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.

Marvel Novel Series #8 – The Amazing Spider-Man: Crime Campaign by Paul Kupperberg

#8: The Amazing Spider-Man: Crime Campaign 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. He currently has a Kickstarter campaign for Kupperberg Komics: Secret Romances and Super Gorillas at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/394056054/kupperberg-komics-secret-romances-and-super-gorill?ref=user_menu

The book is 192 pages long, but begins on page 9 – making it the longest novel of the series so far. There are Spider-Man illustrations at the beginning of each chapter (with no credit for the artists). There are no Pocket Book house ads. It was published July 1, 1979.

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

 

National newsman Ian Forester announces his candidacy for mayor of New York. He is expected to win the primary due to his popularity, beating the unnamed incumbent.

But all is not as it appears – the Kingpin has kidnapped Forester’s daughter to force him into the campaign. Kingpin gathers the other crime lords of the city – including his only real competitor Silvermane – and asks them to join forces. With the mayor in his pocket, they will all make fortunes skimming off the city’s coffers; graft that no one will discover for decades. They will make Tammany Hall look like a Presbyterian sewing circle!

Peter Parker teases J Jonah Jameson into also running for mayor. Cindy Sayers, JJJ’s niece, introduces herself to Peter. JJJ orders Peter to teach her the fine art of journalistic photography; Peter obviously bristles at the idea of a tagalong. He suspects Cindy is more than she seems – is she here only to spy on Peter? Does JJJ suspect he is really Spider-Man?

Imagine Peter’s surprise when, during a press conference, Forester is threatened by … Spider-Man! Peter ditches Cindy, changes into his union suit, and battles his doppleganger. The fake Spider-Man, using a poison gas, gets away.

Forester goes to Silvermane and asks his help to rescue his daughter, thus betraying Kingpin. Silvermane agrees. Spidey finds and rescues Forester’s daughter just as Silvermane’s and Kingpin’s forces do battle!

 

Paul Kupperberg weaves an excellent story with twists and turns and betrayals with every chapter. What is Kingpin’s REAL motive? What about Silvermane’s “betrayal”? Is Cindy Sayer spying for her uncle? Joe “Robbie” Robertson’s tells Peter that JJJ was an only child. How, then, can he have a niece? Who is she? Who is the fake Spider-Man?

Rather than “just” a comic book in prose, Kupperberg gives us a genuine crime thriller/mystery!

Cindy Sayers is a great note of continuity in the novel series. In Book 1: Mayhem in Manhattan JJJ mentions her and says she wants to learn about photography. Here she and Peter kindle a romance, even as Peter suspects she might not be who she says she is.

Speaking of old JJJ, Paul keeps him down to tolerable levels in this novel (can you tell I am not a fan of Jameson? haha).  Jameson is not the eternally obnoxious blowhard of Mayhem in Manhattan and in the comic books. Here he is a bossy bully, but not the cliché caricature.  Unlike in Mayhem, JJJ is not given a few paragraphs justifying the way he is and giving the reader a reason to give him some grudging respect. It is not needed in Crime Campaign. Because the reader does not dislike JJJ here – he is kept on a short leash. Well done.

Very well done!

 

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 #7: Dr. Strange – Nightmare!

#7: Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts: Nightmare 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. He wrote Marvel Novel #6 And Call my Killer … Modok.

Cover by Bob Larkin, released June 1, 1979; the book is 188 pages long, although the story begins at page 9. Illustrations of Dr. Strange begin each chapter, as was done with #1: The Amazing Spider-Man: Mayhem in Manhattan and #2: The Incredible Hulk: Stalker from the Stars; but as with the two prior books, there is no credit as to who drew them. It may be easy to guess, but I would rather not!

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

For the first time, the paperback contains four pages of ads for other Pocket Books – including a selection of occult books, their Space 1999 series and books by science fiction authors John Jakes, Larry Pournelle, Theodore Sturgeon, AE Van Vogt, Jack Vance, Kate Wilhelm and Jack Williamson.

