Wednesday, August 11, 2010

January 1973

Another of my favorite MTUs this time, a story I first read in one of those great, over-sized Marvel Treasury editions of the 1970s. I remember digging the art but realizing that Gil Kane’s work looked…different, little realizing he was being inked by Mike Esposito. Makes for an interesting combo, eh? And speaking of interesting combos, how about that Batman/Wonder Woman team-up? As I say there below, this one signals the end of the “mod” WW era – fascinating time; too bad the story was fairly lukewarm.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #6 4 ½ whiskers

DATE: January, 1973

TITLE: “…As Those Who Will Not See!”

STARS: Spider-Man & The Thing
VILLAINS: The Puppet Master & The Mad Thinker

WRITER: Gerry Conway
EDITOR: Roy Thomas

INKER: Mike Esposito

STORY: At the Baxter Building Ben Grimm, the Thing, discovers Spider-Man crouched over the insensate form of the Puppet Master and demands an explanation. Ben’s blind girlfriend Alicia Masters explains to the wall-crawler that the villain is her step-father while the Thing interrogates him about her blindness. With a small hope that Alicia’s condition may not be permanent the two heroes, the girl and the Puppet Master fly to his old lab in Pennsylvania. En route, the story of the Puppet Master’s guilt in the accident that stole his step-daughter’s sight comes out. At the lab, Spider-Man and the Thing are taken off-guard by security defenses while their prisoner slips away. Following him into the underground lair, the Puppet Master’s partner-in-crime is revealed: the Mad Thinker.

COMMENTS: Picking up moments after the end of the previous issue, with this story Conway attempts to impart some humanity into an otherwise base villain. The particulars behind Alicia’s blindness and the Puppet Master’s treachery are revealed here for the first time.

Spider-Man and the Thing will go onto many team-ups after this initial one, and though their relationship is characterized as a bit strained it’s not nearly as tenuous as that between Spider-Man and the Thing’s teammate the Human Torch. The web-slinger’s presence in the story is a bit odd, with only a brief comment by him about how he’d like to trust Ben Grimm and using the adventure as a way to gauge such possible trust.

The Mad Thinker’s been an opponent of the Fantastic Four almost as long as the Puppet Master, having first fought them in 1963’s FANTASTIC FOUR #15. His android servants change throughout the years but are usually gigantic and mute, such as the one in this story. The Thinker’s background has yet to be fully explored by writers and he remains a villain of unspecific power and motivation.

The team-up herein between the super-villains is atypical in that they share a laugh together but also typical in that the one betrays the other – the Puppet Master truly does love his step-daughter and when he perceives that she is threatened, he lashes out at his partner the Mad Thinker and brings their brief alliance to a ruinous close.

Conway’s story is strangely open-ended, offering a presumed suicide by the Puppet Master and no real explanation as to the supposed cure for Alicia.

THE BRAVE & THE BOLD #105 three whiskers

DATE: Jan-Feb, 1973

TITLE: “Play Now…Die Later!”

STARS: Batman and Wonder Woman

WRITER: Bob Haney
EDITOR: Murray Boltinoff

ARTIST: Jim Aparo

STORY: Mod Diana Prince, the de-powered Wonder Woman, plays duenna to a beautiful girl caught in the middle of a Latino war transplanted to Gotham. Batman believes he’s being targeted with an old con called the “Spanish Prisoner Game” but the San Sebastian nationals he’s keeping a close eye on might just be on the up-and-up, desperately seeking a ransom for their father, the guardian of a treasure that may tip the scales of the war.

COMMENTS: This issue coincided with the end of the “mod” Diana Prince era of Wonder Woman, which lasted five years total. Diana has a strange “guardian angel” in this story, an Amazon warrior who helps her with advice and even saves her life. This issue is also a good example of the type of sophisticated story Haney had achieved by this time, eschewing super-villains and world-busting threats and concentrating on street-level drama. Keep a look-out for a semi-truck with the name HANEY emblazoned on its sides.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

November 1972

Two fantastic co-stars this month for our Web-slinging Wonder and Dark Knight: the Vision and Deadman. Gil Kane’s still hanging out in MTU and his artistic counterpart over at DC, Jim Aparo, returns to B&B after an unfortunate break. Now that I think of it, aren’t Kane and Aparo truly counterparts? Same universe of style and level of artistic merit, right? Also, check out my comments about some of the wonky stuff Haney was trying to insert into the Bat-mythos...

