Thursday, January 31, 2013

Discuss -- The Final Do-It-Yourself Version (for now...)

While Karen and Doug are on vacation in January, our readers have been entrusted with carrying on the daily conversations.  Today's Discuss is a do-it-yourselfer.  As we've done in the past, the first commenter gets to pick today's topic of conversation.

Generally speaking, the Discuss category is for narrow topics.  For example, in the past we've started conversations on topics such as the Sub-Mariner, Animal House, and the Captain America television movies.

Thanks for everyone's contributions over the past month!  We're recharged and rejuvenated and will be back with new content tomorrow as January gives way to February.  We really, really appreciate the participation that has kept this thing rolling along while your hosts took some well-earned rest and relaxation -- it's been good for us, as you can see.  You are great!

Too Cool for School, 1984
I was never as good as the photo suggests!  1982

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

BAB Classic: Why Can't We Be Friends? Part One

Amazing Spider-Man #123 (August 1973)
“…Just a Man Called Cage!”
Gerry Conway/Gil Kane & Johnny Romita-J. Romita & Tony Mortellaro

NOTE:  This review was originally published on November 5, 2009.

Doug: One of the hallmarks of Marvel Comics has always been the conflict between its heroes. Sure, team-ups are another noted trademark – but usually not without an at least brief round of fisticuffs first. With this post, we’d like to begin an intermittent series on those fun stories where Marvel’s heroes met up and an inevitable brouhaha ensued.

Doug: Of course, ASM #123 follows just a month after arguably the most important 2-part story of the entire Bronze Age – the deaths of Gwen Stacy and the Green Goblin. Both deaths are revisited, though not in flashback form. This issue contains the funeral of Gwen Stacy, and the revelation that a mysteriously shrouded stranger had removed the Goblin costume from the body of Norman Osborn.

Doug: So, how exactly do Mr. Luke Cage and our hero become entangled? J. Jonah Jameson, while riding away from the scene of Osborn’s death, spies a newspaper article about one Hero for Hire. ASM #123 was on the shelves and spinner racks the same month as Hero for Hire #12 – which was initially published bi-monthly; Cage had been around for about a year and a half. Jonah pays a visit to Cage’s rundown movie theater-headquarters, to find Cage dismissing a potential employer in quite physical fashion. Undeterred, Jonah offers Cage the job, and we proceed from there.

Karen: That whole sequence just reminds me of so many black exploitation films from the 70s – Shaft, Superfly, the Mack – I think Gerry Conway must have seen a few! But doesn’t $5000 seem like a paltry sum for taking down Spidey?

Doug: I always have to laugh at things like that – they really date the comics! You know, we’ve recently discussed Randy Robertson as an “angry black man” stereotype – Cage fits this bill as well. Thank goodness for the calming presence of Joe Robertson throughout these years.
Doug: Conway does a really nice job of showing the pain of the characters at Gwen’s funeral, and the anger and psychological turmoil of Harry Osborn over the loss of his father. These elements of characterization, of drawing the reader into the lives of these characters, was one very important ingredient missing from the two Iron Man issues we recently reviewed.

Karen: Conway did maintain that aspect of the book pretty well. You’d have to be an idiot not to realize that the key to any Spidey title is his personal life!

Doug: Gil Kane and John Romita share penciling credits on this story – it’s unclear who the plotter was, but either artist moves a story well. This issue is no exception. The battle scenes between Spider-Man and Cage are very well-choreographed and believable. Spidey quickly assesses Cage’s strength and near-invulnerability. The first round ends in a Spidey victory, but the interim is short-lived.

Karen: I agree, it’s an exciting sequence. The artwork here is interesting – the inks seem sort of heavy, and rough, and yet it is really dynamic. A couple of things caught my attention. One is that Cage really did do some detective work, figuring out where Spidey had been seen most often and waiting for him. But then he does something unprofessional: he tells Spidey who hired him! I also liked the tension between them when Spidey calls Cage a mercenary, which brings a more personal angle to the fight.

