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:

AVENGERS #1 (Sep 63)

"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.

On personality:

* 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!

Other observations:

* 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!

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Bob Layton did a much better job of capturing Hercules' personality, at least in keeping with Lee & Kirby's take, to a far greater extent than Roy Thomas did.  Roy's version struck me as an entirely different character, just with the same name and costume.

He needs the beard. Just doesn't work without it.

AVENGERS 21 (OCT 65)

"The Bitter Taste of Defeat!"

Written with the usual Stan Lee madness!
Drawn with the usual Don Heck magnificence!
Inked with the usual Wally Wood magic!
Lettered with the usual Artie Simek mistakes!

Cover by Jack Kirby and Wally Wood

WHAT THEY'RE UP TO
Thor fights the Absorbing Man in the streets of New York City, while Jane Foster is being held prisoner by an unknown hooded man in Journey Into Mystery #121.

Iron Man battles the Titanium Man, and Happy Hogan gets caught in the crossfire, and during WW II, Cedric Rawlings' sister Celia pays the ultimate price as his collaboration with the Nazis targets Captain America and Bucky, in Tales of Suspense #70.

The Hulk agrees to serving the Leader, and fights not to change back to Bruce Banner as the bullet in his brain would kill him if he does, in Tales to Astonish #72.

Giant-Man and the Wasp do not make any appearances this month.

SYNOPSIS
Hawkeye is attempting to replace a faulty fuse, which causes an argument between him and Captain America.  Cap states the equipment all belongs to Tony Stark and they are not supposed to touch any of it.  They almost come to blows but it is broken up by Quicksilver.  Soon Wanda is bickering with Hawkeye and he insults Pietro, and gets a hex bolt for his troubles.  Cap gently chides Wanda for this and Pietro seems highly offended by it.  Wanda tells her brother it is all right and Cap suggests they turn in for the night, as they are all too edgy.

In a South American jungle, one of Baron Zemo's henchman is still holed up in his old fortress.  He stayed behind because he was an internationally wanted man, but now is he is almost out of ammunition and has an injured leg.  He manages to unearth the laboratory where Zemo, along with the Enchantress and the Executioner, created Wonder Man.  He wants to duplicate this on himself but lacks the scientific knowledge.  However, he is being observed by the Enchantress, who appears before him.  She offers to recreate the process for him and it is a success, curing  his injuries.  She gives him a costume, and dubs him Power Man.  She tells him she has a plan to destroy the Avengers.

Sometime later, the Avengers get an urgent call from the Teen Brigade about a monster loose in the city.  Cap senses there is something odd about the situation but he and the others realize too late the monster is an illusion; all the police and the public see is the Avengers destroying public property.  The whole scene is observed by a gloating Enchantress (who created the illusion) and Power Man.

The next day, Pietro intercepts a radio call that says someone is tampering with subway tracks and trying to blame the Avengers for it.  Cap sends him ahead to investigate, and he is attacked from behind by Power Man and knocked unconscious.  The villains hide and wait for the other Avengers to arrive.  When they do, they see Pietro lying across the tracks with a train bearing down on him.  They realize it's an empty runaway train and Hawkeye stops it with a blast arrow.  However, the Avengers are in trouble again, blamed for causing damage to the tracks and train.  The Enchantress is enjoying seeing the Avengers squirm but Power Man is getting impatient.  Meanwhile, back at Avengers Mansion, nerves are frayed and the team continues to quarrel with each other.

A day later, Power Man attacks a car with a boulder, and attacks two men dressed as guards that were inside.  He grabs papers they had in a briefcase, as Cap arrives on the scene in a helicopter.  He doesn't know it, but he was mentally drawn there by the Enchantress.  Cap attacks him and they have a brief battle, with Cap holding his own despite the Enchantress using spells to give Power Man an advantage.  Power Man knocks Cap out and then several men arrive and declare Power Man a hero.  The men dressed as guards were thieves, and Power Man stopped them from stealing vital papers.  Everyone is confused why Cap attacked Power Man.

Later on, Hawkeye reads about what happened in the paper and needles Cap about looking like a chump, but Cap points out they now know who their enemy is.  A short time later, the Enchantress and Power Man see Hawkeye approaching the rented mansion they are staying in.  He kicks the door in but it is dark inside.  He's jumped by Power Man, who grabs his quiver and crushes all of his arrows except for one Hawkeye was already holding.  Meanwhile, Wanda and Pietro are leaving a Broadway show when each makes an excuse to leave the other.  However, they both have the same plan in mind, to investigate Power Man.  Meanwhile, Power Man attacks Hawkeye and quickly defeats him, just before Pietro arrives.  He gives Power Man a bit more of a fight but is soon beaten as well.  Just then, Wanda approaches the mansion where the villains are, but is stopped by the police.  Power Man has the three of them arrested for trespassing, and the Enchantress gloats as they are lead away in handcuffs.  Hours later, City Council declares the Avengers a public menace and issues a court order forcing them to disband!