MARVEL TEAM-UP #5 - four whiskers

DATE: November, 1972

TITLE: “A Passion of the Mind!”

STARS: Spider-Man & The Vision
VILLAIN: The Puppet Master

WRITER: Gerry Conway
EDITOR: Roy Thomas

INKER: Mike Esposito

STORY: The android Vision is laid low by what he categorizes as “epileptic seizures,” a condition which literally throws him at the feet of night owl Spider-Man. Moved by the android’s plight and wishing to help, the web-slinger takes him to a local hospital for a covert EEG and computer probe. The results are startling: the Vision suffers from an extra set of brain waves. The two heroes track the unique frequency of the brain waves to the Baxter Building, headquarters of the Fantastic Four, where they discover the villainous Puppet Master and his new thrall, a hulking alien robot he calls the Monstroid. While Spider-Man battles the giant the Vision struggles against both the painful seizures and the evil manipulations of the Puppet Master.

COMMENTS: One of Marvel’s most unique characters, the Vision makes his debut in 1968’s AVENGERS #57 and soon becomes the comic book poster child for synthetic beings searching for their humanity. It’s of little surprise that he’s chosen for the first truly warm team-up for the series; he and Spider-Man’s interactions are friendly and sincere, despite this being their first meeting. Eschewing the by-now-clichéd “fight of misunderstanding,” Conway presents a desperate android who the web-slinger’s good nature embraces and which sets the stage for a true team-up of convenience.

Conway also ties plot elements to both the Visions then-occurring troubles in AVENGERS #105 and the famous Kree-Skrull War, penned by his MTU editor Roy Thomas. For the second issue in a row Peter Parker’s roommate Harry Osborn appears, again at their shared apartment – where Spider-Man quite oddly initially takes the weakened Vision, hoping Harry will continue to slumber through their tête-à-tête.

The Puppet Master was already a longtime Fantastic Four foe at the time of this story, first appearing in FANTASTIC FOUR #8, in 1962. The stepfather of the Thing’s girlfriend Alicia Masters he provides not only the villainy here but also the link to the subsequent issue of MTU, a team-up with the Thing.

Note the opening of the tale, in which our insomniac wall-crawler swings off his frustrations over the night-darkened city and which also will become something of a standard Spider-Man story-opener.

THE BRAVE & THE BOLD #104 - four whiskers

DATE: Nov-Dec, 1972

TITLE: “Second Chance for a Deadman?”

STARS: Batman and Deadman
VILLAINS: Lilly Lang and Richie Wandrus

WRITER: Bob Haney
EDITOR: Murray Boltinoff

ARTIST: Jim Aparo

STORY: Batman uncovers a fantastic “spa” that provides facelifts and identity changes for criminals, but its heavily-guarded island in Florida proves unbreachable. Enter Deadman as Batman’s invisible agent. The restless ghost takes up residence in spa owner Lilly Lang’s lover and while gathering evidence falls in love with her – hard. The game reaches a deadly conclusion when Deadman must choose between friend Batman and a real, physical life with Lilly.

COMMENTS: Aparo returns though B&B’s schedule is still off, a situation that would last until issue #107. Look for a reference to Deadman’s first B&B appearance in #79, a mention of Batman’s “bat-sense,” Commissioner Gordon referring to the Caped Crusader’s code against guns as “idiotic” (right after Batman brandishes one, albeit with blanks), and an interesting argument between Batman and Deadman wherein the spook tries to cut a deal that will allow Lilly to go free. In the end, he actually kills her, hoping to join with her ghost.

Zeroids #1 - Review

ZEROIDS #1four whiskers

If I know you as well as I think I do, you’ve recently bemoaned the lack of comics that revive old 1960s robot toys and combine them with sexy young co-eds, zombies and soldiers in Afghanistan – am I right?

Good, because Moonstone and Captain Action Enterprises have a new comic for you: ZEROIDS. But I warn you; its crazy-ass stuff.

