Monday, August 5, 2013

Time Doesn't Wait for Me... Marvel Team-Up 9

Marvel Team-Up #9 (May 1973)
"The Tomorrow War"
Writer: Gerry Conway
Pencils: Ross Andru
Inker: Frank Bolle

Karen: It's Team-Up time! You know we love the team-ups around here, and we love Spidey. So we're going to dive into a three-part MTU story  and then add on a couple of Amazing Spider-Mans to round things out. I hope you're up for some web-slinging goodness!

Doug:  Before we get to the nitty gritty, how about that cover?  According to the Grand Comics Database, it's by Jazzy Johnny Romita (I would have guessed that) with inks by Joe Sinnott (I wasn't sure there).  Talk about two iconic poses!  I have no idea who would have written the cover's text, but it would certainly rank among the wordiest jobs of the Bronze Age!

Karen: It's a sharp cover. Romita can do no wrong in my book.

Doug:  I want to add a NOTE here at the top of today's post.  As you read through, you are going to notice several hyperlinks throughout the text.  We thought it would be fun to create sort of a "jumping on" post for new readers, so where appropriate (or where our memories were actually working!), we set it up so you could track through a little BAB history.  Have fun with it! 

Karen: I may as well also mention here that all of the artwork for these MTU reviews will be coming from the Marvel Masterworks volume 1 version, which is why they are a) so brilliantly colored, and b) at times, slightly distorted around the edges (trying not to break the spine of the book as I scan!). With that out of the way, let's get on to our story.

Karen: Unfortunately our webhead is not feeling too friendly when we start our tale. I have to say this is about the crankiest interpretation of Peter Parker I've ever seen. I know Gerry Conway has said that it took him a while to get a handle on Spidey, and it feels like it here. The tale actually opens with our guest star, Iron Man. We see what appears to be an earthquake shaking up NYC, specifically, Avengers Mansion! A police officer at the scene decides that the Avengers must know what's going on and heads towards the mansion -inexplicably, with his gun drawn! It becomes clear from his dialogue that he's not too fond of these "costumed vigilantes," as he puts it. As he gets closer, he's stunned to see the mansion suddenly disappear and then reappear! He starts ranting about what he's seen, wondering what sort of game the Avengers are playing, when a voice from over head chimes in. The startled officer looks up and then says, "So it's you." I thought that was kind of odd. He still has his gun out too. The target of his scorn is Iron Man. The golden avenger lands near him and reminds him that they're on the same team. The officer starts yelling at him about what's going on, but IM sort of steam rolls past him towards the Mansion, until he slams into an invisible force barrier. It knocks him on his can (so to speak) but that just makes him more determined to break through.

Doug:  Marvel sure milked the "distrusting cop" thing, didn't they?  If Marvel Time was real time, super-heroes would have been around for over 40 years by the time of this adventure; certainly the Marvel Universe as we know it would have been over a decade old.  So that there were still folks who didn't appreciate having had their bacon saved a bazillion times seemed odd; you'd think bailing the Earth out of the Galactus situation would have been enough to win people over.  And you're right about the cop having drawn his gun.  Really?  Because that's going to help solve the mystery of an earthquake?

Karen: Now we finally get to the star of our mag. Peter Parker has apparently just arrived home at the apartment he shares with his pal Harry Osborn (a caption tells us this story takes place before ASM 119 and 120 -that would be Spidey's swingin' adventure with the Hulk). He flips on the TV and sees the whole situation with Iron Man on the tube, but he's in a foul mood. "You could probably use some help, but right now I've had it with the compadre bit. I've got enough troubles of my own without getting involved with every world-shaking threat to come down the pike!" He thinks to himself that the Fantastic Four can help out -he's tired and just wants a bath. But then, who should appear but the ever-charming Harry, who swings open his bedroom door and yells at Pete for playing the TV too loudly. He tells him he's had it with his attitude and  "if you can't have respect for your room-mate's wishes -then get out!" This ticks Peter off so much that he decides to get out -and we all know where he's going!

