Monday, December 2, 2013

Avengers 178 to 180 (including Avengers Annual 8)

Wasp's most colorful garb?
Who dies to lighten Beast's soul?
Bloodhawk's goose is cooked.

Beast; Henry "Hank" McCoy
Captain America; Steve Rogers
Iron Man; Tony Stark
Scarlet Witch; Wanda Maximoff
Thor; Donald Blake
Wasp; Janet Van Dyne
Yellowjacket; Henry "Hank" Pym

Featured Allies
Black Panther; T'Challa
Doctor Strange; Stephen Strange
Hawkeye; Clint Barton
Ms. Marvel; Carol Danvers
Quicksilver; Pietro Maximoff
Wonder Man; Simon Williams

     After the lengthy Korvac Saga, readers were treated to a few short stories by guest writers and artists before another story line began to form in the following months. The last issue of the Korvac Saga left the entire team lying near death in the middle of a suburban living room, but that scene is not expanded upon. They just jump into the action of the next few stories without dwelling on it. Moondragon must really be good at erasing memories! The extra characters that had been involved in that story also disappear from the book without much mention until the membership is heavily shaken up in issue 181.
    The four stories in this section are of a varied sort. The Avengers Annual 8 tale is heavy on action and features guest stars and the membership split up into mini-chapters before the whole tale is over, but it concludes nicely without leaving loose ends in the regular continuity. Avengers 178 by guest writer Steve Gerber is very light on action and spotlights Beast heavily. It delves into philosophy, psychology, and spy craft and does not lend itself to easy analysis. The reader has plenty of questions left over that are never answered. Gerber is known for his off-beat tales, and here's an example of one in a "mainstream" series.
     The next two issues are stories that were likely written months prior to their publication, to be used to fill an empty spot in the schedule. In the story, a Quinjet blasts off out of the Avengers Mansion even though their flight privileges had been revoked in issue 172. Yellowjacket explains that the FAA granted them special permission to use their Quinjets as long as they land at a commercial airport. Based on this scene and previous editor Jim Shooter being credited as the editor, the story was probably completed before their privileges were revoked, and then this dialogue was added to explain how the "incorrect" scene fit into current continuity.
     Lastly, I included an Avengers-heavy issue of Iron Man (1968) that takes place around this time. If you wonder what happens to those villains the Avengers put in storage and say they plan to cure, this issue does show what has become of some of them. It also introduces a threat that will be forgotten and then showcased again in the next Avengers Annual.
Avengers Annual Vol 1 8

Avengers Annual 8
Spectrums of Deceit!
January, 1979
Written by Roger Slifer
Art by George PĂ©rez, Pablo Marcos, and Ricard Villamonte
Lettered by Joe Rosen and Elaine Heinl
Colored by Carl Gafford

Yellowjacket plans to surprise Wasp by giving her the reconstituted Power Prism as a birthday present. He assumes that when it shattered, it became inactive. Wasp sneaks a look at her present and finds that it still functions. The will inside the gem takes over her body and creates a Doctor Spectrum outfit for her. She attacks Quicksilver and Wonder Man at the mansion. The Prism covets Thor as a host, but it is worried that Iron Man will defeat it with his knowledge of its weakness, so it uses Wasp to ambush Iron Man at a construction site. The three defeated heroes are kept in stasis by the Prism and sent to the bottom of the ocean. Yellowjacket battles Wasp and is joined by Beast, Black Panther, Captain America, Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Vision. The Prism's weakness to ultraviolet light had been shared by Iron Man, so Wasp is left unconscious once the Avengers use ultraviolet beams to subdue her. Not knowing the Prism wants Thor, the Avengers summon Donald Blake to tend to Wasp. They find that the gem has grafted itself into Wasp's hand. They seek out Doctor Strange for advice, but he is busy with his own affairs. He does tell them that the former Squadron Sinister members have been mesmerized to forgot their criminal pasts and powers, but that confronting them would bring those memories back. Hoping that the previous Doctor Spectrum may be able to help Wasp, the team splits up to track down the previous Squadron members to make sure they do not cause problems when they regain their memories. Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, and Vision track down Hyperion working at a gym, where the superhuman Thundra happens to also be looking for a job. When the Avengers arrive, a brawl breaks out, but Vision convinces Hyperion that rather than lashing out, he should track down the scientists who destroyed his subatomic world and warn them of what their experiments can do, so Hyperion calms down. Captain America, Hawkeye, and Scarlet Witch find Whizzer working at his old chemical company. He attacks them on sight when his memories return, but the heroes manage to subdue him. The previous Doctor Spectrum, Billy Roberts, is preaching at a religious festival, and Beast brings him back to the Mansion. Reverend Roberts tells of how he was able to overcome the evil influence of the Power Prism, giving the team hope Wasp can do the same. When Roberts gets close the Prism, he takes possession of it willingly, showing his true evil intentions. The change of hosts disrupts the construct at the bottom of the ocean holding Iron Man, Quicksilver, and Wonder Man, and Iron Man jets toward the fight. The Prism briefly outfits Roberts as Doctor Spectrum, but it imposes its own will and ejects itself off Roberts and toward Thor, taking him under its control by implanting itself in Mjolnir, Thor's hammer. Iron Man arrives and uses an ultraviolet beam on Thor, but Thor proves immune to this type of attack. Since the Prism is not a worthy entity, Thor is forced to drop Mjolnir due to the hammer's enchantment requiring a worthy owner. After 60 seconds of battle pass, Thor becomes Donald Blake, and Mjolnir transforms to its mundane form of a walking stick. Since the Prism was linked to Mjolnir, it ceases to exist during the transformation and does not return. Wasp celebrates her birthday soon after.