One huge good thing right off the bat is that you don’t have to know anything about the Zeroids toys from the 1960s to read this. Which is good because barely anyone knows anything about the Zeroids toys from the 1960s. If you want to know, look ‘em up on Wikipedia – we’re talking about the comic book here. ZEROIDS #1 kicks right off with some backstory on the chunky-funky ‘roids and in a fairly interesting way, too. It’s all wrapped up with that old chestnut, the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico flying saucer crash, but the narrative manages to make it seem fresh and gets you up to speed. You’ll have to put up with a scientist named Zero – you can imagine what his school days were like – and a reference to the 1970s toy revival of the Zeroids – look it up – but overall it’s easy to follow.

Then the crazy-ass stuff happens. And happens. And happens.

Flash-forward to two separate yet somewhat concurrent stories of a houseful of cute girls in short-shorts and tank tops fending off a zombie plague and the misfortunes of two tough-as-nails soldiers in Afghanistan fending off a – yes – zombie plague. What the actual connection is between the two tales is held in abeyance for the nonce but as in the intro-backstory part, things move along nicely and then the alien ship arrives along with the robots.


I dug it all – its presented with some really nice, clean art by Roberto Castro and Craig Henderson that erred just this side of cartoony yet helps the crazy-ass proceedings gain a little traction in your brain matter. The downside is while the dialogue by Aaron Shaps is often smooth and engaging it also delves wayyy too many times into smug “hip” slang and awkward self-referencing – as in “Dude, if this was a horror movie, we’d be…” etc, etc. It’s kind of cute the first time but it gets old quick. For example, one of the soldiers is black and at one point he makes it known that in horror films the black guys always gets offed, no matter how nice they are. That sort of thing. Anyway, like I said, it’s not deal-killer but Shaps seems to be trying a bit too hard to appeal to one segment of the intended audience, i.e., “young people,” and this aging fanboy was taken out of the fiction one too many times.

I’m pretty sure that Moonstone and the Captain Action guys have a potential nut-job sleeper-winner on their hands here, if they can maintain the nuttiness and almost-camp that’s evident in ZEROIDS #1. Not sure if the sexy co-ed thing is anything more than just a bit of male-fantasy fluff but I guess time will tell if this first issue is a promise – or a threat. Regardless, this issue made me want to know what happens next, which is always a good thing for an ongoing comic.

Oh, and one more thing: not enough Zeroids. Just sayin’. I want to see how those old clunky toy designs will work in such a “hip” new world – you know, kind of like all of us aging fanboys.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

September 1972

And the Morbius Saga in MTU finally comes to a close, with the help of the then-homeless X-Men. Over in B&B, the Metal Men check in with Batman – what would B&B be like without the Metal Men?

Marvel Team-Up #4 three and 1/2 whiskers

DATE: September, 1972

TITLE: “And Then – The X-Men!”

STARS: Spider-Man & The X-Men
VILLAIN: Morbius the Living Vampire

WRITER: Gerry Conway
EDITOR: Roy Thomas

INKER: Steve Mitchell

STORY: While a still-ill Peter Parker thrashes through nightmares in his sleep, Morbius the Living Vampire returns to State University to abduct Prof. Jorgenson. Unfortunately, Spider-Man’s found investigating the scene after the fact and is blamed for the kidnapping. In Westchester, Professor Charles Xavier sends his mutant students, the X-Men, to rescue his old colleague Prof. Jorgenson. The mutants track down Spider-Man and winning a battle with him take him back to Prof. X, who after searching the young hero’s mind realizes he’s not the kidnapper. Now with Morbius as their target the X-Men confront and beat the vampire, recover Prof. Jorgenson who in turn saves Spider-Man’s life from the toxins in his blood from a previous encounter with Morbius.

COMMENTS: The Human Torch team-ups come to an end this issue as the X-Men join Spider-Man for an adventure. The mutant heroes’ own stories hit a kind of hibernation as their title ceases to publish new adventures almost two years previously, and at this time in the middle of more than four years of reprints. During that time, the X-Men guest-star in various other Marvel series until their triumphant return in 1975’s GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1.

