Tuesday, May 3, 2016

If I Had a Buck... Civilized!


Martinex1: We are just days away from the Captain America: Civil War release and I have been avoiding as many trailers and spoilers as possible. But the fact is, I have been seeing previews for this grand kerkuffle in the Marvel Universe for decades, as the heroes have repeatedly relied on fisticuffs to solve their problems. Long before the comic book Civil War, the attitude was punch first and ask questions later. Disagreements over hidden faces, shady actions, misunderstood movements, and even a favorite food seemed to lead to an epic battle. 

So here we are in the mystical comic shop for our regular $1 Challenge shopping spree of If I Had a Buck... For those of you that have not joined us before, it is a simple game of choosing from the titles below, picking your favorites from this virtual spinner rack and commenting on those issues, the characters, the genre, Marvel in general, or anything that pops into your heads. We once again are pulling from the Quarter Bin as some of these comics came out in the (eeek!) 1990s and even the 2000s, and could not have been purchased for a single greenback. So you have four quarters for four comics with our friendly foes fighting ferociously. Who can ask for more?


There were plenty of Marvel cover battles to choose from, but I did my best to limit it to characters appearing in the film. (If the Hulk had been included, there would have been dozens more). If you can think of other examples, please share. Thanks to Mike's Amazing World of Comics site for the easy research and cover hunting.


So without further ado, jump right in, keep your hands to yourself and enjoy!














Monday, May 2, 2016

When Your Protagonists are Antagonizing... Super-Villain Team-Up 2


Super-Villain Team-Up #2 (October 1975)(cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia)
"In the Midst of Life... the Way to Dusty Death!"
Tony Isabella-Sal Buscema/Fred Kida

Doug: Continuing a week's worth of Civil War-themed posts, what about bad guys fighting bad guys? This was the first issue of Super-Villain Team-Up that I ever bought, and I stayed with the series (when I could -- you know, distribution woes) until the end of the original run; I did not know until years later that there was a 16th and then a 17th issue (each released waaaay after the 15th issue). Super-Villain Team-Up seems typical of other short-lived series at Marvel in that (in my opinion) sub-par and oft-rotating creative teams doomed it. Case in point: during its 17-issue run (plus Giant-Size issues), the following writers and artists helmed the series --
Giant-Size SVTU #1 -- Roy Thomas-John Buscema/Joe Sinnott (framing sequences)
Giant-Size SVTU #2 -- Roy Thomas-Mike Sekowsky/Sam Grainger
#1: Tony Isabella-George Tuska/Bill Everett/George Evans/Frank Springer
#2: Tony Isabella-Sal Buscema/Fred Kida
#3: Jim Shooter-George Evans/Jack Abel
#4: Bill Mantlo-Herb Trimpe/Jim Mooney
#5: Steve Englehart-Herb Trimpe/Don Perlin
#6: Steve Englehart-Herb Trimpe/Jack Abel
#7: Steve Englehart-Herb Trimpe/Pablo Marcos
#8: Steve Englehart-Keith Giffen/Owen McCarron
#9: Bill Mantlo-Jim Shooter/Sal Trapani
#10: Bill Mantlo-Bob Hall/Don Perlin
#11: Bill Mantlo-Bob Hall/Don Perlin
#12: Bill Mantlo-Bob Hall/Don Perlin
#13: Bill Mantlo/Keith Giffen-Giffen/Don Perlin
#14: Bill Mantlo-Bob Hall/Don Perlin/Duffy Vohland
#15: Larry Lieber-George Tuska/Wally Wood/Mike Esposito (reprint)
#16: Peter Gillis-Carmine Infantino/Bruce Patterson
#17: Peter Gillis-Arvell Jones/Bruce Patterson
So if you're scoring at home, that's six writers (I won't count Lieber due to the reprint), 11 pencilers, and (wait for it) 13 inkers. That's right -- 13 inkers working on 18 issues in the series (again, not counting the reprint). Granted, they doubled-up a few times, but still... If that's not a major reason why a book would look different month to month, I don't know what is. And regardless what you think of a guy like Herb Trimpe, when you place him under the influence of Don Perlin... well, let's just say it ain't Trimpe under John Severin! I will say, though, that the Bob Hall/Don Perlin issues look pretty good.

