Sunday, December 20, 2009

Spectacular Spider-Man 54-60

Issue 54 “To Save the Smuggler”

I like several things about this issue, the first was the beginning where Spider-Man tries to do the right thing and stops a car chasing an ambulance. Only the car turns out to be full of cops and the ambulance a stolen vehicle. Whoops!

Spider-Man is such a physically strong superhero; he is often portrayed as his own worst enemy. This is the case whether he struggles with balancing school, work, and relationships, or whether he can’t tell who the bad guys are.

The next neat thing in this issue is that Spider-Man ends up rescuing one of his enemies. Remember the Smuggler aka Power Man? Remember, Spider-Man had a fight with him in the subway’s catacombs in Spectacular Spider-Man 50? Well, he is losing his powers and was going to go State’s evidence against the Maggia, but the Japanese Mob in some sort of informant exchange program kidnapped him.

Anyway, that brings me to the last cool thing in this issue, Spidey in Samurai armor. The best shot is the one on the cover. The colors on the cover are awful, which is why I uploaded it in glorious B+W the way I enjoyed it in the Spectacular Essential vol. 3.

Issue 55 “The Big Blow-Out”

“Nitro’s Back” the cover proclaims. It’s funny, Nitro wasn’t much of a villain until in modern times he literally set-off the Marvel Civil War. But let’s get back to 1981 and this issue of Spider-Man.

At Project Pegasus Nitro’s daughter and her lawyer appear with a writ and demand the release of her father. The scientist reluctantly consents and wheels out two air tanks. Nitro has been kept in a gaseous state since his last battle in Omega Unknown 8? That was his previous appearance anyway.

Now it’s true that it’s unlawful to keep a man imprisoned without a trial and keeping a man as a gas makes water boarding seem pedestrians as a form of torture. But Nitro is dangerous, shouldn’t the scientist build some sort of holding cell before releasing Nitro from his gaseous state (I really wish there was a way to say this without making it sound like Nitro just has a bad case of indigestion.)

Anyway, I can’t help but think of this Bronze Age Nitro as kinder and gentler than the Modern Age Nitro. This one explodes and destroys building, but never seems to do more to people than knock them out.

I really dig the ending of this issue because Spidey uses his brains and tricks Nitro into chemically combining with nausea gas!

Issue 56 “The Peril…and the Pumpkin?”

Jack O’Lantern is brought to a hospital after a fight with Machine Man (in Machine Man 19). However, apparently Jack’s metal mesh body armor is so strong no one can figure out how to get his costume off, not even the dumb looking pumpkin head. This becomes a moot point when the villain wakes up and with the help of his gang takes the hospital hostage.

It just so happens Aunt May’s boyfriend Nathan is one of the hostages and this causes Peter to have to choose between doing as his Aunt wants and being there to comfort her as she watches the hostage situation on the news or doing something about the situation as we know only he can.

In the end Spider-Man easily defeats Jack, but when Peter goes to be with Aunt May afterwards, she is furious that her nephew wasn’t there when she needed him. “I’m just a foolish old woman who thought she still meant something to you,” she says through tears.

This issue gets a B- for action, but an A+ for guilt tripping.

Issue 57 “These Wings Enslaved!”

I thought JJJ was married, but in this issue he seems to have it bad for scientist Marla Madison. He even finds it in his miserly heart to throw her a black-tie party when she gets a new research job at the ever-evil “Brand Corporation.”

Spidey is swinging through NY when he decides to call Aunt May. He does so, from a payphone, in his Spidey costume to the amazement of the crowd that forms around him. Miraculously, Aunt May has already forgiven Peter regarding the fight they had last issue. After the phone call Spidey swings away. Why didn’t anyone press *69 and see who Spider-Man called? Even if that feature didn’t exist in 1981 surely the police could have pulled the pay phone’s call records.

Okay, so at JJJ’s party Will-O-the Wisp, stuck as, you guessed it a gas, takes over the use of Killer Shrike’s body and kidnaps Madison. He takes her to a secret lab at the Brand Corporation, because she is the only one who can use the machinery to restore his body.

Spider-Man is at ease fighting a room full of Brand Corporation security and then in the middle of the fight decides to call Aunt May again! You’d think someone knows how to track down call logs?

In the end, after saving Will-O’, Spidey isn’t sure whether Will-O’ is a hero or a villain since he took revenge on the Brand Corporation by leveling the whole building and after seeing their dark side Marla decides she can’t work for Brand Corporation.

Overall, this was kind of a dud issue.

Issue 58 “Ring out the Old, in the New!”

Guest penciler John Byrne, makes the most of an issue with a throw-away villain. Fortunately the Ringer, is played for laughs. The Ringer’s suit has a “particulate-matter condensers that form rings right out of the soot and smog in the air.” I couldn’t help but think that with the brainpower to come up with a machine that makes metal out of air, surely this man could better serve society as a scientist. Hell, he could make a fortune as a somewhat disreputable businessman. Why do these guys choose a life of crime?

A highlight of the issue is when Spidey gets bored with his fight against the Ringer and decides to leave and go meet Debra Whitman for dinner. “You can’t leave now!” the villain shouts. “Oh, no? Watch me,” says Spidey.

In the end it turns out that it was the Beetle, itching to try out a new set of armor, that was pulling the Ringer’s strings. (No pun intended)

Of note- This issue features the debut of Marcy Kane’s new brunette look. I think it was a step up, but I’ve always preferred brunettes.

Issue 59 “I Want Spider-Man”

This is kind of a filler issue the builds up to Spider-Man big fight with the Beetle in the following issue.

Marty Blank also known as The Gibbon, is still bitter about his attempt to fight Spidey way back in ASM 110-112. He’s working for a documentary crew looking for new Spider-Man footage. Blank is more than happy to put the old monkey suit on one more time and give Spidey a rematch for the cameras.

The Gibbon is little challenge for our favorite wall-crawler, but he does distract Spider-Man enough for the Beetle to sneak attack our hero and the issue ends with the Beetle hitting Spider-Man with a brick wall. Ouch!

Of note- Marty Black wears a tee-shirt that says “Epic.” It seems that it was the hip thing at this point to slip that word into every issue possible, Anyone know the story behind this?

Issue 60 “Beetlemania!”

This “Special Double-Sized Issue” has a really cool cover.

The issue itself is both good and bad. For two issues the Beetle has been preparing for a battle against Spider-Man. First, he forced the Ringer to fight Spider-Man so he could upload data about Spider-Man’s movements into his new set of armor. The Beetle believed that his suit’s computer would be able to predict Spidey’s movements. Second, toppled a brick wall on top of Spidey when he was busy fighting the Gibbon.

The Beetle quickly realizes that his computer program doesn’t work. He doesn’t find out but it fails because Spider-Man’s movements are not a set of practiced predictable actions, but merely responses to Spider-Man’s spider-sense.

Spider-Man who never really recovered from being hit by the brick wall flees the fight with the Beetle after putting in a fairly good showing. The clueless Beetle believes he has suffered another defeat and kidnaps the Gibbon to
use as bait.

Peter runs into Deb Whitman, who is wearing a particularly frumpy outfit, a nightgown shirt over a full bodysuit.

When Peter realizes that the Beetle has captured the Gibbon he runs to save him and the final battle ensues. After Spider-Man does all the hard work, the Gibbon manages to deliver the punch that knocks the Beetle unconscious. Much to Peter chagrin, the Gibbon gets all the credit for saving the day from the police and the media.

Back-Up Feature “The Birth of a Legend!”

This is a retelling of Spider-Man’s origin; it’s kind of in the same vein as the shot-by-shot remake of Psycho someone did about 10 years ago. The original Amazing Fantasy 15 origin story simply titled “Spider-Man” was 11 pages. This one is 17, but a lot of the individual panels and dialogue have been recreated, they just added panels that weren’t there before, like a shot of Peter shedding a tear when Flash and the gang drive off after making fun of him for wanting to go to the science exhibit.

It’s funny, the original Ditko art does seem kind of primitive, but the art in the remake is also strange since Peter’s whole face and head look different since penciler Greg LaRocque attempts to make Peter look like a sort of Ditko-Peter/Modern-Peter hybrid.

You’d think I’d know ever panel of the original story, but I still had to glance at the Ditko story to be sure if a few panels were in the original for instance I forgot that Peter gets a new microscope from Aunt May and Uncle Ben, after Peter doesn’t stop the criminal and right before the
night Uncle Ben dies.

I was glad they left the “with great power there must also come great responsibility” line as narration instead or attributing it as a quote from Uncle Ben like some retellings have done.

Hang loose till my next set of musings, which includes a piece on Issue 68, which proves Spidey’s origin can be retold in just 4 panels.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

World's Finest?... one issue's super-bad writing

World’s Finest issue 303 is a poorly written comic. I’ve been told its writer David Anthony Kraft is a particularly weak writer.

