Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Avengers 181-187: Nights of Wundagore

Red tape, blue archer.
Absorbing Man's salty end.
Chthon awakens.
Government approved team:
Beast; Henry "Hank" McCoy
Captain America; Steve Rogers
Falcon; Sam Wilson
Iron Man; Tony Stark
Ms. Marvel; Carol Danvers
Scarlet Witch; Wanda Maximoff
Wasp; Janet Van Dyne
Outgoing members (out in 181):
Thor; Donald Blake
Yellowjacket; Henry "Hank" Pym

Featured Allies:
Ant-Man II; Scott Lang
Black Panther; T'Challa
Black Knight (statue only)
Black Widow; Natasha Romanoff
Captain Marvel; Mar-Vell
Doctor Strange; Stephen Strange
Hawkeye; Clint Barton
Hercules; Heracles
Moondragon; Heather Douglas
Nikki; Nicholette Gold
Quicksilver; Pietro Maximoff
Starhawk; Stakar/Aleta Ogord
Wonder Man; Simon Williams
Yondu; Yondu Udonta    

     After facing tyrants and conquerors, the Avengers are affected the most by government intervention from the United States in the form of continuing foil Henry Gyrich. Writer David Michelinie takes over the reins and cleans house a bit after the roster of characters built up in the Korvac Saga, paring the membership to an official roster of seven. He also brings in a bit of social commentary by requiring the team to have one of its members be black to fill a racial quota. Their first choice, Black Panther, is busy with his own affairs, so Gyrich submits that they must hire the Falcon, or there will be no government clearances or sponsorships for the team. He does this without even consulting Falcon, who doesn't have that much interest in joining in the first place. This cements Gyrich as someone who worships at the altar of rules and protocol above helping the Avengers do what they are meant to do. Although gender was also part of the affirmative action trend that had begun in the sixties, the Avengers had almost always had a female member, so Gyrich didn't hammer on this point, but I'm sure he would have.
     A new story line begins with the arrival of Django Maximoff from Vladivostok. He had been seen on his journey before, but upon arriving in New York, he steals the souls of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, claiming they are his lost children. Despite questionable actions and all three characters' fuzzy memories, the twins take pity on the old man and agree to accompany him back to their homeland of Transia to find the truth of what he says. This leaves a hole on the new roster almost immediately, which is soon filled by Ms. Marvel.
     Ms. Marvel and Falcon's first battle involves the Absorbing Man in a classic heroes-vs.-villain brawl. What stands out to me now is the minor character of Sandy Herkowitz, who Absorbing Man grabs during a robbery in order to take her out of the country with him. He had never met her before, but he just picks her because he figures he'll be lonely on the long boat ride he plans on taking to escape the country. Although nothing is explicitly stated, the implication that he's taking her along as some kind of love slave is a bit disturbing. Even more odd, at the end of the story, Sandy herself says that maybe Absorbing Man wasn't so bad, because he showed some small measure of kindness and protectiveness to her while kidnapping her. Sandy is never seen again, so she doesn't have other behavior to balance this against, but this portrait of a woman who puts up with a horrible man just because he has a bit of a crush on her is foreshadowing to how Ms. Marvel is going to be seriously shafted in the next couple of years.
     Writer Michelinie had said in later years that he had planned for more drama caused by Falcon's mandatory placement on the team, but after a couple of issues, Michelinie is only scripter, and Mark Gruenwald and Steven Grant begin to plot the stories. When Michelinie finally gets back into sole custody of the writer's chair, he figured that it was too late to introduce friction between Falcon and the rest of the team now that some time had passed and the issue had not already come up, so this plot point was not mined as fully as it could have been.
     Included in the adventure of the Scarlet Witch being possessed by demonic entity Chthon is the long history of an evil mystical book called the Darkhold. Plotter Gruenwald had been an assistant editor at Marvel since 1978, and he and co-plotter Steven Grant tried to weave the various former appearances of the Darkhold together into a cohesive story that culminated in Chthon's awakening. The Darkhold had been used for various purposes as an all-purpose evil book, much like the similar Necronomicon from H.P. Lovecraft's tales is uses as shorthand for an evil book in a variety of fictional settings. Gruenwald would later head up putting together the Official Handbook of the the Marvel Universe and oversee other story lines that weaved various older stories together so they made sense when looked at together.    
Avengers Vol 1 181
Avengers 181
On the Matter of Heroes!
March, 1979
Written by David Michelinie
Art by John Byrne and Gene Day
Lettered by Elaine Heinl
Colored by Francoise Mouly