Doug: There's something for you to chew on as we now get on to the task at hand -- reviewing what's sort of a bridge issue, but fun nonetheless. We pick up the trail on one of our favorite Bronze Age conventions -- the visi-screen! I mean seriously... if I can't have a couple of panels with a rubber mask reveal, then just hit me upside the head with a visi-screen! Here's your 100-Word Review of the plot of this issue:

After a battle near Hydrobase, Namor has fallen under the combined might of Attuma, Tiger Shark, and Dr. Dorcas (now there's a moniker for ya). But somewhere distant Namor's would-be ally Dr. Doom watches, and reflects on the brief history of his and Namor’s alliance. Doom is found out, forcing his hand. Seeking to liberate Namor, Doom encounters the transformed Betty Dean Prentiss, former love of the Prince during the War. Doom infiltrates Namor’s prison, but in the melee Betty is killed trying to save Namor from Dr. Dorcas’ blast… she falls just as Namor breaks free. “Avenging Son”, indeed!
Doug: If I were an editor working at Marvel in the Bronze Age and I wanted to stabilize a book either to keep it on schedule or to smooth out its "look", I'd turn it over to Sal Buscema. That's not to say that he was the best artist Marvel had at their disposal, but he could crank out the "house style" in an efficient manner. I don't know if that is why he was tapped for this particular issue, but in the looks dept. his presence makes this one of my favorites in the entire series. So...

The Good
: Obviously the art. I really don't have a lot of experience with inker Fred Kida, or at least I don't think that I do. Maybe that I can't recall Kida's work is a good thing? Perhaps you immediately inferred that he's not a memorable artist. Maybe that's his strength, because when I look at this I see Sal Buscema. It's no Joe Sinnott production, that's for sure (and you all know I love Joe Sinnott). At this stage of his career Sal was a grid guy, utilizing 4-8 panels on a page. Only the double-page spread (pages 2 and 3) rejects the notion of borders; every other panel in the book contains the art. So if you're looking for anything resembling the better design aspects of Jim Steranko or Neal Adams, you won't find it here. And that's OK. As I said, if someone felt this book needed a steadying hand, they got it.

There is one specific panel that I think is genius. I've provided it here -- Tiger Shark emerging from the ocean. Look at his right hand. He skims the water with the backs of his fingers, just like you or I would if we were walking to shore, thinking or watching. I just find that bit of familiar motion fascinating -- what a detail. I also have a love/hate sense with a single panel of Doom holding his chin in the crook of his thumb and index finger. While it's an image that conveys the motion of stroking one's chin and it fits Doom's mood in the scene, it does seem somewhat odd that a fellow would place a hard metal finger beside a hard metal chin. Not exactly the pensive beard-stroking one might think of. The emotion on the final panel of the book leaps off the page. Fabulous ending (see the end of this post)!

Earlier I mentioned the visi-screen. Unlike in the past, when our would-be world-dominators are just able to kick back and look at these things as if possessing some sort of universal clairvoyance, here we actually find the source of the images Doom is perusing. Doom had devised a mechanical fish that looks to me quite a bit like a Joker fish. Even though Tiger Shark spied it and wrecked it, I did appreciate that we got a "plausible" explanation for Doom's spying capabilities.

While I'll take issue with Tony Isabella's characterization here in just a minute, I must compliment him here on making me root for the main character of the magazine (the Marvel Universe's alpha super-villain) against all other characters -- especially when everyone in the book is a bad guy! Namor's rogue's gallery is bereft of true heavyweights, so of course Doom would be able to out-smart them, out-tech them, etc. But there was still the sense that I wanted Doom to be the victor (no pun intended) here. I don't say that in he pages of the Fantastic Four.

Lastly, I've been on record for years stating that I love this life-giving suit that Namor wore in the early-mid 1970s. Love the look! It's certainly more regal than trying to rule or lay waste to the world in a green Speedo.

The Bad: Let's go right into my scripting complaint. If you would be so kind, hop back to my review of Sub-Mariner #8, written by Roy Thomas. That issue was narrated by Betty Dean Prentiss, who is a major supporting character in today's story. You can see some narration boxes in the art samples -- those were "written" by Prentiss in her diary. Got her voice? Yeah, Isabella must have just ignored all that, because I think he took her character profile (she worked for the NYPD) and just wrote her as some hardened beat cop-type of person. It's really off, and I think I'd feel that way even if I had not known the character from that other book. The way she addresses Doom is pretty stupid, as well. I'm all for bravado in the face of extreme adversity, but c'mon... the monarch of Latveria could have vaporized her on the spot. I guess I'd rather she'd been written differently.


Note - You may notice that some of the "human" characters, like Betty Prentiss, are amphibians. This was apparently a development in the last issues of Namor's solo mag, which was cancelled around six months before Giant-Size SVTU #1. I don't know if this is necessarily a bad thing as a plot device, but I'll put it here since I was discussing Betty Prentiss.

