Spider-Woman #1 (April 1978) "A Future Uncertain!" Marv Wolfman-Carmine Infantino/Tony DeZuniga
Doug: Today we're going to take a gander at a book and character that I really have no interest in. I read a few Spider-Woman mags back in the '70's -- I recall her in a Marvel Two-In-One. But any semblance of care I might have had was dashed when Bendis shoved her down our throats in his New Avengers. So, this should be interesting -- I've not ever read this book before, I don't like Carmine Infantino's art in this era, and the character leaves me cold (although her costume is pretty cool, and the Joe Sinnott cover above is very good). But let's see if I can put on my "objective hat" and write a fair review. You game?
Doug: We open with our heroine clinging to the ceiling of a grocery store in London. Spider-Woman debates whether or not she'll steal food to survive. We learn that she has no job nor other means to support herself. As she takes a can from the shelf, she is repulsed and rifles said can into the shelving, scattering goods about the floor. This of course alerts the security guard, who comes in with flashlight in hand. But alas, guys like him never check out the overhead angle, so Spider-Woman goes undetected. As he leaves, she drops back to the floor, rearranges some more cans with a hefty kick, and then exits through a vent. But when spied emerging and questioned, she declares that she took nothing and did nothing wrong. OK, well if general hooliganism is "nothing wrong", then I guess she isn't lying.
Doug: The gentleman accosting our heroine reveals himself as an agent of Scotland Yard. His on-sight interrogation is quite sexually harassing, as he continually calls her "gorgeous" and "beautiful". After a brief struggle, Spider-Woman breaks free -- but not before being unmasked. As she runs away, our agent muses to himself that he's sure he's seen this woman before. The next day, our young lady -- Jessica Drew -- walks down a street following yet another failed job interview. As she passes, the locals talk behind her back noting her good looks but at the same time sensing a sort of "creepiness" about this new denizen of their neighborhood. As Jessica retires to her apartment (a tenement apartment, we're told), she begins to dream about who she is. Doug: We get a bit of a recap of Marvel Two-In-One #33, which concluded the character's first major story arc. We learn that Jessica Drew's origin actually begins with the High Evolutionary, waaaaay back in Thor #135. Jessica's father became a scientific partner of the man who would become the High Evolutionary. Together they worked to find ways to evolve man past all of the ills of the day -- radiation, pollution, etc. They bought property in the Balkans and then discovered that they were sitting on a bed of uranium. They cashed in and were able to build Wundagore. But through time Jessica came down with radiation poisoning and fell gravely ill. Her father was able to inject her with a spider serum (hmmm -- what is it with down-on-their-luck heroes, radiation, and spiders?) in hopes of saving her young life.
Doug: But the Evolutionary reminded his partner that the spider serums needed a month to incubate -- a month they didn't have. So the Evolutionary offered to subject Jessica to a genetic enhancer ray; Jessica's mother protested to the point that she died (huh? It seemed pretty sudden to me). We learn that in order to save Jessica, the High Evolutionary had to give her yearly treatments. In effect, over time Jessica became half human and half spider. She remarks, after her dream sequence, that she was shunned at Wundagore by the Evolutionary's New Men because she was not an animal; in the human world she is perceived as creepy. And we are told, too, that she had been kidnapped by Hydra and brainwashed to work for them as an agent. And if that isn't complicated enough...
Doug: Jessica decides that she needs to become as normal as possible -- get a job, settle down, integrate herself to society. But with no background and no references, and with that apparently-repulsive personality, it's no go. Wandering the streets, she is seen by the agent who tried to question her at the market. Running from him, she emerges in an alley in costume. She attacks her pursuer by hurling a lamp post at him. But at the last minute she dives into him, pushing him into a wall and away from the deadly projectile. Feeling the need to further disguise herself, Jessica changes her mask and dyes her hair black.
Doug: The last several pages of this story are a long fight involving our agent friend, his partner, and some baddies who've planted bombs all around London. Spider-Woman intervenes and wallops the villains, but not without a casualty or two. During the entire fracas she continues to have her personal pity party about being not human and not a spider... by now, we get it, Marv! Anyway, our guy is shot with a laser and Jessica then fights off Scotland Yard because she can get the dude to a hospital quicker. Once there, she insists on giving him a transfusion of her blood, because it will fight off the radiation from the lasers. All's well that ends well. Oh, and those bad guys? They'd buried plates for English pounds under the walls of Parliament during WWII; they'd set the bombs around London to distract the police so they could dig the plates out. Trouble is, it was all for naught -- the UK had gone to a re-designed pound some years earlier.
