Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Avengers 9 to 15 (10/64 to 4/65)

Threats old and new rise.
The Big Three form the first core.
Outside pressure builds.

Captain America; Steve Rogers
Giant-Man; Henry “Hank” Pym
Iron Man; Tony Stark
Thor; Dr. Donald Blake
Wasp; Janet Van Dyne
Rick Jones (honorary member) 

Featured allies/enemies:
Hulk; Bruce Banner
Spider-Man; Peter Parker
Wonder Man; Simon Williams

                As the adventures of the (mostly) original lineup continue, Stan chose to recycle the villains a bit and have them keep coming back for more, both the Avengers' previous individual foes and the Fantastic Four's as well. This part of their history also introduced original long-running characters such as Wonder Man, Immortus, and Count Nefaria and the Maggia, who continued to cause problems throughout the Avengers’ history and up to today.
                In these early stories, continuity was often fairly tight. Costume and power changes in the heroes individual titles would show in Avengers right away, even if no one mentioned them. Footnotes would be used to refer fans to other series that were probably on the stands at the same time. Today, we see far less of these footnotes, probably as they don’t fit as well into a publishing strategy that wants to package several issues into nice, tidy trade paperbacks that a new reader can pick up without as much baggage. With the Internet, someone wanting to find out connections between titles or characters can very quickly find out themselves without the need for the editors pointing the way in handy footnotes.
                Not that it seems the stories were planned more than a month in advance. The end of issue 13 does lead into issue 14, but only because of the very last panel showing the Wasp in peril. We had no indication in the story that she was in trouble, except for the dramatic announcement on the cover that something would happen in that panel. Issue 15 also ends right in the middle of a battle between the Avengers and Master of Evil. The title had just gone monthly, so I guess Stan had at least some overlap in the production between two issues to try and connect them here and there.
                Speaking of planning, the addition of Immortus as a villain has no foreshadowing at all that he and Kang are one and the same person. They even appear in a montage as villains monitoring the Avengers separately. Later on, they will actively combat each other, so I think it’s pretty clear Stan meant for them to be two separate menaces when he created them. It will be other writers that tangle up the two characters together further. It is a little frustrating to see these two master villains who are shown to actively monitor and affect any time period ever get caught off guard or surprised or act like they have no knowledge of any future events beyond the issue they're currently in. Ecch. Time travel.

Avengers Vol 1 9.jpg

Avengers 9
The Coming of the Wonder Man
October, 1964
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Don Heck

                Baron Zemo, Enchantress, and Executioner manage to escape the space warp they were stranded in and return to the Amazon Jungle. Zemo chooses to recruit industrialist Simon Williams, a business rival of Tony Stark whose company went bankrupt. Zemo empowers him into a superbeing so he may bait a trap for the Avengers. The newly named Wonder Man breaks up a robbery and asks to join the Avengers. He reveals that  a side effect of his power is killing him, which is indeed the case, and the Avengers seek to cure him. Wonder Man kidnaps Wasp to the Amazon and sends a message for aid to the Avengers. His betrayal surprises them, and the villains are victorious. Baron Zemo prepares to kill all the helpless Avengers, (It takes a Nazi!) but Wonder Man has a change of heart and helps them defeat the three villains. Without Zemo’s treatments, Wonder Man is killed by his new powers.

Iron Man: “He was a strange mixture of good and evil! If only we had more time…”

·         Iron Man will get more time. Wonder Man only slipped into a deathlike trance and will return and join the Avengers for many years. In 2012, however, Wonder Man thought the Avengers caused more problems than they solved, and he led a team dedicated to their destruction, The Revengers. By the end of the 2010 Avengers series, he had reconciled with the Avengers and was a member on the "Unity Squad" featured in Uncanny Avengers.
·         Wonder Man is empowered by “ionic energy.” This term seems to have no basis in actual science.
·         In this and future appearances, Wonder Man uses belt jets to enable him to fly. These were invented by Baron Zemo.
·         This is the first time Wasp mentions her “wasp’s sting,” which are hand-mounted weapons that sting a target with compressed air. She must have acquired these in her adventures in Tales to Astonish.
·         Starting with this issue, the Avengers was upgraded to a monthly publication schedule.
·         New artist Don Heck was also responsible for much of the early design work and art for Iron Man’s series.

