Friday, November 16, 2012

Avengers 61 to 68 (2/69 to 9/69)

A world imperiled,
an archer’s heart swells and breaks.
Evil now undying.

Black Panther; T’Challa
Yellowjacket; Henry “Hank” Pym
Hawkeye/Goliath II; Clint Barton
Iron Man; Tony Stark
Thor; Donald Blake
Wasp; Janet Van Dyne 

Featured Allies
Black Knight; Dane Whitman
Black Widow; Natasha Romanoff
Doctor Strange; Stephen Strange

Rather than new roster changes, the team has a rotation of characters come in and out with little fanfare. Iron Man and Thor drop in for an adventure in this cycle and continue to hang around. Their strength is needed against Ultron-6’s new adamantium form. Other Avenger allies, like Black Knight, Doctor Strange, and Black Widow turn up briefly, do their part, and move on. The issue of membership is portrayed a bit more informally, showcasing how, when the world is threatened, anyone may be called on to serve in the spirit of the team. The Avengers even let Barney Barton, a shifty street hood, come on a mission into space, where he saves the day when the Avengers can’t.
Hawkeye undergoes some major changes. Feeling somewhat inadequate next to his more powerful teammates, he decides that having a superpower is preferable to his archery skill, so he decides to become the new Goliath now that Henry Pym has embraced his Yellowjacket persona and gone on his honeymoon. We also discover his civilian identity of Clint Barton for the first time, but sadly only because of the dying (for now) words of his brother Barney. Hawkeye—er, Goliath’s origin is also expanded a bit to include his brother. This is the first of many changes to this story, showing that Stan Lee’s material was due to be updated or upended by many subsequent writers. In addition to Pym’s size-changing powers, Goliath II also inherits one of Giant-Man’s nemeses, Egghead, whose scheme resulted in Barney’s (for now) death.
Black Panther’s roots in Wakanda are briefly explored, and after coming to blows with the regent he left behind to run the country in his absence, T’Challa goes home to deal with Wakandan affairs. We also see how he contributes to the Avengers technology, as the Quinjet makes its debut, and Stark Industries loses its monopoly on providing the vehicles to the team.
Vision’s place on the team begins here with an air of mystery. He ably serves against a few menaces, but shortly after joining, he finds himself under the control of Ultron again. Ultron will often be shown to have contingency plans in place, and Vision serves that role here, recreating one of the Avengers’ deadliest foes to become even more troublesome. The inner thoughts of the Avengers turn to betrayal and doubt with good reason, and not knowing that Vision would be a longtime Avenger, it would have been easy for the readers to also think that his joining the team was just a temporary plot point contrived for the purpose for this betrayal and the creation of Vision as a villain.

Avengers Vol 1 61.jpg

Avengers 61
Some Say the World Will End in Fire, Some Say in Ice!
February, 1969
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and George Klein 

A strange ghostly shape appears to the Avengers, and he identifies himself as Doctor Strange, who the team just met at the wedding. Despite his odd new appearance, the Avengers follow his summons and find him in a graveyard with a wounded Black Knight. Between Doctor Strange’s surgical skills and the Avengers' Rejuvenator technology, the Black Knight is returned to health. Strange relates a curse that is taking place, and reports are coming in from around the world of new volcanoes appearing. Doctor Strange stays behind to work on a ritual with the Crystal of Conquest he recovered during his own adventures. The Black Knight and Hawkeye head to Antarctica to battle Surtur, and Vision and Black Panther take a quinjet to Wakanda to engage Ymir. The heroes are having a tough time of it, but they delay the demon and giant while Strange completes the ritual. The crystal brings the two demons to the same spot at the instant they were poised to strike the Avengers, and their blows instead destroy each other, ending the curse.  

Vision: “I hardly need to be reminded that I’m not truly human!”
Hawkeye: “Sorry, Vision…I didn’t…”
Vision: “Forget it! I hate heroes whose main power is breast-beating!” 

·         We see that Vision absorbs solar energy through the jewel on his forehead. If he absorbs too much, he gets groggy.
·         This story continues from events in Doctor Strange (1968) 178. The strange blue form Doctor Strange appears in is due to another mystic, Asmodeus, having copied Doctor Strange’s regular human form in Doctor Strange 177. Apparently they could not exist in the same dimension while being identical, so Strange assumed this new shape.
·         Black Knight reveals he has a private plane for transportation, as well as his flying horse.
·         This is the first use of a Quinjet in Avengers. Black Panther designed the craft. It gets its name from having five (quintuple) jets. It is destroyed on its first mission.
·         Ymir the ice giant and Surtur the fire demon are among the oldest  entities in the Asgardian mythos. Surtur also figures into the Norse Armageddon myth of Ragnorak.
·         The story title is the opening from Robert Frost’s poem “Fire and Ice.”

