Gentle readers, please forgive the peppering of placeholder icons which have multiplied here at the PPOC in numbers that even Jamie Madrox couldn't muster. Your innocent host was investigating a privacy option which has since been reset back to its original setting, but which Google interpreted to mean: "Oh, so you want to screw up mapping to your image files, eh? No problem--done!"
Sorry for the inconvenience, and hopefully this won't take too long to resolve. I assure you, "Placeholder" is NOT today's mystery villain.
It's often very handy having your comic book collection on shelving, where you can find anything you want very quickly. But on those days when you're feeling indecisive, it can also make it easy to make your choice on a whim. So I thought it might be fun to let fate take a hand and, this time, make my choice for me as to what to throw the spotlight on for a post; and so, standing in front of a random spot, I reached out and let my index finger fall on whatever bagged book it touched, and then pulled it out to have a look. I'm not sure what meaning to take away from the fact that my first four tries retrieved issues that I've already featured in the PPOC--I've either not collected as many comics as I'd thought I had, or I'm too prolific a writer for my own good.
Nevertheless, here's what the fickle finger of fate had finally settled on:
You're probably thinking that either Jim Steranko drew the Hulk for this cover, or this was the period when Rick Jones was transforming into another Hulk--the latter indeed being the case, with Al Milgrom doing the art for the entire issue, as well as writing the story.
Many readers know of Owen Reece, the Molecule Man, through his exposure in the Secret Wars series--but it's interesting to follow the trail of this character from his first appearance in 1963, since, in one or two respects, Reece isn't the same Molecule Man as the one who first challenged the Fantastic Four. Or, is he? Let's just say that even Reece didn't have the power to prevent Marvel from tangling up the molecules of his own identity.
It was a little sad to see the "Rogues Gallery" feature steadily disappear from Marvel annuals and specials, to be replaced by collages and special commissions--just as the annuals themselves were phased out over time, redundant in the light of oversized comics published more frequently and making a once-a-year special less anticipated and, yes, special.
If memory serves, Spider-Man had the most extensive gallery of foes presented, with the Fantastic Four coming in a close second (though I could very well have that switched around). It wasn't until I started putting together Spidey's gallery that I realized how popular the feature had become in his annuals. Have a look at the collection of one-page portraits published over a span of fifteen Spider-Man annuals:
(Missing from this group is "Jonah's Robot," which would go on to become the Spider-Slayer.)
No doubt just about any of us could quibble over which of these foes should occupy an honored place in such a gallery; for instance, I'd probably boot out the Living Brain, the Man-Wolf, and the Kangaroo--and the Crime-Master didn't really measure up to the build-up he got. Jonah's Robot was also hardly one of Spidey's more memorable foes. But of course it all depends on your memories of these stories.
If I can ever find the wall space, the full set is going to be matted and framed to brighten up the room it hangs in. Until then, it will proudly serve as a desktop wallpaper slide-show.
In the first Secret Wars series, the mighty Thor slipped away with the Enchantress (just to talk, really!), only to return with the rumblings of disaster. He also found a little reception committee there to greet him:
Even though it's mortals he's facing, it's a formidable array of super-foes that Thor is going up against--pretty much the cream of the crop. Doom, the FF's arch-enemy; Doc Ock, who's pummelled Spider-Man on many occasions; the Absorbing Man, an original enemy of Thor who's gone up against him several times and still picking fights with him, which should tell you something; Kang, an Avengers enemy who's also taken on Thor; the Wrecking Crew, invested with the power of Asgard and headed by the Wrecker, a bruiser who's battled Thor and nearly caused his death; and Ultron, composed of a metal even Thor can't damage. There's also the Molecule Man, who could probably end Thor's resistance with a wave of his wand hand.
Adding the super-strong Titania, I'm only counting eleven adversaries (twelve if Doom is including the Enchantress), so I don't know where Doom is getting 13 from. I think I see Volcana in the background in one of these panels, though she never joins the fight.
Even with such odds against Thor, it's a confrontation that's still too close to call. Thor, after all, has fought hordes of gods and laid waste to them; on the other hand, the Masters of Evil piled on Hercules to deadly effect, and they didn't even have Ultron or the Molecule Man. But the bottom line here is: we want to see how Thor does. And the villains don't take long to get down to business:
Wait, that's it!? There wasn't much cutting loose here on Thor's part, to speak of. Though in all fairness, lightning bolts are nothing to sneeze at--and you're going to fight a mostly defensive battle with that many people wanting a piece of you.
