Saturday, May 31, 2014

Out Of Juice

OR: "The Blink-And-You-Missed-It Sports Trend"

While I freely admit that I wasn't one of the kids who wore a pair of "Juicemobiles":

... I don't remember seeing any other kids wearing them, either.
Conclusion: I had my finger on the pulse of teenage coolness and didn't realize it.

Hard to believe there was once a time when this guy was on top of the world.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Mystery! Danger! Suspense! And Yes, Killer Crabs!

A comic's 50th issue wasn't often heralded in Marvel's titles--but with a book which could use every edge in sales, it didn't hurt to caption its cover with such a distinction. That was particularly applicable to Sub-Mariner, which would have only a little over twenty issues left in its run before being cancelled. But with its 50th issue, you could see an honest effort being made to change its course, and revitalize the character of Namor to have a greater appeal for whatever fan base he had remaining.

No easy task. Once Namor abdicated his throne and left Atlantis for good, Sub-Mariner floundered in direction, which stabilized when Namor's creator, Bill Everett, came aboard and set him more or less on track again--and this 50th issue was its bold beginning, from its very first page. In the previous issue, Namor had just concluded his encounter with Dr. Doom and Modok, and his growing relationship with a surface girl named Cindy had solidified into something which looked headed in a forward direction. Yet Everett, in one panel on page one, severs that relationship with a few words consisting of their worlds being incompatible and that Namor belongs in the world of the sea. Any other guy would likely react in a "whu...huh?" way at such an inexplicable and sudden development; but Everett returns Namor to his noble bearing, giving him a sort of Elizabethan thought and speech pattern that smooths the transition and makes it almost seem like he belongs in a solo state. "Nay! There is a ring of conviction in her voice! Comprehension fails my perplexed mind!" I don't know many of us who sort out our thoughts like that.

Yet Everett maintains at least one thing from Namor's past issues: his state of amnesia, which also helps to motivate him to go in another direction (in this case, the sea) and seek answers to his confusion. And the first step he has to take is to discover whether he "belongs" in the sea in a literal sense, though it would be a rather drastic (not to mention suicidal) step for any of us:

Before Namor can explore his state further, he comes across an unconscious girl floating in the depths, whom he assumes is close to death. It would turn out to be an auspicious meeting between the two, though you wouldn't think so from its abrupt ending:

The girl, in case you haven't recognized her, would turn out to be Namor's cousin--Namorita, whom we'll see more of later in this story. For now, Namor is all too glad to see her depart--as he does himself, but in a direction both distant and nostalgic:

Yes, Namor has returned at last to the Antarctic, and his long-lost roots. But what meaning will they have for one who has no memory of them?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Home Sweet Universe

Back in Fantastic Four #123, Reed Richards conceived of a plan to finally rid our world of the threat of Galactus--by taking the world-devourer's ship hostage, and threatening to destroy it unless Galactus vowed to depart and leave Earth involate, forever. But Galactus came back with a deadly counter-offer:

Reed had no choice but to accept Galactus's terms. But he had one trick left up his sleeve, a part of his plan which he tried to make clear to the Surfer before the sky-rider took off after his master:

Chaos erupted, with no one understanding why Reed was apparently endangering the Earth by restraining the Surfer and consequently causing the return of Galactus, who might then reconsider his decision to leave and follow through on destroying all life on Earth. But, by mystic means, Reed addressed the people of the world and explained that the world need never fear Galactus again:

Things now look pretty good for Earth... for the FF... for the Surfer (well, maybe not for the Surfer, since he's still trapped on our planet)... but they sure don't look good for the inhabitants of the Negative Zone, since Reed has now dumped on them a destructive force that will methodically seek out their worlds to feed on, killing billions upon billions. A place which Reed seems to think very highly of, when his planet isn't on the line:

So the point where Reed doesn't "turn his back" on the Negative Zone seems to have one large exception--and it goes by the name of Galactus.

Which brings us to a somewhat negative

Marvel Trivia Question

Why did Galactus abandon the Negative Zone?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

One Vulture Outfit, To Go, Please

Part Two to our Spider-Man murder mystery in progress has a cover which would certainly fit like a glove in our "No! Not YOU!" sampling:

But Part One of this story left us all pretty desperate for answers--as well as a desperate Spider-Man hundreds of feet in mid-air, plunging to his death!

So let's just "plunge in" and wrap things up!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Claws Of The Vulture!