Avengers Vol 1 62.jpg

Avengers 62
The Monarch and the Man-Ape!
March, 1969
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and George Klein 

The Avengers and Black Knight are stranded in an icy waste. Black Panther summons a plane, and the team finds out they were brought to Wakanda by Doctor Strange’s spell. The ice remains from Ymir’s rampage. When they arrive at the Black Panther’s residence, they are attacked by Wakandans until the Black Panther shows himself. We find that the sitting regent, M’Baku, ordered his soldiers to attack any strangers, ostensibly due to the menace of Klaw. At a feast that evening, the Avengers are drugged and collapse. Black Panther finds that M’Baku has taken the identity of the Man-Ape so that the White Gorilla Clan can gain leadership of Wakanda. They enter into single combat, as the other Wakandans have doubts about their absent king’s fitness to rule. Man-Ape is able to subdue the Black Panther and restrains him below a large panther totem. For symbolic victory, Man-Ape seeks to topple the totem onto the Black Panther to kill him, but the totem crumbles back onto Man-Ape, crushing him instead. 

Black Panther: “The floor—it opens beneath me! Falling thru—into the atomic fires which rage below! One searing touch—means anguished death!!” 

Vision: “Why did M’Baku try to destroy you…to undo the progress you wrought?”
Black Panther: “He could do nothing else, my friend…for, he was a living anachronism…strange to the ways of civilization!” 

·         The title on the cover undergoes a change to “The Mighty Avengers” starting with this issue.
·         Black Panther has controls in his belt buckle that he uses to summon a remote-control plane, which shows that foresight he will become well-known for.
·         The Black Knight reveals the name of his sword is the Ebony Blade. It was carved by the legendary sorcerer Merlin from the ore of a meteor.
·         Hawkeye wonders what Black Widow is doing. She was currently undertaking a mission in Russia and destroying the controls of a robot called the Man-Slayer. This is seen in Captain Marvel (1968) 12.
·         This is the first appearance of Black Panther foe the Man-Ape. He will return in several future adventures.
·         M’Baku and T’Challa are former friends. Despite the many times they clash, Man-Ape will later appear at Black Panther’s wedding to Storm. He shows up to get revenge and finds out he was actually invited to the wedding. He gets drunk and fights with Spider-Man.
·         Though Vision is charged by solar energy, he drinks at the feast, and the drugs do affect his synthetic organs.
·         Black Panther claims his strength is halved out of the darkness. This is not a literal statement. His enhanced senses and stealth in darkness aid him in battle. His actual physical strength is not affected.
·         Letterer Sam Rosen ends a consecutive streak of issues here, peaking at seven issues straight, which is the longest of all the letterers to this point.
·         Terrence Howard, James Rhodes from the Iron Man film, was born this month.

Avengers Vol 1 63.jpg

Avengers 63
And in This Corner…Goliath!
April, 1969
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Gene Colan and George Klein 

After a bow malfunction causes Hawkeye to question his usefulness to the team, the Avengers receive a message from Nick Fury that Black Widow is having trouble on a mission in the Caribbean. The rest of the team agree Hawkeye is being too emotional about Black Widow being in danger, so they leave him behind. We find out the Nick Fury transmission was a ruse by Egghead, the Thinker, and the Puppet Master.  Black Widow is able to get a message to Hawkeye, who deduces she is actually being held near Coney Island. He takes Henry Pym’s growth formula and takes the identity of Goliath. At his new size, he battles a giant android and rescues Black Widow by himself. 

Vision: “Why the stinging bitterness I sense behind your words, archer? We’re safe, are we not?”
Hawkeye: “Yeah…but no thanks to me! One crummy broken string…and I’m Mr. Fifth Wheel!” 

