Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Avengers 26 to 34 (3/66 to 11/66)

Two founders return.
Mighty team, personal woes.
Heart wins, not powers.

Captain America; Steve Rogers
Goliath; Henry “Hank” Pym
Hawkeye; Clint Barton
Quicksilver; Pietro Maximoff
Scarlet Witch; Wanda Maximoff
Wasp; Janet Van Dyne 

Featured Enemies
Black Widow; Natasha Romanoff

                The growth of the new team and the return of two members of the original team causes a few changes to the group’s chemistry. Hawkeye is shown to gain respect for Captain America and becomes less of a smart-mouth towards him, but once Goliath returns to the team, Hawkeye turns his disrespectful streak towards him instead. As Goliath and Wasp become more active, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, under the pretense of having problems with their powers, briefly leave the team, keeping the core members at four.
                This small number of members seems contrary to modern convention, where teams will end up bursting at the seams with members and often have to split up into subgroups, each with their own title for the readers to purchase. The Avengers team, if you include the recently formed Initiative, got so big that there was a team in each of the 50 states for a short time. Although those small branches have since been pruned off, the current Avengers team can call upon dozens of possible heroes as needed.
                Keeping the scale small may have been to keep things easier for the artist, with less figures to keep track of in each panel. Stan seemed to love to split the Avengers group all the time in order to keep the battles small or perhaps the tension high. The team would show up in groups of one or two to give those poor villains a change to avoid getting overwhelmed. Even going back to Avengers 1, Iron Man says, “We’ll fight together, or separately, if need be!” Little did he know how separated they would often find themselves. Villains could field a small army of lackeys, but they hardly ever got along well enough together for very long as a supervillain group.
                The pattern of stories usually fell into two-issue story arcs, which is a change from the single issues at the beginning of the series. Two was the most, however, not like the mega-issue epics of modern stories, which like to span about the length of what would fit into a medium-sized trade paperback. With Stan still writing most of the titles, he continued to refer to events in other series that month to explain character absences or plot points. Keeping the issue arcs small also allowed a certain amount of down-time between issues for those other series to take place without contradicting each other, so characters’ movements were a bit easier to track.
                The villains' motives continued be a bit childlike, with the exception of Attuma, who was trying to flood out the surface and drown everyone. Villains seemed enamored with the idea of defeating the Avengers in public, recruiting them as a public relations victory, or “destroying” them, which never meant killing them, just imprisoning them or tricking them in disbanding. Villains didn’t really think much beyond that for personal gain. They just see the Avengers as a means to some end that often doesn’t make that much sense. It goes beyond the Avengers. The Living Laser leaves behind all the cash from bank heist before getting involved with the Avengers, because apparently having superpowers means you just need to prove you’re awesome to the public, not make a living.


Avengers Vol 1 26.jpg

Avengers 26
The Voice of the Wasp
March, 1966
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Don Heck and Frank Giacoia

Namor is headed for New York, and Wasp and Henry Pym are at sea and know about it, so Wasp flies to Manhattan, but she is intercepted by Atlantean warlord Attuma.  Attuma has a machine that will cause global tides to rise and flood the surface. Wasp briefly escapes and sends a message to summon the Avengers. Hawkeye is not at headquarters, and his ring’s receiver is broken, so the rest of the team head to sea. Attuma’s submarine has air in it to protect the equipment, but the humidity inside is high enough to cause humans to pass out. The Avengers battle his forces, but they are hampered by their breathing and are captured. Attuma’s men claim he had it too easy in battle with the atmosphere as an ally, so in his vanity, he frees the Avengers to fight again in a chamber with regular humidity. In that fight, an important structure is destroyed, and the sea floods the vessel. 

Hawkeye: “What’s with you, Winghead? You’re startin’ to yell ‘Avengers Assemble’ like a nutty broken record!” 