I’ve read lots of great Batman comics and there is nothing quite like a good Batman comics: the perfect balance of film noir mood, mystery, and action. On the splash page this issue has the mood down. Batman stands in the fog on the deck of a ship filled with human skeletons. I thought this was going to be an issue that didn’t throw its punches. Sadly this first page, along with the cover, which made me initially pick this issue up, turned out to be the highpoints of the entire issue.

My basic problem with this issue is that the script seems to have been written for children. And I know that’s whom comics are written for, but most comics aren’t this bad.

On p.3 a narration box says “A series of onsite tests already performed by Batman have established that there is no danger of airborne contamination!” That’s actually a smart bit of narration, but it is undercut by the fact that Batman is not wearing any sort of breezing apparatus at the start of the issue.

The action then shifts to Superman. Clark is walking with Lana Lang, when it starts to snow only the snow is green and full of a kryptonite mixture that is equally deadly to human and Kryptonian alike. You see clearly in this panel that Lana is being hit by the snow. I’m sure Clark will find a way to save her, right?

Wrong, the action shifts back to Batman and then when we go back to Clark three pages later he is crawling on his hands and knees towards the subway where he escapes the green snow and tunnels to safety. Lana is not seen in the issue again; I guess she died.

Batman goes to an expert on plagues for help. Who says, “unless I help, which I will, what happened on the yatch will happen to the entire City of Metropolis!” That piece of dialogue was so absurd, if this guy’s friend broke his arm would he say, “Unless I help you, which I will, your arm is going to stay broken.” It also reminds me of classic apocryphal B movie lines like a scientist saying “It will take the greatest scientific mind in the world to solve this problem, fortunately I am the world’s greatest scientific mind.”

This panel also introduces the idea that ancient alchemy is being used to transform Kryptonite into a plague. This premise, I actually accepted when I was reading the issue, because well, I’d already seen the effects of the green snow twice so, why question it? However, if you actually think about it, 1) ancient alchemy never worked and 2) how could kryptonite a mineral be transformed into a virus or a bacterium an organic material?

The scientist Batman found turns out to himself be the Alchemist and Batman makes a big deal out of explaining the clues that lead him to believe the Alchemist and the scientist were one in the same. These statements took the fun out of the reveal. This not being the first mystery I’ve ever read, I guessed the truth right away and caught both of the clues the first time I read the comic. To me they were in fact as obvious as huge roadsigns on a highway, but even if I’d missed these clues isn’t it more fun to have to reread the issue and find the clues yourself than to have them spelled out for you? Sherlock Holmes famously used to explain all of his intuitive leaps, but that was because readers would not be able to make the same leaps Sherlock did no matter how many times the facts were presented to them. Where as in this case the intuitive leaps are blatant.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

An Epic Failure

“Defying Gravity” is yet another example of broadcast television’s inability to properly nurture a science fiction program. “Firefly” is the chief example of a great science fiction show that was never given a chance. “Defying Gravity” was not a great show, but it had some interesting science fiction elements. After 13 episodes, the show has been canceled and the sets have been struck. The show’s creator gave an interview and shared what would have happened if the show had gone on. I’ll talk about that and share the link later.

I’d say that there isn’t an audience for science fiction shows, but networks continue to make them, so someone thinks there is a market for them. “Gravity” was cancelled in America after 8 episodes. CTV in Canada cancelled it after 9 episodes but the remaining episodes aired on the Canadian network SPACE. It is airing in Britain on BBC-2 and will soon be airing in Germany. Thanks to the wonders of the internet I’ve seen all 13 episodes. Here is a link to watch the episodes:


The show is definitely what I’d call high concept in that it’s hard to just watch one episode and know what’s going on. Here is an attempt to explain the premise:

The year is 2052

10 years ago there was the first manned mission to Mars. That crew consisted of Maddux Donner (Ron Livingston), Ted Shaw, Sharon Lewis (Donner’s lover), Jeff Walker, and Rollie Crane (Commander). This mission goes horribly wrong when a massive sandstorm hits unexpectedly while Lewis and Walker are on a surface walk. They can’t get back to the module before the storm hits and under Crane’s orders Donner and Shaw are forced to leave Lewis and Walker to certain death on the surface of Mars.

5 years later training begins for the next big mission. Out of 50 applicants, 8 astronauts will travel for 6 years on the spaceship Antares and will visit Venus, Mercury, Mars, Europa, the rings of Saturn and Pluto. Donner and Shaw are trainers for the mission, but are also in the running as crewmembers. Crane is now the head of Mission Control.

And 5 years after that the Antares mission is about to be launched and this is when the show starts.

The action of the show flashes between “present” day and 5 years ago.
The present day stuff involves the Antares crew on their mission and also follows some of the mission controllers back on earth, while the 5 years ago stuff is about the astronauts when they were first starting their training.

It says something like 5 years ago on the screen the first time it jumps back each episode, but after that it counts on the audience to figure it out, but this can be confusing, especially to casual viewers.

The main character of the show is Donner who narrates the show with homespun blue-collar wisdom. He is racked with guilt over leaving his girlfriend to die on Mars. Early in the Antares training Donner has a one-night stand with astronaut trainee Zoe Barnes. But he ends up having a purely sexual relationship with another trainee Nadia Shilling. And that just one love triangle. There are 3 sets of married couples when the ship leaves, none of whom are together at the start of the mission’s training. With all this romance it is not difficult to see why the show was nicknamed “Grey’s Anatomy in space.” I think this label hurt the show a lot. It was a transparent attempt by the network to get more women to watch the show. However, I don’t think that the label got women to watch the show because they could not get past the show’s science fiction premise. I know there are lots of women that love science fiction, but statistically speaking you are a rare breed. Meanwhile, the soap opera image hurt the show’s credibility with actual science fiction fans.

Future Technology

Future technology is rarely shown and nearly never explained on the show. For example, the Antares gets from planet to planet by gaining power while in orbit around planets, but that’s just a guess and I have no idea what they use for fuel except that their blast-off from earth looked like a present day blast-off. I also have no idea how mission control is able to communicate with the Antares instantaneously even when the ship is in orbit around Venus. One think they did try to explain was that there is limited gravity in the Antartes because of the centrifugal force brought on by two metal arms that rotate the ship. And the astronauts also have shoes that are slightly magnetized to the floor of the ship. However, they ruined these explanations by saying that astronauts also magnetize their hair each morning because they might have to go into areas of the ship without gravity! (the truth is that they could not find a way to simulate how hair would move in zero gee)

Back on earth, technology has not advanced too much, despite the fact that it is supposed to be about 40 years in the future. Everyone uses these paper thin cell phones, in addition to being able to call people they can be used to pay bills at restaurants and you can hold a futuristic business card near the phone and it will dial the number! A futuristic car was shown briefly one time, but it was basically just a car with a weird bumper.

The creator of the show James Parriott, said in his interview about what would have happened if the show had gone on (here is that link now by the way:

In the next two seasons, the state of the Earth would have been explored. Though it was never hinted at apparently Earth as we know it had changed in those next 40 year. He said, “We were going to reveal the world at large and, y’know, it’s kinda a fucked up place.” He claimed this wasn’t revealed for budget reasons, but that makes zero sense to me. Why not just introduce the ideas in some way that doesn’t use CGI or expensive sets?

Science Fiction Stuff

To me the show’s greatest weakness was that the science fiction elements did not come into the forefront of the show until episode 9 “Eve Ate the Apple.” (Note: the show was cancelled before this episode aired in America).

It is heavily hinted at from the first episode that there is some sort of unknown force manipulating the crew, but the audience is left to wonder what exactly it is? Is it an alien, a supercomputer, a shadow government? In episode 9, it is revealed that an object of extraterrestrial origin called Beta was found in Peru some years before the Mars mission. This object is on the Antares and has been giving the crew hallucinations, exposing them to radiation and even altering their DNA. There are also 6 other objects that have communicated with Beta over the years. These objects are on Venus, Mercury, Mars, Europa, the rings of Saturn and Pluto. In fact, it turns out, the whole mission of Antares is to go pick all of these objects up. (I don’t know how an object can be in the rings of Saturn? Pluto also seems like an odd choice.)

I thought the show suffered because it took almost the whole first season for the Antares to reach Venus and to me that was when the show actually got interesting. By that logic the crew would not have reached Mercury until the end of the second season and would not have reached Mars until the end of the third season. However, as I said before the events that happened on Mars 10 years ago are crucial. Donner and Shaw both hallucinate about the surface of Mars and thematically Mars is the focal point of the show. Therefore Mars should have been the show’s second stop.