When Beast and Wonder Man return from watching a film, they are attacked by the security system at Avengers Mansion. They easily break through and find that new protocols are being put in place at the request of Henry Gyrich. The Avengers will get back their priority status, but first they must pare down their membership, and Gyrich reveals the new roster will be Iron Man, Vision, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Beast, Wasp, and Falcon. The last one comes a surprise since he has never been on the team before, but Gyrich says it is to meet federal guidelines in the hiring of minorities. There is some dissension on this point, but Captain America vouches for his longtime partner Falcon. While giving his opinion, Quicksilver suddenly collapses. Donald Blake monitors Quicksilver's health as the heroes that were not selected leave the Mansion. Scarlet Witch is the next to collapse, and Dr. Blake finds her condition to be the same as Quicksilver, with both in a state somewhere between life and death. In a shabby rented apartment nearby, we see that the little old man who has traveled to New York from Vladivostok is in possession of two living marionettes in the images of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.
Iron Man, thinking:  "It's almost getting easier to break through brick walls than red tape!"
Iron Man: "Just who the hell do you think you are?"
Henry Peter Gyrich: "I'm the government, mister. Any more questions? Good."
Hawkeye: "The...what?! B-But why him--and not me? That bozo's only powers are flying and rapping with birds! He's not even an Avenger!"
  • This is inker Gene Day's first issue. He is a Canadian artist, as is John Byrne.
  • This is Francoise Mouly's only Avengers issue as colorist. She created and co-edited the comic anthology Raw from 1980 to 1991 with her husband Art Spiegelman. The anthology featured episodes that were collected into the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Maus.
  • Beast and Wonder Man watch the 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood. The movie poster lists two actors, Errol Flynn and Kurt Wagner. Kurt Wagner is the X-Man Nightcrawler and not the name of a real actor in that film.
  • A boy calls Beast a "blue Wookiee." Marvel was publishing Star Wars comics at this time. Wookiees' fur is typically brown, black, or white. It was recently announced that Marvel will regain the Star Wars comic book license in 2015 after losing it to Dark Horse Comics for the last 20 years.
  • This issue features the first appearance of Scott Lang, a Stark International technician. Next month, he will steal Henry Pym's Ant-Man costume in Marvel Premiere 47 and become the second Ant-Man with Yellowjacket's approval. He will later become an Avenger, and so will his daughter Cassie Lang, one of the few families with a parent and child on Avengers teams. Scott Lang is still active as Ant-Man in the 2013 FF series.
  • Iron Man refers to Michael Korvac simply as "the Enemy" when the Guardians leave. Information on Michael Korvac is later part of the Avengers computer database, so his name probably was not part of the mind-wipe that Moondragon placed on the Avengers membership.
  • Moondragon does not say good-bye in any way to any of the members. She leaves with Black Widow and Hercules in the Champscraft. She will next join the Defenders in a few months in Defenders (1972) 76.
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy claim they will salvage a time-jumper from the Collector's orbiting ship in order to get back to the 31st century. They don't leave right away. Some of the members appear in October in Marvel Team-Up (1972) 86 in the present.
  • Wonder Man, after finding out he will not be a member, talks about pursuing an acting career. He feels that acting experience will help him gain confidence in "portraying" the role of a superhero.
  • The letters page moves to the end of the book after the story. Thus far, it had always appeared someone where in the middle of the issue. It was editor Roger Stern's idea to move its new location, and that later becomes the standard place to put it.  
Avengers Vol 1 182

Avengers 182
Honor Thy Father
April, 1979
Written by David Michelinie
Art by John Byrne and Klaus Janson
Lettered by Diana Albers
Colored by Bob Sharen