Ack!  It looks like we're entangled in another Spider-Man cover peppering us with plot points:

"If you read only one comic-mag story this month, it must be--THE DARK WINGS OF DEATH!" I hope no one in December of 1973 took that seriously, because the Marvel checklist for that month advertised other comics stories that would have been better investments for a kid's hard-earned 20¢:

  • The wrap-up of the Avengers-Defenders clash
  • The FF issue where Reed turns his own son into a mental vegetable
  • Iron Man battling Dr. Spectrum
  • Captain America meeting the son of Baron Zemo
  • The Defenders finally resolving their situation with the Black Knight as well as the disbanding of the current lineup

A murder mystery involving the Vulture sounds intriguing on its face--but this first part of a two-part story mainly has a lot of wheels spinning at once but going nowhere, and most of the questions on this cover don't come close to being answered.

Except for Harry--but that doesn't take rocket science to figure out. Harry is going off the deep end, thanks to his father's death at the hands of Spider-Man. If I've ruined this issue for you with that revelation, feel free to pelt me with tomatoes--but, thanks to all the build-up with him, it wasn't exactly a secret, sinister or otherwise.

At least page one doesn't waste any time in putting this story into motion:

Interestingly, it's the one page of the story which at least tells us something; in fact, for one page, there's a lot to digest. We know a woman has been killed--but Spider-Man makes the leap to presuming she's been murdered, based only on Mary Jane's shocked expression at her window, as well as an allusion to his spider-sense (which I refuse to believe is wired to detect the expresson of a witness to a crime scene and conclude that murder was involved). Given all the activity and noise on this street corner, couldn't any one of these shocked people have witnessed what happened?

Let's get to the bottom of all this!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Duel In The Danger Room!

Dissension In The Ranks

When resentments and disagreements boil over,
even allies can turn against each other in fierce battle that can bring the house down.

(And often does!)


Storm and Cyclops

Shortly after the trial of Magneto which took place in Paris, Scott Summers (a/k/a Cyclops of the X-Men) made a decision to return to the team in the role of leader, in light of the disappearance of Charles Xavier and the mysterious appointment of Magneto as headmaster of Xavier's School. On the surface, his concern and subsequent decision made perfect sense--albeit to the chagrin of Scott's wife, Madelyne, who had just given birth to their son and was now being asked to relocate from Alaska. Madelyne has seen evidence of Scott distancing himself from her and their life together--and with him now shifting back into his former place in the X-Men, she now sees it as a symptom of a deeper problem.

Ororo (a/k/a Storm, Scott's fellow team member) is also privy to Madelyne's worries about Scott.  And, overhearing a conversation which leads her to believe that Scott is adamant about returning to the team while not addressing the greater issue, she decides to directly confront Scott on his decision--but indirectly, in the one way which will leave him no options for avoidance.

On its face, a skirmish between Storm and Cyclops seems borderline absurd. Cyclops' power allows him to attack from a distance, and his accuracy as well as his grasp of tactics have been repeatedly proven in the field. In addition, his opponent is powerless in regard to her mutant ability, bringing only cunning and raw nerve to the table here. So by all rights, this little challenge should be over with the first "ZAPT!"

We'll see.

Again, consider the opening scene here. Despite the surroundings, Scott has a clear shot at Ororo, and she seems content to give it to him. Should we just go ahead and congratulate Cyclops now?

Whoops--they'd better hold off icing the name onto that victory party cake.

This fight is fairly drawn out in the story--but if you take a good look at it, it's clear that Ororo owes her successful attempts at evasion in large part to Scott continually missing his target. In addition, how could Cyclops be foiled by his opponent ducking for cover? He'd simply use the extra mass as a weapon, or otherwise blast right through it. Perhaps Ororo knows how preoccupied he is, and that she can use that against him:

Finally, Ororo makes her move, though her winning gambit shouldn't really end this fight so conclusively:

Ororo's logic as to Cyclops' helplessness seems flawed. There's no one else in this simulation at risk of being cut down by his eye beams; that being the case, Scott could fire in any and all directions (particularly in the direction of Storm's voice) in order to bring her down. On the other hand, perhaps his visor is his only method of controlling the power of his beams, and he can't risk injuring Ororo by opening fire.

In any event, this duel is now over, and Storm has successfully steered Cyclops in the direction she wished him to go. Cyclops, however, appears none the wiser, though the end result leaves this once-decisive man at loose ends:

But while Madelyne and her son may have reclaimed Scott at least for the short term, it puts only a Band-Aid on the problem until things with Scott take another turn, this time with the establishment of X-Factor. As for Ororo, she does quite a good job as team leader, even without her mutant abilities.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Misery Loves Company

Or: "Someone's Having A Bad Day..."

Super-heroes have at times demonstrated they're like us in at least one respect:

They have their good days, and definitely their bad days.