Doug: So, verdict? What I thought I would hate, I actually liked -- the art. No doubt Carmine did the lay-outs. Some of his trademark skidding-to-a-stop running poses were there. But Tony DeZuniga really exerted some heavy influence and softened the angles on the 3/4 facial turns that Carmine could no longer do in this era -- DeZuniga's inks added some depth. The book really looks great. Now, Marv Wolfman's script? Not so much. First off, I mentioned above that Jessica Drew is just the classic Marvel feet-of-clay hero. Most recently, we'd seen the formula with Richard Rider over in The Man Called Nova. As to her origin, I liked the High Evolutionary aspect of it, but got very tired of Jessica lamenting her dual personality. So I'd probably give a "C" for the words. But overall, this book was OK -- I'm happy to report that I'm glad I read it!
Karen: I'm sure everyone's had a chance to see some of the cool toys that were on display at this year's San Diego Comic Con. Of course everyone from Sideshow to Diamond Select to Mattel,etc, was there. Although I did not go this year I've looked at a lot of pictures and some of the items caught my eye.
Cool Toy Reviewhas a nice set of photos of tons of products. Some of the ones that will be on my shopping list:
Karen: Diamond Select's Metaluna Mutant with its very own interociter! Now I'll be honest: I think the Sideshow 8" version of the mutant that came out a few years ago is a better-looking sculpt than this one. But -how can you pass it up when you can get an interociter too? That's just too cool!
Karen: I'm a sucker for Mini-Mates. How about this Galactus one, complete with his own little Silver Surfer orbiting around him?
Doug: If I collected one more thing, it would be the Mini-Mates. But you have to draw the line somewhere! My sons have a large Cool Whip tub full of these little guys, including the All-New, All-Different X-Men set -- they are all really fun to look at (pssst... and even play with every now and then).
Karen: I know my blog-mate Doug is excited about some offerings from Mattel -and so am I! Here's an image from Action Figure Insider: Karen: Whoa! Long Live the Legion! Looks great, mostly classic costumes, and an over-sized Colossal Boy is sweet. I do wish Saturn Girl was in her Cockrum outfit, but hey, this is pretty nice.
Doug: However, we can certainly be thankful that Cos is in his old-school outfit. We wouldn't want the poor boy to catch a draft!
Doug: And you want giants? How about the extremely cool presentation of these vinyl Mini-Muggs? What a hoot!
Karen: Does anyone have anything to add to this list?
Doug: So I was having a conversation in the car with my younger son, and while we were listening to the iPod I asked him which instrument did he feel was the most important to a song's sound? We bandied that one about, choosing various songs to highlight our favorite guitars, bass guitars, horns, drums, and keyboards. Then I threw this poser at him -- what if we consider the voice as a musical instrument, then what do you think?
Doug: So we came up with some nominees: John Entwistle's bass on The Who's The Real Me (a selection nominated on this very blog way back when we looked at great bass players), Steve Perry's vocals on Journey's Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin', and Neil Doughty's keyboards on REO Speedwagon's Roll With the Changes. My son was partial to Phil Collins' drums on In the Air Tonight, but you know that's only because of that one part in the song; I told him he couldn't go wrong with Keith Moon of The Who if he wanted out-and-out violence, or Neal Peart of Rush if he wanted precision and polish.
Doug: So this was just a quick bit of fun we had over a car ride. What are some of your favorite performances over the years? Which instruments and/or vocals stand out in your memories? Thanks in advance for sharing!
