What hath The Baron wrought?
With his "Baron Re-Reads the JSA" thread, he has inspired us all. Currently John Dunbar is writing a "Dunbar Re-Reads Thor" thread, which calls out for an accompanying "Avengers" thread, at least while Thor is part of that team. So here goes:
"The Coming of The Avengers!"
Written by Stan Lee
Drawn by Jack Kirby
Inked by Dick Ayers
Lettered by Sam Rosen
What They're Up To: Ant-Man and The Wasp fight Trago, "The Man with the Magic Trumpet!", in Tales to Astonish #47. Iron Man stars in "The Icy Fingers of Jack Frost!" in Tales of Suspense #45. Thor battles the guy who will become Maha Yogi in "Mad Merlin!" in Journey into Mystery #96.
Synopsis: The story opens on the Isle of Silence in Asgard, where an exiled Loki plots revenge on Thor for his recent defeats at The Thunderer's hand (see Dunbar Re-Reads Thor). By means of "thought projection" Loki peeks in on Thor's civilian identity, Don Blake, doing good on Earth. But defeating Blake would be a "hollow victory" and only defeating Thor will make Loki happy. So he scours the Earth for a threat to force the Thunder God to respond -- and discovers the Hulk. "A huge human figure ... flying through the air! How is that possible?"
Determining that the figure is the Hulk -- apparently Loki keeps up with current events, and recognizes ol' Greenskin -- the Asgardian projects an illusion of TNT on a railroad track, so that the Hulk will accidentally destroy the track and be blamed for a train wreck. This "diabolical scheme" -- yes, Loki calls it that -- works, because even though the Hulk manages to save the train, word goes out that the Hulk is on a rampage.
Rick Jones, Hulk sidekick and leader of The Teen Brigade (formed in Incredible Hulk #6, May 63), decides that "if the Hulk is innocent, he needs help, fast! And if he's guilty, it'll take more than an army to stop 'im!" The solution: Call the Fantastic Four! But Loki diverts the call -- so that it comes out of Don Blake's radio! "Strange," muses Blake. "Sounds like a call for Thor!"
Of course it is! All radio messages that begin "Calling the Fantastic Four" are a call for Thor!
But others have received the message, too, probably because Loki is the God of Evil, not the God of Paying Attention to Detail. Ant-Man and the Wasp have somehow heard it, and Tony "Iron Man" Stark happened to be on the right frequency. The Fantastic Four actually got the message, too -- they're busy, but Reed says his "calculations" say the Teen Brigade will have company soon.
Mighty smart guy, that Reed Richards, because Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man and Wasp show up at Teen Brigade HQ. "It would seem the gang's all here, eh, lads?" quips that the ever-urbane Tony Stark. But while everybody's doing "Wassup!" Loki projects another illusion in Thor's field of vision, of the Hulk bounding by. Thor gives chase, and when he determines it's an illusion, sees his half-brother's yellow-gauntleted hand in the matter. He hies himself off to Asgard, to give Loki such a noogie.
Undeterred by Thor's disappearance, Iron Man says they'll carry on, and Ant-Man's ants report an incredibly strong guy at a nearby circus. It's the Hulk, dressed as a clown! (Let me repeat that: It's the Hulk, dressed as a clown!) The circus owners think he's an incredibly powerful robot that they just happened to stumble across, because ... well, we can only assume they are as dumb as a bag of hammers.
Ant-Man attacks! He has ants dig a hole that the Hulk falls into! Oh, the indignity! He has ants drop a barrel on the Hulk! Oh,the irritation! Then The Wasp attacks, by flying around Hulk in an annoying fashion! Oh, the humanity! But Hulk prevails, by smashing, except for The Wasp, whom he defeats with a fireplace bellows, which happens to be lying there at the circus. (Well, he can't just smash a girl, can he? It's 1963!)
And in defense of The Wasp's battle tactics, she was actually trying to draw Hulk under a net, that Ant-Man's ants have set up. And it works, in that the Hulk gets under the net, and runs into it while trying to leap away. Of course, it barely slows him down, but hey, it's Ant-Man! What do you want, repulsor rays?
