Sunday, January 29, 2012

And On the Third Issue, He Arose Again...

I have talked a little bit about death and resurrection in the past.  Lightning Lad was one of the first major instances of it involving a hero in the DC universe, at least where the resurrection was not immediate.

But in the Silver Age, Marvel seemed to be the place where corpses got up and walked on a regular basis (especially villains), and so I thought I would try to catalog all of their examples.  Of course, an undertaking like this is going to require the assistance of my readers.  Although I have read virtually all of the Silver Age Marvel line, my memory's nowhere near as good as it used to be.

First up is Doctor Doom.  The Lord of Latveria apparently succumbed at the end of several of his early adventures.  For example:
Let me point out here that there's actually a pretty good reason for the "death" ending; it saves the writers the necessity of explaining how the villain got out of jail.  And Doctor Doom was, in a way copying an earlier DC villain in meeting his apparent demise at the end of many of his early meetings:
This last bit, with the villain falling into water, has become something of a cliche for comic writers.  It has the advantage of giving the appearance of death, combined with the uncertainty.  Plus, conveniently, it doesn't really have to be explained much in the subsequent resurrection.  See there was this pipe/cave nearby with a convenient air pocket....

Anyway, Dr Doom had more than his share of deaths in the early Marvel Age, so we'll skip over him.  The next major villain to "die" in the FF was the Puppet Master:
He returned in FF #14 and, although he apparently bit the bullet at the end of that issue, many more times as well.  One of the interesting things about that initial resurrection, though, was that Stan didn't bother to explain it.  Never mind that (as shown above), we'd seen him fall out of a skyscraper.  This would become the rule, rather than the exception.

I'm not sure if there are any other "deaths" in the Silver Age Fantastic Four, so let's move on to the Amazing Spiderman.  The only real death and resurrection I'm aware of there involves the Vulture:
The original Vulture apparently shuffles off the mortal coil shortly after that scene, although he returns in ASM #63 to battle both Spidey and Blackie Drago, his chosen successor.  I'm again not aware of any other deaths and resurrections in the Silver Age involving Spiderman, although there are some (Silvermane, for example) who died in the SA but didn't respawn until much later.

The only example of a major Marvel hero dying and not coming back for a couple of issues (a la Lightning Lad) involved Captain America.  Death here from CA #111:
Note the "falling into water" bit I mentioned earlier.  Cap's resurrection came in the first issue of his magazine that I ever bought:

I'm struggling now to think of resurrections involving other Marvel villains. About the only one that's coming to mind is the Rhino's passing from Hulk #104:
The Rhino would return along with the Leader to bedevil Bruce Banner's wedding in Hulk #124 as I covered awhile ago. Oh, the Leader, that's right, he died in Tales to Astonish #74:
And both the Leader and the Rhino appear to die at the end of Hulk #124, but we know better. The Black Widow had a couple of brushes with the Grim Reaper, as I have covered in the past. And I know the Unicorn appeared to die in Iron Man #4. Any more examples? I'm mostly interested in cases where the resurrection happened by the end of the Silver Age, simply because there are so many examples after that.

Updates: Some good suggestions in the comments section: The Mandarin's castle was hit by an ICBM in ToS #86:
But he returned with a reasonable explanation:
Multi-dimensional teleportation device. Don't leave home without it! The Mandarin also shuffled off the mortal coil in Avengers Annual #1:
And, as my anonymous commenter noted, he returned in the Hulk #107 with no particular explanation. MDTD, I suppose?

Titanium Man learned the fate of Silver medalists in the old Soviet Union:
But he returned ten issues later, this time apparently supported by the Red Chinese. The Red Skull drowned at the end of ToS #81, weighed down by a suit of golden armor:
He returned in ToS #89 with the explanation that the Cosmic Cube's power kept him alive. Hat tip to Nick Caputo on that one. The Red Skull biffed it again in ToS #91:
The explosion death was also popular, because it can be argued that we missed seeing something due to the flash. The Skull returned in Cap #101:
The Stilt Man shriveled up like Dr Doom up above in DD #8:
When the Leap-Frog asked him about his apparent death, Stilty was rather terse, replying, "You seem to have an uncanny knack for being wrong."