Donald Blake is still unsure why Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch collapsed, and he goes so far as to offer the unscientific explanation that somebody has stolen their souls. Jocasta mentions that she has detected an organic energy flux that leads to the Bowery, and they surmise this could be related. In his hotel room, the old man, Django, tells the Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch marionettes of his children Ana and Matéo, who had abilities similar to the heroes. Django was forced to steal during a time of starvation, so villagers burned down the gypsy wagon of the Maximoff family, killing Django's wife and making the children think they were orphans. Django wandered for years, not knowing what happened to the children, but saw them in a newspaper photo and came to America to make sure they were not separated from him ever again. The Avengers arrive on the street below, and Django uses a magic talisman to animate human-size plaster figures in a costume warehouse across the street. The Avengers destroy these attackers and enter Django's room, but through magical manipulation, they sense it as a vast, otherworldly dimension with only hints of the real world peeking through. Django also summons three opponents, simulacra of old Avengers foes the Toad, Princess Python, and Nighthawk. These visions prove more powerful than their real counterparts, and the Avengers are defeated one by one. A wino beating on the floor of the adjoining hotel room for quiet shocks Beast and Iron Man, making them realize they are facing illusions. They focus their wills, and reality reasserts itself. With no more protection, Django flees with the marionettes, but Vision destroys his magic talisman, and the dolls collapse. Back at the mansion, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch recover fully. The twins take pity on Django and decide to travel with him back to Transia to find out the truth of his story.
Beast: "Looks like we can enjoy a little peace, quiet and ree-lak-sa-tion for a change, right gang?"
[The team glares at him.]
Beast: "Uh...nah. I don't believe it, either! =sigh="
  • This is Diana Albers' first issue lettering Avengers. She will do a handful of issues between now and 1990.
  • The cover is penciled by Al Milgrom, his first credit on Avengers. He will become the regular interior penciller with issue 228.
  • When Gyrich sees that Jocasta can reason, he is flummoxed by her presence. He's unsure if she needs security clearance since she is a machine.
  • We discover that Scarlet Witch's favorite cookies are ginger snaps. This is appropriate, since she has reddish-brown hair and has more than once lost her sanity, or snapped.
  • Django is finally  named in this issue. Before adopting Wanda and Pietro, he had two children who died, Ana and Matéo. In his confusion, he continues to call Wanda and Pietro by the names of his deceased children.
  • Pietro asserts that they have been using the Frank family name, as they believe Whizzer is their father.
  • Django's older mystical puppets have been used before by the villain Mr. Doll to make the Brothers Grimm in the Spider-Woman (1978) series, but their maker was not revealed until now. Although the dolls were no longer used after Spider-Woman 12, two brothers gained the same powers of the dolls and continue to use the Brothers Grimm identities.
  • Captain America pilots an open-air sky-scooter during the mission. This is the vehicle's first appearance. They mention the Avengers have special permission to use it. Their priority status has not been reinstated yet, as it's only been a few hours since the last issue ended, not the 24 hours Gyrich said he would need to effect the change.
  • Captain America says the sky-scooter's controls are like those of a T-16 helicopter. This is not a real helicopter, but instead a Star Wars: A New Hope reference. Luke Skywalker pilots a "T-16 skyhopper" while a moisture farmer. Luke also makes a comment about how his X-Wing controls are like the T-16 that he used to shoot womprats from.
  • The magic talisman that Django uses is called the Nivashi Stone. It is destroyed for good at the end of the issue.
  • The three villains are chosen by Django because they correspond to "gypsy totems" of the toad, the snake, and the bird.
  • When Iron Man is faced with the hallucinations that can't be hurt, he rips the sink off the wall and throws it at one, literally using the "kitchen sink" as a last resort.
  • Future Avengers writer Kurt Busiek has a letter in the letter column. He says he liked issue 178 featuring the Beast for the most part, but he thought Beast's dialogue sounded too much like Steve Gerber's creation Howard the Duck. This nearly ruined the story for him.
Black Panther Vol 1 15
Black Panther 15
Revenge of the Black Panther
May, 1979
Written by Ed Hannigan
Art by Jerry Bingham and Gene Day
Lettered by Clem Robins
Colored by George Roussos
Captain America and Black Panther are fighting a solid-sound monster in Harlem as the story opens. Captain America is caught in the fantastical creation's clutches, but Black Panther uses Captain America's shield to set up a counter-vibration that matches the monster's sound frequency, causing it to dissolve. We discover that a gang of youths called the Thunderbolts now possesses Klaw's Sonic Disruptor and had used it to create the beast. The weapon is so linked to Klaw that Klaw can mentally influence one of the boys, Jack, to travel to Klaw's comatose body at the docks. Beast and Vision are overseeing the transport of Klaw when the gang appears and creates a solid-sound lion and rhinoceros. While the two Avengers battle the beasts, Jack sets up a dome of sound and revives Klaw inside of it with the Sonic Disruptor. Vision passes into the dome and fights Klaw, but Klaw's power continues to increase, and he defeats Vision and reclaims his sonic cannon. Black Panther and Captain America arrive on the scene, as well as some Wakandans, who bring vibranium gloves with them. Black Panther breaks into the dome using the vibranium gloves and asks his allies to allow him to fight Klaw in one-on-one combat. A stray blast from the Sonic Disruptor breaks through the dock, and the two combatants fall into the ocean. A readout on Black Panther's gloves reveal that Klaw's sound energy is increasing ever-higher. Black Panther twists Klaw's Sonic Disruptor to aim directly at Klaw, and the resulting feedback causes Klaw's sound-based body to dissipate.
Beast: "What's the world coming to? I mean--punk kids on musical motorbikes, shooting red lions?!"
  • Artist Jerry Bingham was a frequent guest at the Malibu Comics art department when I was there, doing promotional art pieces and telling tales of his experiences. He has worked in the entertainment industry since that time and is currently creating Western paintings, which can be seen at his website www.jerrybingham.com.
  • Clem Robins will later do some lettering for Avengers West Coast Annuals. He was a frequent choice of letterer at Malibu Comics, so as a letterer's assistant, I got to take an X-acto blade to many of his word balloons in order to place them on the art back before it was done in the computer. He also lettered some of the books I edited as well as some of my dialogue in All New Exiles 5. Thanks, Clem!
  • Some of the Avengers had also appeared in March's Black Panther 14. Black Panther comes across Klaw in a weakened state under attack by the Thunderbolts gang. Klaw collapses, and the gang takes possession of the Sonic Disruptor. Black Panther takes pity on Klaw and takes him to the Avengers for safe-keeping rather than continue the battle. Once Klaw is supervised, Black Panther returns to fight the Thunderbolts, and Captain America follows along to join in the battle with the solid-sound monster we see at the opening of this issue.
  • Black Panther is surprised that Captain America's shield has some of the properties of vibranium. The shield's composition had not yet been totally revealed, but it is partly vibranium.
  • The story features a street gang called the Thunderbolts. This will later be the name of a group of superhumans that replace the Avengers, though they are not related to this gang. These Thunderbolts are arrested, and this is is the last appearance of the gang. Members include Jack, Levon, and Herbie.
  • When facing the solid-sound rhinoceros, Beast quips that Vision should wait until the rhino takes its skin off and rub sand into it. This odd suggestion is probably a reference to Rudyard Kipling's How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin story. In the children's story, a rhino steals and eats a cake, and then the baker, during a hot spell where the rhino removes its skin to cool off, rubs cake crumbs in the discarded skin. When the rhino puts the skin back on, it scratches so hard that the buttons come off. The distressed skin goes from smooth to wrinkled, and the rhino forevermore has a bad temper.
  • This is the last issue of the Black Panther series. The story continues in Marvel Premiere 51 in December.
  • Black Panther says Klaw is either dead or won't be a threat for a long time. That's incorrect. Klaw comes back in Marvel Two-in-One 57 in November, which is before Black Panther's own story is even featured again.
  • The Black Panther series had the same editorial team as Avengers, Roger Stern and Jim Salicrup.
  • Around this time, the Avengers face off against Godzilla in Godzilla (1977) 23 and 24. Marvel Comics published a Godzilla comic book series that took place in the Marvel Universe, but issue 24 in July of 1979 is the last issue, and then they lost the rights to the character. In those issues, Wasp is still wearing her orange outfit, and Scarlet Witch is with the team, so the encounter had to take place before Avengers 183. The Avengers, even with assistance, can't defeat Godzilla. It leaves the city due to the pleas of a young boy, Robert Takiguchi, who befriended and helped Godzilla.
Avengers Vol 1 183