·         Inker Frank Giacoia uses the alias Frank Ray for this issue and the next two after it. He starts using his real name in issue 29. According to Stan Lee in a Bullpen Bulletins column, artists started using their real names when they each became comfortable getting public credit for working in the comic book field, which was not always respected.
·         Writer Roy Thomas must have liked the name Frank Ray. He used it for the name of a girlfriend of the Human Torch, Frankie Ray. She later became a herald of Galactus under the code name of Nova.
·         Hawkeye says Captain America is acting “like Mr. Novak.” He’s referring to a television program, Mr. Novak, that ran from 1963 to 1965. It was about a high school English teacher, e.g. a lecturer.
·         This story follows up Tales to Astonish 78, where Namor is mind-controlled into attacking Wasp and Henry Pym’s cruise ship. The Namor story isn’t picked up again in Avengers at all.
·         Starting this issue, Wasp no longer needs to use pills to change her size. She can do it at will.
·         Wasp is known for her costume changes, but for this issue, as well as issues 28 and 29, she’s just wearing a regular bathing suit.
·         Attuma claims the Avengers will be sacrificed to the “Water gods.” Some Atlanteans still worship the Greek god Neptune, but it’s unclear what Attuma is referring to here.
·         Attuma was most recently seen in the major event Fear Itself. He was one of the seven beings chosen to wield one of the Hammers of the Worthy for the Serpent.

Avengers Vol 1 27.jpg

Avengers 27
Four Against the Flood Tide
April, 1966
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Don Heck and Frank Giacoia 

Hawkeye finds himself attacked at headquarters, but he subdues the mystery intruder and leaves him there tied up. Attuma’s machine begins its work, and tides start to rise. Of the Avengers, only Quicksilver is able to escape the submarine, but he is close to drowning when Hawkeye arrives to rescue him. The two heroes crash their vehicle into Attuma’s sub, and it again begins to fill with water. In the confusion, Captain America and Scarlet Witch free themselves. While the Avengers battle Attuma and his forces, Captain America is able to sabotage the machine and derail Attuma’s plot. 

Captain America, thinking: “Things look pretty hopeless! But he’s got one weak chink in his armor—This is the time for me to play upon his colossal vanity!” 

·         Hawkeye’s mystery attacker is the first Beetle, Abner Jenkins. He is acting on behalf of the Collector, who will be seen next issue.
·         Abner Jenkins will later become the hero Mach V, a teammate of Hawkeye on the Thunderbolts, though he spends much of that time in prison to pay for his crimes.
·         Hawkeye offers the Beetle a “no-prize” during their battle. A no-prize was an imaginary prize given out to Marvel readers for finding mistakes. At first, it was nothing but a simple statement the person had won it, but eventually in 1967, they began sending out empty envelopes to the fans.
·         A reporter covering the flooding is named Chet Brinkley, who ends his report with, “Good night, David.” The Huntley-Brinkley Report was a nightly news show airing from 1956 to 1970, but the hosts were Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.
·         When a fan in the letter column suggests that there should be two teams of Avengers, Stan Lee jokingly lists several possible names for the second series, one of which is New Avengers. This would become a series in 2005.
·         During the story, Hawkeye casually mentions that he borrowed his vehicle from the Fantastic Four. He then casually crashes it into Attuma’s sub. It survives the ill treatment and is used in the Avengers’ getaway.

Avengers Vol 1 28.jpg

Avengers 28
Among Us Walks…a Goliath!
May, 1966
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Don Heck and Frank Giacoia

After the last adventure, the Wasp and the Beetle are both missing. Henry Pym returns to seek her out with the Avengers. He decides to use his powers again and takes the new code name of Goliath. The Collector contacts the team and tells them where to find Wasp. They go to a castle in the mountains and face traps designed to add them to the Collector’s collection. The Beetle Is also there, doing the Collector’s bidding. Goliath grows enough to shatter his bonds and pursues the Collector, who uses a “temporal assimilator” to escape. The strain of his powers causes Goliath to collapse. 

Hawkeye, thinking: “I always hoped Methuselah would some day retire, and then I might be Avengers leader! But now with Goliath here, I’m just another also-ran! What a crummy break!” 

·         To prove he was Giant-Man, Henry Pym reveals his secret identity to the Avengers. He can now also use mental commands to changes size instead of pills. By the end of the story, Janet Van Dyne also reveals her identity as the Wasp.
·         Pym says the name Giant-Man was too corny and chooses the new alias, Goliath. He actually fought against the biblical Goliath in issue 10, but because time was turned back at the end of that story, he theoretically should not remember that encounter.
·         To stay safe using his powers, Goliath says he must only grow to a 25-foot height and he must do so for 15 minutes, no more or less. When he stays at that height too long, he shrinks down to a 10-foot height before collapsing.
·         Goliath’s new costume was designed by the Scarlet Witch. She used stretch fabric he had left behind and created a new outfit in case he ever returned.
·         This is the first appearance of the Collector. He is portrayed as an elderly man who has a collection of wondrous artifacts, but no hint is made that he is an immortal alien Elder of the Universe. This is also the first appearance of any Elder of the Universe.
·         Among the Collector’s collection in this issue are a Persian flying carpet; a catapult from the Middle Ages of Earth; a crystal ball that emits “mystic rays;” Jack’s magic beans, which summon two giants; a tiny vial that imprisons Wasp at miniature size; and a temporal assimilator, or time machine.

