In December, Marvel is releasing the hardcover "Avengers: The Coming of the Beast" which reprints #137-140 and #145-146 (Jl-O'75) and (Ma-Ap'76). Those issues are vivid ones from my childhood so I will walk through them again with some comments. Of course, these are my feelings only and SPOILER ALERTS are up!
#137- I remember this cover demanding my 9 year old self to buy it! The dynamic image of the Beast about to leap off into me gave me no choice. It was the first of only a few times that I directly asked my father for money (a WHOLE quarter!!) to buy a comic. Strangely enough, I wasn't reading the current Avengers, only the reprints in "Marvel Triple Action". Well, any book you haven't read is a new book!
The Englehart/Tuska/Colletta team worked well and I lucked out because as Thor put it, "We do Seek out New Avengers!" With the departure of the Swordsman and Mantis and the honeymoon of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, the others are feeling lonely so they ask former members to rejoin with limited success. Only Yellowjacket and the Wasp say yes. Iron Man nominates Moondragon (on a purely hormonal level, it seems) and Hawkeye storms off to travel to the 12th century to ask the Black Knight if he wants to re-up. Well, if he wants to stay in the past, I'd say no.
So the Avengers use the under-reconstruction Yankee Stadium as a test site for new applicants, after filming a TV spot to advertise the opening. Apparently heroes don't watch much TV because only one shows up: our blue-furred ex-X-Man, the Beast, disguised as Edgar G. Robinson! His make-up skills were a product of his "Amazing Adventures" days!
Unfortunately, the Avengers are soon attacked by the Stranger who, it seems, does watch TV. Thor and Iron Man are quickly taken out by deadly hover-mines. The Wasp is seriously injured, forcing Moondragon to knock out a frenzied YJ. So the Beast, with leaps and bounds and animal instincts, reaches the off switch and saves the day though the Stranger escapes.
My thoughts: Not only was this my first encounter with the Beast, but with Yellowjacket (my favorite Hank Pym identity) as well. I learned that the Hulk was a founding Avenger and that there was another team called the X-Men. Also Hawkeye hadn't mellowed from the "Marvel Triple Action" stories.
We got to see the Scarlet Witch in a bikini and the Vision in a bathing suit, which may have been the first time he wore anything else but his costume! Still why do you need more members if Vis and Wanda are only on their honeymoon? Indeed, they're back by #140.
The Stranger was an impressive villain though we soon find out things aren't always what they seem!
More to follow!
The main problem of the Avengers before George Perez arrived was the fact that, for the most part, the artwork was not striking. It was competent, moody and told the story but it wasn't Marvel's A-list talent. This was evident as the team expanded and there were a multitude of guest stars.
However, Englehart's epic withstood that and even benefitted by it. We focused on the words and got his subtext. He was crafting a (dare I say it?) Morrisonian tale of continuity and continuation. Using the past to create the future. And he did it without side minis, new #1's or negating any previous story!
Nicely put, Philip. It sounds like a great run, and Engelhart is a fine writer who had a lot of ambition for his stories. I really should prioritise my Essential reading again.
And then I'll be able to comment better on your 'coming of the Beast' piece above!
Since Jeff popped this thread back up, it struck me that I never continued it! So here we go:
Avengers #139 (S'75): "Prescription: Violence!" by Steve Engelhart, George Tuska and Vince Colletta.
The story opens in the comatose Wasp's hospital room where a frenzied Yellowjacket demands that the captured Toad heals his wife. The Toad has no ability or knowledge to do so and YJ is about to go berserk. He is mad at the Toad and the Avengers, for "luring" Jan out of her retirement. In the abruptness that only comics can present, they are attacked at that moment by longtime Pym foe, Whirlwind. He's after the Wasp and evades the Avengers until Moondragon drives him away. Yellowjacket is outraged at how chaotic his life has gotten since rejoining the team. He also is in extreme pain since shrinking last issue. He storms off and the others realize that Hawkeye (who journeyed back in time to find the Black Knight) has not returned so Iron Man goes to track him down, taking Moondragon with him, much to Thor's chagrin.