Avengers 183
The Redoubtable Return of Crusher Creel!
May, 1979
Written by David Michelinie
Art by John Byrne and Klaus Janson
Lettered by Jim Novak
Colored by Bob Sharen
Miss Marvel is inducted onto the team due to Scarlet Witch's leave of absence. At the city dump, multiple shards of glass levitate into one mass and reform the Absorbing Man. Captain America tells Falcon that he has been asked to join the team, but Falcon is hesitant to do so and uncomfortable with filling what he feels is a racial quota. Captain America calls upon their long friendship and partnership and asks him to join the team as a favor, so Falcon agrees. Absorbing Man robs a store and decides to kidnap the saleslady, Sandy. He tells her that he plans to hop a boat to South America, where there should be no superheroes to hassle him. He's taking her along so he won't get lonely. Down at the docks, Hawkeye sees off Scarlet Witch in his civilian identity and goes to get a cup of coffee at a bar. The Absorbing Man happens to enter the same bar with his hostage, starting a scuffle with Clint and then the locals. Clint makes a phone call to the Avengers and changes into his Hawkeye uniform. He spars briefly with the Absorbing Man before Beast, Ms. Marvel, Vision, Iron Man, and Wasp arrive. Absorbing Man slips into the engine room of a boat and emerges as a giant, having absorbed the power of the ship's turbines
Longshoreman 1: "Lordy! Now I recognize that joker! He's the Absorbing Man!"
Longshoreman 2: "You mean the psycho what keeps hasslin' Thor?"
Longshoreman 3: "C'mon, guys, let's save the Thunder God some trouble!"
Clint Barton: "W-Waita-minit!"
Longshoreman 4: "Yeah! This jerk's big, but he can't take us all on!"
Window: "Skrapash!"
  • This issue is the first to cost 40. That's equal to $1.28 in 2014 dollars.
  • This is letterer Jim Novak's first issue. He'll continue to do the lettering on the title off and on until 1987.
  • The boat on the cover has the name Doric. This was the name of a famous ocean liner owned by the White Star Line, the same company that owned the Titanic. The actual Doric was scrapped in 1935.
  • The Absorbing Man's hostage on the cover has blonde hair, but she has brown hair inside the issue. The ID on her shirt says, "Sandy," so it's definitely the same woman.
  • This is the first time Ms. Marvel has been a member of the Avengers, despite all her past adventures with the team.
  • Two more National Security Council agents are introduced, Jenkins and Carter.
  • Ms. Marvel is still keeping her identity secret. She does not submit to fingerprinting since she knows her prints are on file as Carol Danvers with NASA. She uses a retinal pattern instead so she can be recognized by security equipment.
  • Wasp debuts a new red, white, and blue (or possibly black) costume with this issue.
  • Tony Stark thinks to himself that he needs a nice, stiff martini. In the Iron Man series, Stark is in the middle of the "Demon in a Bottle" story line, which started in March, 1979, and will end in November. Stark deals with the fact he is an alcoholic and attempts to start his sobriety.
  • This is Absorbing Man's first appearance in Avengers, though he has fought Thor many times. His ability is to "absorb" the properties of any substance that he touches, either its physical structure or any energy it contains. He was last seen in Incredible Hulk (1962) 209, where he ill-advisedly absorbed the properties of glass while falling and was shattered into pieces. It took him months to finally reassemble himself in this issue. He's not a fast learner, as he absorbs the properties of glass again briefly this issue to cut through a net.
  • Absorbing Man, whose name is Carl "Crusher" Creel, has Thor as his main adversary. Thor's hammer is called Mjolnir, which translates into English as "Crusher."
  • Absorbing Man usually wields a ball and chain that absorbs the same properties of whatever he himself absorbs. He was carrying this item when he was given his powers by Loki because Creel was a prison inmate at the time.
  • When Hawkeye goes to the boat to see off Scarlet Witch, he gives her the dice game of Yahtzee to take on the trip.
  • Absorbing Man takes a cab trip with Sandy and pays the cabdriver $5.00. Unfortunately, the fare is $5.75.
  • The cabdriver is wearing a button on his hat that simply says, "WIN." This was part of a "Whip Inflation Now" campaign started in 1974 and spearheaded by President Gerald Ford. It was meant to inspire Americans to save money and spend it in a responsible manner to help curb inflation.
  • Future Avengers writer Kurt Busiek writes in a letter criticizing the current quality of the letters printed in all Marvel comics. He sends it to Avengers because he considers this series to be the "spiritual figurehead of Marvel Comics" more than any other series.