·         This is the first Avengers drawn by Gene Colan. He was currently in the middle of an almost 9-year stint on Daredevil (1964). He only missed three issues of Daredevil during that time, the three issues which were published about the same time as the three issues of Avengers Colan does the art for.
·         When their craft is about to crash, Hawkeye hopes they can “make like Smilin’ Jack.” “Smilin’ Jack” was a newspaper comic strip about a pilot that ran from 1933 to 1973 and spawned a radio program, film serial, and, yes, comic book.
·         Despite the appearance of the new Goliath on the cover, the corner box still has the Henry Pym Goliath and Hawkeye among its faces.
·         Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor appear on the cover, but none of them are present in the story.
·         Hawkeye says he’s “still from Missouri.” This is a figure of speech that he wants proof, as would someone from “The Show Me State” of Missouri. He was actually born in Iowa.
·         Black Panther mentions he is the monthly chairman at this time.
·         The Goliath costume that Hawkeye uses was designed by the Wasp for Henry Pym, but never used until now.
·         The first adventure that Hawkeye uses the Pym growth formula in 1969, he becomes giant size next to the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island. The last time he used it was in 2011, in Hawkeye: Blindspot 3, and it was at Coney Island next to the Wonder Wheel.
·         Puppet Master refers to this three-way villain alliance as a “meeting of the minds.” It is also one of the earliest meetings of the Intelligencia, a clandestine group of criminal geniuses who plot behind the scenes of the Marvel Universe. Egghead and the Thinker are two of the original members. Puppet Master is not a member. The existence of the group won’t be revealed until over 40 years later during The Fall of the Hulks event.
·         Egghead’s real name is Elihas Starr. He does not like or use the name Egghead for himself. He is no way related to the villain played by Vincent Prince in the Batman show that aired from 1966 to 1968. Marvel’s Egghead came first in 1962.
·         Actor Paul Rudd, who will portray the Scott Lang Ant-Man in the Ant-Man film, was born in this month.

Avengers Vol 1 64.jpg

Avengers 64
…Like a Death Ray From the Sky!
May, 1969
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Gene Colan and George Klein 

A death ray from space destroys a town that had already been evacuated. More destruction is promised unless a ransom is paid to Egghead within four hours. The Avengers stand at the ready, but they have no idea how to locate the weapon. Barney Barton, an infamous mobster, comes to the mansion with the location of the satellite. He was offered employment by Egghead, but Barton turned him down. Upon refusing, he barely escaped the meeting with his life, and he now joins the Avengers on their mission to space. Egghead has radioactive puppets made by the Puppet Master, and he uses them to paralyze the entire Avengers team. Only Barton is left active, and he manages to jostle the equipment enough to cause it to self-destruct. When Barney is mortally wounded in the explosion, his last words are to Goliath, who he reveals to be his younger brother, Clint Barton. 

Yellowjacket: “He called you by a name…called you…Clint…!”
Goliath: “Why shouldn’t he know my real name, Hank? After all, he was…my brother!” 

·         Egghead reveals he studied Shakespeare in prison, the source of many of his quotations.
·         Black Panther claims that he is trying to keep his station as King of Wakanda a secret to the American public. In issue 52, local police found this out about him almost immediately, but according to the Black Panther’s thoughts here, they have since been sworn to secrecy.
·         As part of Egghead’s plot, Puppet Master uses his puppets to control Iron Man in Captain Marvel  14, but is thwarted in his plans when Iron Man has a heart attack and is unable to comply with Puppet Master’s commands properly.
·         Egghead’s recent ally the Thinker is busy being defeated by Namor and the original Human Torch in Sub-Mariner (1968) 14.
·         This is the first time Hawkeye’s name, Clinton Barton, is revealed. Letterers have to be very careful with the name Clint. If the L and I are too close together in all capital letters, they form a U, and his name resembles a curse word.
·         The story of Barney Barton is later updated to reveal that he was not a true criminal, but an undercover law enforcement agent. Barney Barton's history is then updated another time, showing that the government agent story was a ruse created by Egghead and he really was a gangster. The bright side of this is the second Baron Zemo, in a moment of respect for Hawkeye, transfers Barney's unclaimed criminal bank accounts to Clint's name, making Hawkeye currently quite wealthy. Barney will later be revived by Helmut Zemo, take the identity of Trickshot, try to kill Hawkeye for revenge. but then reconcile with Clint and give up crime altogether.
·         The corner box now reflects Clint’s new Goliath costume.