Avengers Vol 1 29.jpg

Avengers 29
This Power Unleashed!
June, 1966
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Don Heck and Frank Giacoia 

A consulting doctor says that Goliath will be stuck at his 10-foot form or risk death. We find that Black Widow has returned behind the Iron Curtain, and her new handler is Hu Chen. She is brainwashed to serve him and returned to the United States. When Hawkeye hears she has returned, he goes to her former house to investigate. Captain America secretly sends Wasp to follow Hawkeye.  Hawkeye finds Black Widow has allied with Swordsman and Power Man and is defeated. Wasp tries to return to the mansion, but an altercation with a hungry bird leaves her unconscious. The villains go to Avengers mansion and capture Captain America as well. Cap summons Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch with his communicator, but they, too, are defeated. When Wasp revives, she summons Goliath, who sends the villains into retreat. A freed Hawkeye has a chance to take a shot at Black Widow, but he is overcome with his feelings and can’t attack her, so the villains escape. 

Goliath: “You can’t know how I feel! Nobody can! I’m doomed to spend the rest of my life in a world that’s too small for me!” 

Swordsman, of Scarlet Witch: “The poor kid--! She seems so frail…so helpless!”
Black Widow: So does an asp…until it strikes!” 

(Hawkeye lets Black Widow escape)
Hawkeye: “All right, Winghead—say it! Go ahead, say it! This is one time I got it coming!”
Captain America: “There’s nothing to say, fella! We’re all Avengers, yes…but we’re also human beings, with feelings, and emotions! You did what you could…No man can do more than that!”
Hawkeye, thinking: “And that’s the guy I’ve been riding for months! I wish the ground could swallow me up…right now!” 

·         The only reason Captain America selects Dr. Carlson to examine Goliath is that they knew each other in World War II. He is able to examine Goliath with a simple stethoscope to make his diagnosis, which of course is proven incorrect.
·         Black Widow seems to be in a city with Russian architecture, but the agents she deals with are Dr. Yen and Hu Chen. When she returns to her handlers in issue 41, the country she is serving is called a “far eastern power, which shall remain nameless and unrecognized.”
·         Captain America is able to call for help with a communicator hidden under his glove and a tracking disk on his costume. At least the villains took his shield.
·         In this month, future Avenger Ares makes his modern Marvel debut in Thor.

Avengers Vol 1 30.jpg

Avengers 30
Frenzy in a Far-off Land!
July, 1966
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Don Heck and Frank Giacoia 

Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch feel their powers are weakening. They surmise that perhaps going to their homeland might recharge them, so they take a leave of absence. Goliath wishes to consult with his college professor, Dr. Anton, about his height difficulties, so he travels to South America. When he arrives, he is attacked by a band of strangely dressed men. When he defeats them, he demands to be taken to Dr. Anton. Anton is being held captive in a hidden land nearby which uses a Flame of Life for power. When Goliath arrives there, more natives attack him, but he is rescued by Prince Rey, whose regime is no longer in charge. Meanwhile, Wasp scours the streets for news about Black Widow and her gang and gets a solid lead. Hawkeye requests that he be able to go after the villains alone since he just let them escape. His request is approved, so Hawkeye goes to battle them alone. After defeating Swordsman, he is pinned helplessly by Power Man. Black Widow breaks her brainwashing and rescues Hawkeye. At headquarters, Wasp sees Goliath’s abandoned vehicle on a newscast about the missing Dr. Anton, and she fears for his safety. 

Goliath: “The only thing that can stop an Avenger is another Avenger!” 

Goliath: “Okay! You’re not wearing a moustache…and you’ve got wavy hair…so you must be a good guy!” 

·         The credits include one for “Irving Forbush, Arbitrator.” He will continue to appear in the credits box with a different title each issue. Irving Forbush is a fictional Marvel employee used for various purposes and later has the heroic counterpart of Forbush Man.
·         Goliath rides a personal rocket-powered air car to South America. According to him, it was designed by Tony Stark, and it uses “its own speed to recharge the generator.” Yet no other use of this amazing technology seems to impact the Marvel Universe.
·         This is the first appearance of Prince Rey, who will continue to appear from time to time in other Marvel series along with the Flame of Life.
·         Goliath claims the hidden land looks like a scene from H. Rider Haggard, the author behind King Solomon’s Mines and other Lost World and Allan Quatermain novels.
·         Future Avenger Black Panther debuts in Fantastic Four this month.