Avengers Vol 1 10.jpg

Avengers 10
The Avengers Break Up!
November, 1964
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Don Heck
 The villain Immortus also seeks to conquer the 20th century and proposes an alliance with Baron Zemo’s group. Zemo's task for him is to destroy the Avengers. Immortus lures Rick Jones to his lair with an ad that promises to give superpowers to those who respond, and Rick is used as bait for the Avengers. Immortus proposes a challenge to the Avengers to see if they can beat his champions. He summons figures from history to do his will, but his servants are all defeated in one-on-one battles. Immortus has Rick stashed in the Tower of London in the past, and he whisks Captain America there in order to challenge him with the Tower’s guards. Zemo and his allies choose this moment to attack the remaining Avengers. When Cap is victorious in the past, Immortus accepts his defeat and returns Cap to the present. Seeing the battle going against them, Enchantress turns back time herself to before Immortus’ arrival. Although the Avengers forget the whole affair since time has changed, the villains remember and shun Immortus.

Iron Man: “If I manage to walk away from this one, I’ll never complain about enemies like Hawkeye or the Mandarin again!”

·         Immortus summons the minions Paul Bunyan, Attila the Hun, Merlin, Hercules, and the biblical Goliath. Merlin, Goliath, and Hercules are later revealed to be Space Phantoms taking on those roles for Immortus. We have to assume Attila the Hun and Paul Bunyan are also fakes.
·        The real Hercules will later become an Avenger. Based on the actions and appearance of the Hercules in this issue, it is not meant to be the same person. Hercules’ official first Marvel appearance is not for another year.
·         Immortus is another alternate version of Kang that dwells in Limbo, the same Limbo as the Space Phantom from issue 2. When Immortus first appears, the other villains immediately know his name and where he comes from, even though this is his first appearance.
·         During the battle, Iron Man mentions Hawkeye, a future Avenger, for the first time in the series.
·         Thor yells, “Avengers Assemble!!” for the first time in the series. However, since Enchantress turned back time, that means it may not have happened. I really hate time travel.
·         Don Cheadle, who plays War Machine in Iron Man 2, was born this month.
·         Edwin Jarvis, the Avengers’ butler, had his first appearance in Tales of Suspense 59 this month.

Avengers Vol 1 11.jpg

Avengers 11
The Mighty Avengers Meet Spider-Man!
December, 1964
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Don Heck

Kang has been observing the Avengers from the future and hatches a plot to use a fake Spider-Man robot to lure them into a trap. Iron Man is missing during this issue, so the phony Spider-Man tells the other Avengers Iron Man is being held captive by Zemo at an ancient temple in Mexico. The Avengers each travel in their way, and when they arrive separately, the robot overcomes all the Avengers in turn. Luckily, the real Spider-Man stowed along with Giant-Man and Wasp and defeats the imposter.

Wasp: “I don’t trust him! Everything about spiders makes my wasp-instinct tingle with hate and loathing!”

Robot Spider-Man, to Thor: “How come you don’t get a haircut, chum? Tell me…do you prefer bobby pins, or ordinary curlers?” 

·         The Avengers had previously been traveling in Stark Industries vehicles, so it seems odd that they travel separately here. But if Iron Man is missing, they may not have access to Stark vehicles without him.
·         In this issue, Tony Stark is presumed dead because he had faked his death in his own series. The Avengers theorize Iron Man is missing only because he is seeking vengeance for Tony Stark’s death on his own.
·         Rick Jones is shown to not be a full voting member at the Avengers meeting. Captain America calls him out of order for seconding a motion during a meeting.
·         The adventure takes place at the Temple of Tirod, which does not really exist outside of the Marvel Universe.
·         Captain America shouts, “Avengers awaaay!” when they scatter. Thankfully, this battle cry did not catch on.

Hulk Smash Avengers Vol 1 1

Hulk Smash Avengers 1

By Banner Betrayed!