Doug:  I also appreciated Roy Thomas' inclusion of the box that alerted us to this story taking place before Spidey's trip to Canada in ASM #'s 119-120.  Looking at Harry's and Peter's dispositions, and not looking at cover dates for any other mags, I'd have placed this one after the events of ASM #'s 121-122, with Harry all strung out and/or despondent over his father's death, and Peter likewise after Gwen's murder.  It's funny -- Peter's thought that he saw Iron Man's trouble and made a decision right then to not help him out was a definite example of superdickery.  I'd also comment that herein also lies part of the charm of these early Marvel Team-Ups:  the creators could have done a story where Daredevil was the one who happened by, or perhaps Luke Cage would have seen the same story and responded in hopes of getting a paycheck from the Avengers.  Personally, I liked the first few years of this mag when it might be Spidey, the Torch, or even the Hulk as the lead in that month's team-up.  That Spider-Man eventually became the sole lead was fine, but there was some lost potential along the way as well.

Karen: Agreed- it might have been fun to see more variety in the team ups, although it might not have sold as well without Spidey. We cut back to Shellhead trying to blast his way through the force field surrounding Avengers Mansion. He's not having any luck. Spidey shows up and makes the usual quips, but Iron Man's in a bad mood too, and tells the web-head that he doesn't need his help. Did everyone get out of the wrong side of the bed this morning or what? The two of them start to argue when IM notices a hole forming in the barrier. Spidey, behaving rather impetuously, jumps through the opening, followed by Iron Man. They immediately find themselves in trouble, as they fall through a strange limbo realm of green strands. They land on some sort of large platform, a little worse for wear. Iron Man tries to get an energy reading, while Spider-Man looks above and spots a battle between some flying craft. After one of the crafts is damaged, Shellhead jets off to investigate but is quickly captured in an energy snare by the remaining ship. Iron Man tells Spidey to escape but Spidey says it's pointless, and besides, "I'm not in the habit of running out on people, even armor covered jerks like you." Boy, Spidey is just in a foul mood! Web-head gets ready for a fight as the ship lands in front of him, but a voice from the vehicle claims to be a friend, not a foe. He claims he immobilized Iron Man to stop him from attacking his ship. The door of the ship opens and a bald head pops out. It's not Lex Luthor but Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man. Huh? Yes, an extremely obscure Thor villain.

Doug:  For one of the smartest guys in the Marvel Universe, Tony Stark came off as a lunkhead.  Brute force against the force field?  Repulsor rays that could ricochet into the crowd of police and onlookers?  Hello, dude!  How about a little analysis?  Which ironically is what he does right after our heroes land after going through the portal; which, by the way, I wholeheartedly agree was a dumb move.  On the one hand, yes -- it appeared to be the only way to get inside.  But on the other, with no knowledge of who created the forcefield or what its actual properties were, jumping right on through was just dumb.  And these were two science guys...  No one had a conscience about the possibilities for disaster?

Karen: Spider-Man seems especially impulsive here, but I guess you gotta get the story moving somehow!

Doug:  Limbo is a very odd place, isn't it?  How do you prefer its depiction?  Like the rainbow-timestream we discussed in the Legion reviews a few weeks back, or as here in some strange Ditkoesque scape of some sort?  Personally, the dungeon-like labyrinth that we saw during the Celestial Madonna saga was OK by me.   Anyway, once our featured do-gooders got to superheroing, their moods seemed to improve.  I thought it was funny, in regard to our recent review of Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 and Spider-Man taking a powder when it looked like Thanos held all the cards, that in this tale he is not leaving (he can't, really) but instead fights like a tiger.  Interesting dichotomy -- certainly either episode gives the reader a little leeway in the perception of Peter's character, given the circumstances of the time.

Doug:  As Ross Andru was the artist on the Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man treasury, Zarrko certainly did give off a Lex Luthor vibe, didn't he?  Although I think Bronze Age Lex was a bit more fit than our Tomorrow Man... 