Avengers Vol 1 31.jpg

Avengers 31
Never Bug a Giant
August, 1966
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Don Heck and Frank Giacoia

 Captain America, Hawkeye, and Wasp track down Goliath in South America from where he left his vehicle. The local police know nothing, but a strange cloud over a mountain range prompts the Avengers to investigate the area. Meanwhile Goliath finds out that Prince Rey only wants the Flame of Life to bolster his own power. The Flame’s strength is theoretically enough to destroy the world if misused, so Goliath goes on his own to douse the flame for the greater good. Rays come out of the Flame and stop him. The Avengers engage the strange tribe and let themselves be captured in order to get some answers. Wasp remains free and scouts the area. Prince Rey’s men attack the Keeper’s forces, and the Avengers get free in the confusion. Wasp finds a fail-safe device that the Keeper set up to keep the Flame out of Prince Rey’s hands, and Hawkeye uses a blast arrow to set off an explosion that supposedly “kills” the Flame. When the prize is no longer available, the fighting ceases, and the Avengers rescue Dr Anton, who claims he has no answers for Goliath’s growth problems. 

Prince Rey’s soldier, whispering: “Who would dare place his trust in one so huge?” 

·         The “hidden land” is not mentioned by name here, but the inhabitants claim they are decided from the Incas. Years later in issues of Incredible Hulk, it’s revealed that it is El Dorado. In those Hulk stories, the Flame is still active.
·         Prince Rey says that the Flame of Life is powered by the element cobalt. Excessive amounts of cobalt can cause intoxication or delirium in humans.

Avengers Vol 1 32.jpg

Avengers 32
The Sign of the Serpent
September, 1966
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Don Heck 

A new hate organization called the Sons of the Serpent comes to prominence in the United States. They speak out against any foreigners, especially minorities. Goliath gets a new lab assistant from Stark Industries, Bill Foster,  to help him with his size problems. A visiting dignitary, General Chen, is attacked by a beam from the sky, and Bill Foster is roughed up outside the lab, both seemingly attacks by the Sons of the Serpent. The Avengers publicly denounce the group, and soon afterward Captain America is abducted into the sky. The Serpents demand that the Avengers join the Serpents’ cause publicly, or they will execute Captain America. Goliath is formulating a plan, but for the moment, the Avengers refuse to take any aggressive action against the Serpents. 

Hawkeye: “Cap, if I didn’t know better, I’d suspect you’re turning into a real human being!”
Captain America: “Careful, sonny—you’re liable to say something pleasant, and I’ll figure you’re an imposter!” 

Sons of the Serpent initiate: “I’m gonna join up and get me a Serpent’s robe—then I’ll lean on every blamed furriner I can find!” 

Captain America: “No man—no group of men—can be super-patriots! Freedom belongs to all—or else it isn’t worthy of the name.” 

·         Starting this issue, no inker is listed until issue 37, so Don Heck was completing his own artwork.
·         Goliath accidentally strikes Wasp in the nose with his elbow during an experiment. Based on their future relationship, this was an odd bit of unintentional foreshadowing.
·         This is the first appearance of Bill Foster, who would later go on take the Goliath identity. He was recently killed during an altercation between the two factions of the hero “Civil War.”
·         Captain America says that no group of men should be “super-patriots.” Steve Rogers would later be replaced as Captain America by John Walker, who also used the code names USAgent and Super-Patriot.
·         In this issue, Black Widow comes to Hawkeye to reconcile with him and show her intentions to reform.
·         The General Chen who is attacked by the beam seems to not be related to the Black Widow’s handler, Hu Chen or the Radioactive Man, whose name is Chen Lu. The name Chen was the fifth most common name in China in 2007, with an estimate of over 56 million people having that name in China alone. By comparison, in the United States, the most popular family name, Smith, has about 2.4 million people with that name.
·         This month saw the premiere of the first Marvel cartoon show, Marvel Super Heroes. It aired Monday through Friday, and each day of the week featured a different character. Captain America was on Monday, Hulk Tuesday, Iron Man Wednesday, Thor Thursday, and Namor on Friday. All would be Avengers at some point, and the Avengers sometimes guest-starred in the Captain America and Hulk episodes. The animation was crude and borrowed art and storylines directly from the comic book stories. The word "Thursday" is actually a modern interpretation of “Thor’s Day,” so it was appropriate that his adventures would air on that day.

