I'm almost surprised that Giffen was credited only with the layouts for this issue, because his style seems quite recognisable in these samples.
Yeah, the credits list them both as "artists", and the letters page thanks only Giffen for the fill-in job, but the GCD specifies Giffen for "breakdowns". The GCD credits are usually well-thrashed out by expert art-spotters, so I bow to them, but I agree that Giffen's style is still very clearly evident.
Post by M. W. Gallaher on Feb 13, 2019 21:53:52 GMT -5
Avengers #154, December 1976, 19 pages
“When Strikes Attuma!” Gerry Conway, writer/editor George Perez, artist/storyteller Pablo Marcos, embellisher John Costanza, letterer, Don Warfield, colorist
Cover by Jack Kirby and Al Milgrom
The Vision is attacked by an Atlantean cruiser as he flies over the ocean, and when he engages the crew in combat, he is taken down by sonic waves.
In Manhattan, Wonder Man has returned to life, and with the Avengers is bringing the injured Whizzer to the hospital. The Avengers are suspicious about Wonder Man’s revival. Back at the mansion, the Scarlet Witch, nursing an injured arm, is visited by the Inhuman Triton, who brings a warning of grave danger, which he wants to deliver only to the assembled Avengers.
The Vision awakens enchained in those goofy hand-pod things that were cropping up in 70’s super-hero comics:
He’s a prisoner of Lord Arno, one of the non-comatose and belligerent Atlanteans, but the real bad boss is our old pal Attuma. Attuma’s itching for revenge on the Sub-Mariner, having escaped from Hydrobase. He intends for the Avengers to battle Namor while he pursues the throne of Atlantis.
Back at the mansion, Wanda realizes that “Triton” is an impostor, actually another Atlantean, “Tyrak the Treacherous”. Wanda’s still too weak from previous injuries to defend herself, so it’s Jarvis to the rescue:
Tyrak is about to kidnap Wanda when the Avengers come to the rescue. Against all odds, Tyrak defeats them all except for Captain America and The Beast. Admitting Cap’s superiority, Tyrak brings down the walls on Cap, and the last Avenger standing, The Beast…flees?
Tyrak summarizes the plan: put slave collars on the Avengers, have them vanquish Namor, destroy Hydrobase, cure the Atlanteans in suspended animation, install Attuma as ruler of the revived kingdom, with Tyrak his second in command.
SVTU begins a crossover with Avengers, hence the detour here. No Sub-Mariner or Dr. Doom, but we get the setup for our next installment, with the return of Attuma and more promise of resolution to the Atlanteans’ situation.
I haven’t read many 70’s comics in a while, and it’s striking to see how Perez (and previously, Giffen) contrast with the old school artists we’ve seen so far in this run. Both are a bit less polished than the veteran artists, but they are more dynamic and inventive. Conway’s scripting seems excessive in comparison with Englehart’s and the execution here is pretty clumsy, with unsatisfying, unresolved scenes and unlikely, overly-complex schemes. And it’s hard to swallow a nobody like Tyrak wiping the floor with the World’s Mightiest Heroes.
The letters page is irrelevant to this discussion, but it does point readers to SVTU #9 next, to be followed by a conclusion in the next Avengers issue.
Post by M. W. Gallaher on Feb 18, 2019 13:03:21 GMT -5
Super-Villain Team-Up #9, December 1976, 17 pages
Archie Goodwin, editor Bill Mantlo, writer Jim Shooter and Sal Trapani, artists Denise Wohl, letterer Hugh Paley (was this a real person after all or a pseudonym?), colorist
Cover by Gil Kane and Dan Adkins It's a strong one, that certainly outshines the more pedestrian combat we see in the interior pages. A fair representation of the content, at least. Iron Man vs. Dr. Doom is an attention-getter, one that deserved something a little more impressive than what we're gonna get here.
Attuma gloats over his forcing the Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Wasp, Yellowjacket) into heading to Hydrobase to battle the Sub-Mariner, thanks to the “slave-collars” he has placed on them all. The collars have detrimental effects whenever the Avengers resist commands, and Iron Man is additionally crippled by a hack job repair to his damaged chest circuitry. The Avengers decide they have no choice but to destroy Namor.
