Monday, January 14, 2013

BAB Classic: The Comics Code Authority: Revised to Relax, Part 3

Avengers #151 (September 1976)
“At Last: The Decision!”
Gerry Conway, Jim Shooter, Steve Englehart-George Perez and John Tartag

Avengers #152
(October 1976)
“Nightmare in New Orleans”
Gerry Conway (Englehart plot)-John Buscema and Joe Sinnott

NOTE:  This post was originally published on July 24, 2009.

Doug: We’re back, with another look at Marvel’s expansion of formerly no-no characters and/or characteristics, as laid down by the Comics Code Authority from the mid-1950’s to the early 1970’s. In this installment, we look at the return of Wonder Man to the Avengers – but not in the Superman form he’d shown waaaayy back in Avengers #9. Nope – this time, he was a zuvembie!!

Doug: So what the heck is a zuvembie, you ask? Well, I always thought it was just a made-up term since zombies were on the “can’t” list of the Code. I was wrong. reports on a 1938 Robert E. Howard (yes, that REH) horror story that used the term. In notes that follow an excerpt from the story, the website says,

NOTES: The zombie-like Zuvembie has the power to control her victims. She places them in a dream-state then commands them. Once in her midst she likes to chop them with hatchet and drink their blood. (

Doug: Over at The All-New, All-Different Howling Curmudgeons blog, there was a nice conversation about this topic. Rather than cut-and-paste their discussion, I’ll leave it to you, the reader, to explore on your own (it really is good stuff to help us along here!!):

Karen: I’ve read that Roy Thomas came up with the term “zuvembie” when Marvel did Brother Voodoo in Strange Tales (a few years before this story). It makes sense, since Thomas is such a REH buff.

Doug: So now I am wondering when Marvel started to produce new material featuring Simon Garth, the Zombie? How does that dovetail with this Wonder Man story? According to The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe (a site chock full of fantastic history!) (, the Zombie’s first appearance was in Menace #5 back in 1953; he was seen next in 1973 in Tales of the Zombie – but that was a Marvel B&W magazine and outside the confines of the Code! But did the Zombie not see the light of four-color day? To the best of my knowledge, Simon Garth does not cross over to the Marvel Universe until Daredevil Annual #9 (1993).

Karen: There’s a fun interview between Stan Lee and Roy Thomas in Comic Book Artist #2, where Roy explains how Stan wanted to add more monster mags to the Marvel line, and came up with titles (Vampire Tales and Tales of the Zombie), but no content! In order to fill the magazines, Roy had to act quickly. He had seen that zombie story in Menace by Stan and Bill Everett, and used that as the genesis for the Zombie. Roy apparently came up with the “Simon Garth” name and idea, and then handed it to Steve Gerber to write.

Karen: Oh, Black Talon. What a terrible get-up. He looks like an evil Foghorn Leghorn.
Doug: Avengers #151 is for the most part the conclusion of a tale that began in #150 and was abruptly halted due to the “Dreaded Deadline Doom” – the second half of that issue was a reprint of the second half of Avengers #16. The focus is on a new line-up, and many Avengers and their allies were present for the selection process. The highlight of #’s 150-151 is the art of George Perez, who really gets to cut loose on several key scenes from Avengers history. However, near the end of #151 when Iron Man announces the new roster, a large crate positioned conveniently nearby (wouldn’t you suppose Avengers Mansion would have a freight entrance?) begins to quake. Suddenly it bursts open to reveal Wonder Man!

Doug: “He…did it. He…is the one…the one who stole my mind!” So proclaims Wonder Man, with an accusatory finger wagging toward the Vision. And thus ends the prologue to the story that will be told in issue #152.

Karen: I have to say, Avengers sure had a lot of fill-ins around this time. It was aggravating.

