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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Sue was no doubt putting herself down in #12 because of the mail she read in the previous issue asking why she was there, leading to Reed giving a lecture about the subject. Someone (Roy Thomas I think) suggested giving her the power to walk through walls. In the next issue after the Hulk appearance that power goes to a villain, perhaps so if asked Stan can say he can't give it to Sue because it's already been taken?

Perhaps Cap is there on the cover so we won't get too good a look at "that costume"?

Why would Cap forget the battle, and why would seeing Rick make him remember it? It's like Englehart had this story, for some reason didn't want to or couldn't fit it into Captain America (which shouldn't have been a problem since he was writing both titles), and decided to shoehorn it into the Grim Reaper story. Cap did seem overly shocked to see the Space Phantom. It could just be because he was so weird looking (he was especially weird and ugly in that one panel) but perhaps Cap's reaction was because originally it wasn't the Phantom but somebody that he knew. Maybe before it got squeezed into this comic it was supposed to be the Red Skull, who did turn up in a Hydra story in Captain America#147-148 a few months earlier. (Englehart's first issue of Cap was #153.) Finding out the Skull was behind Hydra around #113 would ruin the reveal at the end of #147, so that might be why Cap forgot the battle.

And yeah, they definitely knew about Rick and Captain Marvel already. Avengers#97: As Mar-Vell merges with Rick, Quicksilver says "It--cannot be!" To which Thor replies "Can it not. Avenger? Captain Marvel doth merge with yonder stripling--in the twinkling of an eye--and Rick Jones doth live once more!" Rick, confused, stammers "H-huh? What happened? I-I don't..." Someone offpanel (possibly Captain America) says "We'll--tell you later, Rick." So Cap's not the only one with memory problems here.   

I suppose Englehart already had his plans for Cap's own mag pretty well sketched out when he was tasked with using Tuska's unused art which had already been sitting around for about 3 years and just found it easier to fit in to the Avengers, which he likely hadn't made any long range plans for yet, and mixing it with Thomas' unresolved Grim Reaper sub-plot (and maybe the whole thing was Thomas' idea all along). 

Although skuttled the continuation of the Hydra story in #114, he did launch yet another long Red Skull tale in that issue -- a storyline in which the Skull used the Cosmic Cube to switch minds with Cap and in which the Falcon was introduced.  So it's very possible it was originally supposed to be the Skull under that hood.  Maybe Stan got to that part of the art and figured, "naw, this isn't working, let's try another direction.  Johnny ring-a-ding, get in here!"

 

That's likely. In #147 it was the Schemer under the hood but then Gerry Conway added the Red Skull was the power behind Fisk. (Guess since it wasn't a Spider-Man comic they didn't want the main bad guy to turn out to be the Kingpin.)

AVENGERS  #107 (01/73)

Writer – Steve Englehart

Art – Jim Starlin, George Tuska & Dave Cockrum

Cover Art – Rich Buckler

The Master Plan of the Space Phantom!”

…”…and the Grim Reaper too, don’t forget that, partner!”

Well, the full framing covers have given way to just the title and masthead in a frame separate from the cover illustration, so a bit more cover action  shown – unfortunately this is an awful cover.

It’s just ugly.

The Grim Reaper doesn’t look like he oughta and for some reason I don’t even realise the Scarlet Witch is even on the cover at all whenever I look at this. “All New – and all great!!” – not so much!

Inside and things are much better.

The splash page is beautiful – we are in vintage Jim Starlin period here, ( I find his more recent stuff overstated  and strange - heads seem far too small for bodies…)  although he also seems to struggle with Hawkeye in ‘that costume’ and especially the headband!.

Storywise, we pick up from last issue and the Avengers are helpless as the newly revealed Space Phantom and Grim Reaper neatly detail their pact to destroy the collected Avengers and convert the Vision to their cause.

