Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Monster Mash: Incredible Hulk Annual 5

Incredible Hulk Annual #5 (1976)
"And Six Shall Crush the Hulk!"
Plotter: Len Wein
Scripter: Chris Claremont
Artists: Sal Buscema and Jack Abel

Karen: Happy Halloween! We thought for today it might be fitting to end with a bang, so you're getting not one, not two, but six monsters -or seven, if you count the Hulk! Our pal David_B asked the other day if we might have any plans to review some of the other Marvel monster titles that reprinted the Atlas tales of giant monsters and aliens with colorful names. Neither Doug nor I have access to those books. But I did recall having this annual, which featured appearances by some of those crazy critters. So I hope you'll enjoy this wild monster rally.

Doug:  I vividly recall leafing through this annual at a spinner rack when I was 10.  For some reason I set it back down.  I am happy, though, that Karen suggested we review it now -- we think it should be a lot of fun!

Karen: We begin in Colorado, where (as usual) the Hulk is being harassed by the Army. It seems while old Greenskin was looking for a place to relax he wandered into a top secret base, and the poor soldiers have orders to drive him off. Good luck with that. After scattering the men, Hulk leaps off. But someone is observing him on a viewscreen, someone nearby who states that the Hulk is his oldest and bitterest foe. In some sort of laboratory, we see a series of large cylinders. The unknown being indicates that he has recreated five powerful extraterrestrial beings who have attacked Earth in the past. He plans to use them against the Hulk. He presses a switch and teleports the first creature to face the Hulk.

Doug:  This was certainly during the time when Bruce Banner was often an afterthought in the pages of the Incredible Hulk.  I still associate the Hulk relaxing with a quick reversion back to Banner.  But that doesn't seem to have been the case here.  But as you intimate, ol' Greenskin probably isn't going to get any R&R in this tome.  As to his scuffle with the Army?  Sal draws the Hulk at his raging finest, hoisting a tank above his head and slamming his fists on the ground to scatter the troops. 

Karen: You're quite right, one would assume relaxing would lead to a transformation back to Banner, but he's nowhere to be seen in this book. Then again, our gamma-irradiated pal doesn't get much of a chance to relax! The Hulk lands near a stream and comes across two men who are fishing. Neither man has seen the jade giant yet. He asks them if he can fish with them, and they respond amiably, before they see his reflection in the water. Then the two panic and run. Hulk gets frustrated and snaps a fishing pole in two, angry because he wants fish but doesn't know how to catch any. Suddenly he hears a voice telling him not to worry about his hunger but rather his life. A billowing dark smoke appears and takes the form of a huge humanoid, and declares itself to be Diablo, the demon of the fifth dimension. Diablo originally appeared in Tales of Suspense # 9 (May 1960). Hulk is confused by the appearance of the creature and responds as he usually does -- by trying to punch it! But his fists just pass through its body. Diablo is able to control his density, much like the Vision, and he grabs the Hulk and pulls him into his body, trying to suffocate him. Hulk however, is no dummy. He actually tunnels underneath Diablo and comes out behind him. He yells at Diablo and notes that his breath -- his "little wind"! -- partly dissipates the smoke creature.  Diablo gets panicky and then Hulk gets the idea to use his patented Hulk clap to create such a violent gust of air that he completely blows Diablo away.

Doug:  I thought there was a real Herman Munster vibe to the fishing scene.  The Hulk's personality just lends itself to those moments of comic relief.  Sal Buscema's just such a steady artist.  In this segment I really, really enjoyed the depth he gave to Diablo -- even though the creature was basically made of smoke and soot, Sal imbued him enough to make us believe that he had real mass.  And the panel you referenced with Hulk commenting on his "little wind"?  How about that devilish smile?  Great physical comedy.  But did you think the big clapping was an easy out?  After all, Diablo could control his mass, as you said, enough to punch the Hulk.  Was he really caught that unaware?  

