Monday, September 30, 2019

Clash Of The Storm Gods!

Brief but fierce, Thor's clash with Zeus during the Olympian ruler's attack on the Avengers was riveting in both story and art, and remains one of my favorite meetings of the two--one of my few favorites, as it turns out, since the adversarial meetings between these two storm gods were quite rare, to my knowledge. Only once before did the two meet in battle, during the mythical ten-year siege of Troy by the Achaeans (or the Argives, as they're referred to in the Marvel story) which is set in motion when Paris, Prince of Troy, elopes with Helen, the queen of Sparta, and returns with her to his walled city--thus causing a coalition of Greeks to set sail for Troy in order to seek a mixture of justice and revenge for this affront.

It's a young Thor, still cocky and impulsive, who enters the picture when his half-brother, Loki, explores a dark fissure (on his own impulse) which Thor recognizes as the same type which once led him to Olympus and a first-time meeting with Hercules; and so Thor pursues Loki, but to no avail, as Thor's path displaces him in time and deposits him, bereft of memory, in what is today northwest Turkey and a small distance from ancient Troy, where he is befriended by the young man named Aeneas and escorted inside. Along the way, Aeneas, one of the allies of Troy during this conflict, tells Thor the entire tale of the war with the Greeks which, at this point, is nearly in its ninth year; and having seen Thor's strength, Aeneas notes that Thor would be a valued ally to the Trojans, though Thor declines the offer for the time being.

That is, until he witnesses the battle outside the city between Paris and Helen's husband, Menelaus--a match which results in the gravely wounded Paris being saved by the goddess Aphrodite, a sight which returns Thor's memories in full and has him following her on her return to Olympus. The Olympians have been closely observing the Trojan war, though Zeus has forbidden any interference on their part; still, as is evident, several in Zeus's court have covertly participated and taken sides in the conflict, with Aphrodite and Ares aiding Troy but Athena and Hera siding with the Greeks. And when Thor spots Athena's apparent efforts to have one of the Lycian allies slay Menelaus, Thor acts to deflect the deadly arrow--but in so doing, shatters the fragile truce between Troy and the Greeks, and causing all-out war to erupt on the battlefield, as Athena truly intended.

Yet it's the near-fatal injury to Aeneas in that carnage which causes Thor to pick his own side in the conflict--and the sight does not please one who still strives for the gods' neutrality.

And so, despite the continued interference of his own subjects in the battle, Zeus's tunnel vision zeroes in on the more overt influence at hand--a force which could swiftly reveal the gods' hand in this war beyond all doubt, despite the Thunder God's subterfuge, and which now demands his direct intervention.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Loose Ends and Revelations!

Having recently raised an eyebrow at a Defenders tale which featured the return of Dracula to the land of the (un)living--the sight of which registered hardly any shock at all with Dr. Strange, even though the sorcerer had believed he had seen to Dracula's final death in a prior encounter--writer Roger Stern's later "fix" for that slight oversight brought to mind a number of other instances where writers were obliged to be creative in convoluted plots that were rather difficult to accept at face value, or, as was the case with Strange, a character needed to be extracted from a "tight spot" that was inadvertently left hanging and never resolved.

Following are a few such instances that sprang to mind for me, and I feel certain that many of you have some of your own to share, so please feel free to put on your thinking caps along with yours truly.  :D

In terms of convoluted plots, it's hard to top this little gem, which opened the door to a virtual tsunami of clone convolution that went on for decades.

Send in the clones--and send them Marvel did, starting with Gwen, who turns out to be the creation of the Jackal, a.k.a. Prof. Miles Warren, who took the original Gwen's death quite hard and decided in his deranged mind that it need not be the case.

How a clone of Gwen emerged with all of the original's memories is anyone's guess; it certainly qualifies for an entry in the PPC's Weird Science category, to be sure. The success of the Gwen-clone (and, hard on her heels, the Peter-clone) storyline spawned clone stories ad nauseam. Gwen's clone even caused a little convolution of her own down the line, giving birth to twins who were manipulated into seeking revenge against Spider-Man for their mother's death. And the identity of their father? Norman Osborn. That's right, you heard me.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

"The Avengers Take Over!"