Avengers Vol 1 33.jpg
Avengers 33
To Smash a Serpent
October, 1966
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Don Heck 

Goliath and Wasp show up to a Sons of the Serpent rally as instructed, but Hawkeye tracks down the Serpents’ airship where Captain America is being held. He engages a large group of Serpents members while Black Widow, who hid aboard his vehicle, sneaks out to rescue Cap. At the rally, Goliath speaks against the Serpents, so an imposter Captain America inflames the crowd to attack Goliath. The Supreme Serpent sees things are going against him, so he flees to the airship, but the Avengers follow him. A melee breaks out, and the Serpents and the fake Captain America are defeated. When the Supreme Serpent is unmasked, it turns out he was General Chen, who was hoping to erode America from within with hatred. 

Captain America: “I’ve fought lots of madmen in my time who tossed around slogans like that! One of ‘em bragged that his Reich would live a thousand years! Got any idea where he is now?” 

Captain America: “Well, remember this—there is—and there will always be—only one Captain America—and that one is me!” 

Hawkeye: “Who writes your dialogue? Brand Ecch? Don’t bother answering, neighbor! It’s an in joke, anyhow!” 

·         Goliath strikes Hawkeye when Hawkeye calls him a coward. He immediately apologizes and says he will submit to disciplinary action. No further action is taken, but Hank Pym will eventually be brought up on other more serious charges.
·         Senator Byrd again takes the opportunity to speak against the Avengers, just as he did in Marvel Heroes & Legends 1997.
·         Captain America’s claim that there will always be just a Steve Rogers Captain America is not only false in the future, but there had already been three other men who used the Captain America identity while Steve Rogers was frozen in ice.
·         Hawkeye’s reference to “Brand Ecch” is a coded way to refer to DC Comics, or the supposedly inferior “Brand X” to Marvel’s line. The humor series Not Brand Ecch, published by Marvel from 1967 to 1969, poked fun at Marvel’s own characters as well as their competitors’.

Avengers Vol 1 34.jpg

Avengers 34
The Living Laser!
November, 1966
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Don Heck

The villain Living Laser robs a bank with his laser beam, but he leaves the loot behind. He is only interested in proving his power to the world. Coincidentally, the Laser’s ex-girlfriend is a friend of the Wasp. At first sight, he falls in love with Wasp and seeks to impress her. He attacks Goliath to prove himself, but he is defeated. He escapes the Avengers’ custody by surprising them with his power of flight. Once at his lair, he increases the power of his laser and uses it to cause mayhem in Manhattan. When Captain America, Hawkeye, and Wasp try to follow him, they are all tricked into death traps the Living Laser set up for them ahead of time. 

Captain America: “The Avengers would continue to fight even if they were penniless, Hawkeye!”
Hawkeye: “Mebbe so—but we’d sure look nutty goin’ into action on roller skates!”

Wasp, regarding equipment: “If only I understood these things…like a man!” 

·         Goliath is “acting chairman pro tem” in this issue. “Pro tem” means “for the time being,” referencing the constantly rotating leadership role.
·         The Avengers begin to travel regularly in “aero-cars.” Hawkeye used a similar-looking “aero-sub” in issue 27 which was on loan from the Fantastic Four, but the aero-cars seem to be Stark issue.
·         This is the first appearance of the Living Laser. He is still active and has faced the Avengers and their members many times since.
·         Hawkeye says that, “Cap knows I ain’t Gran’ma Moses!” Grandma Moses was a well-known painter, but she was also especially known for her age. She started painting in her 70s and died at the age of 101 in 1961. Hawkeye is saying he’s still young and spry.
·         Goliath is still so worried about being at 10 feet permanently that he mistakenly says he’s stuck at 12 feet.
·         Captain America coats his shield with a special solution to make it resistant to lasers. At this point, his shield had not yet been noted to have the incredible durability it currently has. At these early adventures, it was just said to be a steel shield.
·         Bill Foster states that, “When it comes to fighting giants, I’m a real washout!” In his later identity of Goliath, he will be a fighting giant.
·         This is the last issue that Stan Lee writes of Avengers. The longest run of a series he wrote was Fantastic Four, which he wrote from issues 1 to 115. He will stay on as editor of Avengers.

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