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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Funny thing about Cliff Carmichael (who had evil sideburns to begin with) was that, Post-Crisis, he did become a super-villain: the new Thinker. He was attached to the Suicide Squad where, ironically, the original Thinker got "killed". Then he went about trying to find and kill Oracle. This was before Babs joined the JLA or founded the Birds of Prey. I don't recall his final fate, if he had one!

I was previously unaware of (and still disinterested in) any animosity between Gerry Conway and Steve Englehart, but I know whose side I’d come down on if forced to choose.

I bought the volume collection comprising #10-16 yesterday and finished up the volume containing #1-9 last night, and I think I’ve put my finger on why I didn’t care for this series back in the ‘80s and why I’m enjoying it so much today, and it’s the same reason: the stories aren’t very sophisticated. That’s not to say they aren’t well-written and entertaining; they are. They’re not very deep, but they are fun (a quality I feel is missing from the majority of today’s superhero titles). This is a title I would recommend for young children (as opposed to any of those “cartoony” comics marketed to children) and adults as well. There are “adult” themes, but the elements which support them occur largely off-panel.

Looking ahead a bit, the next volume contains the first (of, sadly, only two) crossovers of the Avengers and West Coast Avengers respective annuals. The conceit is that the two teams meet up for a softball game in the stadium of the World Series-winning team, and whatever threat happens at that time. The reasons I bring it up at this point is the look of the art, Steve Ditko inked by Klaus Janson. Janson is one of the best inkers in the business (and Ditko is, well… Ditko), but their styles just don’t mesh. Joe Sinnot has been doing a great job over AlMilgrom on the regular title and makes me wonder: Has Joe Sinnott ever inked Steve Ditko?

Is this the Quicksilver crossover?  I remember enjoying that one.  But I don't remember the other. 

"Has Joe Sinnott ever inked Steve Ditko?"

Not sure.  But Joe's sometime assistant, Dave Hunt, did, on a couple episode of LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES.  Sort of as close to Sinnott in look without it actually being him.   Also, Wally Wood did, on the 1st (stand-alone) episode of CANNON.  (Also, probably some of the THUNDER AGENTS episodes, but I couldn't say which ones offhand.)

Yes, Chris, the first crossover features Quicksilver. That's one (or two, actually, I guess) I did read back in the '80s, although I don't remember much about it so it will be as if reading it for the first time.

 

I've been thinking about my own post to this thread from yesterday. Just as comics artists often use different styles for comedy or drama, I think Steve Englehart employs different styles of writing for his various projects, too. I didn't even know about Englehart's JLA run until I was in college. I loved his Avengers but was disappointed with his JLA. I think now he may have been writing in an intentianally somewhat less sophisticated style. Looking back, I enjoy his JLA run much more today than when I initially read it, just as I enjoy his WCA more now than then. Come to think of it, I would have been approximately the same age when I read both. I guess what I have concluded is that even though a certain style of comics may appeal to children and middle aged readers alike, it doesn't necessarily appeal to all ages in between.

The other was the two teams being used as players for games between The Grandmaster and Death. The second half of the story had the heroes going against dead heroes & villains with each chapter having art with a different art team.

Chris Fluit said:

Is this the Quicksilver crossover?  I remember enjoying that one.  But I don't remember the other. 

HANK PYM: To tell you the truth, I didn’t know that Hank Pym had attempted suicide (or contemplated suicide) until I started this discussion. I know he soon will adopt a new, non-superheroic role, but as of issue #16 he hasn’t yet attempted suicide. I’ll be buying the volume collection #17-24 this Wednesday, though, and reading them shortly thereafter.

TIGRA/HELLCAT: Over in the “Solicitations” forum, Cap and I have been discussing the many faces of Barbara/Bobbi Morse over the years. I suggested that, because she had undergone so many changes already (from psychic to scientist to field agent), that by the time Marvel re-defined her yet again to Huntress/Mockingbird, they might just as easily invented a new character. The same holds true for The Cat/Tigra and Hellcat. The Cat started out as Marvel’s feminist version of Catwoman (but heroic). After only four issues of her own short-lived series and an appearance in Marvel Team-Up, though, she morphed into Tigra, the Were-Woman in Giant-Size Creatures #1before getting a solo spot in one of Marvel’s black & white mags and a short lived feature of her own in Marvel Chillers. Then somebody got the neat idea to give Patsy Walker a heroic identity, and she inherited the Cat’s original costume. These are the kind of interrelationships between characters that Steve Englehart loves to play around with, and he does so to great effect here.