Avengers Vol 1 184
Avengers 184
Death on the Hudson!
June, 1979
Written by David Michelinie
Art by John Byrne, Joe Rubenstein, Terry Austin, Al Gordon, and Klaus Janson
Lettered by Diana Albers
Colored by Bob Sharen
The turbine-charged Absorbing Man engages the entire Avengers team on the scene. Iron Man absorbs excess energy from Absorbing Man's body into his armor and has to jet into outer space in order to release the energy safely. Captain America and Falcon report to the Mansion, find out about the rampage, and fly to the docks to assist the team. A powered-down Absorbing Man is briefly dizzied by Beast hoisting him into the air and spinning him, but he absorbs Beast's abilities and regains control of himself in time to take on the metallic properties of Captain America's shield. The Absorbing Man's hostage, Sandy, dashes off the boat and tries to find the Avengers, but she ends up getting grabbed by the Absorbing Man again. He rushes with her to the boat, but it had already left port during the battle. He shoves Sandy away from him in order to grapple with Vision, but Absorbing Man cannot control the Vision's density powers that he absorbs, and he falls through the dock while in an insubstantial form. He tries to swim to the ship, but seeing the futility of escape, he chooses to absorb the water around him and dissipate himself into the ocean. Sandy wonders if perhaps he should have been allowed to escape so he could perhaps find peace.
Wasp: "Hi, Falcon. I like your bird."
Absorbing Man: "All ya hadda do was lemme alone an'I'd have been outta yer hair forever!"
Vision: "No, Crusher Creel. That would merely have been passing our responsibilities onto the shoulders of others. Now...will you surrender?"
Beast: "Say, this ball and chain'll make a swell trophy for =unf=...for =ung=...someone else."
  • Notice there is a black bar printed over the bar code. This was around the time that the direct market, i.e. comic retailers versus grocery stores and newsstands, were getting their own copies. This is an early way to differentiate the two versions, as it cannot be scanned by the bar code readers, which these specialty stores were not assumed to have. This black-bar practice is short-lived and will be replaced by other graphics for direct editions.
  • The issue is credited to inker "D. Hands," short for "Diverse hands." Later credit was given to Joe Rubenstein, Terry Austin, Al Gordon, and Klaus Janson as the inking team.
  • This is Terry Austin's first issue inking the interior art. He had been doing many of the covers since issue 167, though.
  • Beast is portrayed as having some difficulty swimming, but back in issue 156, he managed to dive into the open ocean, follow Attuma to a sub, and get aboard it with no difficulty. Maybe he had just eaten this issue and got a cramp.
  • Iron Man mentions his suit has been malfunctioning recently. In his own series, rival Justin Hammer has been using a machine to take remote control of the armor, but Stark doesn't know that yet.
  • When introduced to Gyrich, Falcon is still annoyed about being the token black member, so he speaks like the Stepin Fetchit character "the Laziest Man in the World."  Falcon feels bad about it soon after and apologizes to Captain America. Though Fetchit, whose real name was Lincoln Perry, is now looked upon as exploiting negative racial stereotypes in his acting career, he was the first black screen actor to become a millionaire and receive screen credit on a film. Many modern audiences are so put off by his performances that his movies are rarely released or screened any longer.
  • Although Falcon does not spend enough time at the Mansion to fill out the proper forms before going into battle, this issue is regarded as the issue that Falcon joins the team.
  • The Falcon's falcon Redwing is not considered a member, but he will later be part of the Pet Avengers in the 2009 all-ages series Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers and its sequels. Those adventures are not part of the main Marvel continuity, however, according to Avengers editor Tom Brevoort.
  • Captain America rides a smaller version of the sky-scooter that only seats one, This is the first appearance of the "sky cycle" in the series, but not quite the one that Hawkeye will soon begin to ride in his own series. This design is more similar to the Fantastic Four's Airjet-Cycles and may be a version provided by Mister Fantastic for their use.

Early evolution of sky cycles
  • Absorbing Man absorbs the properties of Captain America's shield. When asked what the shield is made of, Captain America says it's a top-secret, super-strong alloy. The actual vibranium-adamantium composition hadn't been revealed yet.
  • We find out Sandy's full name is Sandy Herkowitz. This is her final appearance.
  • Absorbing Man's boat has a destination of Punta Del Rey.
  • Beast is unable to lift Absorbing Man's ball and chain. He is normally able to lift one ton of weight, but Absorbing Man does not have super strength in his normal form, and Vision uses it as a weapon earlier in the issue, so it's unclear why it is depicted as being overly heavy. What is with all the Beast hate this issue?
  • Absorbing Man next appears in Incredible Hulk 261 on Easter Island. Being liquid for so long has left him unable to remember his own name, but he knows he is hiding from some unknown superheroes who were always beating him up.
  • A scene from this issue is featured in a story in Marvel Comics Presents (1988) 160. Time distortions allow the New Warriors member Turbo to see different events through time, and she sees the turbine-charged Absorbing Man fighting Ms. Marvel, Vision, Wasp, and Beast.
  • Also this month in Doctor Strange (1974) 35, Doctor Strange comes to Avengers Mansion to consult on the pieces of the Black Knight statue, which he reassembles with magic. When they see that it is still holding the Ebony Blade, Doctor Strange takes the statue back to his home to investigate it. After three issues of shenanigans, the statue ends up back in pieces at Dane Whitman's castle in England.

