AVENGERS. “And There Came Another Day…”

There are some interesting threads on this forum, already covering issues of Marvel’s early series – ‘re-reading’’ of the Avengers and Journey into Mystery/Thor and so on and there was quite a good issue by issue thread on the Invaders around too, until it caught up with the present.
What is more rarely discussed are the later periods when these series were in full flow and while perhaps less iconic still number among them some classics…

I therefore present to you an issue by issue critique/discussion forum for one of these mainstay Marvel titles.
Not beginning at the very debut – as others have that covered well – but (and I hope I don’t step on anyone’s creative toes here!) – I would like to pick up the Avengers title after a watershed/bookend issue provided an opportune point at which to begin …
Issue #100 featured all Avengers to that point together in one tale and everything that goes before it is pretty well easily contained by then. The next issue launches the title into its second century of publishing and its next phase of greatness…

What has gone before…?
And so there came a Day…

The formation of the team.
The Hulk leaving. Captain America’s return. The Original members giving way to Cap’s kooky Quartet.
Goliath and Wasp returning. Hercules coming and going. The creation of Ultron. The arrival of the Vision.
Yellow jacket Hawkeye as Goliath II and then back again. The Squadron Sinister/Supreme. The Kree-Skrull War and of course…the Lady Liberators!
(I’m sure you’ll have your own highlights!)

And so there came ANOTHER Day…

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I hadn’t really noticed the preponderance of mind-swapping stories during this era until you pointed it out. (Probably because I read them initially post facto.) I seem to remember Roy Thomas providing details of Georg Tuska’s arrival at Marvel in one of the MMW Iron Man editions. (Those introductions collected would make a fair history of ‘60s/’70s-era Marvel behind-the-scenes.) Regarding how much detail Lee left up to the artists, I’m sure it differs from character to character and story to story, but the way John Romita describes one instance, Stan dropped off a note with the single word “rhino” written on it.

“Otherwise, why do art solely for inventory purposes for Captain America featuring a "sidekick" who was no longer a sidekick in that particular mag if the story was drawn even just a few months past issue #113?”

That same thought occurred to me.

“I think the Steranko issues and then the Red Skull Cosmic Cube body-swap leading into the debut of the Falcon was one of the strongest stretches for the Cap mag ever…”

#118 was my first issue of Cap ever (as well as the last for some time, although I had many Avengers). It confused me for years (until I filled some back issue hole in college) why Cap had black hair in that story. Note the artists over this five issue span:

112 - Kirby
113 - Steranko
114 - Romita
115 - Buscema
116 - Colan

Fred W. Hill said:

Anyone think that was pure happenstance or that maybe Lee just didn't care for Tuska's style, or maybe just didn't feel Tuska could adequately flesh out Lee's barebones plots, which was a problem for many artists used to working with much more detailed plots.

When Lee was scripting everything* and editing the entire line he really needed artists like Kirby and Ditko to work with and tweak his plot outlines or Marvel would have collapsed. Many (most?) of the artists at the time, especially the old-timers, either couldn't wrap their heads around this or resented the extra work. Tuska may have fallen into this category. As for the plots being bare-bones, Lee supposedly had conferences where the action was discussed in some detail. I'm sure this varied with the story and with the artist. Ideas were suggested by both.

When I had illusions of becoming a comics writer I obtained a how-to book on scripting comics. The convention (until the Marvel Method) was to provide a movie-like script detailing all of the action and dialogue panel-by-panel. Most of the artists when Marvel took off were used to this method and probably couldn't work any other way.

* Larry Lieber was scripting some of it, but he probably worked full-script. Since he was also an artist he may have had a leg up in planning out the panels.

Don Heck said he just gave Stan what he asked for so he probaby didn't do much planning.
Stan last wrote Iron Man in Tales of Suspense#98, then turned him over to Archie Goodwin. George Tuska came in with Iron Man#5. Johnny Craig drew #2-#4 then started inking over Tuska's art except for #24, where some reason Tuska inked Craig.  

Alan Moore famously provided very detailed scripts for the comics he wrote, and Neil Gaiman learned to write comics from Moore.  I'm not sure how much the "Marvel Method" is used anymore, even at Marvel.  Lee adopted the method mostly out of necessity, and in Kirby & Ditko in particular, he had artists who could come up with great plots on their own.  I've a hunch many Bronze Age Marvel writers, such as Gerber, Englehart, McGregor, etc., provided more detailed plots than Lee typically did.

The Marvel Method might be what convinced some artists (like Name Withheld) that they could get rid of writers.