By the end of Part One of the PPC review of the two-part Fantastic Four tale from 1964 which featured the rematch (and a more prolonged battle) between the Thing and the incredible Hulk, the situation looked pretty dismal for the entire FF, who did their best under the circumstances to stop the Hulk's rampage through New York City but were overwhelmed by the sheer power of their foe. As things now stand:

  • Reed Richards, debilitated from exposure to chemicals which he'd used in a serum intended to change the Thing back to his human form of Ben Grimm (you dodged a bullet there, Ben), was unable to join his team against the Hulk and has now been hospitalized, where he remains in critical condition;
  • Sue Storm, regaining consciousness after her force field proved too weak to stand the strain of battling the Hulk, has returned to be at Reed's side, bringing to his medical team the chemicals he'd been working with in the hope that an antidote can be found for the virus afflicting him;
  • Johnny Storm, also hospitalized due to injuries sustained in his own fight with the Hulk, lies in recovery; and last but by no means least,
  • Ben Grimm, the mighty but overtaxed Thing, struggles to get to his feet after having fallen to the Hulk and pushes himself to continue the fight against all odds.

Judging by the team's near-desperate state, and the shocking title to the second half of this story (which leads off this post), the reader could be forgiven for thinking that even the FF would be forced to face reality here and hand off their own issue to the Avengers in order to see the Hulk's threat dealt with. But let's not count out Marvel's premiere super-team just yet!

At least not until the Hulk kayos the Thing with that right fist he's wound up.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Power of the Hulk!

Whenever I lay eyes on the classic two-part Fantastic Four tale from 1964 which features the rematch between the Thing and the incredible Hulk (while also dealing in the Avengers), I've found myself thinking how artist Jack Kirby might have handled this story had it been released three years later in 1967, when his style of artistry had hit its stride--panels filled with background which gave the setting more depth, room to let the letterer run wild with explosive sound effects, and pacing which the reader thrilled to with each turn of the page. A Thing/Hulk rematch deserved no less; a battle which saw the Hulk more than hold his own against both the FF and the Avengers practically demanded it.

And in my mind's eye I could see more than Kirby unleashed--I could also easily envision a two-part story expanded to four issues, this time with none other than inker Joe Sinnott joining forces with Kirby:

  • The end of Part 1 would have the Torch on the losing end of a battle with the Hulk after making an attempt to put a stop to his rampage following his arrival in New York, while the rest of the FF deal with the emergency of Reed falling victim to a dangerous virus;
  • Part 2 sees the Thing begin his struggle against the Hulk, with Johnny hospitalized and Sue sidelined while trying to save him--the last page having the Thing finally taken down, with the Hulk shouting his defiance to the city and vowing to destroy the Avengers next;
  • In Part 3, the Thing re-engages the Hulk, near exhaustion but rallying to give the Hulk a continued fight that even the green goliath in his rage can't bring himself to believe, with the Torch racing to his side to briefly join forces before the Hulk at last deals with them--the issue ending as the Hulk at last confronts the Avengers;
  • And finally, in Part 4, the Avengers make a fierce but futile effort to prevent the Hulk from taking Rick Jones captive-while elsewhere, an antidote to the dangerous chemicals which he came into contact with allows Reed to recover enough to join his partners in the city and make plans to tackle the Hulk, regardless of how the Avengers feel about it.

And as long as we're indulging in a make-believe scenario: After reader reaction to this revised tale has buried the Marvel offices under an avalanche of mail filled with praise for both story and art, and sales of Fantastic Four have defied all expectations, Kirby sits down with Stan Lee and publisher Martin Goodman and renegotiates both his pay and the rights to his material--perfect timing, as it turned out, with everyone signing on the dotted line a little over a year before Goodman would sell his Magazine Management Company (Marvel's parent company) to what would become Cadence Industries.  The deal leaves Kirby sitting pretty in a new ten-year contract, Marvel's only condition of the deal and adding up to a win-win for the artist.

Such was not to be, of course--except for possibly the mail filled with praise part, though even with a two-page letters section it wasn't even a deluge, much less burying, since roughly 60% of the mail printed dealt with other, unrelated subjects. But we won't let that stop us from diving into this ambitious tale which would pit the incredible Hulk against not only members of the Fantastic Four, but the Avengers, as well. But come on, it's the billing on the marquee that captures the reader's attention on this one.

Friday, September 20, 2019

At The Mercy Of The Mandarin!

What th...?? How did Iron Man come to this?