Avengers Vol 1 185
    Avengers 185
    The Yesterday Quest!
    July, 1979
    Written by David Michelinie, Mark Gruenwald, and Steven Grant
    Art by John Byrne and Dan Green
    Lettered by John Costanza
    Colored by Roger Slifer
    Hawkeye leaves the docks in a funk after being cut from the team, and Falcon feels that he didn't contribute anything in the battle against Absorbing Man. Several days later, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch have returned to East Transia to find out the truth of Django's stories. While staying in an inn, Scarlet Witch is visited at night by Modred the mystic, who takes her to the peak of the nearby mountain, Wundagore. They get past the technological defenses of the High Evolutionary's base and discover a floating altar with a book upon it. Modred strikes the Scarlet Witch down with a mystic bolt, incapacitating her. Quicksilver awakens in the morning and finds his sister gone. A girl from the inn reveals to him that she saw two lights leave the inn last night and head to the mountain's peak. He rushes up the side of the mountain, but he slams into a mystic force field and is knocked forcibly down the slope. He is knocked unconscious, and when he wakes, he finds himself in a rustic cabin being tended to by Bova, the evolved cow who was his mother's midwife.
    Policeman: "Okay, Iron Man, care to explain? Or do we just send the bill directly to Avengers Mansion?"
    Iron Man: "Now wait a minute! You can't blame us for this destruction! It was the Absorbing Man!"
    Policeman: "Oh, yeah? I don't see no Absorbine Man."
    Iron Man: "But he jumped into the harbor! And then he absorbed the properties of the water and, um, dissipated...into...ah...Would a check from Tony Stark be all right, Officer?"
  • The cover of this issue won the Eagle Award for Best Cover in 1980.
  • This is Mark Gruenwald's first plotting credit on Avengers. He will have a long association with the team and later be editor of the series.
  • This is also Steven Grant's first Avengers credit. The future Avenger Moon Knight's real name is Marc Spector, but he uses various aliases, and one of them is Steven Grant. In addition, Captain America's full name is Steven Grant Rogers.
  • The image of Vision in the upper left corner is replaced by the seven faces of the current active Avengers lineup. In this case, it helps the reader identify who's on the team since none of them appear on the cover's image itself.
  • A police officer mistakenly calls last issue's villain "Absorbine Man." Absorbine is a liniment that was concocted for use on horses, but the weaker version for humans is Absorbine Jr. I don't know if Absorbing Man has ever absorbed the properties of liniment.
  • Captain America calls Ms. Marvel "the woman in black," even though her uniform is typically colored a dark blue. Solid blacks don't always translate well visually, so dark blue is used.
  • Hawkeye tells Iron Man that he's going to feel awful when Tony Stark fires the man using the Iron Man suit. This sounds strange since Tony Stark is Iron Man, but he really will "fire" himself due to his problems with alcohol and hand over the Iron Man identity to James Rhodes in 1983.
  • East Transia is the name of the major town in the nation of Transia.
  • The innkeeper in East Transia recognizes Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver as Wanda and Pietro Frank, showing that the world at large is aware they've changed their last name to Frank.
  • Scarlet Witch sleeps in the nude while in the inn, or at least topless. She is European, after all.
  • Wundagore is the mountain that Whizzer spoke about in Giant-Size Avengers 1. It also figures into the backgrounds of other Marvel characters, such as the High Evolutionary, the Puppet Master, the Werewolf (by night!), and future Avenger Spider-Woman.
  • Modred carries Scarlet Witch through the air in a "carrier nimbus." It does not resemble a cloud, but two glowing spheres. In this case, "nimbus" refers to the glowing sphere depicted around the heads of gods or saints, not the raincloud. Sorry, Dragonball fans.
  • When falling down the mountain, Quicksilver's head hits a rock, making a "CHUD" sound effect. Transians are a Slavic people, and the Slavic word "chud" is a term used to refer to some foreigners, but it literally translates to "strange people" or "wonderous people," which certainly refers to Quicksilver. (You thought I would talk about the C.H.U.D. film, eh? It didn't come out until 1984.)

Marvel Two-in-One 51
Full House..Dragons High!
May, 1979
Written by Peter Gillis
Art by Frank Miller and Bob McLeod
Lettered by Tom Orzechowski
Colored by Glynis Wein

Thing arrives at Avengers Mansion for a poker game, but finds that Ms. Marvel and Wonder Man have been invited to take the place of Iron Man and Captain America. After a few hands, Ms. Marvel is ahead, and the Thing is complaining about the Avengers bringing in ringers. The game is cut short by an alert to Nick Fury that SHIELD's Arsenal Six is being assaulted. The attackers are rogue U.S. Army soldiers led by General Pollock, and they steal the Yellow Claw's Sky Dragon, a floating fortress that is being housed there. Fury responds to the alert, and the heroes at the card game tag along. Despite their having a craft nearly the equal of SHIELD's Helicarrier, the heroes manage to defeat the enemy forces and infiltrate the Sky Dragon. General Pollock is attempting to assemble a weapon called the Ultimate Annihilator, but he is captured before he can complete the weapon. The heroes return to continue their card game, but when Wonder Man returns from the kitchen with a tray of coffees, everyone else is exhausted from the battle and has fallen asleep.
Thing: "A woman! Ya brung a woman in! An' she does the worst possible thing a woman kin do in poker...she wins!"