John Krisfalusi didn't use writers on Ren and Stimpy. If you couldn't draw you couldn't work on the scripts. It worked for that show. Not so much for Ripping Friends...

AVENGERS  #108 (02/73)

Writer – Steve Englehart

Art – Don Heck, Dave Cockrum & Joe Sinnott

Cover Art – Rich Buckler & Joe Sinnott

“Check – And Mate!”

At last the full cover is back free from any framing and we get unbridled action.

I really like the fact that the cage in which most of the Avengers are held actually does look like the cage they were in last issue which considering the artists are different is a attention to detail that means a lot.

Interestingly, still not quite a full view of Hawkeye in ‘that costume’.

Inside and the action picks straight up from the Vision’s betrayal last issue.

The splash page holds the Grim Reaper gloating, the Vision brooding and the ‘dead’ Wonder Man looking on…with a surprise lurking....

We get a handy recap courtesy of the Reaper explaining how we got to the Vision accepting the offer of Captain America’s human and perfect body.

After a meeting with the Phantom, the Reaper argues with the Vision only to have Captain America appear attack and defeat him.

We learn that the Vision only pretended to go along with the plan because Cap had been in the shadows and signaled him to do so before they timed their attack perfectly.

This is a common deceit in comics I know, but here it actually works really well. The reader really does NOT know why the Vision betrayed his team and the reveal is a genuine shock. Literally every time I read this I never see Cap on that splash page. Honestly. I don’t. Do you? Really…?

Cap and the Vision free the rest of the captured Avengers, the Vision strangely unemotional as he frees Wanda despite everyone expecting some sort of tearful reunion I think.

The emotionless-android-Vision was a character facet that needed examination but was so overdone, drawn out and hammered through the narrative that it became very tiresome very quickly and this is about as far as my tolerance with it went.

Our bad guys, now backed by Hydra hordes stand off against the Avengers and the evil Space Phantom explains he never trusted the Vision – which upsets the Grim Reaper and everyone fights everyone.

At this point we get a really curious full page spread – naturally labeled ‘Avengers Assemble!” but strangely only featuring a close up Cap, a mid shot of Hawkeye and a distance shot of Scarlet Witch and Black Panther – all fighting Hydra.

With such a display I would expect to see all of the team – why no Iron Man or Vision in that spread?

The tide of battle is turned when the Space Phantom threatens to kill the Reaper. Naturally the Avengers submit, but the Scarlet Witch has escaped.

We then get the Phantom pursuing the Witch only to catch up with her in the street outside Avengers Mansion and eventually recapture her.

He continues however into the mansion where he overpowers poor Jarvis and the still visiting Rick Jones and takes them back to his lair.

Once there we learn that the reason the Phantom has yet to attack Thor is that he wishes to upset the Thunder God by disposing of his friends and teammates while he’s away – making him feel guilty.

Rick tries in vain to free the Avengers only for the Space Phantom to defeat him and while gloating swap their bodies.

But No! It doesn’t work! Because of Rick’s body-sharing status with Captain Marvel the Phantom gets shunted into limbo himself (much like he did when he tried to swap with Thor before…you think he’d be more careful!).

The Avengers are freed, Hydra are defeated and we get a lengthy exposition about the Scarlet Witch having already reached the mansion, primed Rick with a plan then ran out to look like the Phantom had caught her in time and …and…my head hurts.! – This gets one long caption to explain all this – not the greatest action to show us in artwork but it does make the pacing of this tale a little stunted.

The Avengers return to the mansion to find Thor returned and the Scarlet Witch still angry reminds everyone they are still looking for her missing brother.

The Vision tenderly offers his shoulder to cry on and she melts into his arms…..

Don Heck’s influence on the art is clear and considering so many hands were party of this three part adventure it holds together well.

Englehart is finally free here from the need to work around the Captain America centric flashback and packs a load in but it is too much really and the defeat of the Phantom by swapping with the wrong person is hardly fresh is it?

I still love this story though.

(Ant Man and the Wasp are believed to be dead – which explains – perhaps- why the Space Phantom was not interested in getting revenge on them… Marvel Feature  apparently – but not listed which issues This is a story I don’t think I’ve ever seen/read does anyone know anything about it – is it any good and is it collected in any trades?)

 Come back…

 

I got a few issues of Marvel Feature with the Ant Man -- this time Hank was trapped at Ant Man size, and then Jan likewise was trapped at tiny size, and they were reputedly killed by Whirlwind, if I recall correctly.  Pretty average stuff -- mostly art by Herb Trimpe and Craig Russell (some of his earliest work for Marvel). 