Another commenter pointed out that Magneto died in X-Men #53 and returned in X-Men #62; I can't find those issues at the moment to post panels.

Observations: One thing seems apparent; the villains who "die" on multiple occasions but return just as often tend to be Marvel's top antagonists; Dr Doom, the Mandarin, the Red Skull and the Leader are all on the short list of major baddies.

Update II: Diablo took a dirt nap thanks to his android, the Dragon Man, in FF #35:
He returned in Avengers #41, with the explanation that he owed his survival to alchemy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hawkeye Versus Captain America

As I have discussed in the past, heroic characters in the Golden and Silver Age for the most part didn't require a motivation. They fought against crime and injustice simply because they were heroes. This is part of what makes Batman and Spiderman so unique; they did have strong personal motivations. Hawkeye, on the other hand, did have a motivation, but it was an odd one: He wanted the acclaim that comes along with being a hero. Remember, the first we see him is when he's simply a carnival side-show act:
When a carnival ride goes haywire, Iron Man appears to save the passengers, and Hawkeye experiences the green-eyed monster:
So he puts together a uniform and some gadget arrows and goes into the hero business. But things go off the rails almost immediately, as the cops mistake him for the accomplice of a smash and grab artist. While getting away, he is picked up by the Black Widow, who recruits him to the cause of international peace:
Which turned out to mostly involve attacking Tony Stark's industrial plants.

Awhile later, after the apparent death of the Black Widow, Hawkeye decided to try out for the Avengers. He showed his suitability for the team by breaking into their HQ and tying up Jarvis:
But as it happened, the Avengers were in no position to turn down new recruits, as in that same issue, Iron Man, Thor, and Giant Man all decide to take a leave of absence from the team. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, reluctant former members of the gang of Evil Mutants also join up, with Captain America assuming the leadership role. It was this last factor which grated on Hawkeye:
And over the next year or two, Hawkeye frequently bickered with Captain America, questioning both his decisions and his right to command the group. Indeed, it often seemed as though the only reason Steve Rogers kept his position was because Quicksilver also wanted to lead and the Scarlet Witch, with the deciding vote, formed a crush on Cap. Oh, and no particular surprise, Hawkeye didn't have the noblest of reasons for wanting to run the show; he sometimes admitted to himself that he just wanted the glory of being known as the leader of the Avengers.

There was another aspect of the quarrel between Hawkeye and Cap that was interesting. Despite appearing physically the same age, Cap was from a different generation. Hawkeye was brash and arrogant, while Rogers was cautious and a bit stodgy.

At first, I confess that I found their verbal jousting a bit tedious. Stan Lee's arguing characters tended never to resolve their differences. JJJ always hated Spiderman and the feeling was mutual. The Thing constantly bickered with Johnny and Reed.

But then a funny thing started to happen. Gradually, over a period of several years, we began to perceive that Hawkeye was starting to appreciate Captain America. Here's a hint of it:
And when Hawkeye failed to stop Powerman and the Swordsman from escaping because he didn't want to risk hurting the Black Widow, we got this scene:
That's characterization done right, because it's positive for both characters. We see Cap's understanding and Hawkeye's guilt at having treated him badly. In the next issue, Cap agrees when Hawkeye asks to tackle the Widow and her henchmen alone.

And while Hawkeye did not give up the occasional jibes about Captain America being Methuselah, you definitely began to get the feeling that it was pro-forma; that there was no real antipathy between the pair.  It was a nice moment of growth and change.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Brave and Bold #1

Although it became known in the 1960s as a tryout magazine, and later as a team-up comic, the Brave and the Bold started out as a swashbuckler.

