Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"I'm Just a Lucky Dude Who Got to Write..."

Doug: Two days ago, while perusing the BAB Twitter account's timeline (I have two accounts/timelines -- one for "me", and one for "us" that I share with my partner), I came across a series of tweets from Bronze Age scribe Gerry Conway. I'll admit to being tired of Conway often being referred to as "the guy who killed Gwen Stacy". While that may be a claim to fame of his (or infamy, depending on your perspective, I guess), it's certainly in no way indicative or summative of the body of his work in the industry. Conway was lamenting the fact that he's often referred to as a "comics legend", and took just a smidgeon of umbrage. He deflected the "legend" status to folks like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko. So of course, I meditated on that for awhile and thought to myself, hey -- we need to discuss this on the blog!

Doug: Gerry Conway wrote a memorable run on Amazing Spider-Man, following an incredible run of 106 out of the first 110 issues written by Stan "the Man" Lee (with issue #s 101-104 penned by Roy Thomas). Conway stayed on the title for over three years; the deaths of Gwen Stacy and the Green Goblin came inside his first 12 issues. As Jim Shooter before him, Conway cut his professional teeth as a teenager.

He crafted that story -- perhaps the most pivotal 2-issue "arc" of the Bronze Age, and also co-created the Punisher as well as several Bronze Age villains that have become Spider-Man mainstays. He wrote the controversial clone saga (which looks like a literary classic in its own right as compared to the second clone saga) and brought a sort of second closure to the death of Gwen Stacy. Additionally at Marvel, he co-created Werewolf by Night and Man-Thing, and wrote the premier issue of Tomb of Dracula. Click here for a listing of Conway's creations/co-creations during his prolific career at Marvel and at DC.

Doug: So -- what exactly is a legend, then? If we look at the parameters of this blog, which most of us agree generally (but not always) focuses on the period from 1970-85, then I'm going to stand up and say that Gerry Conway is a Bronze Age legend. His Spidey run, coupled with his eight years as scribe of Justice League of America, is enough to get brought up in the conversation. My next question would be -- additionally, who else is a "legend"? I know that I often use the term "master" in describing the art of John Buscema, Neal Adams, Kirby, and sometimes even John Byrne. Are they legends (Kirby undeniably is, so no one needs to go there), too? Is Julius Schwartz, the shepherd of the Bronze Age as an editor, a legend? I'll be curious to see what our masses have to say about this oft-bandied term. And when today is all said and done, Gerry Conway may just have to wear that crown...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Discuss: Land of the Giants

Karen: Another Irwin Allen production, how many of you recall this minor sci fi series with Earth men trapped on a world of giants? The show was on from 1968-1970 and had a total of 51 episodes. Honestly, Lost in Space just looks better and better the more I see of Allen's other shows.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Avengers Firsts: Hercules

 Today's post is #1500 by the Bronze Age Babies - thanks for reading!

Journey Into Mystery Annual #1 (1965)(cover by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta)
"When Titans Clash!"
Stan Lee-Jack Kirby/Vince Colletta

Doug: Stuck in the '60s we are! But it's been fun so far, hasn't it? Today's fare should be a blast, too, as we look in on a beloved series -- the Mighty Thor under the creative direction of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Vinnie Colletta. God of Thunder vs. Lion of Olympus? Shoot -- why wait?!

Doug: We open with a nice splash page, perhaps an image that could have taken place a mere moment ahead of the shot on this issue's cover. Even in a stand-off, Kirby's figures exude dynamic power. So we get it rolling on page 2 with Thor and Loki riding their steeds amongst some craggy rocks. Thor has convinced skeptical Loki to ride with him in search of adventure in Jotunheim -- the land of the Storm Giants! Thor knows the legends, that the Storm Giants have been searching for a lost passage to fabled Olympus. But wanting a little action, and glory to report to the All-Father, Thor has come here really to create some mischief. He spies two giants moving heavy rocks and attacks them without provocation. Loki melts away while Thor takes it to these two bozos with all the fury we saw on display in the battle scene that began Thor: The Dark World. This action is fast, powerful, and over pretty quickly. But of course Thor's brazenness could be his worst enemy, and indeed in his lust for a quick and lasting triumph he creates a massive landslide.

