Friday, October 5, 2012

Avengers 35 to 44 (12/66 to 9/67)

The whole globe beckons.
Will legend or spy join next?
Motives become clear. 

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

Featured allies:
Black Widow; Natasha Romanoff
Hercules; Heracles 

                After a brief hiatus, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch return to the team. Not much is said about why a visit to their homeland returns their powers here, but it may just be that Roy Thomas, the new writer wanted to bring them back after Stan Lee wanted to put them on the back burner. Their homeland of Transia contains the mysterious Mount Wundagore which figures heavily into the twins' origins. A few writers later, it's revealed that the power loss was caused by a mystical entity, Chthon, who wanted to lure Scarlet Witch back to Wundagore so Chthon could enslave her. Because Quicksilver was there as an emotional support, Chthon failed in this and gave up, and their powers returned.
                Roy Thomas also brought the Olympian demigod Hercules into the series. He fits nicely into the Thor mold and is even banished from his otherworldly realm by his father, the king of his pantheon of gods. This mirrors Thor’s story as well as some of his abilities. Of course, Hercules did not have his own series to deal with, so he could fit seamlessly into the action with less worry.
                Goliath is shown to still have some interest in his scientific work as well as superheroics. He is finally able to do something other than worry about his own body and takes an interest in the android Dragon Man. He still manages to wear his Goliath outfit in his lab, so he’s definitely portrayed as Avenger first, scientist second. He is renowned enough that Diablo kidnaps him for his help with his evil plots.
                The love story between Hawkeye and Black Widow is central to this group of stories. She has fully reformed and is helpful to the Avengers, but the older members are resistant to letting in yet another reformed villain.  This causes friction with her main booster, Hawkeye. When she takes on a mission from SHIELD and appears to have defected back to “the East” again, Hawkeye never loses faith in her and drives the Avengers’ actions in his quest to find the truth and bring her home.
                Roy Thomas continues the stories’ format much in the same way Stan Lee had been writing the series for the past year. He used many villains already created by Stan Lee here or in Fantastic Four and Thor, but he did create a few new characters. Unfortunately, of the Ultroids, Ixar, and the Triumvirate of Terror, none of these characters were seen again. He also created the Red Guardian, and that code name and concept has seen use over the years, even if Thomas killed off his first Red Guardian himself almost immediately.

Avengers Vol 1 35.jpg

Avengers 35
The Light That Failed!
December, 1966
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Don Heck 

The Living Laser absconds with Wasp and leaves Captain America and Hawkeye to die, but the heroes escape with the aid of Goliath. The Laser contacts a group of rebels from the South American country of Costa Verde. They hire him to destroy the army of the current regime in that country, and the Living Laser is able to do so with his powerful laser. He sets himself up as ruler of Costa Verde. The Avengers hear the news and travel there to his new castle headquarters, but they are all captured. Goliath had used a “molecular space transformer” on himself before the mission, and he hopes it will return his size-changing ability. He is able to shrink free and locate a large laser cannon that has been set up to kill the Avengers. He sabotages it to explode, and the Living Laser is defeated. Democracy-minded remnants of the national army set up a new government, and the Laser is put under a doctor’s care for his mental issues. 

Hawkeye: “I was just thinking about all these classy go-buggies that Tony Stark keeps turnin’ out for us! No wonder you don’t read much about him goin’ to the Playboy Club any more!” 

·         This is the first issue written by Roy Thomas. Roy was a high school English teacher who edited  a fan publication covering comic books. He eventually got a job working in the Marvel office after working at DC comics for only eight days. He went on to later be Editor-in-chief of Marvel and has written a plethora of comic series for several publishers. He was recently inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2011.
·         Captain America’s shield is destroyed by lasers on page 2, but by page 8, he is fighting with a shield again, and no mention is made of it. In later years, it was retroactively stated that Tony Stark would borrow Cap’s legendary shield for analysis and would loan him steel replicas in the meantime.
·         Hawkeye calls Costa Verdan soldiers “Rover Boys.” This is referring to a series of children’s novels written from 1899 to 1926 that were set at a military boarding school and featured heroic, if mischievous boys.
·         The country of Costa Verde is the birthplace of future reserve Avenger Silverclaw.
·         Roy Thomas continues to use exclamation points for all the dialogue, just like Stan.