Gratmens: who knows? As silly as Strange’s incantations are, each name could be a hidden friend or comic book professional. The king of the Hittites or the ancient god-mage of the Nubians could have been an anagram for anyone. Page 81’s Alantripi, an Atlantean Sage seems an obvious gratmen – but a quick internet search reveals nothing…

Some of his common phrases are here: the Hoary Hosts of Hoggarth, the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, the Vapors of Valtorr, and the Yawning Yowls of Jagermeister. Well, I made up that last one. I once joked about Dr. Strange’s Amulet of Amaretto and have never forgotten it. It’s a fun game! Try it! Make one up of your own!

 

This is my favorite book of the series. I love them all, really. Not a stinker in the bunch.  Granted these are not the collected works of Hemingway, but they are all fun superhero fare.

Maybe that’s why I like this one so much; like its protagonist, it is not necessarily a superhero story: it is mystical and magical! There are references to the Necronomicon and the Dreamlands.

The story itself is very Lovecraftian: At least three people in the world are having disturbing nightmares. One is a televangelist, the other an up-and-coming boxer and the third (that the readers know of) is a hitman/assassin.  The evangelist’s wife is concerned: the minister is on the brink of “stardom” and he has not been the same since the nightmares started.

Dr. Strange senses something is indeed wrong and injects himself into the minister’s dreams. There he runs into his old adversary Nightmare, who is planning his most nefarious plan yet to conquer the waking world!

 

Oddly, I was never a huge fan of Dr. Strange’s comic book. I read them and liked them, but they were always read AFTER more standard superhero books. I did not much like magic and mysticism in comics … still don’t: it was never a good fit. In other books, most notably the Defenders, Dr. Strange was limited to blasting the bad guys with energy bolts from his hands – far removed from the incantations in this novel.

Just as odd: superheroes in prose was, to me, nothing more than light reading.  Fun, sure! But as I said; this isn’t exactly Hemingway.

It makes sense that I would enjoy a novel about a supernatural character rather than a super-heroic one.

It is also the easiest book to re-do without the Marvel characters. This could have easily been re-written with a descendent of Randolph Carter or a new creation.  Can you imagine the massive rewrite that And Call my Killer … Modok would have to go through to wipe out Marvel’s presence?

Rotsler did a fine job here. Only a tiny fraction of the cringe-worthy dialogue from his prior Iron Man book (“Me, Modok, he tried to trick!”) is present in Nightmare.

Dr. Strange’s multi-chapter hunt for Clea in the many-doored dreamscape is inspiring.

I read this just before the Dr. Strange movie came out. I couldn’t WAIT and was not disappointed!  You won’t be either.

 

Original Material Copyright 2017 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.

The Marvel Novel Series

Stan Lee always wanted comic books to be more than just “kiddie” books. He strived to make them more acceptable to teens and adults. Over the years he (and others who worked in the genre) succeeded.

But back in the late 1970s, Marvel had only made its way into the magazine market.

In the mid-to-late 1970s Marvel published books reprinting the origins of various Marvel heroes and villains – Origins of Marvel Comics, Son of Origins, Bring on the Bad Guys, and The Superhero Women – with Lee providing the prose introduction to the featured superheroes.

Marvel also launched a successful series of reprint books in paperback through Pocket Books. Each book contained about six issues (more if the stories were from the various anthologies) of the original run of Fantastic Four, Spider-Man (three volumes), Conan (six volumes) and books devoted to the early tales of the Hulk, Dr. Strange, Captain America and Spider-Woman.

Finally, starting in 1978, Pocket Books released prose novels starring various Marvel heroes.

Bantam Books published two novels in the late 1960s based on Marvel characters: The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker by Otto Binder (1967) and Captain America: The Great Gold Steal by Ted White (1968).

Eleven years later, Marvel once again hoped to bring comics into the genre of “true” literature. The books were aimed at the Young Adult audience so craved in today’s market. The first two of the eleven books were not numbered; perhaps they were the only ones planned until they proved successful. They were printed by Simon & Schuster’s under their Pocket Books imprint:

#1: The Amazing Spider-Man: Mayhem in Manhattan by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman

#2: The Incredible Hulk: Stalker from the Stars by Len Wein with Marv Wolfman and Joseph Silva

#3: The Incredible Hulk: Cry of the Beast by Richard S. Meyers

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

#5: The Fantastic Four: Doomsday by Marv Wolfman

#6: The Invincible Iron Man: And Call My Killer…Modok! by William Rotsler

#7: Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts: Nightmare by William Rotsler

#8: The Amazing Spider-Man: Crime Campaign by Paul Kupperberg

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

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

#11: The Hulk and Spider-Man: Murdermoon by Paul Kupperberg

The first two books were not hyped by Marvel and only appeared in a full-page ad along with other comic book-related wares by an independent mail-order business. The rest of the series (when it became a series with #3), were mentioned as an item in Marvel’s Bullpen Bulletins. Had Marvel pushed the books with their house ads, the series may have been more successful and more books published.