We'd better run down some bullet points on just what's led up to this shocking scene:

  • Tony Stark suffers a massive heart attack in the middle of Senator Byrd's hearing on the subject of Iron Man's true identity!
  • Stark's friend, Happy Hogan, decides to suit up as Iron Man and let himself be seen in public in order to divert suspicion from Stark, since everyone has finally gotten a clue that Stark and Iron Man are never seen together!
  • Happy's duplicity has been spied upon by the Mandarin, who, having seen Happy conferring with the bedridden Stark, believes he's finally learned Iron Man's true identity!
  • The masked fiend transports Happy to his stronghold in Asia, where he attacks him on sight and severely damages his armor!
  • Stark, realizing who's responsible for Happy's disappearance, leaves the hospital and returns to his factory to rush work on a new, more powerful suit of armor designed to better protect his heart from the strain of battle!
  • The Mandarin continues to interrogate "Iron Man" without mercy!
  • Stark's new suit tests out successfully, and he rockets to the Mandarin's castle to save his friend!

And just in the nick of time, as any hero will tell you.

And now, it's Iron Man vs. the Mandarin, in a battle to the finish!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

In The Mind Of The Mystic!

When we last left Dr. Strange and his revered master, the Ancient One, all hell was breaking loose at the Crypts of Kaa-u--"hell," of course, meaning the evil creature known as Shuma-Gorath, who has surprised Strange by springing forth from the mind of his dying mentor, while assuming his image. Yet the Ancient One has told his disciple that he wished to be brought to the Crypts because he realized that he was nearing the end of his life and so took steps to hasten his death--which is what Shuma-Gorath desires to happen, since it will mean the evil one's rebirth. Has the Ancient One not thought this through?

It's unlikely that the Ancient One is helping Shuma-Gorath of his own free will, since he's already lashed out at the Shadowmen (who are carrying out the orders of the Living Buddha, one of Shuma-Gorath's followers) when they threatened Strange's life; we only know that his doing so played right into the hands of Shuma-Gorath. So what's the explanation here? We'll let Shuma-Gorath himself explain how the Ancient One has been the key to his rebirth all along.

Shuma-Gorath's elucidation doesn't quite cover all the bases, since we don't know what threshold of the Ancient One's decline will provide sufficient energy for releasing Shuma-Gorath into our reality--but we can assume that Shuma-Gorath for now must continue to gestate inside the Ancient One's mind, feeding off of his mystic energy until that threshold is reached. If that's the case, then it's a race against time for Strange to stop him--and as he's said, he has an idea of where to start.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Master of the Mystic Arts--Cultists, Not So Much

Having had occasion to glance back at a post from two years ago concerning the 1972-73 span of issues of Marvel Premiere which featured Dr. Strange, there probably isn't much more for me to add to what turned out to be a frank, overall, and (hopefully) fair assessment of the subject, which also included a review of the first issue of the series. In essence, the stories that followed comprised a six-issue buildup to a confrontation in the seventh between Strange and the evil force that waited in the wings--Shuma-Gorath*, one of the many entities who had apparently ruled the Earth in ancient times** and who had every intention of reclaiming that position and suppressing the human race into worshippers and slaves.

*Was it ever made clear where to place the accent in the name? Mentally I've been pronouncing it "Shuma-GorATH," which sounds more imposing, doesn't it?

**Just how many were there? The age of the Earth is estimated at 4½ billion years, which leaves large enough chunks of millennia for evil horrors to stake claims to. There's a post in there somewhere...

With the series being published bi-monthly for the duration of this particular story, it would take precisely one year for readers to reach the finale, while sampling an unusual mix of artists who practically made up their own Bullpen. In addition, with the exception of the earliest installment, co-written by Archie Goodwin and Roy Thomas, the bulk of the story was scripted by Gardner Fox, who by Marvel's own admission may not have been the ideal choice for a Dr. Strange series (a less drawn-out approach by the company to reader criticism than that taken with Jack Kirby's stormy tenure as the writer of Captain America.) Still a dedicated collector during the 1970s, however, I stuck with it to the end (the same mindset that got me through the entirety of titles like Marvel Team-Up, et al.!), eventually reaching the two final issues that saw Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner pick up the reins as co-plotters and begin their successful handling of the character.

It will be those issues that we'll focus on in a moment; but for now, have a look at a brief digest of what came before, since each installment goes a little further in laying the groundwork for the menace of Shuma-Gorath and, as it happens, the fate of the Ancient One.

