Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sometimes, the numbers just do not come out.


I don't think we have any scans of him, but I have a soft-spot for lower tier Fantastic Four baddie the Mad Thinker. He had a fun turnout in New Warriors #3, and in Amazing Spider-Man #242 (although the Awesome Android on the cover wasn't the Awesome Android!) but I like his almost no-show in today's book: from 1977, Fantastic Four #183, "Battleground: the Baxter Building!" Written by Bill Mantlo, pencils by Sal Buscema, inks by Joe Sinnott. (Marvel had used that exact same title just four years prior, in FF #130!)

The Mad Thinker is in a cheerful mood today, since his plan is running like clockwork: Reed Richards (currently powerless), the Thing, and the Human Torch were all trapped in the Negative Zone. The Invisible Woman should be dead by now, since she was just thrown out a window; and the Thinker's Android should be securing the building so the Thinker can help himself to Reed's inventions. But while the Thinker's numbers may crunch out, there are some more variables: Sue is saved by the Impossible Man, who then refuses to join her, Thundra, and Tigra in storming the Baxter Building, since it wasn't fun. The Brute--the monstrous Reed Richards of Counter-Earth, currently evil--had some regret over throwing Sue out the window, but not so much that he didn't turn the building's defenses on them.

Meanwhile, in the Negative Zone, Annihilus explains to the guys how he discovered the Mad Thinker's android (from FF #71, which features a cover similar to this month's!) floating in the Zone, and turned it into his "loyal Scavenger!" for Fantastic Four Annual #6. After Annihilus was defeated in FF #141, the "loyal" Scavenger helped himself to his boss's Cosmic Control Rod, and digivolved into a third form...a big beardy monster, for some reason. ("He came to life. Good for him.") There is actually a somewhat tragic element to Annihilus, even though he's a horrible monster: he's terrified of death, and most everything he does is in search of immortality. He had taken the android because he wanted a servant that wouldn't betray him, so of course it stole his immortality. Reed works out a deal, though: give them a ride back to the Negative Zone portal, and he would return the Rod once they take it away from the android.

So, by the time the Thinker leisurely strolls into Reed's lab...the numbers have distinctly not worked out as expected. There's at least two people there he didn't plan for at all, and I'd guess the odds of his android growing a beard weren't taken into account. The Thinker straight ghosts on that one. Meanwhile, the android is defeated when the Rod is yanked out of it, and the Brute--now "good" since his concussion had worn off--takes the Rod through the Negative Zone for Annihilus, to redeem himself. But remember, there's no shame in bailing on a plan that's not working; sometimes there's just no sense in riding it out. This was a pretty good issue, but the next one--with a two-thirds different creative team--is even better.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

This is like the sixth time, I really should know whodunit by now.


We blogged Detective Comics #627 a couple years back: that issue featured four different versions of Batman's first appearance in "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate." Since then, I knew it had been retold again, in Detective Comics #27, but I had forgotten it was retold in part in today's book! From 1986, Secret Origins #6, written by Roy Thomas, pencils and colors by Marshall Rogers, inks by Terry Austin.

In chronological order, this would've probably been the third retelling of "Chemical Syndicate," taking nine pages of the twenty-three here for the Golden Age Batman's origin. (At least that I know of; although I'd guess there would be at least a few panels devoted to it in Untold Legend of the Batman.) I think Thomas keeps a lot of later influences out: Bruce Wayne's training appears to be completely domestic, without the foreign combat training that was usually prevalent, and a somewhat surprising focus on acting. Also, no Alfred! Bruce uses a disguise to order a costume made, which I think was pretty traditional for classic DC heroes: the hero would get one at the costume shop or their mom would make it or something. Sewing was for girls, at least until some kid made his own.

At some point we'll probably get around to Detective Comics #27, although offhand I don't recall it being great. That one's 15 pages with Bryan Hitch art, which would usually be something, but still...well, it's around somewhere.
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Friday, November 17, 2017


Hey, I had this scheduled before the Morbius movie announcement, although I'll kinda believe it when I see it. Kinda betting Helleyes won't be in it, though, which is a shame.