X-Men #112 (Aug. 1977)
writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: John Byrne/Terry Austin Karen: Magneto vs. the X-Men. It really doesn't get any better than that. And this is old school style -before anyone thought it was a great idea to have Magneto 'reform' and join the X-Men. No, this is Magneto and the height of both his powers and his fury. And both are directed at our little mutant band. Doug: I agree with you -- this seems to be a Magneto on the level of Doctor Doom. Confident, deliberate, scary... Karen: The X-Men find themselves inside a circus wagon, facing their greatest enemy. Cyclops orders the team outside, only to discover that the wagon is now flying far above the Earth, controlled by the master of magnetism -who also appears to be maintaining life support conditions within. Turns out Magneto had gone to Xavier's school to face his foes but found the place deserted. Soon after he got there, the Beast showed up, and he followed the former X-Man to the circus. So it was all very serendipitous. Doug: That was quite a shock to see that the circus wagon was indeed in flight. At it's a testament to how strong Magneto was -- think about it: not only could they not tell that they were moving upward, but there was no centrifugal force, etc. And like you said -- to preserve the life support systems. Did his powers in this era know no bounds?
Karen: The wagon passes over South America to Antarctica, where Magneto has a sprawling base hidden beneath a volcano. Very Bond-ish. The wagon passing through the molten lava is very well rendered. You'll notice that the bottom panel showing an overview of his base is actually a drawing of half a base, just flopped over mirror-image style, to make a complete base.
Doug: I'm always a sucker for these sorts of cut-away drawings. Too bad the whole thing wasn't labeled, as we've seen for years for the Baxter Building, the Batcave, and Avengers Mansion.
Karen: Once safely within the base, Magneto uses his powers to blow the wagon apart and engages the team. Cyclops is still fretting about it, feeling the team is not ready. And he's right. They proceed to take Magneto on one at a time, rather than as a team. As you may recall from reading our previous reviews, this was a real problem for the new X-Men in their early days. Doug: Chris Claremont did a nice job of building suspense throughout this scene by telling us of the tension building in the X-Men's thoughts. I can recall being on pins and needles the first time I read this -- the entire story, from our part 1 last week through this was just a running discovery of what lie in store.
Karen: I agree, this is a very well-written story, full of action yet still giving us good character moments. Although reading it years later, I see some of the infamous 'Claremontisms' that would become all too apparent later on. Storm takes a good shot at Magneto, using a blizzard, but hesitates, not wanting to kill him, and he takes her down. Phoenix does even better, until she reaches her limits, which she is surprised to find she has. But Magneto manages to get the better of her. That leaves the little psychopath, Wolverine, who regains consciousness just as Jean goes down. He takes a swipe at Magneto but comes up only with a scrap of his cape. Magneto then uses Wolverine's claws against him, eliciting some actual fear from the little nut. But Magneto doesn't kill him; he has other plans for him. Therefore, he just knocks him out. Doug: I wonder if you caught the reference from the Beast as to he and Maggie being "best buddies"? There was a footnote earlier in the story referencing the Champions and Super-Villain Team-Up stories that we covered. In the second installment, the Beast had taken Magneto to LA to meet up with the Champions against Dr. Doom. Nice bit of unification in the Marvel Universe, which the House of Ideas has always been good at. And Cyclops was right -- and this has always been one of my complaints about team books -- they all just attacked as individuals. You'd think they'd learn. I, too, was shocked when Jean fizzled at the height of her attack -- I expected more.
Karen: The X-Men awaken in a chamber where they are imprisoned in metallic chairs. Magneto explains to him that his defeat at the hands of Xavier and the mutant Alpha humiliated him. Although regressed to infancy, Magneto claims that he knew what he should have been, knew of his power. Yet he was unable to do anything about it. Therefore, he is going to make the X-Men suffer the same fate. The chairs he's locked them into are connected to their nervous systems. Effectively, he's reduced their motor control to that of newborns. The mutants try to move, or talk, but find they cannot. As the master of magnetism tells them, "If there is a Hell, X-Men, it surely cannot be more terrible than this."
Doug: You think these super-baddies would learn not to toy with their prey... I can't wait for the next issue!
Doug: Hey, here's another chance for you to sound off (which is what makes this place a fun little oasis in the midst of a sometimes mundane life). We'll start an every-now-and-then series where we throw out a very simple, yet could-be controversial topic. No ground rules, just your initial reactions. So without further ado...
Doug: Hey, back atcha with a look at one of our favorites around here -- none other than Joltin' Joe Sinnott! Joe's often tagged in our posts (he's in the top 15 here), as we've covered many issues of the Fantastic Four that have featured his embellishments. Joe Sinnott is of course known as an inker, but did you know he did quite a bit of penciling back in the 1950's and early '60's? You can check out a chronology of Sinnott's career here. Around these parts we've featured Joe's inks over a hall-of-fame-worthy assortment of Bronze Age pencilers, including Jack Kirby, John Romita, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, George Perez, John Byrne, and Rich Buckler. You can find Sal Buscema's comments on Sinnott here.
