Friday, January 17, 2020

A Bargain At A Buck

With rare exception, comics issues which pepper their covers with tidbits of scenes from inside, along with captions that exclaim that this issue is the one you can't miss (or words to that effect), often do prove to be enjoyable since the promotional material is taking the stance that the issue has a little something for everyone--or, more loosely translated, there's bound to be something here that you'll like. While that may indeed be the case at times, one could regard such a cover as attempting to put the best face on a story which was unfortunately mostly devoid of (to put it bluntly) a story, depending on your definition of the word. You and I could probably name three or four such issues off the top of our respective heads which fit that description; yet many of them work on some level, if only as a harmless change-of-pace story that allows the book and its characters to catch their figurative breath.

The Mighty Thor issue we're about to take a look at wasn't specifically chosen to explore this theme; rather, in a way it flagged itself because of the way it backpeddles its marketing with a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer:

Which in a way gives the impression that the issue is patting itself on the back for not even trying to give you the content you're getting for your buck--but that's a Marvel hallmark if ever there was one.

In this instance, you might find yourself more than willing to give the story a pass for its heavier focus on the Wrecking Crew and Code: Blue, since the book has up until now amply fulfilled its quota of engaging Thor/Asgardian adventure (e.g., the realm has just prevailed in a clash with Ymir and Surtur, neither of which can be considered lightweights). That said, you might as well know going in that, thanks to a two-page comic/ad promoting the TurboGrafx Splatterhouse game, and a five-page backup story featuring Earth-Lord of Earth Force, that leaves just eleven pages of Thor for readers who picked up this issue expecting to see a Thor issue that "has it all." (And you shouldn't expect the Sif vs. Leir battle to make up the difference.)

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Men Who Would Be Headmen

With the introduction of the criminal outcasts known as the Headmen, some of you might remember a letters page notice which mentioned that three of them had appeared previously--and it was left up to readers to uncover the source. (And needless to say, without the aid of Google--ye gods!)

    Okay. So now you've met the Headmen--Dr. Nagan, Jerry Morgan, and Chondu. But you probably didn't realize all three of these characters have appeared before! No, not in THE DEFENDERS... not even together as a team... but recently, in a Marvel mag published during 1974.
    So guess what? It's contest time! We'll award a special prize--and a no-prize as well!--to the first reader who's able to tell us where and when Nagan, Morgan, and Chondu last appeared. (And when you figure it out... hoo boy, are you gonna be surprised!)

To the best of my knowledge, it was never divulged by Marvel whether someone chimed in with a correct guess, or even if anyone participated in this contest at all. No replies were seen in subsequent letters pages--and I'd be willing to wager a free comic book that the Bullpen Bulletins page wouldn't have bothered with allotting an ITEM! segment to it. But thanks to a moderate amount of curiosity on my part, you're going to see a post on it, ladies and gentlemen.

Which naturally takes the form of yet another

Marvel Trivia Question

Just which comic or comics offered our first look at the Headmen?

Monday, January 13, 2020

Havoc Is The Headmen!

OR: "I Think We're All Bozos In This Plot"
(with apologies to the Firesign Theatre)

When you form a villain group named the Headmen, there are probably a number of ways you could read into just why its members have settled on such a name for themselves. In the case of Arthur Nagan, Jerry Morgan, Ruby (Thursday), and Harvey Schlemerman (a.k.a. Chondu the Mystic), who made their first appearance in 1975* in an extended arc of The Defenders, the reason is rather apparent for each, though you'd have to dig beneath the surface to get a sense of what they've joined together to accomplish (with the exception of Chondu, who's clearly in it for the money).

*Not quite, but we'll get to that in due time.

Both Morgan and Ruby are following Nagan's lead in achieving their ends--as does Chondu, when he's brought aboard in part to facilitate a city-wide blackout, the effects of which drive many of its residents into a mad frenzy as a distraction which allows Nagan to plunder for funds. In this early stage of their formation, Nagan's focus is still limited to conducting his ghoulish experiments (which backfired on himself), though he's already thinking down the road in terms of long-term goals.

Eventually, we'll see how Chondu would become more of a "fit" for the Headmen beyond merely having a preference for wearing a stylish turban (in a development which, hoo boy, won't exactly thrill him).

Writer Steve Gerber's handling of the Headmen would take place over a span of eighteen months--inserting them here and there as, behind the scenes, they work toward world "conquest" in a way that would employ political and economic machinations rather than the use of outright force. Naturally, the Defenders will have a few other irons in the fire in the meantime; in fact, Gerber, in his own unique style that seems to thrive on the offbeat and outrageous, will have a number of plates spinning at once during this time, consisting of a jumble of different concepts that would look almost insane on paper--while artist Sal Buscema will benefit from a sundry mix of inkers assigned to the book for the duration, which will result in some of his finest work on the series.

Appropriately, the saga begins ominously when one Defender, Nighthawk, has a run-in with the startling form of Nagan during the blackout--and when the Hulk, as well, falls victim to the city-wide madness, the other Defenders sense a threat that is only now making itself known.

