Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Avengers 80 to 88 (9/70 to 5/71)

Inside, harmony.
Other dimensions threaten.

Team splits and conquers.

Black Knight; Dane Whitman
Black Panther; T’Challa
Captain America; Steve Rogers
Goliath; Clint Barton
Iron Man; Tony Stark
Quicksilver; Pietro Maximoff
Scarlet Witch; Wanda Maximoff
Thor; Donald Blake
Wasp; Janet Van Dyne

Featured Allies:
Daredevil; Matt Murdock

                Roy Thomas continues to refine some of the concepts he had so far introduced in the series, managing to premiere some new characters as well that still remain active in the Marvel Universe, like Red Wolf and Valkyrie. Fans continued to ask for more Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, so their presence becomes more common, but the team is usually split off into factions so that there is not an army of superheroes facing any foe at one time. With today’s huge events and splash pages with dozens of combatants, this almost seems quaint. In issue 82, New York City is left with only two superheroes left, a far cry from today, where they have enough to fill a superhero team in each of the 50 states.
                Speaking of teams, this cycle introduces the Squadron Supreme. Although at first blush, it seems to be the Squadron Sinister making a repeat appearance, it’s really the start of a new parallel world with its own history and own group of heroes. They continue to seem like a knockoff of DC’s Justice League and serve as a foil to the Avengers. In 1985, they would get their own 12-issue “maxi-series” and start to gain their own identity and rich history that diverged from their source material. In a multiverse full of alternate realities, this one would become featured quite often, crossing over into the Marvel Universe to this day. Their members even appeared in a couple of Ultraverse books, so they got around. Not to downplay the Avengers’ efforts. In their first short trip to the Squadron’s world, they managed to save that Earth, spreading the Avengers’ influence beyond just their home world.
                Thomas brought in a bit of writing help, but continued to be the guiding force of the series. Although he didn’t get credit at the time, Len Wein helped plot out issue 86 at the beginning of his comic-book writing career. Although Wein wouldn’t write Avengers any further, he did manage to introduce a couple of popular concepts in the seventies, like, say, the new X-Men lineup and a little fella called Wolverine, and he turned the lights out on the final Ultraforce series. In a rare comic collaboration, Harlan Ellison also stepped in to plot the last issue in this cycle, issue 88. Although it could be argued that the concepts in this issue of Avengers have not strongly impacted the history of the Marvel Universe, its continuation in Incredible Hulk (1962) 140 introduces the Hulk’s tragic love Jarella and her world, which has had a lasting effect in the story of the Hulk and his sons.

Avengers Vol 1 80.jpg

Avengers 80
The Coming of Red Wolf!
September, 1970
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer 

Vision has quit the team when he comes across Red Wolf and Lobo tracking a man through New York City. Vision intervenes and renders Red Wolf unconscious, taking him back to Avengers Mansion. Lobo, a wolf, dutifully follows his master. When Red Wolf revives, he tells the Avengers his story. Before becoming Red Wolf, he had served in the American armed forces and worked in construction in the city, and he was visiting his parents on the reservation when they were gunned down by Jason Birch. The murder was part of a scheme to grab their land for development by Cornelius Van Lunt. The distraught and wounded son had wandered to the tribe’s sacred mountain, where he encountered the spirit of Red Wolf, which empowered him to be his tribe’s champion. The new Red Wolf tracked Birch to New York, where he encountered Vision. A repentant Vision agrees to help, and Goliath and Scarlet Witch choose to go along to the reservation to help while the rest of the team pursues their own missions. 

Vision: “Yet, a human life is not to be lightly taken—as I, who am not human, should well know!” 

Captain America: “We run around calling ourselves Avengers—yet, when this man comes before us with something to avenge—a wrong that shrieks to heaven for vengeance—we turn a deaf ear—because his cause isn’t world-shattering enough for us!” 

Goliath: “Aw, we knew you’d be back, Vizh! The ‘Avengers assemble’ thing gets in the blood..even artificial blood!” 

