Remembering "Under Siege", or "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Mansion..."

Late in Roger Stern's lengthy run in the Avengers main title, the reformed Masters of Evil under a new Baron Zemo led a successful planned assalt upon the Avengers.

 

As I recall, they not only ransacked the mansion, but sank the Aquabase, and generally beat Hercules and Jarvis to within an inch of their respective lives.


But the worst of all was when they crushed Captain America's original WWII Shield before his eyes and then they shreded the only existing photo of cap's mom!  Horrors!

 

Has this been collected in one place, what issue comprise the arc, and what other significant developments occured during this major event?

 

Inquiring minds would like a refresher!

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I was never a Gruenwald fan, because he had a long, long run on Captain America that nearly killed my love of the character, which I had nurtured since 1965. (Others praise it, I understand. Horse races, and all that.) I didn't know he fired Roger Stern, who is one of my favorite writers, so that's another knock against him. And, Henry, you say he was not thought well of when he was alive? Second-most-arrogant editor or somesuch? What's that all about? And why'd he fire Stern, anyway?

As to "Under Siege," I thought it made perfect sense that a "thinker" villain like Zemo would put together a plan that actually worked -- and it just made it more obvious how this should happen more often. My only problem -- and it's minor -- is that I didn't like the Hercules-in-a-coma bit, because it raised questions I didn't want to think about, which is how divine are Hercules, Thor and company if they can fall prey to such a mortal injury? Why didn't Zeus just snap his fingers and wake him up -- unless he can't, but if he can't, why can't he? And so forth.

Those are the kinds of questions I have to compartmentalize when I read stories about Thor & Co. to avoid shattering my suspension of disbelief, and having them right in my grill kinda makes that hard to do. But like I said, a minor complaint.

I always felt that, in the MU, the Olympians were treated as true immortals, more or less, and the Asgardians were mostly immortal. Mostly immortal means slightly, well, mortal. After all, their death-divinity, Hela, wanted the souls of the Asgardians and they could be killed. The Greco-Roman death-divinity, Pluto, never wanted the Olympian souls. Of course, no one dies forever in comics but the principle is there.

Thus, Hercules could be seriously injured, especially from repeated super-powerful blows to the brain. He could be beaten almost to death but could not die. But so extreme was the punishment that he could not heal. He would have remained immortal but in a coma.

One myth about Hercules, or Heracles, that always bugged me as a kid was even though after he died and underwent an apotheosis and ascended to Mount Olympus as a god, his mortal spirit roamed the very Underworld he defied during his Labours!

Gruenwald was thought of well. And people will say only good things about him.

IT'S JUST ME.

I know we're not supposed to personally attack people here. That's why I edited out some profanity from my previous post. I'm trying to be nice.

Gruenwald did a long series of "editorials" about how to break into comics. And here's the thing. Those editorials were absolutely OBNOXIOUS in their "ATTITUDE!!!"  At least, that was the impressin I got, an impression which increased with each passing editorial. Gruenwald, in that respect, reminds me of the worst qualities of several of my art school teachers.  The ones who believed that THEY AND ONLY THEY had the ONE AND ONLY ONE RIGHT WAY to do things. You know, when a dozen different people all give you a dozen completely different, conflicting ONE AND ONLY ONE RIGHT WAY to do things, you have 2 choices. Develop your own ego, say TO HELL WITH THEM, and do it your own way... or, quit.

Arnold Drake, the day we had lunch in NYC (I had to drive 200 miles round trip), told me there were 2 kinds of editors. The kind that assembled the right teams, and let them do their jobs (Archie Goodwin is the best example of this)... and, "frustrated writers". People who can't seem to sell their own work, so they get into a position of power, and then push other people around, and MAKE THEM write THEIR stories, instead of the writers' own.  Mort Weisinger was one of those. Well, apparently, after 5 years of Gruenwald editing AVENGERS and Roger Stern writing it, Gruenwald had a story he REALLY, REALLY wanted told. He called Roger in for a meeting. They discussed it.  Roger went home that weekend to work out the details of MARK's story. And on Monday morning, he went into the office, and tried to explain that, try as he might, he couldn't figure out ANY way to tell MARK's story, without totally violating the personalities of every single character involved.

So Gruenwald told him, "Fine. Then I'll hire somone who can."

Roger Stern did not work for Marvel again until after Gruenwald was DEAD.

The above story was almost repeated when Kevin Dooley DERAILED 4 years of hard work by Gerard Jones on GREEN LANTERN, fired him, and replaced him with Ron Marz, who was happy to take the paycheck and write Dooley's version of "Emerald Twilight", a story that polaraized GL fans for the next 15 years (maybe more). I'd had several encounters with Dooley over the years.  Each time, his personality had changed. He started out as a nice guy. Then he became a serious guy. Then he became something I might get yelled out if I put into words here.  Let's just say, among other things, his editorials in the back of AQUAMAN became so OBNOXIOUS, I made a decision to never buy another comic his name was associated with... EVER.  That included the bulk of the Peter David AQUAMAN run, as well as the MISTER MIRACLE revival... which Dooley wrote himself.

