Avengers Day ends,
Crumbling around core trio,
A prince, then a king.
Captain America; Steve Rogers
Goliath; Henry “Hank” Pym
Hawkeye; Clint Barton
Quicksilver; Pietro Maximoff
Scarlet Witch; Wanda Maximoff
Wasp; Janet Van Dyne
Black Panther; T’Challa
Black Knight; Dane Whitman
Iron Man; Tony Stark
Thor; Donald Blake
Black Widow has left the list of allies because she announces her retirement from being a costumed hero and sees no action in this cycle of issues. Her early character is quite a bit different from the Natasha we know today from the Avengers film. It’s hard to believe she didn’t even have her signature red hair for much of her early history. In the old days, a woman’s “danger” was due to her use of deception and the mystery of her allegiance. Today, she can demolish an enemy with physical violence as well as any of the boys, even if she’s just given those tiny pistols Scarlett Johansson is sporting against waves of alien shock troops in the Avengers film.
Roy Thomas continues to make use of the Marvel stable of master villains such as Mandarin and Magneto and the villains from the members’ own series, such as Super-Adaptoid and Whirlwind. He devises a couple of new characters as foils to new Avengers. Typhon is drawn from Hercules’ web of mythology to menace Earth, but apart from some scattered appearances, not much is seen of him afterwards. Seeds are planted for the future as a new heroic Black Knight appears who will later become a longtime member. And the menace of the Grim Reaper springs from the almost-forgotten story of Wonder Man, who at this point was still as dead as a character could get. It would be years before Wonder Man returned to the living. We have to assume Thomas had no idea how major a character Wonder Man would become, but after that, the Grim Reaper becomes a constant foil to the team.
While reading these issues, the story format seemed to come closer to the modern style of storytelling. The use of subplots that lasted several issues became more prevalent. Each character had his own thing going on, and it could lead up to a major story for the team, such as Hercules going to visit Olympus, or it could just serve as a short vignette, like Goliath and Wasp catching a cheating gambler with their powers in Las Vegas. Not knowing how relevant each page would be in the future seemed to add a bit to the tension. Rather than a large slugfest in each issue, which of course is still the main plot, the pieces of the puzzle seem to stand out more. This isn’t to say Stan Lee’s stories didn’t have asides or subplots. They certainly did, but Thomas’ asides seem more deliberately planned to pay off farther down the road, not right away or just next month when the story was bound to wrap up.
Avengers Special 1
The Monstrous Master Plan of the Mandarin!
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Don Heck and George Roussos
The Living Laser escapes prison, even though Tony Stark is coincidentally there at the time. The Laser is teleported away by the Mandarin’s devices and sees a group of villains assembled there. Iron Man goes to warn the Avengers, who have already learned that other villains have also gone missing. The military sends the Avengers a message regarding three places around the world that are being attacked by those villains, so the team splits up into four groups. Goliath and Wasp go to South America and battle Power Man and Swordsman. These villains menace a city with a giant explosive sword hovering overhead. Despite the Avengers defeating the villains, the sword comes down, but we discover Iron Man was waiting in reserve, and he manages to deflect the weapon, saving the city. Hercules and Scarlet Witch go to Asia to face Executioner and Enchantress and an army of Trolls. These villains forget about the Mandarin’s plot and only wish to battle the heroes. The Enchantress transports them all to the Citadel of Silence, an abandoned other-dimensional city, but the two heroes defeat them and use the Executioner’s axe to slice through the dimensions back to Earth. Thor and Hawkeye battle the Living Laser in Africa. Hawkeye is able to trap him, but the Mandarin’s gigantic Ultimo robot comes out of an erupting volcano. The two heroes manage to defeat it as well. Back at headquarters, Captain America and Quicksilver triangulate the Mandarin’s location after his communications with this three teams. They take an auto-control rocket to his satellite base in space and discover his master plan, a hate ray powered by a giant diamond. The other Avengers arrive as well, but the hate ray is turned on them, and they are forced to fight whomever is closest to them. While the Avengers battle each other, Mandarin is knocked into the controls. Because Wasp was closest to Mandarin, she did not turn on an ally and attacked the Mandarin under the influence of the beam. The controls are destroyed, and the Mandarin is sent into outer space. The Avengers rig the satellite to blow up and make their escape.