For all of this to work, however, first Greer Grant’s mentor, Dr. Tomolo, had to become one of a race of cat people, then later, the cat people themselves were revealed to be a race of demons. It is at that point, were I editor, I might have been tempted to scrap the whole thing in favor of a new character. I re-read many of The Cat’s/Tigra’s early appearances (those which have been reprinted recently, anyway) over the weekend to supplement my WCA reading experience.

WONDERMAN: Originally, Simon Williams was an industrialist/inventor rival of Tony Stark’s who embezzled from his company. Later on, he became a hero in his own right. At some point (and I don’t recall ecactly where or when, exactly), it was decided that Wonder Man’s history did not jibe with the heroic personality he had developed, and the embezzlement charge was sloughed off on his brother Eric (the super-villain Grim Reaper) and it was revealed that Simon merely took the blame for his brother’s misdeeds. But Steve Englehart reveals that, no, Stan and Don got it right: Simon Williams was the embezzler all along! Flawed heroes is another common theme in Englehart’s work.

EAST COAST/WEST COAST CROSSOVER: Speaking of flawed heroes, it was the first crossover of the East Coast and West Coast teams in which Quicksilver turned villainous for a time. I had forgotten the details, but the revelation of Quicksilver’s perfidy is set largely against the backdrop of a super-hero slugfest (versus Freedom Force in part one and the Zodiac cartel in part two) .

OK, you guys and your enthusiasm for WCA makes me want to go back and re-read the Englehart issues.  I still think I can score the back issues cheaper than the cost of the hardcover collection, though.

I have the Byrne issues (42-57), is anyone a fan of the post-Byrne era?

Post-Bynre? Not really, no. I read up through Roy Thomas' conclusion of Byrne's truncated Scarlet Witch story, but dropped it soon after that. Years later, I filled in the holes at a quarter sale (all except issue #102, the last), but I have yet to read them. Just last week, though, I bought (and read!) issue #102. As far as last issues go, this one did a good job of wrapping up WCA and leading into Force Works. #102 was written by Abnett & Lanning, but they hadn't been writing WCA (AWC by that time) before then. I assume they were the writers of Force Works, but I don't know. If so, Marvel did something similar with Micronauts, turning the last issue of the old series over to Peter Gillis to lead into the new series.

I'll tell you, those HC collections have spoiled me. I like the better paper stock, even prefer it. In certain cases (such as The Cat/Tigra above) I skip re-reading all of the originals if they haven't been reprinted, even though I own them. (Sometimes it's a matter of accessability though, pulling them off a shelf rather than digging through a box.)

Yes Abnett and Lanning did start Force Works. I don't know how long they stayed, because I bailed after like 2-3 issues.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Post-Bynre? Not really, no. I read up through Roy Thomas' conclusion of Byrne's truncated Scarlet Witch story, but dropped it soon after that. Years later, I filled in the holes at a quarter sale (all except issue #102, the last), but I have yet to read them. Just last week, though, I bought (and read!) issue #102. As far as last issues go, this one did a good job of wrapping up WCA and leading into Force Works. #102 was written by Abnett & Lanning, but they hadn't been writing WCA (AWC by that time) before then. I assume they were the writers of Force Works, but I don't know. If so, Marvel did something similar with Micronauts, turning the last issue of the old series over to Peter Gillis to lead into the new series.

I'll tell you, those HC collections have spoiled me. I like the better paper stock, even prefer it. In certain cases (such as The Cat/Tigra above) I skip re-reading all of the originals if they haven't been reprinted, even though I own them. (Sometimes it's a matter of accessability though, pulling them off a shelf rather than digging through a box.)

