second she ignited the engines, crisping the demon but wrecking the blackbird. She exited the plane, air-walking, confident nothing could have survived, when a burned claw arced towards her.

The X-Men returned home to a darkened house, having encountered police earlier warning them of gruesome murders that had occurred in the area. Wary, and with Professor X’s telepathy somehow foiled, they entered cautiously. Kitty was curled up watching TV with a fire, and was overjoyed that the X-Men had returned. Kitty’s parents were also with them.

It turned out that last swipe was the creature’s dying attempt to kill Kitty. It made the supreme effort and it failed.

***

This issue followed the superb “Days of Future Past” story arc and was the last issue f John Byrne’s regular run as artist.

***

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!

 

 

A Late review of Ragnarok: Uncle Thor’s Goofy House of Wacky Fun!

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Thor: Ragnarok has been out for weeks and I am only just NOW going to talk about it?! Yep, I saw it this weekend – I very rarely go see a movie on its opening weekend, remember? I mention that in almost all my movie reviews…

I was worried when I read the initial stories about this third Thor movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The press described it as a Hope & Crosby-esque Road Movie with Hulk and Thor. As the premier weekend arrived, the movie’s humor was the focus.

I was leery. Humor has its place in the Marvel Universe (cinematic or otherwise): Spider-Man revels in it. Robert Downey Jr imbues his personality into the Iron Man franchise. Guardians of the Galaxy had lots of laugh-out-loud-moments. Two words: Deadpool. Okay, that’s only one word.

The Thor franchise is the weakest of all the MCU films, with the exception of the two Hulk movies. Perhaps the powers-that-be thought to shake up their weakest link. The more successful movies are peppered with humor (Guardians, Deadpool), perhaps piling on the snark can revive this branch of the franchise and give it a blockbuster that will stand with the first Iron Man, the first Captain America and the first Avengers movie.

***

Humor has its place. Unfortunately, not in Thor; at least not this kind of humor.

It is mostly man-child dialogue enjoyed mostly by men-children. Goofy Wacky Fun. There is some physical/slapstick moments in the movie (as in the scene with Doctor Strange), but it is appropriate (it fits the scene) and does not smack of Stoogania…

(Oh, to have seen more of Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston together. Only one long shot of the two splendid actors together. Someone needs to develop a vehicle for the two actors. Please!)

Anyway, let’s get back to more Goofy Wacky Fun …

Chris Hemsworth may be excellent in comedic roles … in the future it may be what he is best known for …

But Thor is not a comedic role.   Having other characters around him being the focus of humor, perhaps, may have worked better. But not Thor. He doesn’t need to be funny – Jack Benny and Bob Newhart made their careers allowing others around them to be funny. Thor could be serious – and more in character – and still have scenes with many laughs.

Remember the first two Thor movies had their comic relief with Darcy Lewis and Dr. Erik Selvig. So it CAN be done. I only wish in the prior movies it were done better.

Hiddleston’s Loki is ideal for this kind of humor – the character has shown it since his inception.

But not Thor. Seeing him shout “Oh my god” or “What the hell” or whine about his hair in the best frat-boy manner is out of character and takes us out of the immersion; reminding us we are watching a movie. A movie filled with Goofy Wacky Fun (hereinafter “GWF” for brevity’s sake).

And it seemed everyone had to have their day in the snarky sun, whether it fit the character or not.

Not even Cate Blanchette as Hela the Goddess of Death was immune. Her GWF (snarky comments) aimed at Karl Urban’s Executioner were also out of character.

Even Anthony Hopkins gets in the act – although only when he is Loki in disguise – otherwise his character is the typical (read: unknowable and unpredictable) All-Father.

It worked better with Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner – the befuddled scientist lost inside the Hulk for over two years. Banner is normally played as the pitiable victim or the super-scientist. The whiny wise-cracker here fit, considering his situation.

However, the dialogue between Hulk and Thor is mostly infantile posturing. Eight-year-olds on a playground. GWF.

The eye-rollingly bad acting of Jeff Goldblum as the secondary bad guy the Grandmaster is a waste of celluloid, but fits in perfectly with Director’s Taika Waititi’s vision of GWF.

While we are on this subject, the ending clip after the credits is not worth the wait.  The middle clip after the cast credits apparently sets up Thor’s appearance in Infinity War.

The only character immune from GWF Syndrome was Heimdall, excellently and nobly played again by Idris Elba.

In sum, the GWF turned Thor into Downey’s Iron Man or Deadpool. We don’t need another snarky quipster.

It was humor at the expense of characterization and continuity; and that’s not worth the cost.

Plus, much of it wasn’t all that funny…

***

But I LIKED the movie! The good points vastly out-weigh the bad:

Tessa Thompson shines as Valkyrie. She will make a fine addition to the Marvel Universe – and note that except for Nighthawk we have most of the late-1970s Defenders in this movie!

The battle scenes are inspiring, helped by Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” as a soundtrack – a canny but good choice with its lyrics based on Norse and Tolkien (itself the son-of-Norse) mythology.  (as with Wonder Woman‘s No-Man’s Land battle, the initial battle with Surtur is more effective and exciting than the big battle in the conclusion). Obvious, but it works. By the second airing, though, the song loses some of its thunder.  Pun intended.

Cate Blanchette’s Hela was as evil as she was incredibly sexy!

And wasn’t it fun watching her and Karl Urban together? Two Lord of the Rings vets together again for the very first time…

Heroes acted heroically.  Characters redeem themselves and we cheer.  Characters and situations irrevocably change and we mourn. That’s all I can say without spoilers.

***

Some basic questions:

Why was the identity of the “Champion” so coyly secretive when the audience knew exactly who it was since the first preview aired?

Will we ever see Asgard (or at least Asgardians) again? It is hinted that after Infinity War II our original superheroes and the actors portraying them will be gone. Will Valkyrie take over Thor’s role in future films?

***

Another good-but-not-great Thor movie. A pity … the god of thunder still deserves better.

 

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

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!


 

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.

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.