Scarlet Witch, thinking: “The sorceress does not understand mortal science...or my uncanny control of the laws of probability!*”
Editor’s note: “*To tell the truth, we sometimes get a bit confused about them ourselves!—Straightforward Stan.”
Hawkeye: “Hold it, Goldilocks! That crumb is an enemy of the regular Avengers—so I claim first crack at him!”
Thor: “Then, so be it! ‘Tis indeed thy right—which Thor shall honor!”
Captain America: “They also serve who stand and wait, Pietro!”
· Cap’s quote above is adapted from John Milton’s poem “On His Blindness.” Milton implied that even people who were limited in their functions still had a place in the world. This quote appears several times over the years in Avengers, usually in reference to a “limited” nonpowered ally of the Avengers or, in this case, those waiting and only monitoring the situation.
· The special was 49 pages of story, supposedly the longest story Marvel had printed up to this time. It still was only 25 cents, despite being 2 ½ times as long as a regular 20-page issue.
· The graphics for this issue call it a “King-Size Special.” After Avengers Special 5, and with Avengers Annual 6, these specials became known as annuals. The first five specials are sometimes retroactively called Annuals as well.
· Iron Man blinds Living Laser with “black light.” This is just a dramatic name for this darkness effect. Real black light is simply ultraviolet light and wouldn’t blind anyone.
· Black Widow is still in the hospital from her injury in Avengers 44.
· Living Laser receives a new costume in this issue. It was made by the Mandarin.
· The Avengers appeared in Amazing Spider-Man Special 3 before this issue. They considered Spider-Man for membership on the team. (It’s also sometimes referred to as ASM Annual 3.)
· The cities and countries that the villains attack are never named, only the continents they are on.
· The first three attacks don’t seem to further the Mandarin’s master plan directly, except perhaps to demoralize the Earth before the hate ray or to procure more diamonds in Africa for the ray.
· It’s presumed the second group of Avengers to the satellite used another auto-control rocket, but on leaving the station, both groups return in one, leaving the other to be destroyed. Wasteful!
· Hercules uses a battle mace in this issue that is possibly his signature “Golden Mace” created by Hephaestus. It is highly indestructible and not actually made of gold. He usually prefers to go into battle with his bare hands.
· The story ends with all Avengers agreeing to assemble en masse again, but the narration implies that it will only be for each year’s special.
· The special includes a diagram of Avengers Mansion. It also shows that their headquarters includes a warehouse that is adjacent to the mansion itself.
Blitzkrieg in Central Park
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Don Heck and Vince Colletta
The Avengers prepare for a ceremony in Central Park. They are to be celebrated for defeating the Mandarin’s plot to conquer the world. Most of the team is there, except for Captain America, and they answer the press’ questions or demonstrate their powers. The Super-Adaptoid waits in the crowd in disguise for Captain America, and when he arrives, the Super-Adaptoid is activated, and a battle ensues. The Super-Adaptoid is a match for the team, but when it tries to use all their powers at the same time, the strain causes it to shut down.
Hawkeye, to Thor: "What’s up, curly? The Madison Avenue boys been buggin’ you to pose for Lady Clairol ads again?”
Thor: “Must the mighty Avengers be reduced to mere clowns—strutting and fretting for the benefit of mortals?”
· We see that Hawkeye proposes marriage to Black Widow in this issue. Considering her husband just died, that’s a bit fast. She does not give an answer, and the matter isn’t addressed again for a while.
· During the ceremony, the Avengers surprise Hercules by giving him full membership.
· A bystander swears they aren’t spying, on “the name of Napoleon Solo.” This is the name of the main character from The Man from U.N.C.L.E., who is a spy.
· Wasp shows up to the ceremony with a new costume, which makes the news. The cover still features her old costume, however.
· The Super-Adaptoid was created by A.I.M., Advanced Idea Mechanics, the same organization that created the Earth’s Cosmic Cube. The Super-Adaptoid has a small piece of the cube inside it to empower it.
