Friday, August 31, 2012

Scourge of the Sea


"Knowest thou that the suffering of Atlantis be not without reason! Like thine own misfortune, it be part of a prophecy--that the realm shall fall, only to rise again, at the forefront of nations! Thou art the agent of the prophecy! 'Tis in thy power to save thy race--and thy planet!" -- Neptune, offering guidance and solace to a despondent Sub-Mariner
Whenever I've written about Namor, the Sub-Mariner, I've usually said words to the effect that Marvel has never really known what to do with him. We know his origin well enough--a product of a brief affair between his mother, Princess Fen of Atlantis (daughter of Emperor Thakorr), and Leonard McKenzie, an American sea captain whose ship was in the icy waters near the site of Atlantis. Yet from the beginning of his appearances in 1939, he was very much "Americanized" by his creator, writer/artist Bill Everett--and with the arrival of America's involvement in World War II just over two years later, that would only intensify, as comic books took a decidedly patriotic tone for the duration, with various characters joining the war effort. That, of course, included Namor, whose ability to strike from the ocean would figure prominently in the naval fervor of the time.

Though I was familiar with Everett's work, I didn't really become acquainted with it in depth until he came full circle with Namor, when he began writing and drawing the Sub-Mariner book in 1972. After Gerry Conway's typically morose run on the book, giving us an amnesiac Namor at loose ends, Everett gave Namor a sharp turn--literally taking the character back to his roots, returning him to the destroyed ancestral site of Atlantis underneath the Antarctic. In one story, Everett restores Namor's memory (by confronting him with Llyra, who had murdered his bride, Dorma), shows him the fate of Namora, gives us the first appearance of Namorita, and brings back the villainous Byrrah (as a pawn of the Badoon).

(Interestingly enough, the Badoon want Byrrah's help in securing the Earth's oil reserves, the absence of which will bring its infrastructure to a halt and thereby make the planet ripe for invasion--a comment on our dangerous dependence on oil just as valid today as it was almost forty years ago.)

Everett's art on the book is simply stunning, seen in comparison to his Golden Age art in the '40s. Of course, Everett being Everett, you still see plenty of BEMs (bug-eyed monsters), and plenty of over-the-top, hugely-lettered sound effects (PFZAPT, FZUT, PZONK). But, where the past 49 issues of the book had strived to evolve Namor from his WWII image, it becomes clear that Everett (with Mike Friedrich scripting) means to take us down a nostalgic path with the character--once again "Americanizing" him with phrases like "Stay here--I'm going after that wharf-rat!" and "Come and get it, Torg!" It's still clear that we're dealing with a contemporary Sub-Mariner, as he retains much of his regal bearing and formal tone--yet Everett is seeking to strike a balance between the imperial Namor who so often alternated between peace-seeking ruler of Atlantis and enemy of the surface world, and the adventuring Sub-Mariner who had frequent encounters with humans whom he often took a hand in saving.

Everett's tenure on Sub-Mariner unfortunately only lasted less than a year, as he died in 1973 at age 55. After Everett's departure, Namor was once again returned to an angry, vendetta-driven character, which did little to ingratiate himself with readers. The title lasted only another eleven issues. Another attempt was made to "stabilize" the character years later in Namor, the Sub-Mariner, which dealt primarily with Namor as head of a corporation. Yet, as we've seen since then, there seems little purpose to Namor's existence other than as a wild card thrown into the mix of various other books to create conflict. It's a fate of perpetual languish which not only renders Everett's efforts moot--but also pushes Neptune's bold words to the back burner of legend.


The Not-So-Big G


From the first Fantastic Four cartoon series, 1967




Yeah, Galactus doesn't exactly look like he could consume a world here, does he.

Maybe a townhouse.

Look--Up In The Sky


When people ask me who my favorite superhero is, I admit that there's a joker in the deck.

I'll give you a hint: he's cunning, self-centered, and obnoxious.

(The stunning answer behind the cut!)