I will spend the next few blogs reviewing the books. They are over-all well-done and, although aimed at the pre-teen to early-teen audience, are exciting and hold the attention of adults; particularly Bronze Age comic book fans like me!

I hope you enjoy it! If you have read these almost-40-year old books, I hope it brings back good memories. If it piques your interest, the books pop up frequently on ebay and, if you are not too picky about the condition, cost about the same as a current paperback.

 

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 photographed by the author.

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

 

Celebrating the 200th issue of … every comic book ever!

200 and counting!

My 200th blog. That may not be a big deal for writers who blog every day – they’d hit 200 by July of their first year of blogging. But it’s a big deal for me! That’s a lot of writing!

Ironically I am in the middle of a blog series commemorating the comic books released by DC comics during the US Bicentennial of July 1976. If you collected 25 of the 33 comics published with the Bicentennial banner cover and you will get a free Superman belt buckle.

A comic book reaching its 200th milestone is a big deal. Probably more so nowadays with the constant rebooting and relaunching of titles, it is not likely we’ll see many comics go all the way to number 200. It still happens, though: Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man released its 200th issue on June 2014.

#200 anniversary issues were usually a larger-than-normal-sized comic (with a larger price tag of course) and a special story or the rip-roaring conclusion of a story arc. But that was usually in the bronze age and beyond. Earlier comics (before 1970) usually didn’t care about their 200th issue.

Some of these comics didn’t even mention their 200th anniversary issue other than their standard numbering:

Action_Comics_200

Action Comics: January 1955

Adventure_Comics_200

Adventure Comics: May 1954

Detective_Comics_200

Detective Comics: October 1953

House_of_Mystery_v.1_200

House of Mystery: May 1972. Great cover by Neal Adams here.

Strange_Adventures_200

Strange Adventures: May 1967

300px-Star-Spangled_War_Stories_Vol_1_200

Star Spangled War Stories: July 1976.

This in particular was a real shame at a missed opportunity. Dated July 1976, the 200th anniversary of the USA and this landmark was not even mentioned in a cover blurb, only the letter column gave it some attention.

Compare that to Captain America #200 with an August 1976 cover date:

 Captain_America_Vol_1_200

Others included:

Blackhawk_Vol_1_200

Blackhawk: September 1964

Millie_the_Model_Vol_1_200

Millie the Model: February 1973

and Superman: October 1967 and Wonder Woman: June 1972 (reprinted below)

Older Archie comics were not known for celebrating their 200th issues:

869981

Archie: June 1970

Betty & Veronic

Archie’s Girls Betty & Veronica: August 1972

Laugh Archie

Laugh: November 1967

Pep

Pep: December 1966

Jughead

Jughead: January 1972

Life with Archie

Life with Archie: December 1978

betty-and-me

Betty & Me: August 1992

 

Cotber 72

October 1972

 

May 2005

May 2005

Again, this could be a Bronze Age or later thing … in fact, only Betty & Me from 1992 gives the anniversary even a cover blurb.

Harvey comics? Only three of the comics they published made it to 200: their two main stars Richie Rich and Casper. And … Sad Sack!

Richie RichJuly 68Casper

But other Harvey comics? Wendy the Good Little Witch made it to the 50s in number of issues, Little Dot over 100…

The big two – Marvel & DC – being mostly in the superhero vein, were the ones who celebrated 200th anniversaries the most. Three characters – Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash – had two eponymous comics hit #200.