Karen: I thought Diablo looked pretty cool too. I also wondered if Hulk's little wind was his breath, would that mean his "big wind" was, never mind! I just accepted that his "super-clap" was enough to throw Diablo off his game. After Diablo, the Hulk wanders off through a stream and is attacked by his next enemy: Taboo! Taboo, who appeared in Strange Tales #77 (Oct. 1960) (or as mentioned here, reprinted in Where Monsters Dwell #2), looks like a big mudball, to put it kindly. Taboo tries covering Hulk in his goo, but Jade-Jaws frees himself. Taboo then decides to try another tactic, just plain smashing the Hulk, but that doesn't work any better. Hulk comes up with the bright idea that if he can't smash Taboo with his fists, he'll use water, and so he actually punches the stream! Yes, you read that right. But somehow, by punching the riverbed, he creates a crack, that causes a whirlpool! Taboo cannot resist the pull and is sucked down into the Earth. He asks for Hulk's help, but Greenskin says, "Mudface tried to kill Hulk, and then expects Hulk to save his life? Hulk is not that stupid." I thought that was an odd bit of anti-hero dialog, even from the Hulk. After his mucky foe is gone, Hulk wanders off, muttering about how tired he is.

Doug:  I thought it was odd, too, yet humorous when Hulk said that.  It would be interesting, if I had access to a bunch of Hulk books (which I do not), to do a post on the morality of the Incredible Hulk.  I'm sure there are many examples of surly as well as altruistic behavior from our green goliath.  I also hate to be picking on the "outs" of each of these monster battles, but no matter how hard Hulk hit the river bed, they were only standing in about four feet of water.  How much pull could a whirlpool make on Big Taboo?

Karen: The whirlpool seemed pretty silly, but I was enjoying it, so I went with it. Hulk is walking through the forest when suddenly branches reach out for him and grab him! As he struggles against them he is confronted by Groot, the Monster from Planet X! Although they fail to list Groot's first appearance in this annual, I looked it up and found it was in Tales to Astonish # 13 (Nov. 1960). Of course Groot has gone on to become a member of the current Guardians of the Galaxy team, and is not nearly as loquacious as he is here. When confronted with Groot, Hulk says, "Talking smoke, talking mud -- now talking tree!  Hulk wonders if this is all a dream!" Hulk smacks Groot solidly in the face, but it seems to have no effect. Hulk is puzzled, and Groot tells him that perhaps it is because he has rooted himself to the ground. Now good grief, don't give the Hulk any help! Hulk then decides he will beat up the ground! He tears up the turf around Groot and unroots him. Groot shoots thorns at Hulk but he deflects them, and then uses a boulder to bash Groot into a pile of tinder. When it is all done, Hulk again remarks that he feels tired. He goes to leap off, but he can't even jump nearly as far as he normally could. 


Doug:  I'm not up on any current doings in the Marvel Universe, but I'm bummed that the Guardians movie is most likely going to contain the current team.  Give me Yondu and Charlie-27!  Hey, the 40-somethings will be going to see that picture, too!  I really liked in this mag how the monsters each got a full splash page for their big entry.  And how about the middle panel on page 23?  Now that's what I call being Buscema-blasted!  Yeah, it's one of Sal's stock poses, but I love it every time!  Let's face it about these baddies -- there's probably a reason they didn't stick around in the Marvel Universe for any length of time.  But they are just perfect for this story, and big kudos to whoever came up with this idea.  And a tip of the hat to Chris Claremont as well.  I don't know how many Hulk stories he scripted through the years, but he sure does a nice job here.

Karen: You know, that's a good point, Claremont really did have Hulk's voice here. Well done! While in mid-leap, Hulk is knocked out of the sky and plummets to the ground violently. As he picks himself up, he is confronted by yet another monster: a red-skinned weirdo named Goom! Goom, who has funky little wings like a flying squirrel, first appeared in Tales of Suspense #15 (March 1961). Hulk is rightfully sick and tired of fighting all these weirdos and goes to attack Goom. But Goom cuts loose with eyebeams that shrink Hulk down to "Fun Size" as the candy makers might say. Goom scoops Hulk up in his hand and tries to crush him but soon discovers even a tiny Hulk is no easy thing to handle. Hulk pops out of Goom's hand and begins growing again -- perhaps his anger is counter-acting Goom's shrinking ray? Whatever the case, Goom is in trouble! Hulk grabs Goom and spins him around and around, finally hurling him against the mountainside. He then brings the mountain down on him. 

