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.


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