Odds and Ends

-If you watch one episode, watch episode 6 “Bacon”. Visually it is the best episode, a crewmember gets injured and there is all this blood floating every which way because there is no gravity. The best part is it’s one of the episodes currently available on, which means it’s better quality and 100% legal and ethical to watch it.

-Cristina Cox, stars in “Gravity” as Jen Crane the Antares’ Biologist. Unfortunately, she is one of the least interesting characters on the show. However, I started watching the show because Cox was recently on an episode of Dexter called “Dex Takes a Holiday” in which she played a police officer who kills her own husband and daughter and then makes it look like a robbery gone bad. On Dexter, her performance was fantastic; as a police officer she presented a significant challenge for Dexter’s serial-killer title character. And while, I was of course repulsed by Cox’s character’s actions, the small part of my psyche that secretly routes for villains was intrigued and even a little turned on by Cox’s performance.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What if Spiderman had rescued Gwen Stacy?


What If 24

Originally posted July 8, 2009

Just for a moment lets travel back in time to December of 1980 when What If? 24 came out. In real time it was 6 ½ years since the death of Gwen Stacy. This issue was on the stands with Amazing Spider-Man 211 and Spectacular Spider-Man 49, and Marvel Team Up 100 (Quite a month!).

What If’s were such memorable comics because they took the questions that comic fans would debate in schoolyard, or think of late at night just before falling asleep and put them in print. These are the stories that could never be told in continuity because the very nature of the question contradicts canon (What if someone else had been bitten by the radioactive spider?) or greatly alters the status quo (What if the Invisible Girl married the Sub-Mariner?).

In this way What If were the great playground for Marvel’s most creative stories. Sometimes they are brilliant, such as, What if Uncle Ben had lived? (a personal favorite) And some times they are ridiculous (see, What if the Original Marvel Bullpen had become the Fantastic Four?).

To me, the best part about these stories is that the writers were allowed to not pull their punches as far as the endings. For instance, it seemed that in every dimension where Sue Storm left Reed Richards, he was always left heavily bearded and an utterly defeated man in body and soul. They had a way of turning stories around to show that even though it seems like the hero would be better off if such and such happened, here’s why he’d actually be even worse off.

This story seems to be an example of that kind of ending. In this issue, Gwen lives after the fall from the bridge but learns Peter’s secret identity. At first she is horrified and wants nothing to do with Peter because she still blames Spider-Man for her father’s death, but in a turnaround worthy of Richard the Third (Extra credit for all you Shakespeare fans that get that reference) Peter convinces her he’s not a bad guy, proposes marriage to her, and she accepts.

I know it all sounds like wine and roses, but there is still the problem of the Green Goblin, who knows about Peter’s dual life. After being defeated in a brawl with Spider-man the Goblin mails information about Spider-man identity to “Spider-man’s other worst enemy.”

Spider-Man goes to the Osborn residence and ends up fighting Norman and Harry, but eventually the father and son are weeping in each others arms and it is clear that the days of the Green Goblin are over. Of course Norman is so wrapped up in the moment he never mentions sending that package.

Cut to Gwen and Peter’s wedding. Flash Thompson is the best man, Aunt May is crying tears of joy in the first row. In walks J. Jonah Jameson…(You were expecting Dr. Octopus perhaps? I know I was). He’s published Spider-man’s identity and is there with a warrant for Peter’s arrest. Aunt May collapses in shock, and Peter is forced to jump out the window to escape.

The last scene is Peter still in his tuxedo standing on a rooftop near his apartment. The police have it surrounded. He thinks to himself that he’ll never be able to get his costume or his web shooters from his apartment. He also wonders how Aunt May is, but is afraid to risk even a phone call, and he doesn’t know how he can take care of Gwen now that his identity is out. He fears that Spider-man may actually become the menace JJJ claims he is, but he hopes not.

Now I’m sorry to go over all that because either you’ve already read this issue or would rather read it for yourself, but it was necessary because the point I really wanted to make is that this issue is symptomatic of Marvel’s inability to imagine Spider-man with his identity public. Here we are in a What If story, Tony Isabella could have written any ending he wanted and he stops with Peter on a roof top going “Gee I wonder what’s gonna happen?”

The story also seems a little lacking because in the last year or so, we just got done with a storyline where Peter’s identity was revealed for several months, but we won’t get into that.

At the time I’m sure it was a great story, I just wish it had been a two-parter that delved into what happened next: Which villains did Peter face? Did Aunt May accept her nephew’s dual identity? Was Peter able to protect his family and friends?

Marvel Team- Up Annual 5

Originally posted February 23, 2009

It is good to be back after a long weekend without Internet. However, I did read a lot of comics while I was incommunicado.

I plan on catching up tomorrow especially with Merzah’s Powerman and Iron Fist thread. But first I read one of the comics I was lucky enough to win from PFJ at the Spidey Board and I wanted to share my thoughts.


Marvel Team-Up Annual 5

Just as the cover promises: Twice as many pages! Twice as many thrills.

This really was a fantastic Annual. The art by Jim Mooney was excellent and the story by Mark Gruenwald was up to his usual level of greatness.

There’s just something about the odd couple pairing of Dr. Strange and Spider-Man that’s always a lot of fun. I especially like the scene where they’re going into the car rental place and Dr. Strange changes their clothes in an instant.

Later when Spider-Man and Dr. Strange are driving, Strange goes to the astral plane and studies all about Set for some unknown amount of time, but returns to his body seconds later. I never knew Strange had this power. That’s the power I always wanted if I was a superhero!

There are just a few minor things. I wanted to talk about:

-The 3 pages of exposition about the history of the serpent crown really needed editor’s notes letting the reader know what comics these events happened in. Maybe today I could find the info somewhere on the web, but in 1982 when this came out, readers who wanted to catch up were screwed.

-The second minor thing is that in the gorgeous two page spread with the Dimensional Canons and hundreds of Set’s slaves, the cosmic cube is right in the gutter of the page and so it’s kind of hard to see it. This wouldn’t be a big deal, but Spider-Man mentions seeing it later, so the reader feels like a dumb-ass for missing the clue.

- The third thing is that I felt like Quasar was given short-shrift. Spider-Man takes him out with a trip-line, but I was waiting for an all out fight that never happened. There was a perfect opportunity on page 34, but instead Quasar is still unconscious. What a let down!

- The fourth and final thing is that the ending felt a little rushed. There was only one page for resolution after the climax of the story. But I know there are only so many pages and there was no fat to trim here.

Does anyone know if the final joke about Spider-Man’s costume was a subtle preview for his black costume? The Secret Wars was still 2 years off though. Were they planning far ahead in those days?

Daredevil Part 3, The Romita Era

Originally posted January 30, 2009

John Romita fondly remembers working on Daredevil and he commented on a panel recently that he always wanted to draw more Daredevil, but never got to. These issues are a lot of fun and I wish he’d gotten to do more of them too.


Daredevil 12-14

I’m kind of confused as to what Jack Kirby did as layout man and what Romita did as illustrator. Does that mean that Kirby did a rough sketch of the whole comic and Romita polished it up?

Romita’s Matt Murdock looks great on the splash page as he walks away from his office at the start of what will become a crazy adventure. Then on page two we get a look at Romita’s Daredevil and boy is he freaking ripped. I don’t understand how Matt hides a Mr. Universe body under those suits! And I’m not even sure all those muscles exist.

Then there’s a cool shot on the bottom of page 2 of all of DDs past villains.

This whole storyline is kind of odd. Matt goes on a cruise and gets involved with a pirate called the Plunderer who takes him to the Savage Land in Antarctica in a submarine, where he meets Ka-zar. These issues are only Ka-zar’s second appearance.

Through a series of plot devices the Plunderer gets this magic rock that melts metal and the Plunderer makes a magic gun out of it that destroys other guns. Then the Plunderer and his gang start to take down armies. I was screaming at the comic book that they just needed to get some plastic guns, and of course Daredevil said something along those lines a few panels later. That made me happy.

Overall I thought this whole storyline was kind of ish.


Daredevil 15

“And Men Shall Call Him Ox!” This issue had me riveted from the cover to the end.

Ox and his cellmate a rat-faced scientist break out of jail. Rat-face then tells Ox he’s going to make him smarter, but what he does is put his brain in Ox’s body. However the process doesn’t work that well and the new Ox can’t control his savage rage.

In the end new Ox falls off a skyscraper while fighting Daredevil! I was surprised that there was an actual death.

Meanwhile “Ox” in the scientist’s body comments that he feels smarter and that maybe everything that happened was for the best.

I think Romita was really starting to click.


Daredevil 16 and 17

Romita meet Spider-Man, Spider-man meet Romita. Oh little did Romita know that he would be drawing our favorite wall-crawler for years to come, not soon after these issues.

I don’t have these in color but I think Peter Parker is wearing his classic blue coat and yellow shirt.