Doug: The second battle is again fierce and well-thought. I did wonder, however, at the conclusion when Spidey is able to restrain Cage with his webbing. It seemed to me that Cage would have been able to burst those bounds. But it all worked to set up a nice ending, with Cage deciding to listen to Spidey’s logic.

Karen: Spidey does mention that Cage could break the webbing “in a few minutes” so I don’t think there was any disparagement on Cage’s strength. I have to say though, that shot of him webbed down is terrible – Cage’s face looks bestial and kind of made me wince.

Doug: And the ending was a nice bit of physical comedy, very much a relief from the high emotions of the previous two issues, and indeed of scenes earlier in this very issue. I did feel, however, that the seeds of romance Conway was planting between Pete and Mary Jane was happening way, way too soon.

Doug: Gerry Conway may be the best of the Marvel Bronze Age scribes. Certainly he would get a run for the money from Steve Englehart. But, after having examined the work of Roy Thomas and Friedrichs Mike and Gary recently, I would favor Conway.

Karen: This is where we part ways – I’d choose Englehart or Thomas over Conway in a heartbeat. I think Englehart had a much better grasp of emotions, while one of Thomas’s strengths has always been solid plotting. Based on a number of Conway stories I’ve read, I wouldn’t say his plots always seemed coherent to me. But I do think he ranks towards the top of the Bronze Age writers.
Doug: My main complaint about Roy would be his ability to find characters’ voices. I think when he had his long runs on the Avengers and Conan that he had those casts nailed down pretty well. But his earliest forays into the FF and Spidey seemed to drag on a bit until he’d attained a level of comfort with the varying personalities. But as a plotter, I’d generally agree with you. And Englehart – really outstanding.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Last Chance at the Open Forum Before the Bosses Come Back!

While Karen and Doug are on vacation in January, our readers have been entrusted with carrying on the daily conversations.  Today's Open Forum is a do-it-yourselfer.  As we've done in the past, the first commenter gets to pick today's topic of conversation.

Generally speaking, the Open Forum is for broader topics.  For example, in the past we've started conversations such as "The Role of Inkers" and "What's So Great About the Bronze Age?"  Start a conversation that is broad enough to elicit an ongoing conversation, and that even might lend itself to tangential musings.

Thanks for holding it down for us -- new content (from us at least) resumes this coming Friday with a look at Sean Howe's Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, followed on Saturday by another entry in our series "That Zany Bob Haney"!

Monday, January 28, 2013

BAB Classic: Sweet Christmas, but Luke Cage used to be Cool!

Hero for Hire #1 (June 1972)
"Out of Hell -- a Hero!"
Archie Goodwin-George Tuska/Billy Graham (with plot and design assists from Roy Thomas and John Romita)

Note: This post was originally run on February 3, 2010.

Doug: Luke Cage has really sort of stuck in my craw over these past years. Not that I don't care for the character, his look, or anything else. I just don't like the way Brian Michael Bendis shoved him down my throat in the pages of New Avengers -- Luke Cage may be many things, but an Avenger he is not. Now I'm pretty old school about my comics -- not that change isn't OK. But the Cage Bendis writes isn't the Luke Cage I cut my teeth on. So, my pal Karen and I decided to head back to the character's roots and see what we could recall.

Doug: My Luke Cage experience came not so much from the Hero for Hire series, but from his stint as a member of the Fantastic Four, his appearance in Marvel Two-in-One, and also in the Defenders. So while I wasn't a regular follower of the character, I did have a fair handle on who he was and what he was about. I'll admit that my reading of today's book for this post was my first.

Karen: I know I had a few issues of Hero for Hire, and later Power Man, but like you Doug, I think most of my exposure to Cage was through other titles. I bought Hero for Hire #1 on ebay a few years ago.

Doug: I want to start off with the interior art. We had maligned George Tuska's Iron Man work some weeks ago, but I want to go on record and say that whatever he was doing here it was different and it worked well. There was an edginess to the art -- the black characters were distinguishable from the white characters (not always done well -- see Sal Buscema as an example), but not caricatured. The pacing was well done, the backgrounds were thoroughly done, etc. I can't comment on how much impact inker Billy Graham had on this aspect of the story (Graham is black), but something was surely improved over Tuska's work on Iron Man.