Speaking which, now it's Iron Man's turn! So the Hulk hits him in the chest! And then ... OK, then Iron Man falls down. "Can't go after him until I repair my battery," thinks Iron Man. But as the Hulk flees, Iron Man pleads with him, "Hulk ... wait! I want to help you! You can't remain a fugitive forever! Come back!!"
This is called foreshadowing.
Meanwhile, back in Asgard, Thor pleads with Odin to let him have a little chinwag with Loki. Odin approves but says he cannot interfere, as he loves both his sons equally. (Honestly, he may be the All-Father, but he'll never win Parent of the Year.) Anyway, so be it!
Thor takes a dragon-prowed skiff -- he IS a Viking, after all -- to the Isle of Silence. Loki attacks with animated trees, which Thor buzzes through by spinning his hammer like a buzzsaw. Loki attacks with "volcanic gas globules," which Thor avoids by diving underwater. He whips up a waterspout to carry him to Loki, and he throws his hammer, which Loki deflects by freezing the air. But then Loki springs his REAL trap: Trolls! The "Silent Ones" for whom the island is named! One grabs Thor, and Loki crows that nothing can break the grip of a troll -- it the troll that gave rise to the "Old Man of the Sea" legend of Sinbad fame!
But as Thor is dragged underground, he pounds the handle of his hammer on the ground, summoning lightning, which blinds the underground-living troll. Loki uses multiple images to fool the Thunder God, who blows them all away by spinning his hammer. Then he uses his hammer to soak up "the magnetic currents that give life to the trolls below!' Which somehow magnetizes Loki to his hammer, and off they go to Earth, because Loki "has much to atone for!"
Meanwhile, Iron Man has chased Hulk to an auto factory -- I had no idea Detroit had a suburb in the Southwest, but whatever -- and throws tires at the Hulk. The Hulk fashions a metal bow and arrow, but Iron Man catches the arrow and turns it into a big grapple, and pins the Hulk! But the Hulk pushes through the wall! "I never expected that!" exclaims Iron Man, who evidently has not been paying attention.
But just as the Invincible One and the Incredible One are squaring off for another round -- Stark has decided the Hulk is too dangerous to run around loose -- Thor arrives with Loki, and rats his half-brother out. "Let me at 'im!" roars the Hulk, but Loki has one more ace up his sleeve -- he turns radioactive! (Which shouldn't bother the Hulk, but it does!)
Fortunately, Ant-Man orders some ants to open a convenient trap door under Loki, who slides down a convenient tunnel into a convenient lead-lined tank! Thor helpfully explains "This is where the trucks that carry radioactive wastes from atomic tests dump their loads for eventual disposal in the ocean!"
There are only four panels left, but you know what happens next. Ant-Man and Wasp suggest they team up in a regular fashion, and everybody decides that's a swell idea, even the Hulk, who is "sick of bein' hunted and hounded!" Hey, maybe Iron Man's speech did some good! Oh, and The Wasp suggests the name Avengers, even though it doesn't make much sense (who are they avenging?), but nobody argues with the cute chick, and a legend is born.
My ranking: 9/10.
OK, I admit that synopsis probably took longer to read than the comic book did. But I wanted to mention every salient element in this book, surely among the most important in the series, if not Marvel history.