The comic opens with the Golden Gladiator, by France Herron and Russ Heath. The GG only lasted for the first four issues, before the magazine converted to a complete medieval format with the addition of Robin Hood.  Marcus is a young shepherd, falsely accused of attempting to kill a Roman noble.  He is sentenced to the galleys as a slave, where:

You may recall that a similar origin was proposed for Conan's muscles in the first Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.  A lion gets loose in the galley and Marcus manages to break his chains and kill the beast with them.  The slave-master realizes his young oarsman will fetch a good price as a gladiator.  Unfortunately for our hero, he is sold to Cinna, the Roman who accused him of attempted murder.
But Marcus defeats Caius in battle.  His gallantry in battle wins the heart of Cinna's beautiful niece:
In a surprise, the Praetor announces that the gladiator who wins the chariot race will be set free, and become the Golden Gladiator.  But Cinna has plans to prevent that; he gives his favored gladiator a sword, while equipping Marcus with but a shield.  However:
And Marcus rides on to victory, although Cinna still plans to find a way to kill him in the future.

Comments: Entertaining origin story and terrific art by Heath.  Check out the design on Cinna's breastplate in that next to last panel above; just marvelous details. The plot bears quite a resemblance to the novel Ben-Hur, but unfortunately for the feature the famed movie featuring Charlton Heston was still a few years in the future.  Trivia bit: Did you know that Ben-Hur was for many years the best-selling American novel of all time, until the publication of Gone With the Wind?

The issue continues with the Viking Prince.  The story begins with a fishing skiff picking up a young warrior, nearly drowned in the sea.  He has amnesia, but we quickly learn that he was the subject of an attempted assassination by a Viking lord named Thorvald.
Thorvald's guards attack the Captain's home, but the young Viking proves adept as a fighter:
Gunnda names him Jon, after a fighting prince of yore.  Jon trains the fishermen in the manly arts of combat, while they teach him whaling.  The former comes in more useful:
The dragon ship rams the fishermen and things look dire.  But they load Jon onto the giant crossbow used to harpoon whales and he rips apart the sail of the warship.  Then, just as it looks as if Thorvald's men will overwhelm the Viking Prince, the fishermen board and take command of the vessel:
Comments: Another fine story by Bob Kanigher and adept art by Kubert.

The finale features Silent Knight.  Brian Kent is a young prince whose father ruled jointly with Sir Oswald a kingdom "South of the Thames".  Sir Oswald kills his father during a tournament, and there is strong indication that foul play was at work:
Sir Oswald assigns Sir Grot to train the young Brian in the ways of knighthood.  Grot is a crusty and difficult tutor, and Brian finds it difficult to win his praise despite his obvious ability:
He also learns about falconry, and when he scares off Slasher, Sir Grot's prize bird, he chases the animal into the forest, where he discovers:

After trying on the armor, he overhears some of Sir Oswald's men waylaying some travelers (including the requisite fair maiden).  He springs to their rescue, but when the men demand his name, he realizes he cannot speak without revealing his true identity.  Thus they dub him the Silent Knight.  With the help of Slasher, he defeats the brigands and leaves the armor back in the hidden glade.

Comments: Kanigher and Irv Novick team up on this solid origin tale.  Overall the issue was quite entertaining and it must have been at least moderately successful, as the swordfighting continued for the next four years.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Continuing Dilemma of Brainiac 5

Mort Weisinger and his writers had continual problems with the Legion of Super-Heroes.  In a way, this is not terribly surprising.  The Legion was initially intended for just one story, the original tale in Adventure #247.  But a few issues later, Mort began putting letters pages in Adventure, and while I haven't been able to locate any letters that were actually published, it seems logical to assume that at least some fans wrote in requesting a return of the superhero team.  And so, over time, they became a regular part of the Superman family, eventually supplanting Superboy himself as the cover feature in Adventure.

But the process was not without some growing pains.  Because the stories had been written on an ad hoc basis, there were contradictions here and there.  For instance, in the initial story, the Legion was set 1000 years in the future:
But in some stories, the Legion was set only 100 years in the future.  This seems like a minor problem, except for one thing.

In Action #267, Weisinger gave Supergirl a tryout with the Legion.  However, either he or his writer for that story, realized there would be problems with having Supergirl and Superboy in the same club.  After all, wouldn't Superboy then know that a Supergirl would arrive on Earth several years later?  So they made the Legion that Supergirl tried out for the descendants of the original LSH:
As I have discussed in the past, when DC reprinted that story years later, they edited the text, so that Supergirl was joining the same Legion.  In the interim between the two appearances, Weisinger had come up with a solution to the dilemma of having Superboy know of the existence of a Supergirl in the future.  Supergirl had hypnotized him into forgetting her except when he was in the future.