 Doug:  Even a tiny or tired Hulk is dangerous, huh?  Goom was quite a departure visually from the first three monsters, who were all elemental in nature.  And Goom must have gone to the same tailor as Fin Fang Foom to get those spiffy little trunks he was sporting.  I love the bravado these guys have, too!

Karen: Hulk is really on his last legs after this fight. Now he looks up and sees the sky full of dark clouds, and knows that the rain is coming. He yells at the clouds to go away, and is promptly answered by a bolt of lightning zapping him! Another one hits him, and he falls to his knees. A few feet away, another bolt strikes. Hulk thinks that it missed him, but suddenly a humanoid shape appears, one of living electricity. It is -The Blip! This was an alien creature who appeared in Tales to Astonish # 15 (Jan. 1961) (and was reprinted in Fear #2). Only Hulk mistakes him for his old enemy Zzzax! It's a pretty natural mistake, if you ask me. The Blip zaps Hulk but it doesn't stop Jade-Jaws. It does however give him a pretty amusing hair style! Hulk unfortunately can do little against a being made of pure electricity -- or so it seems. Eventually he grabs hold of Blip -- how, I'm not sure -- and hurls him against some power lines; the results are spectacular.

 Doug:  I also questioned the Hulk's ability to grasp the Blip.  How about the names of these guys?  As I said at the top, I'm glad you picked this book for us to do today -- it really is a lot of fun, and a great homage to Marvel's days as Atlas Comics.  Loved the panel you remarked about, with Hulk's hair all frizzed out -- Sal was really clicking on all cylinders in this one.  Do you think he was having fun?

Karen: I think he must have been, because the art really seemed to be lively and imaginative.The Hulk, exhausted, collapses on the ground. Oddly, the grass enfolds around him and flies off into the sky! It carries the Hulk off just as the Army arrives. General Harrison watches it go and notes that it's moving in the direction of the strange interference signal that they've been detecting.

Doug:  Did you think Hulk really collapsed from exhaustion, or did he have some "help" so that he could be all balled up in that sod?

Karen: Hulk and his grass sleeping bag come thumping down inside the mysterious laboratory we saw at the beginning of our tale. Hulk, seemingly revitalized, busts out of the sod and starts yelling. A shadowy figure appears and taunts Hulk, asking him if his is tired. Clamps suddenly shoot from the walls and hold Hulk tight, and the figure steps forward and we see it is Xemnu the Titan, the strange alien invader seen primarily in issues of The Defenders. It turns out that each foe Hulk fought drained off some of the green goliath's strength, to the point where he is now not much stronger than a normal human -- or so Xemnu thinks. Xemnu really has no plan here other than to kill the Hulk -- it seems like he's just out for revenge. But he hasn't counted on two things: the US Army and the Hulk's ability to get stronger the angrier he gets. As he prepares to kill the Hulk, the whole lab is severely shaken, and it looks like the whole place could come crashing down. This gives Hulk the distraction he needs, and he breaks free of his bonds. Xemnu starts to escape in a force sphere, but Hulk latches on to it.  Xemnu and his sphere go blasting out of the lab and into what appears to be an underwater stream. Xemnu tries to goad Hulk into opening his mouth, but Hulk thinks to himself, "Hulk will not do that! Why should Hulk? Hulk does not want to let water in. Hulk will wait until Hulk finds air." Smart guy.

Doug:  It's a little hard to take Xemnu seriously, as he looks like a stuffed animal you might have won throwing darts at balloons at a carnival!  More great dialogue from Claremont in these scenes as well.
Karen: Turns out Xemnu's base was under a dam. Gen. Harrison has been dropping depth charges (!) to flush him out! As Hulk and Xemnu come bursting out, Hulk shatters the force sphere, and they land on the dam. Hulk grabs Xemnu and is about to give him a major league butt whuppin' when one of the depth charges sets off something in the lab and it explodes, causing a huge crack in the dam. The dam bursts, and Hulk and Xemnu are washed away. General Harrison tells command that nothing could have survived that. But we know better. Far downstream, the Hulk rises from the debris, annoyed that he can't find Xemnu and finish him for good. He leaps off into the air, declaring what we all know -"Hulk is the strongest one there is!"