There's a story going around that Avengers came to be because Bill Everett was really late on Daredevil #1, which was supposed to come out on Sep 63 instead. That apparently is true! It seems to arise from this Spring.Me post by Marvel uber-editor Tom Brevoort:
"Martin Goodman, Marvel's publisher at the time, was famous for flooding the market with anything that worked. So in early 1963, after the first bunch of Marvel super hero releases started to hit, he told Stan, 'Give me another Spider-Man and another Fantastic Four.' In other words, new characters who were very much like those characters, and would appeal to the same audience. So two books were started: X-Men, which was the Fantastic Four-style book (and even says so on the first two covers) with a team of heroes in identical blue costumes fighting a guy who resembles Doctor Doom on the cover; and Daredevil, which was the Spider-Man book (and says so on the first cover as well), the quippy urban adventurer. Now, Stan was smart enough to do more with these characters and concepts that simply knocking off his earlier characters, but that's where they started. But Bill Everett, with whom Stan co-created Daredevil, had both a day job and a drinking problem. And so production on DAREDEVIL #1 fell way behind. In those days, you booked print time way ahead of time -- and if your book wasn't ready, you paid for the printing time anyway. So it was vital to get something to press on time. But Bill Everett was a favorite of Martin Goodman, stemming back to the '40s when he created the Sub-Mariner. Regardless, there was suddenly a hole in the schedule, with no book where a book should be. In trying to solve this problem, Stan hit on the notion of doing a strip that brought all of the heroes together JLA style -- that would be a book that wouldn't require any ramp-up time, because the characters (and even the villain) all existed already. So he and Jack Kirby brainstormed the first issue, Kirby drew it up hastily, Dick Ayers inked it in what looks like no time flat, and it came out the same month as X-MEN #1. (DAREDEVIL #1 followed around six months later -- with Steve Ditko pitching in to help finish it up, and with a different artist on it beginning with #2.)"
How about that? I've been reading Avengers for 51 years, and didn't know that until this month.
But even though it appears Avengers was thrown together at the last minute, I have to give it high marks for being a blisteringly paced action story that nevertheless worked in tons of exposition about the nascent Marvel Universe and a lot of personality bits.
* We see Rick Jones' loyalty to the Hulk.
* We see Wasp making flighty comments about everyone, from "dreamy" Thor to "hideous" Iron Man.
* We see Ant-Man being a tightass.
* We see Reed Richards being really smart.
* We see Thing be cranky, and Sue scold him.
* Loki could kill Blake any time, but wants to fight -- and beat -- Thor at full power.
Great fun! As to powers:
* Thor makes sure we know he can't fly, but instead follows Hulk " ... by hurling my mighty hammer and holding onto its unbreakable thong!"
* Thor using Mjolnir to gather magnetic currents is the New Hammer Power for this issue.
* We see Tony Stark lounging in his chestplate .. because he can't take it off. We also see that Iron Man can't battle if his "battery" is damaged. (Say, maybe this guy isn't really invincible!)
* We see Ant-Man's mode of travel, and a myriad use of ants. We did NOT see him at full size, which is odd, but I guess we'll more than make up for that next issue!
* No matter how hard Lee works at it, Ant-Man is fundamentally superfluous in this issue. His attacks are weak, and his strategies usually require tremendous coincidence to function, although they fail anyway. I'm guessing it was Lee struggling through this issue that made him re-think this whole Ant-Man business, resulting in Giant-Man (with the next issue).
* Iron Man may be strong, but he's really vulnerable. I mean, punch him in the chest and he goes down.
* In fact, none of them are a match for the Hulk, individually or together. That, like Ant-Man's uselessness, becomes apparent pretty early on, as all they're doing is slowing the Hulk down as he tries to run away. God help them if he turns to fight.
* It's conventional wisdom that Stan Lee thought the perfect number for a team was four, and this grouping of Avengers is pretty much four. Yes, there's The Wasp, but she's written as a flighty ornament -- at best, a distraction for the bad guy while the menfolk figure out a plan. This is really a four-man -- and I emphasize "man" -- team. This is before women's lib, after all, and is written by a guy who grew up in the '40s.
* We have never seen trolls like the ones here, or powers like the ones they exhibit here, and we never will again.
Now for some speculation.
Why these four guys? Well, for one thing, they were pretty much the bulk of the Marvel Universe in September, 1963. The X-Men came out the same month, so none of them were available, even if Stan was inclined to use one (which I doubt). Dr. Strange had debuted the month before, but in a throwaway five-pager in the back of Strange Tales -- not a world-beater yet. The presumed break-out star of the Fantastic Four already had a solo series, so the Human Torch (and the rest of his team) were out. Stan Lee has consistently said for 50 years that he was afraid to put Spider-Man in the Avengers, for fear it would ruin his cool "outsider" status -- and I believe him.