Tragedy in Forest Hills


It was one of the greatest battles the Avengers ever won:


...or lost, depending on your perspective.


A little over 20 issues before The Avengers celebrated its 200th landmark issue, Captain Marvel, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Ms. Marvel, a full complement of Avengers--oh, hell, just about everybody--fought a pitched, life-or-death battle in...

...well, in a living room in Forest Hills.



Yeah. Imagine crying "Avengers Assemble!", charging into battle, and trying not to trip over a sofa arrangement, a coffee table, and maybe even an easy chair. Sometimes you've just gotta play the hand you're dealt.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just Call Him Mr. Sunshine

Can YOU


Name This Marvel Villain??

Super-Hero for a Stipend


Granted that "Hero for Hire" doesn't exactly describe a selfless champion for good...


But there was one group of heroes that actually forked over a check for this guy's services.


It's no wonder that Luke Cage replaced his original name of "Hero for Hire" with "Power Man," given the stigma of the former. I mean, it was like saying, "Sure, I'll come to your rescue--if you can afford my fee, that is." I don't know of too many people who are going to look up to you as a hero for that. Unfortunately, the change in name didn't include a change in status--Cage still charged for his services. And believe it or not, the Fantastic Four once coughed up the dough.

Yes, that Fantastic Four--the same FF who, up until now, had been saving the world gratis. Writer Roy Thomas got away with it (at least on paper) by making it seem like the FF were up against a wall. Ben Grimm had recently been cured of being the Thing--and the FF's charter stated that Fantastic Four, Inc. had to maintain four super-powered members at all times. But Ben himself asks a very good question: "If they want a full-time member to replace me, why not pick a guy who don't charge by the hour?"

We didn't find out until two issues later that Cage was donating most of his salary to charity. Also, Reed's recruitment of Cage into the FF was only a stop-gap measure, until he could finish work on a Thing exo-skeleton for Ben to suit up in--which, according to their lawyers, was enough to satisfy the vague requirement of being "super-powered":


Luke, of course, went on to more prominent status as a member of the Avengers.  He didn't have much of a chance to establish a footprint in the FF, since he was almost immediately taken over by the Puppet Master in a scheme to free him from prison.  A situation the new, suited-up Thing wasn't exactly sympathetic to, at least initially:


I know things look grim here (heh heh--"things" ... "grim(m)"...), but c'mon, this is the Puppet Master we're talking about.  When was the last time you heard anyone talking how the Puppet Master whupped the FF and went on to become a world threat? His little plan here is eventually foiled, Luke becomes his old self, the PM finds his old cell in prison ready and waiting for him, and the Thing relieves Power Man and reclaims his FF membership. Which may have been just as well.  If Power Man had stayed in the FF and wanted his own Fantastic Four "4" chest symbol, he'd probably have to get it as a tattoo.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Maybe It's "Fred"


Always have hammer in hand when answering a


Marvel Trivia Question


What method of summoning Thor's hammer, Mjolnir,
was introduced and dropped after only one issue?

It had to be an improvement over melodramatic whining:


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wedding Crashers


Frankly, I think every wedding should be both a social occasion and a knock-down drag-out.


Fortunately, Dr. Doom agrees with me.


Doom doesn't look too happy right now. He's about had it with the Fantastic Four at this point--and Reed Richards, in particular. So he thought: What better day than his enemy's wedding day to strike at him? And his reasoning was pretty logical, actually:
"Since the Fantastic Four are the greatest fighting team the world has ever known, only one thing will be sure to destroy them--an even greater team of super-powered foes! A veritable army of the most deadly villains alive!"
So Doom flipped on his emotion charger--which could "fan the flames of hatred in the heart of every evil menace in existence"--and out of the woodwork came just about every FF villain you've ever seen, and a few (like Hydra, Mr. Hyde, the Executioner, et al.) who showed up anyway.

