Super-Villain Team-Up #2 (October 1975)(cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia)
"In the Midst of Life... the Way to Dusty Death!"
Tony Isabella-Sal Buscema/Fred Kida
Doug: Continuing a week's worth of Civil War-themed posts, what about bad guys fighting bad guys? This was the first issue of Super-Villain Team-Up that I ever bought, and I stayed with the series (when I could -- you know, distribution woes) until the end of the original run; I did not know until years later that there was a 16th and then a 17th issue (each released waaaay after the 15th issue). Super-Villain Team-Up seems typical of other short-lived series at Marvel in that (in my opinion) sub-par and oft-rotating creative teams doomed it. Case in point: during its 17-issue run (plus Giant-Size issues), the following writers and artists helmed the series --
Giant-Size SVTU #1 -- Roy Thomas-John Buscema/Joe Sinnott (framing sequences)So if you're scoring at home, that's six writers (I won't count Lieber due to the reprint), 11 pencilers, and (wait for it) 13 inkers. That's right -- 13 inkers working on 18 issues in the series (again, not counting the reprint). Granted, they doubled-up a few times, but still... If that's not a major reason why a book would look different month to month, I don't know what is. And regardless what you think of a guy like Herb Trimpe, when you place him under the influence of Don Perlin... well, let's just say it ain't Trimpe under John Severin! I will say, though, that the Bob Hall/Don Perlin issues look pretty good.
Giant-Size SVTU #2 -- Roy Thomas-Mike Sekowsky/Sam Grainger
#1: Tony Isabella-George Tuska/Bill Everett/George Evans/Frank Springer
#2: Tony Isabella-Sal Buscema/Fred Kida
#3: Jim Shooter-George Evans/Jack Abel
#4: Bill Mantlo-Herb Trimpe/Jim Mooney
#5: Steve Englehart-Herb Trimpe/Don Perlin
#6: Steve Englehart-Herb Trimpe/Jack Abel
#7: Steve Englehart-Herb Trimpe/Pablo Marcos
#8: Steve Englehart-Keith Giffen/Owen McCarron
#9: Bill Mantlo-Jim Shooter/Sal Trapani
#10: Bill Mantlo-Bob Hall/Don Perlin
#11: Bill Mantlo-Bob Hall/Don Perlin
#12: Bill Mantlo-Bob Hall/Don Perlin
#13: Bill Mantlo/Keith Giffen-Giffen/Don Perlin
#14: Bill Mantlo-Bob Hall/Don Perlin/Duffy Vohland
#15: Larry Lieber-George Tuska/Wally Wood/Mike Esposito (reprint)
#16: Peter Gillis-Carmine Infantino/Bruce Patterson
#17: Peter Gillis-Arvell Jones/Bruce Patterson
Doug: There's something for you to chew on as we now get on to the task at hand -- reviewing what's sort of a bridge issue, but fun nonetheless. We pick up the trail on one of our favorite Bronze Age conventions -- the visi-screen! I mean seriously... if I can't have a couple of panels with a rubber mask reveal, then just hit me upside the head with a visi-screen! Here's your 100-Word Review of the plot of this issue:
Doug: If I were an editor working at Marvel in the Bronze Age and I wanted to stabilize a book either to keep it on schedule or to smooth out its "look", I'd turn it over to Sal Buscema. That's not to say that he was the best artist Marvel had at their disposal, but he could crank out the "house style" in an efficient manner. I don't know if that is why he was tapped for this particular issue, but in the looks dept. his presence makes this one of my favorites in the entire series. So...
After a battle near Hydrobase, Namor has fallen under the combined might of Attuma, Tiger Shark, and Dr. Dorcas (now there's a moniker for ya). But somewhere distant Namor's would-be ally Dr. Doom watches, and reflects on the brief history of his and Namor’s alliance. Doom is found out, forcing his hand. Seeking to liberate Namor, Doom encounters the transformed Betty Dean Prentiss, former love of the Prince during the War. Doom infiltrates Namor’s prison, but in the melee Betty is killed trying to save Namor from Dr. Dorcas’ blast… she falls just as Namor breaks free. “Avenging Son”, indeed!