Sadly, there is no real team-up here between Spider-Man and Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman and the Angel. As is becoming par for the course with MTU, the two sides battle over a misunderstanding – Spider-Man losing due to his illness – and never get the chance to fight side-by-side. By story’s end there’s no real animosity between them over the earlier fight and Spider-Man makes a quick exit, claiming he’s “anti-social.”

For the first time in MTU one of Spider-Man’s supporting cast makes an appearance – namely Harry Osborn, Peter Parker’s friend and roommate. This is most likely due to the fact that scripter Gerry Conway was at the time the newly-minted writer of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, also. Conway also makes heavy use of the events of ASM #102, wherein Spider-Man was cured of extra arms by a dose of serum made from Morbius’ blood – here the cause for the hero’s illness.

The “next issue” blurb trumpets “The Eye of the Basilisk!” though no such story appears in MTU #5. A villain called the Basilisk will appear in issue #16, more than a year later and written not by Conway but by fellow scribe Len Wein.

THE BRAVE & THE BOLD #103 two and 1/2 whiskers

DATE: Sept-Oct, 1972

TITLE: “A Traitor Lurks Inside Earth!”

STARS: Batman and The Metal Men

WRITER: Bob Haney
EDITOR: Murray Boltinoff

ARTISTS: Bob Brown and Frank McLaughlin

STORY: Having killed his creator, the USA’s ultimate robot-computer John Doe blackmails the entire country from its lair deep beneath the desert. Batman recruits the Metal Men to infiltrate John Doe’s location but the robots are captured, forcing the Masked Manhunter to find his own way in. The super-computer will not be easily beaten, though, for once its own personality is destroyed its takes on that of its late creator.

COMMENTS: This issue marks the first time since B&B’s inception in 1955 that it failed to meet its bi-monthly schedule, due to Aparo’s personal emergency. The Metal Men had been “retired” for almost three years previously, after their series was put on hiatus in late 1969, but a year after their team-up here their book was re-activated. There are echoes in the story of B&B #74 and its “robot convention” and also of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and its runaway computer Hal – though John Doe sings “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, not “Daisy”.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July 1972

The Spidey-Torch love-fest continues in MTU while over in B&B Batman has to deal with his own gaggle of hip kids…and Aparo needs a little help from his friends.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #3 three whiskers

DATE: July, 1972

TITLE: “The Power to Purge!”

STARS: Spider-Man & The Human Torch
VILLAIN: Morbius the Living Vampire

WRITER: Gerry Conway
EDITOR: Stan Lee

INKER: Giacoia

STORY: Brothers Jacob and Jefferson Bolt part ways after a heated argument but instead of peace Jefferson discovers Morbius floating unconscious in the river. For his troubles Morbius feeds on his rescuer, turning him into a vampire. Morbius fiancée Martine asks the Fantastic Four for help and when she mentions a Professor Hans Jorgenson at State University in Queens it jogs Johnny Storm’s memories. Recalling that Spider-Man attends the same school, the Human Torch seeks out both the Professor and the web-slinger. Spider-Man, suffering from apparent extreme flu-like symptoms stumbles upon Morbius attacking a student on campus and attempts to stem the vampire’s actions. Soon, the Human Torch, Jacob and Jefferson Bolt, and a mob of angry and mislead students enter the fray – and Morbius escapes.

COMMENTS: In this, MTU’s first continued story, Spider-Man and the Human Torch team up for the third consecutive issue. Johnny is again portrayed as being willing to seek out Spidey, albeit grudgingly and this time for information on a possible foe. Their relationship becomes a bit more complex herein; they face off like prizefighters when first spotting one another yet fly into battle together, despite their almost complete lack of ability to work in tandem. In one striking sequence, the ill Spider-Man is pulled off of Morbius by Johnny before the young hero beats the vampire to a pulp. At the coda, Spidey compliments the Torch for a heart-felt comment on the plight of the story’s two brothers.

There is an odd statement by Johnny in the story of how Spider-Man told him about Morbius when the two heroes last met. As their previous recorded meeting was two months earlier in MTU #2, which holds no mention of the vampire and was also written by Gerry Conway, it’s a strange comment and one obviously meant to serve the plot.