As for Avengers #108, I enjoyed it enough as a 10 year old in 1973, and upon re-examining that splash page, I did see signs of Cap hidden in the shadows.  Pity Buckler couldn't stay on the strip much longer -- until Perez came on as regular artist, most of the art -- mainly from Heck, Bob Brown and Sal Buscema -- for the next 3 was serviceable but not particularly great.  I still enjoyed them, but the Avengers wasn't a showcase for the best in comics art during that period.

I agree with Fred’s assessment of the Ant-Man strip in Marvel Feature #4-10. I would describe it as “serviceable,” but otherwise, as Fred puts it, “pretty average stuff.” Pym does sport a different costume during that run, maybe meant to invoke an adventurer, such as Flash Gordon or John Carter.

As promised, here is the continuation of Steve Englehart’s commentary.

STEVE ENGLEHART ON #108:

“—and then came the wrap-up. Now this little ‘three-parter’ was actually very much what you might call a ‘Steve Englehart’ story, with, among other things, the rising and advancing of the Vision’s spirit as its ultimate point. I don’t believe Roy would have put elements together quite the same way. So in the grand scheme of things, being forced off whatever track I might have settled on before I had a chance to settle on it, by having to work with an old Stan Lee story and not focus a “Roy Thomas-like” story, was probably very beneficial for my own rising and advancing. I had to think outside the box, and I saw things I wouldn’t have seen until later, if ever. Nevertheless, the dialogue I wrote for the last three panels sounded very much to me like Roy’s dialogue. I was still bringing it all back home, to his Avengers.

“On the other hand, in these first four issues, I’d had a different artist every issue, but that was finally changing. Don Heck did only the layouts for this issue, so that Dave Cockrum could finish the pencils, but Don would stick around as the full penciler thereafter. I had been a Don Heck fan from Marvel’s earliest days, and I never could understand why he wasn’t a universal favorite. His art had its quirks just like everybody’s, but he knew how to handle heroes and action, his men were clean-cut and handsome, his women were beautiful… I was very happy not just to get someone regular, but to get him. And having him regularly meant I could start to have some idea of what the artistic storytelling would be, which is more than a little help to a comics writer.”

Thanks Fred and Jeff - I don't feel too bad missing out on those Marvel Feature issues in that case. Still I feel a lesser Avengers completist by not having them...I have most of this period.

Interesting as ever to read Englehart's comments  - but I have never been a Heck fan and I don't think it's his best work coming up. I think Cockrum's inks helped a great deal.

This is the best view we're going to get of "that' costume. It's about to go away, and I doubt anyone (except maybe Barry Smith) missed it. Interesting that his pose here is almost a mirror image of Cap's.

The Marvel Feature story started out as The Incredible Shrinking Man, dealing with the problems of being stuck at an extremely smal (but not ant) size. It also seemed like the writer was toying with the idea of giving Hank a new love interest to compete with Jan. But science fiction has never been popular in comics (so you can't blame Martin Goodman for hating it) and it quickly turned into a superhero series. Just like in Tales to Astonish, it was apparently decided he couldn't headline a series on his own, and Jan was dropped into the middle of the story. Then surprisingly she was turned into a villain. Then she just snapped out it. No battle, Hank just runs from her until she comes to her senses. Today of course we'd see him viciously attacking her to "beat the craziness" out of her. Younger fans that only know these characters from animation have stated on deviantart and other sites that they thought Hank was always abusive. This is probably why he's an old man in the movie. Get him in, get him out, forget about him. I just hope, since there's been no mention of Jan in the film, that we're not going to find out he killed her or drove her into a mental hospital or something like that.

I think this was Sal Buscema's best period and found his later work disappointing. I can see that he didn't always want to be thought of as "Big John's little brother" but instead of developing a style that was uniquely his own it looked like he started imitating what was currently "hot".

Has anyone ever interviewed creative people with older family members that were already in the business when they broke in? It would be interesting to hear how Sal, Marie Severin, and John Romita Jr. felt starting out in somebody else's shadow.

I just noticed all three of the older family members I just referred to had the same first name. That's an odd coincidence.

 

 

“You can't blame Martin Goodman for hating [science fiction].”

These are the “Three R’s” of science fiction Goodman loved to hate:

ROBOTS
ROCKETS
RAY GUNS

Making me wonder how Starhawk got as close to being published as he did. Was Stan hoping Goodman wouldn't pay any attention to what was appearing in Marvel Superheroes?

Does Marvel still have that story? The Marvel Masterworks Rarities would have been a good place to finally print it. I'd guess the final Tales of the Zombie story that got lost and left unprinted when the title was cancelled was never found since it wasn't in the Essential volume.  

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