·         With this issue, Tom Palmer will have inked the largest number of consecutive issues, beating the previous record of six, held by three other previous inkers.
·         The story begins with the rhyme “Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.” This is a rhyme kids used to pick who will be it, like Eenie, meenie, miney, moe. There’s no counting going on here, though.
·         This is the first appearance of Red Wolf and his wolf Lobo. It was an attempt to create an American Indian hero. He is still an active hero and serves on the Texan superhero team the Rangers.
·         There would be a Red Wolf series in 1972, but it only lasted for nine issues. It did not feature the modern Red Wolf. It was set in the Old West and featured an earlier incarnation of Red Wolf.
·         The tribe Red Wolf belongs to is not given here. He has since been identified as a Cheyenne, more specifically the Tsitsistas part of the tribe. Although he is listed as being born in Wolf Point, Montana, and there is a Cheyenne reservation in Montana, the location of his family in this story is in the American Southwest.
·          “Lobo” is “wolf” in Spanish. The Cheyenne word for “wolf” is “ho’nene” or “maiyun.”
·         Red Wolf gained his animal companion only after he was attacked by Lobo’s mother. Red Wolf killed her in self-defense and adopted the young orphan pup.
·         There have been three Lobos up to the present. Red Wolf had to find a new partner after the first one was killed by an enemy. He now wears the skin of the first Lobo as part of his costume. The second Lobo was impersonated by a Skrull sometimes before the Secret Invasion event, but the Skrull impostor has since been found out and killed. The whereabouts of the true second Lobo are unknown.
·         Although from totally different cultures, the stories of Red Wolf and Black Knight are remarkably parallel. Both have ancestors in previous centuries who started the same costumed identity they now use, both have visions of the spirits of these ancestors, and both have animal companions.

Avengers Vol 1 81.jpg

Avengers 81
When Dies a Legend!
October, 1970
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer 

The mini-team of Vision, Goliath, and Scarlet Witch are flying west with Red Wolf and Lobo in a Quinjet when they are attacked by robot-piloted  aircraft. They are forced to bail out of the crashing Quinjet, and Vision and Scarlet Witch are separated from the others. Jason Birch and some other gunman capture them while Scarlet Witch is recovering from the fall. They are taken to Van Lunt’s hacienda, where Van Lunt offers a payoff to Vision. Vision refuses, so Van Lunt keeps Scarlet Witch hostage to ensure Vision’s compliance. We learn that Goliath, Red Wolf, and Lobo also survived the crash, and they defeat Jason Birch’s squad and come after Van Lunt. Vision and Goliath battle each other while Red Wolf leads his tribe to the dam that is threatening their lands. Van Lunt flies a helicopter to the top of a dam with the Scarlet Witch as his hostage. She finally recovers her strength enough to unleash her power and causes the helicopter to explode. This destroys the dam and cause a flood that engulfs Red Wolf, Lobo, and Van Lunt. The team briefly mourns Red Wolf, but Will Talltrees, whom they know to be Red Wolf, arrives on the scene to begin the process of rebuilding the tribal lands. 

Scarlet Witch, thinking: “Why did I join this mission—heeding a rash impulse? Was it really to help Red Wolf…or for some deeper, hidden reason?” 

Scarlet Witch, thinking: “The Vision could defy them all…at no risk to himself! He’s surrendering to save me, knowing I’m still too weak to use my mutant hex power! Before now, I’ve always thought of him as cold…aloof…but I was wrong!” 

Red Wolf: “There are those who say you did not earn your growing powers, Goliath—because another man created the formula! Yet, this day, I know they are wholly wrong!” 