Outside of those characters, the only headliners left were Thor, Iron Man and Ant-Man.
So why the Hulk? Lee says in various books that it was to cause friction in the group, to put in a testy guy as a story launcher. That may be true. But I also think it was to give Hulk a regular spotlight after losing his book, because Lee had faith in him ... and because *I think* Lee was peeved that Martin Goodman had canceled Incredible Hulk to make room for a Two-Gun Kid revival. That last part is pure speculation on my part, but if I were Lee I'd have been peeved, and determined to make the Hulk a success. Your mileage may vary.
In summary, I give this book high marks because it is a great example of what was so cool about Marvel in the early '60s. Lots of action. Lots of personality. The story racing along so breathlessly that you don't have time to stop and notice the flaws. Plus, everybody not getting along. I mean, the bulk of the book is Hulk vs. the rest of the team! Can you imagine, for example, the Justice League forming because everyone ganged up on Martian Manhunter, while Superman fought solo with Lex Luthor on another planet? That sort of thing just wasn't done at Silver Age DC, but Lee & Kirby plowed through a dozen comic-book writer's "thou shalt nots" with this one issue, and it was great fun.
Then and now, Avengers #1 is a hoot!
Captain Comics said:
Re: Rick Jones
When Roy Thomas turned him into Billy Batson (switching places with Captain Marvel with the magic word sound effect "KTANG!") in 1969,
I NEVER realized that's what Roy Thomas was doing!
Rick Jones has always been an important character in Marvel Comics.
Richard Willis said:
Wasn't Rick playing a guitar the first time we saw him in Hulk #1?
He was lounging in his car, playing a harmonica.
I seem to remember Rick hawking a book of his adventures as the eternal sidekick. During the Peter David era, I think.
Fred W. Hill said:
Ya think it helped Rick's career to be able to truthfully say, "hey, I'm not only the reason Doc Banner became the Hulk, but I was the one who put out the call that brought the Avengers together for the first time, and if that hadn't happened Captain America might still be in a block of ice or drowned in the ocean!"
Richard Willis said:
Wasn't Rick playing a guitar the first time we saw him in Hulk #1?
Captain Comics said:
Re: Rick Jones
When Roy Thomas turned him into Billy Batson (switching places with Captain Marvel with the magic word sound effect "KTANG!") in 1969, he was making his living as a troubadour. Presumably he could have been playing cheap gigs even earlier than that -- given the decade and location (near California), it almost seems probable.
I mostly quit reading comics before David started his run but I've read enough positive comments about it that I'm interesting in checking at least part of it out. The idea of Rick hawking a book about his exploits as a side-kick is both obvious and great. I do recall the story, during Englehart's run on Capt. Marvel when Rick had been freed from his connection to Mar-Vell and was performing, while wearing a space suit, before a vast audience that responded by ... laughing at him, causing Rick to freak out and throw a temper tantrum on stage before storming off, causing the audience to respond with more laughter. Maybe Rick would have been better off as a comedian than a singer-songwriter.
Captain Comics said:
I seem to remember Rick hawking a book of his adventures as the eternal sidekick. During the Peter David era, I think.
...I had a friend from Dayton , OH , CC , which also ~ like Detroit , now ~ USED to have considerably more auto plants than they now have .
Didn't they have auto plants in '63 ?
Flint , I suppose , is in the same state as Michigan , but ~ Whatsamatta U ? The American auto industry didn't really start until those furriners put in south-of-the-Mason/Dixon Line plants in the eighties , so much a Southerner are you ?
Captain Comics said:
Philip Portelli said:
Besides the weird "origin" story in which there is NO teamwork whatsoever, there is no actual reason for them to form a team. The Hulk was used by Loki in a scheme against Thor and Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp attacked him (from his POV) for no reason. Why would he want to join them? What about his life as Banner? IIRC, he needed his gamma machine to change.