Doug: Issue #152 features a trip to New Orleans to discover the reason Wonder Man is alive. More than that, I was really preoccupied with the upgrade in Wanda’s powers. She seems like a cross-section of Marvel Girl and Zatanna. Her probability-altering powers have been replaced by powers of clairvoyance/discernment, and of “hexes” that generate force. While I thought Gerry Conway wrote everyone “in-character” (why do I feel the need to keep bringing that up today?), it’s a darker Vision we see with the presence now of a revived Simon Williams – whose very brain patterns form the basis for the Vision’s artificial mind.

Karen: Bringing back Wonder Man was a nice way to unsettle what had become a comfortable existence for the Vision. He began questioning his identity all over again.

Doug: The villain du jour is a voodoo priest named the Black Talon – one of many African-American characters created in the 1970’s to bear the name “Black” (Black Lightning, Black Goliath, et al.). He doesn’t get a lot of screen time, and proves to be not much of an obstacle against the Avengers. He summons some dark god, and refers to another whom he (and Wonder Man) serves. The story basically ends with not much resolved, other than Wonder Man is not the only zuvembie.

Doug: So, the verdict on the living dead walking once again among us? That’s just it – there are plenty of walking dead in this story, and I would guess they had been around in other books around this time. Does changing the name from zombie to zuvembie lighten the load? I would say no, and then ask what the big deal was. As we mentioned earlier in our posts on the Man-Wolf, Marvel in this day never really delved into the ramifications of just what a creature like a werewolf or a zombie would do, or mean, or how they would behave, etc. It seems they are more for exploratory purposes at this point, and not for deep introspection by the writers.

Karen: It’s particularly amusing when you consider how many zombie titles are on the market now. To the best of my knowledge, none of the zombies – or zuvembies – in the books we’ve talked about were flesh-eating ghouls. In fact, they were probably not much different from the Frankenstein Monster, who had been appearing in Marvel books for years! The Code was essentially unnecessary at that time for Marvel, as they did a good job of policing themselves. Stan had set certain standards, and at least at that point in time (the mid-1970s), Marvel was standing by them. I wonder what Stan would make of a book like Marvel Zombies?


Anonymous said...

Hi Guys,
Couple of thoughts:
Doug: While I thought Gerry Conway wrote everyone “in-character” (why do I feel the need to keep bringing that up today?)
If I remember rightly, this issue begins with Wanda acquiring the power of flight out of nowhere. I realise that’s not what you mean by in character, but pretty fundamental nonetheless.
Karen: “what had become a comfortable existence for the Vision”
First identity crisis when he was created, 2nd when Ultron re-took control, 3rd when he found out about the brain patterns thing, 4th when he fell in love with Wanda, 5th when a sentinel told him he was way older than he thought, 6th when the Grim Reaper made him an offer he could refuse, 7th when started freezing up and being terrified of seemingly usual (for Avengers) situations, 8th when he found out he was the human torch as well as Wonder Man....he’s had more nervous breakdowns than Mick Jagger.
Karen: “To the best of my knowledge, none of the zombies in the books we’ve talked about were flesh-eating ghouls. The Code was essentially unnecessary at that time for Marvel, as they did a good job of policing themselves.”
I agree. I seem to remember the Wendigo origin as being horrific when I was little, but when I re-read it a few years back, someone just says he was ...eating....and they leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Karen said...

Hi Richard,

I think (if I recall correctly) that Wanda's flying was actually Buscema's error -that he drew her flying and they had to go with it.

As for my comment about the Vision's then-comfortable existence, I'll stand by it.If you look at the time period from when he married Wanda until Wonder Man returned, Vision had really resolved most of his issues and well, had become a bit boring. Bringing Wonder Man back was a good way to stir things up again. Although Englehart is a favorite of mine, I always felt that the Vision became pretty bland once he settled down and had kids. His entire character had been defined by his concerns over his own humanity, and once these seemed to be satisfied, there wasn't too many places for him to go.


Matthew Bradley said...