·         With this issue, Tom Palmer will have inked the most issues of the series, beating Dick Ayers’ previous total of 12.
·         The team members not featured in this story decide to pursue the Zodiac, except for Black Panther, who goes on a quest for street-level justice for the common man.
·         Goliath quips that Vision also has the mind of Parnelli Jones due to his skillful piloting. Jones is a racecar driver who won the Indy 500 in 1963 and is in over 20 automotive halls of fame.
·         The sound effects of the Quinjet being fired upon and the Vision falling to Earth are both “Shroom!”
·         That’s another Quinjet destroyed. That’s two.
·         We learn the Quinjets have no armaments. The Avengers inside are their only defense and offense.
·         We learn Red Wolf’s name is Will Talltrees in the story.
·         It’s later revealed that Will Talltrees was on the same military squad as James Rhodes, aka War Machine, during their time served in the Vietnam war.
·         The Scarlet Witch is unable to use her hex power for a short time when she becomes too fatigued from the fall and subsequent swim.
·         Goliath calls Van Lunt a “super-fink.” There was a Revell model kit produced in 1964 that features a bizarre skateboarding figure by that name.
·         It seems that the public is now aware that Goliath is no longer Henry Pym. This may be due to the fact that Pym is publicly doing research in Alaska while Goliath is still active.
·         The flood is not very fatal. Everyone caught in it survives.

Avengers Vol 1 82.jpg

Avengers 82
November, 1970
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer 

Zodiac soldiers under Aries have invaded the island of Manhattan and taken it hostage for one billion dollars ransom. They erect a force field around the island that paralyzes anyone who comes in contact with it. Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and Quicksilver had been gassed in Avengers Mansion before the assault, so they were unable to fight the invasion. Black Panther is still free, and he recruits Daredevil to help break out the Avengers. Black Panther recognizes where the Avengers are being held from a video broadcast, and he and Daredevil battle Aries and his forces there, but they are forced to retreat. The Avengers are set to be executed publicly in front of a crowd. Daredevil is in the crowd in his civilian identity, and he causes a scene in order to be drawn closer. He sabotages the machinery holding the Avengers with the projectile in his billy club, and the team is freed. Aries escapes in an aircraft, but Thor destroys it, which also disables the force field. The assembled team discovers that Cornelius Van Lunt had been training this army on his ranch on the reservation and had to invade immediately once the dam had been destroyed. 

Daredevil: “Aries! We’ve hit the jackpot!”
Aries: “You have—if you survive!”
Black Panther: “The Avengers have a way of surviving, madman! I would think you of Zodiac would know that by now!” 

·         The issue cites the 1960 census figure of New York City having 1,698,281 citizens. The latest estimate in 2011 had a figure of 8.2 million.
·         The mayor of the city is shown captured at Gracie Mansion. It has been the official residence of the New York City mayor since 1942, though not all of them have moved in.
·         We see the Fantastic Four were outside the force field and Spider-Man is staying with his aunt. Black Panther and Daredevil think they are the only superheroes active in New York. Man, those were simpler times.
·         Daredevil and Black Panther just had an adventure together the day before in Daredevil (1964) 69. They discover the street gang they fought in that issue is also tied to the Zodiac.
·         Daredevil calls Aries “Giles Goatboy.” This is a reference to a 1966 novel, Giles Goat-Boy by John Barth, a satire of campus culture and the heroic journey.
·         When Thor destroyed an aircraft, we see the “Shroom” sound effect again.

Avengers Vol 1 83.jpg

Avengers 83
Come on in…the Revolution’s fine!
December, 1970
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer 

Wasp returns to the mansion because she’s in town to visit a sick aunt. She stumbles upon a meeting of the Lady Liberators, an all-female team made up of Medusa, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, and a new character, Valkyrie. The assembled heroines uncharacteristically agree to go with Valkyrie to Rutland, Vermont,  to defeat the male Avengers and start the downfall of male supremacy. The other four Avengers are at the Rutland Halloween parade as guests and also because of rumors of the potential kidnapping of Dr. T.W. Erwin, the inventor of a parallel-time projector. We discover that the Masters of Evil do intend to kidnap Dr. Erwin, and the Avengers and Masters start a conflict at the parade. The outcome hasn’t been decided when the Liberators arrive and manage to overpower the remaining members of both the teams. In the presence of the machine, Valkyrie reveals herself to be Enchantress in disguise. She wishes to use the device to return to Asgard. She prepares a spell to destroy the Avengers, but Scarlet Witch uses her hex power to reflect the spell, seemingly destroying Enchantress. The Scarlet Witch reveals that one of “Valkyrie’s” strident comments reminded her of a previous meeting with the Enchantress and that the Scarlet Witch’s sliver of doubt in Valkyrie’s motives was enough to break the delicate enchantment she had placed on all the Liberators to get them to follow her. 