I love the Masked Marauder, you’ve got to love a villain whose answer to everything is to blind the guy. I can just picture him in Starbucks blinding the barista who forgot his soymilk.

The battles between Daredevil and Spider-Man are excellent. Just like in the Sub-mariner/Daredevil battle DD knows he’s outclassed, but he doesn’t give up without a fight. DD is like Little Mac from NES’s Punch-out, the eternal underdog with heart.

I don’t get how Spider-Man’s spider-sense tells him that Daredevil is in Nelson and Murdock’s office. The Spider-sense alerts him to danger and DD isn’t dangerous.


Daredevil 18-19

Foggy Nelson goes overboard trying to impress Karen Page by pretending to be DD. He goes to a shady costume shop and buys a Daredevil costume.

The owner turns out to be an aspiring super-villain called the Gladiator. The full-page pin-up shot of the villain on page 10 is priceless.

I love the shots of the chubby Foggy in the Daredevil costume. It is frustrating though that Foggy’s weight fluctuates from issue to issue. Sometimes he looks like he’s gotten into shape and then in the next issue it looks like he’s been eating too many Big Macs again.

The Gladiator and the Masked Marauder both end up thinking that Foggy is Daredevil but luckily they can’t stop fighting among themselves long even to actually threaten anyone, but they do run off together threatening to strike again another day.

Daredevil the Early Years Part 2


Daredevil 7

Originally posted January 20, 2009

Maybe it’s coincidence, but something very special happened in this the first issue in which Daredevil dons the red suit that he would wear from that point on, everything started to click!

The art by Wally Wood is Fantastic, Tremendous, Stupendous, and Spectacular. (I’m running out of adjectives.) This issue was hyped by fans as one of the best comics ever, and well, it lives up to that title.

The story involves Namor coming to the surface to seek legal rights to land. Of course he ends up at the law offices of Nelson and Murdock.

The battles in this issue are excellent. Daredevil is clearly not in Namor’s class in terms of strength and endurance, but Namor can’t help but admire Daredevil’s courage.

Highly recommended.


Daredevil 8

Another great issue. It begins with Daredevil saving a woman about to be run over by an
out-of-control driver-less car.

“Keep screaming! Don’t Stop! Don’t Stop Screaming!” Daredevil yells at her as he swings towards her. I couldn’t help but wonder what she must have thought. She must have thought he was nuts.

After saving her he throws her onto an awning and thinks “Lucky I knew that the corner store always has its awning down at this hour.” Why has this guy memorized helicopter schedules (issue 2) and awning schedules for the whole city? Doesn’t the outline of an awning show up on his radar sense?

Then Daredevil drives the driver-less car with his radar sense, the car turns out to have a bomb on it, but Daredevil manages to get it out of harm’s way. Lucky teenage Matt Murdock learned how to drive a car before he went blind I guess.

I know that the Stilt Man is portrayed as kind of ridiculous in modern appearances, but in this appearance I thought he managed to seem like a real threat. When he robs a helicopter, the men try and shoot him and the bullets just bounce off his armor. So you can’t shoot him, even from the air, and on the ground all you can do is try and grab his fast moving legs, plus it seems that he can go from 40 stories to normal sized in the blink of an eye.

Daredevil finds himself climbing up Stilt Man’s long legs in order to try and actually fight him at all. But it’s a task that is easier said than done.


Daredevil 9

This issue is more evidence of Stan’s struggles to give Daredevil problems seeming extremely inorganic (Rip Jagger’s word).

At the start of the comic Daredevil is fighting some boat hijackers and he gets shot in the arm. He treats the wound at home himself. Now I remember issues where Spider-man gets his arm hurt and has it in a sling. I remember these issues being awesome and the injury adding a lot to the drama, but Daredevil just kind of plods along for the whole issue. Wood and Powell keep the continuity, Daredevil doesn’t use his bad arm, but it doesn’t seem to slow him down, in fact Daredevil fights a robot army one handed. It sounds remarkable here, but on the page it’s kind of ho-hum.

Daredevil’s just a guy that does what he can to fight crime in Hell’s Kitchen. To have him battling robots in a Latveria-like eastern-block dictatorship just seems very out of his wheelhouse.

Nowhere is this more evident than when the dictator launches a radioactive attack and Daredevil just kind of leaves it for somebody else to figure out.


Daredevil 10-11

Billed as a mystery thriller, this two-parter fails to be anything remarkable IMHO.

I love a good mystery, there were some good ones around this time in Amazing Spider-Man: Who was the Big Man, the Crime Master, and of course the Green Goblin? All three were interesting, suspenseful and ultimately satisfying.

The way the mystery is presented is just kind of dull. No one knows who the Crime lord the Organizer is, but we know he has some connection to the Reform Party. So he has to be Politician A, B, or C. But who cares, none of them are significant characters in the Daredevil comic. That's not dramatic! Why didn’t Wally and Stan make it seem like anyone could have been the Organizer: the Police Chief, Spider-Man, Foggy Nelson. That would have been interesting. Nelson is Matt’s best friend, it would have been interesting to explore what it would take for Matt to begin to doubt his friend.

The henchmen in this tale are another oddity. Each one is recruited for possessing some kind of unique ability. The Cat Man has good eyesight even in the dark? Why? Is he a mutant? Do his goggles do it?

The Frog Man was trained by the military to perform task underwater, the Ape Man is strong, the Bird Man, I’m completely stumped, maybe he was just the right height and weight for the suit. (Is it the same technology as the Vultures’?) And how are these guys still good enough fighters in these suits to take on Daredevil? Other then Bird Man and Frog Man who have equipment in their suits, why do they need suits? It’s all kind of silly.

(Plus, I have no idea how Cat Man gets Ape Man out of prison and later appears to get his Cat Suit for the first time with everyone else.)

Not so Mellow Yellow- Daredevil the Early Years Part 1

Originally posted January 19, 2009

Punk Funk Junk was kind enough to sent me Daredevil Essentials Vol. 1 during our Christmas exchange and so I started Daredevil’s earliest adventures for the first time.

Daredevil is a character that bothers me just a little, because he can hear people’s heartbeats clearly enough to identify them and yet I’ve never heard it explained how he can also manage to not clutch his ears in pain every time he hears a really loud noise. Frank Miller did a great job when Daredevil goes down to the subway and it completely messes with his radar sense to the point that he can hardly function. In DD 1, Daredevil pursues his father’s murderers down into the subway and has no trouble at all.

However, other than that quibble I did really enjoy these issues and can’t wait to read more.

Daredevil and Spider-man comics seem to be very similar thematically at this stage in the sense that both fight larger than life villains, and both balance being a hero with dealing with romantic troubles. Daredevil seems to have it much easier than Spider-man because he has a great job as a lawyer and Daredevil is not thought of as an outlaw.


Daredevil 1

I was really impressed with how much story is jammed into Daredevil 1. To go back to the Spider-Man analogy we see Matt Murdock go through school and become a lawyer in the first issue. Spider-man still has never managed to grow up and become a scientist in 40 years!

The art for Daredevil’s origin I didn’t think really worked, he pushes the guy out of the path of the oncoming truck, but how does he get exposed to chemicals, wouldn’t that have been in the back of the truck? And you never even see the chemicals or vapor or anything.

The evolution of Daredevil’s Billy club is interesting too. It starts out as a sort of cane looking thing and every issue he seems to be making it do new things. Until finally after his suit changes to red, he uses the club to get around town like Spider-Man. Thats not the only thing that evolves, Daredevil seems to use trial and error with his costume too. The yellow one he wore changes subtlety from issue to issue. In issue 3 he puts a pouch on the back of the costume for his street-clothes, but in the next issue he realizes that this is too dangerous.

Daredevil 2

I really liked the art by Joe Orlando, truly fantastic.

The cameo by The Thing and the FF was fun.

I found the explanations for Daredevil being able to land the rocket ship really unbelievable and then he hooks on to a helicopter and knows the exact second to let go in order to land on the Baxter Building. He says he knows the plane’s schedule. What does he do this all the time? But the full page art of Daredevil hanging on the copter with the city below him is stunning.

Daredevil 3

The Owl is kind of an interesting villain. Seems almost like a Batman villain in this issue. I thought it was ridiculous how proud he was that his cape enables him to glide down on the wind. Yeah that's really useful as long as you have some place really high to jump off of and enough wind otherwise it’s completely useless.


Daredevil 4

I really dug the Purple Man because he did have a valid defense, technically he never broke any laws, his super-power over people just convinces them to do whatever he wants, so he goes into a bank and he just asks for the money and people hand it over.

So Daredevil had to out think him, which I always enjoy.

And it’s great that all you have to do to defeat him is to cover his skin.