Sometimes, I really wish I'd had the chance to work with either Archie Goodwin or Dick Giordano. I met both of them, and they struck me as two of the nicest guys in the biz.

Regarding Roger Stern getting fired:

The Wasp was chairman of The Avengers during the "Under Siege" storyline, and after that, Captain Marvel -- that is, Monica Rambeau, the one with energy powers -- became chairman. As I recall, Mark Gruenwald dictated a story having Captain America return to the chairmanship. Roger Stern disagreed; he had created Captain Marvel, he tried to build her into a major player, and he thought it would send a bad signal to the readers to have the first Black chairman of The Avengers pushed out.  And, also, he couldn't see how to make it work in the context of the story nor how to be consistent with the characters as established.

He explained all of the above to Mark Gruenwald, and, yes, Gruenwald did fire him. And his work dried up at Marvel; Stern has said many times that Jim Salicrup was the only editor at Marvel who would return his calls. 

Thanks Mark,

I could almost make that out, despite Dragon Naturally Speaking trying to mangle it up!

 

Is this the same Zemo that tries to go straight as Citizen V later?   Or has he always been bad to the bone?

THey aren't playing that he's got his mask stuck to his face, are they?

Regarding Mark Gruenwald's essays about how to break into comics:

I found them informational and possibly helpful. I don't recall that there was any obnoxious "attitude" about them; if you're offering your best advice about something, surely you would be confident that what you're saying is right, wouldn't you? I don't get that he was saying any other way was "wrong" -- and even if he did, you the reader ought to know that there's often more than one way to do things.

Regarding:

"Sometimes, I really wish I'd had the chance to work with either Archie Goodwin or Dick Giordano. I met both of them, and they struck me as two of the nicest guys in the biz."

 

I can say that I also met each of  them in public in less than formal circumstances, and I had almost exactly the same impression.

Cap said:

And why'd he fire Stern, anyway?

Gruenwald wanted to replace Captain Marvel as team leader with Captain America, very soon after Stern made CM the replacement of the Wasp.  Stern didn't want to do this.  The Monica Rambeau version of CM was created by Stern, made her debut in an Amazing Spider-Man Annual, and when Stern started writing Avengers shortly after, he added her to the team.  She grew from member in training to full member to team leader; you could say she was a pet character for Stern.

Gruenwald wanted Monica as leader to be indecisive and second guessing herself, having other Avengers question her leadership, and eventually have her give up the job and ask CA to replace her.  I can see why Stern would object to this.  From day one, Monica Rambeau was competent and self-confident; now Gruenwald wanted depicted to be otherwise.  Gruenwald was also writing CA's book at the time, and some feel he wanted to give CA a more prominent role in Avengers in order to bolster sales of CA's book.  If that was true, that's distasteful.

Once Stern was off the book, the otherwise wonderful Walter Simonson began writing it.  He gave readers a CM in line with what Gruenwald wanted, a failure at being team leader.  Simonson's brief stint on the book did a lot of damage to CM and also Dr. Druid, a character Stern brought back from obscurity to add to the team during Under Siege.  Druid was made into a pawn of super-villainess Nebula.  Neither character ever really recovered, not counting Monica being a part of the cult favorite NextWave book a few years back.  Simonson also killed off Marrina, a former member of Alpha Flight who had married Namor.  And he gave us one of the weakest lineups of all time in issue 298, with the Captain, Thor, Gilgamesh, Mr. Fantastic, and the Invisible Woman.

Regarding Stern's departure, I think he's gone on record on his own blog and elsewhere as saying pretty much what's been expressed above.  However, I'd also heard that he had spent a lot of time building up the Wasp into a strong leader, and then character development for Monica L(Captain Marvel) and was building  toward her being a strong character...when the word from on high was that she was to drop the ball and fail as a leader.  After a weekend at home, Stern felt that he couldn't write the story or the characters the way he was outlining them, and asked for another direction or plot.  Instead, he learned that he had been terminated for agreeing to the story/direction on Friday, but then refusing to do it on Monday. (A gross exageration of the circumstances.)

 

But it's really Roger's story to tell. And he's already said his peace. 