Doug: But we'd be remiss if we didn't say that Sinnott does bring a bit of controversy to the table. As you can see in Sal's comments, many feel that when Sinnott's on the job, it's Sinnott you're going to get. No, not the flavor of the pencils, but the overpowering of the inks. So as you head toward your comments today, why don't you take a minute first and stroll through our Joe Sinnott tags, checking out his work over various other creators. Are there certain characters he enhances? Are there artists he makes, and others he breaks? Is he best on the FF, or can he make any character or book better? Thanks as always for the input!
Thor Annual #5 (Summer 1976) "The War of the Gods!" Steve Englehart-John Buscema/Tony DeZuniga
Doug: Man, how do you put your finger on that favorite Annual? The usually-summertime release of these treasures makes them so memorable! I'll declare right now that this is my favorite, and that's saying something. There are some great Fantastic Four Annuals (#'s 5 and 6 come to mind), and I've always enjoyed Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 as well as Daredevil Annual #1. Oh, and I forgot to mention FF Annual #2, with the origin of Dr. Doom. And then there's... See what I mean? But this one's really stuck with me over the past 35 years, and as it also happens to be a fave of my partner's, we're going to give it the BAB treatment to close out this summer's Giant-Size July.
Doug: Scribe Steve Englehart gives us the "Tales of Asgard" treatment over the first 7-8 pages, and it's a nice rendition with John Buscema providing the visuals. Sure, you can't go wrong with Jack Kirby, but there's such a majesty to Big John's art and it's on full display here. Englehart reminds us how, according to Norse mythology, the universe, Earth, the giants, gods, trolls, and finally humans were formed. It's a nice story, and a great entry point for readers who might have come along here to a Thor magazine for the first time.
Karen: I find it really interesting that Steve Englehart wrote this story. As far as I know, Englehart never had any kind of run on Thor. The only time he worked with the character was in Avengers. I'd love to know why he was given this assignment. But whatever the reason, I thought he handled this mythic narrative very well. Of course, Buscema's art is magnificent, even if DeZuniga is not my favorite inker for him.
Doug: As Chapter 1 begins, following the lengthy but able prologue, we meet the mighty Thor, prince of Asgard. Thor's personality is laid out for us: brash, loyal, a fighter. We're told of his affinity for Midgard, and that he is wont to pay heed to the prayers of mortals that are directed toward him. We also see the forging of Mjolnir, and here is the reason why I've always thought the mallet to be made of stone -- it's right here! Of course, every other source tells us it's made of a metal known as Uru, but here Englehart clearly states that it's stone. And no argument from me -- in my eyes, it had always been portrayed as if it were stone. As Englehart's background information segues into today's story, Thor appears near the Arctic circle to join a battle on the side of his beloved Vikings. These men are engaged by warriors not known to Thor, but nonetheless Thor brings death to them. We cut away briefly to the headquarters of the invaders and find that they are Greeks, who now pray to their champion -- Hercules, son of Zeus!
Karen: This reminded me a bit of that sequence in the Thor movie where we see the Vikings and then the Asgardians vs. the Giants. The idea that Thor really is a legendary figure is driven home here. Might this have been the first time any writer presented him as hearing and answering prayers? Regarding Mjolnir, yep, it always looked like stone to me, and Englehart calls it stone here -but we're always told uru is a metal. Eh, it's mythology -maybe it's both a metal AND a mineral???
Doug: So what do you think of this yarn so far? I recall as a kid just hanging on every word and picture. I was really into mythology at this point in my young reading life, so for these tales to spring to life was astounding. I don't think I'd fully fleshed out my opinions on various comic book artists, but I knew that Big John was something special. I knew nothing of Steve Englehart (though I'd been loving his run on The Avengers), but his manner was easy. I probably didn't know him from Roy Thomas, but I'd say now that Roy would have worded this up even more in order to include limitless literary references.