The problem with Doom's plan is that none of these villains were operating as a team--they just showed up individually, gunning for the FF. So the FF took them on that way, in successive battles, rather than being piled on. And luckily, the FF had plenty of help--because just about every Marvel hero showed up to stem the tide. Inevitably, the individual fights spilled into one big brawl:



(I've tried like hell for years to figure out who the guy in the lower left corner is.  Anybody have a clue?)

Unfortunately, the mother of all reset buttons is pushed when the Watcher shows up, and all but hands Reed victory in the form of one of his devices--a "sub-atronic time displacer, capable of transporting living beings back to the immediate past." Reed flips a switch, and all the villains are sucked out of the present, returning to where they were before they attacked, with no memory of what happened since. In addition, Doom's memory was wiped, as well. The Watcher's machine vanishes, and the heroes escort Reed to his wedding.

This annual is a landmark issue in the FF series because of Reed and Sue's wedding, of course; and it's paced so that it's satisfying enough to the reader. But in countless event books since then, we've seen far greater mass hero/villain battles--and artist Jack Kirby isn't one to shy away from devoting one- or even two-page spreads to that sort of thing. So why cram the big battle scene into this one half-panel, yet devote and entire page to Reed's trip with the Watcher?

The only reason I can think of would be that, at this time in Marvel comics, the number of heroes is still finite; in fact, villains probably outnumber the heroes about 5 to 1. It wouldn't make good sales sense for writers to keep recycling the same villains in books--they have to constantly create new ones in order to give the impression that Marvel is bursting with new stories and new ideas. So it's understandable that a large battle scene on a full- or two-page spread would graphically show the heroes at a disadvantage.

And the Watcher. Sigh. What are we going to do with this guy? In a major conflict which may result in a power shift on Earth and maybe even a few fatalities, he takes a direct hand--whisking Reed away to his home, and letting him browse through his devices until he finds one to use to achieve victory. And just look how deftly the Watcher navigates around his oath:


Sport, that "not interfere" ship has sailed, don't you think?

(Jeez, look at Reed.  He's like a kid in a candy store.)


Nor did I understand why Doom himself didn't join this conflict. With everyone else busy with a virtual tidal wave of villains, surely he wouldn't have missed the chance to confront his old enemy and insist on delivering the killing blow himself. In all the confusion, Doom could have had a clear shot. In comics stories today, such a ruthless and deadly turn of events would have been almost a given. But in this period of the FF's history, and in Marvel books in general at that time, battles could be desperate but seldom with lasting consequences for the heroes. And in this issue in particular--where Marvel schedules Reed and Sue's wedding for a special annual book--we weren't about to see an ending anything other than happy.

Lord Of The Ring


If you had wanted to usurp Odin's rule and become Lord of Asgard,
what would you have tried to lay your hands on?



Trolls have tried. Frost giants have tried. Just about everyone's tried to boot Odin off of the throne of Asgard. But in the "you've got to be kidding" category, all anyone really had to do was to swipe:


the Odin-Ring.

Apparently, anyone who wears the Odin-Ring must be obeyed by all Asgardians--including Odin, himself. And get this: Loki succeeded, twice.

The first time, he assembled an army of frost giants and trolls to mount an assault on Asgard while Odin slept the--well, the Odin-Sleep, naturally. (You just know that every morning, Odin had the Odin-breakfast, with his Odin-coffee.) And while everyone was fighting, Loki sneaked into Odin's bedchamber and snatched the ring off his finger. Subsequently, everyone fell into line--including Thor, who wasn't too happy about this little end run to power. But Loki hadn't counted on Surtur, the fire god, who picked this moment in time to attempt to destroy Asgard. Loki, now King in the eyes of Asgardian law, knew that he would now be Surtur's prime target, and fled, the little weasel. Odin eventually awoke and imprisoned Surtur once more--with an ease that makes you wonder why his later battles with Surtur were always desperate bouts of life-or-death, but that's another post.