Morbius and Martine make their debuts in 1971’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #101 and 102, respectively. A scientific vampire, as opposed to a supernatural one, Michael Morbius gains vampiric abilities and disabilities from a blood experiment rather than a curse. One of Marvel’s strangest characters, he is neither completely good nor evil but almost always all-together self-centered. His appearance here in the river corresponds with his seeming disappearance at the end of ASM #102.

Look also for a cameo of Archie Bunker, of TV’s “All in the Family.”

THE BRAVE & THE BOLD #102 three whiskers

DATE: June-July, 1972

TITLE: “The Commune of Defiance”

STARS: Batman and The Teen Titans
VILLAIN: Sonny Trask and Angel Lee

WRITER: Bob Haney
EDITOR: Murray Boltinoff

ARTISTS: Jim Aparo, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano

STORY: The Barclayville neighborhood of Gotham’s a slum and its protectors, the Young Aquarians, are sick of the city turning its back on the area. After some civil disobedience, with help from Batman and the Titans, Gotham’s Mayor gives Barclayville 30 days to clean up its streets or its demolition time for the historic district. All goes well until the neighborhood’s crime lord gets out of prison and decides to teach the Aquarians a lesson on who’s the boss…

COMMENTS: A family emergency interrupted Aparo halfway through #102’s art chores, but B&B alum Adams and inker Giordano stepped in to finish the job with nary a bump. The story is another early 1970s lecture on “urban renewal” and “flower power”, complete with hip vigilantes the Young Aquarians: Jamie, Ben Ahmed, Needles, Mother Earth, and “Lawyer.” The Titans line-up this time around includes Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy, Wonder Girl, and the plain clothed Mal Duncan. Dig Needles aping Marvel’s Stan Lee with exclamations of “True Believer!”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

May 1972

Seems as if Marvel may have wanted MTU to be nothing more than a Spidey-Torch joint...and Metamorpho, every B&B fan's friend crawls out of his retirement and kick-starts a long-standing convention for the book.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #2 three whiskers

DATE: May, 1972

TITLE: “And Spidey Makes Four!”

STARS: Spider-Man & The Human Torch
VILLAINS: The Frightful Four, Annihilus

WRITER: Gerry Conway
EDITOR: Stan Lee

INKER: Jim Mooney

STORY: A depressed Johnny Storm seeks out Spider-Man for some friendly talk but is rebuffed by the wall-crawler. Later, Spider-Man shows up at the Fantastic Four’s Baxter Building headquarters and proceeds to pummel the Torch insensate. Johnny then learns that his fellow hero has been hypnotized by the Frightful Four, whose leader the Wizard plans to utilize the FF’s equipment to capture and store vast amounts of cosmic energy. Unfortunately, the process opens a doorway to the Negative Zone and its most infamous denizen, the evil and powerful Annihilus. Mentally freed, Spider-Man stands with the Torch between the menace of the Frightful Four and a terrifying incursion from beyond.

COMMENTS: More a Human Torch story than a Spider-Man tale, the webslinger is used mostly as the villains’ tool for most of the narrative until he wakes up for the last four pages. Despite their long-standing rocky relationship, Johnny actually proposes friendship to his fellow teen-ager, an olive branch that an uncharacteristically-callous Spider-Man shrugs off as “playing counselor to some neurotic’s fantasies!”

The loose references in this issue to the previous issue, such as Johnny’s mention of working with Spider-Man “a few weeks ago” and Sandman’s bit of payback on Spidey, presage the multipart MTU stories to come.

Johnny Storm is pining herein for the Inhuman girl called Crystal, whom he first meets and falls in love with in 1965’s FANTASTIC FOUR #45. After a long romance Crystal leaves Johnny for the mutant Quicksilver, with whom she eventually marries and has a child.

The Frightful Four first run afoul of the Fantastic Four in FF #36, in 1965. At first their membership consists of the Wizard, Sandman, Trapster, and the Inhuman Medusa. As noted in MTU #2, Medusa has left the group to join the side of the angels; the Wizard’s search for her replacement will become something of a running joke through the years.

Annihilus, one of the FF’s most powerful and dangerous foes, makes his debut in 1968’s FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #6. Wielder of the so-called Cosmic Control Rod, the would-be conqueror constantly seeks to extend his reign of tyranny outside the borders of his native Negative Zone. Before MTU #2, his most recent defeat is shown in the previous year’s FF#109-110.