Karen: It's interesting that the caption on the splash page finds the creative team sort of hedging their bets, saying that "if ever the son of Odin had fought the son of Zeus" it might have been like this!
So maybe they weren't so sure they wanted to bring Hercules into the Marvel universe. This could almost have been Marvel's version of an imaginary story, if they hadn't followed it up with a modern meeting of the two princes in the pages of the regular title shortly after. Also, it's obvious to us this takes place in the past but if I had read this when it first came out, I might have been a little confused about that point. You're right though that this scene with the giants really seems to reflect the Thor films -or is that the other way around?!

Doug: I love these stories that have the flavor of a "Tales of Asgard" yarn, because Thor always seems to be even a bit wilder and more impetuous. In the Earthbound stories his godliness seemed a bit more to the fore.Doug: Thor falls with the rockslide, down, down, down... until he lands upright in a chamber made of stone. He figures that the giants must have been right in their guess as to the placement of the gateway to Olympus, for surely he must be in it. He ventures outside, attempting to remain in the shadows. He marvels at some of the odd creatures he sees, yet thinks that perhaps Olympus is not so different from Asgard. But he knows that he must find a way back to the Realm Eternal, so sets off in bold fashion toward a bridge. But -- you guessed it -- as fate would have it another wants to use the narrow construct first. And that someone happens to be named Hercules. What a great way to introduce the conflict between these two: who can be the first to walk across a bridge. How fitting for both of these characters' temperaments!

Karen: Lee must have felt the need to tie the realms of Asgard/Jotunheim and Olympus together, but the idea that the giants originated in Olympus is an odd one. I can't recall reading of giants in Greek myths -other than the Titans or Cyclops. Kirby gives Olympus a distinctly different look and feel than Asgard. We see typical Greek mythological characters like satyrs and centaurs, as well as the marble columns and temples that typify ancient Greek civilization.

Doug: Even though I read this in the Essentials, I could still get a sense for the brightness and airiness (is that a word?) of Kirby's Olympus. While Asgard was generally depicted as magnificent, I think the notion that it floated as an island in space always transmitted to me a darker setting.

Doug: I truly don't know which I enjoy more in this era of Thor -- Kirby's visuals or Lee's dialogue. Both are just wonderful. Hercules and Thor begin to spar verbally as well as physically, and it's just a hoot. We've provided a few images to let the pages speak for themselves -- pure fun! As we've said in our two previous reviews, it's very interesting that of the four characters we've looked at Stan seemed to have their personalities fully-formed from the beginning. Hercules is every bit as brazen as Thor as he continues to talk trash aloud while marveling at his opponent's prowess and comparing it to his own. Both godlings engage each other with their weapons, with Thor's Mjolnir coming out ahead of Herc's mace. And then they decide to go hand-to-hand. Hercules delivers "the most powerful blow *Thor* has ever felt", but Thor comes to his feet almost instantly. Thor returns the favor, but with the same result. Both combatants declare the other their virtual equal. But with egos like theirs, that just means they fight all the harder to prove one's superiority over the other.

Karen: This younger Thor is much more like Hercules in personality than his later, more somber, self. That does make it a lot more fun to watch them go at it! Hercules' look was definitely inspired by the Steve Reeves' Hercules films, although where the little "H"'s on his heels and belt came from, I have no idea (the same place as Galactus' "G" I guess).
I love the dialog just as much as you do - our two boys are threatening to "pummel" and "thrash" each other in every panel! Kirby is at his dynamic best.

Doug: Hercules uproots a large totem and bends it into a shape that he declares he will use to bind Thor and make him Herc's prisoner. Dumb old Thor plunges headlong into the twisted arrangement, and Hercules does indeed ensnare him. But Thor strains against his bonds and bursts free, to Herc's incredulity. They again resume fisticuffs, with Hercules pledging to strike Thor again and again in the same spot until Thor falls. Well, Thor does indeed fall, only to bust out a trick that only fans of the Silver Age could appreciate -- the Son of Odin digs his fingers into the turf and rips up the entire landscape like it was a roll of carpet! Hercules is thrown off-balance. As Thor leaps upon his adversary, Hercules grasps two large stones, which he crashes together in Thor's face, the powder blinding the Asgardian.

Karen: Well, we got the pulling-on-the-ground trick.
All we need now is someone wearing a rubber mask that is indistinguishable from a real face, and a hero wearing a really large costume piece, armor, or weapon underneath their street clothes.