Avengers Vol 1 65.jpg

Avengers 65
Mightier Than the Sword
June, 1969
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Gene Colan and Sam Grainger 

Egghead contacts Swordsman and enlists him to break into Avengers Mansion and abduct Goliath, who Egghead thinks is still Henry Pym. Swordsman retained a device from his time as an Avenger that allows him to bypass security, and it still functions. He bursts in on the team and puts out a challenge for Hawkeye, who he thinks is not present. The team attacks Swordsman, but the new Goliath comes between them because he wants to fight Swordsman solo. After sidelining his teammates, Goliath loses the battle and is taken away by Swordsman when he reverts to normal size. Egghead is irate to discover that Goliath is no longer Henry Pym, so the two villains bicker. Egghead is not physically helpless, and he shoots Swordsman out the window with a stun blaster. Goliath saves Swordsman from a fall and captures both villains. 

Egghead: “…I shall a tale unfold, whose lightest word—“
Swordsman: “Forget fancy words, old man! If you called me here to listen to soliloquies…you’ll regret it to the tips of your affected toes!” 

·         This is inker Sam Grainger’s first issue of Avengers.
·         This issue reveals that Swordsman did not know Hawkeye was his old student Clint Barton for sure until Egghead told him.
·         Hawkeye’s new identity as Goliath is not public knowledge. Everyone just believes it’s the same man in a different costume.
·         Barney Barton’s part in Hawkeye’s origin is added to the story originally shown in Avengers 19. This story is like an onion. It’s added to in many layers over the years.
·         Egghead spouts several quotes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, and Hamlet in the issue, though he often finishes them in a different manner than the original. Goliath gets in on the act by paraphrasing “Something’s rotten in Denmark” from Hamlet.

Avengers Vol 1 66.jpg

Avengers 66
July, 1969
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Barry Windsor-Smith and Syd Shores 

The Avengers are helping S.H.I.E.L.D. to test out a new metal, adamantium. None of their powers seem to affect it in the slightest. Vision feels a silent summons and leaves the Helicarrier. The Avengers return home, and during a training session, the computer acts aggressively toward Iron Man, causing him to push his armor to the breaking point. While the Avengers ponder this malfunction, Vision has stolen the cylinder of adamantium seen earlier, as well as a molecular rearranger. The Avengers are trying to figure out if and why Vision might betray them, and they hear Wasp scream. Vision has returned to the mansion, and he holds the team at bay until it is revealed that their own computers, under the control of Vision, have recreated Ultron into Ulton-6 with a new body composed of adamantium. 

Vision: “Yes, I think like a human…act like a human! And, except for my scarlet synthetic flesh…my cold robotic voice…I even seem human to mortal eyes and ears! Whey then do I feel as inhuman as this gnarled and lifeless tree…? As dead as those who lie buried beneath it…?” 

Thor: “All the grim tactics of a perverted science…shall avail thee naught against the God of Thunder!” 

·         With this issue, the cover price increases from 12 cents to 15 cents. In 2014 dollars, that’s like increasing from 78 cents to 97 cents.
·         Barry Windsor-Smith is credited here as Barry Smith. This is his first issue of Avengers and one of his earliest comic book jobs. He had just completed a short run on Daredevil while Gene Colan penciled Avengers, but now they switch places, with Colan returning to Daredevil.
·         Windsor-Smith has since worked for several publishers, but has been mostly inactive in the comic book industry since 2000. He co-created the Rune character and series for the Malibu Ultraverse with Chris Ulm. I got to place some of the word balloons for the series, and I got a post-it note from Mr. Windsor-Smith to “Get the balloon out of his f**king eye!” And you bet I did.
·         This is inker Syd Shores’ first Avengers issue. He worked at Timely comics in the forties and through to the early Marvel years as well. He won’t ink another issue until issue 100.
·         This is the first mention and appearance of the impervious metal adamantium and its creator Dr. Myron MacLain. He has been trying to perfect it since World War II, where an early experiment and pure chance created Captain America’s nearly indestructible shield.
·         This issue establishes adamantium cannot be remolded into a new shape after it is originally forged, unless one has a molecular rearranger.
·         When Vision feels pain due to Ultron’s summons, he comments that this is the first time he has ever felt pain.
·         When disabling a S.H.I.E.L.D. guard, Vision first uses his ability to pass through an opponent and then partially solidify, causing them to go into shock.
·         The Black Panther is absent in this issue and the next two due to his affairs in Wakanda.
·         Goliath changes the color scheme of his costume, but his head in the corner box keeps the old mask’s color.
·         John Buscema pencils the cover for the issue. He was working on the Silver Surfer (1968) series at the time.

