Friday, February 28, 2014

No Pretty-Pretty Is Safe


In prior postings, we've already covered a little ground where, in the early 1980s, The Mighty Thor title was in a bit of a rut. Let me rephrase that. The title was in a sinkhole, one that seemed to be expanding every month. We saw the Thunder God fighting the likes of mathematicians, and slum lord mercenaries, and religious fanatics, and vampires, and even bullfighters. Only we completists probably stayed with the title at this point; after all, this was Thor we were talking about, one of Marvel's flagship characters. Nobody at Marvel was going to just stand around and let Thor get to the point where it had to be cancelled, or so we steadfastly thought.

The book needed a firm hand, someone who would again give it scope and vision. In late 1983, that hand would belong to writer/artist Walt Simonson, who had been aboard the book previously as artist but who would return and also take over scripting and plotting reins and pull the Thunder God out of his downward spiral. In the meantime, the wait would be excruciating in terms of some of the stories readers had to slog through. And if you think that means unscrupulous bloggers like myself would take advantage of the many, many sub-par stories which are just begging to be made into posts...

...why, I'm shocked at the implication.

I'm also shameless in confirming it.

I look at it this way:

If I and others had to suffer month after month, pulling these issues off the rack and reading each and every one, feeling like we were in some kind of Asgardian purgatory and wondering who the heck at Marvel had lost their sanity and somehow thought that this was Thor at his best--then, in the interests of fairness, you should experience the same uncomfortable winces that we did.

"WHICH ONE THIS TIME??" you gasp, quickly covering your eyes--and well you might. What mortal threat is going to require all the power of the God of Thunder to defeat? Why, no less than...

A MUTATED HORROR MOVIE ACTOR.



So you'd better hold onto your chairs and pray for Thor, because:


"It's Stompin' Time" Might Work, Gorgon


In a Marvel blog, you can never have too much clobberin', I always say. Which means it's time for another round of:



Now, let's see--where did we leave off last time? If I'm not mistaken, I think an orange rock-like fist was connecting with a super-villain leading with his chin! But any foe of the Thing's should keep in mind that he loves to multi-task:


So let's find a few more chins to wallop!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Battered By--Blockbuster!


Judging by this cover, it's reasonably safe to say that the Man-Brute didn't care much for retirement:



He's also obviously still just as peeved as he was when we were first introduced to him, having just finished a stretch in the big house (a/k/a "the slammer," "the pen", "the pokey," take your pick) only to be used by a scientist to gain revenge on Captain America. But with this new appearance, we're at least getting to the bottom of the reason why this man has been so embittered:




And so the newly named "Blockbuster" is going all-out to help his son. Which would normally be an admirable thing for an ex-con to be focused on--except that his idea of not being a "deadbeat dad" is to knock over banks for the cash he needs:



Enter Omega the Unknown, who's going to attempt to stop Blockbuster's rampage. After this fight's over, I'm afraid we still won't know much about Omega--nor, I'm afraid, will Blockbuster's son ever know his father. (Though, come to think of it, that may be a good thing.)


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Build Your Brute The Marvel Way!


Back in the day, it didn't seem to be all that difficult to throw together the ingredients for a Marvel fight. Take Captain America, for instance. All you needed was a bitter villain/genius:



Then, you only had to either find the formula for the Super Soldier serum scribbled down in some dusty archive, or create your own, just by using the resources at your friendly local library:



Then just go out and find some brainless muscle--or, better yet, let him find you:



From there, it's just a quick walk to your lab, where you don't waste any time:



Heh, check out that label--"ZXX Serum." Did I mention you don't need to be all that creative in naming your serum? Your hired muscle probably isn't going to give it much thought, either.

Then you just lure your target into a trap--which is simplicity itself, thanks to the Avengers, who apparently don't screen anybody:



And before you know it, voilĂ ! You've got yourself a Marvel fight!



Monday, February 24, 2014

My Father, My Foe!