Thor flies away to have his personal "journey into mystery", leaving the clearly out-matched trio to battle the Hulk, despite the fact that he was there to battle the Hulk! After defeating Loki, there's no reason to bring him to Earth. In fact, it nearly backfires on them.
And we're supposed to believe that Ant-Man and the Wasp flew from New York to the Southwest then to Detroit by riding winged ants! And being there at the same time as the others! It would have been more realistic (and cuter) to see Don Blake Tony Stark, Henry Pym and Janet Van Dyne take the same plane and seeing if any of them knew each other.
Obviously the Avengers had a lot of issues that would be resolved in the coming months.
What John said.
To repeat, each of them had reason to form and join a team, which they expressed aloud. Unlike DC at the time, Lee's heroes weren't all square-jawed do-gooders who did good because it was good, but were instead recognizable personality types -- which means they require motivation to do the things they do. Lee provided that in the dialogue.
Both Iron Man and Ant-Man getting to the Southwest was addressed in-story. Iron Man mentions that he has to use his "solar battery" for much of the trip, which is slower but lasts longer. When he gets to the Southwest he turns on his jets and says "Ah! This is more like it!" Ant-Man and Wasp use flying ant relays, like the Pony Express, which is couched in cute dialogue between tightassed Hank and flighty Jan. The Wasp doesn't use her own wings until they get to the Southwest, because Hank wants her rested and ready to go. So why everybody getting there at the same time is implied.
You're right that there was no teamwork, which A) I found a wild contrast to DC's output in those days and B) is a plot point. In the next issue they end up battling each other again, and the Hulk quits. In the third issue, they battle Hulk (and Sub-Mariner) again. It's pretty clear that the Hulk being an antagonist is something Lee wanted to maintain. That's a feature, not a bug.
Thor running off to do his own "journey into mystery" -- well, why not? There was no Hulk when he left, just an illusion. And it was Loki's illusion, so he tackled the source of the problem -- Loki. Who is his responsibility. And he didn't take the others with him, because why would he? He didn't know any of them, and besides, they were mortals -- taking them to Asgard was a no-no in those days (which John will get to as he re-reads Thor). Plus, Loki would probably kill them all in the first three seconds. Why would he do that to them? If I were Thor, I would have done exactly what he did and never considered any other course of action.
And Thor returning Loki to Earth was the right thing to do, so he did it. It was on Earth that Loki got up to mischief, and returning him there made hostilities cease. He even got Odin's permission to do so. (Mentioned in-story.)
To Randy: Yes, this is long before Hulk visits Asgard, which was in his final issues of Tales to Astonish, about five years from when this issue came out. In Avengers #1, no mortals had yet visited Asgard that we had seen, nor had Thor met any of these people yet. I joked, but I found it rather surprising that Loki had even heard of the Hulk (whereas the circus people evidently hadn't).
Also Yeah, Iron Man is far from invincible in these early Avengers. And I'll add to your Superman comparison by noting the same thing happened to Green Lantern a lot in the '70s (he got knocked unconscious a lot, so that Green Arrow had something to do). I guess it's just the bane of group books, that the more powerful members have to be sidelined somehow. Me, I'd like to see that addressed in story by someone: What happens when Captain Invincible wins every battle on Page 2, leaving Superfluous Man and Couch Potato with nothing to do? There's your in-team friction right there, one that's almost never mentioned although in the real world it would come up immediately and consistently.
Thinking on this further, it occurs to me that the way it SHOULD work is that, say, Superman takes care of all major-league threats until magic or kryptonite comes into play -- then he calls in the Justice League. That would explain why Superman's always sidelined in Justice League stories, because there are no Justice League stories unless he is!
To Mark: Yeah, the Hulk is more like the Thing in this era. Cranky, but not stupid.
To John. My bad implying the fight moved to Detroit. It didn't. What I meant was that they fought in an auto plant, and there were no auto plants anywhere in America in 1963 except Detroit. So Lee & Kirby putting one in the Southwest in 1963 is pure fantasy. Much like a thunder god, I suppose.
"The Space Phantom!"