Ms. Marvel, about Vision and Hyperion's end to hostilities: "By the great Pama! It's incredible! They--They're talking!"
  • This is Roger Slifer's only Avengers writing credit. He had colored part of issue 160 before this.
  • It is also Elaine Heinl's and Carl Gafford's first Avengers work.
  • Wasp talks about the Halston original she has on order. Roy Halston Frowick was a popular fashion designer in the 1970s and even designed the U.S. Olympic uniforms in 1976.
  • The Power Prism was shattered in Giant-Size Defenders 4. Yellowjacket was part of the action in that issue, which is how he acquired the pieces. This is the Power Prism from Earth-616, formerly used by the Squadron Sinister. Although it appears to be an object, it is actually a Skull named Krimonn that was locked into this form as a punishment and later empowered by the Grandmaster.
  • When the Power Prism takes over Wasp's mind, narration tells us it feels like when her life force was drained to animate Jocasta.
  • The Prism states that Wasp is totally overwhelmed by its will because she is free of obsessive desires like its previous evil hosts.
  • Yellowjacket probably refers to his insect soldiers as "squadron after squadron" of ants because of Doctor Spectrum having been in various teams named Squadron.
  • For those who think it's ludicrous that Bruce Banner is always finding purple pants, Donald Blake is wearing purple pants as well in this issue. Some things are subtly different in the Marvel Universe, and the prevalence of purple pants seems to be one of them.
  • Hyperion is working at the Arnold Columbo Health Spa in Queens with many bodybuilders. The 1977 bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron featured Franco Columbu and Arnold Schwarzenegger as two of the featured body builders, so this name may be a mix of the two.
  • The amnesiac Hyperion is going by the name "Mr. Kant," which is a close match to Superman's Mr. Kent.
  • Whizzer is working at Hudson Chemicals in West Caldwell, New Jersey, which is where he worked before gaining his powers. For some reason, a security guard calls him Harvey, but since Whizzer had a job there as James Saunders previously, it's unlikely he was working under an alias. The guard probably just made a mistake.
  • Billy Roberts (probably a mix of Billy Graham and Oral Roberts) became Doctor Spectrum after the death of the original, Kinji Obatu. A trash worker, Bob Farmer, found the Power Prism, but he could not be corrupted by it. Farmer brought it to his pastor, Roberts, who took on the Doctor Spectrum identity.
  • At the birthday party for Wasp, she has 21 candles visible on her cake.
  • The Power Prism eventually does return in New Thunderbolts 13 taking on a new host, Martha Gomes. She wakes up one day with it attached to her and does not know where it came from. Awkward.

