Friday, November 27, 2009
BAB Two-In-One: That Voodoo That You Do and That Horn You Blow.
Karen: This time around I'll be examining the humble beginnings of the character who is currently Sorcerer Supreme in the Marvel Universe: the one and only Brother Voodoo!
Karen: Brother Voodoo first appeared in Strange Tales #169 in 1973. Len Wein and Gene Colan are the writer and artist respectively on this first issue, but the concept had initially come from Roy Thomas and the design from John Romita.
Karen: Psychologist Jericho Drumm returns to the Haitian village where he grew up after many years abroad. He finds his twin brother, Daniel, who is the local voodoo priest, is deathly ill. Daniel believes it is due to a voodoo curse put on him by an evil priest who claims to be the embodiment of the voodoo god, Damballah. Of course, Jericho as a man of western learning rejects this idea and tries to save Daniel with his medical knowledge (just an aside, but I don't think psychologists actually have medical degrees - psychiatrists do).Damballah shows up and taunts Jericho, and despite his best efforts, his brother dies. Jericho carries out Daniel's last wish, which is to find his mentor, Papa Jambo, and ask him for help. Jericho travels into the jungle, and finds Papa Jambo, who tells him that he must take his brother's place and become Brother Voodoo!
Karen: Despite the inherent goofiness of a name like 'Brother Voodoo', the story works surprisingly well. It's like so many other stories we've seen before, where responsibility and power are thrust upon a character. Like most magical heroes, Brother Voodoo has a mentor who teaches him the ways of the universe. Sure, it's hard at times to keep a straight face when you read stuff like 'Papa Jambo', but as far as the over all structure goes, it's well done.
Karen: The art is typical Colan, and well suited for this just as it was for Dr. Strange. The inks by Dan Adkins are heavy on blacks and deepen the mood. Len Wein, who never met an accent he didn't like, seems to be enjoying himself here with the Haitains, having them say stuff like, "You left dis island hardly more den a child--to go to de big city college--to make somt'ing of yourself, you say--but dat's not de truth, is it, big doctor man?" While a bit over the top, it's easy to understand what he was trying to do here.
Karen: Marvel was never one to overlook a fad or craze, and so voodoo got its chance here. It's interesting to note that the James Bond film, Live and Let Die, which featured voodoo, came out in June of the same year. Since this comic is cover dated September, they probably premiered at almost the same time. So it's definitely not an influence, but simply another entertainment taking its cues from the same sources.
Doug: DC time, folks. Karen and I both grew up as Marvel Zombies for the most part -- we each dabbled a bit in the Distinguished Competition so I thought I'd go over a book I bought at a local convenience store back in the autumn of 1976. Teen Titans #45 is the second issue of the revival of the title after a 3-year hiatus from the spinner racks, and was created by Bob Rozakis, Irv Novick, and Vince Colletta.
Doug: The story starts with a curious scene, as the Titans return to their HQ victorious from the previous issue's battle with Dr. Light (this would be the silly/stupid Dr. Light, long before the malevolence revealed in the Identity Crisis mini-series). Titans' ally Mal Duncan had played a key role, dressed as the Guardian. However, when Speedy tosses a back-handed compliment, Mal reacts by socking Speedy in the jaw. The story then moves right into a flashback detailing the history of this issue's baddies, the Wreckers.
Doug: The Wreckers were an early-60's era street gang, or neighborhood protector, depending on one's perspective. When the leader was shipped off to Nam as a demolitions expert the group faded away. However, after a dishonorable discharge for blowing up stuff unauthorized, Steve Macchione returned home to find that developers had intruded on his former turf. Needless to say, the old gang was reassembled and told to gear up for some chaos.
Doug: As fate would have it, when the Wreckers pick a building to blow up, who is in the phone booth on the corner but Mal. You guessed it -- building blows, Mal's caught in the blast and... ha ha -- you thought something logical would happen, like a Titans alert going out, Kid Flash running to dig Mal out of the rubble, etc. Nope. You'd be wrong. I wish you were right, however. Instead of a more conventional plot device we instead get Mal being lifted from the rubble by Azrael, the Angel of Death. Mal informs him that he's jivin' and Mal will fight anyone who says different. And then they fight. With Gabriel as the referee and in a boxing ring, no less. And they dedicate two and a half pages to this crap! Hey, it worked once with Jacob wrestling an angel, but not here.
Doug: Well, since Mal beats the Angel of Death, Gabriel gives him a "horn" (actually a ram's horn, or shofar in Hebrew) to fend off any future attacks from Azrael. When blown, the horn will "even the odds" for Mal in any fight he's in. So, he gives it a whirl, somehow teleports the Titans to him (seriously -- when I first read this when I was 10 I just blindly accepted all of this!) and they go after the Wreckers.
Doug: While Mal had been laying in the rubble, the Wreckers had tipped their next job as involving Wayne Industries. Kid Flash and Robin go ahead to intercept the bad guys, and arrive just as they are leaving the building. A skirmish ensues involving everyone, but the Wreckers escape. Shortly after, they mix it up again but this time with the Titans victorious. Of course Mal matches up against Macchione and whups him. Game over!
Doug: Despite Rozakis' totally lame interlude, this was fun due to the presence of the classic Teen Titans line-up of Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy, Wonder Girl, and Aqualad. Novick's/Colletta's art is solid throughout. But when it's all said and done, this is a Bronze Age DC. And that can't compare with even the likes of Brother Voodoo...