The Ugly: Tiger Shark's teeth. You know -- like a shark. Boy should have had braces! That being said, are his teeth uglier than Attuma's whole face? Discuss.

Doug: I am hesitant to read the entire trade Super-Villains Unite: The Complete Super-Villain Team-Up, which I have used for today's festivities. As I said, the art is a real turn-off at times. And that's a shame to middle-aged me, because my memories of this series are better than the reality of it with which I am now faced. "Hold up"? Umm...


Doug: For conversation starters, what other instances can you come up with where super-baddies fought super-baddies? Were there some memorable tussles? Who would you have liked to have seen -- where were two guys (or gals) who may have conceivably had a beef with each other?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Bronze Age Civil War?

Redartz: greetings, one and all! This week brings the latest Marvel cinematic offering to our waiting eyes, "Captain America: Civil War". In honor of this event, we will today look at an earlier period of conflict between  Cap and his Civil War opponent, Iron Man; specifically, the arc involving Avengers 162-170. Plus, there'll  be a little poser afterwards for your consideration.

Jim Shooter was the Avengers' scribe during this period, and George Perez handled most of the artwork. Notable other illustrators included George Tuska (issue 163) and John Byrne (issues 165 and 166). Pablo Marcos was the inker for this run, I found him particularly effective over Tuska's pencils.


Reading this stack of books left me amazed at how much story was covered within the covers. There were plots and sub-plots which would extend all the way into the 180's! Foes included Ultron, Typhon, the Lethal Legion,  Count Nefaria and Korvac/Michael (this last storyline would run up to issue 177 by itself). Shooter was masterful at weaving many threads together, and packing a lot into a 17-page story. One of those threads is the subject we will look at today.

 
Throughout this arc, there was a fair amount of underlying tension among the Avengers. The Beast was having self-doubt issues and was frustrated by his seeming lack of contribution to the team's efforts. Wonder Man also had doubts (he questioned the usefulness of Hawkeye in one scene and was quickly chastised by Thor),  and struggled with fear of defeat. Iron Man was chairman, and his frequent absences were causing friction among the team as well (at this time his identity as Tony Stark was still unknown to the team). Captain America had recently lost his added strength (as told in Cap 218), a fact also unknown by the others. Hawkeye was still in the west, and Thor's inconsistent appearances were also a source of concern. Against the backdrop of all this, some tempers were beginning to fray.
We begin in issue 162, with the Avengers facing Ultron. In attempting to stop Ultron, Iron Man held the robot's intended bride (the newly-created Jocasta) and threatened to destroy her. His bluff worked, and Ultron left. But that action didn't sit well with the Black Panther, and when T'challa tried to bring it up, Iron Man brusquely stifled him...




Issue 163 was largely a fill-in, but a major plot point was the Beast's being held captive , forcing Iron Man to perform  Typhon's intended attack upon Hercules and the Champions. Again, the Beast was left questioning his actual value to the team.


This led directly into issue 164, when things start getting uglier. Opening this story, Tony Stark, Hank Pym and the Panther are analyzing Wonder Man.They do a great job of ignoring Hank McCoy's attempts to contribute, and the Beast leaves in a huff.


 




Shortly thereafter the Lethal Legion attack, forcing the Avengers into battle outside the mansion. The fight isn't pretty, the Wasp and Panther are both put out of action. The Scarlet Witch manages to stop the Legion, who then promptly escape. Tchalla blames himself, when Captain America tells him not to worry: the whole team has been underperforming lately.




Back at the mansion, a meeting is held, and Iron Man's absence as leader brings sharp comments form Wanda and Cap. Said meeting was abruptly interrupted by the returning Legion, however.

 







By 165, Count Nefaria has appeared, taking over for his flunkies (the now-defeated Lethal Legion). The Avengers are still short-handed, the Vision injured, Hawkeye still gone and no Thor or Iron Man. Nefaria is giving the team a rough go, dropping a building on them.  At this point Iron Man shows up, and tries to get the team to back off while he attacks. This causes Yellowjacket and Cap to question whether the team is actually functioning as such, and Wanda tells Stark to "Lead us...or step down"


In issue 166, Thor suddenly appears and joins the battle against Nefaria. Wanda lets him know she's had enough of his last-minute appearances. After the fight is over, Iron Man also takes Thor to task for his absences. This brings a scathing response from Cap, telling him "this team has hit bottom while you've been our leader in absentia". Yellowjacket steps in, though, and postpones the 'discussion'. By the way, apologies for the drastic difference in appearance of that page; all other pages are scans from the original books while the page from 166 comes to us via Comixology (lacking that issue in the longbox...).