I came to a realization recently, and the realization is this: I outgrew comic books sometime in the mid-‘80s. I didn’t stop collecting them, though. In my life I have gone from being a comic book reader, to a reader/collector, to a collector, and back to a reader again. There were certain titles I never stopped reading, of course, but for the most part, I was a collector only through a large part of the ‘80s. I have a confession to make: I actually own the issues of West Coast Avengers I’ve been discussing lately. I read the first couple of issues, then lost interest until I finally decided that buying comics and not reading them is stupid. This decision led in turn to my two main rules of comic book collecting (“Don’t buy what you don’t read” and “Don’t read what you don’t enjoy”), which I still follow to this day.

I started buying and reading WCA again when John Byrne took over, but stopped shortly after Roy Thomas wrapped up the “Dark Scarlet” storyline. Years later, I filled all the holes and completed my entire collection at a quarter sale, but I haven’t been motivated to read them until recently (in hardcover, although I do own the originals). You may not believe this (well, on second thought, some of you will), but I used to carry a little pocket notebook which contained a list of potential discussion topics. (The board was much more active in those days, and I always tried to do my part.) I’ve still got that notebook somewhere, with about a page and a half of potential topics I never got around to posting. But I digress…

One of those topics was to have been about WCA #17-24, with Fantastic Four #19 and Doctor Strange #53 tacked on for good measure, and it would have been titled, “A Busy Time: 2940 BC.” The Fantastic Four met the Pharaoh Rama-Tut for the first time in issue #19, and Doctor Strange #53 was layered on top of that. Although I didn’t read it at the time, WCA #22 was layered on top of that. I considered launching this discussion when the “Lost in Space-Time” collection (complete with the FF and DS issues!) was released, but didn’t buy it because I didn’t have the previous two volumes at that time. But good things come to he who waits (and waits and waits), so here I am with that discussion at last. Let’s begin with what the series author had to say about it.

STEVE ENGLEHART: “Now comes the most complex time travel story ever done: "Lost in Space-Time." I had found some cool things to do with time in my first AVENGERS run, so now I set out to take that to the limit. Before it's over, "time has split in seven," with characters in 2940 BC, 1776, 1847, 1876, 1917, 1977, 1987, and the Eternity of the Gods all working together - or trying to.”

As you can see, the story is somewhat more complicated than I had thought!

DOCTOR STRANGE: #53 is the conclusion of a multi-part story, and reading it for the first time in many years reminds me of just how good the entire arc (by Roger Stern and Marshall Rogers) was, and that I really should consider re-reading it again someday soon. Maybe Marvel will release it in “Premiere Classics” format; those really have me spoiled!

HANK PYM: I was a little surprised when I read that Englehart “never warmed up to the guy” because this series of stories represent an important turning point in Pym’s character arc. Overall, I think Englehart did right by him (but then again, maybe not, seeing Pym’s depiction by certain later, lesser writers). As we discussed last week, Henry Pym planned to commit suicide, but he never actually attempted it. Yes, Stainless Steve brought Pym right up to the point at which he had the gun to his head, but he was interrupted. Who’s to say whether or not he would have gone through with it? (My money’s on “no.”) And he came out a stronger character.

One odd thing I wouldn’t have picked up on in 1987: this is around the time he took to referring to himself as Doctor Pym, and throughout this story he goes around wearing a long coat, hat and scarf.

MOCKINGBIRD: Issue #23 features the death of the Phantom Rider (or the “Night Rider” or the original “Ghost Rider”, whichever you (prefer) which leads to marital problems between Mockingbird and Hawkeye down the road after Hawkeye finds out about it. Harkening back to the “Should Heroes Kill?” blog (currently on the front page as I type these words), Mockingbird doesn’t so much kill the Phantom Rider as she does simply let him die (by refusing to save him). Considering he brainwashed (and presumably had his way with) her, I’d say she was justified. Dissenting opinions welcome.

ENGLEHART/MILGROM: Englehart occasionally paints with broad stokes in terms of characterization. In the JLA, he set Hawkman and Green Arrow up as antagonists; in WCA, it’s Iron Man and Wonderman. Come to think of it, the Englehart/Milgrom WCA reminds me of the Fox/Sekowsky JLA in many ways. Structurally, both Fox and Englehart wrote strong stories, but not very deep. Artwise, but Sekowsky and Milgrom have blocky, somewhat chunky styles, but both can tell a story with multiple characters and make the action flow.

Okay, that’s all for now. Tomorrow I’ll be buying the next volume in this series.

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