Daredevil 5

Daredevil the swashbuckler meets his match in courage and style, the Matador. The Matador robs an armored car by standing in front of it and then at the last second throwing his cape at it, now that’s a villain with chutzpa.

The Matador’s fights with Daredevil are a treat because the two are very evenly matched. They fight at a party and Daredevil is at a disadvantage because the noise of the crowd screws up his radar sense, (it is explained how the radar sense works in this issue) and as a final indignity the Matador cover Daredevil with a sheet and this completely disrupts Daredevil’s radar sense.

Wally Wood’s art is good, but so far I haven’t been blown away by it and actually prefer Orlando’s work.

Daredevil 6

This issue is interesting because the “Man without Fear” fights Mr. Fear and true to his name this guy has a fear gun that shoots pellets whose gas can make anyone afraid. Daredevil soon learns that even he is not immune when he promptly runs away after being exposed to it, but where as Spider-man would probably beat himself up over turning chicken for half an issue Daredevil only broods for about a panel and then just comes back swinging.

Musings about the Incredible Hulk Part 3

Musings about the Incredible Hulk Part 3

Originally posted January 16, 2009

I continue my somewhat uninformed and random look at the misadventures of the Incredible Hulk. Forgive me if my thoughts are more prosaic than usual. I woke up to find that the heat in my apartment is off and having nowhere to go I am sitting all bundled up in sweaters, with some hot tea close at hand and typing mainly to keep my mind off the cold. (It’s 8 below outside).


Incredible Hulk 240

I jumped a few months from where I left off in IH 234. Hulk has just arrived in the secret city of El Dorado. The Avengers came here once in the not so memorable Avengers 30-31 (I didn’t remember it anyway).

Hulk is carrying an unconscious guy in a gold costume, Goldbug. I had no clue who this guy was so I assumed since Hulk was carrying him that he must be an ally. I looked online Goldbug is a villain. That makes the scene a lot funnier IMHO. Not only does the Hulk defeat the guy, but also he further insults the guy’s villainous chops by helping him.

Meanwhile at Project Gamma Betty arrives in a fighter jet. Did anyone else think that was kind of hot? Especially when she takes her helmet off and flips her hair like Farrah Fawcett.

But it seems to me that a weakness of a lot of these stories is that the Hulk is out on some adventure and then it cuts to this base in Arizona and some kind of drama is playing out there, but the two stories never seem to meet! It’s like if Peter Parker moved to Cleveland Ohio, but 2 or 3 pages each month were devoted to MJ and Aunt May back in NYC.

Fred and Trisha get a page. Fred is writing a book about the Hulk’s adventures and wonders where ol’ Greenskin has gotten to.

Surprise, Surprise, it turns out the elders were using the Hulk. At the end of the issue Bruce Banner is hanging over some kind of machine about to become it’s power source.


Incredible Hulk 241

In the letters page of one of these issues maybe 234, someone wrote in complaining that the Hulk comic was starting to resemble the Hulk television show way too much and that they issues needed to have more super villains, more science fiction, and more action! Nowhere is the Hulk comic/Hulk TV show more evident then the cover of this issue. Which by the way really has nothing to do with the story inside.

Bruce Banner is dangling over a huge flame and the 3 villains can’t help but stand around and gloat. One of them has a really cool chessboard with hero and villain pieces, Thor, Absorbing man, the Hulk, Hercules, The Black Panther, Spider-Man etc.

One of the three elders turns out to be done other than Tyrannus! He uses the Hulk’s power to rejuvenate himself. Goldbug gets the Hulk free and the stage is set for an all out battle royal! Unfortunately I don’t have the next issue. \:\(

Friday, October 30, 2009

Musings about the Incredible Hulk Part 2


My Hulk musings on my random collection continues

Originally posted January 14, 2009

Our first stop is the classic Incredible Hulk 140, with a story by the great Harlan Ellison.

“The Brute That Shouted Love at the Heart of the Atom.” What a great title. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

The story involves the Hulk being shrunk by a quasi-human named Psyklops. In this microscopic world the Hulk finds a kingdom of Green humans and a beautiful empress Jarella. The queen digs Jade Jaws and gets her sorcerers to teach the Hulk their language. Somehow in the process their magic merges Banner and the Hulk and so for the first time the Hulk body is piloted by Banner’s mind.

In the end Psyklop’s giant hand whisks the Hulk out of the Kingdom and makes him normal sized again. However, the enraged Hulk who was truly happy for maybe the first time is stronger than Psyklops could ever guess and Psyklops is overpowered.

Then as a final indignity a huge hand again comes crashing in through the ceiling and this time Psyklops is killed by the before mentioned claw-hand.

To me this story isn’t so much a comic, but a comic book version of an episode of the Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits. Just like the Twilight Zone where Astronauts travel to the end of the universe and seems to tap at glass only to reveal that the universe as we know it is nothing more than a glass jar on some unknowable behemoth’s shelf. In this comic the Hulk travels to a microscopic world, but in the end we see, that the world the Hulk knows. Good old Earth 616 is really just a microscopic world to whatever dark clawed power punished Psyklop’s failure.


Incredible Hulk 148 is the sequel to Ellison’s story and actually improves some elements of the original.

The Issue begins with “Thunderbolt” Ross and the others looking at the almost completed Project Greenskin Base, (whose plans appeared a few issue before in issue 145 and were the only cool part of that entire issue.) But anyway, some fighter planes find the Hulk in the desert and shoot sedative tipped missiles at him knocking him out. Now that’s cool!

Then the scene shifts to Jarella it her microscopic world, now she is a warrior queen. A much better match for the Hulk then as portrayed in Ellison’s story.

Somehow Jarella’s sorcerers transport her to earth just as the Hulk is bombarded with solar radiation and cured.

Well, everything is not alright because an assassin from the microworld piggybacked with Jarrella and unless they are both returned to their world solar energy flares caused by the imbalance of their presence on Earth will destroy the world!


Incredible Hulk 210

Len Wein and Sal Buscema produced this disappointing issue.

It’s been a rather large jump from 148-210. Banner has a new girlfriend April Sommers. Over at “Gamma Base.” Talbot and Betty Ross are married. Doc Samson is around, Thunderbolt Ross too of course and some other dude with blonde hair that looks a little like Quicksilver.

Banner meets Doctor Druid, (my least favorite Avenger ever. I avoid those issues like the plague.) and they go looking for Maha Yogi. (a crappy X-men villain)

Banner claims he’ll help Druid as Banner but that he’s not “changing into the Hulk again…not even to save the whole blamed Planet!” Is he really that dimwitted to believe he can control it? Dude you transform into the Hulk when you get angry even 8-year-old kids understand that. And further why would Druid want Banner around for a firefight. He’s playing you!

This is “revealed” on the last page. I say “revealed” because the betrayal is also featured on the cover.

Incredible Hulk 231

What a difference a day makes. Roger Stern and Sal Buscema are putting the Hulk back on track. The artwork (rather than the phoned in 210) is tremendous especially the full page shot of Hulk smashing a police car to bits.

The story is really neat too. The Hulk wanders into a town at 2 a.m. and sees this guy (Fred) being thrown out of a bar and about to get beat up. Hulk sees him as an innocent being attacked by a soldier and defends him. Fred knowing a good thing when he sees it wants to be friends with the Hulk. The Hulk says that Fred’s “long hair is crazy!” but agrees to “bed down” at Fred’s place.

A very funny scene follows of Hulk waking up in the morning. Fred’s girlfriend has come over and surprised Fred with eggs and beans, but it is the Hulk that comes to breakfast first. I love the Hulks happy face as he eats contrasted to the girlfriend screaming and running away.


Incredible Hulk 233

Marvel Man appears in this issue, the Hulk kicks his butt and as he’s on the ground some little kids asks him what his name is. “Marvel Man,” he says “That’s a stupid name,” the kid replies. Did this kid represent readers? In the next issue Marvel Man says his new codename is Quasar.

Later in the Issue Talbot gets off a plane and sees a newly redesigned knockout Betty. “I almost didn’t recognize you,” he says again mirroring the readers.

Fred and the Hulk continue their journey after the Hulk beats up some villain named Jackson and Marvel Man. And at the end of the issue Fred pulls into a house and is greeted by Trish Starr.

Incredible Hulk 334

Fred is surprised that the Hulk and Trish Starr already know each other

Starr describes her five previous appearances in Marvel Comics. She was captured by her Uncle, “Egghead” who was going to siphon off the energy from her brain, fortunately Ant-man stopped him. She then goes to New York and discovers her old friend is secretly Nightwing. Then her uncle plants a car bomb and blows one of her arms off. Then she turns to mysticism and ends up forming a bond with an evil extra dimensional being Shazanna and is saved by Dr. Strange and the Hulk. (If you can name all those appearances you get extra points)

What is wrong with this girl? Does she have the worst luck ever?