THE BRAVE & THE BOLD #101 three and a half whiskers

DATE: Apr-May, 1972

TITLE: “Cold Blood, Hot Gun!”

STARS: Batman and Metamorpho
VILLAIN: Bounty Hunter

WRITER: Bob Haney
EDITOR: Murray Boltinoff

ARTIST: Jim Aparo

STORY: A strange “murder list” left at a homicide includes both Bruce Wayne and Metamorpho’s girlfriend Sapphire Stagg. Batman steels himself for the onslaught of Bounty Hunter, a notorious one-armed assassin and the owner of the list, offering protection to everyone on the list. Meanwhile, Bruce and a restless Sapphire attend the auction of a grand old estate, not realizing that its owners are intricately linked to the hired killer – and Element Man is hot on Sapphire’s pretty heels.

COMMENTS: Before this issue Metamorpho had been in publishing limbo since the demise of his series, three years previous. During that time, Haney and DC solicited readers’ opinions on whether to bring Rex Mason back, the result of which is this tale. Bounty Hunter is one of Haney’s more-inspired villains, more of a gun-for-hire than a hunter of lawful bounties. Gordon is practically beside himself with worry over Bounty Hunter’s arrival in Gotham yet Haney allows the killer a rare getaway at stories end and a thoughtful Batman ponders their next encounter…

Where the ACTION Is


3 1/2 whiskers

The new CAPTAIN ACTION #1 “Season 2” picks up the, well, action from the previous series and gets right down to business. This is a solid adventure-intrigue comic with a lot going for it and though it isn’t perfect it tries hard and succeeds more than it fails.

The original Fabian Nicieza premise of super-spies and super-heroes in a world invaded by aliens from the previous series is further explored here and it’s an interesting one. It’s more super-spies than super-heroes but there are plenty of fisticuffs for, well, action fans. Steven Grant’s writing is competent and steady, with relatively-smooth dialogue and I had no real complaints with the pacing. Manuel Martin’s art is very nice, with – dare I say it – a very-occasional Wally Wood vibe, which is appropriate. Again, it’s a book that has it together in many ways and Moonstone should be proud of the package.

The story jumps right in from the previous series and puts our somewhat-newbie Captain Action right in the middle of trouble. Posing as the President of The United States he tires of his masquerade and when he tries to bail rushes headlong into a confrontation with Russian super-agents. One of the things I like best here is the relationship between Our Hero and his father, the former Captain Action of the 1960s. This isn’t the clichéd “I hate my dad and everything he stood for” rebellious relationship; the two men aren’t exactly the best of buds but they manage to work together and Captain Action Senior has much still to offer in his current role.

I also appreciate that the Captain Action owners haven’t relied on pure nostalgia here to sell the book. It must have been a challenge, to find a new path for the character, without miring him in the swamp of the 1960s yet not changing him so much his original fans couldn’t recognize him. The balance in CAPTAIN ACTION #1 is a good one, with equal parts past, present and future. Something for everyone.

Here’s where the book stumbles: not enough Captain Action. Let me clarify – for most of the, well, action herein Our Hero is not himself. See, in order to retain the old “man of a thousand faces” concept from the original 1960s toys, they’ve hooked him up with this stuff that allows him to change his appearance – and super-powers – at will. Problem is that you get Captain Action as everyone else but himself most times. The redesign of the original costume is a very good one and I wish I’d seen it more in what is an inaugural issue of sorts. I sympathize with what the creators have to deal with to make the Captain more than just the normal guy in the blue-black suit, but maybe they erred on the side of, well, action than image this time.

Also, there’s very little back-story relayed here and for someone picking up this book for the first time there may be a bit of confusion. I knew the back-story and I was still struggling at times to dope out the proceedings. And while I’m at it, the moratorium on Obama appearances should begin any moment now. Seriously, guys, it had its day quite a long time ago. Now, it’s just marketing, and not very good marketing. More like pandering.

We also get a retro Action Boy back-up tale which is a lot of fun and connects to the main story. Good to see this character wasn’t forgotten and is being brought into the fold to join the good Captain. This was a nice addition to the book and I for one am intrigued with where they're going with it.