Doug: With no vision, Thor knows he must swing wildly in order to stay upright until his eyes are clear of the dust. Each immortal uses his strongest punches to try to vanquish the other. But suddenly the Earth shakes as light cracks the sky. Zeus appears, and orders an end to the battle. Fittingly, he's been watching from afar and thinks the whole thing was just great. In a page out of any parental handbook, Zeus compliments both of the spoiled brats, declares them equals, and makes them shake hands and declare friendship for one another! Thor offers that Zeus has the same lordly qualities as his own father and even kneels to the All-Father of Olympus. But then Thor says he must take his leave of Olympus to return to affairs in Asgard. With some Kirby rays emitting from the royal scepter, Thor is lifted back across the divide to Jotunheim, where his adventure began. Loki awaits, and Thor accuses him of fleeing during the fight with the giants. Loki asked where Thor had gone, but the prince says that his memory is failing him. Suddenly huge boulders begin to erupt from the chasm -- Loki claims it must be the work of the Storm Giants, but Thor knows better. He smiles to himself as he watches Zeus's barrier complete itself, but muses that someday he shall again learn of Olympus and see Hercules.

Karen: Zeus shuts  things down quickly, as Thor pretty quickly accepts his authority. I suppose he was used to this sort of thing with Odin. There's a lot of nice imagery by Kirby here, some of it subtle but very effective. All in all, this was a fun romp, a light bit of early Marvel magic. I couldn't help but think of Thor Annual #5, where these two characters would meet in a much longer story.

Doug: This one was short at only 15 pages. We remarked to each other when we chose this Annual for our little Avengers series that it seemed somewhat out of place, disconnected from Giant-Size July. But when we paged through it and found how short it was it was sort of nice. It's a simple story -- the only motivation in telling it is to pit Thor against Hercules. I suppose it's more satisfying than the Thor-Hulk tussle in Journey Into Mystery #112, although like that there's no real winner here. But it must have been a thrill ride for youngsters who'd have come to this in the year before I was born! And as I remarked above, today's story hails from that time when Stan, Jack, and Vinnie were cranking out top-notch adventures each and every month.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Alex Ross Does Captain America and the Avengers c. Avengers Annual #1!

Doug: From Marvel's latest solicitations, the variant cover to Captain America #22. While I'm not totally sold on the large image of Cap, I am totally on board with the bottom half of the cover. How about the Avengers from the awesome throwdown in Avengers Annual #1? You must have blinked, because you missed Quicksilver!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Super-Villain Swag

Doug: It's been quite awhile since we talked longjohn fashion around here, so today -- that's what's happening! We'll focus on the evil baddies that attempt to corrupt society with their general nastiness. I'm going to put forth a couple of goons whose look I dig, and then hopefully you'll follow up with some "likes" of your own.

Doug: First up -- Tiger Shark. I've always liked Todd Arliss's get-up. Seriously -- if you want to scream "I am supposed to menace you while dressed as a large aquatic killing machine!", then this is the look you'd like to do that screaming in. I've pictured Mr. Arliss on my favorite cover that bears his toothy grin; there are others, but I bought this one off the spinner racks, so it's especially loveable in my opinion (plus Namorita...).

Doug: The other nasty whose threads are seriously cool (yet with a dopiness all their own) is Bullseye. I think if I was going to make one improvement, I might remove the concentric circles from around the assassin's neck. Other than that, though, the sleek black and the offsetting white of the gloves and boots make this one a winner for me. Hmmm... Now that I see those covers side-by-side, it's interesting how similar they are. And no, don't read anything into that...

Doug: Your turn!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Addition Through Subtraction - Comic Edition

Doug: Personally, the Avengers became a better magazine when they were no longer literally "Earth's Mightiest Heroes". Let's face it -- if you were going to pick up some Silver Age Avengers to read or re-read, you probably wouldn't go for the first 16 issues as your primary choice of entertainment, would you? I wouldn't. I'd start with issue #19 and then move forward. From that point on, the book went through a pretty incredible run all the way through the 1970's (with a "miss" here or there). Over in the Fantastic Four, the replacement of Vince Colletta on the inks over Jack Kirby's pencils allowed that book to really blast off visually. Joltin' Joe Sinnott arrived, and the rest is history, from the mid-#40s over the next three years. Top notch stuff. And nothing against Vinnie at all -- over on the Thor mag, one could make the argument that it was his feathery inks that gave the God of Thunder and friends that signature look.