Wonder_Woman_Vol_1_200Wonder_Woman_Vol_2_200

Superman 200Superman_v.2_200

Flash_v.1_200Flash_v.2_200

 

Other DC comics that hit #200:

Batman_200

Batman: March 1968 (note this early celebration, but this was at the end of the Batman TV show craze …)

Green_Lantern_Vol_2_200

Green Lantern: May 1986

Our_Army_at_War_Vol_1_200

Our Army At War: December 1968

Superboy_Vol_1_200

Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes 200: February 1974. Featuring the marriage of Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel and starring all members, the Substitutes, the Wanderers and others!

GI_Combat_Vol_1_200

GI Combat: March 1977

Hellblazer_Vol_1_200

Hellblazer: November 2004

Superman_Family_Vol_1_200

Superman Family: April 1980

 Unexpected_200

Unexpected: July 1980

World's_Finest_Comics_200

World’s Finest: February 1971

Young_Romance_Vol_1_200

Young Romance: August 1974

(note these last two also had no real focus on their 200th issue)

***

 Marvel comics had their share of 200th anniversaries, too; aside from Captain America in August 1976:

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_200

Amazing Spider-Man: January 1980

Avengers_Vol_1_200

Avengers: October 1980

Fantastic_Four_Vol_1_200

Fantastic Four: November 1978. This issue featured the “final” battle between Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom. Doom was killed at the end of this issue, true, but came back (as nearly all comics villains do) some issues later.

Incredible_Hulk_Vol_1_200

Incredible Hulk: June 1976

Kid_Colt_Outlaw_Vol_1_200

Kid Colt Outlaw: November 1975

Thor_Vol_1_200

Thor: June 1972

ConantheBarbarian200

Conan the Barbarian: November 1987

Daredevil_Vol_1_200

Daredevil November 1983

Iron_Man_Vol_1_200

Iron Man: November 1985

Marvel_Tales_Vol_2_200

Marvel Tales: June 1987

SavageSword200

Savage Sword of Conan: August 1992

The_Spectacular_Spider-Man_Vol_1_200

Spectacular Spider-Man: May 1993

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_200

Uncanny X-Men: December 1985

What_If-_Vol_1_200

What If: February 2011

X-Factor_Vol_1_200

X-Factor: February 2010

X-Men_Vol_2_200

X-Men: August 2007

Other publishers: Looney Tunes: September 2011

 Looney_Tunes_Vol_1_200

and Charleton:

October 1972

October 1972

And more …

Spawn from January 2011 and Tarzan from June 1971…

And let us not forget one of the longest running comics of all time…

 

Adventures of the Big Boy

February 1974

And finally …

cerebus_200

 

 

My personal favorites?

 JLA_v.1_200

Justice League of America: March 1982. This comic featured all members of the JLA – the original team members were hypnotized into assembling pieces of a mcguffin that will bring one of their original villains back to full power. The subsequent members try to fight off the originals. Each battle is its own chapter with a different artist. In beautiful art by Joe Kubert, for example, Hawkman fights Superman. The Phantom Stranger/Aquaman/Red Tornado battle is the only artwork by Jim Aparo in Justice League of America. Lots of great art throughout.

 Brave_and_the_bold_200

Brave & Bold: July 1983. The final issue of my favorite comic of all time. Let me cheat and use the review from my free ebook: The Brave & the Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, a Guide to the DC Comic Book.  Available here.

Batman & Batman (Earth Two), Smell of Brimstone, Stench of Death” Writer: Mike W. Barr, Art: Dave Gibbons.  …

               Earth-Two, 1955 (the year B&B began): After a series of robberies, Batman and Robin finally defeat Brimstone. Earth-Two 1983: Hate is all that has kept Brimstone alive. His hatred of Batman is so great; when he hears of Batman’s death, his mind passes into his Earth-One counterpart where another hated Batman still lives! Earth-One 1983: Brimstone causes riots in Gotham and eventually traps Batman in the same lava “hell pit” Batman escaped 28 years before! Can Batman escape – er – again – in time to save Gotham, catch Brimstone and find out who the heck Brimstone is? Well of course he can, but he never figures out Brimstone’s Earth-Two secret. And he never will.

               “Batman and the Outsiders”, Writer: Mike W. Barr, Art: Jim Aparo. Batman and the Outsiders protect Mikos from his own terrorist subordinates – who vow to kill Mikos (under his own orders) for the glory of the cause!