There is a great scene in this issue where some of the house’s residents are discussing with Fred and Trish that the Hulk is eating all the food and should leave. The Hulk slowly stews silently until his anger explodes. The Hulk smashes a table and shouts “Tell Fred’s friends to stop talking about the Hulk like he wasn’t here! Hulk HATES that!!”

Later while the Hulk is asleep Fred and Trish have a very interesting conversation. Fred says that he’s disappointed in the housemates and asks, “what happened to all the principles and ideals we used to pledge ourselves to?”

“We were all such a part of the sixties,” Trish replies, “maybe we didn’t try hard enough to make something of the seventies”

This is interesting on so many levels because Marvel is always in the present this was effective for more than twenty years until the end of the Bronze Age when it was kind of like “hey, how come no one’s aging?”

There are a whole bunch of issues still to come in my ramblings.

Musings about the Incredible Hulk Part 1


(Tales to Astonish 81)

Originally posted January 4, 2009

I’ve never been a fan of the Incredible Hulk because where as many superheroes such as Spider-Man, Batman and Iron Man are at their cores intellectuals, who are just as likely to outwit their enemies rather than overpower them. The Hulk on the other hand is basically a one trick pony; he is literally the ultimate meathead who can only succeed by relying on his superior strength. Since I myself have always resembled the “meek and mild” Bruce Banner or the “bookish milksop” Peter Parker, it’s not hard to understand why I feel more of a kindred spirit towards super-thinkers.

But in my attempt to try new things I’ve been digging deep into my comic collection and reading the myriad of random issues of Old Jaded Jaws and here are my thoughts. (Tales to Astonish 81, Incredible Hulk 111, 113, 128, 133, 145)

At first glance the Hulk stories are as I’ve always thought somewhat repetitive, but when looked at in an analytical sense do possess certain fascinating thematic elements.

The Hulk is a lonely character. He travels all over the world and sometimes into outer space and to other planets on a quest to be left alone. Why does he search for seclusion?

Is he an isolationist? Or an existentialist?

I am being somewhat facetious, because I do actually have an answer; He wishes to end the suffering that every being he meets causes him. Whether it is the American military, alien races, or super-villains, everyone the Hulk encounters attempts to capture, trick, use, or hurt the Hulk.

The Hulk can be seen as a kind of modern day Buddha attempting to reach a form of nirvana by finding an end to his suffering. However, like the ancient warrior Popes, this spiritual figure is not afraid to use violence to reach his religious goals. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the Hulk stumbled into a monastery or a non-violent society. All evidence shows that the Hulk is not truly a violent monstrosity by nature, but merely an animal that feels caged and provoked by mankind and reacts in violent retaliation. However, there are many occasions where the Hulk has saved innocent people or been reasoned with. Perhaps in a non-violent environment the Hulk could find the peace he seeks.


(Incredible Hulk 133)

Another interpretation is the Hulk is an anarchist. In issue 133 the Hulk ends up in a European dictatorship run by a man named Draxon. Draxon offers the Hulk a place in his army and says together “they can put the country on the map.” The Hulk replies that he cares not for maps because when he leaps from place to place he sees no lines in the countryside. The Hulk has no respect for the leaders or the laws of man, he respects only brute force, he is the living embodiment of Darwin’s survival of the fittest, or perhaps Rousseau’s “noble savage.”


(Incredible Hulk 111)

It seems strange to me that the Hulk so often becomes involved in the realm of alien invaders. After all it is the FF or the Avengers that are known for battling such menaces and yet the Hulk seems to have a bull’s-eye painted on his chest that every alien passing by the Earth can see. However, thematically, the aliens are no different then when the Hulk fights super-villains or dictators. All of them seek to use the Hulk’s strength to their own advantage.

The other interesting detail is that it is the Hulk that is the star of the comic not Bruce Banner. In most Jekyll and Hyde type literature the Hyde character is portrayed as an evil creation that must be stopped. However, Marvel embraces the Hulk and devotes little time to developing Bruce Banner, whose only function in the 6 issues I looked at was to be captured by unsuspecting aliens twice. Ironically in the Hulk TV show the opposite was true; for the majority of any given episode David Banner would get himself into some sort of situation and then at the end of the episode the Hulk would get him out of it and somehow save the day.

Marvel Masterworks: Iron Man vol. 1

Marvel Masterworks: Iron Man vol. 1

originally posted December 29, 2008

It was fun to take a look at the earliest days of Iron Man. However, for the most part these were not memorable or even good issues. In fact I have an even greater appreciation for Stan Lee’s dialogue after reading the efforts of the lesser talents of Bob Bernstein who scripted all of these early issues, except the first one which was scripted by Larry Lieber, Stan Lee’s brother.

Since Iron Man is dependent on technology and with the possible exception of light nothing seems to move/change quicker then technology, it is not difficult to imagine that these stories from the early 60’s quite obviously seem more outdated than Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl (I am eluding to his lyric about transistor radios, since transistors are Iron Man’s omnipresent devices in this collection)

However, I feel I have to add that I am a huge fan of science fiction novels of the 50’s and 60’s. I read Asimov, Heinlein, Herbert, Leiber, Dick, Vonnegut, Zelazny, Pohl, Kornbluth, and countless other. I mention that to prove that if a story is well written I don’t mind that it refers to atomic powered rocket ships or transistors, or quantum singularities. What’s wrong with these Iron Man stories is that they were not well written or well researched and just don’t make any sense scientifically, even using 60’s technological knowledge.

Also not helping these stories is that the first 2/3rds of the issues do not feature any of the villains or supporting characters that will become integral to the Iron Man mythology.

Without further ado…


Tales of Suspense 39

The origin issue is the single non Stan Lee scripted issue in this volume worth reading. Us GSB folks know that the story in the beginning of the recent Robert Downy Jr. Iron Man movie was pretty close to the original. Tony Stark is a brilliant scientist who has sold his tiny transistor technology to the military for use in Vietnam against the communists.

As if that wasn’t enough he’s also a millionaire and an eligible bachelor. Maybe it’s the unlikely pairing of his black hair and blue eyes that turns on the ladies.

Anyway Stark’s life changes forever when he goes to a Vietnamese jungle with an American military unit to do combat tests for a miniature transistor powered rocket launcher (they’re no heavier than a flashlight!). The rocket launchers kill the commies; but during the fight Stark steps on a tripwire and gets blown up. He wakes up in a prison camp, Shrapnel is working its way towards his heart and the crazy communist commander Wong-Chu demands that he build him a weapon. Instead Stark builds the Iron Man suit and destroys the prison camp.

The original Iron Man suit looks like a standard robot from any number of science fiction movies; (Gort from“The Day the Earth Stood Still” comes to mind because I watched it last week.) This Iron Man actually looks like it might be made of iron, this is of course soon going to change.

My favorite part of the issue is when the evil Wong Chu throws a filing cabinet down a flight of stairs and hits Iron Man.

Tales of Suspense 40

R Bern’s first issue like the ones that follow, isn’t very good. It’s got art by the great Jack Kirby, but that about it.

At the start of the issue Stark is demonstrating transistor powered roller-skates to the army. The general says it will revolutionize troop movements. However, despite the fact that the military loves Stark’s technology it is never used in Marvel Comics! The MU is a place that has technology greater then our own, but the only ones ever seen using it are super-heroes and super-villains.

Iron Man then goes to the circus and dons his Iron Man suit when the lions and tigers go crazy. He keeps his Iron Man suit folded up in a small attaché case. How can you fold iron?!! This makes zero sense.

While fighting lions and tigers the public is scared of Iron Man, so Stark decides to take the advice of his date Marion and paint his suit with gold paint, so people will know Iron Man has “a heart of gold and an appearance to match his golden deeds.” (Do girls really think like that? God I hope not!)

Then Iron Man fights a giant that turns out to be a robot sent by aliens. (Don’t ask!)

Tales of Suspense 41

In-between issue 40 and 41 it seems like Iron Man put on a few pounds. In this next Jack Kirby issue Iron Man looks more and more like a big yellow bathtub.

The villain in this issue is named Dr. Strange, but it’s not the Dr. Strange master of the mystical arts we know and love. It’s some other guy that wants to destroy mankind by detonating an S-bomb. However, he’s stopped by Iron Man, the mad man’s kindhearted daughter and two flashlight batteries. (Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up!)

Tales of Suspense 42

The Actor, a Russian agent that is a man of a thousand faces attempts to steal the plans to Tony Stark’s newest invention a disintegrator ray. In the process he learns that Iron Man and Stark are one and the same. However, Iron Man manages to recover the plans and discredit the agent. But the disintegrator ray is never seen again.

