Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Surprise Villain Of The Year!


This was a nice cover by Marie Severin, no doubt about it--Captain America being hauled into captivity, or worse:



But to tell you the truth, I was more intrigued at finding out who Marvel considered the "Surprise Villain Of The Year!" That's quite a bold claim--the entire year?? With every other villain who would be waiting in the wings during 1970, it seems it would be this issue of Captain America which would startle everyone with the villain no one truly expected to make an appearance. Imagine the heated intra-office conferences which would decide the matter! Making sure every writer for every book was on the same page on this subject. Settling the squabbles where this writer or that writer felt that, at the end of the year, THEIR villain should be the one to make the most jaws drop. Did they wrestle for it? Did they finally draw straws? Did Stan Lee become the "decider," bringing down his shoe loudly on the conference table and declaring that the surprise villain would be in Captain America, and that was that?

CAUTION: THE DESCRIPTION YOU'VE JUST READ WAS MERELY A DRAMATIZATION OF POSSIBLE EVENTS, WITH NO BASIS IN FACT. NONE OF THESE ACTS ARE CONFIRMED TO HAVE EVER OCCURRED. THOUGH I WOULDN'T PUT IT PAST THESE LOONS TO SINK TO WRESTLING TO RESOLVE A PLOT DISPUTE.

Anyway, I bet you're eager to find out just who that surprise villain is, and if he or she is worth all of this build-up. "Surprise Villain Of The Year!" That's a lot to live up to.

Let's look at the clues:

First, we know that Cap learns of a peace broker who's travelled to Viet Nam to settle a conflict between two warring factions, and that the man has disappeared--with each side accusing the other of kidnapping him in order to sabotage the peace process. Cap smells a rat, since this man, Dr. Hoskins, has a reputation for being trusted by those he mediates:



Next, we find that when Cap travels to Nam, each side indeed seems convinced of the other's guilt--which isn't concrete proof, since a war of propaganda almost always skims over the truth in order to foster outrage among the sympathetic:



Then, as Cap investigates, he's attacked and taken captive by armed men who aren't aligned with either side:



Until finally, Cap learns who has instigated this conflict to suit his own ends. Have you guessed the fiend's identity?





Yes, the Mandarin--who could use a pocket dictionary to keep in those robes, so that he could look up the word "holocaust" and find out that there wouldn't be much of anyone or anything left for him to rule when it was all over.

But let's cut to the main event. It's Cap vs. ten power rings. Cap doesn't seem very optimistic about his chances:





But Cap has made the correct decision--because if he escapes with Dr. Hoskins, the Mandarin's plans are finished. Fortunately, it's the Mandarin himself who lends a hand in that respect:



The Mandarin plunges into the drink, and Cap and the doctor escape back to friendly territory, where Hoskins can finish his job.  It's rumored that Hoskins' next assignment was to resolve the lingering mood of disagreement left in this story's wake among the other Marvel writers whose villain candidates lost out to the Mandarin.  Let's hope Hoskins isn't tossed in another cell--I doubt even Cap is going to want to sign up for that rescue mission.

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