· This adaptoid is only the first. In the future, a serum will give the power-copying abilities of the Super-Adaptoid to humans, including Norman Osborn.
· A letter writer addresses the fact that Hawkeye has no civilian name. He has appeared out of costume in public before, but even Stan Lee isn’t sure what his name is yet. Even his lover, Black Widow, just calls him Hawkeye.
· Avengers Day was proposed in Avengers 22 and appears to be an annual event, but this is the first time it is shown.
The Agony and the Anthill
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Vince Colletta
A recovering Black Widow comes to the mansion to announce her retirement from being a spy and crime-fighter. Hercules and Scarlet Witch join her and Hawkeye to go out for a stroll as civilians. We discover that Wasp’s new chauffeur is Whirlwind in disguise, and he attacks Goliath and Wasp in the lab. He tricks them into standing in front of a shrinking ray and shrinks them into a anthill full of red ants. Because they were shrunk by an outside device, they do not retain their powers or have their equipment to communicate with the ants. Captain American and Quicksilver battle Whirlwind while Goliath and Wasp try to survive the ants. Wasp manages to bring down the queen, and the other ants become docile. Goliath manages to cobble together a new Cyberno-helmet from equipment in the anthill, and they escape. They tell Quicksilver and Captain America about a bomb Whirlwind planted, and Quicksilver takes the bomb out to the East River to explode it while Whirlwind escapes.
Goliath: “...a human being is never finished, honey...not as long as he wants to live...and keeps on fighting!”
Quicksilver: “No Mutant will ever be accepted by the accursed humans! The time draws near when I will bear their insults and suspicions no longer...but will lash back!”
Narration: “And that fearful moment approaches more swiftly...and in a more surprising form...than even Quicksilver might admit—“
· Hercules has no beard on the cover. By the middle of the issue, he has shaved it off.
· Captain America is shown to be reading a J.R.R. Tolkien book, but we’re not told which one.
· Whirlwind used to be known as the Human Top. He should not be confused with the DC Comics’ Flash villain, the Top, though they are similar in powers and color scheme.
· Whirlwind did not know why he had his superhuman abilities. During the battle, Quicksilver assumes he is a Mutant, which strikes a chord with Whirlwind. It turns out this is the truth.
· Despite this battle, Whirlwind continues to hide in his false identity, and he remains Wasp’s chauffeur under the false name of Charles Matthews for some time.
· Since Quicksilver is near the bomb’s blast, nearby bystanders assume he was to blame because he is a Mutant, inflaming Quicksilver’s bias against humans.
· John Buscema becomes the regular artist after this issue. Apparently he started doing some Avengers issues to give Don Heck the time he needed to pencil the extra-long Avengers Special 1, but then Buscema kept the regular job.
· Mark Ruffalo, the Hulk in the Avengers film, was born this month.
Magneto Walks the Earth!
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and George Tuska
Captain America announces he is quitting the team, and the various members scatter to their own affairs. The villain Magneto and his lackey Toad are shown in space on a distant planetoid, but Magneto has been sensing magnetic signals from Earth. We see that they are originating from Garrett Castle, where Dane Whitman is doing experiments with magnetic beams to communicate into space. Magneto finds a way to transport himself and Toad back to Earth on the beam, and they take over Garrett Castle. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch receive an anonymous message at the Mansion that leads them to the castle, and they discover it was Magneto’s way to bring them there and test their abilities. He manages to capture them and offers them a place in a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
Toad: “Follow me, master! Such a place as this must house a dungeon! You are wise in the ways of magnetism—but the Toad knows about castles!”
· This is the first issue inked by George Tuska. Though he produced art for many Marvel series, he is best known for his almost unbroken 10-year run on Iron Man from 1968 to 1978.
· The letterer is credited as L.P. Gregory. This is a pen name for Gaspar Saladino. He was also lettering for DC Comics and probably did not want it to be known he was working for Marvel on the side.
· Captain America quits because he wants to focus more on his life as Steve Rogers and find his place in the modern world.