Just a few issues later, Loki again was able to grab the ring--this time, because Odin had left it behind while he went to Earth to aid Thor. (You'd think an omnipotent all-Father would be more careful with his jewelry.) This time, wearing the ring gave Loki the ability to use a greater portion of the (you guessed it) Odin-power--and a good thing, too, because Thor wasn't just accepting Loki's rule this time. With the Odin-power at his command, Loki easily beat back Thor's assaults, and it seemed nothing could stop him now.  Except the ring itself:



It turned out no one had the fortitude to wear and use the ring for any length of time except Odin. Reeling in searing jabs of pain, Loki flung the ring away, allowing Odin to reclaim it.

This second theft of the ring spanned several issues, and was actually a pretty good storyline. Thor really got to cut loose, and even the Silver Surfer was dealt in. But once it ended, no one was exactly sorry to see the Odin ring disappear as a device to usurp the rule of Asgard. Now used twice--and with Odin himself saying that he was the only one who could safely wield it--Loki had to turn to other methods in the future. Which he actually did, in the very next issue.  Loki's the Timex watch of gods--he takes a licking, and keeps on ticking.

An Apple A Day Keeps Mortality At Bay


There was a story in Thor when the Asgardians were "guests" in Latveria, and Dr. Doom was secretly dissecting some of them to learn the secret of their immortality. That, of course, led to Thor getting involved, and an interesting battle where Doom was able to mimic the armor of the Destroyer in order to meet Thor's wrath on more equal terms.

Yet in their very first battle, Doom relied on his own armor and built-in weaponry to face Thor. Not to mention some wreckage lying around, which comes in very handy for tripping even a Thunder God:


Thank goodness Thor didn't say that out loud. Sometimes it's really obvious when you trip and fall, y'know?

Anyway, say what you will about Stan Lee--he knew how to drag out anticipation in this original tale. Because even though this was a two-part story, the actual battle between Thor and Doom didn't take place until about mid-way through the second part. Yet what led up to it was pretty shocking--that is, in terms of behavior from Thor's alter-ego, Dr. Don Blake.

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Enemy Is My Friend


If there's one story in Fantastic Four that's been overdone, it's having one of its members turn against the team. And no member of the FF has been the victim of that more than Ben Grimm, "the Thing"--probably because he strikes a balance between being a very deadly foe, but not so deadly that he can't be out-maneuvered. After all, if it were the Human Torch who turned bad, he could just incinerate the team. And while Mr. Fantastic or the Invisible Woman would have to work at it, neither really visually convey the menace needed to sell the concept. But have the rampaging Thing coming after you, and you've got a story.

This has played out in a number of different ways, but each time almost always involves some outside force at work. After all, Ben's been pissed at the team before, but it never gets to the point of wanting to murder them--so some way has to be found to get him there, while making sure he can be brought back to be a part of the FF again. Ergo, some villain or other device has to infiltrate and manipulate his mind.

One such story arc where this was done was the classic FF #68-71, where Reed calls in Dr. Santini, a famous scientist, to assist with his latest attempt to cure the Thing. Unknown to Reed, Dr. Santini has been replaced by the mad Thinker, who sabotages the treatment and turns the Thing into a deadly weapon to be used against the FF. It's one of the FF's most desperate battles. Sue is pregnant, and is in no shape for battle; Johnny and Reed engage the Thing in the city; and to top things off, the Thinker releases a deadly android to finish off the FF when they're at their lowest ebb. And when things end, the battle has been so deadly that Reed all but disbands the team.

Writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby are at their peak at this point in Fantastic Four. Lee's admitted style is to basically outline the story and give it to Kirby; Kirby then draws the entire thing, and returns it to Lee who then scripts it. Since Kirby has cut loose in this issue, it's incumbent on Lee to match the pacing and excitement with a script which brings to life the life-or-death battle that the FF engage in. The result is an amazing 4-issue story that shows just why this is Marvel's most celebrated silver age team:



And how curious: it takes four action-packed issues for the FF to deal with the Thinker, yet a new threat from the Silver Surfer is dealt with in just the pages of the next issue. That should certainly prop up the Thinker's ego.