Tales of Suspense 43

Iron Man fights Kala, Queen of the Netherworld. According to this issue the lost city of Atlantis is at the center of the Earth. I have many problems with this issue. First off is that the Mole Man and the Subterraneans are at the center of the Earth, second is the Namor and the other Atlanteans are the descendants of Atlantis, not these guys. And my third problem is with the ending, Iron Man takes Kala up to the surface where she rapidly ages due to atmospheric differences between the surface and the underworld. This convinces her not to invade the surface. This makes no sense because how did Iron Man and the other captives survive in the underworld if the atmosphere was so different?

Tales of Suspense 44

Tony Stark goes to Egypt and every reporter he meets want to know how ladies man Stark would have made out with Cleopatra. Yeah there’s a great story! Don’t they have anything better to do? Like maybe trying to figure out who Iron Man is.

Then Iron Man ends up traveling back in time and single-handedly beating the tar out of a bunch of Romans. He even puts wheels on his back and makes Iron Man a human roller skate. This is a new low.


Tales of Suspense 45

Iron Man fights Jack Frost, a mad scientist who gives himself powers very similar to Iceman’s. This issue actually came out the same month as X-men 1.

But the big news is the addition of Iron Man’s supporting cast. It is however a rough start. Happy Hogan is a thug like character who saves Stark after a racecar crash and becomes his limo driver through the joke is Stark never actually lets him drive anywhere. Pepper Potts is Stark’s frumpy secretary that pines for her boss. The dialogue for both characters is awfully clunky.

Tales of Suspense 46

The first appearance of the Crimson Dynamo, a communist equivalent to Iron Man. I think he looks like a robo-Santa Claus. Iron Man wins by making a fake tape of the Dynamo’s superiors betraying him. I guess Iron Man was watching Mission Impossible.

Tales of Suspense 47

Praise be, Thanks to God. Finally an issue written by Stan Lee. The art is listed as Ditko, but it looks identical to Don Heck’s work. Anyway I see a marked change for the better in the quality of the dialogue and story.

The Melter who becomes a somewhat laughable villain later on is actually a formidable foe and the first to cause Iron Man to redesign his suit.


Tales of Suspense 48

This issue is drawn by Ditko and it shows. Overall the art is good, and obviously I’m a fan of Iron Man’s red and yellow armor over the previous bathtub armor. However, something funny happened when Ditko drew Pepper and Happy. Often Pepper’s face is overly shaded and in one panel Pepper looks about 50 and Happy looks even older.

The villain in this one is Mr. Doll. He’s kind of like the Puppet Master only he manipulates the clay faster than Iron Man can attack him. I find it hard to believe that even with training a sculptor could get that level of detail on faces in seconds.

Tales of Suspense 49

An atomic explosion is detonated at one of Stark’s factories and Angel on his way to Prof X’s mansion in Westchester is directly over head. So Stark blew an atomic bomb somewhere on Long Island or worse in NYC. So everyone in the city should die from radioactivity. And Iron Man and Angel are at the center of it and just shake it off.

However, it turns out the blast makes Angel evil!

Angel quits the X-men and goes looking for the evil mutants. However Iron Man shocks him back to normal by putting his life in danger.

Tales of Suspense 50

Heck is the artist again for this final issue.

In the first appearance of the Mandarin, he shows off his karate skills and nearly beats Iron Man in hand to hand combat, but he only uses one or two of his rings. I’m sure readers where left wondering what deadly powers his other rings gave him.

Iron Man knocks the Mandarin unconscious but then retreats. Why didn’t he take the Mandarin with him and bring him to justice?

Also of note is that Pepper gets a new more glamorous look in this issue.

Marvel Masterworks vol. 26 Thor/Journey Into Mystery 101-110

originally posted December 21, 2008

Marvel Masterworks vol. 26 Thor/Journey Into Mystery 101-110

Let me start this review off by saying that Thor has never been one of my favorites. I’ve read a lot of Avengers, but I could take or leave Thor. However, these issues on a whole were engaging and dynamic and I want to read more!

I got this masterwork through the library and I feel I have to mention that the quality of the copy is atrocious. The pages are falling out, half of them have been taped in and when they were repaired they weren’t place correctly in the spine so many sections hang out like the uncut pages of some sort of illuminated manuscript of the days before the printing press. It really is nearly enough to make a grown man cry. I wish I still had access to professional book repair equipment, it would be a fairly easy to fix.

Anyway onto the stories!

Jack and Stan created a perfect setup, I don’t know if it was the same in 83-100, but Thor’s supporting cast works smoother than any other cast I can think of. There is Thor/Dr. Don Blake both of his personas are equally heroic and I like how Blake isn’t just a cover identity his skill as a doctor is sometimes just as important as Thor’s might. Blake’s nurse and the love of his life Jane Foster, she desperately loves him and can’t figure out why he can’t marry her. Thor’s father in Asgard Odin. He is all powerful and his word is law. He loves Thor, but does not approve of him loving an Earth girl. Finally Thor’s step-brother and arch enemy Loki who is always pulling the strings that lead to Thor trials. All four characters are locked together in a kind of battle of wills and no one seems to be able to get the upper hand. It’s great to see them try, but you know that nothings ever going to change.

One of the small things I don’t like about Thor and Iron-Man is that it often seems to me that they both get new powers each month. In issue 101 Thor draws magnetic forces of the galaxy into his hammer and then magnetizes a huge robot. Then in issue 102 he holds the hammer at a right angle and catches the sun’s rays to put men into a trance. However, as the issues went on, weird things like this thankfully became few and far between.

The Tales of Asgard are another gem. At first I didn’t like them because they make the main feature five pages shorter, but they grew on me quickly, since they are written like the Norse myths of old, or modern day fables.

In issue 101 and 102 Thor faces Zarrko the Man of Tomorrow, an evil genius from the future. He comes back in time with a huge robot that Thor is unable to defeat because Odin has halved his power. So Thor goes back to the future with Zarrko as his slave to save the present. At first I wondered why Zarrko needed Thor; he had the robot! But the next issue explained it, I guess. In the future their was a master machine hidden somewhere that controlled all other machines and he needed Thor to defeat it. These issues were okay, but nothing special.


(Journey Into Mystery 103)

Issue 103 was a historic issue, it features the first appearances of the Enchantress and the Executioner. It was a great read. I also enjoyed the tales of Asgard, which was about the Origins of Humans on Midgard.

The cover of issue 104 promises that “Nothing You Have Seen Before Can Equal the Breath-Taking Spectacle of ‘Giants Walk the Earth!’” and brother this one delivers while Odin is on earth Loki releases a Storm Giant and a fire Demon. With a gesture Odin transports the entire human race “to a dimension beyond the ken of the human mind. ”

And Thor, Odin and Balder the Brave face the monsters in a titanic battle.

Issue 105-106 is a team-up between Mr. Hyde and the Cobra. Mr. Hyde is an okay villain. He’s an evil genius with super strength when he drinks a potion. However, it is odd to me that unlike his namesake he doesn’t seem to be of two-minds. When he’s the scientist he’s just as evil. The Cobra on the other hand is kind of a silly villain he slinks around on the walls like a gravity defying snake and slips through Thor’s fingers like a greased pig, but I don’t see how he hopes to ever actually win a battle with the son of Odin by being slippery. The highlight of these issues is finding out that why only worthy living beings can pick up Thor’s hammer, any machine with enough power can do it, giving Thor a definite weakness.


(Journey Into Mystery 107)

The Grey Gargoyle appears in issue 107. His power doesn’t really make much sense. He is like King Midas except whatever he touches turns to stone for one hour and can not move. However, when he touches himself he becomes a walking Gargoyle with super- strength. That aside I loved the issue because Blake unable to turn back into Thor for an hour devises a way to beat the Gargoyle without Thor.

The Tales of Asgard in this issue is also fun. Loki believes he’s found Balder’s the Brave’s weakness, a dart made of mistletoe! It sounds corny, but trust me.

Issue 108 guest stars Dr. Strange. Thor is contacted by the astral projection of Strange while he’s flying around the city and he follows it and finds Strange collapsed on the floor of his sanctum sanctorum after a battle with Mordo that he barely survived. Thor switches to Blake who uses the “unearthly knowledge of Thor” during a grueling surgery on Dr. Strange who is suffering from a dark spell. Blake saves Strange, who later promises to return the favor. Of course Blake immediately needs Strange’s help twice in a fight against Loki. He doesn’t even give Strange a day’s rest before cashing in the favor!

