Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Black Goliath -- Hijacked by Poor Writing?

Marvel Two-In-One #24 (February 1977)
"Does Anyone Remember... the Hijacker!?"
Bill Mantlo/Jim Shooter-Sal Buscema/Pablo Marcos

Doug: What with all the love being tossed Henry Pym's way around here lately, it's high time we reminded ourselves that there was a Goliath in the 1970's -- Bill Foster! He was the third fellow to take on the growth serum, after Hank and one Clint Barton, nee' Hawkeye. We had some fun with Dr. Foster when we reviewed the "Project Pegasus" storyline earlier, so let's check in on his and Benjy's first team-up.

Doug: Our little tale opens in Los Angeles, at the Stark West laboratories. The Thing is "on loan" to Stark's researchers to participate in experiments concerning air quality and pressure in a simulation of conditions on Venus -- Bill Foster, he of past fame as Hank Pym's research assistant, is heading the team.
Ben's in a quarantined area of the lab where gasses simulating Venus' atmosphere have been unleashed, as well as the air pressure of the chamber increased. In the midst of the experiment, an alarm sounds and in bursts a costumed do-badder billing himself as The Hijacker! Now there's an original moniker...

Doug: The Hijacker sets off some knock-out gas which takes out all of the lab techs. Foster hit the floor fast and was able to take a big gulp of clean air. Our hero managed to find the Hijacker through the foggy air and trip him -- to no avail. Foster succumbs to the gas. Meanwhile, the Hijacker had manipulated the airlocks holding the Thing, effectively trapping Ben in the chamber -- helplessly watching. As the Hijacker made his way out of the lab and on toward his real goals, Foster was able to pull himself up long enough to hit some buttons/switches and free the Thing.

Doug: You know how comics are just rife with silly made-up terms, especially for technology?
Try this line on, from the Hijacker: "With my Vario-Blaster set for nuclear flame... not even Stark's Molybdenum Steel Vault can deny the Hijacker entrance." And, ya gotta love a guy who talks of himself in the third person. I thought I was reading some quotes from Rickey Henderson!

Doug: The Hijacker gets what he wanted -- access to Stark's prototype weapons and inventions. And then we learn that this isn't the 1st appearance of this doofus! Nope -- he was on the scene way back in Tales to Astonish #40 (February 1963), when the aforementioned Dr. Pym put him down while wearing the Ant-Man togs. I've included a panel from that story, in case you think I'm pulling your leg.

Doug: The Thing shows up to thwart our villain, but since it's only page 9, you know there's going to be a drawn-out affair.
The Hijacker uses what must be his miracle gun and shoots at some docked missiles -- launching them! But as they streak past, he ducks, Ben takes the full brunt and is blown through a steel wall, but is caught by a very large yellow-gloved hand. Yep, Black Goliath's on the scene, bare belly and all! I always thought he had a really cool suit, but could never figure out why he had no middle to his costume. Ms. Marvel, at about the same time -- that I could understand (although it never jibed with her pro-women's stance). Anyway...

Doug: Black Goliath, as we'd already seen in the "Project Pegasus" stories, isn't real adept at the super-hero biz. He's rather clumsy, to be honest. He gets himself into a bit of trouble, and the Hijacker continues to use his deus ex machina gun to get out of every scrape that comes along. He activates missiles and Mars landers, and melts solid steel. And he wants to steal Stark's stuff?? Anyway, the Hijacker escapes and Ben helps Goliath out of a pickle.
But then, the walls and ceiling cave in as the Hijacker returns with his "invincible Crime-Tank!" Bro-therrrr...

Doug: Long ending short -- Ben throws everything but the kitchen sink at this vehicle, of course to no avail. He gets knocked on the noggin, goes down, but is saved from the tank by Goliath. As both are about to be rolled over, Ben comes to long enough to bunch through the underbelly of the tank and yank out a bunch of wires. End of tank. Goliath rips the cockpit off and shakes the Hijacker out. The guy starts blabbing like he's being interrogated, but Ben just bonks him one with his finger, and it's lights out.

Doug: As I've been saying in the Hank Pym series we're currently running on Fridays, I've long been a fan of the giants: Hank, Black Goliath, Colossal Boy, Validus, etc. There are just great visuals when any of those guys are on the scene. But Bill Foster here -- he just seems to get the shaft plot-wise in each book we've looked at. He continually screwed up during the "Project Pegasus" story, and here he's not much more than in the way. His heart's in the right place, but c'mon -- I think any of us with these powers and the background he'd had with Hank Pym could have done better. I don't know why the guy didn't get more respect from the writers of his era. You'd have thought Marvel could have made a success out of him -- the Black Panther's series in Jungle Action was going strong at this time, as was Luke Cage's series. Did they not want to dedicate enough energy to one more Black character? Shoot -- to be honest,
he's just poorly written, black, white, red or green!

Doug: And before I let you go, just a quick comment on the art. You'll see in the credits above that Sal Buscema was the penciler and Pablo Marcos inked it. I know, we've been over the whole Pablo Marcos thing a gazillion times on this blog... but I just feel that he exerted too much influence on Sal's pencils. Don't get me wrong -- the reader can still pretty clearly tell that it's a Sal Buscema book. Maybe I'm just seeing less Sal and more Pablo in some of the faces. And I don't know why I feel this way -- I don't complain about Joe Sinnott or Terry Austin (for examples). There's just something about Pablo... Anyway, for a team-up book this was OK. It probably suffered most from a lame villain (that's a pretty deep pull to find the Hijacker back from the dawn of the Marvel Age) and meatless plot. It's a simple this-is-a-stick-up story, after all. No hostages, no immediate threat to world security or environmental well-being. It's like a high-stakes gas station robbery, I guess.


dbutler16 said...