· This is the first appearance of a new heroic Black Knight, Dane Whitman. He does not appear in costume until next issue, however. He would later go on to be an Avenger and one of the few Marvel characters to cross into the Ultraverse for an extended period of time. He even led the Ultrahero team Ultraforce.
· Magneto was trapped in space by the alien Stranger. The Avengers will later face the Stranger as well, but only Goliath and Scarlet Witch will still be with the team at the time of their first encounter. The Stranger was apparently destroyed by Thanos recently in Avengers Assemble (2012) 7, though this story has not completed. Whoops. False alarm. He's okay!
· Toad is not as capable as he appears in the X-Men film and subsequent issues of the comic that adapted his character to match that depiction. In his early years, his power was only superhuman leaping.
· Goliath and Wasp vacation in Las Vegas for much of this issue.
· Hercules goes to meet with his father, Zeus, and finds Olympus completely deserted.
· Magneto claims that Scarlet Witch cannot use her hex power if she cannot gesture when tied up, and that seems to play out here.
· Garrett Castle was originally in Europe, but it was dismantled and moved to Virginia. It is the same castle the first hero called Black Knight lived in during the sixth century.
The Black Knight Lives Again
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by George Tuska
Quicksilver appears to consider Magneto’s offer to join together, so Magneto leaves the siblings to think on it. Quicksilver begins to escape his bonds, but Toad is eavesdropping and stops the escape by calling to his master. Dane Whitman is trapped in the dungeon, but he knows secret passages that enable him to escape. He recalls how his uncle was mortally injured while battling Iron Man and regretted his evil ways. Before dying, he made Whitman promise to use his equipment and research for good. Whitman puts on his new Black Knight costume and reveals his own winged horse. He flies on its back to Avengers headquarters, but he is attacked by the remaining members of the team after Hawkeye mistakes him for his uncle. Black Knight finally convinces them of his good intentions after saving Goliath from a fall. He takes them to his castle, but by this time, Magneto and his captives have left.
Goliath: “Magneto? But—he’s the greatest enemy of the X-Men!”
Wasp: “Their monopoly on him is over, handsome!”
· Captain America’s head in the corner box is replaced by Hercules on this cover.
· This issue features a panel with Toad followed by a panel with Jarvis. In the recent Avengers Vs. X-Men crossover, one page dealt with Toad fighting Jarvis. Jarvis won and defenestrated Toad. That means “threw out the window.” Sorry, but it’s so rare to be able to use that word in proper context.
· This is the third Black Knight to appear. The second was Dane Whitman’s uncle, as recounted here, and the first was Sir Percy of Scandia, who was the Black Knight in the 6th century. Sir Percy had his own comic series in 1955.
· We discover that Wasp specially treats her civilian clothes to shrink, but she forgets to treat some accessories.
· Wasp is able to control the actions of wasps in this issue due to antennae in her head. Eventually the antennae’s effectiveness fades because she doesn’t use them very often.
· Wasp mentions that the Black Knight is probably cute under his helmet. In later years, Black Knight will try to start a relationship with Wasp, but she won’t be interested.
· Although known primarily as a man of action, Dane Whitman does have knowledge in various sciences, including physics and genetic engineering.
· Black Knight calls his winged horse “Pegasus” in this issue, but its actual name is Aragorn. He was probably named after the Lord of the Rings character.
· Madame Masque makes her premiere this month in Tales of Suspense 97. Her clone will later be an honorary member of the Avengers.
Mine is the Power!
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema
Hercules finds that Olympus is empty because the Titan Typhon destroyed the Temple of the Promethean Flame, which banished all full-blooded gods to another dimension. Hercules battles Typhon, but he, too, ends up banished. On Earth, Magneto takes the siblings to his island base to persuade them to join him. He lies and says that he no longer wants to conquer humans, but instead live alongside them in a Mutant refuge. He takes them to the United Nations to make a speech and threatens his way in. He makes an ultimatum to those assembled that he be given his own country for Mutants and veto power in the United Nations. The Avengers see this on the news, and Hawkeye, Goliath, and Wasp arrive to find Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. On the refusal of Magneto’s demands, a fight breaks out. Magneto manipulates a security guard's gun to fire and strike Scarlet Witch a glancing blow on the head. Quicksilver is enraged, thinking a human has hurt his sister, and battles by the side of Magneto. After overpowering the Avengers, the Mutants leave the scene.