Check out the circumstances in Fantastic Four when the Thing turned against the FF:

Fantastic Four #s 41-43
Bitter and angry at having to become the Thing against his will in order to save the FF and the world from Dr. Doom, Ben walks out on the team and falls prey to the Frightful Four. The Wizard then uses his Id machine on Ben, turning him into a weapon to use against the FF in order to defeat them once and for all.
Fantastic Four #s 68-71
Optimistic about a cure for his condition created by a specialist called in by Reed, Ben instead falls victim to a scheme by the mad Thinker to use him to destroy the FF while he plunders Richards' secrets.
Fantastic Four #s 111-112
Side-effects from a machine used to turn the Thing back to his human form warp Ben's mind to the point where he turns against the FF and looks out for number one.
Fantastic Four #167
Over-exposure to the Hulk's gamma radiation affects Ben's mind, making him team up with the Hulk to battle the FF.
Fantastic Four #266
Karisma, wearing radioactive make-up which enslaves the male mind (yes, you read that right), uses Ben to attack the Invisible Girl while she makes her escape after robbing an armored car.

The Scarlet Glitch


Trying to pin down the Scarlet Witch's power often seems like an exercise in futility. Probably because there have been so many attempts to amp up her power over the years that I've lost count. Just off the top of my head, she's been given the ability to divert meteors:


(Jeez, I'm glad it wasn't a bank robber she was trying to stop.)


And she can animate furniture:


(Why "pull up a chair" when Wanda can do it for you?)


And that was just under the tutelage of Agatha Harkness, a "real" witch who took it upon herself to make Wanda's comic book name more fact than "poetry." I've got news for you, Granny--Wanda was bringing movement to inanimate objects long before you came on the scene, and with just one hand (and a lovely pair of eyes):



Those were the days when "hex power" was really cool to look at. What was broken about that power that needed to be fixed? But the tinkering of Wanda's power went on.  And there was one ability that perhaps slipped by the eyes of one or two Marvel editors--an ability that appeared out of nowhere, and was swiftly sent back there.

Which magically brings us to a new


Marvel Trivia Question



What new ability of Wanda's was used for one issue and never again saw the light of day?

(Aside from playing with meteors like they were marbles, that is.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Suspender Avenger


This new hero sure didn't stick around long:


...at least, not in this costume.


In the transition from Ant-Man to Giant-Man, Marvel kept several elements of Ant-Man's costume, and jettisoned others. My guess is that they were trying to strike a balance--offering readers a "brand-new" character, yet needing to retain features of the character that had become familiar to readers thus far. Since Giant-Man was intended to be featured more than Ant-Man from this point on, certain things had to be left behind. Most noticeably absent was the Ant-Man helmet, which was probably seen as tying Giant-Man too much to the Ant-Man character--and since Giant-Man was going to rely on brawn more than ants, the helmet would be more distracting than functional. So Giant-Man was simply given two antennae protruding from the top of his mask. (Which ironically would have served Ant-Man just as well as a bulky helmet. But Ant-Man needed a "device" like the helmet to sell his character, whereas all Giant-Man needed was his tall size.)


As you can see, the Giant-Man character also kept the jagged design of Ant-Man's gloves and boots, as well as the coloring of his costume. Yet what I always felt was a cool design--the dark circle chest symbol (representing science? size-changing? I don't know)--was something Marvel attempted to continue with Giant-Man (albeit slightly altered, with lines extending to the shoulders and down the back), but simply discontinued after only one issue of the character's first appearance in both Tales To Astonish and The Avengers. In its place, Giant-Man was given a "suspenders" look--a step down in design, since there was nothing left in Giant-Man's costume to make him uniquely stand out in the group. Nor did small art panels (at that time) help matters, since an artist couldn't illustrate Giant-Man's size advantage to its full potential.