Friday, January 10, 2020

History, Hilarity, and Hembeck

If you've ever hoped to see a meshing of a Marvel story with wall-to-wall puns, you could dig through your old copies of Not Brand Echh--or you might instead treat yourself to Fred "Knees" Hembeck's 1982 effort, which celebrates the 20th anniversary of Fantastic Four by taking the form of a gathering usually reserved for slightly tipsy celebrities who honor one of their own with drinks and mock insults.

In other words, your six bits have just bought you a V.I.P. ticket to the

Its 36 pages are not only packed with characters, but also the work of roughly thirty-five artists. Hembeck explains his story thus:

And if you still find the whole concept slightly unbelievable even with Hembeck's explanation, the fact that the FF don't realize what they're walking into smooths things over and allows you to settle back with the rest of the guests. And, hoo boy, are there ever going to be guests at this shindig.

While I enjoy a good pun along with the next guy, I was mainly having fun trying to identify whose work was on which page. There are a number of under-the-radar artists who made contributions to this issue, and so I honestly had my share of misses; but frankly I was delighted to see what some of the heavy hitters would do with this sort of tongue-in-cheek material, though you'll find Hembeck adapts to all of it beautifully while providing a good deal of the FF's history in the process.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

When Titans Marathon

(All right, I know it's not a verb--artistic license, guys!)

Having unknowingly defeated none other than the Hulk in a battle of strength vs. strength, the member of the Fantastic Four known as the Thing turns to hear challenging words directed at him--words he recognizes as familiar in both tone and limited thought, spoken by one he had thought dead.  It's a development which signals that his true fight, even if a welcome one, may have just begun.

What we're witnessing are events orchestrated by Dr. Doom, who had approached the gray Hulk (in his guise as "Joe Fixit," a Las Vegas enforcer working in the service of crime boss Michael Berengetti) to aid him in regaining the throne of Latveria from his young charge, Kristoff Vernard--taken as a child and programmed in the event of Doom's death to be a simulacrum of Doom's mind and will, so that he would continue to act as Doom from that point on. Unable to convince Kristoff of his bona fides and driven from Latveria, Doom failed to succeed in petitioning Fixit for assistance--and so he manipulated him into attacking the Thing in order to have his revenge for the FF's interference with his plan to steal the power of the Beyonder. Sir Walter Scott's verse regarding tangled webs and deception clearly had nothing on the methods of Victor Von Doom.

As we've seen, the Hulk was soundly thrashed by the Thing; and now, Doom arrives to find Fixit in a dejected state, to say nothing of confused as to the identity of the green behemoth newly arrived on the scene. Just who or what is it that the Thing is fighting?

Say what you will about Joe Fixit, he has his pride--and in combination with a shrewd mind that has excelled in outwitting and dealing with the opposition to be found in the criminal underworld, it's clear he plans to rally and deal with the Thing in short order.

Speaking of whom, Ben Grimm has been doing a little thinking himself, and realizes that the creature he's been facing may not be the Hulk at all--or, for that matter, even alive. But the one who has observed the final moments of this fight plans to make sure that the Thing will soon be facing both, in a rematch he won't soon forget.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Thing vs. ... Hulk!?

Happy New Year, everyone! What do you say we all kick some derrière in 2020?

And to start things off, let's look in on two of the biggest butt-kickers around:

The Incredible Hulk, in his role as Vegas enforcer Joe Fixit--and Dr. Doom, who is looking to regain his throne in Latveria from his young protégé, Kristoff Vernard, who has been programmed by Doom himself as part of a contingency plan to believe he is Doom. Unfortunately, that programming was a little too thorough, since Kristoff now rules Latveria and has no intention of relinquishing his position to someone he believes to be an impostor--circumstances which force the real Doom to seek out help in deposing him.

Naturally, the Hulk Fixit responds to the request with his customary decorum:

While Doom is in no mood for any displays of force other than his own:

And so with Fixit's grudging acquiescence, Doom explains the situation with Kristoff; but despite Doom's assurance of his eventual triumph, Fixit really doesn't have any use for what Doom is offering--particularly when he can write his own ticket in Las Vegas and answers to no one but his mob boss, Mike Berengetti, who provides him with plenty of outlets for indulging his hair-trigger temper, as well as, needless to say, plenty of perks.

Which leaves Doom turning to Plan B: psychology.

Now if Fixit gave even a minute's thought to what Doom was proposing, he'd realize that the Thing, a member of the Fantastic Four, has even less reason to cooperate with Doom; and if he'd thought about it even more, he may have come to realize that Doom is playing him like a violin. But writer Steve Englehart and artists Keith Pollard and Joe Sinnott have a power-packed story to get rolling, and so Fixit snaps at the bait like a trout and heads for New York City.

But what is Doom's real game here? To find out, you're going to need to buckle those seat belts, ladies and gentlemen, as the PPC brings you the thirty-year anniversary of this no-holds-barred, knock-down drag-out featuring the Thing vs. the Hulk, in a cover-to-cover battle issue where the odds this time aren't favoring the latter. But from the looks of this fight's brutal first hit, do you think a bruiser like Joe Fixit gives a rat's behind about the odds?