Karen: There was a textured sense to Graham's inks here; it reminds me of some of the black and white work we've seen. I still don't care much for Tuska's work however. I really like the Romita cover though - almost like a movie poster! It also appeared to me that Romita may have drawn Diamondback's face on the final page (see below).

Doug: The story opens in Seagate Prison, known by the inmates as "little Alcatraz", and even Hell. We are immediately introduced to Lucas, a tough who often finds himself in solitary confinement. Upon release from his most recent stint in the brig, he almost-immediately gets into a fight and finds himself back in deep trouble. We're introduced also to corrupt guard Quirt, as well as the equally-corrupt Captain Rackham. Lucas is offered the opportunity to make his life in Seagate easier by informing on one of the prison's gangs. He refuses, Rackham sends him back to solitary, and orders Quirt to break Lucas -- any way he can.

Doug: Quirt administers a severe beating to Lucas, who doesn't fight back. However, unbeknownst to Quirt, the prison's new warden has entered and been alerted of the disturbance. Sneaking into the cell, he turns the tables on Quirt -- Quirt's fired on the spot and then left inside the cell with a now somewhat-liberated Lucas. What happens next is off-camera, and probably for the better.

Doug: The next to feel the wrath of the new warden is Rackham, who is immediately demoted to guard duty. It's clear at this point that the corruption that had been a way of life at Seagate is on the way out. Lucas is visited by Dr. Noah Burstein who cares for him and makes him an offer: subject himself to a new process that might eventually lead to human cell regeneration. But first we get to see Lucas' backstory -- in a way, the origin of the man and how he came to be at Seagate.

Karen: Cage is yet another of the anti-heroes we would see come along in the 70s. While he was framed for heroin possession/dealing, it's clear that he had been involved in muggings and robberies. He was no angel. However, by making it clear that he preferred to use his fists, while his partner used a knife, we are made to look upon him in a more sympathetic light.

Doug: This sequence was really well done. I just felt like the entire story played out like a film -- and of course this was years before Hollywood-types infiltrated the ranks of comics scribes. Goodwin seemed to have a great handle on this tale, the dialogue was believable and not too over-the-top, and Tuska's art (although distinctively his work) was quite appropriate to the mood of the book.

Karen: The whole thing could've come right out of one of the many black exploitation films of the day. I'm sure many of the bullpen writers and artists saw those flicks -along with the films of the kung fu craze, the voodoo/possession films, etc. Marvel took it's inspiration from many sources!

Doug: Lucas agrees to participate in Burstein's experiment, and as he settles into the vestibule of chemicals, who should enter but Rackham --out for his final revenge against Lucas. Rackham sabotages the experiment, locking Lucas inside the compartment filled with chemicals and electricity. Lucas is nearly overcome by pain, but something transforms him into a powerhouse; he bursts out of the container and metes his justice on Rackham. The next day Lucas discovers that his hands are as hard as steel and uses them to pound through his cell wall and escape Seagate.

Doug: Lucas soon determines that his skin is bullet-proof. He begins to work his way up the East coast, back toward New York -- to Harlem. Lucas has a score to settle with an old friend -- the friend who framed him and put him in Seagate in the first place: Willis Stryker. Inspired by the thanks he got for stopping a two-bit robber, Lucas decides to go straight and become a hero -- a Hero for Hire. Changing his name to Luke Cage and adopting the familiar yellow and blue togs I used to love him in, Cage sets himself up for a battle against his former friend Stryker, now the villain known as Diamondback!

Karen: This ending feels more like a middle! Now I have to read issue 2 to discover the conclusion - Sweet Christmas!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Spotlight On... Who Will It Fall On Today?

While Karen and Doug are on vacation in January, our readers have been entrusted with carrying on the daily conversations.  Today's "Spotlight On..." is a do-it-yourselfer.  As we've done in the past, the first commenter gets to pick today's topic of conversation.