Vision: “I am trapped! If I try to become ethereal—the boiling hot tar may destroy my artificial body in the midst of the transformation!” 

Goliath: “Well, at least I’m glad of one thing…you birds finally learned your lesson about that Women’s Lib. bull!”
Scarlet Witch: “That’s what you think—male chauvinist pig! One of these days, the Liberators will stage a  comeback—right, Jan?” 

·         Herb Cooper is the letterer for this issue. This starts a string of issues without Sam Rosen or Artie Simek. Sam Rosen was battling illness at the time, leaving Art Simek the only regular staff letterer.
·         This is the first appearance of a Valkyrie character. Enchantress has the real Valkyrie’s spirit trapped in a mystic soul crystal so she can take that form for herself, and she is later seen giving that form and power to other people. The true Valkyrie will later gain her freedom and become a member of the Secret Avengers.
·         This will not be the last time the series shows the Halloween parade in Rutland, Vermont. Many comic book professionals were invited to the superhero-themed parades, so it ended up appearing in many stories in both the DC and Marvel Universes. The parade is still running and has been since 1960.
·         Tom Fagan was a local writer who helped organize the parade. In real life, Tom Fagan usually dressed as Batman, but in Marvel stories, he dresses as Nighthawk, Batman’s counterpart. In one panel, someone probably dressed at Batman can be seen on the left.

·         A poster reading “Cthulhu Lives!” is seen in one scene behind Tom Fagan. This was based off a real photograph of Fagan where a poster with that text was behind him. In addition to this shout-out to H.P. Lovecraft’s work, Dr. T.W. Erwin works at Miskatonic University, a fictional university featured in Lovecraft’s tales, not the Marvel Universe.
·         Roy Thomas writes himself and his wife Jeanie into the story. They attend the parade dressed as Spider-Man and “Mrs. Fantastic.”
·         The female group is often called the Lady Liberators, but they only refer to themselves as the Liberators.
·         Another group of Lady Liberators would be formed, but not until 2008. They team up to track down Red Hulk and are not nearly as stridently feminist. Black Widow is the only member in common between both teams, but the real Valkyrie is part of the new team instead of an impostor.
·         The Masters of Evil lineup here is Radioactive Man, Klaw, Melter, and Whirlwind. Klaw takes the leadership role and claims he helped the others escape from prison, even though it was Whirlwind who was the only one not to be captured in their last outing. Later stories reveal that Klaw was the frequent recipient of aid from other supervillains, the Intelligencia, for his breakouts.
·         We have to assume Whirlwind is no longer Wasp’s driver since she has relocated to Alaska. He was last seen in Captain America (1968) 130 attacking Cap.
·         Radioactive Man uses a cement gun in the fight. I guess he ran out of Adhesive X.
·         Black Panther claims he will not fight women. He’ll get over it later.
·         The battle cry of the Liberators is “Up against the wall, male chauvinist pigs!”
·         We learn Executioner left Enchantress for another woman, partly because of Enchantress’ excessive pining for Hercules. The duo will still be antagonistic when they next appear in Defenders (1973) 4.
·         Enchantress claims that her powers are halved since she has been banished from Asgard.