But there was another problem that popped up that never was resolved in the Silver Age. Supergirl actually was rejected for membership in the Legion in that first story, although there was a reason.  She had been exposed to Red Kryptonite, which turned her temporarily into an adult.  Since the Legion was for teenagers only, she was unable to join that time.

She finally made the grade in Action #276.  In that issue, she met another applicant, with a strangely familiar appearance:
Note that the coloring in that panel is in error; for most of the story, Brainiac 5 has a green face, like his ancestor (and like his hands).  Also note that the numbering appears wrong; Brainiac's son would be Brainiac 2, his grandson Brainiac 3, his great-grandson Brainiac 4 and his great-great-grandson would be Brainiac 5.  So his great-great-great-great-grandson should be Brainiac 7.  Of course, the possibility exists that only male descendants of Brainiac inherited the name. 

But the problems don't end there.  Remember, this story is supposedly taking place 1000 years in the future.  Unless the Brainiac clan has an extraordinary lifespan, wouldn't his great-great-great-great-grandson be living more like 150 years in the future, rather than 1000?  A likely explanation is that the writer thought the Legion was only 100 years in the future.  A generation is usually considered to be 20 years, Brainiac 5 (ignoring the great-great-great-great grandson mistake) would be around 100 years after his ancestor.

A further dilemma was introduced in Superman #167, when we learned:
Weisinger and his writer had a ready explanation for Brainiac 5:
Except that doesn't really explain anything.  For starters, if Brainiac II escaped and despised the original Brainiac, why would his descendants continue to be named after the computer?  So maybe they did find him and brainwash him into thinking that Brainiac was indeed his father.  But there's still a problem. Remember, Brainiac 5 supposedly had a super-genius mind; that was his super-power that got him into the Legion.  But Brainiac II was just an ordinary boy (from a planet where the inhabitants had green skin).  How did his descendants get so smart?

By the way, DC has now apparently decided to ignore the story in Action #276.  Remember, this was the story that showed Brainiac 5 and Supergirl getting inducted into the Legion:
But in modern reprintings of Adventure #247, the original Legion story, one of the characters in several panels has been recolored to look like Brainiac 5.  For example, in the Millenium edition:
But in the original there was no green-skinned lad:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Around the Horn

Been awhile since I did a roundup post, so here we go:

Loston Wallace created a terrific picture of the Thing, featuring the other members of the FF and some of their more memorable antagonists.  I wish I had that kind of talent; even my stick figures look bad.

Commander Benson has a post up about how the death of Bucky Barnes was covered in the Silver Age. I read all those stories out of order, so it's nice to see someone put it together chronologically.  I like this observation:
For nearly forty years, despite all the times Marvel had tantalised Captain America and the readers with “Bucky Returns!” plotlines, the true Bucky Barnes had remained really, most sincerely dead.  So certain was this that the comics fanship coined the term Bucky-dead for any character perceived to have been killed off permanently, with no chance of revival.
Blog Into Mystery blogs the wedding of Barry and Iris back in 1966, and points out a very interesting and early Easter Egg on the cover of that  issue that I'm ashamed to admit I missed entirely up until now.

Booksteve covers the Marvel Universe 50 years ago this month.  Of course, back then there were only two comics that really qualify as Marvels, and one of them comes with an asterisk.

A 324-page comic book for Christmas?  And no, it's not one of the Cerebus phonebooks, it's a Golden Age comic featuring Captain Marvel and other Fawcett superheroes.

Monday, January 09, 2012

When I'm the Evil Genius...