The Good: Obviously the art. I really don't have a lot of experience with inker Fred Kida, or at least I don't think that I do. Maybe that I can't recall Kida's work is a good thing? Perhaps you immediately inferred that he's not a memorable artist. Maybe that's his strength, because when I look at this I see Sal Buscema. It's no Joe Sinnott production, that's for sure (and you all know I love Joe Sinnott). At this stage of his career Sal was a grid guy, utilizing 4-8 panels on a page. Only the double-page spread (pages 2 and 3) rejects the notion of borders; every other panel in the book contains the art. So if you're looking for anything resembling the better design aspects of Jim Steranko or Neal Adams, you won't find it here. And that's OK. As I said, if someone felt this book needed a steadying hand, they got it.
There is one specific panel that I think is genius. I've provided it here -- Tiger Shark emerging from the ocean. Look at his right hand. He skims the water with the backs of his fingers, just like you or I would if we were walking to shore, thinking or watching. I just find that bit of familiar motion fascinating -- what a detail. I also have a love/hate sense with a single panel of Doom holding his chin in the crook of his thumb and index finger. While it's an image that conveys the motion of stroking one's chin and it fits Doom's mood in the scene, it does seem somewhat odd that a fellow would place a hard metal finger beside a hard metal chin. Not exactly the pensive beard-stroking one might think of. The emotion on the final panel of the book leaps off the page. Fabulous ending (see the end of this post)!
Earlier I mentioned the visi-screen. Unlike in the past, when our would-be world-dominators are just able to kick back and look at these things as if possessing some sort of universal clairvoyance, here we actually find the source of the images Doom is perusing. Doom had devised a mechanical fish that looks to me quite a bit like a Joker fish. Even though Tiger Shark spied it and wrecked it, I did appreciate that we got a "plausible" explanation for Doom's spying capabilities.
While I'll take issue with Tony Isabella's characterization here in just a minute, I must compliment him here on making me root for the main character of the magazine (the Marvel Universe's alpha super-villain) against all other characters -- especially when everyone in the book is a bad guy! Namor's rogue's gallery is bereft of true heavyweights, so of course Doom would be able to out-smart them, out-tech them, etc. But there was still the sense that I wanted Doom to be the victor (no pun intended) here. I don't say that in he pages of the Fantastic Four.
Lastly, I've been on record for years stating that I love this life-giving suit that Namor wore in the early-mid 1970s. Love the look! It's certainly more regal than trying to rule or lay waste to the world in a green Speedo.
The Bad: Let's go right into my scripting complaint. If you would be so kind, hop back to my review of Sub-Mariner #8, written by Roy Thomas. That issue was narrated by Betty Dean Prentiss, who is a major supporting character in today's story. You can see some narration boxes in the art samples -- those were "written" by Prentiss in her diary. Got her voice? Yeah, Isabella must have just ignored all that, because I think he took her character profile (she worked for the NYPD) and just wrote her as some hardened beat cop-type of person. It's really off, and I think I'd feel that way even if I had not known the character from that other book. The way she addresses Doom is pretty stupid, as well. I'm all for bravado in the face of extreme adversity, but c'mon... the monarch of Latveria could have vaporized her on the spot. I guess I'd rather she'd been written differently.
Note - You may notice that some of the "human" characters, like Betty Prentiss, are amphibians. This was apparently a development in the last issues of Namor's solo mag, which was cancelled around six months before Giant-Size SVTU #1. I don't know if this is necessarily a bad thing as a plot device, but I'll put it here since I was discussing Betty Prentiss.
The Ugly: Tiger Shark's teeth. You know -- like a shark. Boy should have had braces! That being said, are his teeth uglier than Attuma's whole face? Discuss.
Doug: I am hesitant to read the entire trade Super-Villains Unite: The Complete Super-Villain Team-Up, which I have used for today's festivities. As I said, the art is a real turn-off at times. And that's a shame to middle-aged me, because my memories of this series are better than the reality of it with which I am now faced. "Hold up"? Umm...
Doug: For conversation starters, what other instances can you come up with where super-baddies fought super-baddies? Were there some memorable tussles? Who would you have liked to have seen -- where were two guys (or gals) who may have conceivably had a beef with each other?