Attuma sets off elsewhere to initiate Phase 2 of his plan, but he’s being tracked by someone working for someone called “Orbiter”. Back in Latveria, Doom takes Shroud and Namor into custody, where he reveals that he’s actually…
Prince Rudolfo led a rebellion in Doom’s original solo series in Astonishing Tales #1-3. He’s back, replacing one of Doom’s body double robots to usurp power under the initial guise of Latveria’s acknowledged ruler (still presumed dead by the Shroud). Shroud’s eager to help, but not Namor:
Orbiter’s hired hand has eaves-dropped on all this, so the mysterious Orbiter is aware of the developments.
Doom’s living it up at Hydrobase, acting like he owns the place. When he’s called on his claims to be producing a cure for the amphibians, he bluffs and calls his servant Gregor, who’s with a mysterious “client” that Doom doesn’t get the opportunity to speak with:
Then the Avengers bust in, and find themselves facing not the Sub-Mariner, but Dr. Doom. (I'll assume creating a new chest plate was his first project in the Hydrobase lab.) The alien Tamara joins in on Doom’s side, as does Namorita when she learns that they’re here for her (absent) cousin Namor:
As the battle continues, the Beast has headed off for reinforcements in New York, recruiting Wonder Man and the recovering Whizzer to rescue the enslaved Avengers.
Back in Latveria, Namor is attacked by the Latverian Border Patrol, which reveals to him that Namor’s nemesis Attuma is heading to a Maryland Research Center to grab a special weapon. Namor’s surprised to find that Attuma is involved in all this, and vows to stop him, knowing that Attuma’s first goal will be conquest of Atlantis.
To be continued…in Avengers #155!
Bill Mantlo takes over the scripting chores, and turns in a story that bounces around a lot more than the early issues did. Admittedly, that’s a little easier with the larger cast in multiple locations, but it does make things feel a little livelier than when the series started. I never had strong pro or con opinions about Mantlo. If you read a lot of Marvels in the 70's, you were going to read his work eventually in almost any book you followed; they were reliably competent at the least.
Jim Shooter returns to these pages, this time not as writer but as artist, credited for “breakdowns” in the letters page. He’s competent enough, and his well-established dedication to clarity in story-telling ensures that the book is at least easy to follow. Sal Trapani’s not one of my favorite inkers (was he anybody’s favorite?), and he doesn’t appear to go out of his way to shore up any of Shooter’s weaknesses or to enrich detail that Shooter (presumably) didn’t focus on. Trapani was a bit stodgy but also something of a chameleon, and he reportedly relied heavily on ghost artists, which makes it even harder to nail down consistent characteristics of his work. Still, adequate art for the standards at Marvel around this time, and here, it reminds me a lot of the work of Jim Mooney, although not so much that I'd assume Mooney was ghosting.
It appears that we’re finally winding down the ongoing reliance on Sub-Mariner’s supporting cast and dangling plot threads, which haven’t proven to be particularly fertile material for engaging comics. Indeed, we revive a long-forgotten character from Doom’s solo series, Prince Rudolfo, and we get another appearance from Doom’s aide Gregor (who I keep wanting to call “Bruno”), presaging Doom’s upcoming dominance of the latter issues of this run.
In the letters page, a reader bemoans the loss of Herb Trimpe as artist, which gives the editorial armadillo the chance to hype upcoming artist Bob Hall, debuting next issue. An excerpt of a lengthy treatise from Tom Hinrichs (which had been mentioned in last issue’s lettercol) provides some psychological analysis of Dr. Doom—perhaps he really does think he’s doing good things for the world? The editorial response disagrees, and points the reader again to this story’s conclusion in Avengers.
Sal Trapani’s not one of my favorite inkers (was he anybody’s favorite?), and he doesn’t appear to go out of his way to shore up any of Shooter’s weaknesses or to enrich detail that Shooter (presumably) didn’t focus on. Trapani was a bit stodgy but also something of a chameleon, and he reportedly relied heavily on ghost artists, which makes it even harder to nail down consistent characteristics of his work.
Trapani wasn't one of my favourite inkers, but I liked his inking of Herb Trimpe when Steve Englehart was writing the Incredible Hulk. A lot of Trapani's pencilling credits from the 60s are said to have involved ghosting, but his inking style was fairly distinctive.