Generally speaking, "Spotlight On..." is for single creators.  For example, in the past we've started conversations on Rich Buckler, John Romita, and Joe Sinnott. However, today we're going to focus in on a specific title.  Yesterday, regular reader Inkstained Wretch was beat out (literally by one minute) to set the day's topic.  Since his question actually works just fine under today's category, we're going to run it.  Here it is --

What's the best Silver Age into Bronze Age transition? That is, which established Silver Age comic best maintained -- or even improved -- its quality as it ventured into the Bronze Age?

Thanks for holding it down for us!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Who's the Best...? Today It's Do-It-Yourself!

While Karen and Doug are on vacation in January, our readers have been entrusted with carrying on the daily conversations.  Today's "Who's the Best?" is a do-it-yourselfer.  As we've done in the past, the first commenter gets to pick today's topic of conversation.

Generally speaking, "Who's the Best?" is for historical topics.  For example, in the past we've started conversations such as "Who's the Best -- Thor Artist?" and "Who's the Best -- Frankenstein Monster?"  Start a conversation that is broad enough to elicit an ongoing conversation, and that even might lend itself to tangential musings.

Thanks for holding it down for us!

Friday, January 25, 2013

BAB Classic: The Return of Galactus, part 4: Fantastic Four #123

Fantastic Four #123 (June 1972)
"This World Enslaved!"
Stan Lee-John Buscema/Joe Sinnott

NOTE:  This post was originally published on February 8, 2010.

Karen: You only have to look at the cover of this one to know it's going to be a blast - how could it not be, with President Richard Nixon featured?!

Doug: This would be a somewhat better depiction for Tricky Dick than Steve Englehart would give him some years later!

Karen: Reed Richards threatens to destroy Galactus' ship unless the world-devourer promises to leave the planet unharmed and never return. Galactus basically offers Reed his version of mutually-assured destruction: if his ship goes, he'll destroy Earth anyway. The Surfer gives in and tells Galactus he'll serve him in order to save the planet; but Reed emphatically tells him ,"No! You must not! Will we never learn the lesson of history? Not even survival is worth the cost of abject surrender! There can only be peace through good will - not the sacrifice of another!" I was struck by what a contrast this is compared to the Reed of the recent Civil War series, who seemed to feel that principles were less important than the final results. Personally, I prefer the guy in this issue!

Karen: Galactus gives Richards time to consider, but unfortunately General Thunderbolt Ross and his men decide to attack Galactus, who responds more like King Kong or Godzilla than an omnipotent cosmic being! The Big G tosses railroad cars at the tanks and crushes them.

Doug: I thought the art in this section of the book was really inconsistent, and I'd wager that Big John didn't do the pencils on Galactus on page 4 of the story. Really weird-looking... Buscema never misses on proportions and/or camera angles, but there were several panels here that were just bad.
Doug: Agreed on Galactus' reaction. As I commented in last issue's review, Stan gave us a much more physical Galactus than we'd ever seen. I can only wonder what Jack Kirby thought of this story, if he read it. It's certainly been well-documented that the King didn't care for the way Stan steered the Surfer; we can only wonder what he felt about Galactus here.

Karen: In the meantime President Nixon (who would it be if they retconned this story? Clinton?) tries to reach Reed, to tell him what to do, but Reed still takes matters into his own hands (thankfully!).

Doug: I couldn't decide what to make of Stan's take on the president. On one hand, I thought he had his personality down pat; on the other hand, the lens of history sort of clouds my view -- it's really hard to think of a pre-Watergate Nixon!
Karen: That's an understatement! The Surfer vows to follow Galactus "wherever in this universe you may go." Reed lands the ship in the city. Just as an aside, where the heck was that huge intersection he landed in? They have some weird streets on Marvel Earth.Doug: Unquestionably silly. And not just the landing, but the fact that Reed could pilot the ship at all. I had to crack up at your comment last issue that Reed found the stick shift -- well, looking at this issue's splash, you were right!!
Karen: As Galactus takes off in his ship, the Surfer starts to follow but Reed tells him to wait. We get a pretty exciting sequence with the Surfer riding off on his board and Richards straining to his limits to hold on to him. A soldier shoots Richards to make him stop, which enrages the Thing. The Surfer takes Reed to a quiet forest area and uses the power cosmic to heal him. Both the rampaging Thing and healing sequences were very well done. It's fun seeing the Thing fight soldiers!