The transition between costumes was, dare I say, astonishing:

The "original" new Giant-Man's first and only appearances


The character after his "adjustment":


Perhaps Marvel felt that the chest symbol still tied the new character too closely to Ant-Man. In a way, I can see that--particularly on the cover of The Avengers #2, where the constraints of the cover make him seem less like a "giant" and more like a different version of Ant-Man.

At any rate, as we well know, it wouldn't be the last alteration of Giant-Man's costume. (Not by a long shot!) He even went through a few before his second departure from the Avengers:


Hey, looks like Hank even found a reason to readopt his old helmet!  Feeling he needed a "weapon" in order to pull more of his weight with the Avengers, he adapted the helmet to give it the ability to change the size of other objects by "remote control."  Initial testing proved disastrous, though, so he ended up reserving its use for himself--though he'd already earlier developed a way to change size without using gas or capsules.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

From Domination to Discarded


Can YOU


Name This Marvel Villain??

Step Aside, Kid


Now that Harry Potter fever has abated, and a question like this can be debated more objectively, I just have to ask:

Doctor Strangevs.Lord Voldemort

WHO WOULD WIN??
 
 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Thor vs. The Green-Eyed Monster


You may end up doing a double-take at this


Marvel Trivia Question



Who the heck is Thor beating the crap out of here?

Overmatched


What possible circumstances would have made Dr. Doom agree to lead the Fantastic Four into battle?


Well, it may have had something to do with this bruiser:


The Over-Mind was a conqueror of the first order, a threat not only to Earth but eventually the universe. When it came time for the Fantastic Four to meet that threat, the Over-Mind drew first blood by enslaving their leader, Reed Richards, to his will, effectively making him his lackey and turning him against the FF.  On the bright side, while Reed was under the Over-Mind's control and battling his teammates, we did get to learn that while the Thing can prevail against some fierce and brutal attacks, he can still be taken down by a different kind of assault:


(Let's hope for Ben's sake that this is never leaked to the Yancy Street Gang.)


The Thing and the Torch nevertheless engaged the Over-Mind in battle--while the Invisible Girl came under attack by Reed, and barely escaped him. (This was well before Sue became a more capable member of the team.  Though to be fair, if you take Reed's head out of his lab and give him a mad-on, he's no slouch in the battle department.)

Distraught, and finding no other allies to help them (apparently all the other Marvel heroes were unavailable, too busy with their own affairs--ridiculous, but necessary story-wise to isolate the FF), Sue, faced with no other choices, appealed to Dr. Doom for assistance. Doom, at first, couldn't be bothered with helping his arch-enemies avoid defeat; but after Sue all but accused him of being a coward, he relented.

Modifying a design of Reed's, he brought a "psionic-refractor" to the battle site--which turned the Over-Mind's own mental power against him. Yet the Over-Mind, being no stranger to battle tactics, deduced that Doom was using the Thing and the Torch as distractions, in order to disguise the true threat of Doom. Consequently, he focused the brunt of his attack on Doom, who then made use of Sue's force field to blunt the force of the attack until the Over-Mind was felled by feedback from the refractor.

And it might have worked, were it not for Reed appearing and once again attacking Sue, leaving Doom defenseless against the Over-Mind's onslaught. The refractor shattered under the barrage--though Doom, proud and defiant, wasn't about to go down without a fight:



Not much of a fight, as it turned out. The Over-Mind's powers were not only huge, but growing--and neither Doom nor the FF were really a match for him. Yet by fighting so fiercely against this foe, the FF forced the Over-Mind to expend his full force (at least to that point) against them--which inadvertently caused another powerful galactic figure, the Stranger, to detect the Over-Mind on Earth. The Stranger--a being finally revealed to have gone through a similar process that created the Over-Mind, only with far greater power--then confronted the Over-Mind, and promptly disposed of this growing threat to the universe.