July, 2012

Written by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz

Art by Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema

Lettered by Chris Eliopoulos
Colored by Nick Filardi
Edited by Bill Rosemann and Jake Thomas
After tracking the Hulk in the American Southwest for a few days, the Avengers try to restrain him long enough for some special Stark restraints to arrive. Their hope is to convince him to return to the team. Despite being outnumbered, the Hulk is able to batter his way free and leap away. Coincidentally, Baron Zemo, Enchantress, and Executioner are magically observing and also wish to recruit the Hulk. Zemo offers to help the Hulk crush the Avengers, and they reach an agreement to team up. The Avengers continue their search alongside the military, and Zemo’s force attacks them. Both teams split off into individual battles. Captain America is fighting against Zemo’s Killbot, and Rick Jones and another solider attempt to sneak up on Zemo to take him out of the fight. The plan fails, and Zemo gets ahold of Rick and threatens to shoot him in order to torture Captain America by depriving him of another partner. The Hulk sees this and, because of his friendship with Rick, the Hulk causes a ground quake that frees Rick. Seeing the tide turning, the villains retreat. The Hulk claims that he knew all along his new allies would turn on him, and he bounds away. 
Captain America: “Save your breath, Iron Man. If he’s not going to cooperate, there’s no point in arguing. We’ll have to take him down like we practiced…” 
·         The team of DeFalco and Frenz also worked on the series A-Next, which showed the adventures of an Avengers team in the future that featured the superhero children of many of the Avengers characters.
·         Letterer Chris Eliopoulos designed the in-house font for the Marvel comics computer lettering software. He won Best Letterer Eagle and Harvey Awards in 2007 and 2008 respectively. He was also artist on the Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius series of comic books for Marvel.
·         Rosemann and Thomas were also editing the Avengers Academy series when this issue was released.
·         An opening note places this adventure between issues 7 and 14. I chose this spot since Wasp is using the Wasp sting established in issue 9, issue 10 “never happened,” Iron Man is missing in action during issue 11, and Wasp is in the hospital between issues 13 and 14. The team starts issue 12 off without anything pressing happening.
·         Iron Man has his Mark II armor on the cover, but the interior has him using his Mark III armor, which is appropriate for this time period.
·         Rick is still suffering feelings of abandonment in this issue, both from being rejected as Captain America’s partner and then left behind by the Hulk.
Avengers Vol 1 12.jpg

Avengers 12
This Hostage Earth
January, 1965
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Don Heck 

Giant-Man summons the Avengers because his network of ants says there’s trouble. The other Avengers, even Wasp, think he is overreacting, so Giant-Man blows them all off and goes to investigate the anthill on his own. He discovers that Mole Man is changing the Earth’s rotation to destroy humanity, but Mole Man captures him. Mole Man continues with his plans, and tremors terrorize the surface world. Wasp is able to discover Mole Man’s operation, and after a battle on the surface with  the Mole Man's Moloids, they go to rescue Giant-Man. They find that another villain, the Red Ghost, has joined Mole Man as well, but the Avengers defeat the plan.

Thor: “You have the temerity to summon us because some ants in an ant-hill are in need of assistance? I know not whether to feel wrath…or amusement!”

·         This is the first time Wasp is shown as chairman of the group. At this time, the position rotated weekly among the members.
·         Wasp sends a projection of herself into the Earth by using the same image projector Iron Man used to search for the Hulk in issue 3. She thinks of it before Iron Man himself.
·         The Red Ghost usually has a cadre of Super-Apes. Here he claims to have parted ways with them because they were “too unpredictable,” but he will reunite with them soon afterward.

Avengers Vol 1 13.jpg
Avengers 13
Trapped in the Castle of Count Nefaria!
February, 1965
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Don Heck

The Avengers have been interfering with a criminal organization called the Maggia. Their leader, Count Nefaria, relocates his entire castle from Europe to New Jersey. (Possibly the worst step one in any master plan ever.) His criminal ties are not public knowledge, so he informs the Avengers he will open his castle to the public for charity and invites them to attend. While waiting in private rooms, the Avengers are trapped by Time Transcender beams and frozen in time. Count Nefaria sends out projections of the Avengers to declare hostilities on the United States and then releases the real Avengers, who don’t realize they were even prisoners. They find themselves fighting the armed forces, but retreat and return to Nefaria's castle. The team is captured again, but while investigating the castle, Captain America frees Rick Jones, who frees the other Avengers and leads them to victory. Count Nefaria admits to the scheme, and the Avengers are cleared, but it is discovered that Wasp was hit with a stray bullet and is near death. 

Giant-Man, of Count Nefaria: “I admit he’s good-looking, Jan, but I’ll bet that beard would tickle when he kisses a gal.” 

Wanted poster: “Wanted! Dead or Alive! The Avengers! Warning: They are armed with the most awesome powers known to man!” 

·         This issue marks the first appearance of Count Nefaria and the Maggia. The Maggia resemble the Maffia—er, Mafia in many ways.
·         Count Nefaria and his daughter Madame Masque will go on to be longtime foes of the Avengers. A clone of Madame Masque will become an ally of the Avengers and be given an honorary membership after her death.
·         It is revealed the Avengers have an  emergency headquarters hidden behind a artificial cliff in a forested area.