Quicksilver: “I’m through listening—listening to nothing but abuse from those I once swore to protect—because I’m a Mutant!”
· This is Typhon’s first appearance. He is one of the mythical Titans and the “Father of All Monsters.” In mythology, Typhon had a hundred dragon heads. Here is a bearded man, which is probably easier to draw.
· Typhon’s battle-axe is able to summon monsters from other dimensions and also send his opponents to those dimensions. The one shown here is simply a “nameless universe.”
· The Promethean Flame that banishes the Olympian gods here is destroyed again later by Ares, but in that case, quenching the flame turns the gods to crystal instead. Since Typhon used his magical battle axe to destroy it, perhaps the axe’s transportation power interacted with the Flame to cause banishment instead.
· A diagram of Goliath’s cowl shows that he used Morphon fabric for his costumes to change size with him. This did not catch on as well as Mister Fantastic’s “unstable molecules” costumes in the hero world. Only Goliath and Wasp seem to use Morphon.
· Hawkeye says that his entire costume and weaponry have alternate “synthetic” components so that he has no metal on him when facing Magneto. In this time period, Magneto was not powerful enough to affect metal molecules in blood or other body tissues. Though apparently he could ride magnetic waves across interstellar space...
· Magneto demands his Mutant nation will have veto power in the UN. The United Nations only allows five members this power, the United States, China, Russia, Great Britain, and France.
· Magneto eventually gets his way many years later and is given the island nation of Genosha by the United Nations as a haven for Mutants, just as he asks here. It doesn’t end well. Millions of the mutants who seek refuge there are slaughtered by Sentinels in later stories. And they didn’t get the veto power either.
· Goliath suspects his growth powers may not be working again, so he does not use them this issue. He instead plans on later returning as Ant-Man.
To Tame a Titan!
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema
The Avengers decide they must find Hercules, and they track his aero-jet toward Mount Olympus. Typhon has watched the Earth from Olympus and decides to conquer it. He attacks a United States vessel, which attracts the attention of the Avengers. We see that Hercules has met up with the banished gods, and due to his being half-human, Zeus is able to send him back to Earth. The three human Avengers are unable to stop Typhon, but Hercules arrives in time to aid them and defeat Typhon. As the loser of the battle, Typhon must bow to Hercules’ wishes, and they both return to Olympus. The Promethean Flame was imprisoned within the battle-axe and is returned to its rightful place, restoring the gods to their home. A grateful Zeus removes the banishment decree, and Hercules decides his place is at Olympus, so he leave the Avengers team.
Hawkeye: “Nuts! The way we’re losin’ members hand over fist, maybe we oughtta launch a door-to-door membership drive! About now, I’m ready to vote in anybody this side of Wonder Warthog!”
· Wonder Wart-Hog is an actual underground comic character created by Gilbert Shelton, who also created the Freak Brothers. It was in publication in the sixties, before this issue.
· Though 50th issues are often marked today as a special occasion, this was just a normal-size 12-cent issue as always.
· With Hercules leaving and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch defecting, this issue ends with only three Avengers active.
· Hercules is attacked by a beast called an Erinnyes. The Erinyes (with one N) in Greek Mythology are three goddesses of vengeance that do not seem to be related to this creature, although they are banished here along with the rest of the Greek gods.
· When Hercules discovers the banished gods, Zeus does not recognize Hercules at first because he had shaved his beard.
· Kratos and Bia are two of Zeus’ allies who restrain Typhon. They are the gods of strength and force, but in mythology, Bia was a goddess. Here, he is male. They later appear as henchman for Ares.
· Ares is among the gods banished. He is still a detractor of Hercules throughout the issue.
· The ship attacked by Typhon is part of the Sixth Fleet, which the United States operates primarily in European waters such as the Mediterranean.
· This month is the first appearance of Carol Danvers in Marvel Super-Heroes (1967) 13. She will later join the Avengers as Ms. Marvel.
In the Clutches of the Collector!