Doesn’t every great super-villain refer to himself in the third person?
I agree that the Black Goliath costume looks good, except for the belly window. I don’t even like that look on a woman, but it especially looks goofy on a guy. I guess he’s showing those fashions shouldn’t be restricted to one gender, very egalitarian of him.
This does sound like a poorly written story, from what you’ve written here. He even has a utility belt? This sounds more like a Silver Age story. I love that he try to tell his name, and Ben says “did I ask?” then knocks him out.
My main exposure to Black Goliath is from his appearances in the Avengers and the Champions. I always wanted to like him, but there just didn’t seem to be much there. Yeah, maybe Marvel didn’t have the energy to expend to make a fourth interesting black character (after Black Panther, Luke Cage, and the Falcon) but for whatever reason, I agree that he’s gotten the shaft. Still, Marvel was way ahead of DC in introducing minority characters. But that’s probably a topic for another post…

Flying Tiger Comics said...

You know how there was a Marvel Superheroes RPG (which was awesome)? Well sometimes people playing that ended up with a knockoff type character of someone who already existed.

Black Goliath is art imitating life imitating a different kind of art, imitating art again.

Also his death in Civil War stopped two of my friends reading Marvel so he didn't die in vain.

Or something. :)

dbutler16 said...

"Also his death in Civil War stopped two of my friends reading Marvel so he didn't die in vain"


Inkstained Wretch said...

I have the first two volumes of Essential Marvel Two-In-One, so I must have read this story at least once, but I'll be damned if I could remember one thing about it. It's that forgettable, I guess.

Always nice to see Sal's version of Ben Grimm though.

Dougie said...

I had a fondness for BG- I got his first issue as a very young teen. This was quite an event as Marvel premieres were scarce in my neck of the woods in the mid-70s. It's interesting that he never caught on, where Isabella's Black Lightning became something of a cult favourite.
I followed the character through his guest appearances here,in the Champions and then in MTIO (where he was saddled with the dullest second-hand name of any superhero- Giant-Man).
I had high hopes (ho,ho) when Englehart folded him into the West Coast Avengers in the late 80s but he vanished when Byrne took over and was largely (ho,ho) absent during the Nineties.Then of course he was killed off in that dreadful Civil War "event".
Did you know Foster's son appeared a few times in the MC2 Universe wearing Mar-Vell's original Kree uniform as the Earth Sentry? The hand-me-down tradition continued even unto the next generation

Edo Bosnar said...

Poor Bill Foster. The guy never got any respect. Even his first appearance as Black Goliath in Power Man involved him getting pounded by Luke Cage, and to add insult to injury his girlfriend leaves him for Luke. Sweet Christmas!
Anyway, I had all five issues of Black Goliath's solo series (think I paid about a buck for it in the early '80s), and he didn't even get that much respect there, either. As I recall, he spent a lot of time getting beat up, with the bad guys often escaping...

William said...

Hey Flying Tiger, it was Civil War finally got me to stop reading new Marvel Comics as well. All but Amazing Spider-Man anyway (which, sadly, I have finally given up on also). A person can only swallow so much garbage after all.

But on to the subject at hand… I have MTIO #24 (in fact I just went and dug it out to read again). I think it's awesome. I love fun comics like this with over the top (kinda goofy) super villains and lots of slam bang action. Team-up books were always more story driven than character pieces anyway. They are like half-hour episodes of a TV action show.

I do agree with Doug about the heavy influence of Pablo Marcus on Sal's pencils. Even though it doesn't look as much like Sal's other work, it's still pretty to look at. I mean is there really anything better than old-school comic art? There is just so much style and energy in every panel. You can't help but feel good when you read comics like these.

Coincidently, I have been on something of a Black Goliath kick lately. I even picked up the first couple of issues of his own mag on Ebay recently. I haven't gotten around to reading them yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

As for Foster's penchant to show off his abs - hey, It's like I always say… "if you got 'em, flaunt 'em". Seriously though, it is a pretty strange look, but then again a lot of the Bronze Age costumes were a bit over the top. I mean look at Iron Fist - he and B.G. must have the same fashion designer. They both liked to show off their abs and wear oversized yellow collars for no reason. Ahh the 70's. You gotta love 'em.

J.A. Morris said...

Before I googled him,I'd forgotten that Hijacker was killed by Scourge in the "infamous" 'Bar With No Name Massacre'.

I always like Foster too, interesting that he and Ms. Marvel both wore ab-showing costumes AND they were both sort of retread heroes based on preexisting characters.

Anonymous said...

Ref. Vario-Blasters and Molybdenum Steel Vaults. Hmmm. Yes. Anti Shark Bat Repellant, anybody?

Ref. The costume. Yes, I liked that. Actually, I liked that strange-S&M-why-am-I-wearing-a-harness? thing that Clint had too. There are probably websites for people like me.

Ref. Bare midriff...come on Doug, if you had those abs, you’d be showing them off too. Personally, my shirt would have less chance of staying on than William Shatner’s.

Ref. Third person baddies....you almost had me monologuing there....

DButler...you’re right, he got the shaft. Now, if only he’d gotten the Shaft....


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