Doug: So that's today's topic, and it's not in any way mean-spirited or denigrating to any creator or character. What we want to know is, when did a comic catch fire for you after the removal of a character or characters, or right after a creator change? Again, there's no need to bash anyone, but it would be helpful if you stated just what it was that "now" put a given book over the top for you. Above, I think the Avengers became more accessible to me, a young child, when they weren't quite so godlike. Additionally, the dynamics between the various members of the Kooky Quartet created a real soap opera-type feeling. Heck, those characters behaved like people I knew! And then when Hank and Jan rejoined... Now we had a founding founder (as opposed to Cap's ex post facto anointing) back in the fold and that created another set of interesting circumstances. Of course I'm speaking of reading those great Silver Age stories in the pages of Marvel Triple Action and ragged original copies, while reading the #120s on as off-the-rack fare.

Doug: Feel free to cover comics from any genre, any company, any era. We'll open this one up as wide as you want it to be. And come back in a week, when we'll do the same drill but in the entertainment industry!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Avengers Firsts: Quicksilver & the Scarlet Witch

X-Men #4 (March 1964)(cover by Jack Kirby and George Roussos)
"The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!"
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Inker: Paul Reinman

Karen: We're back with our second 'Avengers' Firsts', this time looking at those terrific twins, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. The first thing you might notice is their appearance on the cover: the Scarlet Witch is colored green, and Quicksilver, who wears his green costume on the pages inside, is garbed in blue here! What a mess. But this introduction to two important members of the Marvel universe is a pretty fun read. Beyond just being the first appearance of these two characters, it also brings the concept of Xavier's and Magneto's conflict and differing philosophies to the fore.

Doug: I'll be using the X-Men Marvel Masterworks, volume one for reading; the art in today's post is from the X-Men dvd-rom, but we'll also include a couple of scans at the end from the Masterworks to show some specific coloring differences. Editorial seemed to think that maybe it was a better idea to correct the twins' costumes for the high-quality Masterworks reprint! Like you, I really enjoyed prepping for today's review. I'd only read this story one other time, and it was the better part of two decades ago -- it really had a fresh feel to it this time around.
I'd echo your comments about the relative importance of this particular comic, in light of the public's primary knowledge of the Marvel Universe coming through the feature films. Much of what happens between these covers is seminal to the X-Men franchise, and now with Wanda and Pietro set for their silver screen debuts it carries a bit more weight.

Karen: This issue starts out with the X-Men in the Danger Room -is it just my imagination, or did half the early X-Men issues start this way? Anyway, Beast is being put through his paces. He nearly completes his obstacle course but fails right at the end and falls into a pool of water. After getting some words of wisdom from Professor X, it's Iceman's turn. He's still the fluffy, snowman-like Iceman. He  also does well, to a point.
After another short lecture from the Professor, it's Jean's turn. But she has a simple task: to lift the lid on a box. Teacher's pet! Inside is a birthday cake. Professor X says it's been a year since they began training and it's time to celebrate. Hey, he wasn't all bad! The youngsters gather around their teacher and dig in, smiles all around. Amusingly, Cyclops slices the cake with his eyebeam. Apparently he had achieved remarkable control even at this stage.

Doug: The Danger Room certainly received some modifications over the years, didn't it? Using the Masterworks, I flipped back through the previous three issues, as I thought this story was the first in which the term "Danger Room" was used; wrongo, buckaroo. It was in issue #2. But you're right -- in these first few months the team seemed to spend every moment at the school in said training facility. I suppose that's OK if Stan and Jack felt that they were doubling their readership each month (probably not the case) or just wanted to toy with the mutants' powers. 
One thing I did take note of as a major shift in characterization from the premier to this ish was the upgrade of Hank McCoy's speech patterns. Gone was the Thing-like grammar and in its place was a more "normal"-sounding fella. He didn't seem to be the scholar he'd grow to be, but he'd certainly left the street-level talk behind.

Doug: Even at this early stage, the team had formed their personalities that would carry them all the way into the Bronze Age. Bobby would mature the most, I guess -- but he had the furthest to grow. I always felt that Warren looked the coolest of the five, but was perhaps the most bland. Sure, his jerk-like qualities sometimes rose to the surface, but editorial perhaps didn't want him to stray too far from his namesake, I guess. 
Oh, and in regard to Cyke's eyebeams and our discussion of such back in the "Secret Empire" storyline -- everything I'm seeing in these early issues has them as force beams. No heat seems to be present.