A very abrupt ending to the battle, but noteworthy in that it had the Over-Mind on the verge of conquering Earth, but for the intervention of one whose origins were like his own. And though it appeared that the Over-Mind had his hands full with just conquering New York, his powers were such that continued use of them had the effect of making him more and more powerful. According to the Watcher, even the Stranger wouldn't have been able to stop him once he'd conquered a few more worlds.

As for Doom, once the battle was over he made it quite clear to the FF that this was a one-time alliance, and that they'd be enemies again at their next meeting. A conclusion perhaps reached, in part, by the notion that if this was a typical FF battle, he was probably better off fighting against them than with them!

In The Mist Of Battle


Exactly who defeated who in this life-or-death battle?


It depends on who you ask.


The crossover matchup of 1976 was the classic battle between Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts, and Dracula, Lord of Vampires, beginning in Tomb of Dracula #44 and concluding in Doctor Strange #14. Each character was unaware of the other at the time, until Dracula--in a pretty casual feeding stop--decided to make a snack out of Strange's servant, Wong. That led Strange to finding Wong, determining that he was the victim of a vampire, and then confronting the bloodsucker in his lair--said bloodsucker turning out to be none other than Dracula.

The order of the books in this crossover battle should tell you something about who walked out of this conflict alive, as it were. Though I must say that, while in typical Marvel form of nobody-wins/nobody-loses, the ending was still cleverly done--and the battle itself is, for the most part, no-holds-barred. Not completely, though. If Strange, for instance, were fighting with all the tools at his command, Dracula would have been nothing but a smear of blood on the floor by the time they were done. Yet Strange was virtually fighting with one hand tied behind his back, in that his goal was not to destroy Dracula but to force the vampire to submit to his will in order to aid in resurrecting Wong.

Yeah, good luck with that. In Tomb of Dracula, writer Marv Wolfman had to date done an excellent job of establishing that Dracula's will was nothing to be trifled with. So while Strange's attack forced Dracula to relive some of his most humbling and tragic moments, in the end it only marshalled his will to resist Strange's power to keep him at bay:



 

Yet, as grim as things appear to be here for Strange (you can't get much grimmer than being killed), Strange had the presence of mind to free his astral form before Dracula leapt in for the kill; so while his body fell under the spell of vampirism (c'mon, Strange, just say it--you were dead!), his spirit was free to plan strategy, which initially involved haunting Dracula for the three-day period leading up to the time when his body would rise as a vampire. That led to a very pissed-off lord of vampires confronting Strange's corpse with a stake as it sought to rise, intending to slay it. At that moment, Strange's astral form rejoined his body, and sought to fight Dracula once again. But the battle didn't go well for Strange, who had to battle his vampire nature at the same time.

Finally, in desperation, Strange realized that there was one power he could call upon that would prove deadly to one such as Dracula. Grabbing Dracula by the throat, he invoked the power of the Tetragrammaton, the Hebrew term for the name of the God of Israel:



After slaying Dracula, Strange recalls Wong from another dimension where he had stashed him for safekeeping--and with his new abilities, he removes the vampire "spell" from both Wong and himself. The two then depart the scene of battle, confident that Dracula will no longer be a menace. Once safely alone, though, Dracula reforms to his normal appearance, having combined his powers of hypnosis with the ability to turn into mist so that "my flesh vanished in the swelling mist, exposing only bone" during Strange's assault, while making Strange believe he saw burnt ash and not mist. A necessary deception by Dracula, who, being a realist, knew that Strange could have overwhelmed him otherwise.

As a result, each combatant felt they triumphed, though neither really did--which was standard fare when dealing with two characters with their own titles. But it was well-handled, giving fans of both a good fight, and showcasing each character decently. Enhancing it more was the fact that veteran artists Gene Colan and Tom Palmer handled the art chores on both issues, as they were also the regular artists on both titles at the time. Ironically, the Tomb of Dracula issue directly after this battle began an extended arc where Dracula would come into increased conflict with the religious aspect introduced here. And no amount of clever mist manipulation was going to help him this time.

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