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Fantastic New Year!

Good grief, who invited these gloomy Guses?

That's the spirit, kiddo!

From the Peerless Power of Comics (and hopefully the FF!)--

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Party With Punch


Today the PPC takes the rest of the year off to enjoy the holidays--
we'll see you back here in 2020!

Wishing You the Joys of the Holiday Season

The Peerless Power of Comics!

Friday, December 20, 2019

What Immortus Has Joined Together...

In 1989, the once-thriving marriage of the Scarlet Witch and the Vision began to fall apart, starting with a shocking sight which no wife in the real world has likely had to witness involving their husband:

In the Vision's case, what Wanda has discovered is his disassembly, part of an operation undertaken and accomplished by a worldwide coalition of nations which took steps to deal with the Vision as a security risk following his infiltration and control of every computing system on Earth as part of a misguided attempt to save humanity from itself.

Given that Brock's team also released a computer tapeworm that expunged all programs dealing with the Vision from the Avengers' computers as well as any computer system they interfaced with, Brock had no objection to releasing the Vision to the Avengers' custody, since his team had effectively nullified the Vision's threat even if he were rebuilt.

Naturally, it was Henry Pym's priority to do just that, which leads to shocking sight #2:

To provide the Vision with a familiarity with his past, his memory banks were reprogrammed with all pertinent data concerning the Avengers, and with Wanda in particular. Yet while the Vision knows the Avengers are his friends--and Wanda, his wife--his perceptions are altered, in that he has all the information that can be supplied on these people but no emotional connection to that information. Full restoration would depend on the addition of Wonder Man's brain patterns, something Wonder Man takes a great deal of time to agree to; but when he finally gives his consent to the Vision, the Vision declines to accept the procedure, contending that it would only create a copy of the former version of himself.* In the same breath, the Vision makes another startling announcement: his wish to relocate to the east coast Avengers branch, in order to better balance the two teams.

*Well, yes, that's the idea, isn't it? What sort of an objection is that? (But more on that thought in a moment.)

At that point, for all intents and purposes, the marriage is left in shambles. And with the separation, Wanda gradually comes to accept that what she and the Vision once had is gone forever, and consequently resolves to build a new life for herself.

Cut to 1998 (our time, shortly after Vol. 3 of The Avengers has been launched), where the Vision is recovering from injuries sustained in the Avengers' battle with sorceress Morgan le Fay and is limited to communication and movement by holographic projection while his body undergoes repair. As Wanda pays a courtesy call to him, it seems the air hasn't quite been cleared on the dissolution of their marriage.

As we've more recently seen, however, Wanda has noticed curious signs of the Vision interacting with her on a more personal level. And now, when she and Simon Williams have declared their love for each other, the Vision's body--whether coincidentally or not--revives at long last and is discharged from Dr. Pym's care.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Day Of The Avengers... Day Of Death!

The celebrations of Avengers Day have been few and far between on the printed page since its proclamation in the fall of 1967--but in 1998, writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez arguably make up for that in spades in the tenth issue of the rebooted Avengers series, where the team basks in the adulation of the citizens of New York in the wake of the heroes' return from their apparent sacrifice during the conflict with Onslaught. This time, we find Avengers Day culminating in a parade through the streets that might make the Macy's parade look tame by comparison.

By now, the uniqueness of the Avengers in terms of the media frenzy surrounding their public appearances and their lineup changes has been overshadowed by a running joke regarding their swelling ranks, where one often wondered if there was anyone by this point who hadn't become an Avenger. Yet the media reports* still offer a perspective that's quite different than the one we readers experience with our unlimited access behind closed doors--and at times like these, it's fascinating to observe the speculation and observations of those who only know the Avengers from the reports of their exploits and announcements.

*Props to the Stunt-Master for appearing to have finally found his calling! (If only briefly.)

By "the Avengers have counted among their number," we're left to assume that Busiek refers to not only the Avengers but all who have fallen within their orbit; otherwise, there are seventeen characters** pictured in the full-page assemblage above who had not been inducted as Avengers by this point in time, if ever--although "counted among their number" certainly implies membership. It's not important to settle the issue here and now--but later in this story a few of Busiek's inclusions will be somewhat distracting.

**At least by my own count--out of curiosity, what's your tally?

But there is an Avenger in the team's current lineup who isn't present in these festivities, someone who has been distracted in her own right by her encounter with sorceress Morgan Le Fay in the 6th century--or, more specifically, Morgan's power, which has inadvertently caused her own mutant abilities to show disturbing signs of evolution. She has also become concerned with her startling ability to summon the deceased Avenger, Wonder Man, back to the world of the living when the need arises (or even unconsciously). And so the Scarlet Witch seeks counsel with Agatha Harkness, a woman who has previously guided Wanda in the use of her power, and who now implies that Wanda has contacted her not a moment too soon.

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