Avengers Vol 1 84.jpg

Avengers 84
The Sword and the Sorceress!
January, 1971
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer 

The Scarlet Witch has a vivid dream of Black Knight fighting Arkon’s forces at the Well at the Center of Time. When she wakes up, she feels the events in her dream really happened, so she convinces the Avengers to contact Thor so they can go to Arkon’s dimension and investigate. We learn this truly did occur, and Black Knight is shown to be hostage to Arkon and the Enchantress, who advises Arkon that Black Knight is a spy sent to destroy him. The truth is that Black Knight had noticed he has become more aggressive in using his Ebony Blade and nearly let two criminals fall to their deaths. On the urging of the spirit of Sir Percy, Black Knight journeyed to Stonehenge and was sent to the Well by a crone he found there. Before the Avengers can travel to Arkon’s dimension, Enchantress uses magic to mentally enslave the Black Knight and bring the entire Mansion there. The Avengers inside are captured, but Thor and Black Panther were outside the walls of the Mansion and remain at large. They fight through Arkon’s troops and free the others. Enchantress exhausts her magic against the Scarlet Witch, and the Black Knight’s will is released, so Enchantress flees from the scene. The Black Knight hurls the Ebony Blade to intercept one of Arkon’s bolts, and the sword falls into the Well and is seemingly destroyed. Arkon begins to understand the Black Knight is not a spy, so he calls off his troops and lets the Avengers leave for home. 

·         This issue and two others in this section were lettered by Mike Stevens.
·         After the last trip to Arkon’s world, the Avengers’ standard procedure to get there is just to call Thor so he can use Mjolnir.
·         This is the first appearance of the Well at the Center of Time. It will later appear in the Nightcrawler (1985) mini-series. Nightcrawler claims the Well exists “in all times and worlds and dimensions.” If that’s true, it’s unknown why Black Knight was drawn to Arkon’s realm instead of one in his own. Perhaps they are just similarly named.
·         We see that Black Knight’s membership on the Avengers is public knowledge, at least in Great Britain.
·         The Enchantress will return in issue 100 after she takes a quick detour to mess with the Hulk in Incredible Hulk (1962) 142.
·         The Ebony Blade is not destroyed. We will also see it next in Avengers 100, where we learn it was transported to Olympus and found by Ares.
·         The letter column of this issue features a letter written by Mike W. Barr. He would go on to become a comic book editor and writer himself of many series for various publishers starting in 1974. He was also the creator of Batman and the Outsiders, Camelot 3000, and Maze Agency. I was lucky enough to work with him as assistant editor on another of his creations, the Ultraverse’s Mantra series.
·         Jeremy Renner, the cinematic Hawkeye, was born this month.
·         Avengers Annual 4 was also published this month. It reprinted the stories from Avengers 5 and 6.

Avengers Vol 1 85.jpg

Avengers 85
The World is not for Burning
February, 1971
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Frank Giacoia 

Thor uses Mjolnir to return the Avengers home. Black Knight returns to Stonehenge, and Thor and the Black Panther return to New York City with the mansion. The other four members find themselves turned into phantoms that can only observe that the world is melting from excessive heat. They notice that a newspaper’s date is a few weeks later than when they left. Scarlet Witch uses her hex power, and the team returns to solid form in their present. They return home, but notice differences in the Mansion. They first discover Nighthawk, and they pursue him to a meeting room filled with other superbeings they don’t recognize. Not knowing what to make of each other, the teams begin to fight each other. Vision notices a transmission from other Squadron Supreme members about a solar rocket that is about to launch, and he surmises that this rocket will cause the deadly sun activity they had seen in the future. Since the Squadron is in charge of protecting this rocket, the Avengers’ intention to stop the launch causes the conflict to resume. The Avengers manage a victory and take Nighthawk as a hostage and to guide them to where the rocket is set to launch. 

Goliath: “You’re—Hawkeye? That’s addin’ insult to injury! I almost feel like I’m stompin’ myself!” 

Tom Thumb: “The red-faced one! Where is the red-faced one?”
Vision: “Right here—and employing the one thing it seems you will listen to! Sheer brute force!”

American Eagle: “I think they’re a bunch of Reds—or at least Commie-symps!” 