Post by M. W. Gallaher on Feb 19, 2019 21:31:54 GMT -5
Avengers # 155 “To Stand Alone!” Gerry Conway, writer/editor George Perez and Pablo Marcos, artists/storytellers John Costanza, letterer Glynis Wein, colorist
Cover by Jack Kirby and Al Milgrom
Dr. Doom has defeated Iron Man, and suggests that the remaining Avengers surrender. Cap refuses, insisting that they will fulfill their goal to capture (what happened to “destroy”?) the Sub-Mariner. An inventively-structured George Perez battle ensues:
After Conway has caught up the readers who missed the first two parts of this crossover, he and the Hydrobase crew have overcome the Avengers. Doom’s devices compel Cap to reveal the mastermind behind their attack: Attuma. Nita insists that Doom stop Attuma, and Doom considers doing so.
Beast, Wonder Man, and the Whizzer provide some exposition of Wonder Man’s return from the dead, along with some more catch-up on the current plot.
Tamara wonders if the Vision, who also has red skin, wonders if he’s one of her own alien people:
In a sealed room, the imprisoned Avengers discover that their slave collars have diminished effect. They also realize that the collars were somehow enraging them, explaining why the Avengers were surprisingly easy to defeat. Working together again, Cap and Wanda break Vision’s collar, who then, surprisingly, appears to abandon them.
And now we return to Namor, with a nice pinup shot that apparently impressed Conway:
Namor reaches the undersea research lab in Maryland which Attuma is attacking. The scientists there have created a “chloro-beam” that multiplies plankton, which they intend to use to increase America’s food supply. (Yum, plankton!) Attuma breaks in the lab, where he and his crew find the Whizzer, Beast, and Wonder Man lying in wait. Soon, they are joined by the Avenging Son:
Namor mistakes the trio of heroes for new allies of Attuma, and Wonder Man surprises him with a Thor-level punch. Attuma bugs out, followed by the Beast. Namor has mistaken the Whizzer for Quicksilver, but when Whiz slows down, Namor realizes he’s about to clobber an old comrade from the Big One. Wonder Man interrupts with an attack that puts Namor down.
We end the story with Attuma in his sub readying to use the chloro-beam to transform Tyrak, with the stowaway Beast listening in. Vision, meanwhile, has a deal to offer Dr. Doom:
Very different vibe from our usual fare with Conway at the helm, but I don’t have a lot else to say about this one--the summary is here for the purposes of giving a complete overview of this run. It’s a little messy and hectic, but I appreciated Conway belatedly justifying the unlikely poor performance by the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Perez inked by Marcos looks pretty nice. I’m certainly ready for some closure on the Hydrobase subplot, and Tamara’s interest in the Vision was notable, but I doubt there’s going to be much if any follow-up on that.
In the lettercol, there’s nothing relevant to our focus here, as the readers comment on Avengers #152 without any editorial response. The conclusion of this story is coming up in the next issue of Avengers (it seems a little lopsided to have a crossover that only involves one out of the four installments being published in SVTU, doesn’t it?).
Post by M. W. Gallaher on Feb 20, 2019 11:48:55 GMT -5
Avengers #156, 1977, Feb, 1977, 17 pgs
“The Private War of Dr. Doom!” Archie Goodwin, editor Gerry Conway, plot Jim Shooter, writer Sal Buscema and Pablo Marcos, artists Joe Rosen, letterer Don Warfield, colorist
Cover by Jack Kirby and Al Milgro
The Vision poses a question to Dr. Doom: “If Tyrak were powerful enough to defeat the Avengers single-handedly—why didn’t Attuma send him against Hydrobase?” Answer: Namor, who was Attuma expected to find at Hydrobase, would have recognized Tyrak and then would have been on Attuma’s trail. Vision suspects Attuma is creating an army of transformed warriors like Tyrak, who would eventually threaten even Doom’s Latveria. Doom doesn’t care for that, and so allies himself with the team.
Back in Maryland, Whizzer has brought Namor back to consciousness, and for once he’s not holding a grudge, welcoming them in the fight against Attuma.