Fortunately, three years later, an issue of Thor looks back on this fight and goes into more depth with it:
Yet, while the issue's cover leaves no doubt as to the story's main action, this issue by Tom DeFalco and artist Ron Frenz may surprise you. We know that the Enchantress sits out the battle between Thor and Doom's group in the Secret Wars story--so DeFalco takes the opportunity to tell this story from her perspective, as she attempts to give advice to her self-centered sister, Lorelei, on making wise choices in matters of love.
Nowadays, we've become so desensitized to Iron Man suiting up in customized armor that he might as well be inducted as an honorary Transformer. But during the John Romita/Bob Layton run on Invincible Iron Man, seeing Iron Man in armor that was specially designed to tackle a specific task was a fun new concept for readers:
Tsk. A billionaire and his toys.
The "EVA" suit was a bit of a head-scratcher, since we'd already seen Iron Man operating in outer space in his normal armor; but among its other functions, the new suit's main design seemed to be geared toward getting him into space, which at the time was perhaps beyond the standard suit's capability:
Fortunately, the introductory story gave this development a touch of realism. For instance, despite having the design and engineering skills to conceive and build a suit of Iron Man armor that could function exceptionally well in outer space, Tony Stark never received astronaut training--and there were bound to be mishaps this first time out:
Then there was that interesting-looking stealth armor, with a very logical method of operation that guaranteed that this design wouldn't necessarily be incorporated into Iron Man's regular suit of armor. Specifically designed to take its wearer literally under the radar and cross international borders without detection, or to infiltrate an installation or stronghold with state-of-the-art security, the suit sacrificed its offensive capabilities to make room for (what else?) stealth technology:
And the fact that Stark would be almost defenseless in this armor should anything go wrong was almost asking for something to go wrong:
The stealth armor was damaged by a grid of deadly laser beams, so its introduction was short but sweet. Stark indeed went on to adapt the basic principle of this armor into his red/silver suit, in the form of its "chameleon" mode:
Phooey. It's Space Ghost no matter how you slice it.
Now that the dust has settled from Fantastic Four #60, it's time to tie up a loose end from that story--at least, the one loose end that the story chooses to follow up on. Namely: What happened to the Silver Surfer?
While Dr. Doom was using the Surfer's power to tour through Europe and the rest of the world and terrorize the populace, the Surfer was locked in Doom's tower enduring a cruel form of captivity--though to the Surfer, now confined under a roof and denied the freedom of the skies, his captivity itself was a form of cruelty. But that didn't stop his captors from twisting the knife at every opportunity. Naturally, one person to rub it in was Doom himself:
(Whoa! Who made off with that background?)
But once Doom departed to initiate his plans, the Surfer's jailers also got in on the fun:
"I do not crawl... I do not whimper!" Surfer, should we play back those first couple of panels for you? You've got crawling and whimpering down pretty well, pal.
Be that as it may--now that the FF have dealt with Doom, will the Surfer ever gain his freedom? It would truly suck for him to now be confined to two prisons--first Earth, and now a cell in a dictator's castle. No wonder the guy is whimpering. But at the end of the issue, we spotted the Surfer's board on its way back to the castle, so something's up. And just in time, too, because the Surfer's jailers have apparently decided they've been going too easy on him:
These guys are a piece of work, eh? But things are about to start looking up for the Surfer--just as soon as he himself looks up to the sky and notices that his ride is here:
Now, you're probably thinking that the Surfer is above such concepts as revenge and payback--and that he'll chalk up the horrid treatment he's suffered at the hands of Doom and his men as yet another example of the incomprehensible savagery of humanity, and let it go at that, right?
Oh, hell no.
We'll have to keep in mind that the Surfer isn't human--and that underneath all that rubble and debris are people like cooks, servants, and other workers who just lost their lives from his strike and who had nothing to do with either his mistreatment or even Doom's R&D projects. For what it's worth, the Latverians are likely to lay the blame at Doom's doorstep--assuming they can find it in those ruins.