Immediately you may have picked up on a little glitch in the plot here. Why would the Space Phantom have such a grudge against the ‘current’ line-up of the Avengers, especially as he details ‘Thor, who is in Vermont and thus does not concern us yet”, and is just as concerned with locating Captain America as he is dealing with Iron Man. Iron Man and Thor defeated him last time around, but the Panther, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye weren’t members and there’s no word here, of Giant Man and Wasp who were around and should be just as hated by the little guy...?!

Its forced continuity and I don’t like it.

Meanwhile, Captain America, remembering his own past arrives at the secret base location under his own steam and remembers the rest of his ‘lost adventure’ -. This is the bit that proved that this was a full unused issue spread into several flashback pieces.

The fight with Hydra continues and involves invisible Hydra Agents and being shrunk before unmasking the leader – Supreme Hydra and realising – with considerable shock that he actually was….

“Oh Lord! I never expected THIS!”

I stand by my previous opinion that this may well have been a dry run for Englehart’s later ‘Secret Empire’ climax.

The Cap issues that replaced this in the actual title returned the Red Skull with the Cosmic Cube building up to the introduction of the Falcon, so I don’t see why it would have been the Skull…and could Cap ever be surprised to see the Skull anymore?

We learn that this shock caused the mental block in Cap’s memories but still he can’t remember who he saw.

While he delves deeper we return to the brooding Vision who is again approached by the Grim Reaper and offered an opportunity to have the human body of Simon Williams. He refuses, again.

The Reaper shows him the body of  Wonder Man and confessed that he is indeed dead, but the offer of a body can be honoured…the body of Captain America.

We get a full recap/explanation of the actual master plan ….after his defeat by the Avengers the Phantom had been fortuitously returned from limbo when Loki had sent Jane Foster there in Thor #108.

The Space Phantom had then plotted, alongside the Reaper, his revenge on the Avengers. This included his inexplicable imitation of Madame Hydra’s form in the Captain America Steranko issues which led to Cap’s ‘forgotten fight’ and we learn that it was actually how ugly the Space Phantom was that Cap had found so shocking and unexpected in his own flashback.

No Cap had never met the Phantom, but I’m sure he’s seen a few uglies before hadn’t he..? 

We also learn that the Phantom had sent Cap and Rick Jones/Bucky away rather than kill them or anything evil like that, to trigger his memories at a later date and then use his body to tempt the Vision…

Nope, still doesn’t make any sense to me however many times I read it and as I write this I can’t find a way to adequately explain this convoluted plot.

On top of that, the Phantom used  his ‘technology’ to make everyone in the world forget that Steve Rogers was the true identity of Captain America that Cap had revealed around Cap #95 but that everyone seemed to forget to mention ever since the revelation that Steve Rogers was a mask in Cap #111.

This is a bit of continuity fixing that I am not at all sure needed fixing. Even if it did, it could have been explained away by the Red Skull’s possession of the Cosmic Cube rather than this mysterious technology of the Space Phantom which seems pretty omnipotent in its usefulness.

Again this kind of minutiae is more a Roy Thomas trait and for years I believed he wrote this storyline!

After all that exposition we close with the Grim Reaper repeating his offer to the Vision and the Vision……accepting it!

“Yes.”

Wow, that is still a dramatic cliffhanger and one of the best points of this issue.

Starlin draws a beautiful rendition of most of the Avengers, especially the Vision and the Panther reminds me of the Jungle Action stuff.

As a story it does much better than a half-fill-in flashback-reminder-middle-issue should do and that is due in no small way to the art, both Starlin and the flashback of George Tuska – all inked (I believe) with excellence by Dave Cockrum as we discussed last issue. 

As a single issue this is the one that serves only to paste the others together but the betrayal by the Vision is a classicly shocking moment.

 

Come Back...

I never was particularly happy with the “Captain America has a secret identity once more!” ending from Captain America #113, so I welcomed this issue’s explanation. (Presumably, the Space Phantom’s jiggery pokery wiped all the newspaper and other media accounts as well…?) I do like your Red Skull/Cosmic Cube explanation.