Doug:  General Harrison is more reckless than T-Bolt Ross!  I guess the bath in the raging river gave Hulk back his energy, because there's no talk of him being tuckered out anymore -- but just happy to get away from that stupid forest!

Karen: This story was a lot of fun. Just one slugfest after another, but it really showcases who the Hulk was at this moment in time. I don't care much for Jack Abel paired with Sal Buscema. I'd prefer someone with heavier inks, but the art was still pretty good, and Buscema was clearly recognizable.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ain't Nothin' Like Halloween in Rutland, Vermont! Part 2012

Amazing Adventures #16 (January 1973)
"And the Juggernaut Will Get You... If You Don't Watch Out!"
Steve Englehart-Bob Brown/Marie Severin/Frank McLaughlin

Doug:  Hey, we're back to New England for our 4th annual visit to the Halloween parade that was featured in several Marvel and DC comics in the Bronze Age.  Today we're dropping in on the Bouncing Blue Beast, who Karen and I will tell you never looked better than when rendered by George Perez.  Unfortunately, Sir George isn't the penciller on this ish -- he doesn't do the honors for a couple of years and in the pages of the Avengers.  In Amazing Adventures you were dealt the usual hand of Tom Sutton; today we get a fill-in from Bob Brown.  Now I generally find Brown to be serviceable.  I have liked his work in Daredevil, the Avengers, and the Batman books.  But here...

Karen: I don't know what's going on here; I found Bob Brown acceptable if unexciting on Avengers but this is not his best work, particularly his version of Juggernaut. 

Doug:  If I was driving in some heavily wooded area and a huge blue ape-looking fellow lumbered out into the road, I'd assume I'd just had a sasquatch sighting.  Not so in this case, as it's our hairy hero Hank McCoy who jumps across the pavement in front of a Mustang being driven by none other than our scribe Steve Englehart!  Along for the ride are Len and Glynis Wein and Gerry Conway.  You might notice Marie Severin credited as one of this book's artists -- on the splash page credits, she is listed as the "caricaturist".  Our creative crew leaps from their ride to see the Beast leap off into the brush beside the road.  Marvel's stalwarts are on their way to Rutland, Vermont to meet Tom Fagan and participate in the All Hallow's Eve goings-on.  As for the Beast?  He bounds to a spot where his civvies have been stored -- complete with his mask (OK, don't get us going on that again...).  His lady friend Vera has been left by the side of the road, waiting for her man to return (Hank, there are bears in Vermont).  He does, and tells her that there's a car just up the road in which they can hitch a ride.

Karen: OK, what the heck are Hank and Vera doing just sitting by the side of the road? There's no real explanation as to how they got there. And don't get me started on the super-life-like masks again! I'm reading this out of the Marvel Masterworks edition and Steve Englehart mentions in the foreword that this story was part of a three-way cross-over between this title, Thor, and believe it or not, Justice League (unofficially of course)! I do have Thor #207, which is the second part of this tale. But I've never seen the JLA that finishes it all off.

Doug:  Hank and Vera run up to our friends from New York, and curiously Englehart tells them that the muffler fell off the car and the heater doesn't work -- yet he's wearing a tank top!  They allow Hank and Vera to get in, and away they go.  But what's that big red circle opening in the sky in their wake?  Why it's the Juggernaut's means of dropping back to terra firma.  We get a recap of Juggy's whereabouts -- seems he's been trapped in oblivion, cast there by Eternity after having been confined in Nightmare's realm (sheesh -- Juggy's been on the wrong side of some heavy hitters!).  Now the premise for the remainder of the plot is pretty thin:  the Juggernaut's holder will drop our big baddie on Rutland, VT -- a place where Dr. Strange was a year ago and where the Beast is this day.  The Juggernaut will be able to follow the Beast's emanations and basically do to our hero what he will -- hatred and revenge are front and center.  Nice guy.