COMMENTARY
The great thing about this story is that the squabbling and bickering between the Avengers, which plays a major part in the Enchantress' scheme succeeding, feels organic and not at all forced.  They have been like this almost since page one of issue #17, with Hawkeye and Pietro both feeling they would be better suited to be team leader than Cap.  Hawkeye is disrespectful to Cap's face and constantly spoiling for a fight; Pietro smiles like a politician, knowing (?) Wanda would support whatever he does.  They both undermine Cap in their own way.  Pietro's blind spot is Wanda, seen best here in the opening segment where he is supremely overprotective of her when there really is no need of it.  And everyone, even Cap, has a poor control over their tempers.

The Enchantress is a great villain here, scheming behind the scenes and enjoying making the Avengers look like fools.  She wisely stays out of sight so that the team thinks it is only Power Man they have to contend with.  Between her Asgardian powers and his super-strength, the team might have been in a lot of trouble if the two villains confronted them head on.  But she is savoring her revenge, even if it makes her cohort antsy.  This is her victory.  It helps considerably that she lays a trap for the team, and they rather stupidly walk into it one at a time.  No teamwork results in defeat and humiliation.

It was a good call to only copy Wonder Man's origin here and not go back to the well of infiltrating the team.  Not only would that have made this a copy of #9, but we just saw that tried in the last story with the Swordsman.  It's good to draw on history here but not repeat it.

I mentioned the squabbling already, and it's nice to see it had a point, not just there to copy the FF's dynamic.  I think it was also used as a contrast to how everyone was best pals in the JLA.  As we like to say around here, your mileage may vary on how much you like or dislike that sort of thing.

Wally Wood is credited as the inker for the story but beyond the opening pages, it doesn't look like his work.  It's a shame, he and Heck were a great combination.  Some panels look like pure Heck to me and others look like someone else other than Wood supplied the inks.  I'm no expert, but maybe Wally took his time on the first few pages and had to be quicker (iow, a lighter pen) on the rest and / or had an assistant or two pitch in.  I think the entire book looks good, but I wish the latter half of the story looked more like the first half.

It feels very strange that "City Council" can disband the Avengers.  Hasn't it already been established that the team is under the domain of the federal government?  And in any event, I don't think city councils can issue court orders, only courts can issue court orders.  That's just a minor nitpick, though.  We have a good cliffhanger here - how can the Avengers recover from this?  Well, next time ...

NEXT:  THE ROAD BACK!

Growing up on Marvel Triple Action, I always saw Power Man as a major Avengers villain, especially with his connection to Zemo. His strength was enough to convince the public that he could easily replace all four Avengers!

But this was the beginning of the trope of not letting Wonder Man fade from memory!

This Power Man was one of those villains that was impressive in his first outing, and was less so in subsequent appearances.  He was usually part of a group, a lackey, or both.  Considering his power level being akin to Wonder Man, this is downright baffling.

Later he became an evil Goliath, and eventually Atlas of the Thunderbolts, although in my opinion the Atlas version of Erik Josten bears little resemblance to the Power Man / Smuggler / Goliath version of Erik Josten that we first see here.

This is one of my favorite covers from the Kooky Quartet era. I always thought Power Man’s costume was a great combination of colors.

John Dunbar said:

The Enchantress is a great villain here, scheming behind the scenes and enjoying making the Avengers look like fools.  She wisely stays out of sight so that the team thinks it is only Power Man they have to contend with. 

I like the sneakiness. It’s a lot smarter than showing her cards with an attack in the open.

It was a good call to only copy Wonder Man's origin here and not go back to the well of infiltrating the team.  Not only would that have made this a copy of #9, but we just saw that tried in the last story with the Swordsman.  It's good to draw on history here but not repeat it.

It was clever to harken back to Zemo’s end and to use one of his mercenaries

Wally Wood is credited as the inker for the story but beyond the opening pages, it doesn't look like his work. 

Also not being an expert, I’ve noted on other stories that when Wood inked somebody he tended to overwhelm the other artist’s pencils. When I saw him ink Ditko it was very interesting. You could still see Ditko’s layout and faces but mostly you saw Wood. If he did ink the whole thing, I’m impressed that he blended with Heck rather than overwhelming him.

It feels very strange that "City Council" can disband the Avengers.  Hasn't it already been established that the team is under the domain of the federal government?  And in any event, I don't think city councils can issue court orders, only courts can issue court orders. 