Karen: Zarkko brings Spidey and Iron Man aboard his ship and explains to them why he has brought them to this place. Zarrko is from the 23rd century, a time when weapons have been outlawed, which made his people very vulnerable when they were invaded by forces from even further in the future. Only our buddy Z, because of his previous experiences in our time period, had the ability to fight back. But even so, the invaders established a citadel in his New York of the 23rd century (which is shown as a mix of 20th century buildings, and oddly, flat brown blocks), and what's worse, they've kidnapped the Avengers! Zarrko was trying to bring them to his time to help him and the invaders intercepted them. Now they are trapped in the citadel, which is heavily guarded. It's too much for Zarrko's people -but not too much for Spidey and Iron Man. With nothing more than this flimsy story to go on, our heroes dive out of Z's ship and take on the guards. Iron Man bashes the ground troops while Spidey swings to the top of the fortress and handles the riflemen.They still have to get through a massive door. Shellhead uses a laser in his glove to burn around the edge of the door while Spidey braces it with his webbing. IM questions whether the webbing is up to the task, and Spidey tells him unless he has a tractor, nothing will move it. Iron Man then kicks on the door, which tears through the webbing, and the whole thing comes crashing down. This leads to another mean-spirited remark from our web-slinger: "Okay pal -you're a tough dude. Big deal. Everyone's on an ego trip." 

Doug:  One has to wonder if the God of Thunder had sat down to enter his adventures against Zarrko in the Avengers bad guy databases.  Iron Man and Spidey do seem pretty gullible here.  Although the straits were pretty dire -- most folks don't just encounter inter-dimensional attacks and time travel every day.  Are we to believe Zarrko, that he could fight tech from his future with weaponry from our present?  Is that how his story reads?  I thought the scene with the big door was pretty interesting in that it showed how strong Spider-Man's webbing was, and then how much stronger Iron Man is.  I'm sure it was a blow to Peter's ego, but hey -- two things:  he did invent the webbing, no matter how great it is, as a teenager (what could AIM, or Stark International, or Wakandan technology have done to augment it?), and Iron Man does have the best tech gear in the Marvel Universe this side of Doctor Doom.  I think this depiction of Iron Man and his personality is pretty typical of how I saw him in the Bronze Age, outside of his own magazine -- superdickery, indeed.  But you know why we love this stuff?  It's a Marvel comic, with people who have a bad day, which influences not only their actions but other people as well.  DC was way behind on this as consistent characterization for their heroes.

Karen: Once through the door, our grumbling duo encounters troops on flying rocket sleds, who start firing on them. Spidey decides to try something he says he hasn't done in a long time and begins firing webs around -he's spinning an enormous web! Sure enough, the sleds slam into it and are out of commission. Spidey cracks wise and Iron Man jumps on him, basically telling him his smart-aleck routine isn't fooling him, he knows that he's just as nervous as he is, concerned over the captured Avengers. Gee, these two are about as much fun as a toothache. Just as Iron Man starts to jet off, he's slammed hard in the midriff by a huge metal fist! Then an incredibly goofy-looking robot appears, blathering on about how the Master commands they will not proceed. Shellhead utters the obligatory, "My heart...!" and collapses, with various mechanical doohickeys falling out of his armor. The giant robot sees this and then becomes really upset, perceiving that IM is not a machine but a living being -"This is sacrilege. You are a ...cyborg." Spidey jumps to IM's side to try to help but the bot swipes him away. He clambers up the wall and sprays the robot's eye with webbing, then somehow knocks him out by punching him in the back of the neck. I'm not sure exactly what happened there - did he find the off switch? Spidey helps Iron Man up; he's "re-wired" himself, so apparently he's on the mend. They start heading for what they presume is the inner chamber of the citadel.

Doug:  Where have we seen this degree of animosity between heroes before?  Ben and Johnny?  I'm thinking not, because as much as they get under each other's skin, at the end of the day there is still that bond of "big brother-little brother" between them.  As I read on, this was becoming sort of uncharted territory.  But as I said above, it was OK -- out of the ordinary, but it didn't feel all that bad.

Karen: It's just so weird because they really have no reason to be so ticked off at each other! Typically there's some sort of misunderstanding that leads to the heroes fighting each other, and then working together, but here, it's just like, "Hey jerk, I'm gonna help ya whether ya like it or not!"