Avengers Vol 1 36.jpg

Avengers 36
The Ultroids Attack!
January, 1967
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Don Heck 

The Scarlet Witch returns to the Mansion. She tells them that the trip to their homeland did return their powers, and she relates a tale of how Quicksilver was captured investigating an alien craft. The Avengers travel to Transia to rescue him, but find the entire village is surrounded by a force field. They enter caves under the town to infiltrate the alien headquarters and find a way in, but Scarlet Witch reveals herself to be an imposter. The alien leader Ixar wants to take the Avengers’ powers and place them in his automatons called Ultroids. Wasp tries to free the captured siblings, but she is stunned in the attempt. The other Avengers fall in battle and are captured. 

Ultroid: “It is the giant earthman…the one they call Goliath!”
Hawkeye: “Well, how d’ya like that! Him they recognize…me they just call ‘earthling’! That settles it…I’m just gonna have to get a new press agent!” 

·         Before the events in this issue, Professor X asked Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch to join the X-Men, but they said they were loyal to the Avengers.
·         Although the Black Widow is not allowed to become a member, she does accompany the Avengers on their mission.
·         Hawkeye mistakenly calls Captain America “web-head” instead of “wing-head.” This is one of Spider-Man’s nicknames.
·         The village that this story takes place in is the same one that ejected Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in X-Men 4 for being demons. Their hospitality is to make up for this past offense, now that they know they are heroes.
·         The country of Transia is the birthplace of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch and will be the scene of many future adventures and revelations about their backgrounds.
·         The imposter Ultroid is female in design and has the name Ultrana. That’s pretty close to Ultron and may have inspired Goliath or Roy Thomas when creating this future character.

Avengers Vol 1 37.jpg

Avengers 37
To Conquer a Colossus!
February, 1967
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Don Heck 

Ultrana tells how her master Ixar is the last survivor of one side of an interstellar war. At the end of the war, both sides had all died out except for their leaders and the two armies of Ultroids. Ixar seeks to gain the advantage by empowering his army with the Avengers’ abilities. Goliath’s prison is based on his current large size, and since Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch did not know about Goliath regaining his size-changing power, the prison is not set to prevent his shrinking out. Once Goliath frees the others, they engage in battle with the Ultroids. Ixar reveals that the burgomeister (sic) of the village is also a hostage and will be harmed if the Avengers continue to battle, so the Avengers surrender. Ixar combines the energies of the Ultroids into one giant body, and the battle begins anew. The last to avoid capture are Hawkeye and Black Widow. Hawkeye has guessed that the burgomeister is truly Ixar in disguise and threatens him. The now revealed Ixar knows of the Avengers’ oath to not take a life, so Hawkeye’s bluff fails. Black Widow convinces Ixar that she has taken no such oath and will kill him. Ixar surrenders and leaves the planet with hopes of finding power for his troops elsewhere. 

Wasp: “That was my Wasp’s sting, Two-Ton…and I’m glad you noticed! When a girl’s only a couple of inches tall, she appreciates attention from anybody!” 

Ixar, to Hawkeye: “You dare challenge me—you, who are the weakest of all?”
Hawkeye: “You really know how to hurt a guy, don’tcha?” 

·         This seems to be the last appearance of Ixar and his Ultroids.
·         This issue and the next feature covers drawn by artist Gil Kane. An original cover was also done by interior artist Don Heck, but it was rejected. Avengers stories were reprinted later in a series called Marvel Triple Action, which usually reprinted the old covers. For this story, Jack Kirby drew yet another cover.

Avengers Vol 1 38.jpg

Avengers 38
In Our Midst…an Immortal!
March, 1967
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Don Heck and George Roussos

Black Widow is subjected to sleeping gas and kidnapped by SHIELD, who offers her a mission. We see Hercules in Olympus fighting Ares, but Enchantress intervenes and offers both combatants mead. Hercules’ drink is infused with waters of Eros, and he falls in love with Enchantress. At the Avengers meeting, Black Widow is late. Hawkeye proposes her for membership, but Goliath is resistant. Black Widow arrives and says she is leaving to return to the Far East.  Since her mission is classified, she is brusque in giving details and leaves. After this tension, Hawkeye and Wasp leave the mansion.  Enchantress chooses this moment to attack with the enthralled Hercules. The three remaining members are defeated, but Wasp and Hawkeye return. Hawkeye uses a sulfur arrow, and it turns out this substance clears the effects of the water of Eros, freeing Hercules, and Enchantress retreats. This journey to the Earth was forbidden to Olympians, so Zeus banishes Hercules to Earth for one year. 