Karen: We switch scenes to another group of mutants gathered around a table, eating, but this is a far different gathering. This is our first look at the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants: Toad, Mastermind, and the focus of our review, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Gone is the camaraderie we saw with the X-Men; instead, Quicksilver upbraids the Toad for his table manners in front of his sister, while Mastermind comes on to her. Wanda, appalled and quite angry, uses her hex power to cause a bottle of water to fall over into Mastermind's lap. 
As he prepares to retaliate, she calls to her brother, and Quicksilver gives Mastermind a swift right to the jaw, knocking him off his feet. Mastermind is about to return the favor when the Toad begins hopping with glee, telling them go ahead, destroy each other, then just he and the Witch will be left to rule alongside "the Leader"! At the mention of "The Leader" Mastermind backs down, knowing that Quicksilver and his sister are integral to his plans. Hmmm, who could this mysterious Leader be???

Doug: Talk about nailing it the first time! Quicksilver upbraids the Toad, indeed! "Toad! Must you chomp your food like that?? My sister happens to be at the table, you obnoxious fool!" No lie -- laughed out loud when I read that. So I said the Angel was jerk-like above. Pietro would take any and all comers in a jerk contest and destroy them all! We spent some time last week discussing the elements of Hawkeye's personality that would stick and grow to become literally who he was/is. Stan truly does nail it the first time with a) Pietro's brashness and speech patterns, and b) his twisted devotion to his sister as her guardian and protector. Given that this was a Silver Age story, we had no inkling that Wanda's power would one day far eclipse her brother's and that she would make a better protector for him! I loved Wanda's costume in these early years, from her headpiece to the rings around her boots.
There really was no reason to sex her up as many artists did over the course of the 1980s-'00s.

Karen: I think you're a bit hard on Pietro -he's a hot-head, but at this stage, I don't think he's a real jerk. But I'll save my comments for him until the end.

Doug: I haven't read all of the Silver Age X-Men books, but every time I come across Mastermind I am astounded that the fool could pull off the whole manipulation of Phoenix as "Jason Wyngarde". Just floors me -- what a great choice by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, because I recall a deep sense of, "Ha! Got me!" when the reveal came.

Karen: In the office of a shipping line, the mutant master of magnetism, Magneto appears! I just really wanted to do a Stan Lee alliterative phrase there. He winds up stealing an old freighter that has guns on its deck. I don't know much at all about ships but I thought that was interesting. Using his magnetic abilities his pilots the craft out to sea -and who should be flying by but the Angel, on a training exercise. But although the winged teen swoops down for a closer look, neither mutant spots the other. Angel returns to the mansion and Professor Xavier runs a series of physical tests on him as Jean assists. Warren (the Angel) relays what he saw, and the Professor has a sense of foreboding about the freighter.

Doug: Speaking of headpieces, Magneto has one of the coolest headgears in all of comicdom. I love that helmet! I also know next to nothing about ships, but I share your wonder at why a "freighter" would be armed with heavy artillery; I also questioned Angel's query about the possibility that it was being remotely controlled. I tried not to read too much into the image of Jean as a lab assistant. Any reason why Hank wouldn't have been involved in... I don't know, biochemistry?


Karen: Magneto arrives at his uncharted Atlantic isle where the Toad excitedly greets him. The first thing the little wretch does is squeal on his comrades, telling Magneto they were fighting. Mastermind tries to downplay it, but when Toad says he tried to hurt Wanda, Mastermind angrily blurts out that he'll make the Toad pay for this. This infuriates Magneto, who grabs Mastermind and reminds him that their personal issues are nothing, only the plan matters. He finds Wanda and Pietro and tells them he must speak to them. Quicksilver says that he doesn't scare him, and that he's taking his sister away and leaving. Magneto then reminds him of the debt that she owes him. Wanda regretfully says that she has to serve him until she has repaid him. Magneto then recounts how he came upon their village "in the heart of Europe" where superstitious villagers were after Wanda, calling her a witch. The flashback shows Wanda standing in front of a burning building, her arms in the air as if in a panic, while angry villagers (one even has a pitchfork!) come after her. In the next panel, Magneto appears and gathers her up, saving her life. Back in the present, the master of magnetism reminds the twins that they are Homo Superior and it's their destiny to rule over humankind. Quicksilver however, has not completely drunk Magneto's Kool Aid -he isn't convinced, although he has no love for humans. But since his sister feels she must stay, he will too. Magneto says now that he has his ship, he will begin his assault on humankind. The five of them will attack and conquer an entire nation!

Doug: Would it be safe to say that since Magneto had found the island and then built an estate on it that it would no longer be "uncharted"? When Jack does the pullback right before the end of this scene, I can see why Magneto would later set up shop on an asteroid. This island is nothing to write home about! But I digress. I love the Toad. He's such a fool, a jester. I suppose one could argue that he's so unfairly persecuted and the butt of every joke as well as the recipient of the lion's share of the aggression from his comrades.
But he could be (when written with a degree of reservation) such a great character, present mostly to add color to a typically testosterone-laced scene.