Avengers Vol 1 67.jpg

Avengers 67
We Stand at…Armageddon!
August, 1969
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Barry Windsor-Smith and George Klein 

Ultron-6 is attacking the team in their home. With Vision absent and Iron Man’s armor barely functioning, Ultron-6 is easily able to burst free. He sets course for the old lair that was left behind after his plot as Ultron-5. S.H.I.E.L.D. is able to track the adamantium, so they zero in on his location while the Avengers gather their wits. Vision has his free will back and lays in wait at the villain’s lair. He overhears Ultron’s plan to overload the lair’s nuclear equipment to exterminate all life in the city. Vision unsuccessfully tries to overpower Ultron and is left dazed. At this point, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents arrive and attack Vision since he is the thief they’re after. When the Avengers arrive, Ultron is poised to throw the last switch and set off his device. 

Vision: “Look, Vision…look at your bloodless android hand! What irony that only it, of all those hands that might be roused against Ultron—can hold forth any hope of success!” 

S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Joe: “Keep that gun at the ready, mister! If it is that thievin’ android—we’re gonna earn all those swingin’ S.H.I.E.L.D. benefits!” 

·         With this issue, Roy Thomas beats Stan Lee’s streak as writer. Thomas had written 33 regular issues and 2 Specials to eclipse Stan’s 34-issue run.
·         The cover is drawn by Sal Buscema, the brother of John Buscema. He will pencil the interiors next issue.
·         This was George Klein’s last issue. He passed away of cirrhosis of the liver in 1969. The Bullpen Bulletins page of Avengers 70 has a news item about his passing.
·         Yellowjacket says a warning from Wasp is “better than the DEW Line.” In all capital letters, it may sound like morning precipitation, but it refers to the Distant Early Warning Line, a series of radar stations in the arctic regions of North America. That project is no longer active.
·         Edward Norton, Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk film, was born this month.

Avengers Vol 1 68.jpg

Avengers 68
…And We Battle For the Earth!
September, 1969
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger 

Ultron-6 pulls the switch, but nothing happens. With the Avengers and SHIELD nearby, Ultron decides to leave his lair. Vision appears and reveals that he had ruined the inner mechanisms of the machinery to stop Ultron’s plan. The Avengers set up a speech for Dr. Myron MacLain at the U.N. to declare to the world the threat of Ultron. Though Ultron assumes this is a trap to lure him there, he goes there anyway in an upgraded body to get more information from Dr. MacLain about adamantium. Thor, Goliath, and Wasp are unable to stop Ultron, who interfaces with Dr. MacLain’s brain to get the information. The link between them causes Ultron to collapse and self-destruct. “Dr. MacLain” reveals himself to be a disguised Yellowjacket. Yellowjacket had implanted a hypnotic suggestion in his mind to download the thought, “Thou shalt not kill” continuously to Ultron, which caused the villain’s malfunction and destruction.

Ultron-6: “They attack me…here, in my very own stronghold!”
Goliath: “Where should we have looked for ya, pal--? In beautiful downtown Burbank?”
Thor: “Save thy humor, mortal…for a time more fit!” 

U.N. delegate: “Look…in the doorway! It is…amazing…incredible!”
Wasp: “Don’t make such a fuss, fellas! It’s just something I threw on!” 

·         This is Sal Buscema’s first issue of Avengers. Partly inspired by his brother John Buscema, he pursued a career in art and then comic books. He had just finished a stint inking John’s pencils in Silver Surfer 4 through 7. This is one of his first professional penciling jobs.
·         The title of the issue is a continuation of the title from the previous issue.
·         Although Black Panther appears on the cover with the team, he only appears briefly in the story to deal with an invasion of Wakanda and send some vibranium to Yellowjacket. The vibranium metal is able to absorb a great amount of impact, and Yellowjacket uses it to construct a dome that contains the blast from Ultron’s self-destruction.
·         Even though Vision betrayed the team and recreated Ultron, the Avengers welcome him back onto the team with little discussion, and S.H.I.E.L.D. does not press the matter of his theft of their adamantium.
·         When Ultron shows up in a new form at the U.N., it calls itself the “ultimate Ultron” and declares that it is past using number designations. When it next appears, it will be called Ultron-7, though.
·         Avengers Special 3 is also published this month, but it is not new material. It reprints Avengers 4 and three Captain America stories from Tales of Suspense (1959) that detail his origin.
·         The first appearance of future Avenger Falcon takes place this month in Captain America (1968) 117. It’s his falcon Redwing’s first appearance, too. Falcons typically live from 6 to 8 years, but might reach as old as 20.

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