Overall, Joe Ahearn and Ed Catto, the current owners of Captain Action, have been quality caretakers for the property, more so than any others who’ve tried to resurrect the character since his original days as an Ideal action figure. They’ve started with a good foundation, an interesting world in which Captain Action lives, and seem to have a plan in place to grow it. Again, they’re not just relying on nostalgia though they do tip their hats to it and recognize it for its worth. This is a crucial time, I think, as they could easily sink this property than save it. If this new CAPTAIN ACTION #1 is any indication, I think they’re going to save it.

Give it a try. There are far, far worse ways to spend your disposable dough at the comic shop these days.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

March 1972

As MTU dawned, B&B was celebrating its 100th issue...both strong entries and both displaying team-ups that are not always copacetic.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #1 3 1/2 whiskers

DATE: March, 1972

TITLE: “Have Yourself a Sandman Little Christmas!”

STARS: Spider-Man & The Human Torch VILLAIN: The Sandman

WRITER: Roy Thomas EDITOR: Stan Lee

PENCILLER: Ross Andru INKER: Mike Esposito

STORY: After a disastrous run-in with the Sandman, Spider-Man hopes to foist the problem off on the Fantastic Four - but gets the solo Human Torch instead. The squabbling heroes decide to confront the villain together, despite it being Christmas Eve, and a few short digressions later they track Sandman to New Jersey. Because of their inability to work together, the two heroes are defeated and dropped into a watery death-trap. After escaping, Spidey and the Torch catch up to the baddie and discover his Jersey secret: an ailing mother he visits every Christmas Eve.

COMMENTS: The Human Torch is a logical choice to inaugurate a series of Spider-Man team-ups. Johnny Storm first meets the wall-crawler alongside his Fantastic Four teammates in 1963’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1, and beginning in STRANGE TALES ANNUAL #2 that same year the two heroes begin a long tradition of rough-and-tumble meetings.

MTU #1 portrays the Spider-Man/Torch relationship as before, a begrudging camaraderie with plenty of insults and put-downs in good measure. While the two heroes manage not to kill each other and even find some common teen-age ground, their ability to work in tandem leaves much to be desired.

Spider-Man makes an odd comment in this story that Sandman isn’t “his” enemy, though the grainy goon made his debut in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4. In fact, Spidey claims he only “tackled him once” yet Sandman is a charter member of the Sinister Six, a team-up of Spider-Man villains, beginning in 1964’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1. The Torch first opposes Sandman in 1963, in STRANGE TALES #115, and then alongside the full FF in FANTASTIC FOUR #36, in 1965.

In MTU #64, in 1977, it will be revealed that the woman Spider-Man and the Torch save from muggers here in MTU #1 is Misty Knight, a tough-talking private-eye with a bionic arm and the paramour of the super hero martial artist Iron Fist.

Though it’s Christmas Eve in this story, there’s no indication of the holiday – nor the wintry season – in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #106, published the same month. Both stories are reputedly edited by Stan Lee.

THE BRAVE & THE BOLD #100 4 whiskers

DATE: Feb-Mar, 1972

TITLE: “The Warrior in a Wheel-Chair”

STARS: Batman and 4 Famous Co-Stars VILLAIN: Belknap

WRITER: Bob Haney EDITOR: Murray Boltinoff

ARTIST: Jim Aparo

STORY: With a bullet lodged near his heart and awaiting a life-or-death operation, Batman calls in Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Robin to intercept a shipment of heroin scheduled to be smuggled into Gotham. A drug kingpin senses interference and tests his network – and each of the heroes – determining that when the Caped Crusader goes under the knife, he must never recover.

COMMENTS: This “Spectacular 100th Issue” pulls out all the stops by offering four Bat-partners for the price of one. There’s a rare reference herein to another DC title, this time Green Lantern #86, the infamous “Speedy on smack” issue. In another scene, Green Arrow actually kills a drug smuggler with an arrow, seemingly without remorse and at odds with the character’s belief system. Batman running the show from a wheel-chair has a certain “Rear Window” ring to it and his ongoing narrative about a nearby spider, comparing it to his own ploy, verges on the poetic.