I’ve really been in the mood to read some new Avengers comics recently. Unfortunately, new Avengers comics don’t appeal to me and haven’t for some time. When John Buscema took over from Al Milgrom drawing Roger Stern’s Avengers back in the ‘80s, I was disappointed that Milgrom was moved over to the new West Coast Avengers title, and despite the fact that it was written by Stainless Steve Englehart and inked by Joe Sinnott, , I dropped it a few issues in and didn’t begin reading it regularly until John Byrne took over. Luckily (for me), Marvel has been reprinting the Englehart/Milgrom/Sinnott run in a series of “Premiere Classics” hardcovers: volume #64 reprints issue #1-9, #80 reprints issues #10-16, #86 reprints #17-24, and #96 (which shipped just yesterday) reprints #25-30.

Reading these comics (many for the first time) makes me wonder what my problem was.

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So, as a kid I LOVED the "pair off and fight" issues, so I didn't often question the motives of the characters. Plus, I was a bigger Whackos fan, so I loved that Clint beat Shulkie! And, to my mind, the fact that Bucky and Osborn were in the Legion of the Dead helps me ignore the Winter Soldier and Green Goblin storylines of recent memory!

And I love stories where a fairly ordinary character saves the Universe. There was an issue of Avengers where Spidey was tagging along (not yet a member) and he saved the whole universe (with an assist from Sersi), but he did so with brute strength and technology. Clint Barton, regular old Hawkeye, did so with cunning, charm and a little sleight of hand.

For the record, Tony Stark accidentally destroys 1/5 of the universe in the issue, if I remember correctly. But, of course, the best twist was that the game was fixed, and each Avenger that died during the mission was recruited to play on the Legion of the Dead's team in the next round. That left Hawkeye and Captain America as the only living members, against impossible odds. So Clint falls back on his carny background and preys on the Grandmaster's obsession with games. He gives him a 50/50 chance to win or lose in a "pick which hand the arrowhead is in" game. Of course, the Grandmaster can't help but accept, and HE PICKS THE EMPTY HAND! The universe is saved! Cap, of course, thinks it's blind luck, but Clint, equal parts sneaky and wise, actually pocketed the arrowhead in a deft move, fixing the game.

So thanks, Clint Barton, for saving the WHOLE DARN UNIVERSE!

I wasn’t sure if your favorite Hawkeye moment was going to be from the one annual (where he beats the She-Hulk) or the other (where he saves the Earth through trickery). I have a favorite Hawkeye moment myself, however I can’t remember which story it from! In the scene I’m thinking of, a group of villains is holding civillians hostage at gunpoint (or something), and an entire group of fledgling heroes looks to Hawkeye for guidance. I was thinking it an early issue of West Cost Avengers, but I just read those and that’s not it. it may have been the Thunderbolts or even the “Great Lakes Avengers” for all I know, but I’ve been unable to locate it. If this scene sounds familiar to anyone reading this who can identify it, I’d appreciate it!

I think I mentioned I re-read the Hawkeye and West Cost Avengers limited series leading up to this reading project. I had planned to re-read Contest of Champions, too, but when I found out the collection The Contest also reprinted the two Avengers annuals under discussion here, I figured the duplication wasn’t worth it and decided to give it a pass. Then just this past weekend I found a hardcover of The Contest at Half Price Books for, well… half price (duh), so I bought and read it after all.

The “Premiere Classics” editions don’t usually include editorial material unless it’s from a previous collected edition, and The Contest was previously released as a trade paperback in 1999 with an introduction by Tom DeFalco. In it, he revealed that the ending of the Eako/Whacko X/O drew quite a bit of negative mail, not only because of the way Hawkeye tricked the Grandmaster, but also because of Captain America’s comment about Hawkeye to Thor (that “He cheats.”). With the existence of the Earth at stake, you’d figure readers would cut him a little slack, but I guess not. Go figure!

Erg, all this love for that storyline is making my head hurt. All I keep thinking is that it began with a known villain telling the collected Avengers that they all had to drink poison and commit suicide to solve their dilemma, and without questioning this for a moment, they ALL DID. Truly a low point in logic, scripting, and respect for the readers' intelligence if ever there was one!

My favorite Hawkeye moment was from Avengers Spotlight (I think). There's a prison break at the Vault and the Avenging Archer confronts two bad guys and they actually ask him what kind of trick arrow he has notched. He replies it's "the-very-pointy-and-will-leave-a-nasty-hole-in-your-chest arrow!" And the pair meekly sit down quietly!

Hawkeye became an early fav of mine when he took on the Collector, alone, after all the "big guns" had been captured. That story remains a favorite to this day.

I bought Avengers: West Coast Avengers: Zodiac Attack (*whew*) HC at my LCS for 50% off. I am very happy!