Doug: I am convinced that Europe never left the 19th century. Marvel Comics said so. Everything on that continent exists as it does in the 1931 Frankenstein film.

Karen: Several days later, Professor X is reading the newspaper, which says the tiny South American republic of Santo Marco has been attacked by an unknown ship. The Prof quickly figures out that it has to be Magneto and his allies. He summons the X-Men, who are all shown doing various off duty activities: Hank (the Beast) is solving math problems, holding the pen with his foot; Jean is either dancing or exercising; Warren could be listening to the radio or working on electronics; and Bobby is having a tremendous milkshake. Only Scott is dressed in his uniform. He comes running in from the practice field, yelling at everyone to suit up, it's a red alert. They find the Professor in a trance. But he's whispering, faintly. Professor X has sent his consciousness to the astral plane (although it is not called such here, it later will be) where he confronts Magneto. This is where the gauntlet is truly thrown down between them. Magneto says that only Xavier and his team stand between him and world conquest, but why do they fight their own kind? Xavier responds that he wants to save mankind, to bring about a golden age with humans and mutants living together. Magneto can't comprehend this. He says the only place for humans is as their slaves. If that's how Xavier feels, then they are enemies. Xavier comes out of his trance yelling that the X-Men will stop Magneto -even going so far as to say, "It will be mutant against mutant -to the death, if necessary!" Whoa, calm down there Professor! The X-Men are raring to go after Magneto.

Doug: I'll amend what I said earlier about Hank not being depicted yet as a scholar -- the scene of him working the math equations totally went by me! My eyes fixated on Jean's yoga (or whatever) and Bobby's ice cream soda. Hmmm... I'm sure someone in the audience could do a personality breakdown for me based on that. The two panels where Magneto and Xavier meet on the astral plane were just wonderful. Kirby could do scope and scale, couldn't he? This scene is formative for everything that will come after, for decades.

Karen: Back in Santo Marco, Magneto and the Brotherhood have taken over the the small country. Mastermind uses his illusionary power to whip up a phantom army to keep the people in line. Kirby draws a bunch of jack-stepping goons whose attire, with striking helmet design and 'M' armbands, would have looked like Nazis if they were colored green and not purple. Of course, in 1964 Magneto did not have his origin as a concentration camp survivor, but with that thought in place now it's a little unnerving. Of course, Kirby was using what he knew, and the Nazis would have been a symbol of supreme brutality. It works no matter how you look at it. Wanda questions why Magneto must terrify the people so, but the mutant leader says the humans are sheep, and fear is key to controlling them.

Doug: There's a lot to chew on in these eight panels. First, though -- in the Masterworks the army's uniforms are indeed green with dark green helmets. They resemble the Wehrmacht. And so I wonder if Claremont considered what Lee/Kirby had produced as canon? As we've remarked, this issue is so foundational on several levels, that to ignore any of its trappings seems irresponsible. I agree with you that Kirby perhaps equated all of Marvel's diabolical megalomaniacs with the megalomaniac of the 20th century. Kirby draws a sentry on a road checking for identification papers -- of course Jews had to carry papers on their persons at all times, and their movements could be restricted.
So for Claremont to later switch everything in this scene to a polar perspective seems odd at best. I'm not saying the transition in Magneto's backstory isn't good or worthwhile; I merely question the rights of creators to retcon the work of the masters. There's a reason why you're getting a paycheck writing comics, son.

Karen: Soon Magneto is able to take over the government, and he recruits a real army. They are guarding the border when the X-Men drive up, in their civilian disguises, acting as American students on a goodwill tour. They are allowed to pass. Magneto is dispensing 'justice' in the presidential palace when he senses their arrival -somehow he seems to have a residual mental connection to Xavier. He tells the Brotherhood to prepare for them. Likewise, Professor X senses more mutants than Magneto and warns his young charges. They plan their assault on the palace and Beast takes the lead. He climbs a tower but is repelled by the Toad. Beast grabs onto the side of the tower and starts to work his way back up, but Mastermind uses his illusions to make the Beast think the stone tower has turned to smooth glass. The young mutant panics, believing he can't get a grip on the smooth surface. On the other side of the castle, the Angel engages turret gunners, knocking them out (killing them?) by dropping a live wire on them. He flies into the palace to search for Magneto when he runs into Quicksilver. I really get a kick out of how Pietro's speed is depicted here -he's all blurred out, just a bunch of green lines. Angel and Quicksilver race around the hallways, and Quicksilver is definitely faster, but Angel has the upper hand in maneuverability, and makes a sharp turn, avoiding a wall which Quicksilver slams right into. Pietro is out cold, but suddenly Wanda appears and she's upset to see her brother hurt. All Angel can think about though is how hot Wanda looks! The Witch uses her hex and suddenly the ceiling above Angel collapses and crashes down on him. Moments later he's tied up by soldiers and Quicksilver has recovered.