Karen: OK, you brought it up in our little editorial post last weekend: Juggy is a big fat blob! I don't know what Brown was going for here, but I'm not feeling powerful and unstoppable here. More like, where's the couch and the Fritos. He looks like a friggin' blimp, for Pete's Sake. The drawing above is actually one of the better ones. 

Doug:  Once the car arrives in Rutland, everyone piles out.  Englehart tells Hank and Vera that they are heading to Fagan's, but that it's invite-only.  Hank says no sweat and asks Vera if she wants to check out the parade.  She replies that they have to get to Canada, and cryptically tells Hank that she needs the very best scientist experienced in mutations.  We then get one of the treats found in these sorts of stories, and that's seeing all of the Marvel and DC character costumes.  By the way, if you want a little retrospective on the real goings-on at Rutland back in the Bronze Age, we'd encourage you to purchase yourself a copy of the current Back Issue.  As the parade kicks off, the Bullpen meets back up with Hank and Vera and tells them that they can go to Fagan's party after all.  But as more smalltalk commences there's a commotion just over Hank's left shoulder -- it's the Juggernaut!

Karen: I'm glad you mentioned that Back Issue article. After reading the comics about the Rutland parades for so many years, it was great to see actual photographs from the parades and parties over the years.

Doug:  The Juggernaut destroys a float while he moves toward Hank -- and the Beast's emanations.  Again, hate and revenge are the agenda of Juggernaut's day, but as he gets close the red circle in the sky opens again and abruptly removes him from the scene.  Somehow in the melee, though, Glynis Wein went missing.  As the Marvel boys fan out to search for her, Hank orders Vera to go check into the motel.  This frees him to go full-on Beast mode and search for the Juggernaut.  He doesn't have to search long, as that mysterious red circle drops Juggy right in front of ol' Hank.  Hank tries to attack by chucking a bunch of rocks, but you know how effective that is.  What follows is a 7-page slugfest where lots of trees, a few boulders, and -almost- a dam are shredded.  But Hank fortuitously falls off the dam and gets himself a breather.

Karen: Yeah, Hank knows he can't beat the Juggernaut, so he leads him away from the town, and tries to figure out what to do. That makes sense.

Doug:   Then Hank does something unexplainable.  He gets back into his civvies and heads up to Tom Fagan's party -- I don't know, drawing the Juggernaut right into the midst of a bunch of innocent bystanders??  We see that Roy and Jeannie Thomas have joined the crowd, but before Hank can find out anything about Glynis the Juggernaut bursts through the wall.  Hank runs, knowing that somehow Juggy can sense his whereabouts.  Heading up the staircase and into the attic, Hank decides to cower on the floor.  But as the Juggernaut draws closer, Hank whirls, whipping his mask off (ah, the mask again) -- and scares the bejeezus out of the Juggernaut!  This creates an opportunity for Hank to launch himself at his foe and rip the Juggernaut's helmet off.  And you know what that means -- a quick and definite decline in mystical power.

Karen: Yeah, it made absolutely no sense that Hank lead Juggernaut back to a house full of people! That was just nuts. Almost as if there had been a miscommunication between writer and artist.Also, perhaps I misunderstood the reason Juggernaut needed the helmet. I thought it protected him from a mental attack by Professor X. I didn't think he lost his might when it was removed.

Doug:  Now it's the Juggernaut who makes tracks.  He runs right out of the house and hops into Englehart's Mustang!  Needless to say it gets destroyed and Hank pours on the attack.  The Juggernaut's no match and succumbs quickly, aging rapidly and getting visibly smaller and weaker.  As the Beast finally lays a hand on him the red circle in the sky appears and whisks the Juggernaut away -- to die, he says!  Back with the Bullpen, Glynis has been discovered and when asked where she was tells that she was in a place she doesn't remember, but had a pretty good time.  Huh?  What are we to make of that?  Anyway, the Beast saunters away, to the forest where he stands in front of a full moon -- until the dawn of the next day.  Vera?