I know it's not really relevant to the whole Code discussion, but I can't help pointing out that this marks one of my favorite periods in my long-term favorite Marvel book, leading into the awesome crossovers with AVENGERS ANNUAL #6 (which I know you cover in a later post) and especially my underdog fave, SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP. Conway, Englehart, Perez, Buscema, and Sinnott? I think I died and went to Heaven! And Shooter can go elsewhere...

Edo Bosnar said...

Funny you guys decided to re-post this now - I'm currently reading through my "Bride of Ultron" book, and just last night read Avengers #160, featuring the Grim Reaper's 'trial' of Vision and Wonder Man, and this story was heavily referenced therein.
I also got a laugh out of Karen's Foghorn Leghorn observation; in fact, they should have called him something like Brother Leghorn, Dr. Orpington or Captain Wyandotte...
Also, concerning Karen's comment above, about Vision becoming a bit boring, I have to say that this is why I always thought his marriage to Wanda was kind of a bad idea - it actually made both of them a bit boring if they were happy. On the other hand, it gets irritating if their marriage is always undergoing some kind of crisis.

david_b said...

Firmly agreed with Edo as the wedding mis-step. Actually, it wasn't so much the wedding, you still could have had solo stories or missions with one and not the other, angst/jealousy, and all the spark of earlier stories; instead the writers chose to permanently keep them together in nearly each panel and take focus off of them, sort of 'well, they're domestic now, so let them fade into the background'. THAT progession should be criticized more so than the idea to wed itself. They probably saw the Reed-Sue model and used that construct. The Attuma arc and the fight with Wonderman were steps in the right direction, they should have had more of that.

To be blunt, Wanda wasn't all that interesting before she got hitched, until Mantis came on the scene as the 'team whore' (as deliberately referenced by a Bullpen member in the 'Untold Stories' book) and the jealousy storyline played itself out, a huge thanks to Mr. Englehart.

As for the mention of uneven story execution during this period, I do find the entire 151-162 period as a definitely high-point for the Avengers during this time-frame (I didn't like the preceeding Tuska/Heck art nor Hellcat..). I had stopped collecting back at ish 129 due to lousy mid-west distribution and I distinctly recall seeing 151 and 152 on the racks and sayin' 'Hmmm, this looks like great art' so I bought 'em and the next dozen issues or so until losing interest again.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Regarding the Black Talon's costume: Yeah, the design is pretty bad or at least not very well thought out. Still, I don't think the renditions that John Buscema or George Perez did were *that* bad. What everyone remembers is that version from the issue's Jack Kirby cover... and the King did drop the ball on this one.

Which is kind of atypical actually. Kirby did a LOT of covers for Marvel around this time, including a year-long run on the Avengers and most were really good. (If you couldn't get the King the illustrate the stories others wrote, at least you could get him to illustrate the covers, which is something.)

But this one obviously stumped him...

Inkstained Wretch said...

BTW -- Regarding zombies it is kind of a pet peeve of mine that their connection to voodoo -- where the term comes from in the first place -- is so rarely made nowadays. This Avengers story is a rare example that does do that (and it is more than three decades old now).

Ever since Night of the Living Dead -- an admittedly great film -- people only think of them as rotting, flesh-eating monsters. I've even heard people argue over what the "rules" for zombies are ("They have to move slow!" "No, they can run fast! Haven't you seen the Dawn of the Dead?") as if that stuff wasn't made up strictly for films...

No, traditional zombies are the slaves of voodoo masters. I've made it a crusade to get move people to see 1932's White Zombie and 1942's I Walked With A Zombie to straighten this out.

dbutler16 said...

Well, the wedding between Vizh and Wanda did do one good thing - it got us to see the Vision in a bathing suit.

Garett said...

Love that Buscema panel with the snake dance--perfect subject for Buscema. Also the "Wonder Man!" panel, refreshing Perez art.

"Brother Leghorn"--haha Edo! : )

humanbelly said...