Karen: I checked out every book on mythology from our public library a dozen times. I couldn't get enough of it. So this -and the old "Tales of Asgard" tales -were music to my ears. As for Roy, when he finally did write Thor, we got that "Ring of the Nibelung" storyline that seemed plopped down in the middle of the very exciting Celestials storyline. I know people complain about the "Trial of the Flash" as an overlong storyline, but for me it was excruciating waiting for Roy to get done with his Wagner fixation and get back to the cosmic conflict!
Doug: Well, back to the battle royal at hand. Big John really cuts loose in this scene -- I don't think I'm exaggerating if I say that it's quite possible to hear the battle while looking at the beautiful tableau in hand. After several pages of awesomeness, however, Thor decides that the brutalities between he and Hercules can only end in a draw. So, agreeing to resume the battle of Greek and Norsemen in one week, they part. But, upon retiring to Asgard, Thor is much disappointed when Odin rebukes him for setting up the coming war. Of course Odin is the wiser, but brash Thor will hear none of it and turns on his heel. Wily Loki watches from above, grumbling to himself that Thor is never restrained. Turning himself into a fly, he departs for... you guessed it -- Olympus!
Karen: It's interesting that at this point in time, Thor and Herc have very similar personalities -brash, immature. Back when Hercules first appeared in Thor in the '60s, he was always shown in this manner, while Thor was portrayed as more somber and reasonable. It's fun to see a younger Thor here, with a little more fire -even if he was a dunderhead.
Doug: On the mount, Herc is meeting the same fate that Thor was faced with. It's a bit worse, though, as aside from bloodthirsty Ares (why, oh why, did Bendis ever think Ares was an Avenger??) no other among the pantheon of Greek gods will side with Hercules. I want to add that there's plenty of great characterization here -- Englehart gets the voice and personality of each of these gods and goddesses. But remember Loki... Suddenly "Thor" materializes in the midst of the Olympians and strikes Hercules while hurling insults at one and all. It doesn't take Zeus long to come over to Herc's point of view -- it shall be WAR!
Karen: Englehart knows his mythology too, as he has Hera show her disdain for Hercules, "the unfortunate result of earlier escapades"!
Doug: Yep -- caught that. And if she knew ol' Zeus was going and disguising himself as all manner of beast... What a war it is! Buscema again is really allowed to cut loose. There's a lot of pageantry in this battle, as it oozes "epic" right off the printed page. There's a nice little vignette involving Balder battling Ares and again, Englehart nails it. But in the end, it is the Asgardians who triumph. As the dust clears, the Valkyries ride low to gather their dead. One day, Thor says, all of them will ascend to Valhalla. But not this day.
Karen: The artwork is spectacular. I can only imagine that Buscema had a blast drawing ancient warriors, horses, weapons, etc. This was like Conan but on a larger scale.
Doug: Chapter 3 opens in Odin's throne room, as Loki is in custody and Thor stands before his lord. Thor, dull one that he is, wonders how Odin knew it was Loki who orchestrated the battle. Odin has a couple of great lines in this scene, as does Thor. I know I'm gushing over and over, but this story is so well-played that it rivals anything Stan and Jack did in the Silver Age. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think I am. Thor, disgusted that his father will not pay him tribute, gathers his mates to set off to inspect their spoils. Venturing across Bifrost, they head to Olympus.
Karen: Odin is very well handled in this story. He comes off as regal and masterful, not petty as he often seemed in the Lee-Kirby era. Doug: But in Olympus, Thor and the others are not recognized. In fact, they are insulted. Thor, ever the hothead, decides to bring the thunder to the Greeks. But as he raises Mjolnir, naught transpires! Disgusted and dismayed, the Asgardians immediately return to the North. Storming (no pun intended) into Odin's quarters, Thor seeks answers. As father and son battle to be heard, it is the All-Father's voice that wins out. When Odin speaks, he informs Thor of his machinations behind the scenes and with his counterpart Zeus. The Olympians, you see, believe that they won. And then Odin imparts wisdom in a morality play that ends our tale: the Asgardians exist because the Vikings believe in and worship them; likewise for the Olympians and their Greeks. It's a symbiotic relationship, Odin explains, and one Thor doesn't quite grasp. Why, then, would he have power in Olympus? They believe in him not. Departing abruptly, Thor wanders, feeling like he's been played. Venturing near the quarters of Karnilla the Norn Queen, he allows her to prophesy to him -- of coming champions with which he will ally himself: the Avengers. And our young thunder god knows one thing: that he doesn't yet know everything.