Doug:  The scene with the giant robot was indeed odd.  It was almost like some Silver Age mag with a giant monster or robot thrown in for visual effect.  The "personality" of this creature was grating, even in the few panels to which we were exposed to it, and its defeat seemed simplistic.  I wrote it off to Spider-Man finding a weak spot in the joint between shoulder and neck -- but yeah, given Spider-Man's strength compared to the scale of the robot it did seem like a quick fix that worked.  And the heart thing with Tony Stark...  How in the world did he "re-wire" himself?  Wasn't he remarking that the batteries in his chest (?) were shattered, and he needed to "reconnect"?  I assumed he was looking for some sort of power source, but I don't know that he found anything.  Nor do I believe that he'd have been equipped to draw on any 23rd Century power source.  Oh, well. 

Karen: While our heroes fight outside the citadel, old baldy -Zarrko -lands his ship and makes his way inside. He says something about how their presence has lowered the time storm level, which will allow him to control the temporal energies. Then he gives an exultant cry about 'controlling all.' What exactly he means is unclear, but from the way he says it you know it can't be anything good. 

Doug:  Not only could Zarrko have been a super-baddie on the 1966 Batman show, but his gauge looks to have been a prop on that very program!

Karen: Back in the inner chamber of the citadel, Spidey and Iron Man get through the final airlock and see before them the Avengers, all trapped inside what looks like glass rectangles. This reminded me of the Collector's set up on the cover of Avengers #119, or Avengers Annual #7, when Thanos had Earth's Mightiest imprisoned in stasis beams. What's really amusing here is it looks like Jarvis trapped is with them! Iron Man freaks out upon seeing them, and Spidey points out a figure at the far end of the room, saying he must be the one responsible for it all. A shocked Shellhead says, "Don't you realize who that is?" And around turns -Kang! He says a little spiel about how fearsome he is and then zaps both heroes, seemingly into unconsciousness. While Kang gloats over them, Zarrko sneaks up behind him and announces that "thanks to these credulous imbeciles" he will now use Kang's power to attack 1973! Good going, heroes! Spidey, not unconscious but paralyzed, hears this and realizes that they "blew it" -but quickly wonders: what can they do now?

Doug:  I also noticed Jarvis hanging there!  And hey -- what about Cap's mask?  Looks like Reb Brown...  I have to say, I'm reading for this 3-parter from Essential Marvel Team-Up volume 1, and in the B&W reproductions you can really tell where shortcuts were sometimes taken by the artists.  Color covers up quite a bit of "sketchiness".  What did you think of the way Ross Andru drew Kang?  I sort of liked it -- again, not having the coloring it looked good.  Kang seemed a little leaner, maybe a little cat-quick.  In multi-part team-up stories, knowing new heroes will be added to the mix each month, I always have a sense of anticipation for how they'll be worked into the story in a seamless manner.

Karen: This one was a real mixed bag. The art was not bad, although I've never been a big Ross Andru fan -and who is Frank Bolle? I don't think I've ever heard of him before. But I didn't feel Conway had Spidey's voice here, or if he did, he had a very grumpy, unpleasant Spidey/Peter. I looked over at the Amazing Spider-Man issues around the same time period and he didn't seem to write Peter so belligerent. I guess we'll just chalk it up to experimentation or a bad week or something. But the feeling I got reading it was that both Spidey and Iron Man would have easily won our 'jerks' post the other week! The plot is a bit weak -really, both Spidey and Iron Man just take Zarrko's word for what's going on? But let's see where things go next time.

Doug:  I will agree with you on all of your summary points.  Although I have a soft spot in my heart for Ross Andru's Spider-Man (he was "the guy" when I began reading ASM), I've never felt he was all the way to my liking.  He seems more of the style of a Ditko or Kane, while I prefer John Romita's Spider-Man.  Andru can also be questionable when working on other characters -- he did a really short run on the Fantastic Four and I didn't care for it.  But if nothing else, this was familiar.  I did think Andru channeled Gene Colan a time or two in some of the Iron Man panels.  And concerning Frank Bolle -- I also had no real knowledge of the man's career, so here's one more chance for you to go "off-campus" and check out this chronological list of his career, which began in the Golden Age!


Anonymous said...

