Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Finding Silver in Bronze: Marvel Super-Heroes 43

Marvel Super-Heroes #43 (May 1974)
From Tales to Astonish #88 (February 1967)"A Stranger Strikes From Space!"
Stan Lee-Bill Everett

"Boomerang and the Brute!"

Stan Lee-Gil Kane

Doug: Hey, look -- two days in a row with the Hulk! I know we've been really weak on ol' Jade Jaws on the BAB blog, but as I think I've remarked in the past -- I just don't have much Hulk!
If I had the dvd-rom, I'd be much more inclined to review more issues. But alas, until that comes to pass, you're going to have to make-do with guest appearances, etc. Today's fare comes from a Bronze Age lot I won on eBay over a year ago.

Doug: Our first story features Namor and is drawn by his creator, Bill Everett. The story has a real Golden Age feel to it -- in fact, on the splash page Stan quips: "Just for kicks we thought we'd try something different... an action-oriented Subbie tale with little or no psychological hang-ups or subliminal social significance! In other words, just a plain, fast-moving mystery yarn... like we used to do in the so-called "Golden Age of Comics"! It won't win any Nobel prizes, but we're hopin' that it grabs you!" Now, if that isn't a preemptive apology, I don't know what is. And to be honest, this story plays (and looks) like just that -- a story 20 years out of its time.
Doug: Here's the gist of the story: Namor whups Attuma yet again, so the barbarian sulks away with his tale tucked between his legs. He goes to his lair, where his lackeys egg him on to come up with a better plan to lay waste to Atlantis. Well, if fortuity is what you're looking for, you can't get much better than some advanced aliens who just happen to be speeding by the Earth when an engine of destruction falls out of a hatch and plummets to the Earth, landing right in Attuma's territory. I did not make that up. So the robot makes its way toward Attuma and the boys, they can't beat it, but do manage to subdue it long enough for Attuma -- the dumbest barbarian under the sea -- to monkey around with the control panel conveniently located on the robot's chest and reprogram it to attack Atlantis. Uh huh. Nice one, Stan. I'm telling you, this one wouldn't even have been worth Stan doing all of his jumping around his office acting it out. It's so lame, a one-sentence plot summary to Everett would have sufficed.

Doug: Next we come to the Hulk's portion of the book. You know, when I got this out to read, I'm thinking Gene Colan on Subby and either Marie Severin or Herb Trimpe on the Hulk. Nope -- Everett and Gil Kane. Don't get me wrong -- I appreciate the work of each man, and respect their contributions to comic book history. But given my druthers...

Doug: As the Hulk story kicks off, he's been declared a hero after defeating the deadly Hulk-Killer in the previous issue. The entire cast is assembled around him -- "Thunderbolt" Ross, Betty Ross, Glenn Talbot, and Rick Jones. But lurking in the shadows beyond the throngs of media is a garishly-dressed super-baddie -- the Boomerang! OK, exclamation aside, he's not that scary or interesting.
Truth be told, his power is no different than 100 other guys -- he throws projectiles that explode.

Doug: Boomerang launches one of those discs near the Hulk, startling him and setting him off; the environment had already been tense, and it didn't take much to get ol' Greenskin going. Of course Ross is all fired up and immediately flies off the handle. There's a very minor subplot involving none other than Tricky Dick himself -- Richard Nixon! Seems the President wants to pardon the Hulk if it's warranted, and cables Ross to inform him that if, under his authority, he feels that the Hulk should be acquitted of all charges the President will approve it. Fat chance!

Doug: The Hulk leaps away, but Boomerang follows. What basically happens to the end of the story is a slugfest, but with a twist. As they battle into the desert, Boomerang destroys a large dam, hoping to drown the Hulk.
Only problem is, Boomerang had subjected Hulk to a strong tranquilizer gas. Hulk sent Boomie reeling up against a mountainside, breaking his leg and destroying his boot jet. As Boomie yelped for help, Hulk/Banner was able to leap to save him, but couldn't hold him long enough to pull him to safety. As Banner took control, Boomerang seemingly fell to his death in the churning waters below.

Doug: I am pretty positive that if I'd seen this on the spinner rack when I was 8 I would not have bought it. The art is really bad, and even though I'm much more of an art aficionado, these stories are so lame it's really inexcusable. By 1968, there were a few writers in the Bullpen to take some pressure off of Stan Lee. He should have used them.


david_b said...

Looks like a great couple of 'filler tales', between any long story arcs. NOTHING wrong with 'em at all. Sometimes just a kooky change of pace keeps the balance.