Karen: I liked that idea, that the faith of men strengthened the gods. Of course, it doesn't hold up when you think about Thor's battles inouter space with aliens who haven't a clue who he is, but it's still a neat idea. Buscema portrays Thor's frustration very subtly. The quick flash of the Avengers was nice, as was the final page showing the thunder god in his glory.
Doug: This story was recently reprinted in a trade paperback, Thor vs. Hercules. I'd say -- get your hands on it! I'll stop with the praises -- you should have gotten my message by now. What a great way to have spent 30-35 minutes as a 10-year old!
Doug: Happy Sunday, all. Today we're discussing minority characters, and the writing thereof. It seems to me that often non-Caucasian comic book characters serve only as stereotypes of the larger pop culture depiction of said race or ethnic group. Case in point: After Sunfire joined the X-Men in Giant-Size X-Men #1, he left very shortly. But while he was there, we got earful after earful of his anti-imperialism, take-your-Open-Door-Policy-and-shove-it attitude. He was grating on the nerves. Lately the Black Panther has been portrayed as an angry black man; back in the Swingin' '70's, Sam Wilson's lady Leila fit the angry black woman bill. John Proudstar, Thunderbird? Yep, you guessed it -- non-trusting Native American.
Doug: OK, so could you argue that these personalities are real, and are perhaps political statements made from the writers' points of views? Sure you can, and I'd not for a second say that any of my above examples don't stem from real situations. I'd also never suggest that various minorities should not be angry for the treatment they've received from the larger white political majority. American history is rife with instances of social injustice.
Doug: That being said, is it an injustice in itself to portray minority characters as only angry? This is what I'd like to hear our readers sound off about today. Thanks in advance.
Astonishing Tales #5 (April 1971) "Rampage!" Writer: Gerry Conway Artist: Barry Smith Inker: Frank Giacoia Karen:When last we left the fearless jungle lord Ka-Zar he had been swept up in the talons of a pterodactyl ridden by the merciless priestess Zaladane. We start this story with Ka-Zar struggling to break loose from that terrible grip. The acrobatic savage manages to swing himself free and up on to Zaladane's perch, knocking the reins out of her hands. The gigantic beast flies wildly out of control and the two enemies now cling to one another as they crash through trees to the ground below.
Karen: The beast has fallen in front of the temple to the Sun God, where Ka-Zar's friend Garokk, the Petrified Man, stands, hoping to be free of the godlike power that now fills him, and is driving him mad. He looks at the lake before him and sees a sea serpent attacking boats full of men and tries to stop it. Unfortunately he uses too much of his power and practically evaporates the entire lake, wiping out man and monster alike. This is an effective sequence as we see the water roiling and then the near empty lake bed.
Karen: Ka-Zar and Zaladane have survived their crash and she appears to have changed her tune, as Ka-Zar tried to protect her during their ordeal. She shows him a pool of black water under the city -"heating our homes, supplying liquid wood for our fires..." Sounds like oil right? But then she says, "...and he who drinks from it gains immortality, and then unlimited force---and then madness!" OK, definitely not oil! Ka-Zar realizes what this means for Garokk, and asks inf there is no cure. Zaladane replies that if Garokk bathes in the pool the curse will be removed. Unfortunately she's been playing Ka-Zar -she lured him into the chamber only to release a big nasty ape-like monster on him!
Karen: Back on the surface, Garokk has decided the only way to bring peace to the Savage Land is to wipe out the people. He nearly attacks Tongah and Zabu when he feels compelled to leave in his godly form. Zaladane has summoned him, and he's not happy! Back underground, the jungle lord is battling a much bigger foe than he, but still overcomes him. Ka-Zar sees Garokk and tries to reason with him but it's no use. The crazed man-god begins firing energy beams from his eyes, and the very ground they stand upon crumbles and the twon drop into the underground chamber. Remembering Zaladane's words about removing the curse, Ka-Zar manipulates Garokk into the bubbling pool. Of course, Ka-Zar should know better than to trust the treacherous wench. Garokk starts to change, his outer rocky form consumed by the fire. All that is left is his withered, centuries-old mortal form, now dying. Ka-Zar is stunned but Garokk gratefully accepts death.