Karen: Obviously the Juggernaut recovered. I think maybe Glynis might have gone over to the DC universe in that JLA issue, but I'm not 100% sure about it. Anybody know for sure? I thought this was a pretty weak story, that was not helped at all by the art.

Doug:  "Mixed bag" would be putting it mildly on this one.  The art ended up being serviceable on all characters except the Juggernaut who just looked fat.  I didn't care for the coloring in the Masterworks, as the Beast was way too dark a shade of blue.  But Bob Brown brought to the table what I'd generally expect.  As to Englehart's script... the inclusion of himself and the Bullpen, while not unusual in these stories, seemed a distraction and a useless plot vehicle.  And Glynis Wein's disappearance?  Your guess remains as good as mine.

Monday, October 29, 2012

BAB Frightfest: That Sex Kitten, Tigra... Monsters Unleashed 10

Monsters Unleashed! #10 (February 1975)
""The Serenity Stealers" (4th story, featuring Tigra)
Chris Claremont (script)/Tony Isabella (plot)-Tony DeZuniga

 As a public service, today's review should be considered as falling somewhere between PG-13 and R.

Doug:  Today we end our 5-part "Frightfest" with a foray into the land of the Marvel black & white magazines.  While Marvel certainly filled up the spinner racks with all sorts of ghouls, ghosts, and goblins, it was on the magazine shelves where some real heavy-hitting creatures lurked.  It's only somewhat obligatory that we give this genre its due in this series of posts.

Karen: I have to admit, when I was a kid- say 9 or 10 - a lot of these black and white mags actually scared me. I'd flip through them nervously at the drugstore or wherever and most of the time put them back on the rack. Occasionally I would pick one up. But they kind of freaked me out. What a chicken.

Doug:  You know, that cover illustration (by Jose Antonio Domingo, by the way) is not only scary, but pretty indicative of what lies within today's tale.  And speaking of tales, how about the homophone "tail", as in when did Tigra get a tail?  She doesn't have one in this story, but certainly by the time we got to the Avengers/West Coast Avengers she sure did.  If I recall, in one of those horribly convoluted West Coast Avengers stories she made some sort of deal with the devil so to speak and was made into a real cat.  Or something like that.  Stripes and fur are her coverage in this story, but that fur isn't hiding the fact that it must be a little chilly at the beginning of the story, as artist Tony DeZuniga leaves no doubt that we are indeed reading a magazine published outside the confines of the Comics Code Authority, nipples and all.  Anyway, today's review centers on the cat-lady's second appearance as the were-woman.  Shall we?

Doug:  We begin on the dark streets of Chicago, where Tigra 1st-person narrates a little bit of her history to get new readers up to speed.  The splash page is split, also telling about a cabbie out for a stroll.  He's a family man, who works very hard to make life easy.  As he walks, and Tigra trails him -- not maliciously, apparently, although she does let us know she's "on the prowl".  Suddenly the man turns, seemingly calling out to his wife and children.  We, the readers, see that he is beset by a trio of crazed, knife-wielding assailants.  Tigra sees, and senses, nothing.  Yet the man is visibly stricken, and when the were-woman descends to investigate she is driven back by a horrific odor.

Karen: Should I start by saying I've never been a fan of the various Philipino artists that were so prominent in these mags and many of the comics back in the 70s? I just never cared for that dreamy, soft style of art. Anyway, this is early Chris Claremont, and you can already pick up on his style here, the first-person narration that was also common to Iron Fist and some of his other titles.

Doug:  Claremont's 1st-person format really seemed to get to me in the Wolverine mini-series.  Every issue began with the same dialogue.  C'mon -- it's a mini-series!  There shouldn't be a jumping-on point!