Quicksilver: “Who would not wish to be host to…Hercules?”
Hawkeye: “Personally, I’ll bet at midnight he turns into Steve Reeves!”
Not a stretch?

·         This is the first appearance in Avengers of future Avengers Hercules and Ares. Ares will remain a villain for a long time and not join until far in the future.
·        The credited inker George Bell is a pseudonym for George Roussos. He will use it until Avengers Special 1. When he returns to the series with issue 92, he will use the George Roussos name.
·         The sleeping gas used on the Black Widow is called Morpheus Mist. Morpheus is the Greek god of dreams. It’s a coincidence that SHIELD would use a Greek-named weapon just before the arrival of a Greek demigod to the series.
·         At this time, SHIELD stood for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division.
·         Captain America is missing from the Avengers meeting because he was lured away by a message from the Red Skull, who impersonated Bucky using a robot.
·         Enchantress passes up an opportunity to attack Hercules after he is freed from her control. She thinks she may be falling in love with him. She will still be pining over him in the Avengers Special 1.
·         Although Hercules and Black Widow do not meet in this issue, they will both later go on to form the hero group the Champions of Los Angeles together.

Avengers Vol 1 39.jpg

Avengers 39
The Torment…and the Triumph!
April, 1967
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Don Heck and Frank Giacoia 

The news reports that Black Widow stole classified secrets before she left the country. Hawkeye tries to find his old underworld contacts for information. The Thinker plans to incapacitate the Avengers so he can get to Tony Stark’s inventions and intimidate the Fantastic Four. Since Captain America is still away, the Thinker chooses this moment to strike. Hawkeye is captured by the Thinker’s agent, Hammerhead. When Goliath and Wasp respond to a summons, another minion, Piledriver, defeats them. Thunderboot and the Thinker defeat Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch at the mansion. Before they can be taken away, Hercules shows up and frees the Avengers, who defeat the whole group. The Thinker retreats, and the so-called Triumvirate of Terror are arrested.

Goliath: “We always wondered why Thor seemed so aloof…so distant! And now, at last, perhaps we know! How lonely it must feel to be a god…destined to walk among mere mortals!” 

·         In this issue, Black Widow uses her suction shoes to walk on walls. This is part of her normal equipment, but she seems to rarely use them.
·         Hercules is given the name Mr. Powers to receive deliveries at the mansion. One of his nicknames is the Prince of Power.
·         The costumes of the villains are derided as being “straight outta Pop-Artsville.” Stan Lee had tried to retitle Marvel “Pop Art Productions,” but changed his mind about it.
·         The Avengers mention a “condition blue,” which means that specifically only two Avengers should respond to an emergency call.
·         The villain calls himself the Thinker. Most adversaries call him the Mad Thinker, which he dislikes. He doesn’t think he’s mad at all.
·         One of the Triumvirate of Terror is Thunderboot. That is not a typo for “Thunderbolt.” He really uses enhanced boots as weapons.
·         The three henchmen are never seen again. The Piledriver here is unrelated to the member of the Wrecking Crew that will have the same name.
·         Hercules proves he is well-rounded by playing a guitar and singing a song. About himself and his famous labors, of course.
·         Irving Forbush returns to the credit box, this issue as a dog-catcher.

Avengers Vol 1 40.jpg

Avengers 40
Suddenly the Sub-Mariner!
May, 1967
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Don Heck and George Roussos 

After the battle last issue, Scarlet Witch faints from exertion. The team gets a message from Captain America that the Red Skull is searching for a powerful item called the Cosmic Cube. Quicksilver remains behind to watch over Scarlet Witch, and Hercules goes with the team to search in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, Namor sees an American submarine testing its weapons and traps the sub. He finds its home base and gets ready to attack it when the Avengers arrive in their search. While Namor battles Hercules, Hercules mentions the Cosmic Cube, thinking Namor is also there to find it. Intrigued, Namor retreats and successfully finds it at the bottom of the sea. He returns to attack with his new weapon, but he transforms it into a necklace to avoid drawing attention to it. Namor uses its power to create an Amalga-beast to battle the Avengers while he takes on Hercules one-on-one. Namor has honor, so he only uses the Cosmic Cube to keep himself fully hydrated on land. Wasp figures out the necklace may be the Cube and uses her sting to separate it from Namor. It reverts to its cube form and falls into a crevice, lost to the surface world again. 

