A Cool, Candy-Coated Cavalcade Of Classic Corking Comics
Dr. Rachel Sweet: “The humans will be here any second, ROM!”
ROM: “They will find only an empty laboratory, wraith, for Firefall and I will have long since gone… And you shall be drifting in the shadow realm of limbo!”
Dr. Sweet: “Will I, ROM?! To banish me you must first recover your neutralizer, and not even you can free it! You couldn’t penetrate that force-sphere without expending all of your armor’s energy!”
ROM: “For a Spaceknight to do so would mean death!”
Welcome back, True Believers!
In an attempt tp slink back into a more regular blogging groove, yours truly thought it best to compile another batch of titles acquired during my Bronze Age expeditions. However, this just happens to be the one series in this blog that has, curiously, become quite a laborious chore to compile; thus a whole backlog of Reviews remain unfinished!
So how can one remedy this?
Rather than utilizing a fancy gimmick, or theme, for this Post, as per usual, ishs were selected entirely at random. By reducing the number of ishs featured per post to just FOUR, hopefully the output of these comic book reviews should increase. Also, note to self: try not to be so meticulous when discussing plot-points, especially with the more awesome ishs.
Okey-dokey, ready for some rapid proton pulsations?
Let’s get stuck in, starting with a true classic:
Dr. Daedalus: “See the genius of Galadorian cyber-surgery! Human organs and cells genetically grafted to spaceknight steel! We are looking at a suit of living armor!”
The Most High One: “What we are looking at, Dr. Daedalus, is an enemy who has pursued us across the cosmos for 200 Earth years!”
“By the Golden Gates of Galador!”
Wow, ROM, WOW!
What a rip-roaring – and strangely moving – ish ROM #11 (October 1980) is.
The Greatest of the Spaceknights has discovered that Project Safeguard – the US government initiative set up to protect Earth from extraterrestrial threats – just happened to be established by none other than the Dire Wraiths: the most malevolent extraterrestrial threat Earth could ever face.
In this chapter, entitled: “Standoff!” ROM – held prisoner within a stasis-field in the top secret depths of Ultralab – must free himself and defeat a wraith in the guise of scientist Dr. Rachel Sweet. She is seriously dischuffed at being ordered to exterminate ROM – she would have preferred to keep him alive and learn the secrets of Galadorian cyber-surgery, thus advancing wraith-science.
ROM wins this round, but only through the unexpected sacrifice of Archie Stryker, a petty (human) criminal who had sworn to destroy the Spaceknight (before being tricked by the wraiths and grafted into the late Firefall’s armour).
Those proton pulsations did the trick: in the climactic panel (below) the Ultralab guards burst in to confront the “evil robot from outer space.”
Those top co-imagineers: Bill Mantlo (script) and Sal Buscema (art) have excelled themselves – this is one brilliant ish, absolutely BRILLIANT.
“She’s stallin’ — up to something! Wait! That instrument panel she’s leanin’ against… Of course! It’s gotta be tied into the intercom system! She’s been screamin’ stuff about us killin’ her for the benefit of the security forces upstairs!” – Firefall.
Mr. Gyrich: “As the authorized agent of the National Security Council, I hereby revoke your Avengers’ priority status! From this moment on, your ties with the federal government are severed…!”
Iron Man: “Gyrich, wait! You can’t! That affects almost everything we do…! Great! Just great! Now we can’t fly our aircraft, we can’t use our monitors, our security clearance and priority status are gone–! Now what?”
“ANYBODY HOME?! Hey, Avengers! Where’s the cake and the brass band, huh? HAWKEYE’S BACK!”
Searching for pre-1981 ishs of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – especially at affordable rates! – has been one of the toughest objectives encountered during my Bronze Age expeditions. So imagine my surprise, but sheer delight, upon stumbling across The Avengers #172 (June 1978) “Holocaust In New York Harbor!”
Clint Barton returns, but to an abandoned Avengers Mansion. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, meanwhile, are uptown, having defeated Ultron in the previous ish. Upon their return, ever-dependable butler: Jarvis runs in to inform them that Atlantean rapscallion: Tyrak (Tie Rack?! arf, arf, arf) is running amok around NY harbour. Vision, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Wonder Man, and Ms. Marvel head for the waterfront to confront their fishy foe, while Iron Man stays behind to try and solve the mystery of the vanishing Avengers.
So, was this ish worth the bother?
Despite Hawkeye’s prominence on the cover, we barely get to see him. Considering how this team “were born – to fight the foes no single superhero could withstand,” this particularly ineffectual nerk could easily be sorted out by, say, Shellhead, or even the Cap – or, more appropriately, Namor The Sub-Mariner – in any of their solo adventures.
Come ON: apart from a big mouth and some right hooks, what threat does he seriously pose? Get a load of that orange vest, and those yellow fish-scale tights, especially against his sky-blue skin. But the REAL “danger” lies in those PINK BOOTS. Obviously, this ish’s colorist had been itchin’ to try out his new box of crayons…
The final panel reveals those missing Avengers encased in cryo-tubes and only the hands of a mysterious supervillain operating a snazzy console hint at a more dangerous threat to come in the subsequent ish.