Doug: Tigra at this point in her history lets us know repeatedly that she is struggling with control between her impulsive cat-nature and the remnants of her compassionate humanity.  Seeking to help the man, Tigra is suddenly taken aback by a flash of light from an alley and the emergence of a huge anthropomorphic rat!  Tigra reacts as a cat would, hissing and fur raising on her back.  Yet before she can instinctively attack the rat-thing, it instead leaps upon the corpse.  Draining it of whatever life force remained, the rat stood up and released a Tarzan-like triumph.  A husk was all that remained of what had once been Richard Diaz, and the rat ran.  Tigra gave chase, and in an Alice-like romp the rat eventually disappeared.  Tigra was frustrated.

Karen: That struggle with her inner demons would go on for a long time -- remember the weird stuff with her eating mice in WCA? Or was she under the influence of a demon? I think I blocked it all out. I was right in there with this story until the giant rat-man showed up. I guess in a book about a were-woman I shouldn't scoff, but rats? Oy.

Doug:  We scene-shift to the home of Dr. Joanne Tumolo, the scientist who had originally endowed Greer Nelson with her super-powers.  Tumolo tells Tigra that the Cat-People (wait for it) can't give any information on the recent murders, all following a pattern similar to what Greer had just witnessed.  Tumolo is concerned for Tigra's safety; Tigra is taken back to the day she was transformed, by the afore-mentioned Cat-People (and did I mention that it is also quite cold in Dr. Tumolo's apartment?  If they were to make a film of this story, any episode of Friends could have served as Jennifer Aniston's audition).  Greer Nelson had been dying of radiation poisoning, and the Cat-People knew how to cure her.  Has anyone out there ever read this story, from Giant-Size Creatures #1?  Below is a synopsis, from the Comic Book Database:

Greer Nelson, who had been given superhuman powers and become the costumed heroine known as the Cat, was shot with an "alpha radiation" pistol when she interrupted Hydra agents attempt to kidnap her mentor, Dr, Joanne Tumulo. Dr. Tumulo revealed that she was a member of a race of humanoids mystically evolved from cats. She could save Greer by making her one of them. Greer agreed. They used a serum to transform her body and an incantation to bind one of their souls to her. The combined being resembled a legendary warrior of the Cat People, Tigra, and she took the name as her own. Tigra, aided by the passing Werewolf By Night, helped the Cat People drive off their attackers from Hydra.

Doug:  After another scene-shift we find one Brock Hunter, self-proclaimed stud about to get his.  But what's weird (well, weirder than the last time the big rat appeared), is that we know he's gonna get it -- but he's transformed into a beautiful woman first!  After the switch, our nasty rat-guy appears and it's a repeat of the previous kill.  Tigra happens to be close by and hustles to the scene of the crime.  This time she's not going to let "Ratso" (hey, how annoying was that nickname?) get away.  Tigra tracks him, to -- a rat hole.  They wind and wind, ever downward, until it opens up into a chamber.

Karen: "Brock Hunter"? Really? That's a name right out of a Saturday Night Live sketch! The shift from Tigra's first-person narration to third person was jarring. Or was it still supposed to be Tigra? But  how could she know all those things about him? I'm confused. I'm also confused as to why he turned into a woman. Because he abused women? Loved them and threw them away? But then why did Diaz see his family -- the most important thing in his life? This is not consistent. And Ratso is an annoying nickname, but Claremont has a habit of using annoying nicknames.

Doug:  At the heart of the chamber was a white witch, who called the rat creature "Aeskla".  She was old and haggard, and said that she needed what the rat had.  And then Chris Claremont used the word "mounted" and DeZuniga gave us a bestial missionary position -- the only saving grace for those of us with weak stomachs is the fact that the witch's gown continues to cover her legs.  The rat-creature releases his hold and the witch now rises as a beautiful white queen.  She sends Aeskla off again, to kill -- the life essence that he brings to her is in effect, her Lazarus Pit.  Tigra hides as the rat exits, and then makes herself known to the woman -- Surisha, revealed as the Mistress of the Dark Circle.

Karen: Although he uses the word "Mounted" there appears to be some sort of material passing from the creature's mouth to the old woman's. It is still unpleasant though. Actually "mounted" was used when the creature attacked Diaz too.