Karen: Zaladane comes down to the chamber but Ka-Zar leaves her be, pretty much disgusted with the whole situation. Suddenly, from under some rubble comes the guardian-beast that Ka-Zar had defeated. he doesn't recognize Zaladane and goes to attack her. The whole chamber starts to collapse. Form outside, Tongah and Zabu try to enter but the whole temple is falling apart. After the Sun-God's statues falls, they see a figure in the dust; it is Ka-Zar.
Karen: This three-part tale was solid all the way through. It's fun to look back at two young creators, Conway and Smith, just starting to come into their own, Smith with a few more years under his belt at this point than Conway. His art is much improved from his earlier Avengers work, where he seemed to be trying to emulate Kirby. Here, in his own natural style, he excels. I think Giacoia was a better choice of inker for him than Grainger. There seems to be much more of Smith's fine line work retained in this issue. It's too bad he was not the cover artist as well; the covers for these issues have been fairly pedestrian. For anyone wanting to see some examples of early Smith art that is not Conan, these issues would be a good place to look.
Karen: Today's the day - the final member of the Big Three makes his film debut. Yep, we're talking about Captain America! So let's hear it -what did you think of the Sentinel of Liberty's new film?
Doug: Here are links to two reviews from the Chicago Tribune's website today: One is favorable (Michael Phillips generally likes superhero and action movies), and one is a rip job from the LA Times critic. I'm probably going to have the same opinion as Michael Phillips -- he grades these things for what they are. Sounds like the other guy was looking for Gone With the Wind or something. Duh...
X-Men #111 (June 1978)
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin Karen: That's right, friends, we're back with our favorite mutants for another set of reviews in the Claremont-Byrne-Austin era. These are some of my favorite issues of all time that we're getting into here, and personally, I can't wait to get going!
Doug: Nor can I -- and this long arc also stands in my mind as perhaps the zenith of this creative team. Certainly what came before and after is no small potatoes, but these 4-5 issues beginning with #111 are the issues I'd send someone who asked, "So what was so great about the Claremont/Byrne run on X-Men?" This is it. By the way, did you find it odd that Dave Cockrum continued to do covers in this era? Karen: Well, Cockrum did a lot of covers back then. But yeah, it was a little odd. Our story starts with the Beast, once an X-Man, now an Avenger, checking out a rinky dink carnival in Texas. He's shocked to find Banshee working as a carnival barker - and what looks like the new X-Men appearing as freaks in the sideshow (Wolverine, Nightcrawler) or performers in the big top (Storm). Of course, Beast hasn't actually met the new team, so he's not positive that this is really them. He flashes back to how he wound up in this situation. Lorna Dane (aka Polaris) called Beast after her lover, Havok, disappeared. She'd called the X-Men, but couldn't get anyone at the mansion. Beast checked out the mansion and found it looking as if everyone had left it in a hurry. Using Cerebro, the X-Men's mutant-locating device, he found the X-Men in Texas -or did he?
Doug: I can distinctly recall my surprise when I began reading this and the Beast identified the carnival barker as Banshee; that totally went over my head on the cover. I guess I was a bit surprised at Hank's doubt as to whether or not this was the real team. Never having met them aside, I would think his Avengers Priority status would have required some intelligence debriefing somewhere along the line. The X-Men hadn't exactly kept a low profile since becoming active against Count Nefaria.
Karen: Beast spots an aerialist who miraculously floats down to the ground after she misses her catch. Dead certain that it's his old friend Jean Grey, he heads into her wagon to see her after the show. Only this isn't the Jean Grey he remembers! She's kinda sleazy...
Doug: Claremont was quite skilled at character dialogue in this issue. He really had the voices down.
