Friday, August 1, 2014

One Wingman Short

In a prior post, it became clear how valuable the presence of the Hulk was in promoting sales of The Defenders, even if the Hulk wasn't actually in the issue(s) in question. I suppose when you think about it, there wasn't any other character on the team who could carry the ball in that respect--not even Dr. Strange, who mostly kept a low profile in comparison to other Marvel characters and whose book likely wasn't a strong seller in the first place. So a cover like this one, while infuriating in terms of being a blatant misrepresentation of the events in the actual story, fully met the spirit of "shameless marketing ploy":

Just to make things crystal clear: the Hulk was never present (conflicted or otherwise) during the confrontation between Luke Cage, Strange, and Nighthawk--therefore, neither Strange nor Nighthawk addressed him or questioned his loyalties. The Hulk never even knew such a meeting took place--because, in the first few pages of the issue, the Hulk angrily left the Defenders without a backward glance. Strange decided to accompany Nighthawk in investigating the mysterious destruction of buildings owned by Kyle Richmond (Nighthawk's true identity), which led to their unfortunate meeting with the private security which Richmond's accountant hired to protect the premises:

Yes, a slight over-reaction on Cage's part. He compounds the blunder by decking Strange--but that opens the door to this nice little dust-up with Nighthawk:

I don't really see Nighthawk as being Cage's match--after all, even though Nighthawk has twice the strength, skill and stamina of a normal man at night, Cage's strength and stamina go beyond that. And since Nighthawk really isn't looking for a fight while Cage is, the man interested in putting the other down is likely the one who'll prevail here:

So it's a good thing that Nighthawk has Strange as a wingman tonight, because once the stars stop circling Strange's head, this fight's going to be over. Oh, wait--isn't his "mystic might drained"? I GUESS NOT.

For what it's worth, the Hulk returns in the next issue to help battle the Wrecking Crew.  At least that's what it looks like on the cover.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mr. Fantastic Meets Ms. Unimpressed

When we last saw Simone Debouvier of NYC's Child Welfare division, she had just made an evaluation of the home environment of Franklin Richards and his sister as part of her office's investigation as to whether his parents were adequately providing for their safety and well-being.

It could have gone better.

Let's not sugar-coat things--Ms. Debouvier's initial report to her supervisor is likely to be frank, and unfavorable.

But the lady is a professional, and there are admittedly extenuating circumstances where the Richards family is concerned--so it's to her credit that she's willing to continue the investigation with something of an open mind, though she's probably made it clear in so many words that her mind is 80% made up.

To that end, Sue has taken steps to at least meet Ms. Debouvier halfway:

A nanny is all well and good, but it's really a Band-Aid to this kind of situation. The Richardses obviously haven't asked for my input, but I might have given them one solution long before now that might have put Ms. Debouvier's mind at least partially at ease:

Why not a "safe room" for the kids? Other families have fire drills in their home--why not extend the notion to have a plan for the kids when there's a sudden danger situation in the Baxter Building? One of the FF speaks a special code which triggers an alarm that the kids are trained to instantly respond to--they head for the safe room (designed by Reed, of course) and ride out the trouble until Mom or Dad comes to retrieve them. There could even be a network of pneumatic tubes that they can step into wherever they are at the time, and be whisked to the room in seconds. The safe room can even be located off-site, just for good measure.

(And that's just off the top of my head! Surely Reed and Sue could put their heads together and think of something more foolproof.)

At any rate, Sue has done her best--but Ms. Debouvier of course will need to meet with the children's father in order to make a more informed assessment at this stage. And in this second meeting, Reed finally returns to find out about this development. But Reed's famous for thinking on his feet, right? And with Reed and Sue presenting a united front, hopefully they can make some headway with Ms. Debouvier.

Unless Reed happens to be on the run from the Feds, that is.

Strike two.

I have a feeling Ms. Debouvier may get a nice tour of the Negative Zone when she comes around for her next appointment.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

The Fantasti-Car, circa 2006.

I think I may scream.

Fatal Attraction

As you might have guessed by this post's title, this second appearance of Zzzax, the Living Dynamo, was slightly different in tone from his first. Oh, Zzzax is still obsessed with feeding on the energy of human brains, rest assured--but this time, there's something else in play besides hunger. The issue's cover gives us a little more to go on:

Yes--Zzzax is involved in a love triangle.
Only not the one the cover leads us to believe. (Thank goodness.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Star-Lord Is Born

I was never partial to the black-and-white comic/sci-fi/sword and sorcery magazines that hit the stands in the 1970s, so Marvel's promotional material for their B&W mags was lost on me. Consequently, I wasn't a reader of Marvel Preview, despite being tempted with this nice launch ad by (I'm assuming) John Romita in January of '75:

There also seemed to be something of a distribution problem with these mags. I wasn't yet buying my comics at dedicated comics shops, and the various convenience and drug stores I was picking up comics at were carrying more mainstream mags rather than these fantasy-based 'zines, at least in my area. So I wasn't fortunate enough to be treated to the nice Neal Adams cover of the first issue of Preview (seen here alongside issue #9, which apparently is looking to gain a little more mileage out of an adaptation of the masthead):

Marvel also name-dropped the mag in their Bullpen Bulletins section (which also prominently featured the Romita ad):

"...the first issue of MARVEL PREVIEW--a one-dollar wonder which will showcase a fabulous new feature each and every ish! Our maiden voyage: MAN-GODS FROM BEYOND THE STARS! And if this stunning science-fiction tale of earth's first alien visitors doesn't knock Von Daiken [sic] and company right out of their chariots, then we're taking the first flying saucer out of here!"

(A slight typo in the Bulletins copy, which no doubt meant to refer to Erich von Däniken, author of the bestseller Chariots of the Gods?.)

I dare say many works since von Däniken's book jumped on board the story potential of aliens visiting our world and influencing our culture and development in primitive times--so it's no real surprise to see Marvel green-light both the "Man-Gods" story and, a year and a half later, a more formal approach with Jack Kirby's The Eternals and its focus on the Celestials.

Marvel Preview also introduced the Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon characters before ending its run (as "Marvel Preview") in late 1980.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Fate Of The Galaxy Rests on--Test Screenings

Good heavens--talk about optimism!

Which translates to three possible scenarios:

(a) Everyone involved is convinced that this puppy is going to be a hit.
(b) Everyone involved is convinced that this puppy is not going to be a hit, and are hoping to spur a blitz of ticket-buyers into theaters on its opening weekend before the bottom drops out.  In which case:
(c) The "planned" sequel will be "reconsidered" and cancelled.

Personally I'm pulling for Possibility (a).

Request Denied!

Reading those old Tales of Suspense or Strange Tales comics, where the stories of two Marvel characters each occupied half the book, often felt like you were reading Sunday comics strips, especially if they were continued stories--a lot of adventure being crammed into a limited space, with the ending promising more to come. It was amazing how much story was being presented in just ten or eleven pages--though the story's frenetic pacing probably helped in that respect, with the characters often racing about in a time-is-of-the-essence, it's-do-or-die! mindset.

Before Doctor Strange's first costume change, it was difficult to imagine the "man of mystery" becoming desperate or exited about anything, with his aloof and mysterious demeanor and a tendency to meet even a crisis with calm detachment. Perhaps the change of costume was to help market him as a more active character, rather than an enigma who stepped out of the shadows to deal with a mystic menace. Perhaps having him gunned down in one story was overdoing it a bit, but you get the point.

Strange's first meeting with Eternity is a good example of both of these observations. Strange is being hunted; the Ancient One has been targeted; Dormammu has allied with Strange's mortal nemesis, Baron Mordo; and to help the Ancient One, Strange must seek out the entity known as Eternity. The man definitely has a lot on his plate, and the stakes are high for this mystic who was once content to confront haunted houses. Eternity, meanwhile, has received a great deal of build-up in the last few issues, with Strange on a race against time to discover the secret of how to contact him; and now that the moment has come for the fateful meeting, the story dials back the manhunt aspect in favor of the drama of discovery.

Which leads to one of my most favorite splash pages of all time:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Intervention for the Richards Children

When it comes to the Fantastic Four, we're often curious as to how this super-group copes with the day-to-day matters that you and I must tend to on a regular basis. Fortunately, we don't have to drop everything (and, if we have children, everyone) when a crisis arises that demands our intervention--that is to say, we don't have to do so nearly as often as the FF seem to. Nor do we have to cope with "home invasions" on anything like the scale the FF find themselves victims of.

So in their down time, the FF find solace in attending to maintenance or other domestic matters, or attending a symposium, or spending more time with the kids. Sue and Reed, of course, being parents, are probably on any number of contact lists for children's associations or foundations, and certainly local bureaucratic offices that need to meet with them from time to time:

But the meeting between Sue and Ms. Debouvier won't exactly be filled with pleasantries.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Deadly Attack of--The Wolverine!

Let's face it--nobody can make his own name resonate in an opponent's head like Wolverine.

But remember the days when Wolverine used to attach an article to his name for good measure? Heaven knows Wolverine's reputation preceded him--but when you saw "the Wolverine" coming at his victim, it gave his attack that little extra jolt of terror, didn't it?

So let's take a moment to remember when the Wolverine, rather than just "Wolverine," was making his name felt in the Marvel universe.

I think the article was jettisoned just before John Byrne came aboard Uncanny X-Men:

(Or is that the Uncanny X-Men?)

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