Some comments:

  • While I agree that the diminishing of Captain Marvel was a wrong decision, I think that Gruewald wanted Captain America back in the Avengers. And he wanted Cap to be in charge because Cap is always in charge. Granted the Avengers chairperson postion was never that big of a deal until Stern made it so. Even Jim Shooter supported this as he had the Wasp step down so Cap could lead the heroes in Secret Wars.
  • Stern obviously wanted characters that he and he alone was writing like Captain Marvel, Hercules, Black Knight and Starfox. Thor, Captain America, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch were phased out. It also led to the Sub-Mariner leaving as he was suddenly tied in to Alpha Flight.
  • I also agree that the Post-Stern period was not one of The Avengers' better runs. Perhaps they wanted bigger stars in the book, though that does not automatically mean better stories. 
  • Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman were there for a cup of coffee, really.
  • And Gilgamesh lived up to his moniker: The Forgotten One!
  • Also this period was full of crossovers like Inferno and Acts of Vengeance.

Philip Portelli said:

Some comments:

  • While I agree that the diminishing of Captain Marvel was a wrong decision, I think that Gruewald wanted Captain America back in the Avengers. And he wanted Cap to be in charge because Cap is always in charge. Granted the Avengers chairperson postion was never that big of a deal until Stern made it so. Even Jim Shooter supported this as he had the Wasp step down so Cap could lead the heroes in Secret Wars.

Back in the Avengers?  My recollection was that Cap was there for all of Stern's run - #227-285 - without taking any type of extended break, am I not remembering that right?

As I said before, it's the opinion of some that Editor Gruenwald ordered Stern to replace CM with CA as team leader to help boost sales of Writer Gruenwald's Captain America series.  If that's true - "if" being the key word - to me, that's a giant conflict of interest.  Stern won't say much more other than he and the editor didn't agree on the direction of the book, and he was fired for it.  It may well be that there was nothing nefarious about it, that Gruenwald thought it would be a good story to tell with no ulterior motives to help himself.  I don't see how making Cap the team leader would help sales of his own book anyway.

  • Stern obviously wanted characters that he and he alone was writing like Captain Marvel, Hercules, Black Knight and Starfox. Thor, Captain America, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch were phased out. It also led to the Sub-Mariner leaving as he was suddenly tied in to Alpha Flight.

I disagree a bit.  As I said, I remember Cap being a constant on the team.  Thor and Iron Man weren't around much, but this is also at the time when Tony Stark gave up the armor to James Rhodes and Thor was tied up in Asgard a lot in their own books, and Stern could only deal with the hands he was dealt.  It was Jim Shooter who phased out the Vision and the Scarlet Witch in #211, and Stern brought them back in #233 and they were around for about two years.

  • I also agree that the Post-Stern period was not one of The Avengers' better runs. Perhaps they wanted bigger stars in the book, though that does not automatically mean better stories.
  • Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman were there for a cup of coffee, really.
  • And Gilgamesh lived up to his moniker: The Forgotten One!
  • Also this period was full of crossovers like Inferno and Acts of Vengeance.

100% agreement with all of these points.

This goes right to the heart of where I stand on the matter of Gruenwald's removing Roger Stern from The Avengers . . . .


John Dunbar said:

Gruenwald wanted to replace Captain Marvel as team leader with Captain America, very soon after Stern made CM the replacement of the Wasp.  Stern didn't want to do this. 

 

And, thus, Stern should have been fired.  Gruenwald was the boss.

 

Let's say that Brisbane works for Supermegamarket, and the boss, Mr. Lobsterman, comes out as says, "Brisbane, I want the central display at the entrance of the store to be a stack-up of Campbell's Soup.  That's one of your jobs here.  Make it happen."

 

Now, Brisbane thinks that Progresso is a better brand of soup.  He likes Progresso and has been trying to get all of his family and friends to eat it.  And besides, thinks Brisbane, Progresso has a more attractive label and will make a better display.  He explains all of this to Mr. Lobsterman.

 

And Mr. Lobsterman replies, "No, Brisbane, we're going with Campbell's Soup.  That's the one I want."

 

"I won't do it," says Brisbane.

 

"You're fired," replies Lobsterman.

 

It doesn't matter that Brisbane might have been right about Progresso being a better soup or that it would have made a more attractive display.  The boss told him to do something (that wasn't illegal) and Brisbane refused, so Brisbane got fired.

 

That's the way it works in any business.  If the boss tells you to do something and you say "no", then bad things happen to you.

 

Gruenwald, the boss, told Stern to do something and Stern said no, so Stern got fired.  I see nothing wrong in that.

 

Stern may have been right that undermining the character of Monica Rambeau was a bad idea.  She was also his pet character.  Either way, it didn't matter.  The responsibility for the success of the title falls on the editor, and if the editor wants the leader of the Avengers to be Irving Forbush, it's his---the editor's---call, because the success or blame for the result falls on him.  It's the duty of the talent to comply with what the boss wants.

 

So, someone can state all day that Roger Stern was correct in his assessment that Gruenwald's plans vis-à-vis Captains America and Marvel were bad ideas; I won't argue against that.  But Gruenwald was absolutely correct to fire Stern for not complying with what the boss wanted.

 

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