·         Black Panther, Thor, and Captain America take part in a Toys for Tots campaign in this issue along with Spider-Man.
·         Although Goliath is with the team to go the Squadron’s Earth, he is not featured on the cover, possibly because he would take up too much room and obscure the other details in the background.
·         Although the cover promises the return of the Squadron Sinister, they don’t appear in this issue.
·         This is the first appearance of the Squadron Supreme and their world, which would be later designated Earth-712 for this issues 1971 (71), February (2) cover date.
·         Like DC’s universe, the Squadron Supreme’s cities use fictional names like Cosmopolis City and Atomic City.
·         In addition to the four characters copied by the Grandmaster for the Squadron Sinister, we meet four new Squadron members with Justice League analogues. This Hawkeye is a take-off of Green Arrow. Lady Lark is similar to Black Canary. American Eagle is reminiscent of Hawkman. Tom Thumb shares an under-average height with the Atom, but shrinking is not his power. He is a genius inventor with an arsenal of gadgets.
·         American Eagle is the son of a hero by the same name. He will later become estranged from his father and change his name to Captain Hawk and finally Blue Eagle. He is no way related the American-Indian American Eagle from the main Marvel Earth.
·         This Hawkeye will later go on to change his name to Golden Archer and finally Black Archer. Coincidentally, Clint Barton will also briefly go in a disguise and call himself Golden Archer in order to fool Captain America, but this was before the Squadron’s Golden Archer changed his name and was encountered by the Avengers again. I guess both men have very similar tastes in code names.
·         This issue is the true first appearance of the heroic Hyperion, Nighthawk, Doctor Spectrum, and Whizzer.
·         Hyperion has just been introduced as a new member of the expanded Avengers team in Avengers (2013), but he is yet another alternate version of this Hyperion whose universe was destroyed.
·         In the Squadron’s world, the President of the United States at this time is Hubert Humphrey. In the real and Marvel Earth, he had lost to Richard Nixon in the 1968 election.
·         With this issue, this becomes the longest-running American Avengers series. The third volume, started in 1998, reached issue 84 before the numbering jumped to 500 with the next issue to reflect the overall number of issues since 1963.

Avengers Vol 1 86.jpg

Avengers 86
Brain-Child to the Dark Tower Came…!
March, 1971
Written by Roy Thomas (and Len Wein)
Art by John Buscema and Jim Mooney 

The four Avengers in the Squadron’s dimension head toward the rocket launch. A revived Nighthawk listens to their story and switches from hostage to ally in their mission. When they arrive, Hyperion, Doctor Spectrum, and Whizzer are waiting for them, and they scuffle briefly with the Avengers before Nighthawk has time to land the plane and explain what’s going on. We learn about Brain-Child, a child born with incredible intellect that grows up mocked and pitied by his peers and that became an alienated youth. He was still sought out for his genius, and the American government had set him up on a private island to develop technology for them. One result was the Brain-Child One rocket, which was to monitor the sun, but will cause the apocalyptic reaction the Avengers saw in their vision. The two teams travel to the island to confront Brain-Child, where he reveals his evil intentions to the heroes outside his complex. They split into four smaller teams to enter the complex, and three teams are defeated by various defenses controlled by Brain-Child’s mental powers. The fourth team, Hyperion and Goliath, reach his inner sanctum and see he is fatigued by all the effort he spent defeating the other heroes. Hyperion is downed by a mental attack, and Goliath is about to succumb as well when uses a cable to launch Hyperion at Brain-Child like an arrow. This final attack defeats Brain-Child, and he reverts to the mental state of a normal child due to shock. Doctor Spectrum uses his Power Prism to cause Brain-Child to regain a normal intellect and appearance, ending the menace. On the Avengers’ home Earth, Thor, Black Panther, and Iron Man combine magic and technology to bring the lost Avengers home. 

Goliath: “Forget it, fella. It’s just weird to meet some super-heroes we don’t’ wind up fightin’ for a change. Doesn’t seem to happen much to the Avengers.” 

Doctor Spectrum: “It’s time I willed it to do its thing. Do you have that expression in your world, Vision?”
Vision: “Unfortunately—yes.” 

Vision: “We have returned from one Earth to another, where three Avengers searched for four others—and seemingly found them. But how can we be certain that we have not been rescued by a third world—one all but identical to our own? We may live out our lives—tell ourselves we do not care—yet, will we ever truly—know?” 