I will not regret that they have no chance:
For previous installments in the When I'm the Evil Genius series, click here.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Forbidden Worlds #108

The first story presents the usual Silver Age characterization on the fly:
We can get a quick sense of Caton from just those two panels; kind of a wimp and yet it's not really his fault, so we also sympathize with him.  We subsequently learn that he has one particular tormentor: Bat Jennison, and a love object: Celia Jones.  When he grows up, he applies for a job at the local rocket plant:
Okay, so Celia isn't really his type.  Bat decides to pull a prank on him.  He gets several buddies to dress up as generals.  They tell Caton that the astronaut scheduled for the next mission has taken ill, and that they have decided that he must take the rocket jockey's place.  They strap him in and put a firecracker under his seat, knowing this will scare him thoroughly.  It succeeds, so well that Caton is blown out of his seat and lands on the rocket's firing mechanism.

When the rocket finally lands on another planet, Caton discovers that the humans there have patterned their civilization after Earth's medieval period, with knights in armor.  He also learns that he's tremendously strong and has other powers:
And when the princess is threatened:

He wins the heart of the princess, but one thing makes him miserable.  When he returns to Earth, he'll go back to being a weakling.  Fortunately she has a wizard who can take care of that:
And when he gets back on the rocket, he's pleased to discover that the princess has joined him.  When he gets back to Earth, he's a big hero, but Bat still intends to bully him.  Bad idea:
And with a princess won, he has no interest in Celia Jones when she flirts with him.  He even wins first prize in the company costume ball, dressing up as (what else?) a knight in shining armor.

Comments: Cute story.  Writer Richard Hughes did a lot of these types of tales, where the hero takes a trip (often to another planet) and comes back with new confidence and drive.  It's not hard to see the appeal to adolescent boys, who were often subjected to bullying and the scorn of the girls they adored.

The next tale concerns a chemist who works for a tobacco company, trying to come up with a filter that doesn't change the taste of the cigarette.  His latest effort seems to work at first, but soon leaves him feeling dizzy.  He reads the news on the bus home and learns that Ambassador Alvarez was killed and that Pan-Oceanic Oil's stock had soared.  When he gets home, he still feels odd and his wife suggests that he go to bed right after supper:
The next morning, he's eating breakfast with Susan when the radio breaks in with a news bulletin.  Ambassador Alvarez has just been assassinated!  Wait a minute, didn't that happen yesterday?  He hunts around for the newspaper, but can't find it.  He realizes that somehow he tapped into the future, and thinks quickly:
Sure enough, Pan-Oceanic shares climb into the stratosphere, and Arthur sells his shares for over $200,000.  Now there are lots of ways this story could go, but Hughes pulls a big surprise on us:
Comments: A beautiful little story.  Hughes often used a similar plot of someone gaining unexpected riches and then blowing it.  Arthur shows that he deserved his little stroke of good fortune, and has more sense than to try to parlay it into a bigger payday.

The third story is a very shot tale of a sailor who receives a visit from his wife in a dream.  She's concerned about reports of severe weather on the seas.  The next morning, his bunkmate reports that he also saw the woman.  And when he returns home, his wife had had the same dream of visiting him.  What happened?

Comments: These stories are not Hughes' forte, because there isn't room for any real characterization.

The finale is the cover story.  Twin boys were separated at birth due to the divorce of their parents.  One of the twins, Leonard, grows up in America and becomes an unsuccessful painter.  He's told his paintings don't have any effect, and so:
Cue the fella with the horns and a red costume.  Leonard discovers that his new paintings do have an effect; the scenes that he paints come true the next day.  Is he seeing into the future?  No, instead he's changing it, as he soon discovers.  So he gets a great idea:
And sure enough, despite nearly universal scorn for his still life painting, the judges find themselves awarding him the prize.  But he needs new supplies and when he visits his rich uncle, the old man refuses to untrouser the wallet.  Knowing that he's the only heir, Leonard paints again:
Sure enough, the uncle dies in a car wreck.  But Leonard had completely forgotten about his twin brother Henry, who inherits half the estate.  Time for yet another painting:
But by painting the beard out, he blundered, for the man in the painting was himself.  And sure enough, he
falls into an old well the next morning and drowns, much to the delight of Mephisto, who comes to collect his soul.

Comments: Somewhat predictable, but still very entertaining.  It's the flip side of the Arthur tale.  Overall, as usual with ACG comics, I loved this issue.