Goliath: “I, for one, was just recalling how you used to be Cap’s self-appointed gadfly! Now you act like a charter member of his fan club!”
Hawkeye: “Let’s just say my eyesight’s improved, big man!” 

Wasp, of Namor: “Strange…we fought him…but, I can’t believe he is truly evil!”
Hawkeye: “Sure, sure…he’s a regular pussycat!” 

·         When cleaning up the mansion, the Avengers mention their disintegrator disposal unit for trash. Yet this amazing technology is never used for weaponry.
·         When Captain America sends his message, he had been said in the press to be a traitor working with the Red Skull. Cap did agree to do so for 24 hours in order to rescue Manhattan Island. This is seen in Tales of Suspense 90.
·         There is no island of Puerto Nuevo in the real world, but it is the name of a section of San Juan in Puerto Rico.
·         The Cosmic Cube is shown to fall into the Mole Man’s realm. The Mole Man does not know what it is and throws it away.
·         This Cosmic Cube is actually one of many throughout the universe. They allow the possessor to do anything he or she wishes. This Cube will eventually evolve into a sentient being known as Kubik in later Avengers stories.
·         Although it is called the “Tessaract” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the cubic appearance of the item at the heart of the Avengers film hints that that is just another name for a Cosmic Cube.

Avengers Vol 1 41.jpg

Avengers 41
Let Sleeping Dragons Lie!
June, 1967
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and George Roussos 

Black Widow is trapped in the Far East in a device called the Psychotron, which displays her deepest fears to her. Back at his lab, Goliath takes delivery of the android Dragon Man. The villain Diablo is lurking nearby and uses his alchemical mastery to turn a nearby building to gold. When Goliath and Wasp investigate the building, Diablo sneaks into Goliath’s lab and reactivates Dragon Man. Goliath battles the android, but loses. Wasp is knocked out by Diablo’s Dyna-Disk. The rest of the Avengers show up to the battle as well. Diablo turns the roof of the lab to gold, and the ceiling crushes the Avengers. Diablo escapes with Dragon Man, taking Goliath and Wasp as his prisoners. 

Goliath: “Remember—the bigger they are—Nope—I can’t say it! It’s just too hackneyed!” 

Hawkeye, to Scarlet Witch: “I take back every crack I ever made about your nutty hexes! They’re my favorite people!” 

·         Diablo was supposed to be dead at the end of Fantastic Four 35, but he escaped drowning through unknown means that he does not deign to tell Goliath.
·         Dragon Man was shut down by the Human Torch using ultraviolet radiation in Fantastic Four 47. It was left deactivated until this issue.
·         Diablo uses an Auric Ray, which turns items to gold, but the effect is temporary. His Dyna-Disk shoots bolts or waves of force.
·         This is the first issue drawn by John Buscema, who was prevalent through the Marvel line until the eighties and drew most of their series for at least one issue. He was inducted in the Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2002.
·         Black Widow’s new handler in this issue is Colonel Ling. No mention is made of what happened to the old one, but maybe they just felt there were too many Chens.

Avengers Vol 1 42.jpg

Avengers 42
The Plan…and the Power!
July, 1967
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and George Roussos 

The remaining members of the Avengers get the location of Diablo’s castle from the Fantastic Four, but turn down their assistance. We find that Diablo intends for Goliath, as a biochemist, to help him bring to life an entire army of Dragon Men androids. He has kept the Wasp hostage elsewhere as leverage on Goliath. The Avengers tap into Diablo’s video feed in their aero-car and drop off Hercules at the cave where Wasp is guarded by Dragon Man. The rest of the team goes to Goliath’s location, but Goliath battles them to keep Wasp safe, not knowing that Hercules is going to rescue her. Once this plan is revealed to him, all the Avengers turn on Diablo, who hides behind a force field. Surprisingly Captain America is also behind the force field with Diablo and captures him. Hercules also rescues Wasp, sending Dragon Man into lava. 

Scarlet Witch: “Must you treat everything lightly—even so vital a mission as this?”
Hawkeye: “Listen, lady…nobody accuses Hawkeye of not takin’ his Avengin’ seriously!” 