The trio pursue Attuma, and signal the Beast, who is, to their relief, still aboard Attuma’s craft, where he stowed away. They figure the other Avengers are at Attuma’s base, in need of rescue, but they’re actually at Hydrobase, being freed from slave collars:
Vision is cold to Wanda, and Yellowjacket hypothesizes that he’s bugged by Wonder Man’s return (since Wondy’s the genuinely alive template for Vision’s brain power, making Vision feel more artificial).
Doom’s smarter than Iron Man, since he figures out how to track Attuma:
Attuma discovers the stowaway Beast, Subby can’t wait and dives into the ocean in pursuit of Attuma, followed by Wonder Man. Tyrak quickly thrashes Namor, Tyrak’s power being amplified by the plankton-plumping chloro-beam. Wonder Man suspects the plan is just to turn Tyrak into a one-man army, which is what was implied last issue.
Before Attuma can shoot Tyrak up with another dose, Doom and the other Avengers arrive and attack. It’s a tough fight, but they defeat Tyrak (Doom doesn’t take part, for some reason). The Vision retrieves his cape, which (I hadn’t noticed) was stolen and then worn by Attuma. Wanda thinks this ticks him off more than it should:
The treacherous Doom has absconded with the chloro-beam and returned to Hydrobase, but he’s been pursued by the Avengers, who interrupt his plans, while the Vision destroys what’s now being referred to as a “stimulator”:
Doom flees, and Cap steps out to investigate something that we’ll learn about soon:
Another hectic issue with lots of scene changes. So let’s review where our principals end up: Doom is fleeing Hydrobase, and Namor was last seen walloping Attuma in his undersea base. Captain America sees something that will be relevant to readers of upcoming SVTU issues in the area around Hydrobase, which for some reason Sal and Pablo depict as a castle. Presumably Conway intended this scene to be set in Latveria, and Shooter was left to patch up the problem of Doom fleeing his own castle and leaving the Avengers there, and why Namorita and Tamara were there, and how the Avengers tracked him. This is the kind of sloppiness that Shooter was likely to take note of, and he did his best to make sense of it, hoping, I guess, that readers wouldn’t question why there’s now a castle on Hydrobase.
Attuma would have stood a much better chance of success if his undersea base was actually filled with the water that he and his crew actually breathe, rather than comprised of air-filled domes. This kind of thing has tripped up many a comics story about Atlanteans, whether at Marvel or over at DC in Aquaman. It makes no sense, and there’s no effort to explain it, we’re just expected not to notice this, either.
I’m really curious why Shooter might have muddled the plot by at first suggesting Attuma was building an army of Tyrak’s, then going back to using the device to transform Tyrak only. It’s notable that (unless I missed it) we never actually see the beam being used on Tyrak, we only see him increasing in size. I don’t really understand the link between growing plankton and amping up Tyrak, but I guess Doom does realize “the potential of its cell-stimulating rays” more than I do.
So we’ve rearranged the pieces and are ready for another change of direction in SVTU. I don’t think Namor ever realized Doom was still alive in this crossover, so we’ll see if his oath to serve still stands when we pick back up in SVTU. I was hoping that the Hydrobase subplot would be resolved with their inevitable cure, but no, not yet. Tamara’s interest in the Vision, predictably, went nowhere.
Post by M. W. Gallaher on Mar 6, 2019 18:59:20 GMT -5
Super Villain Team-Up #10, Feb 1977, 17 pages Archie Goodwin, editor Bill Mantlo, writer Bob Hall, penciler Don Perlin, inker Don Warfield, colorist Denise Wohl, letterer
Cover by Gil Kane and Ernie Chan, with alterations by John Romita
Chan, until recently the main cover artist at DC, finishes Gil Kane, Marvel’s go-to cover artist of the era, with interesting results. It’s not the Kane look that we’re used to, with Ernie’s “meaty” inks lessening the sheen Kane typically displayed. I’m not a Chan fan, particularly, but I rather like this collaboration. Sub-Mariner’s listed in the masthead, but the Red Skull is the one sharing the cover with Dr. Doom (and guest hero, Captain America).