You mentioned " distrusting cops " not liking super-heroes, I could never understand what J. Jonah Jameson had against Spider Man - he conducted a hate campaign against poor Spidey. Aunt May was always bleating about " that awful Spider Man "- nobody seemed to thank him for continually putting his life on the line for them, ungrateful lot !

david_b said...

This was a quirky tale, both art and story seemingly rushed.

First the story: You got your grumpy heroes (MTU was designed to showcase different types of stories from the main titles, perhaps the Spidey/Torch love-hate was mimiced here for effect, but as mentioned, it didn't make sense with Tony Stark..), you got your then-obligatory madman and giant robot (thrown in for yet another padded fightscene), then Kang, which was a nice choice.., but like some appearances of Doom or Red Skull done by other writers, Kang should be left more regal, less hands-on of a villain. It's a sort of by-the-numbers story, one of which didn't require much more than an all-nighter at Dennys to write, perhaps.

The art..? I liked Andru if he had the right inker. The later Spidey issues had the protruding jawline just a bit too much, and facial closeups were always drawn at the same angle. This probably was one of the earlier Spidey stories drawn by Andru and pace/action-wise it looks good. I didn't like the mis-coloring of Ironman's neck several times, hence it looking like a rush-to-deadline type of job. Nevertheless, this was one of the better early MTU's; ish 11 with the Inhumans was a good finale to this storyline, but this issue has it's quirky charm.

Doug said...

You know, David, as I mentioned that I used the Essentials for my reading and comments, I'm quite surprised to see the coloring for this issue. Some person did not get the Marvel style guide for Iron Man and Kang! Both are off in places!

Does anyone else see a Gene Colan vibe in some of the IM renderings?

And if you thought this issue was quirky, wait until we review MTU #10 next Monday. Wow...


david_b said...

Actually another comment quick..

Agreed on the over-abundance of word balloons on the cover. A very eye-catching cover like this certainly didn't need the additional 'busyness' of word balloons, which essentially didn't add anything. If you look at other covers that month (and the month before/after), there was quite an abundance.

But they certainly detract from this otherwise excellent cover. I could have simply chosen a larger text/title box at the bottom with essentially the same content verbalized by Spidey and IM.

Doc Savage said...

Back in the '60s it was explained that JJJ resents Spidey for being a better man than JJJ could ever be. I alway felt that it would have been cool character development for JJJ to eventually stop demonizing Spidey. Seems like it went on so long as to become silly.

Doc Savage said...

I find the coloring in the Masterworks jarring when compared to the original comics. Everything is so BRIGHT due to the white paper. I prefer reading the Essentials as a result.

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, Zarrko is featured in the current issue of the Hulk.

Fred W. Hill said...

This was my introduction to Kang and as a 10 year old kid I enjoyed this 3 parter although now it strikes me as rather clunky. Interestingly, of Conway's nearly first year of issues on Amazing prior to #121, I don't recall much Harry showing up much at all until the opening of that particular issue, showing Harry sick in bed after abusing drugs again. In other words, not a lot of (or any!)foreshadowing of the horror to come. Their spat here seems more like part of the growing tension shown in the main mag just before Harry snuck into Peter's room and found the Spider-Man costume.
Also, not something I recall noticing before but Pietro was in Kang's Rack-O'Avengers. Hmmm, that would indicate this had to have taken place before the events of Avengers #102-104, several months earlier (at least in real time).
Finally, seems in this era, a lot of characters were written in perpetual bad moods prompting even Ben Grimm to quip about it in a scene set in Times Square on New Year's Eve 1973 shortly after Reed & Sue seperated and Crystal ditched Johnny for Pietro (who was ticked off about his sister's budding romance with "that robot!"). What a fun era!

Humanbelly said...

WILDLY O.T.-- but we've been on vacation for many days. . . :

Doug, where did you pull this month's masthead image from? I have a B&W print of it in a french "History of the Comic Strip" textbook from the early 70's (of all places), and could never track down the original source. Geeze, what a GREAT vintage poster that'd make-!

Thanks-- sorry for the interruption, teammates. I have this issue of MTU, in fact, and remember the story being servicable, I suppose, but that it was too much of a B-list type of appearance for Kang-- much like Hulk #135. (Although I did love Hulk #135, and thought that Roy wrote a great Kang in that particular issue. . . but, heh, that's even further OT-afield. . . )


Doug said...