Doug: What do you think of Magneto's mental prowess in this story? The ground certainly seems to be laid for a prior relationship between Magneto and Xavier -- could they have been brothers, old friends, cousins? There's a connection between them that of course was mined in subsequent years. Back to the Hitler comparisons for a moment -- how about the soldier who remarks to his partner, "Strange how he took over our entire government -- so sudden, without firing a shot!" Franz von Papen and his mates felt at one time they could "box Hitler in", or "hire" him. Making him Chancellor was too easy -- a fire in the Reichstag soon after and Hitler declared emergency powers to rule by decree. "Strange how he took over our entire government -- ...without firing a shot!" Yes.

Karen: Well, these two men -Lee and Kirby -lived through WWII, and I'm pretty sure they understood how Hitler came to power. This isn't the only example  of this type of analogy in Marvel books.

Doug: I thought it was interesting that the Beast would go first, but I suppose of the five teens he was the "stealthiest". Angel would certainly be obvious, and one could spot Iceman coming a mile away on his ice slides. I did think it odd, however, that given the size of Hank's feet that he could squeeze those big honkin' toes in between the stones on the tower wall. I also like how Kirby and Don Heck drew Quicksilver in motion. But my single favorite image of Pietro is this one (ha - have to make the jump to see it!).
And Warren... ever the prospective playboy. Dummy.

Karen: Magneto arrives to see that the Angel has been captured and is pleased, but this doesn't last long as a powerful beam of read energy comes blasting into the room. Yup, it's Cyclops. It's pretty silly, but Cyclops sends to soldiers spinning heads over heels into the room by the force of his beam. Next he turns it on Magneto who dodges it. Quicksilver runs around behind Cyke and grabs him, but pulls him down, aiming his beam at the ceiling, inadvertently hitting the electrical generator for the castle and knocking it loose. Somehow this causes electricity to flow through the castle, menacing everyone. Cyclops then decides to blow the generator entirely out of the castle and cuts loose with a powerful blast, which blows the machine through the castle wall and away from them. But the strain of the task causes Cyclops to lose consciousness -so typical of these early 60s Marvel heroes.

Doug: I think in regard to Cyke bowling over the soldiers, that just Kirby's mind. I'm sure he was thinking of the most kinetic thing he could draw for a great entrance.
Cyke and Magneto have had some cool stand-offs over the years. I always felt, that at least temporarily, Cyke could get Magneto. I don't think it ever turned out that way, but it just seems that when they come into contact Cyke enjoys an upper hand at the beginning of the fracas.

Karen: Everyone's little buddy, Iceman, happens to be in the path of that ejected generator! Luckily he's been practicing -he creates an ice slide to divert its path. Then he uses ice spikes to climb up the wall of the castle, where he frees Angel and wakes up Cyclops -by covering him with slush! Yuck. They're soon reunited with Marvel Girl and the Beast -well, after Jean sends some telekinetically aimed objects at them by mistake - and then the whole team is together. I liked the next two panels as the teens expressed doubt over their ability to handle the situation.
Beast: "So far we've used up a lot of time and energy and accomplished nothing!" Yes, these were the heroes. During the midst of their debate, a huge river of fire appears, heading down the hall towards them. The teens run but find themselves cornered. Then from out of the flames comes Professor X! He tells them not to be afraid, it's simply an illusion. Regrouped, with their older and wiser leader, they head back off to find Magneto.

Doug: "Everyone's little buddy" -- Bobby Drake is the Gilligan of this outfit, isn't he? I thought Iceman got some quality screen time on these pages. It was nice to see him making a contribution and not being some sort of mascot. His power, too, would grow over the years. The scene where Jeannie inadvertently fires the medieval weapons at the gang was a throwaway, but at the same time integral to showing her power set as well as that whole clay feet deal that was Marvel at this time -- everyone could screw up, at any time, and we all might end up paying the price. What seems like a silly scene is in reality part of the greater mythos that the Bullpen was crafting!