There was a lot of bad blood going on there.  First John Byrne goes out of his way to retcon Steve Englehart's stories for many years before, then Roy Thomas comes along and does the same thing to John Byrne. (and on it went!) That may have been when Byrne first got into that bad habit... not good enough to "explain" mysteries, he began a steady campaign of rewriting comics history in the strange belief that HE was the only one who knew howe things "should" really be.

Englehart, in the 70's, it seemed could do no wrong. But my comics shop guy, years back, once pointed out that Englehart & Marshall Rogers were both taking LSD regularly, and while it "inspired" them, you could only do that so long before it caught up and caused serious damage.  Gerry Conway, in pushing Englehart off AVENGERS, "inspired" Steve to LEAVE comics altogether. But first, he was gonna go to DC for one year, and THEN, become a novelist. I've had so many bad job sitruations over the years, I can't help but look at that and shame my head in dismay. Had Steve hung in there, after a few months, Conway would have been gone, and who knows-- MAYBE Steve could have gotten AVENGERS back. (And in the meantime, Steve probably would have still been doing DR. STRANGE, CAPTAIN MAR-VELL, SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP... As it was, Conway got 2 of those, Marv Wolfman the other.)

Further irony is that soon after Steve went to DC, Gerry Conway returned there... and when Steve left, Conway took over JLA.

Englehart once said he got no respect from book publishers, who considered his career as a comics-writer to be WORSE than nothing, as comics were generally held in contempt.  So that career as a novelist never really went anywhere. (At the time.)

When Englehart came back to comics, I guess things had changed, because he wound up working for Marvel, DC and Eclipse ALL AT THE SAME TIME! But it was a different Englehart, too, because his work was wildly erratic.  Some good, some great, some AWFUL. For example, I loved his first year on SILVER SURFER. His description of what happened at his website is at almost total variance with stories I heard AT THE TIME, but after his first year, the book dropped in quality, though it was at least still readable.  His FANTASTIC FOUR, I never liked, but the last year of that became unreadable drivel.  (And that was at the time-- I can't imagine how bad I might think it was NOW, the way my sensibilities have grown and evolved so much in recent years.)  COYOTE started out incredible!!!!! But then it devolved... and the DJINN back-up, was drivel.  GREEN LANTERN CORPS was brilliant!!!  (According to Steve, it was the first time the book ever DOUBLED in sales... and this was with Joe Staton on the art!) But near the end, it became incoherent. And then he did MILLENNIUM, which was a "company-wide crossover event" that simply never should have happened.

Every so often, Steve will surprise me by batting one right out of the ballpark.  DARK DETECTIVE was one of those, as was THE BLACK RIDER one-shot.  (I think that may have been Marshall Rogers' last work.) But the quality of his work is just all over the place, and has been since the early 80's.

I will say this about Steve... between reading his website, and several personal e-mails we've exchanged, he continues to strike me as one of the nicest guys in the biz.  I mean, he seems to engage in "selective memory" a lot, and often it seems as a way of "forgiving" other people's horrible behavior over the years.  If someone did to me some of things others have done to Steve, I doubt I'd be that forgiving.

Even Byrne says he doesn't know.  He promptly forgot where he was heading when he left the book. (He said the same thing about leaving Captain America as well...)

Several people were speculating that Byrne had been intending to do an "Avengers Dissembled" event like Bendis pulled off, but Byrne has said that if he had ever imagined that, he never told anyone, nor had he ever planed as massive a cross-over company wide. So, basically, he's disavowing anything that came afterward.  He dumped memory core on his plans.

Robin Olsen said:

I remember being disappointed when John Byrne left without finishing his "Immortus" storyline - Roy Thomas did his best work (in my humble opinion) in years on that one, but I still wonder what Byrne was gonna do -

I think you're talking about Avengers #28 or so, when Goliath gets stuck at 10 feet, right?

Mr. Satanism said:

Hawkeye became an early fav of mine when he took on the Collector, alone, after all the "big guns" had been captured. That story remains a favorite to this day.

I have to say in my huble opinion that the high points of West coast Avengers were two fold...

First, the lost in time & space saga, where the damn time machine is busted and they keep slipping farther and farther back in marvel history...

Second, The wonderful ride that Vision Quest and Darker than Scarlet was while it lasted...

I also lament that Byrne didn't go farther with his Family Ties storyline... the simple "walking out" of the main three villians was obviously his message to management when he left.

What followed, even with the attempt to wrap up the Immortus thread in one issue, was dreck.  Pure crap, with the exception of an inspired one-shot issue of an Earthquake in L.A.   THAT, was interesting, cause I had just moved out of L.A. for fear of earthquakes less than a year before.

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