Monday, May 25, 2020

Collected By The Collector!

As one of the Elders of the Universe--each the last survivor of their otherwise extinct race--the Collector shares a trait with his fellow Elders in that his particular zealous preoccupation (in his case, curating his collection) is often undertaken without taking into consideration the wishes or objections of those he sets his eye on. The Avengers would be the first to agree with such an assessment, having been objects of the Collector's pursuit on more than one occasion. First encountering the Collector in mid-1966, the team became aware of this being when the four replacements to the original lineup were contacted by Henry Pym, the Avenger known as Giant-Man, who was seeking help in locating the missing Wasp. Little did they know that she was but the first Avenger to be ensnared in the Collector's obsession for prized objects.

With the Collector having taken the step of luring the Avengers to his base, it stands to reason he's prepared to capture them. Even so, he's nevertheless surprised by the apparent absence of Giant-Man, until he finds out the hard way that the size-changing Avenger he's looking for has rejoined the team as "Goliath"--and a fighting-mad giant, at that.

As we've seen, Pym has returned with complications involving his size-changing ability, with his body no longer able to achieve any size other than twenty-five feet--a height he must remain at for fifteen minutes, no more, no less. That sort of handicap makes pursuing a fleeing villain in close quarters difficult; but thanks to the other Avengers, the Collector is eventually corralled, albeit not entirely helpless.

With the Avengers already having had dealings with a time-traveling foe in the form of Kang, it's disappointing to see another villain pull time travel out of a hat in order to escape to fight another another day--though given our limited knowledge of the Collector thus far, we're left with the impression that his activities (and, from the look of things, his relics) have been confined to Earth, which leaves his avenue of escape limited to teleportation by some means. That said, I dare say that a hand-held time traveling device that's been identified as an "artifact" would be a strong indication that he's obtained some of his acquisitions on other worlds (though heaven knows there have been enough Marvel stories dealing with ancient yet advanced beings and civilizations on Earth for the Collector to have tapped).

At any rate, speculation on the Collector's origins is rendered moot with his next appearance in 1968, this time conducting his affairs from a massive alien ship that has a more visible assortment of items, specimens and technology collected from all parts of the galaxy. Even so, a battle with the Avengers results in the destruction of the vessel--though when the Collector shows up in 1974, the story's cover makes it clear that this being isn't about to give up on adding the Avengers to his inventory.

Since luring Avengers to him hasn't worked out well for the Collector so far, he shifts to ambushing them--in this instance, disguising himself as Tom Fagan, host of a Halloween parade in Rutland, Vermont. So far, the tactic is sound, as it nets him four Avengers in short order.

But when the real Mr. Fagan is discovered, the other Avengers have an opportunity to pull a surprise of their own--thanks to some eager party-goers who it seems can invoke panic in even the most dogged villain.

Give the Collector credit--even when cornered, he's always packing some rare and dangerous artifact up his sleeves to get him out of a tight spot.

Following Mantis's attack, she manages to retrieve the stones which, when struck together a second time, dispense with the horde of bats with which the Collector had hoped to win the day. Interestingly, this is the one instance where the Avengers have managed to take the Collector into custody; what happens to him from this point is anyone's guess, though it's fair to assume that the Avengers would defer to the National Security Council as to his processing.

Cut to mid-1978, where there aren't that many Avengers available to determine why their membership is literally vanishing.

Their foe in the shadows has a point: Why haven't Iron Man and the others put two and two together to come up with the Collector? Our alien has been busy, taking an approach this time which he probably should have availed himself of from the beginning--using his technology to abduct and capture the Avengers directly and thus bypass their resistance. He's also apparently broadened his criteria for his Avengers collection by adding to it those who have had close associations with the group, such as Jocasta, the Two-Gun Kid, Captain Marvel, et al.

Still, he remains as confident as ever when dealing with any Avengers who have managed to surprise and confront him directly--though the stakes, for both sides, are far greater this time.

(The Collector's boast of finally having a complete collection of Avengers is a bit hasty, since he hasn't bothered to obtain the Hulk, the Black Knight, the Swordsman (via his time machine, right?), and whoever else I'm missing; and apparently Rick Jones, as one of those close to the team, was beneath his notice.)

Eventually, the resulting battle reaches the point where only Hawkeye is left to challenge the Collector. Fortunately, since Hawkeye's tenacity has proven to be one of the Avengers' most valuable assets, the Collector is caught off guard when he finally unveils his power as one of the Elders in order to trap the archer, only to fall to Hawkeye's marksmanship.

With the other Avengers and their allies freed, we finally receive a brief origin story of the Collector, which attributes the root of his attempts to collect the Avengers to the rise of Thanos--though in this instance, it's the imminent threat of Korvac which has prompted his haste to retrieve the team.

Regrettably, before the Avengers can obtain more details as to the specifics of the danger, Korvac strikes down the Collector before their shocked and horrified eyes--bringing to an end a foe of the team who had been making appearances in the book for over a decade.

Yet no doubt some of you who are still actively reading Marvel comics have noted that the Collector is still kicking--a fact we can attribute to the events of Marvel's 1982 Contest of Champions limited series, where the Grandmaster forfeits his own existence in order to have Death return the Collector to life. And while the circumstances were deplorable, it could be viewed as an acceptable exchange where the well-being of the universe is concerned, given that a collector poses far less hazard to intelligent life than a being whose wagers determined the fate of entire worlds.


Jon H said...

"...know him as Yearrghh? Nope, doesn't ring a bell."

Big Murr said...

Another funny-book revelation courtesy of PPoC. I had no idea (or reason to suspect) that the Collector was originally implied to be a Terran nutbar villain. I always reckoned he was ranked as a Cosmic Elder. But, as you say, I guess they decided to upgrade his status pronto-quick.

("These are the legendary Coats of Hercules, from which no truly mortal being can break free!" So how was Thor even momentarily inconvenienced?)

Comicsfan said...

I quite agree about Thor, Murray. I'm guessing that like the others, the pelts held him long enough (as Hercules himself could have, I suppose) to effectively cut off his air supply and render him unconscious. (Now we're all wondering (a) what Hercules wanted with live-animal pelts and (b) how the Collector made off with them!)

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember the Collector, er, "collecting", swamp monsters.
I think he got his hands on the Glob and Man-Thing, but things went awry, as they so often do, when he tried to collect the Hulk.
Why would anybody wanna collect swamp monsters. Can you imagine the clean up involved?
Lotta bleach.


Anonymous said...

The Collector was obviously a bit useless early on, Comicsfan.
In that second image you've excerpted he's got nearly a full set of Avengers and isn't even keeping them in special big mylar bags. What kind of collector is that?

At least later he had a glass case, although those individual tanks from '78 look like a much better bet for keeping the heroes in mint condition.


Comicsfan said...

M.P., I'm sure the Collector has both swamp creatures sequestered in their natural environment, not just for display value but to make cleanup moot, eh?

sean, if you're not careful, the Collector is going to come looking to collect you, no doubt to preserve that sense of humor of yours--and we'd hate to lose you!