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Fury of Satan's Son!

During the early 1970s, both the Ghost Rider and the Son of Satan would benefit from extensive (albeit bimonthly) exposure in Marvel Spotlight before being given their own titles. In the case of the latter, the Satan-son would actually make his first appearance in the nascent Ghost Rider title--though it wasn't the fiery, trident-wielding character we would first lay eyes on, but rather exorcist Daimon Hellstrom, who had been contacted by two residents of an Apache reservation to treat a woman feared to be possessed. Hellstrom is obviously a man with a secret, who is wrestling internally with something that he strives to keep in check during the hours that span dusk to dawn--but is his resolve strong enough to resist the force inside him that demands to be released?

The answer is forthcoming, as the Ghost Rider segues to his own title, while Hellstrom (along with the curse he lives with) takes the Rider's place in Marvel Spotlight, where his readers would explore his tempestuous character for the next two years.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Like Unstable Father, Like Certifiable Son

After the death of the original Green Goblin, it took some time for the powers that be at Marvel to admit that, for sheer, cackling, calculated villainy, only Norman Osborn was capable of filling his own shoes. There have been a few others who tried, including but not limited to a psychologist (who by definition should have known better), the nephew of a "Daily Bugle" reporter, and, most notably, Norman's son, Harry, who first took over the identity of the Goblin following his father's death, which had involved Spider-Man--a/k/a Harry's friend and roommate, Peter Parker.

With Harry discovering Peter's identity as Spider-Man, as well as being convinced that Spider-Man murdered his father, we only have to add Harry's poor mental state to the mix to have all the ingredients necessary for Harry to pursue a mission of vengeance against his former friend. And since Harry had also become aware of his father's double life as the Green Goblin, it seemed inevitable that Harry would be the one to whom the torch would be passed, and pick up where his father left off with Spider-Man, and with Peter.

This two-part tale from the fall of 1974, written by Gerry Conway and pencilled by Ross Andru, doesn't have the scope of a typical story which features the threat of the Green Goblin, though that threat is certainly apparent given Harry's actions and the danger to Peter's loved ones; but with Conway virtually capsulizing this story and ending it so tidily, with Harry handily dealt with and Peter et al. none the worse for wear, you may tend to discount the danger inherent in a title such as "The Green Goblin Lives Again!" Had it been Norman we were talking about here, there's little question the story would have been a tension-filled page-turner.

Yet because it is a Spider-Man tale, which often includes the book's cast of supporting characters as part and parcel of Peter's life, well-handled by Conway, it's a fine return for your 50¢; and while to this day I wince at Andru's stiff handling of Spider-Man in action, I can appreciate the fact that his run on the title was obviously backed by Conway, editor Roy Thomas, and likely a considerable number of readers, with those issues putting on display Andru's extraordinary talent as a storyteller as well as his skill at depicting characterizations--two constants that were evident throughout his tenure.* By all indications, they were elements Conway appeared to enjoy quite a bit, fitting so well with his own style of storytelling.

*Notable in Andru's work on ASM is the presence of not one but two inkers for those issues where he's credited with doing full pencils rather than breakdowns--mostly with Dave Hunt partnering with Frank Giacoia, which we're treated to in this particular story. Occasionally we'll come across a story with two or three (or even more) finishers contributing--but it's remarkable to see it occur on a regular basis.

As for the story itself, it begins innocently enough. At this point in time, Peter and Mary Jane Watson are dating (and apparently oblivious to the fact that they're both casually walking in traffic), and Peter and Harry are still roommates in their Manhattan apartment--though Peter has noticed that Harry has been intentionally putting distance between them, perhaps chalking it up to his dating Harry's former girlfriend. But both Peter's living situation and his relationship with Harry are about to take an abrupt (and nearly deadly) turn for the worse.

Monday, September 9, 2019

"This Beachhead Earth!"

For a fleeting moment in time in late 1971, Marvel readers looked forward to their favorite comics being published with a larger page count each month, coinciding with a price increase of 10¢--which meant that all Marvel stories from that point on would no longer be limited to 20 pages, but would extend to 34-36 pages, with all books being bound on the spine rather than stapled. That change in course, as we know, vanished faster than you can say "after further consideration"... but for those few weeks, we were treated to a collection of titles which made anticipation of the following months' books practically register on the Richter scale for some of us, a spike in interest that the first Silver Surfer series would surely have coveted.