General Pollock: "I gambled and lost...and it's all the Avengers' fault!"
Thing (not an Avenger): "Whaddaya mean, all the Avengers' fault?"
  • Writer Peter Gillis had a letter printed in the Avengers letter column back in issue 144.
  • Although Wonder Man shouts "Avengers Assemble" on the cover, he isn't and has not yet been a member of the team. Only Ms. Marvel and Beast are currently active members.
  • There is no "Avengers" logo on the cover, but the header of the first page does say, "Stan Lee Presents: The Thing and the Avengers!"
  • This story probably takes place in the middle of Avengers 185, after the scene at the docks and before the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver's adventure in Transia. Narration says there is a period of one week that passes in that middle of that issue.
  • The Thing uses a light beam in his belt buckle to identify himself to the Avengers' auto sentries. He usually uses this beam to activate the elevator in the Fantastic Four's headquarters at the Baxter Building.
  • A superhero poker game, usually hosted by the Thing, becomes a bit of a tradition in the Marvel universe. This is its first appearance.
  • Nick Fury claims that Iron Man and Captain America had to bow out of the game because Fury is not currently on good terms with them. Iron Man is wanted for the murder of a Carnelian ambassador in Iron Man (1968) 124. Captain America tussled with some SHIELD agents in Captain America (1968) 231 and was called a "security hazard" by a SHIELD officer, so he is currently on a break from working with SHIELD
  • When introduced to Wonder Man, Thing makes a comment about Lynda Carter, who played DC Comics' Wonder Woman in the TV series of the same name. That series was still running its last season of new episodes in 1979. Stan Lee has claimed in interviews that DC sued Marvel when they introduced Woman Man because of the similar name, so Marvel didn't use Wonder Man or the name for many years.
  • The Avengers' butler Jarvis plays in the poker game as well. He says he used to play cards back in his days with the Royal Air Force in World War II.
  • General Pollock last appeared in Avengers Annual 6 with the Living Laser. This is Pollock's last appearance.
  • The Avengers haven't crossed paths with the evil scientist, the Yellow Claw, but they will face him in the upcoming issue 204. Only his confiscated equipment appears here.
  • SHIELD agent Dum-Dum Dugan talks about how he's on a break from Godzilla duty. The Marvel Godzilla series had ended. SHIELD was usually trying to stop Godzilla and the other monsters in the series, and Dugan was the head of the team responsible for doing so.
  • Nick Fury says he got his bulletproof jacket from an agent named Boothroyd. There is a SHIELD agent named Boothroyd who is said to have transferred from MI-6. The character of Q in the James Bond films, who gave Bond his equipment, also had the name of Major Boothroyd.
Avengers Vol 1 186
Avengers 186
Nights of Wundagore!
August, 1979
Written by David Michelinie, Mark Gruenwald, and Steven Grant
Art by John Byrne and Dan Green
Lettered by Jim Novak
Colored by Roger Slifer
Quicksilver recovers under the care of Bova, the evolved cow who delivered him and his sister as babies. She tells the true story of their parentage, how a pregnant woman arrived at Wundagore in fear of her husband, who had gained strange powers and become a man to be feared. The stranger gave birth to the twins and then left abruptly, trying to keep the children hidden from their father. This was around the same time that Bob and Madeline Frank were at Wundagore, but they had no knowledge of it. When Madeline and her baby died in childbirth, Bova lied to Bob Frank and said the twins were his children so he would take them home. Whizzer instead fled and had an emotional breakdown, but this explains why he had claimed to be their father in error. Back in the present, Scarlet Witch is the prisoner of Modred, but she is able to use her mutant ability to counter the sorcery that binds her, and she battles Modred. He manages to subdue her and complete the ritual from the Darkhold book. A twisted vision of the Scarlet Witch appears to Quicksilver and warns him that he should leave the area. Bova convinces him to heed the warning. He encounters Django in the woods on his way down the mountain, and the two of them are shortly attacked by nature itself. Quicksilver gets Django safely to East Wundagore and places a phone call to the Avengers. His former teammates ready for action, but Henry Gyrich forbids them from rushing into a foreign country. Captain America leaves the room, and moments later the President of the United States makes a call to Gyrich and demands the Avengers leave on a "good-will tour of Bulgaria," clearing the way for the Avengers to visit the area. Meanwhile, Quicksilver and Django are attacked and incapacitated in the Transian post office by the body of the Scarlet Witch, which has been possessed by the demon Chthon.
Bova: "What matters is that now you know all."
Quicksilver: "'All'? But I still haven't a clue as to my father's identity!"
Bova: "Then take my word that you know enough! Please!" 
  • The cover again makes use of character heads to showcase the current team, since they aren't on the main image. Ms. Marvel's head is missing, but there's room for it under the bar code, so perhaps it was on the full image.
  • Bova makes a milk soup for the recovering Quicksilver. She is a cow. I don't want to know where she got the milk, but since she doesn't have any children of her own on record, it's unlikely she is lactating herself.
  • Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver's mother is only called a visitor in Bova's story, not given a name. It's later confirmed she was Magda Lehnsherr, the wife of Magneto. This is her first appearance. In this story, she leaves Wundagore and is only assumed to be dead from exposure. So far, this has not been contradicted.
  • Jonathan Drew also appears in the tale as a scientist on Wudgagore. He is the father of future Avenger Spider-Woman. Small world.
  • Bova reveals that Ana and Matéo were children of Django Maximoff that had died before he adopted Wanda and Pietro.
  • It is mentioned that Iron Man is on leave this issue. He is still wanted for murder and has stepped down as chairman of the Avengers during the investigation. In reality, Justin Hammer used the armor by remote control while Tony Stark was in it to cause the death. In Iron Man 125 this month, Tony Stark also comes to Captain America at the Mansion after turning in the armor to the authorities. Stark gets hand-to-hand combat training so that Stark can operate more effectively without his armor while seeking answers to the frame-up.
  • In Captain America 237, which takes place around this time, Falcon gets concerned that he can't find Captain America, who has moved out of his apartment. Steve Rogers walks into Avengers Mansion just as Falcon is rallying the team to go look for Cap. Rogers give them a business card that shows he is now seeking work as a commercial artist and with the address of his new apartment in Brooklyn Heights. Nick Fury also apologizes to Captain America in that issue, and they start to mend their relationship.
  • Gyrich tells Beast to "go play Johnny Weissmuller." Weissmuller is best remembered now as having played the role of Tarzan in films from 1932 and 1948. These films originated the "Tarzan yell" associated with the character today. Before acting, he also won six Olympic medals for swimming and water polo.
  • Vision does not appear at all in the next issue, even though it's his wife in danger. Gyrich requires that one Avenger stay on monitor duty, and Vision's name was next on the assignment list. Vision nearly punches Gyrich for keeping him from his wife, but Captain America calms down the situation.
  • Although it's not stated, the President that give the Avengers permission to fly to Transia is Jimmy Carter.
  • Gyrich refers to Quicksilver's phone call as trouble in Bulgaria. The relationship of Marvel countries is sometimes sketchy, but the 2007 Marvel Atlas entry for Latveria shows where Transia is. I highlighted it with a scarlet hex. Iron Man was currently wanted for killing an ambassador to Carnelia, which is also on the map north of Latveria and Romania. Since the current Eastern Europe has changed a great deal, a 1984 map of our Eastern Europe is on the right for comparison. Those comic book writers sure like making up fictitious, though soon unnecessary countries.