The reunion between Drax, the Destroyer and Moondragon, self-styled goddess of the mind, took place with the best of intentions. Father and daughter, separated by death from an alien attack, had found themselves involved in the fierce conflict that saw the presumed death of their attacker. That conflict ended, Drax, a reincarnation of sorts for the soul of Art Douglas, now wandered aimlessly--as did Heather, his Earth daughter who had been taken to a distant world after Art's death and trained in the physical and mental disciplines to become Moondragon. And finally, the daughter felt the need to seek out her father:



Drax, however, found himself both alone and frustrated, now that his one purpose in life--to destroy Thanos--had been accomplished, albeit by another. And that frustration and bitterness led him to a colony of parasitic life forms, and an attempt to end his second life:



Locating Drax in this state, Moondragon, in desperation, brought him to the Avengers for assistance, though only Thor was in residence. Unfortunately, both Drax and the alien attached to his mind were in symbiotic agreement on one point--both wanted to die:



Thor finally prevailed over Drax--and the alien's plaintive words served as a wake-up call for Drax which made him reconsider his grim aim to die:




And so Drax joined Moondragon in her travels--first returning the alien to its hive, and then to find mutual purpose and fulfillment in the exploration of both the stars and their new relationship. It's an ending--and a beginning--which normally would have been rewarding to read about for these two beings who had both been products of death and rebirth.

Instead, this tale will lead to much worse for Drax, and an ending more tragic than any he'd planned for himself.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Master of the Galaxy! Lord of Floss!


With apologies to artist Herb Trimpe, I always thought this was one of the most ridiculous-looking villains of all time:



A big space energy blob with fangs. Not exactly awe-inspiring, is it. The Hulk, even with his limited grasp of vocabulary, still manages to adequately sum up the appearance of the Galaxy Master: "mouth-monster." When you find yourself agreeing with the simple assessment of the Hulk, it's probably an indication that your villain needs to be sent back to the drawing board.

The Galaxy Master's singular goal is also uncomplicated, a sort of kill-you-before-you-can-kill-me philosophy, which one of its thralls explains:



Which sort of mirrors the mindset of your friend and mine, Annihilus:



The Galaxy Master, needless to say, possesses a great deal of power, and it also has the ability to change its shape depending on the circumstances. That's fortunate for the Hulk, since even he would find it hard to grapple with an energy blob. Though we can give him a little credit for surviving its withering attack:



The various forms that the Galaxy Master takes also make little headway against the Hulk. But this villain didn't get his rep by not being resourceful, so he takes the form of the one thing the Hulk has little defense against:



But in this encounter, the Hulk is lucky enough to have allies, who distract the Galaxy Master with admittedly futile attacks. When one of them is captured by the Galaxy Master and beamed into its domain, the Hulk uses his head and decides to tag along, where he can finally do some serious damage:



And poof, the Galaxy Master is dispersed. It would later reform and renew its mission of conquest, this time using the Abomination to soften up its targets. But eventually the battle again comes down to the Galaxy Master and the Hulk--and the Hulk vs. a mouth-monster isn't exactly the most sensational battle you'll ever lay eyes on:



Nevertheless, you guessed it--the Galaxy Master is once again toast.


Other than perhaps a sense of nostalgia, which played heavily throughout writer Bill Mantlo's run on Incredible Hulk, I don't know what would make anyone decide to bring back the Galaxy Master a third time. Putting aside for a moment the fact that a threat to the galaxy which has easily beaten armadas can somehow be repeatedly thwarted by the Hulk, two of Marvel's premiere artists (Trimpe and, later, Sal Buscema) have failed to bring to life the kind of fearsome foe that Marvel obviously wants the Galaxy Master to represent.  I'm not saying that every villain needs to have appendages, or even physical form--but the only foe I can imagine the Galaxy Master facing would be someone like Ego or Galactus.  Or maybe a good dentist.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

To Love, Honor, And Destroy!