Having already covered the pertinent issues for Fantastic Four, Mighty Thor, and Invincible Iron Man, we turn now to the expanded Avengers story for that month, which moves the team closer to direct involvement in the Kree-Skrull War when they come into conflict with Skrull agents (including the Super-Skrull) who have plans not only for two Avengers (Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch) but also for Captain Marvel. The Skrulls have already taken measures to gain their objectives by setting a trap for Mar-vell as well as disbanding the current active roster of the Avengers; but unknown even to the Skrulls, their actions have drawn the attention of four of the original Avengers, who have gathered at their headquarters to investigate.

And so, with the return of the Vision, the door is opened (with a THOOOM, at that) to a power-packed issue by Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, and Tom Palmer which will make inroads toward drawing the Earth into an interstellar conflict that will see two star-spanning empires at each others' throats, while also eventually forcing Rick Jones to play a pivotal role in their fate.

(Say, Mr. Adams--did you not get that memo on Iron Man's boot jets?)

Friday, September 6, 2019

"Deliver Us From Evil!"

Earlier, we witnessed a desperate struggle between the forces of Dracula and a group led by Dr. Strange to take possession of the Darkhold, a bound book of writings that originated with the demon Chthon millennia ago--including the so-called Montesi formula, which details spells that would allow one to eradicate the specter of vampirism from the entire world. In a crucial moment, Strange was able to relocate the Darkhold to Castle Mordo in Transylvania, where he and his group of friends have finally reached it; but Dracula has followed, and is prepared to take any steps he must to retrieve it!

The stakes are high for each side of this conflict. If Strange succeeds, Dracula and his ilk across the entire planet will be destroyed--but should Dracula prevail, the lives of Strange and the others will be forfeit, and Dracula will reign supreme.

Come the dawn--who will hold the Darkhold?

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Rise Of The Vampire!

It would be five years to the month (by our calendars) before Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts, would meet again with Dracula, Lord of Vampires, after having narrowly avoided a living death at the hands (er, fangs) of Dracula in their first encounter. But just as Strange then had need of Dracula in order to save his servant, Wong, from the curse of the undead, their next meeting has their roles reversed, as this time it is Dracula who will need the skills of the Sorcerer Supreme as well as the might of his associates, the Defenders, in order to defeat the plans of the Six-Fingered Hand--a collective demonic entity whose goal is ultimately to merge Earth and Hell.

To that end, in order to remove the Defenders from possible interference, one of those demons, Puishannt, has empowered Gordski, one of Dracula's minor vampires, to be the new Lord of Vampires--even as no less than a dozen demons take possession of Dracula and drive him to physically attack Strange and the Defenders in the sorcerer's sanctum with the intent of slaying them. With the assistance of the Son of Satan in deciphering the truth, the attack fails--and Dracula is forced to depend on Strange to clear up the mystery of who had taken control of him, and why.

Having "eavesdropped" on the conversation between Gordski and Puishannt which reveals their complicity, Dracula and Strange realize that foiling this scheme is in all of their best interests, and reluctantly form a temporary alliance--though clearly, none of the Defenders are any happier with the decision than Dracula, an alliance made for the sake of expediency and, as Strange notes, common cause.

Clearly, Strange has brushed aside any surprise he might have felt at seeing Dracula among the living again (so to speak)--as well as, in light of the present danger from the Hand, any sense of responsibility he might have otherwise felt for finishing the task of dealing with Dracula's threat. It could be argued that the Defenders have no need to strike up an agreement with Dracula in order to battle one of the Hand (a point which, indeed, would be validated in the story's conclusion); but Dracula means to act no matter which way the pendulum swings here, and Strange and Hellstrom perhaps feel that choosing to meet one threat would allow the other to act unchecked.

In the end, the conflict demands that Hellstrom uphold his end of their agreement by conveying to Dracula valuable information that saves him from perishing with the rest of their foes. Yet, a little over two years later, Dracula and Strange would cross paths again, when Dracula's plans for ultimate power lead him on a quest to locate the Darkhold, a bound collection of parchments left on Earth by the demon Chthon--a demon the Avengers would encounter through the demon's possession of the Scarlet Witch, a woman who Strange now seeks out to help him reach the book first and thereby keep it out of Dracula's hands.

But how did Dracula learn of the Darkhold--and what's his interest in it?