Doug: Leave it to old "Thunderbolt" Ross to spice up an apocalyptic story -- as if things weren't bad enough. I wonder how this was received back in 1972, what with Vietnam going on and all. Do you suppose Stan's portrayal of the military as hot-headed and arrogant was a jab at our armed forces, representative of societal views of the day, or am I perhaps making a mountain out of a mole hill? Agenda from the Bullpen, or no agenda?
Karen: Hard to say. Maybe he was just supposed to be a 'blood and guts' general, ala Patton? Certainly if the story had been written by a younger writer, like Gerry Conway, I would have assigned some meaning to it.
Karen: The now healthy Reed and the Surfer return to the city and with the help of Agatha Harkness, Reed sends a message heard throughout the globe. He explains that they need not fear Galactus returning, because he set the controls of Galactus' starship for the Negative Zone, which is not in this universe -and hence, the Surfer did not break his word! OK, seems a bit specious to me, but it did appear to work!Doug: Now there's an untold tale -- Galactus vs. Annihilus and Blastaar, and all of the Neg. Zone goons! I'd like to have seen that one! Stan did a nice job in the last couple of panels showing how the public was so two-faced once the threat seemed to be gone. And the FF, like the true heroes that they are, just stood there and took it.
Karen: I enjoyed revisiting this little saga. Although I would not put it on the same level as the first Galactus story, this one had many entertaining elements of its own, not the least of which was Gabriel! I was glad that they found a way to bring him back later on. It's also quite amusing today to see Richard Nixon in a comic - but there's that Marvel realism for you!

Doug: Yep, a really fun Bronze Age story, and one of the last tales Stan wrote before Roy the Boy took over the writing chores with issue #126. What a run Stan had... when you look at the first 125 issues of the FF, and couple it with the first 100 issues of Spidey, has there ever been a finer run in comics than those two series? I say thee, nay!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Face-Off! Who's in the Ring Today?

While Karen and Doug are on vacation in January, our readers have been entrusted with carrying on the daily conversations.  Today's Face-Off is a do-it-yourselfer.  As we've done in the past, the first commenter gets to pick today's topic of conversation.

Generally speaking, Face-Off is for two singers, comic characters, bands, films, etc. to go up against each other.  For example, recently we had a post that asked readers to choose between Captain America's two main partners:  Bucky Barnes and the Falcon.

Thanks for holding it down for us!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

BAB Classic: The Return of Galactus, part 3: Fantastic Four #122

Fantastic Four #122 (May, 1972)
"Galactus Unleashed "
Stan Lee/John Buscema/Joe Sinnott

NOTE:  This post was originally published on February 1, 2010.

Karen: Before we get on with the review, I have to say this: Galactus is goofy looking. I'm not talking about the helmet, which I really dig, or even his chest piece with its short sleeves. No, the thing which makes me cringe is his skirt/short pants...

Doug: No doubt! I was surprised to see Galactus dressed in the no-pants look! I originally read this entire tale in the pages of Marvel Treasury Edition #21 (1979), and in that version Galactus looked like he had recently (at the time) in the pages of FF #'s 172-175 (July-October 1976) and the then-current Galactus/Terrax/Sphinx yarn in the early 210's -- the colorist of the Treasury had covered the flesh-tones with blue.

Karen: And it doesn't matter who the artist is -- Kirby or Buscema. The bare-legged look just does not work! Well, glad I got that off my chest. Now let's get to the review.