Written by Stan Lee
Drawn by Jack Kirby
Inked by Paul Reinman
Lettered by Art Simek
What They're Up To: Hank Pym gains growing powers and battles The Living Eraser in "The Birth of Giant-Man!" in Tales to Astonish #49. "Iron Man Battles the Melter!" for the first time in Tales of Suspense #47. Thor is "Challenged by the Human Cobra!" for the first time in Journey into Mystery #98.
Synopsis: The issue begins with Thor, Hulk and Iron Man awaiting the arrival of Ant-Man and Wasp for a meeting. As Iron later explains, "Even when there is no task before us, we still meet regularly to get to know each other better!" Talk about exposition for the reader! Also, foreshadowing.
Foreshadowing exists also as Thor and Hulk bicker, and almost come to blows. It's broken up when Ant-Man and Wasp arrive, and demonstrate their new pills that allow them to become human size. (He doesn't mention becoming Giant-Man yet, which occurrs in Tales to Astonish #49, with the same Nov 63 cover date.)
Outside, the Space Phantom arrives in a ship disguised as a meteor. His thought balloons reveal that he's been observing The Avengers for months, so he knows all their secrets, and if he can defeat them, Earth will be ripe for conquest by his people. He takes the shape of a passing earthman, who the Phantom explains will go to limbo and stay there until the Phantom takes another shape. He enters Stark's midtown Manhattan mansion, which the Avengers observe on their table, which doubles as a video monitor. The Hulk races off to attack the guy, but the others hang back -- allowing the Phantom to take Hulk's place unobserved. As "the Hulk" attacks the others, insults are exchanged. Then he escapes.
Running into Rick Jones, the latter implores him to accompany him back to his secret lab. The Space Phantom, not having the Hulk's memories, plays along but Rick is too sharp for that. He knows something's wrong, so the Phantom monologues his secret plan and pops the Hulk in and out of limbo to show his power, then hops off and steals a secret weapon created by Stark for the military while it's being tested. The military calls Stark, who "sends" Iron Man, and a fight commences.
Iron Man sends an electrical charge into the "Hulk," who is weakened and falls. (The Phantom isn't the Hulk, just a "facsimile" and isn't as strong.) Frightened, the Phantom turns into a wasp and flies away, releasing the Hulk. Iron Man somehow doesn't observe this, and continues the fight, now with the real Hulk.
Meanwhile, Rick Jones calls Giant-Man with his Teen Brigade ham radio set-up. (It is not explained how Jones knows about Giant-Man, and Giant-Man acts as if it's common knowledge: "He called Giant-Man and not Ant-Man, so it must be a top-priority emergency!") Giant-Man arrives and stops the Hulk/Iron Man tussle. But Wasp senses danger, and Iron Man backs her up -- he says Wasp "is hypersensitive to certain stimuli!" Thank God he didn't say "women's intuition." Anyway, the Phantom -- currently a Wasp -- attacks ... the Wasp. She realizes instantly it can't be a real wasp, because they wouldn't attack her. He whisks her off to Stark's munitions factory (so evidently all this takes place on Long Island).
The three Avengers give chase, with Iron Man on his roller skates! They separate to find the Phantom, and Giant-Man hits paydirt first -- only to be sent to limbo, as The Phantom takes his place. Both Wasp and a newly-arrived Hulk witness this, so the jig's up. Iron Man arrives, but before he can figure out what's going on, the Phantom replaces him! Hulk quickly explains to Iron Man that they must attack Giant-Man!
Meanwhile the Wasp has scooted off to Don Blake's office, because Thor told them he can contact the Thunder God. Blake sends Wasp into the waiting room so he can change to Thor, and off they go to the battle. "Iron Man" is keeping Hulk and Giant-Man spinning with "transistor-powered jet-stream discs" -- but the Wasp climbs inside the armor and bollixes up his connections. Thor tosses his hammer, but it is defected by a "magnetic repulsor" beam, which is a clumsy enough explanation that it makes me wonder if this is the first mention of Iron Man's repulsor rays (somebody check!). A pissed-off Thor summons a thunderstorm (in a pretty impressive display) and rusts Iron Man solid. So The Phantom tries to replace Thor and ... oops! Goes to limbo instead!