I’m not sure if they established Federal control this early. The script should have said that the council would have asked a judge to intervene. Also, I think the most that would have happened would be some type of temporary restraint, not disbanding the group.

This Power Man was one of those villains that was impressive in his first outing, and was less so in subsequent appearances.  He was usually part of a group, a lackey, or both.  Considering his power level being akin to Wonder Man, this is downright baffling.

Not unlike the Iron Man villains the Melter and the Icicle, it seems that a lack of imagination (as in the writers being stretched too thin) was the reason he was not used to his potential.

Totally agree.

I loved the early Thunderbolts stuff but trying to reconcile Atlas with his history as Power Man /evil Goliath would throw me out of the story whenever it came up.

John Dunbar said:

This Power Man was one of those villains that was impressive in his first outing, and was less so in subsequent appearances.  He was usually part of a group, a lackey, or both.  Considering his power level being akin to Wonder Man, this is downright baffling.

Later he became an evil Goliath, and eventually Atlas of the Thunderbolts, although in my opinion the Atlas version of Erik Josten bears little resemblance to the Power Man / Smuggler / Goliath version of Erik Josten that we first see here.


Richard Willis said:

This is one of my favorite covers from the Kooky Quartet era. I always thought Power Man’s costume was a great combination of colors.

I agree.  I think the lack of bright colors is a good choice for a villain.

Wally Wood is credited as the inker for the story but beyond the opening pages, it doesn't look like his work. 

Also not being an expert, I’ve noted on other stories that when Wood inked somebody he tended to overwhelm the other artist’s pencils. When I saw him ink Ditko it was very interesting. You could still see Ditko’s layout and faces but mostly you saw Wood. If he did ink the whole thing, I’m impressed that he blended with Heck rather than overwhelming him.

That reminds me of some of the early FF issues where Ditko does a bit of inking, presumably one of many pitching in to ink Kirby, something likely needed due to a deadline crunch.  FF #3 is a good example.  The whole book is not Kirby / Ditko by any means, Ditko is evident on the last few pages.  Jarring to see panels that look like classic Kirby and then something that looks like 100% Steve Ditko in the pages of FF.

It feels very strange that "City Council" can disband the Avengers.  Hasn't it already been established that the team is under the domain of the federal government?  And in any event, I don't think city councils can issue court orders, only courts can issue court orders. 

I’m not sure if they established Federal control this early. The script should have said that the council would have asked a judge to intervene. Also, I think the most that would have happened would be some type of temporary restraint, not disbanding the group.

This book is cover dated Oct 1965.  In Tales to Astonish #64 (Feb 1965) Bruce Banner is in jail on suspicion of being a spy and saboteur.  Rick Jones goes to see President L.B.J. about it and gets to see him without an appointment (and skip the queue over "four ambassadors and six congressmen") by flashing "A Top Priority Avengers I.D. Card" .  Also, in Avengers #16 (June 1965), Iron Man says "Hawkeye has successfully passed our rigorous series of qualifications tests, and has been thoroughly investigated and approved by the federal security agency at our request."  Not rigidly spelled out, I'll admit, but I had these two things in the back of my mind when I said under federal domain.  Seems to me there's something there that I don't think NY City Council could supersede.

This Power Man was one of those villains that was impressive in his first outing, and was less so in subsequent appearances.  He was usually part of a group, a lackey, or both.  Considering his power level being akin to Wonder Man, this is downright baffling.

Not unlike the Iron Man villains the Melter and the Icicle, it seems that a lack of imagination (as in the writers being stretched too thin) was the reason he was not used to his potential.

He's formidable in this story, but will not be again until he becomes Goliath in the 1980s.  After this he's part of a group on four occasions and not memorable in any of them.  In the 1970s, he confronts Luke Cage over the Power Man name and loses.  A few years later, Count Nefaria uses him as a pawn and siphons his power.  Having a fraction of the super-strength he had in his debut, he changes his name to the Smuggler.  He gets beaten by Spider-Man, who later has to save his life from a Maggia hit.   Pretty much rock bottom, although the Goliath identity was a good recovery.

As originally envisioned by Kirby & Simon in 1940 over a year prior to the Pearl Harbor, Steve Rogers tried to join the army because although the U.S. wasn't yet a direct combative in the war he figured it was just a matter of time and he so despised the Nazis for their utter loathsomeness that he was eager and anxious to join the fight against them.  That works for me far more than having Rogers trying to join up only after Pearl Harbor, particularly given that famous cover showing Cap punching Hitler in the face.  Even before he was transformed into a "Super Soldier", Rogers hated tyranny and wanted to do his part to oppose it, to avenge obvious wrongs done to anyone, anywhere rather than simply out for revenge for wrongs done to him personally or to his nation or its possessions. Certainly not all Americans felt that way, not in 1940 or at any time before or since, but that Steve Rogers felt that way over a year before any of the Axis Powers had attacked the U.S. and was compelled to put his feelings into action, even undergoing a potentially dangerous experiment, shows he had a heroic outlook long before he had the strength, costume or shield.