·         This issue is lettered by Shelly Leferman, another fill-in letterer who had previously only worked for DC Comics. The Bullpen Bulletins in this issue reports that Sam Rosen is recovering from his illness and will be back soon to his regular duties.
·         This is the first issue inked by Jim Mooney. He would go on to ink and pencil many series for Marvel and will later pencil some Avengers issues as well.
·         Goliath calls Nighthawk “junior birdman” when he’s piloting. The Junior Birdmen of America were a group started in the thirties for young men interested in model airplanes that inspired a popular song, Up in the Air, Junior Birdmen.
·         In a huge, shocking development, the dialogue no longer uses exclamation marks for all statements! There are sometimes periods! An issue of Amazing Spider-Man a few months previously had used periods, and Marvel was thinking the public would riot! But they didn’t! This use of more regular punctuation is not just because of the temporary letterer! Rosen will continue using periods when he returns! Enjoy it while it lasts! It won’t!
·         This is the first and last appearance of Brain-Child. He does actually get to enjoy a normal childhood. He is no way related to the Brainchild of the Savage Land in the regular Marvel Universe.
·         Roy Thomas later gave Len Wein credit for helping plot the issue in a forward to a Marvel Masterworks reprint edition. Wein didn’t get credit in the original issue.
·         The issue’s title comes from the poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” a poem by Robert Browning. “Childe” is a medieval term for an untested knight, not a youth.
·         This issue’s letter column features a letter from Mike W. Barr in which he voices some concern about the use of two half-pages on pages 12 and 13 cutting back on the amount of content.
·        Also this month, Thor, Iron Man, and Goliath are sent to help the army defend an installation from the Titans Three, a short-lived group consisting of Hulk, Namor, and Silver Surfer. This takes place in Sub-Mariner (1968) 35. All these characters will also appear in the Avengers/Defenders War in 1973, though Goliath will do so as Hawkeye and as a Defender.

Avengers Vol 1 87.jpg

Avengers 87
Look Homeward, Avenger
April, 1971
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Sal Buscema and Frank Giacoia 

In a quiet moment at Avengers Mansion, T’Challa tells his teammates how he became Black Panther. His father, King T’Chaka, was killed by Klaw before the villain became a creature of living sound. After the king’s death, N’Baza was made regent of Wakanda, and T’Challa was sent to college abroad. N’Baza’s son, B’Tumba was T’Challa’s companion and rival in athletics and their studies. Once they returned home, T’Challa faced the tests that would make him worthy of being the Black Panther, including the search for the heart-shaped herb which gives him his heightened physical abilities. On this final quest, he stumbled upon A.I.M., the evil scientific organization, stealing vibranium. Black Panther fought bravely, but outnumbered and outgunned, he was captured. He discovered that the leader of this team of agents is his friend B’Tumba, who had been in A.I.M.’s employ for many years. B’Tumba was left to kill Black Panther, but because of their long friendship, B’Tumba couldn’t bring himself to do it and in fact helped Black Panther to escape. The other A.I.M. agents were subdued, but not before B’Tumba was caught in the crossfire and died. At the end of his story, Black Panther reveals that the aged N’Baza has died, so he must decide whether to return to Wakanda or stay an active Avenger. 

Goliath: “Yeah, Vizh. I know that even an android can cry—but can’t they yok it up a little, too?” 

Thor: “The metal of the Human spirit is forged upon the anvil of sorrow, Avenger. Thus hath it ever been—thus shall it ever be.” 

·         Rather than the usual dichotomy of penciler and inker, Frank Giacoia and Sal Buscema share credit as “artists.”
·         The issue retells a story told in Fantastic Four (1961) 53 with some additions. They even redrew some of the panels to look similarly.
·         The issue title is probably a reference to Thomas Wolfe’s first novel Look Homeward, Angel: The Story of a Buried Life, but the direct meaning of the title and the biographical nature of the issue seems to be the only connections.