STEVE ENGLEHART ON #106-107:

“Comics is a periodic medium, with, in most cases, a new issue due every month. But now and again a new issue can’t be completed in time. To guard against having to go with a reprint, there are inventory stories: complete stand-alones that can rest quietly in a drawer until called upon to save the day. Several years before, Stan Lee and George Tuska had done an inventory Captain America, and it had never been needed—but now, as Roy began his regime as editor-in-chief, it was decided to clean up loose ends. The story was pulled from the drawer and handed to me, with instructions to use it in either Avengers or Cap (which I was also writing). I had done my ‘1950s Captain America’ epic with reprints from actual ‘50s Cap stories framed by a current story, so I didn’t want to go there again in that book. Thus Avengers.

“Now, this inventory story, by its very nature, could not have much in the way of plot. It really was just a series of fights. So I set out to create a story around those fights that would fit with the Vision story I’d started up previously. Since I already had a book’s-worth of material, It took two Avengers issues to encompass it and move the Vision forward...”

(That thought will be continued during the discussion of #108.)

Thankyou Jeff,
Always interesting...but who wrote the original inventary story do we know? And was the Supreme Hydra's identity always a blank slate awaiting use of the story then?

Will we ever know...?

According to Englehart, Stan Lee wrote it. (See above.)

Stan would most likely say he doesn't remember. I saw an interview with him on youtube once and he answered almost every question with "I don't remember."

Either Stan really doesn't remember, which I think is quite likely, or he's finally figured out it's better to claim not to remember than to tell a version of events which is contradicted by actual evidence, such that the creation of Spider-Man, The Mighty Thor and Dr. Strange, among others, were entirely his idea, rather than based on ideas that Kirby and/or Ditko brought to him.  I had read somewhere else that Tuska's art was originally supposed to be used in Cap #114, and maybe it was but got thrown into the inventory drawer when Stan decided not to use it -- considering that the art does include Rick Jones, who had been featured in Steranko's stories in issues 110, 111 & 113, and had previously only been Cap's "partner" in the Avengers from issues #4 - 16, and was not used in the actual story that saw publication in Cap #114, I think it's very likely it was intended as a follow-up to Steranko's classic trilogy but that Stan then decided to take the mag in a different direction, kicking out Rick Jones altogether (leaving him available for Roy to use in Captain Marvel) and shortly thereafter introducing the Falcon.  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?  It only makes sense if Tuska drew it, likely from one of Lee's very perfunctory plots, as a direct follow-up to issue #113 with the understanding that Rick would remain in the mag a lot longer than was actually the case.

Stan never did like sidekicks. I'd guess Steranko did, and once Stan saw he wasn't coming back he gave Rick the boot. Captain America#114 was drawn by John Romita and Sal Buscema, implying it was a rush job since two artists had to work to meet the deadline. John Buscema drew the next issue, then Gene Colan took over the series for awhile. No George Tuska issues. If Stan had wanted Tuska on Cap he changed his mind suddenly.

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 - it seems so strange to think that this was as a result of not a great deal of forward planning behind the scenes!
 
Ron M. said:

Captain America#114 was drawn by John Romita and Sal Buscema, implying it was a rush job since two artists had to work to meet the deadline. John Buscema drew the next issue, then Gene Colan took over the series for awhile. No George Tuska issues. If Stan had wanted Tuska on Cap he changed his mind suddenly.

From an interview with Colan I've read, the Falcon was his idea and Stan went along with it, resulting in the debut of the first  American black superhero (the Black Panther, after all, being an African).  Also, in this period (67 - 70) Lee did several mind-swapping stories -- Daredevil & Dr. Doom; Thor & Loki; and Cap & Red Skull.  With the longer stories, I wonder how much detail Stan put into his plots and whether he planned them out to last so many issues or left it up to the artist.  Certainly, Kirby & Ditko planned their stories out, and it may be the same with the other artists Lee worked with.  Speaking of which, although Tuska's comics career started in the '40s, I don't recall that he worked with Lee on any mags for more than an issue here and there and to my knowledge Iron Man was the first Marvel superhero series he became a regular on, and that was after Lee was no longer writing the title.  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.

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