Karen: We discovered at the end of last issue that the Big G was behind Gabriel. The FF is shocked, as the last time Galactus was on Earth (FF #50) he pledged never to attack the planet again. Galactus informs the startled heroes that he isn't attacking - his use of Gabriel was all a ploy to get the Surfer to show up. Now, we should note Galactus did return to the outskirts of our solar system in issues 73-77, and threatened to devour Earth if the Silver Surfer was not returned to him. So we already have a similar situation popping up here in this issue. We know Stan sometimes repeated himself, but considering how enjoyable this story was, I can forgive him!

Doug: Yeah, the part of the story in #'s 120-121 was a nice treat (gave Big John an excuse for that last page killer splash in #121!!), but you'd think a godlike being like Galactus could sniff out the Surfer on his own without some ploy. Shoot, that Punisher dude Galactus attacked the FF with back in #49 (and #74) was one bad dude -- why not just have switched away from his pursuit of the Surfer and go with a creature like that? He'd have never had the conscience issues to worry about...
Karen: The Surfer refuses to go; he says, "Here will I live! Here will I die! Call me an exile - but never a slave!" The FF -mainly Ben and Johnny - decide to attack Galactus and wind up just ticking the big guy off.

Doug: The scenes where the good guys attack Galactus were great. In particular, Ben's toppling of the giant was playfully reminiscent of his actions on the rooftop when first they met (FF #49). This issue gave us a view of Galactus as a much more physical fighter; prior depictions gave us the impression that he was almost above fighting, instead using guile or when necessary energy projections of some sort. The backdrop of the amusement park as a battle scene provided an almost-Silver Age DC feel to the story, what with the rides as giant props. Interesting, too, was that with the ferris wheel, et al. Galactus seemed normal-sized and the FF looked small.
Karen: What was it with Stan Lee and circuses/carnivals? It seems like they popped up in every title he wrote at one point or another. It is pretty cool here though, although I would say that I think Galactus works best as a more aloof threat, not stooping to physical (personal) attacks.

Karen: The Surfer tries to reach Galactus' orbiting spaceship, thinking to the threat of its destruction to make Galactus leave, but because of the barrier Galactus has put into place to keep the Surfer on Earth, he is unable to reach it. However, Reed thinks this is a worthwhile plan so he and Sue rocket off to the immense spaceship. Reed manages to get inside and take control of the ship, threatening to destroy it, thereby exiling Galactus on Earth!

Doug: Cliffhanger-type element, yes. Plausible that even with Reed's genius he'd have been able to discern the workings of the mechanisms, etc. -- no.

Karen: Oh come on Doug, Reed found the stickshift! What else does he need to know? OK, that is kind of silly. This issue moved along at a brisk pace and was quite entertaining. The Buscema art is terrific. The highlights for me were the Surfer's attempt to reach Galactus' ship, and the battle in the amusement park, where Galactus makes it clear that he has no desire to harm the FF - he even says to a fighting-mad Torch, "I have spared you thus far out of respect for your valor!"

Doug: I would agree with all that you've said. This third chapter was quite a contrast to the previous two issues, and provides a whole lot of momentum heading toward the conclusion!

Doug: We have another round of original art pages from this issue to show you, courtesy of a dealer on eBay:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Discuss Something Awesome!

While Karen and Doug are on vacation in January, our readers have been entrusted with carrying on the daily conversations.  Today's Discuss is a do-it-yourselfer.  As we've done in the past, the first commenter gets to pick today's topic of conversation.

Generally speaking, the Discuss category is for narrow topics.  For example, in the past we've started conversations on topics such as the Sub-Mariner, Animal House, and the Captain America television movies.

Thanks for holding it down for us!

Monday, January 21, 2013

BAB Classic: The Return of Galactus, part 2: Fantastic Four # 121

Fantastic Four # 121 (April 1972)
"The Mysterious Mind-Blowing Secret of Gabriel!"
Stan Lee-John Buscema/Joe Sinnott

NOTE:  This post was originally published on January 25, 2010.

Karen: When last we left the FF, they had been thoroughly defeated and demoralized by the mysterious being known as the Air Walker, who announced that his name was Gabriel. He then produced a large ram's horn and blew it, proclaiming that the end of the world was upon them!