Avengers Vol 1 88.jpg

Avengers 88
The Summons of Psyklop
May, 1971
Written by Harlan Ellison and Roy Thomas
Art by Sal Buscema and Jim Mooney 

We see that Mister Fantastic and Professor X are helping to capture the Hulk with Thunderbolt Ross. Iron Man was one of the architects of the plan as Tony Stark, and they wonder why he is not present. We discover that he is with a team of Avengers and the Falcon on an uncharted Pacific island. The team traveled there after Captain America and the Falcon discovered a voodoo ritual that was led by one of Falcon’s friends that was in a trance. After the ritual was broken up, the enthralled friend repeated longitude and latitude coordinates that led the team to this island. Meanwhile, although the Hulk is briefly subdued, he disappears suddenly and appears in the lab of an insectoid humanoid, Psyklop. Psyklop plans to drain the energy from the mighty Hulk to feed his Dark Gods, who he hopes will revive the rest of his ancient race. To help study the unconscious Hulk, he turns on a shrinking ray, but the Avengers break in and distract Psyklop. Psyklop is able to evade them long enough to use another device that transports the Avengers back to New York City, but by this time, the shrinking ray has caused the Hulk to shrink totally out of this dimension. 

Goliath: “Everything lies heavy upon my shoulders—even my shoulders. But, I can’t go changin’ sizes too often. It wastes a guy.” 

·         This issue and the Incredible Hulk story that follows it were conceived by writer Harlan Ellison, and then Roy Thomas wrote the dialogue after the art was produced. Ellison is a prolific writer, but his comic book output is not large. He is better known for his science-fiction and television writing.
·         The opening quote, “The most merciful thing in the world…is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.” is from H.P. Lovecraft. Ellison recently voiced himself in a Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated episode that was H.P. Lovecraft themed.
·         The plan to capture the Hulk is conceived by Mister Fantastic, Iron Man, and Professor X. Although they had not yet formed the secret Illuminati group just yet, they will very soon, and this group contains half their number. Although their plot here to capture Hulk fails, they will one day have greater success with ejecting him into outer space, at least for a while.
·         This is the first time Falcon and Redwing appear in an Avengers issue.
·         This is the first appearance of a Psyklop. He states his race pre-dates man and worshipped Dark Gods that put this race to sleep. He is not successful in waking them up and dies later in Incredible Hulk 203. His race is eventually awakened in Incredible Hulks: Enigma Force, but they do not totally resemble his bipedal form.
·         Black Panther returns to Wakanda for his duties there, so he is only briefly seen this issue and won’t return to action until issue 100.
·         Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver remain on monitor duty rather than go with the rest of the team. This is because the Invisible Woman had a premonition that someone would break into the Baxter Building, and Reed Richards asked the Avengers to monitor the building while the Fantastic Four were away. The premonition comes true next issue.
·         Some of the narration in this issue is in the rare second-person format. It refers to the character in the scene with pronouns like “you” and “your,” such as “They lured you here—and now they have you—a big green butterfly, writhing convulsively—pinned, living, by a skewer of lightning-!” This type of narration is the least common in English fiction.
·         The latitude and longitude of the island puts it about 1,500 miles west of Chile. The narration mentions that a giant slug the Avengers encounter was native to Lemuria, a continent in the Pacific that sank thousands of years ago in the Marvel Universe. It’s not the same as another Marvel Lemuria, which is in Antarctica near the Savage Land and has an Atlantean outpost.
·         Iron Man says that Thor’s hammer makes a crater the size of the Sea of Tranquility. That area of Earth’s moon is actually over 500 miles across and has an area larger than that of over 200 individual countries on Earth. He exaggerated.
·         The entry to Psyklop’s lair is lined with weird statues that evoke the origin tale of the original Fawcett Captain Marvel. Iron Man refers to this when he says the last time he saw something like this was in a comic book with an abandoned subway tunnel.
·         The narration says that Psyklop’s device not only transports the Avengers, but it also wipes their memory of the event, so although the story is said to be continued in Incredible Hulk 140, the Avengers don’t show up in that issue except in a brief recap.

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