Yellowjacket then encounters his ex-chauffeur, Charles, unaware that he is really Whirlwind. "Charles" attempts to kidnap the Wasp again but is deterred by Thor and the Beast's prescense. Meanwhile Iron Man attempts to woo Moondragon but is deterred by her lack of interest! Somewhere else, a woman vows to confront the Beast!
At his mansion, Yellowjacket is attacked by Whirlwind who flees at the sight of his neural disruptor gun (a very cool weapon) and that gets him thinking. A rejected Iron Man and Moondragon discover the Hawkeye is missing in time! Also the Vision and the Scarlet Witch decide to cut their honeymoon short, not that Wanda is thrilled but the Vision wants to shop for new swim trunks!
Yellowjacket confronts "Charles", saying that Whirlwind fled from a weapon he had not seen but that Charles had. Realizing that the jig is (finally) up, the Spinning Scoundrel mocks him, only to see him grow to twenty feet. Driven by rage, Pym learns that he cannot make contact with his faster foe so he shrinks to Ant-Man size and latches on to Whirlwind's chest hair! The Terrible Tornado tries to blow him off but YJ has one advantage that Ant-Man lacked: electro-stingers! He is about to defeat him when the pain he has been enduring overwhelms him. As he is about to be squashed by Whirlwind's boot, the Beast arrives to smack the Helmeted Hurricane upside his head, saving YJ and quoting the Superman comic strip. Henry McCoy is, of course, well-read. And Yellowjacket wonders how long until the pain strikes again. Not long, I'm afraid.
Personal notes: I thought Whirlwind was pretty impressive. He held his own against Thor and Iron Man, in close quarters, no less. We also got a Marvel history lesson, a flashback with Giant-Man and that Whirlwind was originally called the Human Top. Well, it's better than Paste-Pot Pete!
After last issue's Toad being after the Scarlet Witch, now we have Whirlwind after the Wasp! These guys need to try speed-dating or something! Or someone should sell super-heroine photos to super-convicts!
Yellowjacket is a man falling apart in front of us, griefstricken over Jan's injuries, wracked with pain and losing control of his life. He is mocked by his foe and feels let down by his team. The seeds are there for his next breakdown.
Line of the Issue: an angry Iron Man to a haughty Moondragon:
"Follow my chest-light, Priestess. Unless it's too suggestive for you!"
There is the mystery of Hawkeye's disappearance and the appearance of a mystery woman. Both will lead to amazing destinations!
And again, Bigger things to follow!
I'd really like to see a further update of ol' YJ's incredible pain from shrinking and growing... Was this ever resolved?
I'm quite certain that I've never read these issues... and so, would like to see the summaries continue.
Did that TPB "Coming of the Beast" ever come out? And what makes it conclude?
Jeff of Earth-J wrote:
"You know what struck me about the storytelling in this collection? Although the story in #137-140 was entirely self-contained, it drew in elements of Hank and Jan's life from the short-lived Ant-Man solo in Marvel Feature, the Beast's life from Amazing Adventures, the Toad's life from previous appearances, and of course it followed up on events from previous issues. It did so in ways much more sublte than today's comics (IMHO). Today, more often than not I think, if you miss the crossovers or lead-ins you feel as if you missed something; these stories tell you all you want to know, make you want to seek out those earlier stories, and provide footnotes to make it easier."
That's STEVE ENGLEHART, for you!
Some fans may disagree with me, but when I finally got around to reading Roy Thomas' entire run of AVENGERS in the ESSENTIAL books, I thought his plotting and dialogue were TERRIBLE at first, then, improved dramatically by the time Buscema & klein were doing the art. But by the end of his run, the dialogue had become INTERMINABLE again. It was awful, painful to read. When Steve Englehart took over, at first, his plots were so-so, BUT, from the word GO, his dialogue was MUCH better than Roy's. Nothing painful to read at all, the guy hit the ground running. DAMN he was good.