Chapter 1: “The Sign of the Skull”
We open on Captain America fending off attacks in the Latverian embassy in New York. Whatever Cap found on Hydrobase has led him here, where he suspects that “two of the most ruthless beings in the world have united…” Cap’s carrying some sort of staff, and a flashback to the recent Avengers crossover explains that what Cap spotted was a spy ship that looked like one of Doom’s, but which was manned by a pilot who poisoned himself before Cap could question him. Still, somehow Cap knows that he wasn’t one of Doom’s men, and he retrieved this “complex, micro-circuitized I.F.F. [“Identification Friend or Foe”, Archie explains in a footnote] concealed in an ornate scepter. Cap makes his way, destructively, to Doom, although Cap was apparently expecting someone else:
Cap shows Doom the scepter, which Cap has determined was mined and fabricated in Doom’s kingdom. Although the comic attempts to leave us in suspense, the decoration on the scepter, which alarms Doom, indicates the involvement of ... well, see if this gives you a hint:
Chapter 2: “While Atlantis Sleeps”
OK, Namor’s still appearing in this mag, and returns to comatose Atlantis still under the presumption that Doom is dead. But once again, the sleeping city is under assault by surface-dwellers’ equipment:
These are the crew of the mysterious “Orbiter”, who presumed Namor would still be away. Namor can’t get much info out of them after he clobbers the crew, except that “Orbiter” is operating out of…Latveria!
Which cues a scene change to that country, where the Shroud and the Doom-disguised Prince Rudolfo have to deal with Doom’s loyal soldiers. Shroud is still convinced that Doom is dead, and still pulling his ersatz Batman act, hurling “bombarangs”:
Aside: as a reader who grew up in a fairly homogeneous community, Yiddish terms like "boychik" were extremely confusing to me. A "boy" was a young male, a "chick" was a young female, so "boychik" processed as boy/girl in my mind. The term cropped up pretty often in Marvel comics of the 70's, and I don't know where I might have turned at the time to find out what it meant even if I really wanted to.
Our heroes make their way to the throne room, where Rudolfo intends to usurp the seat of power, only to find Doom’s chair occupied by a mysterious character who blasts Rudolfo. Gee, who could it possibly be? (Hint: he calls the Shroud “Amerikaner swine”). The Shroud recognizes him from the stories he read as a kid, but he’s not scared—the Shroud’s “the man who killed Dr. Doom!”
Captain America, meanwhile, is accompanying Dr. Doom in a jet back to Latveria, where they are attacked by Doom’s own air defenses. Of particular concern is the “deadliest of all” of Doom’s anti-aircraft weapons—don’t laugh—the “rainbow missile!”
To absolutely no one’s surprise, we close with the reveal of the Red Skull, who not only gloats, but spoils Shroud’s day by revealing that Doom is not dead after all.
The opening line promises a “dynamic new direction”, and there’s certainly a different vibe to the storytelling this time around. We get a lot of screen time for an A-list superhero guest star in Captain America, a bit of a twist in a “super-villain team-up” between a straight-up hero and a villain, and the first indications of a shift from the Doom/Namor partnership to a more “traditional” team-up format, with regular Dr. Doom and rotating guest villains. At least I assume that was part of the plan—the book won’t last long enough to firmly establish that policy, but it seems to be the direction they were going.
Namor gets short shrift, with a segment that reiterates the status quo of a comatose Atlantis and makes some attempt to tie the Skull’s plan in with Namor’s milieu, ensuring that Namor will contain to have some relevance in the book even if the focus leaves his half of the team-up.
The plot is supported by some shaky bits that are quickly brushed off: Cap’s secret discovery that leads him to Doom, for example, is disappointing, told rather than shown, and relies on some unlikely “science” and unexplained deductions. There’s some pretty decently depicted action, certainly a step above that served up in previous issues. New artist Bob Hall, who was praised in the last issue’s lettercol, acquits himself well here. He’s still green, showing strong influences of a variety of other, more established artists: there are clear echoes of both John and Sal Buscema and Jack Kirby in the faces and poses, but Hall’s biggest influence appears to be Gene Colan. This is actually a nice change of pace, since there were lots of artists aping Buscema and Kirby, far fewer looking to Colan for inspiration. Don Perlin does some pretty strong ink work here, shoring up Hall very nicely and lending some solidity, atmosphere, and depth.