When writer Roy Thomas decided to lead Reed and Sue Richards down the road of marital discord not long after he took over the reins of Fantastic Four, the door was certainly wide open enough to do so. Up until then, the closest the two ever had to even a spat was this little scene:




It was always a fine line to walk with Sue, where the FF's creator and scripter, Stan Lee, was concerned. In Lee's eyes, a woman's role in a super-powered equation was a brave one, but primarily as a supporter of the men--which was especially the case if there was a romantic relationship going on. It was one heck of a balancing act. Both Sue and the Wasp had to go into action with their respective teams--but their frailty and uncertainty were always distinctive from the men, and they were almost always seen as vulnerable to danger.

In Sue's case, her role in the background of Reed's shadow seemed cemented. And while Lee would occasionally let her fume at it, she would ultimately (and quickly) snap back to "normal" (i.e., what was normal for Lee):



(You know, Sue, if we're picking nits, that costume would indicate that you're one of those "do-gooders" you're steamed about, wouldn't it? Though right now you're not coming across as all that dedicated.)

Under Lee's tenure, Sue had her assertive moments, though they were few, far between, and somewhat "assertive-lite." But those moments were practically nonexistent when Reed began those famous scenes of leaving her behind on missions, where Sue's objections were shut down almost immediately. First, Lee used the excuse of her pregnancy:



And then, once the baby was born, her motherhood became the anchor around her ankle:



There was even this incredible scene, where Sue appears to have stopped making any objections entirely, and the reader is virtually asked to simply accept it as "the new normal":



Even Franklin being safely off-site with a governess didn't seem to help Sue's status in Lee's Reed's eyes:



So we can see that Thomas was given a lot of ground to work with--not only in terms of raising Sue's profile, but also in using Sue's newfound assertiveness to add drama to Reed's relationship with her. After all, it wouldn't make sense for Reed to just roll over here--he's had this dynamic with Sue for a long time, as both his wife and as a member of his team. To date, those two aspects have pretty much amounted to the same thing. But, in only Thomas's second issue aboard the title, that begins to change.



With the hectic life the FF lead, and so many distractions available, Thomas doesn't have to be concerned with this "Richards disassembled" plot seeming to readers like it came out of nowhere and was happening overnight; and, with Reed and Sue having such a long and deeply-felt relationship, with its "Sue darling" and "Reed darling" exclamations practically littering the pages, no one is really expecting their marriage to take any turn for the worse. And so Thomas only has to insert a few key scenes to reach his goal. Shortly, we've gone from yet another argument on being left behind:



To apparent disinterest in important family matters:




Until, before you know it, Sue walks out the door, with Reed practically pushing her through it.



It was a pleasant surprise from Thomas--who could have easily had Reed's reaction be one of shock and ultimately sadness, but instead has him more firmly than ever taking the stance that Sue has her priorities mixed up and that she's dead wrong on this issue.

And it all took less than five issues.

It would be a much longer road back for the Richards, and things were going to get worse before they got better. Thomas would hand the whole thing over to Gerry Conway to continue, who would mine this high drama for well over a year before it was resolved. But in the climactic scene, I wonder if he might have missed Thomas's point:




Um... did anyone catch where Reed said he was sorry?

Friday, February 21, 2014

This Is A Job For--The Vision!


It's not often that you see one of the most powerful Avengers skipping an important pre-battle meeting and instead deciding that the best use of his abilities at this critical time would be as an errand boy:



Though it's probably just as surprising to see Cap and Wanda completely forget that their state-of-the-art mansion comes complete with telephones, which could accomplish this mundane task not only more easily, but arguably swifter than even Quicksilver. But it seems the Vision is far more qualified than Jarvis to handle relaying a message; yet, how will one of the Avengers explain his role as messenger for "Luke Charles," a high school teacher?

The answer comes with the Vision's first use of his brand-new disguise!



And off he goes, while the rest of the Avengers attempt to learn the location of the missing Panther, a prisoner of foes they would later learn make up the group known as the Lethal Legion. Though once the Vision is out of earshot, Thor can't resist taking a parting shot behind his back:



And speaking of shots, Bessie Hotchkiss gets a shot to her poor heart when the owner of that chill voice announces himself:



As you can see, this matter required the personal attention of an Avenger. In disguise. I don't know, maybe it's a formidable high school. Though we can't say the same for Bessie:


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