Issue 167 opens with Nick Fury summoning the Avengers' aid in space, where a huge ship has appeared (containing the Guardians of the Galaxy, incidentally) , seemingly destined to collide with and wreck the SHIELD satellite. Iron Man is on board the satellite with Fury as Tony Stark, and so is delayed in joining the team. This holds up the mission, and when he arrives Cap reads him the riot act. Tony tells him to "shut up and get into the ship".




Cap is obviously still ticked; when they enter the mystery ship he proceeds to issue orders to the team, catching leader Iron Man off guard.
 Thor later tells IM not to let it trouble him, but Stark worries to himself that things are getting dangerously personal.

Things come to a head in 168, Cap and Iron Man sniping at each other on the way back to Earth. Upon returning to Avengers Mansion, the team finds agent Peter Gyrich waiting for them, having gained easy entrance to the headquarters. Gyrich blasts the team for it's lack of security, and even Wanda notes Cap's displeasure. Iron Man attempts to reassure Jarvis that Gyrich's entry wasn't the butler's fault, saying "it's nobody's fault". That does it for Cap: he lays into Iron Man for faulty leadership, even calling him a "low life mercenary".

He slugs the Golden Avenger, and the two square off. Thor holds Tony back, and Wanda separates the two. She then rakes Cap over for his own lack of effective contribution. Cap stalks off, and IM apologizes to the embarrassed Guardians (who had been uncomfortable witnesses to the whole display).




Finally, in 170, the tensions are resolved. Cap is grumpily exercising, and not having any of the Beast's small talk. Iron Man enters, stating that he wishes to say a few things. Cap figures he is about to get an earful about his own inadequacies. Instead, Tony apologizes, for his failings, and offers to step down as leader. They open up to each other about their mutual concerns, and Cap sums it up : "You lead, I'll follow".  



That's a lot of drama for a storyline covered in a few panels and scattered pages over 8 issues. Each member of the team was involved at some point, and the conflict over Iron Man's leadership manifested itself both in dialogue and in the action. Some of these stories qualify as classics, and the story and artwork were excellent throughout.  Jim Shooter did a fine job balancing Iron Man's frustration at being preoccupied with Cap's building resentment over IM and his own lack of effectiveness. And true to the characters, they resolved the fight with discussion and mutual trust. I must say reading up for this post was a pleasure; this title was definitely enjoying a high point creatively.

Which brings us to this question : how might this storyline have worked out differently? It featured Shooter and Perez both at the top of their games. If , say, Steve Englehart or John Byrne plotted this arc ,what might have been the result? Would the two teammates still have buried the hatchet, or might a wider conflict have broken out? Would it have held up if expanded and presented as a stand-alone series (such as Civil War)? Do they even read as the same characters about to square off on the big screen? Your thoughts, please...

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Guest Strip - "This Uncivil War is Upon Us!"

Image (c) Butcher Billy, @thebutcherbilly




Doug: Around the BAB we can certainly relate to the Beatles song "Eight Days a Week" -- that's what we have planned for you over the next several days as we turn this place into a sort of Captain America: Civil War clearinghouse. We're kicking things off in style today with another strip from the very talented PF Gavigan -- you're going to love it!


Doug: Following PFG, and no less awesome, will be posts from your hosts as well as staff writers Redartz and Martinex1. Colin Bray also joins the fray on Thursday, and Saturday Karen will provide the usual spoiler-free opportunity for your thoughts on the film. We are really excited about today and these next several to follow.





EPILOGUE...

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Spinner Rack - May 1973


Doug: Since we are literally full from tomorrow through next weekend, I thought we'd hit May's Spinner Rack post early. You know how it works - head over to Mike's Amazing World of Comics to see the offerings cover dated May, 1973, and then get yourself back over here to leave us some thoughts. My guess is that for most of us we'll be on the outside looking in, commenting on which of these books we've read as part of collections in this -- the Golden Age of Reprints. By clicking on the date below you'll be taken to the Comic Book Database. Have fun!






AND...


We at the Bronze Age Babies are really excited for the coming week -- actually eight days beginning tomorrow. Come back each day for All Civil War, All the Time, as PF Gavigan, Redartz, Martinex1, Colin Bray, and your proprietors cover the topic front to back and even sideways. We hope you'll enjoy!

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