Avengers Vol 1 14.jpg
Avengers 14
Even Avengers Can Die
March, 1965
Written by Stan Lee, Paul Laiken & Larry Lieber
Art by Jack Kirby and Don Heck

Wasp needs a lung specialist to recover from her wound, or she will die within 48 hours. Thor rockets to Norway and collects this Dr. Svenson despite the doctor's protests. When he arrives at Wasp’s bedside, Svenson is revealed to be a masked alien. Without his mask, he can’t breathe and dies immediately. The distraught team try to discover where the real Dr. Svenson could be and suspect he is trapped at the North Pole. Below the ice, they find a garrison of Kallusions, aliens who have fled an intergalactic war. Dr. Svenson had discovered a way for them to breathe Earth air properly. The Avengers battle the Kallusions to rescue Svenson, but Svenson is really there of his own free will and stops the fighting when he arrives on the scene. At this time, the Kallusions’ enemies enter our solar system, so the Kallusions flee Earth once more. Dr. Svenson is able to return to the Wasp and perform surgery just in time. 

Narration: “Let us now leave the Avengers! Strong Men should not be seen with tears in their eyes!”

·  Thor says, “Avengers Assemble!” again in this issue, and there is no time paradox at the end, so it can be considered the first use of the battle cry.
·  The Kallusians and their unnamed enemies are never seen again.
·  The Watcher, Uatu, appears at the end of the story to clarify that if Wasp had not been injured, the two alien races would have battled on Earth instead and destroyed mankind.
·  Stan Lee only plotted this issue. In the Marvel style of this time period, the plotter figured out the basic story and how it would play out, the artist used that to create the art, and the dialogue was added after the art was created. The dialogue here was written by Larry Lieber, who is Stan Lee’s younger brother. Stan Lee’s birth name is Stanley Martin Lieber.
·  Paul Laiken is a pen name for Larry Ivie, who only wrote a small number of Marvel issues.
·  A 5-page story in Captain America (1968) 221 tells a story that takes place between this and issue 15. Rick Jones trips into a view screen and is electrocuted. He is transformed into a superhero called Captain Avenger with a costume made up of pieces of the other Avengers’ costumes. He foils an attack by Baron Zemo, but then discovers that he imagined the whole thing due to an electricity-caused hallucination.
·  The cover has a blurb to join the MMMS, the Merry Marvel Marching Society, the official Marvel fan club from 1964 to 1969.
·  Also this month, the Avengers appear in Fantastic Four (1961) 36 as guests at the engagement party for Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Girl.

Avengers Vol 1 15.jpg
Avengers 15
Now, By My Hand, Shall die a Villain!
April, 1965
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Jack Kirby

Baron Zemo kidnaps Rick Jones as bait for the Avengers. To bolster his ranks, Zemo also has Enchantress and Executioner free Melter and Black Knight from prison. The four villains attack the Avengers’ plane in New York when they fly off to pursue Rick. While most of the team stops to fight the villains, Captain America continues on by himself. Zemo uses Rick as a human shield against Captain America’s missile attack, but instead Rick survives and is freed from his prison. Zemo has a handheld disintegrator ray, and he and his natives and mercenaries rush to attack Captain America. Captain America uses his shield to reflect the sun into Zemo’s eyes, and a misfired disintegration ray causes a rockslide that crushes Zemo to death. Meanwhile the other Avengers are warned that any battle will result in civilian casualties, leaving the combatants at a stalemate. 

Rick Jones: “But, Cap—you’re all alone—and Zemo has weapons—men—everything in his favor!”
Captain America: “Not everything, Rick! There’s one weapon we’re armed with which he can never
    possess! A thing called—justice!” 

·         This issue was inked by Mike Esposito under the pseudonym “Mickey Demeo.” Reprints like Essential Avengers have it updated to Mike Esposito. An inker inks over and puts the final touches over the artist's pencil drawings. Having the jobs divided in this manner allows more art to be created in a shorter period of time to keep up with deadlines.
·         The captions at the beginning claim that some fans were upset the Avengers never “fought to the finish,” so Zemo’s death was written to placate them. Unlike most comic book deaths, Zemo has stayed dead. So far…
·         Thor says here he is the monthly chairperson. The position used to be weekly.
·         Captain America is looking for work outside the Avengers and mails a letter to Nick Fury for employment. While going out to mail the letter as Steve Rogers, he carries his shield in an artist’s portfolio to disguise it. Steve Rogers would later go on to become an artist and even draw the comic adventures of himself, Captain America, in the Marvel Universe.
·         Giant-Man says in this issue that 100 feet is his maximum height, but that will increase even more in later years.
·         Robert Downey Jr., the actor playing the cinematic Iron Man, was born in this month.

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