Interesting again (as covered by an earlier column..) how the reprint masthead (and obligatory Hulk head) takes up so much room on the cover.

I originally thought the extra consideration for 'ol Greenskin was due to his TV show, but it hasn't quite happened yet by '74.

Doug said...

David --

I suppose you're right about the kooky aspect of the Subby story, but I find myself teetering on the brink of Brevoort's comments that the Silver Age stories were "quaint". This issue left me feeling that way, and I truly believe that there's so much to love, and of lasting value from the Silver Age, that feeling like this was a subpar effort from Stan leaves me a little cold. I know the overall runs for both Namor and the Hulk were better than this. Oh well, I guess of all the issues I could've received in that lot I bought, perhaps this one was a dud -- at least for me.

And why was the cover re-worked anyway? The original was much better! That's an issue I'd like to see addressed by someone "in the know" -- why were covers redone or partially redone during the Bronze Age reprint era?


J.A. Morris said...

It's funny,Boomerang was a forgettable,generic,"hired thug" villain. Yet he was brought back "from the dead" after this story,given a much better costume and continues to be "active" to this day 40-odd years later! I guess writers thought boomerangs were cool.

Fred W. Hill said...

I've a hunch that the Subby story was largely plotted by Everett and Stan did little more than add dialogue. Certainly that was the case on many of his collaborations with Kirby & Ditko, and it seems very possible he may have let Everett have a go with the character he created so long ago. The Hulk story seems more like a typical Lee melodrama, what with ol' Greenskin being unwittingly driven from hero to heel within just a few pages. I also think Stan meant for the Boomerang to stay dead (well, after all, it's not like the Boomerang was in the same class of topnotch villainy as Dr. Doom or the Red Skull who could be torn to bits and eaten by crocodiles and still turn up ready to rumble again a few issues later. Probably the only reason the original Baron Zemo stayed dead was that he was conceived as a 2nd rate Red Skull and he had to pay the ultimate price for "killing Bucky" (as we all once oh so naively thought).
BTW, despite being nearly identical, Colan's (I assume that's his art) orignal cover looks far more suspenseful than the MSH varient (not sure who did that).

Dougie said...

I'd be interested to know what you think of Everett's final issues of Sub-mariner in the 70s. At the time, I felt an occasional sword-and sorcery/sci-fi title had descended into Golden Age silliness.
I do like those Kane/Hulk stories however. As a little kid, I was shocked by Boomerang's ironic fate (which was kind of the point,I think). The upcoming story with the Stranger is pure Kane as the Hulk becomes the alien's instrument of purification. The imagery reminds me of Captain Action's "Evil at Dead World's End"

Karen said...

Boy, we've really been ripping on Stan lately! I feel terrible. I mean, the man is responsible for bringing so much enjoyment to my life, it feels ungrateful of me to say anything negative. He created (or co-created) so many great characters and stories. But nobody has a perfect run. Some of these stories (like the last Thor we reviewed) really were not very good. Maybe we need to do a Silver in Bronze with some classics! It'll be like an absolution for us!


Anonymous said...

"And why was the cover re-worked anyway? The original was much better!"

I'm guessing it's simply because Romita was a much more commercial proposition than Everett.

B Smith

Doug said...

Dougie --

I couldn't comment on the stories/issues you cite, as I don't have any of those. Sorry!

BSmith --

The Grand Comics Database speculates that the cover to MSH #43 was by Gene Colan with inks by Mike Esposito. John Romita is credited with the Hulk inset. All credits have a question mark after them. I'm probably more inclined to think that someone along the lines of a Ron Wilson re-worked the robot.

And to all -- Karen's right about the negativity around here regarding Stan Lee's writing. I suppose I can rationalize it by saying that most of what we've examined so far has come from the tail end of Stan's writing career, when he had many, many more irons in the fire than he'd had even 3-4 years prior. But we'll find some solid Silver Age stuff and take a look at it some time.

Thanks for all of the comments!


Anonymous said...

Oops - I just saw the big Romita Hulk head, and presumed he'd done the rest.

B Smith

Fred W. Hill said...

My impression of the MSH cover is that Romita simply did some revisions to the original Colan work as part of it looks exactly the same, but several details have been changed.
As for Stan, I practially idolized him when I was a kid, even into my teens. These days I know that Kirby & Ditko played a far more prominent role in the shaping of those early stories than Stan initially let on, but still Lee's input was vital in shaping the first decade of the Marvel era. Lee depended on them to create the Marvel universe, but without him it might never have come about at all or might have collapsed within a few years.
With that in mind, what would be some of Lee's best stories in the years '62 - 66 without either Kirby or Ditko having a hand in the art?

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