Regarding The Beast series, I wish Steve had been in on it from the start. Gerry Conway's single episode was bordering on painful to read, both for plot and dialogue. When Steve took over (from only the 2nd episode), it became FUN, despite the "horror" slant the series was supposed to have.
When Jim Shooter became EIC, one of the things he FORCED down every writer's throat was making them explain in every single issue who every single character was, including important elements of their backgrounds, origins, etc. Some writers managed to deal with this alright; others, only in very awkward, ham-fisted ways. I always recall MICRONAUTS got very tedious at times when Bill Mantlo had to keep describing in dialogue or narration every single character in every single issue. Growing up, I would often watch a TV series for months before I got to really know a lot about some characters. But if the characters were written well in specific scenes for specific stories, you never worried about it. In real life, you don't know people right away. Having to make writers tell readers everything there is to know about characters, in every single issue, becomes immensely tedious and repetitive. Gets to the point, you wanna start "skimming" issues just to get to the actual PLOTS.
That's exactly what it reminded me of, Claremont. I got very annoyed with his writing for the exact same reason, but then, he had his own quirks that were in their own way even more annoying the longer time went on. (I actually gave up completely on X-MEN while J.R. Jr. and Dan Green were on the book. I just couldn't take it anymore. Claremont kept finding new depths of character misery and plot confusion, and then the art wasn't even pretty anymore.)
I was reading these stories as they came out. My comics "budget" (such as it was) while still in high school was kinda low, so a lot of these, I managed to keep up with by haunting 2nd-hand stores and buying copies with half or no covers for half price. No kidding!
Yellowjacket, of course, came out of retirement in GIANT-SIZE DEFENDERS #4, by Steve Gerber, Don Heck & Vince Colletta. It was a follow-up to continuity from the MARVEL FEATURE run, with Egghead & his niece, which had a tragic outcome. Hank got, as he had in the old days under Kirby, VERY angry & outraged. It's lucky he didn't kill Egghead in that story. The bastard would have deserved it.
I'd say the big difference between Hank Pym & Clint Barton was, Hank would get very emotional and angry for good reasons, while Clint tended to just be an argumentative loudmouth who never seemed to think first. Hank letting anger almost get in the way goes all the way back at least to his earliest days as Giant-Man, when he spent half his time tryng to figure out how to be effective AT ALL at giant size. Presumably the only reason he decided to become giant-size at all was the growing feeling that being "ant"-size wasn't very effective... either that, or people were making of of him.
THE DEFENDERS was a fun book at times, as not only did you have a "team" (or sorts) of mostly outcasts or loners, but it quickly became another "TEAM-UP" book, as other heroes turned up in almost every storyline. I don't recall Yellowjacket's later issues, but I know he showed up for another DEFENDERS storylie (Sons of the Serpent?) before showing up in Englehart's AVENGERS.
Englehart's 1st BEAST story from AMAZING ADVENTURES was reprinted in AVENGERS #136, albeit with the last page missing, and some REALLY AWFUL line reproduction. When I compared it to the original printing (I got the entire BEAST run some years later, cheap), I couldn't believe how bad the reprint was. Fuzzy and with a pile of lines completely missing. Looked like 3rd or 4th-generation stats were used. I've heard complaints about Englehart apparently having deadline problems on AVENGERS, so I guess it made sense to use a reprint to give himself some breathing space, and bring fans up to date. I'd seen the "IRON MAN: D.O.A." cover as a full-page ad, but had never read the story until the reprint.