But come ON!
Yer ol’ buddy Brad strode all the way across ol’ London town to track down this precious ish – only to find a noisome nautical nincompoop with a bad attitude, appalling dress sense and those blamed PINK BOOTS?!
No reward is worth this…
“Did you think that anything short of total disintegration could stop me? YOU WILL NOT TOUCH MY WIFE! You HATE the sun’s burning rays — I trust that my thermo-optic beams are equally loathsome!” – Vision.
Dr. Strange: “Good morrow, milord. This lady and I be weary travelers, who have journeyed far to speak with thee. Might we have a moment of thy time?”
Sir Francis Bacon: “Indeed, sir! Sit, I prithee. I warn ye, however, that I am yet new to my governmental duties, so any pleas–!”
Dr. Strange: “No, milord. ‘Tis Bacon the philosopher and author we seek.”
Sir Francis Bacon: “What? Not more allegations that I wrote the works of William Shakespeare, surely? I deny it absolutely!”
“By the Crimson Crystals of Cyttorak!”
Every once in a while, ’tis a joy to return to the Master of Mystic Arts!
This title radiated awesomeness whenever co-imagineers: “Smashin'” Steve Engelhart and “Genial” Gene Colan were at the helm, so the reputation of Dr. Strange #17 (August 1976) deservedly precedes it. Honouring that year’s bicentennial celebrations, this chapter: “Utopia Rising!” explored the origins of America.
That desperate ne’er-do-well: James Mandarin has committed the ultimate crime: stolen a selection of antiquarian books from Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. One of the recovered books: “New Atlantis,” in which Sir Francis Bacon outlined the “dream of a new form of society… of free men, where neither princes nor pontiffs shall hold sway, and the governors shall be the governed,” piques the interest of Stephen’s apprentice, Clea. So he takes her back in time to Stuart London, 1618, “to plunge into the mad babble of the rabble in the tavern” to meet Sir Francis.
After Stephen and Clea leave, they are attacked in the street by a gang of bawdy blackguard bounders, who turn out to be minor magicians…
They’d been dispatched to steal the manuscript of New Atlantis, but by whom?!
Later, in a hastily-procured hotel room – Dormammu’s Demons! – the Sorcerer Supreme of the 20th century is ambushed by Stygro, the Sorcerer Supreme of the 17th century. Here, Colan is at his expressive best: the unusual, magik-tinged combat is accentuated through his distinctively giddy, mad swirls of flying furniture and twirling tomes.
The finale is marked by Sir Francis’ confession that he never intends to publish New Atlantis in its entirety:
“Let everyone believe it lost, to fan interest in its unanswered mysteries!”
And his revelation that King James had recently appointed him to direct “our colonization effort” in the New World.
“Need I add that only those who who seek true freedom shall I send?”
Thus, Dr. Strange communicates with Clea telepathically:
“And that, Clea, is why “New Atlantis” marks the REAL beginning of America!”
A veritable Bronze Age masterpiece, brimming with class, maturity and sophistication.
“Next: Ben Franklin struts his stuff!”
Whoa, can’t wait…
“Thou dost speak like a wine-besotted fool, Mister Strange. The drift of thy speech, therefore, eludeth me entire” – Sir Francis Bacon.
(Hey! Coulda swore I saw somethin’ move up there! You’re actin’ like a scared kid, Lucas – jumpin’ at shadows! But shadows don’t make noise… It sounded like it came— from behind me!)
“SWEET JUMPING CHRISTMAS!” – Luke Cage.
“You cooked him, Mistah Fish! Fried ‘im like a flounder!”
Last – and probably least? – in this round-up comes Luke Cage, Power Man #29 (Feoruary 1976). It’s an odd lil curio, but with such a badass (lameass…?) title as: “No One Laughs at Mr. Fish!” how could Brad – nay, anyone! – refuse?!
Imagineered by those ever-trusty stalwarts of awesomeness, “Boisterous” Bill Mantlo (Blimey! Him again!) and “Gorgeous” George Tuska, this, unfortunately, has all the hallmarks of a last-minute filler job – desperate for ideas with a deadline fast approaching…
Therefore, in addition to being a far-fetched creation, “Mr. Fish” cannot be considered to be anything other than irrelevant and disposable. Moreover, by today’s standards, Mr. Fish’s henchmen could easily be deemed racist caricatures.
Luke, of course, is cool and tough as always, but deserved much better material than this.
You can read this ish…and still not believe it. It’s okay, but nothing special. And probably may not stay in my collection for much longer…
At least Mr. Fish didn’t have to rely on pink boots to intimidate his enemies!
“The others fled as I – glowing from the contaminating isotope – dove into the filthy waters of the East River! And though I stayed beneath the water for what seemed like hours— still I burned from within! My entire being aflame as I… changed! …I knew instinctively that I would never be the same again!” – Mr. Fish.