In Sue's case, it was just a matter of not being able to find anyone in the city to help out the FF when the team was in a jam:

But what about the more personal failures that really hit home with a hero? They do tend to make for good splash pages--even if they're catching our heroes at their lowest moments.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Humble Pipe

If you're familiar with Donald Blake, Thor's human form who transformed to the God of Thunder in times of need, then you'll likely remember this famous scene which helps to explain why Odin felt that his son needed to live for a time as a mortal:

But, what of Odin himself? The Lord of Asgard has more than once shown that he can be just a tad headstrong, wielding his supremacy like a club. Couldn't even the All-Father stand to learn a little humility?

Which humbly opens the door to another

Marvel Trivia Question

Did almighty Odin ever live amongst mortals as a mortal?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Beer, A Bar, and Bygones

After Wolverine sliced into the face of Ben Grimm, the Thing, it would take awhile before Logan would make an attempt to mend fences with Ben--"unfinished business," as he'd call it. And that business takes place at the "Last Gasp Saloon," an abandoned bar where probably a good deal of unfinished business got settled. But this story has another word for what this meeting may come to:

Welcome to the final day of Bar Fight Week!

(Let's hope Wolverine thought to bring a LOT of beer.)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Where Every Villain Knows Your Name

When you're talking about bar fights with super-beings, as we have been during this week-long look at such throw-downs, our focus inevitably has to turn to super-villains--and, thanks to yesterday's various blog posts out there by some very talented folks, you've had super-villains coming at you "left, right, and below the belt," as Susan Hayward would put it. (Guess what film she said that line in, and you get a free comic book! Not really!) So it seems appropriate we take a look at some of these unsavory types frequenting otherwise respectable drinking establishments, and seeing whether they choose to hoist a few, or hoist each other over a few tables, chairs, and bar rails.

At Duffy's Bar, for instance, things start out calmly enough when the Sandman has a brew and cozies up to Sadie, a regular here at Duffy's and, shall we say, popular with the clientele. The problem is, someone else on the lam--Hydro-Man--has Sadie in mind for a little R&R, and finds his seat's been taken.

Needless to say, it's looking like today at Duffy's is going to have a beach theme.

At first glance, you'd think a battle between Sandman and Hydro-Man would be one where their abilities cancel each other out:

But aside from ending up being the most muddy brawl in history, there are ways for either of these guys to prevail, given the right opening. Frankly, my money is on Sandman, who's been around the villain block a lot longer than his watery counterpart and probably knows a lot more dirty (no pun intended) methods of fighting.

But, to the relief of Duffy, it looks like it won't come to that. Because Sadie, who knows a good thing when she sees it (in this case, two good things), has the solution:

Whew. I know I'm relieved. But, c'mon, aren't we looking for a little rowdiness with our villains? Then we need look no further than the Bar With No Name, a watering hole on the down-low that specifically caters to super-villains--patrons who have more cause to drown their sorrows than most, as often as they get their heads handed to them. Given the egos involved, and definitely the temperament, the establishment makes clear to everyone that it has a no-fighting rule in effect, an informal "truce" which manages to hold up pretty well; in fact, there's almost camaraderie here that these villains don't find out on the street while involved in their power plays.

Unfortunately, the super-heroes who manage to locate the bar never signed off on any truce:

Spidey and DD are actually in a joint operation with the local police to shut down the bar, though they're obviously taking the lead in regard to reining in its super-powered patrons.

If these villains know anything, it's when to scram--so it's no surprise they eventually scramble for the exits. And it looks like our old friend, Hydro-Man, has an escape route only he can take advantage of:

Soon enough, all that remains is the wrap-up. Naturally, the proprietor of a bar that serves criminals thinks that he'll be able to slip from police custody easily enough, once he lawyers up--but it looks like Capt. Watanabe has been brushing up on her mobster history, taking a leaf from how Al Capone was finally nabbed:

But as we know, the Bar With No Name is always turning up in one locale or another. And when Wilbur Day, otherwise known as the classic villain, Stilt-Man, finally bites the big one, the Bar becomes host to one of the strangest wakes on record:

But, let's be realistic about a bar where super-villains are imbibing liquor. A word or two--a glance--a gesture might be taken the wrong way... tempers might flare. Push comes to shove. A wake doesn't necessarily guarantee a respite from bruised feelings. And in the case of the Rhino and the Armadillo, bruises are just what we're likely to see as a result of simply being accidentally bumped into.

I don't know why any of these other super-villains aren't stepping in to stop this clash before these two bruisers impact. There's something to it in theory--I mean, everyone else here is a powerful villain capable of, say, firing a bolt to split them apart before it goes further. On the other hand, it's not often we see villains stopping each other from fighting--even more rare that they succeed at it.

In addition, it looks like the proprietor of this bar has perhaps gotten a memo that the no-fighting rule is impractical, and that a brawling clientele is a paying and perpetual clientele, as long as they're kept happy. And tell me that this crew isn't happy:

I'll say this: Stilt-Man probably never expected to go out on such a high note.