Avengers Vol 1 178

Avengers 178
The Martyr Perplex!
December, 1978
Written by Steve Gerber
Art by Carmine Infantino and Rudy Nebres
Lettered by Joe Rosen
Colored by Nel Yomtov

Beast is out at a nightclub, but his evening is spoiled by a man who doesn't approve of the admiration women are heaping upon Beast. As Beast leaves the club, he is met by a haggard man in torn clothing with a staff. The strange man claims he will now die in order to remove the desolation from Beast's soul. A bolt of lightning comes from out of the sky and turns the man to ash. A shaken Beast returns home, but can't make sense of this encounter or its meaning. Over the next few days, the experience haunts him. He is out another evening with a date, Winnie. He shares some of his emptiness with her, and she asks him a favor. We see that a costumed villain, the Manipulator, is in a meeting with men who are paying him 10 million dollars in order to manipulate the Avengers in the future to benefit their four criminal organizations. The Manipulator claims that he has lured Beast to this apartment under the pretense of stealing a box for Winnie. Behind a two-way mirror, they indeed see Beast enter and take the box, and the Manipulator remotely traps Beast in a cage. Beast claims that his theft is justified, and he opens the box to show the proof he believes to be inside. Instead, a light beam comes from the box to flood Beast's mind with an overwhelming amount of memories and puts him under Manipulator's control. The Manipulator accepts payment from his business partners for his future services, but then he turns a beam on the men, causing them to start dancing uncontrollably. Government agents enter the room, and we discover the whole thing was a sting to get the criminals to incriminate themselves.  The agents take a memory-cell stimulator device and pay Manipulator with a large amount of cash. Manipulator leaves, and Beast soon recovers. Although he can't exactly remember what happened, he feels a lightness in his spirit. The two agents exit the building, and a haggard man in torn clothing tells them that now he has come to die for them...