"Your power only affects humans!" explains Thor. "But I am the God of Thunder!"
All is not well, though. In a famous scene, the Hulk says "I never suspected how much each of you hates me, deep down! I could tell by the way you fought me ... by the remarks you made!
"Well, I don't need any of you!" he says, bounding away. "I'm still the Hulk! I'm still the strongest thing walkin' the Earth! And whatever I do from now on, I do alone!"
The others watch him bound off with concern. "Without the Avengers to keep him in check," says Iron Man, "what will he do next?"
This was an exciting issue that told you a lot about the Avengers, and raced along at a brakneck pace. But I have to take off points for redundancy -- just like the first issue, the Avengers spend most of the issue fighitng each other -- and some inconsistencies.
For example, the Avengers are surprised that Ant-Man and the Wasp can grow to human size, but Ant-Man's later appearance as Giant-Man goes unmentioned. In fact, the first time Iron Man sees Giant-Man, he calls him by name.
Also, the Space Phantom is so much like the Skrulls -- who fought the FF in their second issue -- that it really feels like old ground. At least the Avengers beat the Phantom with their powers, and not the nonsensical way the Fantastic Four beat the Skrulls! But worse, one has to wonder why the Phantom feels the need to beat the Avengers solo in order to set up the earth for his people to invade -- why don't they just invade? With their limbo powers, they would make short work of whatever defense the Earth tried to set up, like replacing all the Avengers! Had it been five Space Phantoms instead of one, the fight's over instantly.
Further, I'm a bit baffled by the Hulk business. Stan Lee defied common sense, conventional wisdom and every writer's rule to put the Hulk on the team, and then reversed himself in the next issue! Did he decide the team was too powerful? Did he find that he enjoyed writing Hulk vs. Avengers stories? Did he decide that green clashed with all those primary colors? The Hulk wouldn't get his own regular spot for another year, but was Stan already planning it -- and no longer needed to showcase him in Avengers? I don't know, but it's still odd, 50 years later.
BTW, Thor came off really well in this issue. His taking out Iron Man was a real "holy cow!" scene. No New Hammer Power this issue -- that was reserved for Iron Man, who got to show off a few different weapons, had numerous thought explanations of his status quo over in Tales of Suspense and actually stood up to the Hulk briefly. Rick provided plenty of exposition on the Hulk's business, while Ant-Man got a new power, was shown in his laboratory, we're shown that he and Wasp are in constant contact via helmet circuitry and we learn that wasps won't attack Wasp. If you left this issue without a good grasp of who the various members are and what they can do, you're not paying attention!
Points also to Rick Jones and Wasp, two "weak" characters, who are both seen to be sharp observers and quick thinkers. Rick is the only character who sees through he Phantom's Hulk impersonation, and while it's Thor who ultimately beats the Phantom, it was the Wasp how had the savvy to go get him.
Still, it almost seemed like this issue was just spinning in place, and it's only purpose was to get rid of the Hulk. Also, Paul Reinman's inking on issue #2 was noticeably inferior to Dick Ayers' in issue #1. As a lad, this was my least favorite issue of the original Avengers line-up.
Editor's Note: At this point, Avengers is bi-monthly, and this issue appears simultaneously with Journey into Mystery #98, currently on display on John's "Dunbar Re-Reads Thor" thread.
The Space Phantom was kind of a...well, he just didn't work so good as a villain. Whether it was a lack of charisma, the way he looked, I don't have a good answer, but much like the Terrible Tinkerer he just seemed out of place. I know he was brought back much later, but he still wasn't any more interesting.
Agreed. This just seemed kinda throwaway. Marvel wasn't very good at second issues in those days, was it?