2007 Marvel Eastern Europe and 1984 real Eastern Europe

Avengers Vol 1 187
 Avengers 187
The Call of the Mountain Thing!
September, 1979
Written by David Michelinie, Mark Gruenwald, and Steven Grant
Art by John Byrne and Dan Green
Lettered by Jim Novak
Colored by George Roussos
The Avengers and Wonder Man fly a Quinjet to Transia, but an unnaturally strong storm batters the craft and damages its engines. Most of the team exits the Quinjet, but Wonder Man stays behind to pilot it through the crash and minimize the damage. Wonder Man gives Beast his rocket belt, but since Beast is unfamiliar with its use, he pinwheels through the air and is separated from the team. Once the other four heroes are on the ground, Modred attacks them with various magic spells. Beast crashes on a snowy peak and ponders a humanoid animal skeleton in the snow that died wearing armor. Wonder Man leaves the Quinjet's wreckage and is paralyzed by Chthon in Scarlet Witch's body. Nearby, Wasp is the only combatant still conscious, but Chthon arrives there and captures all the Avengers except for the absent Beast. While the captives, including Quicksilver and Django, float helplessly, Chthon relates how he wrote the Darkhold book eons ago and how it has touched various nations from the dawn of humanity to the present. Chthon prepares a final ceremony that will seal him within the Scarlet Witch and start his subjugation of humanity. An armored knight appears on a flying mechanical steed and lances the Darkhold book. In shock, Chthon's concentration lapses, and the spell holding the captives is broken. The knight is revealed to be Beast with the equipment he found on the mountaintop. Django still possesses the doll he used to trap the Scarlet Witch's soul, and the doll begins to speak to him in the Scarlet Witch's voice. Quicksilver intuits that it is the wood of the doll, carved from trees on Wundagore, that still retains some of the magic power, and he tries to use the doll to switch Chthon's soul with that of the Scarlet Witch. Alone, he fails, but the rest of heroes focus their wills as well, and together that is enough to ensure success. Quicksilver rushes the doll containing the essence of Chthon away and throws it off a cliff. The recovering Scarlet Witch, now in control of her own body, causes an avalanche that buries the doll and ends the threat. Sadly, Django's weak heart fails him, and he dies. The heroes bury him in the Transian forest and leave Modred, whose mind has been reduced to that of an infant, in the care of Bova.
Narration:  "...Chthon gloats--but it is an exultation short-lived, for he had underestimated that force which some humans call 'good' and others call 'love.'"
  • The Quinjet used in this issue is designated A3701. Although it crashes, Quinjets have survived crashes before, and this one stays mostly in one piece.
  • Ms. Marvel could have easily carried Beast to the ground instead of him using Wonder Man's rocket belt. This occurred because Beast was trying to argue about who should remain behind as pilot, and Wonder Man didn't want to debate, so he forcibly gave Beast the belt and activated it, taking Beast out of the Quinjet against his will.
  • Wasp uses the mocking name "Chiffon" for Chthon, helping nail down the actual pronunciation of the demon's name.
  • Chthon claims its "sister" is Mother Earth, also known as Gaea. This is Thor's mother, so Chthon, in godly terms, is Thor's uncle.
  • Part of the history of the Darkhold includes a medieval sorcerer Magnus, trying to protect it from evil sorcerers. Coincidentally Magnus is also a name sometimes used by Magneto, the real father of the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver that has yet to be revealed.
  • Among the past owners of the Darkhold, chief among them is Morgan Le Fey of Arthurian legend. She is a character in the Marvel Universe that survives to the modern day and will later battle the Avengers in 1984 in Avengers 240.
  • Chthon reveals that it empowered Scarlet Witch with magical potential at her birth, so her ease with using sorcery comes from this action, not her mutant abilities. Later writers will make the type of magic very specific, calling it "chaos magic," of which the Scarlet Witch and Chthon are the principal users.
  • The Avengers leave with the Darkhold book. It is next seen in Doctor Strange 60. There, the Avengers had stashed it in a camouflaged vault adjacent to their meeting room. Although Beast had run it through with a lance in this story, the large hole is missing when it is next seen. Magic!
  • Beast also takes the Atomic Steed that he finds in the snow back to the Mansion. Black Knight begins using it 1985 when he is with the Avengers.
  • The letters page returns to the middle of story again. One letter is from Cat Yronwode, who would later, among a variety of credits, be editor-in-chief of Eclipse Comics, which produced comics and graphic novels.
  • Another letter writer is credited as "Bruce McCokindale." This is comics creator Bruce McCorkindale, who I worked with briefly at Malibu Comics. Since the letter column says that they lost his address, they probably "lost" the "R" from his last name as well. His first credited inking project in 1988 was coincidentally a series titled "The Twilight Avenger" for Eternity Comics. He is still active in the industry, currently inking and coloring Green Hornet covers for Dynamite Entertainment and reworking his 1998 graphic novel The Falling Man.
  • Anthony Mackie, who plays the Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier film, was born in this month.
  • This month featured the debut of the Spider-Woman animated series. It would only air until January of 1980 for 16 episodes. This is still the only female Marvel character to have her own cartoon.
  • This month an Avenger novel was published, titled The Avengers: The Man Who Stole Tomorrow. It was written by David Michelinie and dealt with the Avengers fighting Kang. Prose novels of Marvel characters are usually not considered part of the main continuity, however.

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