               Oft-requested Batmite finally appears in Brave & Bold in a one page comic.

               For the first time since Nemesis, new characters were introduced – Halo, Geo-Force and Katana.  They are the first new B&B superheroes since Metamorpho, who is also a member of the new Outsiders.

               One last team-up and one last try-out.  The try-out was a success: the Outsiders going on to their own series (replacing Brave & Bold on DC’s roster along with New Talent Showcase) and lasting for several years afterward. Later incarnations link the Outsiders (still featuring the resurrected Metamorpho) as a splinter group of the Teen Titans.  Appropriately, both groups began in Brave & Bold. The third incarnation harks back to the Batman-formed play-by-their-own-rules meta group.

               It was trendy at DC for a while to introduce new groups by mixing new characters and old. At times it worked brilliantly (the Teen Titans); at times it was an utter failure (the Justice League of America). The Outsiders were another success.

 ***

Have I missed any? Most assuredly: Dell 4-Color, other Looney Tunes comics, etc.  I hope I didn’t leave out your favorite! But Happy 200 everyone!

 ***

Excerpt from The Brave & the Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, a Guide to the DC Comic Book copyright 2014 and reprinted here with the author’s permission.

Otherwise, original material copyright 2015 by Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

Some thoughts on Avengers: Age of Ultron

age of utlron

                (I’ll keep the spoilers to a minimum and give you fair warning, but there’s nothing in this blog that you can’t find online elsewhere …)

I tend to see movies late in their runs. I don’t like crowded theaters so I usually wait until week two or three when the general masses have seen it once and the uber-fans have sated themselves during the week. Thus is this late review of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

And not a review as such, more like some random thoughts akin to my blog on Guardians of the Galaxy.

Avengers Age of Ultron is doing very well. It is the biggest money-maker of the year so far and has grossed a billion dollars internationally.

It certainly doesn’t need me blogging about it to hype it. Fans will go see it whether I like it or not. And I did like it. A lot.

It was just like an Avengers comic book from the 1970s.

But …

What is that nagging feeling I have in the weeks after seeing it? There was something about the movie while I was watching it and afterwards that keeps pecking … and I think I finally know what it is…

***

               I certainly loved more of the movie than I disliked: casting James Spader as Ultron was a genius move – the casting director deserves a bonus! He probably already has gotten more than the artists and writers who created the characters in the movie … but that is another argument.

And the battle scenes and special effects are grand.

avengers

               I especially enjoyed the human elements of the movie – and the humanity shown by the characters – going out of their way to save innocent lives. Captain America’s line “I asked for a solution, not an escape plan” said more for heroism than any scene from the Man of Steel

Plus we finally get to see more of Hawkeye and his personal life – the one character from the first movie that had no real back story. An excellent one was provided.

The things I didn’t like about the movie were not what was niggling at me. These things didn’t ruin the movie for me; rather they made me go … “What?”

Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but I was lost at the creation of Ultron. The McGuffin of this movie – apparently required in all Marvel/Disney movies – was the stone in Loki’s spear. Somehow the stone contained an artificial intelligence that Tony Stark and Bruce Banner injected into their Ultron defense system and thus activated him.

Somehow the system was imbued with Tony Stark’s personality (Ultron was referred to as an “anti-Stark” a few times). That left me scratching my head a bit. Was it because he took over Jarvis’ mentality and Jarvis had a bit of Stark’s personality? Did I miss or forget that from a previous Iron Man flick?

Regardless, it worked; James Spader’s voice-work perfectly emulated Robert Downey Jr’s vocal inflections and mannerisms. In another reality he could have been cast as Tony Stark/Iron Man. Brilliant stuff. And while he didn’t steal every scene he was in as was the case in the first movie with Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Spader/Ultron made a memorable villain.