But I will say this: Here's another issue that was demonstrably different from DC's output at the time. I just can't imagine the Justice League reacting to the Space Phantom's shenanigans in the same way -- they'd have known right away there was an imposter, since they were all square-jawed, interchangeable good guys. The Avengers, by contrast, already felt uneasy about each other, and especially the Hulk, so the reader was not at all surprised that Iron Man was almost eager to mix it up with the Hulk. And when the Hulk quit, it was only surprising because it broke convention -- there wasn't a kid in America who wondered why he did: Those kids (or at least those who read comics) knows what's it like to be unpopular!
Today there's not much difference between Marvel and DC, but back then -- boy!
I think the Hulk was a wrong fit for the team at that point and Stan realized it. You can't have the Hulk on the team without Ross and the army showing up and at that point I don't think the Avengers were ready to fight the army.
I got a reprint of this story in one of the Giant-Size issues, #2 I think, and the art in particular looked like a rush job to me, far more than even the first issue. Aside from the similarity with the Skrulls, there's also the line about how the Space Phantom had been watching the Avengers for months, giving the impression that the Avengers as a team had been around for some time rather than only having their first official meeting when S.P. made his attack (in the seriously compressed time of the modern M.U., wherein the events of issue #1 took place only six and a half years ago, they could only have teamed up a day or two before). In FF #2, Lee likewise gave the impression that the Fantastic Four had already proved themselves a formidable force any invading aliens had to contend with and the best way to do that was to besmirch their public image, which given their introductions to the public in issue #1 couldn't have been all that good to begin with, and aside from that famous symbolic cover, the public only had the say so of the FF themselves that they had saved humanity by challenging and beating the Mole Man and his monsters. J. Jonah Jameson might have waged a successful campaign to convince New Yorkers that the FF themselves were a meanace to humanity, as well as the Avengers for having a monster like the Hulk on their team, as well as a crazy guy claiming to be a god of all things!
I think at this point the real reason the Hulk was taken off the team so quickly will remain a mystery as I wouldn't trust Lee to honestly remember. But although this ending was again reminiscent of an early FF mag, #3 to be exact, Lee & Kirby would take the fallout of the Hulk's departure in a very different direction, although once again the stalwart member would run into Prince Namor, just as Johnny Storm did after leaving the FF in a huff. This is some crazy storytelling, but it strikes me that even with the plot duplications from previous mags, there was still a strong element of unpredictability in these early issues that made the Avengers remarkably different than their apparent counterpart team at DC and in my estimation more exciting. Once things settled down, by about issue 7, the Avengers became more like the staid Justice League, at least until Lee threw things seriously askew again with issue 16.
At the end of #1 the Hulk embraces membership in the team, so my guess is at that point Lee hadn't decided how things would play out. Possibly he was thinking that the Hulk's role in The Avengers would be like the Thing's in the early issues of Fantastic Four, where he was genuinely angry and dangerous and sometimes lashed out at the others.
As Fred notes, the Hulk's departure at the end of #2 repeated the end of Fantastic Four #3, where the Torch goes off angry and Reed worries he might turn against mankind. That possibility wasn't used, and it may be Lee thought "Why not do it here?"
The final blurb of Avengers #2 shows that when the issue was completed it was already planned that the Hulk would team up with Namor to fight the Avengers in the next issue. But the Hulk could have made up with the other Avengers after fighting them, so it need not be that Lee had yet decided the Hulk would leave the team permanently. The Hulk of #3 is clearly a time bomb, even before he teams up with Namor, but I don't know he comes across that way in #2.
The story in Avengers #3 was unusually long, and there are unused pages from the issue that seem to show it coming to a quicker conclusion: the Avengers capture Namor, and they see the Hulk leaping away.(1) Given Lee's and Kirby's way of working, that was presumably how the issue was planned to end for the Hulk when it was plotted.
In Avengers #1-#2 it was the Hulk who was the member who didn't have his own feature. From #4 that became Captain America. It may be Lee decided that he preferred the Hulk as an antagonist/outsider, and added Captain America to the team to replace him; or that he came up with the idea of adding Captain America, and decided he didn't need the Hulk any longer.
(1) I have the pages in the 1979 Jack Kirby Masterworks tabloid (Privateer Press). The later page doesn't look like it was intended to be the issue's last, so it may be in this version Namor still got away.