  • Diablo’s castle is located in Transylvania. Although he was born in Spain, during his long history of immortality, he settled in Transylvania for a time and was discovered there by the Fantastic Four trapped in a tomb in his first appearance.
  • Captain America was able to follow the team due the trackers in their aero-car. He did so after defeating the Red Skull in his own series.
  • This issue figures into the recent Age of Ultron story. It's the point where Wolverine and Invisible Woman travel back to kill Henry Pym. There is also an alternate cover to Age of Ultron 6 that features it.

Avengers Vol 1 43.jpg

Avengers 43
Color Him…Red Guardian
August, 1967
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and George Roussos 

Hawkeye turns up the Black Widow’s location overseas by intimidating his underworld contacts. He invites Hercules along, so the two heroes go to rescue her. They are able to fight through a group of soldiers, but they also encounter Red Guardian, the communist alternative to Captain America. He is able to defeat Hawkeye, and he tricks Hercules into the Psychotron, where he is stuck battling illusions he thinks are real. Red Guardian reveals to Black Widow that he is her husband, Alexi Shostakov, who she thought was dead. 

Soldier: “One of them is an Avenger! What a feat to capture him alive!”
Hawkeye: “Waddaya know! Ol’ Hawkeye—a potential propaganda victory!” 

Captain America: “If all of us showed up behind the Curtain, it might mean an international incident! The only sensible thing to do is let Hawkeye stew in his own juice! Okay, Hank—you know what to do!”
Goliath: “Check! I’ll warm up the aero-car—for an immediate rescue mission!”
Captain America: “You know it, big man!” 

·         The letterer for this issue is Jerry Mann. This is a pen name for Larry Feldman.
·         In this issue, Wasp turns 23 years old and gains her full inheritance of three million dollars. Previously she had been living off of $25,000 a year. In 2014 dollars, that’s $21,363,952 and a measly $178,033 a year.
·         Quicksilver learns how to fly for short distances when he vibrates his legs at high speed. Later writers seem to ignore this talent for the most part.
·         This is the first appearance of a Red Guardian. The identity will be used by various others over the years. This one uses a small magnetically controlled disk as a weapon and belt buckle.
·         When Hercules is subjected to the Psychotron, he is faced by the mythical Hydra. This shows that the stories of his labors were actually part of history in the Marvel Universe.
·         Future Avengers writer Brian Michael Bendis was born in this month.

Avengers Vol 1 44.jpg

Avengers 44
The Valiant Also Die!
September, 1967
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Vince Colletta

The plan for the Psychotron device is to use it over long distances on entire populations, causing chaos in the Western world. Now that it is revealed her husband is alive, they release Black Widow and submit her to a lie detector to make sure she is loyal to them, and she passes the test. The rest of the Avengers arrive, and Captain America is separated from the group. He and Red Guardian fight one-on-one, but the outcome is in doubt. Colonel Ling electrifies the floor, shocking Captain America into unconsciousness. Red Guardian is outraged because he wanted a fair fight. Hawkeye discovers his prison has been tampered with and is able to escape. Black Widow moves to sabotage the Psychotron, and Colonel Ling takes aim at her. Red Guardian intercepts the bullet to protect his wife. Hawkeye bursts in and deflects Colonel Ling’s second shot, but the Black Widow is still injured at the same time she successfully destroys the Psychotron. The Avengers and their allies escape as the base explodes. 

Scarlet Witch: “When those caught in the trap are Avengers, the hunters have a way of becoming the hunted!” 

Captain America: “From what I’ve pieced together, I owe my life to…the Red Guardian! Strange…we were born to clash…yet there was an invisible bond between us! We fought on different sides…but each by his own code! And for that code, the man named Alexi was willing to die!” 

·         This is the first Avengers inking job for Vince Colletta. Although he was appreciated for his ability to ink art quickly to meet deadlines, he was also rumored to sometimes erase portions of the artist’s pencils to make the inking go faster.
·         A letter writer in this issue complains that six Avengers plus the two hangers-on are too many characters for a super team, so perhaps there was some fan pressure to keep memberships small.
·         Alexi Shostakov was originally a test pilot who was supposedly killed while piloting an experimental rocket. In truth, he began his Red Guardian training after his faked death.
·         In this retelling of her origin, Black Widow implies the death of her husband drove her to become the Black Widow as an adult. Later stories show that her training began when she was much younger and that her marriage to Shostakov was arranged.
·         The Avengers take Black Widow to the closest American hospital, which is in Hawaii.
·         Future Avenger Stingray first appears this month in Tales to Astonish 95.

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