Friday, November 27, 2009

BAB Two-In-One: That Voodoo That You Do and That Horn You Blow.

Karen: This time around I'll be examining the humble beginnings of the character who is currently Sorcerer Supreme in the Marvel Universe: the one and only Brother Voodoo!

Karen: Brother Voodoo first appeared in Strange Tales #169 in 1973. Len Wein and Gene Colan are the writer and artist respectively on this first issue, but the concept had initially come from Roy Thomas and the design from John Romita.

Karen: Psychologist Jericho Drumm returns to the Haitian village where he grew up after many years abroad. He finds his twin brother, Daniel, who is the local voodoo priest, is deathly ill. Daniel believes it is due to a voodoo curse put on him by an evil priest who claims to be the embodiment of the voodoo god, Damballah. Of course, Jericho as a man of western learning rejects this idea and tries to save Daniel with his medical knowledge (just an aside, but I don't think psychologists actually have medical degrees - psychiatrists do).Damballah shows up and taunts Jericho, and despite his best efforts, his brother dies. Jericho carries out Daniel's last wish, which is to find his mentor, Papa Jambo, and ask him for help. Jericho travels into the jungle, and finds Papa Jambo, who tells him that he must take his brother's place and become Brother Voodoo!

Karen: Despite the inherent goofiness of a name like 'Brother Voodoo', the story works surprisingly well. It's like so many other stories we've seen before, where responsibility and power are thrust upon a character. Like most magical heroes, Brother Voodoo has a mentor who teaches him the ways of the universe. Sure, it's hard at times to keep a straight face when you read stuff like 'Papa Jambo', but as far as the over all structure goes, it's well done.

Karen: The art is typical Colan, and well suited for this just as it was for Dr. Strange. The inks by Dan Adkins are heavy on blacks and deepen the mood. Len Wein, who never met an accent he didn't like, seems to be enjoying himself here with the Haitains, having them say stuff like, "You left dis island hardly more den a child--to go to de big city college--to make somt'ing of yourself, you say--but dat's not de truth, is it, big doctor man?" While a bit over the top, it's easy to understand what he was trying to do here.

Karen: Marvel was never one to overlook a fad or craze, and so voodoo got its chance here. It's interesting to note that the James Bond film, Live and Let Die, which featured voodoo, came out in June of the same year. Since this comic is cover dated September, they probably premiered at almost the same time. So it's definitely not an influence, but simply another entertainment taking its cues from the same sources.

Doug: DC time, folks. Karen and I both grew up as Marvel Zombies for the most part -- we each dabbled a bit in the Distinguished Competition so I thought I'd go over a book I bought at a local convenience store back in the autumn of 1976. Teen Titans #45 is the second issue of the revival of the title after a 3-year hiatus from the spinner racks, and was created by Bob Rozakis, Irv Novick, and Vince Colletta.

Doug: The story starts with a curious scene, as the Titans return to their HQ victorious from the previous issue's battle with Dr. Light (this would be the silly/stupid Dr. Light, long before the malevolence revealed in the Identity Crisis mini-series). Titans' ally Mal Duncan had played a key role, dressed as the Guardian. However, when Speedy tosses a back-handed compliment, Mal reacts by socking Speedy in the jaw. The story then moves right into a flashback detailing the history of this issue's baddies, the Wreckers.

Doug: The Wreckers were an early-60's era street gang, or neighborhood protector, depending on one's perspective. When the leader was shipped off to Nam as a demolitions expert the group faded away. However, after a dishonorable discharge for blowing up stuff unauthorized, Steve Macchione returned home to find that developers had intruded on his former turf. Needless to say, the old gang was reassembled and told to gear up for some chaos.

Doug: As fate would have it, when the Wreckers pick a building to blow up, who is in the phone booth on the corner but Mal. You guessed it -- building blows, Mal's caught in the blast and... ha ha -- you thought something logical would happen, like a Titans alert going out, Kid Flash running to dig Mal out of the rubble, etc. Nope. You'd be wrong. I wish you were right, however. Instead of a more conventional plot device we instead get Mal being lifted from the rubble by Azrael, the Angel of Death. Mal informs him that he's jivin' and Mal will fight anyone who says different. And then they fight. With Gabriel as the referee and in a boxing ring, no less. And they dedicate two and a half pages to this crap! Hey, it worked once with Jacob wrestling an angel, but not here.