Yeesh, you could have this guy, Tyroc, and the Hypno Hustler in a "Who's got the most humiliating costume?" smack-down. Cripes-- Dark Super-Chicken, as it were. Who knew the trend had started that early?


Karen said...

Not sure what happened but that post got a little mixed up in the reposting I think. But you all seemed to have enjoyed it regardless.

I have to say, I am zombied out. I really don't care if they are fast or slow, flesh eaters or voodoo servants, I just don't want to see them any more!I think we need a new supernatural fixation. Trolls? I don't know.

humanbelly said...

Hmm. Not a bad point, Karen. Especially since (to my mind) it's ultimately such a limited genre' when you get down to basics. Be they science-based or supernatural. . . the zombies themselves aren't particularly interesting as characters, which really limits any sustained interest for me.

Let's see-- a new supernatural fixation. How 'bout. . . let's see. . . maybe. . . maybe. . . Aha! VAMPIRES! I bet no one would see THAT comin'--!! (*choke*-- sorry folks, sorry)

Myself, I've been kind of enjoying the wave of updated fairy-tale based shows and movies of the last couple of years-- although I haven't been able to immerse myself in them as much as I'd like. But-- saw a trailer for "HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS" recently, which doesn't appear to be aiming for the wry or the ironic, so I'm thinking that this sub-trend may already have peaked. That's kind of too bad, as there truly is a vast wealth of public-domain material to be drawn from for both adaptation and inspiration.

Beyond that, I feel like it's been quite some time since we've had a straight science-fiction fixation on television and in films. . . and the pendulum may be due to swing back that way before too long.


david_b said...

I'm for one glad the 'zombie' stuff is (hopefully) dying down. I remember reading certain police departments now undergoing 'zombie defense training'.


It's developed into more than an urban myth - Taxpayer money is now set aside for it in certain areas. I'd LOVE to just sit in the first day of class for that.

Like all the vampire stuff of the early '70s.., jeez, enough already.

Still LMAO about the Lincoln 'Vampire Hunter' and Lincoln vs Zombies movies.

Jeez, before you know it, FDR'll be next.


Ok, who's up for 'Jimmy Carter vs. Bigfoot'..?

Edo Bosnar said...

If Tim Burton's doing the Hansel & Gretel flick, I'd go see it...
David, I don't know if Carter will ever go after Bigfoot, but according to Kim Stanley Robinson, he did met a yeti in Katmandu while speaking at some kind of UN conference in Nepal in the early 1980s (if you're interested, read Robinson's "Escape from Katmandu").

Doug said...

This rerun has truly enjoyed a new life, almost an afterlife so to speak. It's... a zuvembie!

I really enjoy everyone's input each day, and to my dying day won't understand why our non-commenting readers don't get in on and relish the fun that has become our little Bronze Age community.


WardHill Terry said...

Okay, Doug, I'll end my observational silence. I enjoy the hell out of this site, but usually my time is very limited, so I don't take time to comment. Oh, but the posts I've conceived in my mind! I hereby resolve to try to be a more active participant! Mostly, because I think there needs to be more DC boosting, and I'm the guy for that.

Doug said...

A lurker exposed! Wardhill Terry, a hearty welcome to you!

In an effort to get some more DC going, I'll be writing reviews for another Haney/Adams B&B featuring the Flash, a Kubert Tarzan one-and-done, as well as a Thomas/Rogers Earth-2 Batman story. Karen and I have long discussed the need to get more Legion reviews going. So while we are Marvel Zombies (heh), we are aware that some of our readers are a bit more diversified.

Again, welcome. I can die a happier man now!


Karen said...

Welcome Wardhill Terry! Glad you made the jump. I know what you mean about finding the time to comment -believe me, finding the time to POST is a struggle! I appreciate you stepping forward, and as Doug says, we'll try to give DC a little more love this year. heck, I have two Jack Kirby Fourth World Omnibuses (Ominbusi?) that I can review, so there's no excuse, really.

Hope to hear from you again-

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