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and George Tuska
The Collector plots on how to add the Avengers to his collection. He selects the Wasp as his first target and plants a comb in her apartment. When she touches it, she is unable to let go of it and is whisked into the sky towards the Collector’s aircraft. Hawkeye and Goliath grab on to her and are carried there as well, but they cannot avoid being captured by one of the Collector’s extraterrestrial beasts. The Collector is upset that Goliath’s powers are not working and begins experiments on him to restore his powers to perfect condition. We see that the Collector had earlier enthralled Thor with a doctored drink that put him under the Collector’s control. Thor is sent to retrieve Iron Man, and Thor overpowers him. On the ship, Wasp discovers that one of Collector’s pets, a sauro-beast, is subject to her insect control, so she uses it to free her and the team. With his powers restored, Goliath is able to help the team defeat Collector’s other subjects. The Collector flees, and Thor is restored to free will just in time to fly the Avengers off the craft before it explodes.
Thor: “My captor hath bade me subdue my fellow Avenger...in the swiftest manner possible! Therefore, I have no recourse but to smite him...without warning!”
· The narration says the story will not abide by Aristotle’s Unities. These Unities were rules he put forth for Greek stage drama. The three rules were having one main action with few subplots, keeping the stage as representing one location only, and keeping the story within a 24-hour time period.
· Wasp shows off her new penthouse apartment in this issue. In keeping with her Avengers membership, her swimming pool is in the shape of a giant A.
· The nature of the Collector’s items changes to the interstellar in this issue, rather than those from Earth’s past.
· Captain America contacts the team and proposes the Black Panther take his place. The heroes met in Captain America’s own series. Black Panther is actually referred to only as “the Panther” in this and the next two issues.
· Collector uses the temporal assimilator to escape again. This time, narration clarifies that the device takes him to a “sidereal time-world.” Since sidereal is normally used to describe the true astronomical units of time versus the human time-keeping system, I’m not sure how it applies to time travel.
· The Collector wishes to collect Hulk and Captain America, but he determines they are too far away to target first.
· The cover’s corner box has the heads of Hercules, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver, none of whom are with the team or even in this issue.
· Goliath’s restored ability allows him to grow up a 25-foot height for 15 minutes again.
“Death Calls for the Arch-Heroes!
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Vince Colletta
The Panther arrives at the Mansion to join the Avengers, but he must fight his way through the Mansion’s active defense systems to get inside. Since Captain America briefed him on these defenses, he gets inside to discover that Goliath, Hawkeye, and Wasp are dead. A visiting SHIELD agent catches him with the bodies and assumes the Panther is the killer. The Panther tries to prove he is a prospective member by using the combination to open the meeting room, but his combination doesn’t work. Panther goes along quietly with his arrest to figure things out. We see that the Avengers were attacked by the Grim Reaper, the brother of Wonder Man, who is seeking revenge and now waiting for the return of the other Avengers he holds responsible. His scythe weapon has merely put the Avengers into a death-like trance. The Panther surmises that the killer is behind the locked door he could not open, so he escapes from the police. His theory is proven correct, and the Panther defeats him in battle. The Grim Reaper had let slip that his weapon could revive those under its effects, so the Panther takes the scythe to the hospital and revives the team, becoming their newest member.
Panther: “And now, it is time for the Panther to prowl the city once more...to learn if the gnawing suspicion which fills my mind is the senses-staggering truth!”
· The SHIELD agent who catches Panther is Jasper Sitwell, one of the primary agents in SHIELD’s own series at this time. He also appeared in the background of Avengers 38 and 39. He is at the headquarters on an errand for Tony Stark.
· This is the first appearance of the Grim Reaper. He will continue to be a villain of the team for many years, both while alive, dead, and undead.
· In this issue, the Panther claims he has given up the throne to Wakanda to come and join the Avengers.
· The police cannot find Wakanda on a map when they are booking the Panther. According to the Panther's thought balloon, Wakanda’s location is secret from the rest of the world at this time. It’s located in the eastern central part of Africa and surrounded by several other Marvel Universe countries.
- We later learn that Grim Reaper's coma ray was developed by Ultron, who has yet to appear himself.