I think in that aspect Lee erred in his script to make it out that Rogers only felt compelled to join in the wake of the Japanese attack.  It does seem reasonable that he would have been at least 21 when he joined, although if his father had been "killed in action," presumably in World War I, given that that war had ended a little over 22 years before December 1940, Rogers would have to have been about 22 at the youngest even if he had been born after his father's death.  And that leaves unanswered whatever happened to his mother.  Of course, there have been several versions of Steve Rogers life prior to his attempt to enlist and I'm not sure which is cannon anymore.  I do recall that Steve Gerber's version from about 1978 was entirely retconned away not too long afterwards.


Luke Blanchard said:

Steve Rogers became Captain America in 1941, presumably at 18 (as soon as he could legally sign up).

The first issue of Captain America Comics was cover-dated for Mar. 1941, and went on sale Dec. 1940 (according to DC Indexes). But checking the first story I find it starts with the dateline "U.S.A.---1941", and there follows a sabotage sequence the leads into the origin sequence. So arguably it was set in the future!

The doctor calls Rogers "this young man". I figure he can't be over 30. He's more likely to be 21 than 29, but are there grounds for pushing his age lower?

In the version of the origin in Captain America #109 Rogers says he's volunteering because "they" wouldn't draft him, so he was old enough to be drafted. He also refers to "the enemy", so one might take it that this version is set after Pearl Harbor. If we don't read that in (and we perhaps should: when Bucky is introduced it's said he was orphaned when his dad was killed in action) the relevant age threshold is the one under the 1940 act, which was twenty-one.

Even in this initial outing, Power Man was a stooge for the Enchantress, not really having any personal reasons to take on the Avengers.  He had been, ahem, enchanted by Amora's charms.  And next he showed up as a stooge for the Black Widow, and took to hanging out with the Swordsman even a few years before they joined up with the Lethal Legion as stooges for the Grim Reaper.  This 1st Power Man and the Swordsman had strong introductory stories but neither had the power, smarts or charisma to join the ranks of the top tier villains.  Regardless, this era of the Avengers was a lot more compelling than that of a mere 10 issues prior.  Strikes me that in crafting stories involving these newbie heroes and their elder statesman leader, Stan was more inspired and likely felt a greater freedom in how he could portray this set of Avengers in which even Captain America felt compelled to have to prove himself over and over again to his new teammates who weren't as awestruck by his reputation and bearing as his previous teammates were, even if Wanda clearly had a massive crush on him (I don't recall any scene of Janet pining over Cap, as most of her mooning was over Thor but clearly in a much less serious manner than Wanda's thoughts for Cap were in this period).  Even so, even Wanda occasionally openly disagreed with Cap and it seemed plausible the team might fall apart due to internal frictions, as evidenced more clearly in the very next issue.

John Dunbar said:

This Power Man was one of those villains that was impressive in his first outing, and was less so in subsequent appearances.  He was usually part of a group, a lackey, or both.  Considering his power level being akin to Wonder Man, this is downright baffling.

Later he became an evil Goliath, and eventually Atlas of the Thunderbolts, although in my opinion the Atlas version of Erik Josten bears little resemblance to the Power Man / Smuggler / Goliath version of Erik Josten that we first see here.

Fred, by "impressive" I meant he acquitted himself well in this story, fighting individual Avengers to a standstill or even defeating them.  You're correct that he was Amora's stooge here but he sure didn't see himself that way and imagined there was a mutual attraction between them.  In future appearances he is lost in the crowd and easily defeated compared to the power levels he shows here.

Very true, John.  The only time he showed up again as the prime villain was in Luke Cage's mag to contest the right to the name Power Man, which Erik thoroughly lost.  In this story, he doesn't seem so much thoroughly evil as too willing to try to please Amora, in much the same way Skurge was.  In later stories, not only did he appear to lose much of his former strength but he also lost what little personality came through in this tale so he seemed much more of a mindless flunky, taking part in the revenge schemes of whoever paid him.The same was true of the Swordsman, but the latter was distinguished by his genuine effort to redeem himself and his tragic demise.  By the close of the Bronze Age at least, there were no stories that made the former Power Man particularly distinguished as a villain apart from this debut.

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