Mantlo, I think, is doing a pretty good job of following a hard act in Steve Englehart. The letters page gives us some elaboration on the editorial thinking behind the new direction. Admitting that it has come close to cancellation, and that none of the writers so far have been “able to get a fix on it”, Mantlo and Jim Shooter and Archie Goodwin decided that the book was “too insular” and lacked “meaningful continuity”. Stan Lee is said to have taken notice, and to have approved of the plan to include more established guest heroes and rotating villain teams—as they phrase it: “Maybe not a new one every issue. Maybe not Doom and Subby every month.”
A plea for sales and support follows, with a reminder that the book is still under threat of cancellation.
Post by M. W. Gallaher on Mar 12, 2019 19:59:29 GMT -5
Super Villain Team-Up #11, April 1977, 17 pages Archie Goodwin, editor Bill Mantlo, writer Bob Hall, penciler Don Perlin, inker Don Warfield, colorist Irv Watanabe, letterer
Cover by Dave Cockrum and Joe Sinnott
For the first time, we get a new headliner to our villain team, with “Dr. Doom and the sinister Red Skull” as the leads. But the cover assures us that Sub-Mariner is still here, and regular hero star the Shroud and guest hero Captain America are still onboard as well. Cockrum does his typical good quality work here, and Sinnott provides the expected Marvel sheen with the inks.
“Chapter 3: My Ally, My Enemy!”
The Shroud is about to pounce on the Red Skull when one of the Skull’s henchmen pistol-whips his shrouded skull from behind. Rudolfo, in Doom’s armor, is in fact alive and alert, and Shroud comes to, but, being blind, he can’t see the monitors that show Doom and Cap arriving. Shroud still believes he has killed Dr. Doom, and doesn’t want to believe, but Rudolfo confirms it. Doom’s not long for this world, though, as he and Cap are crashing under the influence of the dreaded “Rainbow Ray!”
The Skull explains his scheme: He’s stolen the plans for Doom’s “Hypno-Ray”, mined the materials from undersea, assembled it in space, with Doom unwittingly enabling the Skull, who was acting as Doom’s unseen partner (from a few issues back). Cap and Doom make an easy escape:
…or maybe not! The Rainbow Ray has shrunk them to the size of field mice, but even a tiny shield and Doom’s energy blasts are sufficient to handle a (relatively) giant snake:
Doom’s impressed enough to propose a team-up with Cap, but he’s not about to sign up for the kind of treatment Namor got.
As Doom and Cap approach the castle, the Skull floods the moat. Meanwhile, the Sub-Mariner arrives at the castle to confront the Red Skull, who proposes a new super-villain team-up between the two of them.
Namor’s not really warm to the idea of teaming with a Nazi, but he hears the Skull out. He tries to convince Namor he’s bringing democracy by taking over Latveria, but the way he treats the Shroud makes Subby suspicious.
Tiny Cap and Doom have survived, and made their way into the dungeon. Cap sees Doom showing genuine sympathy for his servant Boris, now imprisoned, then the pair catch up to Namor and the Skull.
Tiny Doom can’t wait and attacks the Red Skull, then promises to cure the Atlanteans, so Namor, still pledged to Doom, hits the button that undoes the effect of the Rainbow Ray:
In the ensuing melee, Doom and Namor attack the Skull, Shroud attacks Doom, Cap attacks Shroud (to protect Doom, as depicted on the cover!), and Skull retreats behind Doom’s forcefield-protected throne.
Rudolfo, though, has taken the teleporter that the Skull left unguarded, hits the button, and zaps the Skull away. Rudolfo is dying, but Doom’s more concerned with tracking the Red Skull, who turns out to be on the moon, where he is in perfect position to activate the Hypno-Ray!
Well, we asked for new co-stars, and now we have one. It’s nowhere near the “team-up” kind of story I think the readers wanted, but it is a story that focuses more on the villains than the heroes, and does establish Doom as the protagonist while still emphasizing his negative characteristics. Throwing multiple main characters into the mix does bring the book into line with the trends of the times, when super-teams were on the rise, and Namor, Cap, Doom, and the Shroud are a pretty interesting line-up, conceptually if not so much in execution here.