On re-reading the stories in chronological sequence a couple years back, I was blown away by how much BETTER Steve Englehart's writing on THE BEAST was, right from his very 1st episode, compared to Gerry Conway. I don't know how much of the entire series set-up was Conway's work, or Roy Thomas'. (Roy seemed to be the one setting up series which he'd then dump in other writers' laps-- writers who often did not seem to really care about the characters or the series, as it wasn't their characters, and the series wasn't their ideas!!) Anyway, that particular episode, looking at the original printing, Tom Sutton's wonderful art is almost completely BURIED under the inks of Mike Ploog. Something almost totally lost in that awful reprint was, you look at Ploog's inks, and you'd SWEAR Will Eisner did the art. How the hell does someone do that-- be "inspired" by another artist's style to the point where they imitate his work so completely it's like they don't even have a style of their own? Of course, with Ploog, this only happend when he did his own inks. On this BEAST story, there was so much "Ploog" (or "Eisner", take yer pick), you hads to really squint in order to make out any "Sutton" in there at all, and he's the guy who laid out the pages and drew the art.
I particularly was blown away by the sequence at the end, when Hank goes TOTALLY BERZERK attacking Iron Man, and, in some completely over-the-top dialogue (and visuals), loudly anounces, "TONIGHT-- THE BEAST-- KILLS!!!" And Iron Man winds up BEGGING him to stop! He refuses-- "NOOOOOOOO!!!" And next thing, Iron Man is-- DEAD!!! At which point, The Beast panics, rants that, NO, he never MEANT for this to happen-- and leaps off in sheer panic!
But of course, anyone who read the original comic (which contained a page missing in the reprint) would know that, that wasn't EXACTLY what REALLY happened...! : )
It seems strange for me to think back and remember that, at the time, I ever found the art team of Sal Buscema (layouts) and Joe Staton (finishes) appropriate for a Marvel superhero book. And yet, they worked together on both THE AVENGERS and THE INCREDIBLE HULK. I guess I could put up with it in AVENGERS. Steve Englehart was one of the few writers back then whose work was great, no matter who was doing the art. (By comparison, I barely tolerated Len Wein's writing at times-- when Sal & Joe got on HULK, I stopped buying. I was barely tolerating HULK as it was, before that.)
But when perennial fill-in guys George Tuska AND Vince Colletta got on AVENGERS... I wasn't sure if it was just business as usual, or if I should be horrified. I've seen good and bad stuff from both artists, together or separate. Again, Englehart made the difference in this case. I haven't re-read these issues yet... but not long ago, I did flip thru a couple of them, and just glancing at the Tuska-Coletta art made me wince painfully. It seemed MUCH WORSE than I remembered. I think Englehart really DID make their work seem more tolerable. You'd get into what he was doing, and before long, you'd be so involved in the story and the characters, you'd forget what it looked like so much.
My favorite bits of "Presciption: Violence!" was Hank Pym repeatedly flipping out, and Hank McCoy repeatedly joking about it-- "The super-biz is LIKE that, though!"
Crazy enough, this story was my introduction to Whirlwind, and the entire long-long-overdue resolution to a REALLY STUPID sub-plot introduced by Roy Thomas way back during HIS run on the book, in which Jan, on inheriting her father's fortune, was STUPID enough to hire a new chauffer without checking his references-- or government security clearance. I mean-- she's an AVENGER, for God's sake! Read any Jack Kirby story in ASTONISH-- Jan is NOT stupid!!! But Roy MADE her so. GRRRRRRRR.
I also love the climax, when Yellowjacket grows to giant-size, and SMASHES the edge of a brick building with his fist, trying to SMASH Whirlwind, while yelling at the top of his lungs in anger, "YOU OWE ME, MISTER!!!" I realize, looking back, just how long this stupid situation had been allowed to go on, and how frustrating it must have been, especially with Jan laying injured and unconscious in a hospital bed. The first Human Top story, a two-parter, he was already perhaps the most challenging-- and aggravating-- baddie Hank Pym had ever gone up against. The guy really had it coming to him for a LONG time.
Of course, then I think of the first time I ever saw the character, in FF ANNUAL #3, where Quicksilver took him out in ONE panel! Heeheehee.