HB (and others) --

Here's the URL for the image on our masthead. This is MUCH sharper than what you'll find on our front page. For some reason when I copy images to PowerPoint to make those mastheads the images always get blurry.


Anonymous said...

First off, talk about superdickery indeed - Gerry Conway was just following the old Marvel script, i.e. two heroes have a misunderstanding, punch it out and then team up to fight another foe. However, I don't think he got ol' webhead's and shellhead's 'voices' right. Apart from being just mean to each other, they both seem slightly out of character somehow. I suspect this was one of those issues which was rushed to beat the dreaded Marvel deadline.

As for the artwork, it looks okay from the scans. Not spectacular, but workmanlike. Ross Andru certainly seemed to be channeling Gene Colan's version of Iron Man, especially when he draws IM's epaulettes round like that.

One point about Spidey's webbing and IM easily tearing it down - I think many writers have varied the strength of Spidey's webbing over the years according to the needs of the story. Here, it looks like IM easily knocks the door down, giving the impression the webbing wasn't that strong. I recall a Spidey story years ago where he managed to restrain the Hulk (for a short while at least) by unloading all his web cartridges and enveloping ol' Greenskin in a web cocoon!

- Mike 'the yesterday man' from Trinidad & Tobago.

J.A. Morris said...

I enjoyed this multi-part story, even if it doesn't make much sense (even for a time-travel saga). But I've only read it in the Treasury Edition reprint, everything looks better in a tabloid sized comic.

Rip Jagger said...

I found this particular team-up huge fun because it brought back Zarko who had been ignored for years at that point. I read the first Zarko stories in Marvel Tales and was excited to see new stuff. There is a special zest about those earliest Marvel villains, even some of the lamest ones.

Rip Off

Rip Jagger said...

Make that "Zarrko". Sheesh I can't spell, but then I don't speak that futuristic dialect.

Rip Off Again

Anonymous said...

I started buying MTU with #12 and then pretty religiously for the next 6-7 years. So thanks Doug and Karen for featuring this 3-parter that I just missed out on.

Just to jump in on some of the topics raised - superdickery, "voice" of characters, dreaded deadline doom, Marvel continuity, etc. It had to be a bear to churn out this title every month during these times. As this was only the ninth issue, it had been less than a year that it was out. Probably the only real drivers of this title were "more is more" - a monthly mag featuring multiple heroes would sell. Things like the stories making sense, fitting them into existing canon and getting them out on time were just details to be figured out along the way.

Also, about superdickery and voices - remember this was at the time of Watergate, Vietnam winding down to a loss, etc. Not to mention the revolving door of the editor-in-chief. I'm sure some of that dickery/tension was a bit of art imitating life.


Karen said...

Sometimes I feel like I'm too hard on the books we review. They're just entertainment, after all. But even entertainment should attempt to have some semblance of sense, or quality. I suppose it comes down to expecting more from the parties involved.

That being said, these issues are also a good reminder that not everything published during our precious Bronze Age was awesome and wonderful. There were plenty of stinkers too. Perhaps they even serve to illustrate just how great the really exceptional stuff was. Without them, our measuring stick would be incomplete.

We just need to review fewer of them! You skim through a book, think it looks OK...and then find out you have a turd on your hands!

Matthew Bradley said...

This was one of the random issues my older brother bought back in the day, but as much as I love that cover, I'm sorry to say that when I re-read it after several years, the issue itself fell far short of my memories. The "superdickery" was hardly unique to this story yet, as noted, it's not really motivated here. And although I'm generally an Andru-booster, I thought his Iron Man was at best inconsistent and at worst just...wrong. It was years before I learned how this story came out, but at the moment, I'm not holding my breath.

Just to follow up on a couple of Anonymous Tom's points: it was only effective with #8 that MTU went monthly, so it had actually been published since March 1972. And while Roy certainly didn't serve as EIC anywhere near as long as Stan or Shooter, the revolving door didn't really kick in until the rapid-fire Wein/Wolfman/Conway/Goodwin succession in between Roy and Shooter.

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