Doug:  Claremont and DeZuniga then use a "split-screen" view to show the next kill, but juxtaposed with Tigra's battle against Surisha.  The next target is a younger man who has just been let go of his job, yet tries to remain self-confident.  Surisha tells Tigra that it is the serenity of a man that she craves, as a vampire craves blood.  The target begins to be drained, as we've seen twice before; but as Tigra battles, the queen finds that her powers do not affect the were-woman.  The cat-side in control, Tigra cannot be tamed.  As the rat moves in for the draining, Tigra slashes Surisha, and draws human blood.  Surisha summons Aeskla, and the man is instantly healed.

Karen: Again, this secondary narration just doesn't work for me -- it's a broken story mechanism. And this time Ratso/Aeskla is talking -why didn't it talk before? The whole serenity of man idea seems a bit off too. And sloppiness -'Aeskla' become "Aekslos' at the end.

Doug:  As Aeskla arrives back in the bowels of the Chicago sewer system, Tigra grabs the queen's sword.  But at that instant, the rat turned away from Tigra and back toward Surisha -- whose serenity was fading.  The rat sensed that, and did what he did -- drained her of her life force.  Trouble was, he hadn't taken into consideration that she was half of his own symbiotic relationship... no more "Ratso".  With that, Tigra gave us one of those Silver Age DC-type explanations, where she told us that her half-human, half-cat status threw her own serenity into question -- the witch didn't know what to do with her and was consequently thrown all out of whack.

Karen: Say what?

Doug:  Exactly.  Well, where to begin with this one?  For starters, if this was supposed to be the second life of Greer Nelson and a better selling point than her first four-color foray as the Cat, I'm not sure today's tale is exactly a sales jump-starter.  On the positive side, Tony DeZuniga's art is pretty good -- for the plot he had to work with.  The rat-creature is pretty scary-looking, and the "mistress of the Dark Circle" is at once ugly and then beautiful.  As we've said several times at the top, the story is heavily over-sexed.  So that would bring us to the words portion of the story.  Tony Isabella's plot seems average at best -- this isn't a terrible story, but there are certainly some holes in it.  The serenity angle is weird to me, first off.  How was it that Tigra just happened to be at the point of the crime?  How did Surisha get in the Chicago sewers (if that is indeed where she was located), and was Aeskla always a rat, or a transformed man?  Did Aeskla impart the life essence to Surisha actually through sexual intercourse, or was that just implied and betrayed by the art?  And lastly, Chris Claremont was not at his finest hour in the dialogue department -- I got very tired of Tigra referring to her nemesis as "Ratso".  And that she didn't recoil at his first appearance -- yeah, I know she's a cat, a were-woman, etc. -- seemed just a bit off to me.  But let's hear my partner's critique...

Karen: Oh, I agree with you, this seemed like a real mess, and I didn't even really care for the art that much. So Surisha feeds off a man's sense of worth -- so Diaz's worth came from his family, Hunter's from his sexual prowess and Edwards from his youth (?) -- OK, I can buy it. But I still don't feel like there's anything here really interesting or exciting. We never do really understand how Tigra found Diaz -- she knows murders have been going on, but apparently the first real lead was finding the rat. It just feels incomplete to me. I think the story could have benefited from some editing.  Of course, it's probably good to remember that these guys were trying to fill up these mags with stories so they were probably just cranking these things out pretty quickly. And it shows.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Marvel and DC Calendars: 1976-78

Doug:  Our good buddy David_b dropped us a note last week to say he's itching to buy some of the Bronze Age calendars, but was having a hard time finding any images that might encourage his bidding.  So, since I happen to have six calendars down in the Batcave, I am going to provide some .jpgs over the next couple of Sundays to help him out.  Of course, the rest of you who are curious can peruse these gems as well.  Enjoy!

Disclaimer -- our camera is terrible; 90% of the time the pictures come out blurry.  Couple that with a hand I'm not going to claim to be steady, and I have to report that I had to leave several months out -- believe it or not, the images below were the good ones!  If my scanner was larger, I'd have done this the right way.  But I still hope you'll get a kick out of what I have to show.  Thanks for your understanding!





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