Narration: "It's a common enough coping tactic among super-heroes: when the true danger is too horrible to contemplate, they contrive a physical peril to distract themselves."
  • This is the only Avengers issue written by Steve Gerber. I had to call Mr. Gerber several times in 1995 to check up on his script for a Sludge special that was in production. I only ever got his answering machine. That script was never finished. He passed away in 2008 and was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2010 for his many accomplishments.
  • This is Carmine Infantino's first issue of Avengers. He had been the Editorial Director and then Publisher at rival DC Comics from 1967 to 1976, but he was a freelance artist at this time. He was inducted in the Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2000.
  • This is inker Rudy Nebres' only interior art for Avengers. He was working as an artist in the Philippines in 1971 when Carmine Infantino went on a trip there to scout for talent, which led to Nebres getting work at DC Comics and then other publishers.
  • Although Wonder Man, Captain America, and Wasp appear on the cover racing to action, they only appear in the Mansion and have brief conversations with Beast in the issue.
  • This is the Manipulator's first appearance. He appears only one other time, in Captain America (1968) 242. In that story, he discovers he is a robot. Faced with his own artificiality, he shuts down from the shock. It's later discovered he was created by the villain Machinesmith.
  • The Manipulator's status as a deceiver is highly visible. He literally has two faces--one in the front and one in the back of his head, and his costume has a coiled snake as its emblem. Both heads speak during the story.
  • The criminals that Manipulator works for include Mr. Jackson, Mr. Gottlieb, and Mr. Warington.
  • When forced to reveal his thoughts, Beast sings that he likes to eat quiche.
  • The government agents are Agents Marsden and Stern. Roger Stern is the editor of the book.
  • Also this month, several Avengers appear in Captain America 224 in a scene at Avengers Mansion. Beast rushes down the stairs and leaves to go on a date, but this time with a Darleen. He seems to be back to his happy-go-lucky self.
Avengers Vol 1 179
Avengers 179
Slowly Slays the Stinger!
January, 1979
Written by Tom DeFalco
Art by Jim Mooney and Al Gordon
Lettered by Denise Wohl
Colored by Mario Sen
After Black Panther fights some robbers on patrol, he is surprised by the costumed villain the Stinger and is rendered unconscious by a drug-tipped barb. Stinger boasts that he will destroy the rest of the Avengers and goes to a museum benefit that they are hosting. He waits outside to ambush them, not realizing that someone else is going to crash the party first. A stone disk called  "He Who Protects" is on display at the museum, and it is said to possess magical powers of protection for the island nation of Muara. Two residents of that nation arrive at the party, and one reveals he is a humanoid bird-man called Bloodhawk. Bloodhawk intends to steal the disk and ends up fighting a full contingent of Avengers. Although he is able to subdue a few of the team, eventually he is overpowered. Bloodhawk's companion, an older man who calls himself Teacher, asks the Avengers to let him explain these events. Back at the Mansion, Teacher fills in the Avengers on both Bloodhawk and the totem. Bloodhawk's father was a geneticist who experimented on his pregnant wife, causing their offspring to have avian characteristics and suffer from bouts of insane rage. Unfortunately the mother died in childbirth, and the distraught father was said to have left Bloodhawk in Teacher's care. Stinger, having lost his opportunity at the museum, has followed the team home and sneaks into the Mansion while invisible. The Avengers are assured that the disk has magic powers that will protect Muara, but half the team can't believe it, thinking it to be superstitious nonsense. After it is put to a vote, they decide to return the disk. Vision, Thor, and Beast accompany Bloodhawk and Teacher back to Muara in a Quinjet with the totem, and Iron Man flies off in disgust with the vote's outcome. Stinger chooses this moment to attack and incapacitates Yellowjacket, Wasp, Scarlet Witch, and Wonder Man using his invisibility and weaponry. The rest of the Avengers arrive at Muara just in time to see that the ceremonial altar which housed the disk is now rising from the ocean and is the head of a gigantic stone statue.
Thug: "Don't hurt me! I got a wife and kids--Ugg!"
Black Panther: "Your family has my sympathy!"
  • Jim Shooter briefly returns as credited editor for this issue and the next. Roger Stern is still given credit on the letters pages.
  • This is Tom DeFalco's first issue on Avengers. This is only his second writing assignment for Marvel Comics, after having worked for DC and other publishers. He will later become Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics.
  • The next two issues are Jim Mooney's only Avengers penciling work. He has inked issues previously, but issue 180 will be his last in any capacity.
  • This is inker Al Gordon's first issue of Avengers.
  • This is Mario Sen's only issue as colorist for Avengers.
  • An opening scene shows crates of "Oliff's Coffee." Steve Oliff was a colorist that will work on Avengers Forever in 1998. He had begun his career in 1979, however.
  • In the issue there are signs for "Anderson Trucking" and later "Brents Booze." Artist Brent Anderson was starting up his career at the time and would go on to draw Avengers in 2002.
  • This is the first appearance of both Stinger and Bloodhawk. They only appear in this issue and 180.
  • Captain America is unable to take part in this adventure because he's busy with SHIELD affairs in his own series, specifically Captain America 229.
  • The island nation is alternately spelled "Muara" and "Maura" throughout the issue, but Muara is more prevalent and seems to have won out. It is said to be in the South Sea Islands, which is another name for Polynesia. "Muara" is the Malay word for "estuary" and also the name of a city in Brunei.
  • When Wasp shrinks wearing her evening wear, she ends up in her underwear. Apparently all her clothes are not treated to shrink with her.
  • Bloodhawk's fist against Iron Man's face creates a "Kang!" sound effect.
  • Although the Avengers split is categorized roughly along the lines of scientists versus members who believe in the mystical powers of the slab, Beast and Wonder Man, both scientists, side with those who believe in magic.
  • Jarvis is among those incapacitated by Stinger. Stinger also calls him "Tubby."
  • This month features the first appearance of James Rhodes in Iron Man (1968)118. Before becoming Iron Man, War Machine or Iron Patriot, he was Tony Stark's personal aviation mechanic, and that's what he's doing in this appearance.
Avengers Vol 1 180
    Avengers 180
    Berserkers' Holiday!
    February, 1979
    Written by Tom DeFalco
    Art by Jim Mooney and Mike Esposito
    Lettered by Denise Wohl
    Colored by Bob Sharen
    The Monolith that rises from the ocean off Muara proves difficult to defeat. Thor and Vision are unable to stop its advance, and the rock creature speaks of how it came from the stars and how it has a desire to get revenge on the island sorcerers that immobilized it in the past. Beast does not join in the direct assault. Bloodhawk succumbs to one of his rages, stealing the magic totem that was reclaimed from the museum. Beast follows Bloodhawk and subdues him, reclaiming the talisman. Thor is pinned under the creature's foot, but he throw Mjolnir up toward the Monolith's head, and Beast grabs onto the hammer as it flies upwards. Once he reaches the head, he places the disk in the slot on the alien's head, causing it to become immobile again. Thor uses Mjolnir to create a space warp that sends the Monolith to another part of the galaxy. Meanwhile the Avengers captured by Stinger are being prepared for auction to the highest bidder. The away team is unaware of this, and they return to the Mansion with Bloodhawk. Vision and Beast are subdued by Stinger one at a time. Thor proves too durable for a direct attack, so Stinger activates his invisibility. Bloodhawk rushes into battle and intercepts a fatal blast meant for Thor with his own body. Stinger tries to escape, but he finds that Beast has already freed the rest of the team. Stinger is captured easily by the entire team. Bloodhawk dies, wondering if his father will ever be proud of him. Teacher admits that he truly is Bloodhawk's father and mourns his son.
    Bloodhawk: "You incompetent clods dare call yourselves 'Earth's Mightiest?'"
    Beast: "Clamp it, Bloodhawk!"
  • Beast refers to himself as a "fabulous furry freak," evoking the independent comic The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.
  • The island nation continues to fluctuate spellings between Maura and Muara.
  • Narration refers to "stately Avengers Mansion." This is likely a nod at the Batman TV series from 1966 to 1968, which often referred to "stately Wayne Manor."
  • One letter writer talks about a possible relationship between Wonder Man and Ms. Marvel. This happens in the future, but only briefly and not very seriously. The writer also says that a "man of steel needs a woman stronger than tissue." Writer Larry Niven wrote an essay called "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" in 1971 that talks about the difficulties Superman and Lois Lane would have in reproducing. It didn't go well for Lois.
  • Before returning the Mansion, Beast does offer Bloodhawk the opportunity to live at Professor Xavier's with the X-Men since Bloodhawk is a mutant of sorts. Bloodhawk accepts, and Beast says he will never regret that decision. Oops.
  • Stinger mentions that he got all his wonderful toys from the Tinkerer. The Tinkerer, Phineas Mason, had already been established as an technology dealer for super-villains. Much later, it's revealed that Tinkerer is backed by Doctor Doom's Latveria as a way to destabilize American society by creating domestic super-threats.
Iron Man Vol 1 114