Doug: Before we move too far, I wanted to note the incredible Buscema/Sinnott cover to this issue. Even all of Stan's hype can't distract from the power, the kinetic/frenetic energy of Gabriel's clash with Norrin Radd!
Karen: It's an incredible cover, but I wish Marvel hadn't been using that framing or "box" technique on their covers at that time. It really limited the amount of space available for the art. When you add all the captions, it cuts it down to a very small space.

Karen: This issue picks up right where the previous left off. With Gabriel's pronouncement, people begin to think he is truly an angel, and the world loses hope. Gabriel turns the civilian bystanders against the FF, and the first part of this issue features the team on the run from the very people they were trying to protect. This has a particularly "X-Men -mutant prejudice" feel to it.

Doug: I wouldn't want to use the term "decompression", but when you look at Stan's slow reveal last issue and most of this one, it was really done well. I never felt like the story was dragging, the suspense and drama kept building, and everyone was comfortably in character. I agree with you as far as the crowd hysteria goes. Do you ever wonder, in these times of Marvel-crisis, why only the magazine's title characters seem to respond to the situation? For example, if you just looked at the angle that Gabriel was an angel -- there should have been a slew of super-natural types popping up for investigation/agitation...

Karen: Particularly with something so devastating going on, you'd think everyone would mobilize. Of course, years later when John Byrne was handling FF, he did have a ton of other heroes show up to face the Big G!

Karen: A lot of time is spent with the FF trying to find a way to broadcast a message of hope/defiance to the world, without success. We are then re-introduced to the Silver Surfer, who apparently was floating around in orbit, just contemplating his navel. He realizes something is going on down below on Earth and comes to the rescue.

Doug: Yeah, I thought that scene was a little odd. My impression was that the Surfer was almost letting humanity struggle a bit -- that he was aware the entire time of the troubles with the Air Walker. But then, Stan had long before turned the Surfer into a messianic figure, so I suppose this plotting of him swooping down to deliver (even redeem) the Earth wasn't out of line.
Karen: What did you think of Stan's slipping in the comment from the Surfer regarding the supreme power (aka God)? It seemed forced to me.

Doug: That's funny that you mention that -- I noticed it as well and immediately thought of a story some years later that Stan wrote in Epic Illustrated in the early 1980's. It's a short tale dating back to the days when the Surfer was still Galactus' herald. It's called "The Answer" and is a "quest for God" story. I'll take a look at it shortly for a to-be-written BAB Two-In-One!
Karen: The inevitable battle between the Surfer and Gabriel was worth the wait. Gabriel had demonstrated an incredible level of power earlier, by causing a tidal wave to hit New York, and then, almost magically, reversing any damage from it (this did seem a bit much in my opinion). We already knew the Surfer was formidable, so to see these two go at it was a treat.

Doug: Gabriel seemed to literally have powers over life and death. The scene where he lifted a large merchant ship with his powers was impressive indeed!
Karen: The Surfer does defeat Gabriel at last, by shredding his glowing cloak, which seems to be the source of not only his power but his life force. Gabriel plunges to the street and shatters into pieces, revealing that he was actually a complex robot. While everyone takes this in, the true enemy is revealed, in a blazing full page shot: Galactus has returned to Earth!

Doug: One of the truly great villain entrances of the Bronze Age, up there with Dr. Doom on the last page of FF #142 and Magneto in X-Men #111. Did it make you wonder a bit that Gabriel had been able to wield such power as a robot?

Karen: I felt this issue dragged at the beginning, although it moved much better once the Surfer appeared. I'm not all that fond of stories where the title characters are relegated to the background but this was not too bad as such things go. But it definitely feels like what it is: build up to the main event.

Doug: Agreed. This style of writing seemed odd for Stan, and seems more compatible with today's storytelling.

Doug: Before you get away from us, how about checking out several of the original art pages from this story, courtesy of a dealer on eBay (in other words, I saved his .jpg's!):

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