We get another tease of a resolution to the Atlanteans’ comas, and the bits and pieces scattered over previous issues are gathered together. It’s a bit clumsy and unconvincing, but it does at least unify the “Orbiter”, the mining of Atlantis, and reassembles our players so that the writer no longer has to keep track of who thinks Doom’s dead. Namor’s oath to Doom is acknowledged, but Namor seems less interested in sticking to it, and instead responds to Doom’s promise more than to his misguided pledge of loyalty.
Bob Hall continues to deliver work that’s up to par with the standards of the time, and continues to demonstrate a broad range of inspirations. Still, notably Gene Colan, but there are individual panels that look like he’s drawing from the work of Don Heck, John and Sal Buscema. Perlin’s inking is still strong, and I’d compare it favorably to that of Joe Sinnott—a little heavier, perhaps, but certainly up to par.
As I feared, this series turns out to not have a whole lot worth commenting on. It's routine stuff for the company and the era, mostly inconsequential and most memorable for doing a poor job of executing a promising premise. It's not as good as Dr. Doom's earlier solo series.
In the letters page, there’s praise for Shooter’s art a couple of issues back, but Big Jim gives credit to Sal Trapani for rendering Jim’s breakdowns. It was Jim’s first Marvel art job, and, the editor says, probably his last, due to writing assignments. Multiple writers point out an error in Namorita calling Namor her “big brother.” No-prizes for all! The skimpy lettercol is augmented with a small illustration of Namor and Doom.
Even though I'm always complaining about derivative female characters based on established male heroes, I have to admit that I kind of like Namorita, at least in these Avengers comics. It's probably down to nothing more profound than enjoying Perez's rendition of a cute blond in a bikini, but what can you do.
Even though I'm always complaining about derivative female characters based on established male heroes, I have to admit that I kind of like Namorita, at least in these Avengers comics. It's probably down to nothing more profound than enjoying Perez's rendition of a cute blond in a bikini, but what can you do.
Bill Everett's Nita was particularly adorable.
(I continue to believe that Everett were alive today drawing like he did in 1970,
he'd be one of the most popular artists with female comics fans.)
Post by M. W. Gallaher on Mar 16, 2019 13:00:44 GMT -5
Super Villain Team-Up #12, June 1977, 17 pages
Archie Goodwin, editor Bill Mantlo, writer Bob Hall, penciler Don Perlin, inker George Roussos, colorist Tom Orzechowski, letterer
Cover by Dave Cockrum and Al Milgrom
The cover catches the eye at a first glance, so it serves its purpose, but doesn’t hold up well under careful inspection, with the Red Skull on his space scooter looking like a toy that didn’t have to worry about actually fitting a bottom half of the body into that craft, and the distance between the characters a little unclear, and the awkward aim of that blast…but we’ve all seen far worse, and can be forgiving when a lot of information has to be jammed in while still clearly depicting the headliners.
Summary: We begin with the unexpected team-up of Doom and the Shroud, rocketing together to the moon to stop the Red Skull from activating the Hypno-Ray. It’s evidently pointing the wrong way, so the Shroud’s duty is to stop it before it rotates into proper position. Hey, you ever see something a depiction of something in your realm of expertise in a TV show, or movie, or news article, or, yes, comic book? Well, boys and girls, ol’ MWG started his career at NASA designing satellite pointing control systems of just this sort, believe it or not! It’s a pretty hefty hunk of metal, but I’d expect to be able to point and stabilize it in an hour with a suitable set of Reaction Control System (RCS) jets. And I would expect the Red Skull, being an actual Nazi from WWII, would have some highly competent rocket scientists at his call when he was assembling Doom’s design. So our, er, heroes better hurry? Doom intends on a showdown to the death with the Skull, and Captain America and Namor are monitoring from the earth. Namor is sitting this one out, convinced (for some reason) that he and the comatose Atlanteans won’t be affected by the ray. Yet at the same time, he plans on holding Doom to his pledge to restore his people to consciousness, so his refusal to assist makes zero sense. Of course, he can’t really do much to help, anyway. I guess that’s one of the drawbacks of the “Marvel method”—Bob Hall drew Namor and Cap arguing, so Mantlo had to come up with something… So Doom drops the Shroud off to space walk at the ray satellite (Doom doesn’t dare to blast it for fear of triggering it, so it’s apparently a worse design than I thought!) Doom has some history with the Red Skull, as he reflects:
It’s a rematch from the old Astonishing Tales series. If readers got the itch to see that, they’ll have a chance in a year or so… The Skull’s men are preparing him for the inevitable combat…by putting boots on him while he lounges and smokes on the moonbase. The Skull recaps his entire scheme, from his previous appearance in Captain America, through buying weaponry from Doom’s black market, reverse engineering Doom’s tech to take over Latveria, shrinking Captain America, and finally, through a lucky break, getting beamed up to the moon. And now Mantlo explains that the delay is actually due to the need to reprogram the ray to respond to the moonbase commands. And it IS only an hour delay! And for not much reason but to demonstrate his evil, the Red Skull kills a henchman:
Hm, the Red Skull’s not only cribbing from Dr. Doom, but stealing the Joker’s act as well! Finally, the lunar showdown gets underway, with Skull firing missiles causing Doom to abandon ship, then suiting up and mounting his space rocket to zoom in for the direct attack. Armed with more of Doom’s stolen tech, he gets the upper hand quickly. Meanwhile, the Shroud’s screwing things up when his attempt to probe the Hypno-Ray turns the thing on, and, as it turns out, it has a control system NASA would be proud to design, turning on a dime and stabilizing in an attitude hold to aim straight at Mother Earth! (Mantlo remembers that the Shroud is blind, and attributes his unlikely ability to navigate to and accidentally activate the Ray to his “mystic senses” which “reveal to me things normal vision could not”.
The battle between our not-very-teaming-up leads tips in Doom’s favor when he hacksaws the rocket sled down the middle:
Even worse for the suddenly ride-less Skull, he lands in the middle of some mines he’d left for his enemy. When his helmet is cracked, Doom just laughs. But what about the Hypno-Ray? Well, Captain America arrives in a borrowed S.H.I.E.L.D. ship to find that the ray backfired and blew itself out. Nope, bad design after all, gents! NASA’s not so interested anymore, ok? Cap rescues the Shroud, and his first concern is to return the injured hero to Earth, but not without a vow to take care of the Skull, should Doom fail. Turns out the Skulls got some fight left in him, even with an air leak. The influence of Gene Colan continues to show in Bob Hall’s art. For example, Colan was fond of the angular, asymmetrical panel shapes like we see here:
A bit more hand-to-hand combat leaves the Skull pinned beneath boulders. When the Skull’s men arrive on the scene, the disloyal jerks immediately start following the victorious Doom, who leaves the Red Skull to die as he zips back to Latveria:
This is the first issue where Namor plays virtually no part, as we finish the first installment with a new guest "teaming up" with Dr. Doom. Not that the Skull ever teamed up aside from as an unidentified business partner in previous issues, but readers have certainly come to not take the title of this comic literally. In poring over this plot in considerably more detail than I did when originally reading it in 1977, I am at least impressed that Mantlo made a valiant attempt to reconcile all the dangling plot threads and resolve everyone's locations and situations, except perhaps for the matter of Namor's pledge of fealty to Dr. Doom, which I don't think was ever explicitly cancelled (perhaps Doom offered off-panel when he was promising to heal the Atlanteans?). But it still didn't make for the most gripping of tales, and the cast act out of character (the Shroud teaming with the hated Dr. Doom) and against their own interests (the reluctant Sub-Mariner). We did have some elements with promising potential, for example, Captain America and Dr. Doom teaming to defeat the one enemy that had been established that they had in common. And for readers who liked plenty of action, the book did deliver a lot of pages of conflict between our leads, as promised on the cover. It's not up to the standards of previous writer Steve Englehart, who I expect would have delivered a more satisfying resolution to the mysteries he initiated, but it's not too bad by the average quality of its competitors on the racks in 1977. On the letters page, one writer wants to see Thor appear, and hints at Firelord and the 4-D Man. An editorial response reveals that next issue will be Namor's last regular appearance in the comic, and hints that the following co-star will be a villain from X-Men. Other writers are already on board with the notion that this book switch over from a regular partnership to a MTU-style team-up with Doom in the lead. Suggestions for guest include Green Goblin, Modok, Galactus and Mephisto. Modok would have been a good choice, but I think he was more of an embarrassment than a cult favorite at the time. Modok would get his turn in the SVTU spotlight decades later, though!