Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Battle Of The Century!

Remember when Thundra made such a great impression in her first appearance?

And how pumped we were when it looked like she and the Thing were finally going to have a knock-down drag-out battle issue?

Ha ha! You didn't actually make the mistake of opening that issue, did you?

You certainly had some surprises waiting for you. We all did. For starters, Gerry Conway takes over as the book's writer--which means that right off the bat, the FF will generally be depressed, or angry, or bitter, or morose, or pessimistic, or all of the above. For proof, how about page one? It's New Years Eve, the FF are in Times Square, and they couldn't be more down in the dumps:

Another surprise was the guest artwork by Ramona Fradon, who turned in competent work but unfortunately can't fill John Buscema's shoes in the action department. In all fairness, Fradon was working from Conway's script, and it's really the story which is at fault here--a ludicrous spectacle fight in Shea Stadium which, by Thundra's own admission, couldn't interest her less. So why set it up that way?

And Thundra, taking a hostage and threatening her life? When she's made it painfully clear to the Frightful Four that she doesn't play by their rules?

From this point, the lead-up to the fight plays it up from a spectator/ticket sales/who's-favored-to-win angle, and Shea Stadium is filled to capacity when the time comes--so it's difficult for us to see this as a Fantastic Four story, or take the Frightful Four's plans seriously, or feel any sense of anticipation in seeing the Thing and Thundra in battle. And when that time comes, and Thundra almost immediately hurls the Thing out of the venue, we're starting to feel as taken in as the crowd:

To boil down the fight as one-sided is no exaggeration. If you were expecting to see the Thing give as good as he gets, you weren't alone. But instead, the Thing only "gets":

The issue's cover boldly proclaims this to be "The Battle of the Century--Any Century!" When one of the contestants fails to throw even a single punch, that kind of caption is blatantly fraudulent (though perhaps intended to keep with the boxing match aspect of Conway's story). Fortunately, before Thundra can end this lopsided fight, it's Reed who throws in the towel:

And, to add insult to injury, look how the final series of panels--particularly the back-handed caption at the end--attempt to put a happy face on not only the issue, but the reader:

Instead, I'm going to go with the Hulk on this one:


david_b said...

This is probably the worst offender in Conway's tenure. I came into the FF in ish 138, LOVING IT totally, but in this ish..?

Jeez, the Thing looks weak and terrible. This guy nearly fights the Hulk to a standstill..??

Totally, totally underwhelming story.

Again, the most insulting part is while the art's alright with Sinnott as inker, the Thing truely looked like a weakling the entire ish.

Where were his enormous muscles..?


karl said...

We know the Thing was ill in this issue, but political correctness was an early starter in this 1973 issue...Thundra kicks the shit outta the Thing but he dosent fight offensive is that? Very one-sided.

Comicsfan said...

This guy nearly fights the Hulk to a standstill..?? david_b, I think you sum up the situation perfectly with that sentence.

Hi karl--to the best of my knowledge, the Thing was in good health in this issue. (If only that weren't the case--at least we'd have something to pin the blame on, other than the story!) I only remember him being injured (by the Torch) in the prior Mole Man story a few issues back, but he was in fighting shape to take on Thundra here. (Do correct me if I'm mistaken, though. I didn't see any indication of it in the story, and usually a writer will make a point of bringing up that kind of handicap.)

Anonymous said...

Usually these hyper-aggressive angry, super-powered female characters left me cold, and sometimes certain later writers (whom I won't name) could really drive that concept into the ground in a very obnoxious way.
But for some reason, I always liked Thundra. Especially the way she was written later in this series, as a real person, often confused, lonely, and often veering between anger and compassion, which she expressed as gentle sarcasm.
I especially liked the way she interacted with characters like the Thing, Tigra, and the Impossible Man on their short-lived team-up. Now THAT would be a good a idea for a new F.F.
The interesting thing about Thundra's relationship with Ben Grimm for me was that she often acted like she hated men (which she didn't) and he often acted like a typical male chauvinist (which he wasn't).
I thought Marvel actually produced some very interesting female characters in the 70's, like Hellcat, Valkrie, and Moondragon. But Thundra, her hostility was so over the top it was basically shtick, and that'd why she liked the Thing...I think they were quite alike.
Maybe this all sounds a bit sexist, but I don't believe relentlessly angry aggressive characters without a human side are very interesting, whatever their gender. I don't like it in males either. That's why I liked Thundra...she was human.