Doug: Well, since Mal beats the Angel of Death, Gabriel gives him a "horn" (actually a ram's horn, or shofar in Hebrew) to fend off any future attacks from Azrael. When blown, the horn will "even the odds" for Mal in any fight he's in. So, he gives it a whirl, somehow teleports the Titans to him (seriously -- when I first read this when I was 10 I just blindly accepted all of this!) and they go after the Wreckers.

Doug: While Mal had been laying in the rubble, the Wreckers had tipped their next job as involving Wayne Industries. Kid Flash and Robin go ahead to intercept the bad guys, and arrive just as they are leaving the building. A skirmish ensues involving everyone, but the Wreckers escape. Shortly after, they mix it up again but this time with the Titans victorious. Of course Mal matches up against Macchione and whups him. Game over!

Doug: Despite Rozakis' totally lame interlude, this was fun due to the presence of the classic Teen Titans line-up of Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy, Wonder Girl, and Aqualad. Novick's/Colletta's art is solid throughout. But when it's all said and done, this is a Bronze Age DC. And that can't compare with even the likes of Brother Voodoo...


Anonymous said...

I have an OA from that Teen Titans and let me say that the art is 100% nicer looking than what eventually was printed. Wish I had that splash page.

Edo Bosnar said...

Why let Greg have all the fun commenting on these old posts? A link to this one appeared in that "You might also like" section on another older post I was reading today, and I was surprised to find that I'd never noticed this before. That issue of Teen Titans was the first I ever had, and I have to say I can really relate to Doug's observation that, at age 10, you kind of blindly accepted quite a bit of outlandish stuff in these comics. Anyway, this was probably the only issue of the 'original' Titans that I had - probably had more to do with spotty spinner rack distribution than anything else.
And I like Brother Voodoo, too (rhyme intended), even though I only first read any of his stories when I bought the Essential Tales of the Zombie a few years back.

Doug said...

Good for you, Edo!

Looking at that lovely Irv Novick/Vinnie Colletta art again makes me both smile and frown. I've mentioned a couple of times recently that I am considering getting rid of my comic books. Of course, not everything is in my library in reprint form. I had wondered about finishing out my Teen Titans reviews, to the last issue (#53). But when I got them out for a thumb-through the interior art (sadly, Don Heck -- man, I hate always feeling that way about his Bronze output) was so off-putting that I set the lot back down. There were some swell Rich Buckler covers, however! But I didn't think I could get through the visuals in order to do a review. Now, if Novick had been on the job...


Edo Bosnar said...

The art here certainly does look nice - interesting also is that Colletta's inks mesh really well with Novick's pencils.

Edo Bosnar said...

I just had to come back to this post, because I've been reading the Brother Voodoo stories in Essential Marvel Horror vol. 2 (one of my reading projects over the past few months has been to finally get through all of my Essentials books - the two Marvel Horror volumes are the last of the lot).
Anyway, Karen, I have to say I found the structure of the story quite interesting, and unusual. Basically, pretty much all of Strange Tales #s 169-170, featuring the good Brother's origin, are told in flashback. And this continues into the next issue (#171): we finally find out why that UN pathologist was attacked at the airport at the beginning of #169 - and even that's explained in a flashback!
Also, in that third issue, we're treated to the term "zuvembie" all over the place, which at that point was downright silly, because Marvel was already publishing Tales of the Zombie in its b&w magazine line.

Otherwise, Brother Voodoo is a good character as introduced, but the stories are so far nothing special. However, Colan's art is, as you noted, quite well-suited to the character.
And as for the way the dialogue is written for the Haitians, well, your take is a bit more charitable than mine - I'm finding it really annoying. First and foremost, Haitians speak French, so when they speak English, they wouldn't be speaking in that faux Jamaican lingo that Wein used. Aarrgh!

Charlton Hero said...

First Off..I love vintage first appearances like Brother Voodoo's! This character was a time piece!! Gene Colan was the undisputed master of the horror genre!!

One more comment...Teen Titans are just damn cool. The early team like on display here and my personal faves The New Teen Titans adding Raven, StarFire, Cyborg and Changeling my be the most perfect Super-team ever created..and that says a lot!

Great read as always gang!!

Till next time!!

Hero Out!

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