For the answer, we'll have to flip the pages to yet another

Marvel Trivia Question

What's the official explanation for how vampires came to inhabit the Marvel universe?

Monday, September 2, 2019

You Never Know When You'll Face... The Mandroids!

At whatever time you were a Marvel reader during the industry's Bronze Age and beyond, you probably at one time or another tripped over one of the many appearances of the Mandroids, agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. who donned titanium weapon-suits in order to battle super-powered foes that conventional forces presumably couldn't handle. Designed by Tony Stark, who trained the men to deal with even the Avengers, they were sent into action as part of a task force put together by H. Warren Craddock, who headed the government's Alien Activities Commission which had been formed to uncover possible alien threats such as the recent Kree incursion. Their mission: to enforce a court order which authorized Craddock to bring in the Avengers for questioning.

Given that Craddock had a valid court order to compel the Avengers' cooperation (rather than meting out a "death sentence" as dramatically depicted on the issue's cover), it's not clear why Captain America, of all people, didn't advise the team to simply comply, instead of escalating the situation by joining with them to take on the Mandroids. Half the blame is Craddock's, certainly, since the man and his aides could have just walked up to the front door and made their intentions known to Jarvis, rather than making such a show of it with tanks and a loudspeaker as if he were approaching fugitives--but Cap? Not only refusing a lawfully executed government order, but hurling his shield into the fray? If you were watching the scene play out on the tube, you might have found yourself wondering what information the Avengers could be hiding, and why.

Of course, having been witness to Craddock's tenacity in pursuing his McCarthy-style investigation, it's difficult to sympathize with the man, whatever his mandate--which helps to sway the reader, at least, to sympathize with the Avengers, rather than the heavily-armed Mandroids who are actually doing pretty well against them so far. Though it's fair to wonder if Stark advised them that, to deal with Iron Man, all you have to do is to send him tumbling onto his backside, which his armor isn't strong enough to protect him against.

The Inhuman called Triton has definitely picked a tense day to approach the Avengers in order to ask for their help. Luckily for him, Iron Man--who can barely find the strength to function after simply falling down--knows enough about the Mandroids to incapacitate them, or, rather, the men inside the suits. But wouldn't you know that SHIELD has a back-up plan even for that.

The Mandroids' debut nevertheless comes to an unceremonious end almost immediately afterward, as Iron Man again makes use of his knowledge of the suits to disable them.

Regrettably, Craddock wasn't the only government operative* to make use of the Mandroids against the Avengers, when, in a later story, the State Department issues orders to prevent the team from going after Stark.  It's also apparent that, in the interim, the Mandroid production line has been busy.

*Craddock, as we'd see during the closing scenes of the Kree-Skrull War, was later revealed to be a Skrull.

On another occasion, our heroes were forced to face the Mandroids when Thunderstrike and Spider-Man board the SHIELD helicarrier to confront the agency about their apprehension of the members of Code: Blue.

What's odd about the Mandroids, however, is that they seem to be for sale available to just about anyone who wants to acquire them--and that includes criminals like Justin Hammer (for all the good they do him against War Machine):

... and Moses Magnum, who uses them in an operation to seize control of Japan.

Magnum also had the clout to obtain a cadre of Mark II Mandroids, who turned out to be little more than tinker toys against the rage of Colossus.

The incredible Hulk has also faced a model of Mandroid, this one donned by Col. Glenn Talbot as part of his angry vendetta against the man-monster:

During the Armor Wars, however, Iron Man had cause to take on the Mandroids for a different reason--as part of his mission to keep his technology from falling into the hands of enemies like Justin Hammer. (Gee, we've already seen how well that worked out.) To accomplish the goal while avoiding an actual attack on SHIELD, Stark dupes Nick Fury into virtually dropping the Mandroids into his lap by convincing him that Iron Man has gone rogue and offering his help to track down his former bodyguard.

And though he crosses a line that forces him to deceive a longtime ally, the plan succeeds.

For future writers, the lure of using the Mandroids in their stories would mainly take the form of designing different prototypes and models of the Mandroid armor, which at times tended to make one forget that they were indeed man-operated and instead resembled hulking robots of some kind. But this creation of Roy Thomas and Neal Adams nevertheless went on to enjoy many appearances in a number of Marvel titles through the years--and, needless to say, remained popular with those SHIELD agents who hoped to one day make the grade as a Mandroid.