Doug: I'm going to assume that Magneto's fortress here did not comply with the Santo Marcos version of the Americans with Disabilities Act, so I'd sure be interested to know how Xavier got into the building in the first place! I have enjoyed seeing the Professor's various powers over the course of these first several issues.  

Karen: Magneto is busy at work on two bombs: one a simple bomb to booby-trap the door; the other, a nuclear bomb to blow up the whole country! Quicksilver asks Magneto about all the innocents who will die. Magneto has a bunch of answers for him -they are only Homo Sapiens, they would kill us if they could, and it's really self-defense! Good grief!

Doug: Quicksilver = conscience. Who'd have thunk it? But a question about young Pietro: do you consider him a moral person? I suppose my opinion of him is skewed by his reactions to Wanda's professed love for the Vision. But in these early years he was devoted, and I do believe that he had a hero's heart.

Karen: The X-Men rush at the door to Magneto's lair but at the last second Professor X senses the trap and throws himself in front of the X-Men. He takes the brunt of the impact. Surprisingly, it doesn't kill him -it only renders him stunned.
Cyclops blasts through the door as the evil mutants high tail it down an escape chute (!) towards their freighter. Wanda is also shocked that Magneto would kill thousands of innocent people, but she runs off anyway. Her brother, though, has another idea. After Magneto jumps in the chute and commands Pietro to follow him, the speedy mutant says there's something he has to do first. He runs into the other room and defuses the nuclear bomb. The X-Men see him do this, much to their confusion. Quicksilver runs off, saying that although he couldn't let a nation be destroyed, his place is with Magneto. "You are the betrayers of Homo Superior! Expect no mercy next time we meet!" The X-Men return to Professor X, who lies dazed on the floor. Unfortunately the blast has somehow affected his mental powers. He no longer has his telepathic abilities. The team wonders how they can face Magneto without him?

Doug: Xavier's act in defense of his students was incredibly self-sacrificing and noble. It was the high point of the story, because I really felt that not only did he see them as his students or his charges; in a real way he saw them as his children. And I also found it strange that Wanda leapt into the chute. That's some blackmail/debt that Magneto is holding over her head. 

Karen: This was a very entertaining little story, action-packed as you can tell. We could probably consider it one of the key early Marvel issues, seeing as how it introduces some major players, and also sets up the key conflict in the X-Men mythology. One thing I'd like to do is defend Quicksilver. Too often I hear that he was always a jerk. I don't think that's really the case. He had a temper, and he would not let an insult to his sister go unopposed, but in the early days, he was not the unmitigated butthead that he later became. In this story we can see that the twins are not truly bad, but forced into Magneto's sphere by circumstances beyond their control. It would have been terrifically exciting to have been a fan back in those days and have seen them make the change from reluctant villains to heroes.

Doug: I'd mentioned above that the coloring in the Marvel Masterworks edition was different from that which Karen was looking at on the X-Men dvd-rom. Below you'll see the re-colored, re-mastered, whatever version of some of the panels that featured Magneto's army on the island of Santo Marcos. See if you think there's a Nazi vibe going on here... which for me, and again we had a bit of this conversation above, is quite compelling given that the copyright date on the Masterworks is 1987 (I have the fourth printing -- not sure that makes a difference). All-New, All-Different X-Men scribe Chris Claremont retconned Magneto's personal history in Uncanny X-Men #150 to state that Magneto had survived the Holocaust. That issue hit the newsstands in 1981. So for the coloring in this version of X-Men #4 to mimic color schemes used by the various military and para-military branches of Hitler's forces seems a bit odd. I'd add that Magneto's entire schtick in this issue (and later stories) smacks of Homo superior as a true "master race" with all other sorts of people as untermensch (subhuman).

Doug: So, since this is after all a post about Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, I have to ask our fellows who still read comics if the fact (now, at least) that Magneto is the twins' father has ever raised issues of their "Jewishness"? From what I've seen, and that would run about through Avengers, volume 3, Wanda has most often been portrayed as Romani (at least that's the implication to me) by various creators. But I don't know that anyone in the Marvel Universe other than Ben Grimm has been characterized as ethnically Jewish. Diversity is the spice of life, and America is certainly known as the "great melting pot"; our comics most often do not reflect that.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Have An Egg-ceptional Easter, from the Bronze Age Babies!
Happy Easter from the boys of World of Wadley, Mrs. Wadley, and the Doug-half of Bronze Age Babies!

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