Karen: Soon another old school pal shows up. Scott "Slim" Summers happens by Jean's but he also does not remember Hank. Things start to get rough, and soon a whole mob of carnival folk are after the Beast. These are some really slimy looking carnies -pretty much exactly as I remember them from the county fair as a kid! The Beast can handle these clowns easily, but needs to find a place to stop and think about what's going on. He jumps inside the sideshow, and as he's pondering things, we see a large shadow on the fabric behind him. Suddenly a massive metal fist comes tearing through the tent, to slam into the back of Hank's skull. As the Beast lies sprawled and dazed on the ground, we see Colossus step into the tent. In his weakened state, the Beast is quickly beaten into submission by the carnies. As he is dragged out of the tent, the chained Wolverine growls, "Nooooo!" Doug: Is this issue the beginning of the shift from Nightcrawler and Colossus to Wolverine? I think we may have a candidate. Wolverine is much more "in charge" here, and displays that personality that we'll see fully manifested when he takes on the Hellfire Club single-handedly in #133. Karen: Yep, with Byrne firmly entrenched now, the nasty little Canuck starts getting more time. The Beast is taken to see "the boss." This turns out to be none other than Mesmero, one of the X-Men's oldest foes. With his ability to control minds, once he had taken over Jean, he was able to gain access to all of the others. There's a really nice close-up of Mesmero's eyes as he begins to work on the Beast. Doug: It's a great reveal, but were you disappointed that Hank didn't come up with Mesmero or Mastermind as a potential baddie in all of this? It seems to me that the X-Men's rogues gallery isn't all that deep anyway, and then when you cut it down to guys who could pull this off...
Karen: Back in the sideshow, Wolverine is struggling against both his mental and physical ensnarement. He struggles mightily to shatter his chains, then grabs a carnie and threatens him to get information. Then he goes to rouse Jean out of Mesmero's control, which has some painful repercussions. Doug: As I said above, I think this is Wolverine's coming-out party. The scene where he has the carnie up against the wall and tells him he's going to pop his claws by the count of five is priceless!
Karen: That scene pretty much defined the character in this era, didn't it? Meanwhile the Beast has managed to resist Mesmero's hypnotic stare long enough to break free of his goons. Just as he's about to smack Mesmero around though, the Beast is knocked out by a blast of energy from an unseen assailant. Whoever it is, they absolutely terrify Mesmero. Karen: Jean manages to restore all of the X-Men to normal -and they are mad! They take down a bunch of carnies as they make their way towards Mesmero's wagon. He appears to be standing in the doorway as the team approaches but then his body slumps to the ground. From the darkened interior of the wagon, they hear a voice that sends chills down their spines. Rising from a chair, we see that it is the X-Men's oldest and most dangerous foe, Magneto! Surrounded by an impressive Kirby Krackle, the mutant master of magnetism informs the X-Men that not all their powers will save them this time! Doug: I have long said that this is one of the best last-panel bad guy entrances of all time! Byrne and Austin just pump the power into this figure of Magneto. Obviously at the height of his power (as we saw in X-Men #104), he's no less physically imposing here as well. Scott's reservation comes across as real, and the looks on the faces of the rest of the team speak volumes toward what's to come. Having been with this title since #95 (I missed #'s 97-99), my anticipation for the promised rematch was so great... I only prayed that I could get my hands on #112! These were fun times to be a kid, discovering this as it came out.
We don't own property rights for any of the images we show on our blog -- those copyrights are retained by their respective owners. Some images are from books, etc. that we have purchased, while others we've quite honestly pilfered from the Internet. Just thought you'd want to know that this is a questionable operation. If we've used something we shouldn't have, just ask and we'll take it down.
Bronze Age Babies -- Be On the Look-Out!
Upcoming Reading List:
In May, it's the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Pyms! Avengers 140 (5/27)
In June we're going to hang out with the mad Titan, Thanos! Detective Comics 569 (5/31) Detective Comics 570 (6/1) Marvel Feature 12 (6/3) Captain Marvel 32 (6/10) Bizarre Adventures 27 (Phoenix story) (6/14) Avengers 125 (6/17) Captain Marvel 33 (6/24)
And all of our regular conversation starters!
Open Forums Who's the Best? Discuss... True or False? Face-Off Spotlight On...
Dig Karen's Work Here? Then You Should Check Her Out in Back Issue!
BI #44 is available for digital download and in print. I've read Karen's article on reader reaction to Gerry Conway's ASM #121-122, and it's excellent. This entire magazine was fun! -- Doug
Back Issue #45
As if Karen's work on Spidey in the Bronze Age wasn't awesome enough, she's at it again with a look at the romance of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch in Back Issue's "Odd Couples" issue -- from TwoMorrows!
Karen's talking the Mighty Thor in the Bronze Age!
Click the cover to order a print or digital copy of Back Issue! #53, shipping NOW!