(Small Spoiler Alert) And the romance between Black Widow and Bruce Banner didn’t bother me. After Star Trek 5: My Eyes! Out Vile Jelly!’s fling between Scotty and Uhura, nothing like that bothers me anymore…   But I will say this – if Scarlett Johansson whispered to me that it was sundown and started rubbing my hand the last thing I would do is calm down…

***

               But none of that bugged me. I put my finger on the problem some days later while trolling my wall on Facebook. “Did you catch these Easter Eggs in Avengers: Age of Ultron?” shouted one article. I did not read the article, because it was my eureka moment – the problem I had with the movie hit me:

Avengers: Age of Ultron spent so much time being the flagship of the future Marvel cinematic universe it forgot, at times, to be Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The movie was burdened with being the gateway to future Marvel movies. It gave the film an “in-betweenness” it would not have had otherwise. With the exception of Godfather II, most sequels stink, especially when compared to the first and sometimes third movie. Two words: Indiana Jones. Even The Empire Strikes Back suffered from its “in-betweenness”. Great as it was, it was still the opening act for the third movie (and what a stinker that ended up being). Like the Pirates of the Caribbean and Matrix franchises, Movie 2 was basically part one of two.

Even before Age of Ultron’s release we knew what was going to happen next. Not just the Ant-Man movie, but we knew the next Avengers film will adapt the fantastic Infinity War storyline – and do it in two movies! A Black Panther movie is in the works. Captain America’s next movie will adapt the equally fantastic Civil War storyline and may give the now-aging stars of the Captain America and Iron Man franchises an excuse to bow out with a bang. Literally.

civil-war

               Age of Ultron crams all that in. They do not take away from the film to do it; which is why it clocks in at two and a half hours.

And I’m not talking about the now-mandatory mid- and post-credit teasers. Those are just that – teasers to thrill you as to what comes next (except for Thor the Dark World – I stuck around twenty minutes for THAT!? I could’ve been home by now).

So there’s nothing wrong with end-of-the-movie teasers. “James Bond will return…”

Remember when I said the movie was much like an Avengers comic book in the 1970s? Back then the comics would have a panel or two foreshadowing what is to come. “Who is that mysterious figure lurking in Avenger’s mansion? We’ll find out next issue, pilgrim, ’cause right now it’s back to the ACTION…” Age of Ultron was burdened with them, and I do mean burdened:

Thor’s illusion leads us to the next two Avengers movie and foreshadows his own next film; Captain America’s illusion reminds us to watch the next season of Agent Carter; the ending of the movie  – heck, the entire introduction of the new Avenger members – sets up Civil War. Our heroes go to Wakanda and fight a bad guy (played by chameleon Andy Serkis) to set up the Black Panther movie.

infinity war

               Even before Age of Ultron was released we the people knew about the next Avengers and Captain America movies. By this time during the first Avengers movie we the people had no idea what the next movie was about – it wasn’t until August 2012 that were even given the title. Age of Ultron was the forgotten middle child even before it hit the theaters.

Oh, I’ll go see the next movies, don’t worry, but I wanted to see Age of Ultron.

Too many moving parts leading in too many directions. That was what was nagging me.

And even Age of Ultron’s post-credit teaser was a let down. What was the real difference between this one and the teaser from the first Avengers movie?

This was a meme posted on my Facebook wall:

 Shield

               And I responded: That’s the movies, though. If it were the TV show “Agents of Shield” it would be, “I’m here to ask you a question, but I won’t ask it until the end-of-season cliffhanger. When you answer six shows into the next season I will say, ‘and now for the follow-up question…’ which will not be asked until that next year’s cliffhanger, and if we’re renewed…” The movies aren’t getting that bad, but they planted those seeds too. It’s getting to that point.

Let the next few movies worry about themselves. And in the meantime, let me enjoy Age of Ultron.

 ***

Footnote: As is usual with sequels TV networks aired the first Avengers movie to whet our appetites. I Tivoed the movie and watched it with my 5-year-old-daughter. Her gasp when Thor was first on screen is a memory I will cherish to my dying day. She says Thor is the best good guy ever. She (along with billions of others) laughed when Hulk beat Loki into the ground – after many minutes of explaining that Loki was a bad guy) and still loves watching Thor, Iron Man and Hulk beat up the “big fish”. At first she called Iron Man Flash and now she’s reversed that.

Although she likes the scenes with Hulk, she is starting to identify with Black Widow. Thor is still her favorite. I hope it’s because Daddy cosplays as Thor…

thor

Original material copyright 2015 Michael G Curry