Issue 109 is the obligatory battle with Magneto issue. Magneto is a good enemy for the X-Men, for Thor, he’s just kind of bizarre. After a display of magnetism that moves everything from various metal supplies in Blake’s office to lampposts and a car outside. Thor traces the “flow of magnetic forces” and finds Magneto. Magneto asks Thor to join the Brotherhood and help him conqueror the world. Thor refuses because he is the sworn protector of the human race! They battle and Thor loses his hammer and turns back to Blake. Blake then has to avoid Magneto’s deathtraps, a neat feat for a cripple. Later Thor draws out Magneto’s magnetic power with his hammer leaving Magneto powerless, whoops! But Magneto just happens to have a nuclear Proton bomb, but an unseen Iceman freezes the bomb and Magneto retreats. I thought it was kind of weird that the X-men defeat Magneto, but are not seen


(Journey Into Mystery 110)

The final issue 110 features Mr. Hyde and the Cobra again now with their powers doubled by Loki. They kidnap Jane Foster. Loki is unable to reveal Thor’s identity to mortals because of an unalterable edict of Odin (isn’t that convenient?) In order to confront Loki Thor battles the entire army of Asgard. After that I wondered why he had so much trouble beating an ugly looking guy and a guy that was slippery, but I won’t find out until I can read the next Masterwork!

At the end of the Masterwork are two Tales of Asgard from issues 99 and 100. Why weren’t they in the first Thor Masterwork?

Also it looks like the masterwork might have a lot of re-coloring each of the three covers I posted featured are different then the ones in the masterwork. The Executioner is dressed in blue in the masterwork. The Grey Gargoyle has blue gloves and boots. Anyone know how extensive the re-coloring was?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thoughts on "Childhood's End"

Thoughts on "Childhood's End"

Review of Childhood’s End…Contains massive spoilers…

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke was really kind of uneven, it felt a lot like three separate novellas. The first novella is the most exciting and the best of the bunch. If you are strapped for time, just read this part and stop when the Overlord aliens reveal what they look like.

Just so we are on the same page, in my opinion, the first novella consists of: the Overlords coming to earth, taking over, meeting resistance and the story of one man’s attempt to find out what they look like.

The second novella kind of flounders around story wise for a bit, but ultimately is about a man that manages to stowaway on one of the Overlord’s ships.

And the third novella is about a group of humans building a community to try and get back the culture that seems to have been lost since the Overlord’s arrival, more on how that goes later.

And then there is a three-chapter epilogue that is a sort of summing up.

The Story

First, my opinions about the story: I was really into the first part of the book. The image of huge alien space ships just hovering over Earth’s cities is etched in my mind from the movie Independence Day and the miniseries V, but this was the story that inspired all of those. In this story the aliens don’t come off their ships. What do they look like? What do they have to hide? I was riveted. I expected their secret to be “the secret” of the novel. When you learn that they look like “devils” at the close of what I consider the first novella, I was disappointed. “What’s the point of reading the rest of this,” I thought?

At first, the second story goes nowhere. We are introduced to all new characters, there is this party, some people have a séance and someone asks the spirit realm what star the aliens come from. Then the novel gets back on track as Jan who has always wanted to go into space decides he is going to stowaway on one of the Overlord’s ships and go to the Overlord’s home world and enlists the help of scientists working in a base along the bottom of the ocean to hide him in a whale.

The third story is about a small group of people’s reaction to the fact that human culture seems to have stopped advancing since the aliens came. Scientists are no longer motivated since the Overlords have technologies far superior to Earth’s. Of course I’d think there’d be an equal chance that Earth’s scientists would be highly motivated to explore all kinds of new ideas in an attempt to catch up, but that’s not how Clarke wrote it.

In fact, every creative art in humanity seemed to have dropped off since the Overlords appeared, so one group of people decided to isolate themselves from the Overlords to stop the “domestication” effect, as they called it.

Ultimately, this plan turned out to be meaningless because something begins to happen to Earth’s children. They started to develop strange mental powers. The Overlords reveal that this has been their mission all along to guide humanity to this point, you see there is another alien the Overmind that harvests species into it’s collective and it had chosen Earthlings. The children continued to change and grow more powerful and more for lack of a better word alien.

Meanwhile the old-style humans never get over losing their children and all off themselves. This part didn’t sit well with me, I mean sure I’d be sad if every kid in the world was absorbed into an Overmind, but I don’t plan on ever having kids so I’d just go on with my life. I also wonder if the old-style humans could have begun to repopulate the world or if all babies would have been absorbed into the collective.

Meanwhile Jan is on the alien’s home planet, which is really cool to read about a city built for creatures that can fly. This one chapter was a highlight of the novel. Jan is sent home, but because of how long space travel takes 80 years have passed on Earth since Jan left and no other old-style humans are still alive. Jan decides to stay on Earth even though the Overlords tell him it’s not safe because the new style humans are about to join the collective, but Jan stays and when the new style humans finally join the collective they destroy the earth in the process.

It did fascinate me, the idea that demons were in our mythology not because of an encounter in the past, but because of a psychic echo from the future about the end of our civilization.

The ending of the book left me cold. The Overlords keep telling humans that being accepted into the Overmind collective is a great honor, but it seems to me that what happened was the annihilation of an entire planet. The Overlords are all very sad that the Overmind has never chosen them to evolve to the next being. Meanwhile, I’d be pleased as punch that my civilization got to keep it’s autonomy and individuality.

Science Stuff and History

This novel was written in 1953 and as such there is a lot of weird science and weird history in it as well as strange cultural stuff.

The novel starts in 1975, Russia and the USA are still locked in the space race, both sides are weeks away from launching atomic rockets “into the stars.” Miscalculations like this I can forgive. How was Clarke supposed to guess man would make it to the Moon by 1969? In 1953 he was still 8 years from Yuri Gagarin whistling in orbit and Kennedy’s great Moon promise.

Things that I can’t forgive: a character using a uranium paperweight! Clarke didn’t know about radioactivity?

Another assumption that Clarke makes is that the “Puritan aberration” of sexual mores” (p 73 in my copy) will be eliminated by two inventions a completely reliable oral contraceptive and an infallible method of identifying the father of any child through blood testing. We of course have both of these technologies. “The Pill” came out in the 60s and it about 99% effective if properly used. I’d call that reliable. And DNA testing first reported in 1985 can offer definitive paternal proof.

So did these two discoveries change sexual mores, absolutely without the pill there would have been no free love movement in the 60s and DNA testing in paternity cases can be really important. On a lighter note, I’ve heard that on “the Montel Show” “you are not the father” is practically his catchphrase. However, have these discovers lead to an end to the “Puritan aberration?” Not so far. Not as long as the bible belt pushes abstinence only programs, television networks get sued for showing a nipple on television for 3 seconds, and every day it seems like from the way people talk about abortion, it was outlawed instead of legally protected in the Roe vs. Wade judgment. So in my opinion, the sexual mores of today may be different than those of the 50s, but we still have a long way to go.

Other interesting things: It is mentioned that the world population in 1975 is 2 1/2 billion. This was roughly the population in 1953 however in 1975 the world population had almost doubled and was about 4.06 billion. Today’s population is 6.7 billion; we gained a billion in the last 10 years, not a good trend.

The Overlord aliens pick the following 8 cites to park their ships over: New York, London, Paris, Moscow,Rome, Tokyo, Cape Town, and Canberra. I was in complete agreement except for the last two.

According to the National Council for Geographic Education in 1950 the top five cities population wise were: New York, London, Tokyo, Paris, Moscow. Rome isn’t a big city population wise in 1950, but it’s hugely important historically.

Cape Town, okay, it’s a well-known city in South Africa and I’m sure Clarke was attempting to be multi-cultural, and have a city in Africa, but today anyway Johanasburg is the bigger city in South Africa and he could have gone with someplace like Cario which was actually 25 population wise according to the above graph. Another better choice, Buenos Aries, number eight on the 1950 National Council graph and that would have brought in South America. By 2000 San Paulo is the 4th largest city in the world according to this graph.

Canberra is an even more bizarre choice. Okay, it’s Australia’s capital, but it’s only their third largest city today. Were Sydney and Melbourne smaller back in the 1950’s?

The strange cultural stuff includes: Stormgren the Secretary General of the UN recalls that the South African racial strife got so bad that the Overlords interceded and blocked the Sun over South Africa for 30 minutes. After which he says, “civil rights were restored to the white minority” Was this a statement against Apartheid, which started in 1948? Or did Clarke figure that whatever race had the highest population in any nation would end up oppressing the minority?

Duval a scientist accuses Stormgren of being a member of the “excitable, highly strung Nordic race.” (p 58 in my copy) Did Clarke just make up a stereotype? Like if I said British people are all left-handed.

I did enjoy the plot device of narcosamine, (p132 in my copy) found during research into animal hibernation. It slows down a creature’s metabolism so much that it can be misconstrued as suspended animation. I love how he just throws this in there like it’s a completely real discovery. I wonder how many readers believed this really existed?

Original Post at the Classic Science Fiction Message Board

And All the Stars a Stage; Childhood's End, passage Compare and Contrast