Iron Man 114
The Menace of...Arsenal!
September, 1978
Written by Bill Mantlo
Art by Keith Giffen and Bruce Patterson
Lettered by Diana Albers
Colored by Ben Sean
Iron Man recruits Yellowjacket to help him revive his enemy, the Unicorn, who is suffering from an unknown malady that left him comatose. Along with Wonder Man, Beast, and Vision, they analyze Unicorn's condition at the Avengers Mansion lab. Unicorn is left in a device for treatment, but when the Avengers leave the room, he reawakens and begins to smash his way out of the lab. Iron Man has revealed that he believes Unicorn is under control by another opponent, and that unknown foe bids Unicorn to attack the Avengers. The beam from Unicorn's head smashes through the floor during the combat, so he drops down to the lowest sublevel of the Mansion. Being so far underground shields him from the radio signal that controls him, and he begins to regain his senses. The signal is boosted and has the side effect of releasing a robot called Arsenal that was stashed down on this sublevel without the Avengers' knowledge. Arsenal turns to attack the Avengers after smashing Unicorn. The robot shows a variety of weapons and has the Avengers on the ropes. Captain America and Scarlet Witch return from dinner to join in on the battle and are also defeated. Iron Man recovers and manages to injure the robot. Arsenal uses a bright flare that blinds Iron Man temporarily and escapes during his recovery. The Avengers have no idea how this robot ended up in their headquarters, and Iron Man takes the wounded Unicorn to Stark's labs for further treatment.
Iron Man: "You're lucky you're only facing the second most powerful Avenger, robot! If Thor were here, you wouldn't be getting up again after this!!"
  • Bruce Patterson goes by the name Bruce D. in the credits. The "D" is for his middle name, Douglas.
  • Yellowjacket has helped in Iron Man's series before with his biochemistry background. He turned people back to normal from gold statues in Iron Man 108.
  • In a lab nearby, we see that the unconscious forms of Jason Beere and Count Nefaria are held in stasis from Avengers 169 and 166. Count Nefaria looks much older and is being held in an ultra-protein bath. It is explained this is part of the treatment to return him to normal. His stasis pod is crushed in Iron Man 116, and he supposedly dies. He revives later in Iron Man 1999 Annual as an ionic vampire.
  • The equipment used to help Unicorn is called the Revitalizer. It may be a form of the Ultra-Rejuvenator last seen in Avengers 69. The Revitalizer uses radiation, however, and it's not safe to be around while in use.
  • The mysterious person controlling the Unicorn is Iron Man villain Titanium Man, formerly part of the Titantic Three. He was last seen in the Avengers in Giant-Size Avengers 4.
  • A letter writer to the issue is named Peter Petruski. This is the civilian name of Marvel supervillain the Trapster, formerly Paste-Pot Pete.

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