Here's something that comes from blogging as long as I have: we saw the previous issue over nine years ago, and the reprint of the next issue about three years ago, so I had to search for a moment to make sure we hadn't hit this issue yet! From 1975, Fear #29, "Through a Helleyes Darkly!" Written by Bill Mantlo, pencils by Don Heck, inks by Bob McLeod. (The cover's full title is Adventure Into Fear with the Man Called Morbius...the Living Vampire, put that in your indicia and smoke it.)

Morbius has just passed through one of the multiple eyes of the creature called Helleyes, and each of its eyes are a doorway to a different other-dimensional hell. Morbius finds himself underwater, in an ocean of blood, which he takes a hearty chug of once he gets ashore a small island. There, his pursuer of the last few issues, ex-CIA agent Simon Stroud, catches up to him and confronts him about the recent, seemingly vampiric murders in Boston. Morbius points out, they may have bigger fish to fry right now; since both are stubborn as hell it turns into a fistfight. Stroud still has his gun, though, and plans on bringing Morbius alive; Morbius wonders how he's going to get them back to earth; and then they're interrupted by singing crabs.

Even so, this issue doesn't have the same level of bizarre imagery the previous one (written by Doug Moench, with artist Frank Robbins) did. Morbius and Stroud fight various manifestations of Helleyes, and each other--mostly each other--until Morbius jumps through the eye on Helleyes's hand, and he and Stroud are back in the basement of Mason Mansion, setting up the next issue. It really feels like Mantlo got this assignment out of the blue, and had to wrap that storyline up quickly. And while I couldn't say if he ever appeared besides this next one, Helleyes would make a brief appearance in Busiek and Larsen's Defenders!
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Thursday, November 16, 2017

I'm beginning to see the flaw in his master plan.


Somebody's a Space Invaders fan. Previously, we checked out the Calculator's early appearances against Black Canary, the Atom, and Batman. Today, the villain faces the Atom again, but he previously "immunized" himself against the Tiny Titan, who's powerless to stop him. Then who could? What about Air Wave? ...who? From 1981, Action Comics #524, "Catastrophe by Calculation!" Written by Bob Rozakis, pencils by Alex Saviuk, inks by Vince Colletta.

I'm going to look this up to get this right, but I'm worried when I do, I'll find out Air Wave was turned into energy and launched into space or outright killed in the eighties or some crossover. (Yep, pretty much!) He made it through Crisis on Infinite Earths, anyway; but not Infinite Crisis. This youngster was the third Air Wave, a young legacy hero, and cousin of Hal Jordan. When the Calculator breaks out during a court appearance, after getting the location of the "Hurricane Harness" weapon from Professor Hyatt, the Atom is stopped cold. Still, one phone call later, Atom picks up Air Wave and tags him into the fight, with a nice opening even. The Calculator is not super impressed.

Despite his backtalk, the Calculator is beat by Air Wave, but doesn't count it as a total loss, since he's now "immune" to his power. Again, somehow. Still, that just means someone new has to kick his ass every time. Eventually he'd be getting whupped by Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys or something.
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

"Lotiara."


The planet Lotiara is actually an in-continuity Marvel planet, albeit not one often visited.

Today's homage--well, swipe--is Star Trek: the Next Generation episode "Conundrum", in which the crew's memory is wiped, they have a mysterious mission to destroy an enemy they can't remember, and there's a new officer that the audience hasn't seen before...it's a good one.
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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mephisto probably should've gone with that fiddle contest.


What's easier to follow, a good example, or that voice suggesting the darker, easy out? Okay, but what if the good example had a hammer, what then? From 1981, Thor #310, "The Maelstrom to Mephisto" Written by Doug Moench, pencils by Keith Pollard, inks by Joe Rosen.

A superhero confronting muggers is a pretty standard sight, even if said superhero shoots lightning at them; but Thor takes a different tack today, offering the muggers a choice. That is interrupted slightly by a police chase where Thor has to save some kids from an out-of-control car; but the choice remains: good or evil. Our mugger today chooses good, giving back the stolen money and apologizing. (There were at least three muggers before, but later the focus is only on one, presumably because it's easier to draw!) You could be uncharitable and say of course he does, since by then the cops were there as well, and it's not like the mugger had a chance against Thor either. Or, you could argue Thor is giving mankind help it doesn't deserve, like any given Republican Mephisto! In the battle for the souls of mankind, Mephisto felt that Thor had his thumb pressing down on the good side, and was crying foul. Invisibly, Mephisto then hits that block in New York City, whispering in people's ears, and compelling them to evil.

By the time Thor gets back into it, the situation has progressed to full-on street riot, then the street splits open and the mob is sucked into hell! Oh, ahem, "Hades." Mephisto confronts Thor, not because he especially needs or wants the souls of the mob; but because Thor's example to humanity cuts into the evil damned souls flowing into his realm. After some preliminary skirmishing, in which Mephisto can't gain the upper hand, he opts to kill the mob--but that's a feint, to get Thor to throw Mjolnir! The hammer is held by the mob; if it flew back to Thor it would tear them apart. Thor tries to fight his way to Mjolnir, but the sixty-second timer gets him again, and he turns back to Dr. Donald Blake! (EDIT: I forget all the rules, but technically I'm not sure that should've happened. I didn't think the timer worked in other realms; he didn't have to hold Mjolnir in Asgard, did he?)

Undaunted, Blake refuses to bow down, and instead offers his soul in place of the mob's; but Mephisto laughs, knowing he had him over a barrel. Except, in the trapped souls, the mugger from earlier sticks to his choice, and throws Blake his walking stick, returning him to Thor! Thor calls Mephisto on his cry of interference, since Mephisto interfered in man's destiny far more than he did; but also offers to stay and fight him, forever. Mephisto opts out of that one, and sends everyone back to earth, where the mugger and the mob resolve to clean up both the block and themselves...Y'know, there were some serious crimes committed during that little wilding, but everyone acts like lesson learned, so okay? Now, if you'll just sign this fiddle waiver...

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Like Smallville before the show, but not in Smallville this month.


The Smallville TV show had a long run of adventures for Clark Kent before he became Superman, and in many episodes he would meet heroes either before or at the start of their own careers. But on TV, he never met the hero in today's book! From 1981, New Adventures of Superboy #13, "Superboy's Wild Weekend Out West!" Written by Cary Bates, pencils by Kurt Schaffenberger, inks by Dave Hunt.

The cover proclaims this to be the "wildest weekend" of Superboy's life, but it's still mighty tame: it's not like "Superboy's Risky Business" or anything. Recently, Clark had managed to not look like a coward in front of Lana Lang, so naturally he now had to dial that back, namely by cowering under a van after two tigers escape from a truck. I am honestly not sure why Lana's so mad at him: as Clark, he had tried to lead them away from other people before ducking out to change into Superboy; Lana acts like Clark should've punched the tigers out and tied their tails together himself. Still, before he has much time to mope about the humiliation he suffers to protect his secret identity, he and the Kents are on their way to Coast City, for a family anniversary. Clark still has to play chicken, although the boy sitting next to him isn't afraid--even when lightning takes out the plane's tail and it starts to go down!

Clark flies the plane down, as his dad puts it, "by the seat of his pants!" Securing himself against his seat and the floor of the plane, he lifts it from there; which probably would've worked five years later when Byrne's Man of Steel made most of Superman's powers telekinetic in nature, but not so much now. But anyway, the fearless boy introduces himself as Harold, no-prizes for guessing he was Hal Jordan! By the end of the issue, Superboy has to save Harold from smugglers with a WWII submarine, and suggests maybe he needs to "combine his fearlessness with good judgment!" How much that actually took, well...depends on when you ask, leave it at that.
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