Sunday, 7 December 2008

Hawkeye The Marksman!

Tales Of Suspense #57, September 1964.
(By Lee and Heck)

This is it, True Believers! You've waited long enough, and now, finally, today, we meet Hawkeye the Marksman! He's a crack shot with that bow, and I just bet a man with a bow, and arrow, and plenty of sassy attitude can give Iron Man a run for his money! Off we go...

Our tale begins with millionaire industrialist Tony Stark inadvertantly asking faithful secretary Pepper Potts out on a date. All that money, Tony, and you can't score a night out with someone who doesn't rely on you for her pay-check? Shame on you.

Anyway, Tony, multi-billionaire mogul who can, thanks to all that money of his, go pretty much anywhere at the drop of a hat, takes her to ... Coney Island. Verily, Tony, thou art the last of the big spenders.

(In Tony's defence, he's supposed to have been setting Pepper up with his chauffeur, and is only on this date due to his own incompetence, and even a billionaire doesn't want to spend too much money on a date he didn't want in the first place, but still, it seems a bit shabby.)

Tony and Pepper take in a few shows, including this exciting act:

Before Hawkeye can be booed off the stage by the restless crowd, Coney Island suffers one of its occasional disasters, as one of its rides goes wild and falls to bits in mid-spin. Iron Man to the rescue!

Yes, folks, while all others are impressed, Hawkeye is seething with envy over the acclaim that New Yorkers have for Iron Man (this month, at least - they'll turn on him soon enough). He reaches the obvious conclusion that if they dig the guy in power-armour, they're going to go wild for him, if he can just choose the right outfit.

In his nice new clothes, Hawkeye goes out seeking fame and fortune. Unfortunately for him, the writer has it in for him.

So far so good. Nothing establishes street cred like nabbing a ne'r do well in a checked shirt.

Not so good, the bad guy's getting away, but at least he left the loot behind.

Arse. Now, in his place, I'm fairly sure I'd wait for the cops to catch up, explain to them what had happened, and place my faith in the commonsense of the police. Unfortunately, this is the pre-Serpico NYPD, so Hawkeye pretty much knows he's going to jail if he hangs around. So he flees the scene, leaving the cops to return the loot, or pocket it, depending on their mood.

In the coincidence-filled world of Marvel, Hawkeye runs straight into the Black Widow, a Russian spy who's twice taken on Iron Man, lost both times, and is looking for a sucker to set against Shellhead. Roll up, roll up..!

At the Widow's urging, Hawkeye breaks into Stark Enterprises, blows some stuff up, and gains Iron Man's attention.

Yes, the power of Iron Man is nothing compared to the power of Rust! Stark is forced to ditch his armour and dig out a spare set, whilst Hawkeye, rather than pressing his advantage and hunting him down, chooses to steal some of his kit, for later analysis.

Wow, that transition from wannabe hero to wannabe world dominating supervillain was a bit sudden, wasn't it? That Black Widow must have something special going for her. Anyhoo, Iron Man chases down Hawkeye, blows up his car, and ... can barely hold his own against him.

Rust, rope, is there anything your multi-million pound suit can cope with, Tony? Bullets? Tickling sticks? Sharpened fruit?

By some miracle, Iron Man manages to overpower the man with the bow and arrow, but it's not over yet.

Now, that's just mean, Hawkeye. Of course, the questions it raises about his moral turpitude pale in comparison to the question of why, if you have a demolition blast arrow which can destroy Iron Man, you didn't just shoot him with it in the first place, you big dummy?!?

Oh, that's why. Because the demolition arrow just plain doesn't work. More research needed next time, Hawkeye, old man.

So, yes, hilariously, Hawkeye almost kills the Black Widow with the arrow designed by the Black Widow to kill Iron Man. Hawkeye and the Widow escape whilst Shellhead is too stunned to chase them, and, you know, I don't think we've seen the last of either of these villains.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Special Cheap Reprint Edition: Spidey Battles Daredevil

Amazing Spider-Man #16, September 1964
(By Lee and Ditko)

Two years after their triumphant debut in the pages of Incredible Hulk #3, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were scrabbling around for ideas for the next issue of Amazing Spider-Man. In the past three months, they'd brought us Mysterio! The Green Goblin! and Kraven the Goddam Hunter! How could they top that? How indeed...

Our tale begins with Peter Parker, the spectacular Spider-Man, rescuing a helpless blind man from a gang of robbers. This being the Marvel Universe, though, it's not just any blind man. Oh no.

With deductive skills like this, our blind man could work as some sort of stage mesmerist, amazing the crowds with his apparent clairvoyance. As you doubtless know, his interests lie elsewhere.

Yes, folks, it's Daredevil, in his crappy black and yellow outfit, the one which Demolition Man would one day adopt. Now, did you see there, how Stan The Man effortlessly tells his audience all they need to know about the guest star in just two panels? The art of introducing guest stars is a lost one, judging by current issues of many titles.

Anyway, at the office...

Nice of Foggy and Karen to invite him, but you have to wonder why they bothered. They have, I assume, noticed his blindness, which presumably reduces the effectiveness of visual-based entertainment.

Now, did someone say 'circus'..?

Well, lookee, lookee, that green coat looks mighty familiar...

Yep, it's him, Maynard himself, back out of the slammer and, in contravention of many parole requirements, reunited with his criminal cohorts. What's your nefarious scheme this time, Mayny?

Ah, there we go Pretend that Spider-Man's going to appear at your circus, attract a sell-out crowd, then fleece them. Ingenious! What can possibly go wrong?


Now, then. Imagine you're the Ringmaster, you're halfway through your show, just ready to pull out the ol' hypno-hat and mesmerise your audience, when Spider-Man shows up. Do you (a) look on as Spider performs some neat acrobatic twists and turns, send in the clowns, do a few card tricks, and hot-foot it out of town, counting your lucky stars that he hasn't recognised you and hauled you back to jail, or (b) press on with your scheme anyway?

Go on, guess...

And with that, the Ringmaster does his thing, and the audience, Spidey included, are under his influence. Unbeknownst to the Ringmaster, however, one man in the audience is not under his spell. Yes, you've guessed it, Matt Murdock has changed his mind, and decided to play gooseberry on Foggy and Karen's date, and, being blind, the hypno-hat has no effect on him. Whatcha gonna do now, Maynard?

Now, this might, on the face of it, seem like a pretty good tactic on the Ringmaster's part. Hypnotise one foe into attacking the other, and escape in the confusion. However, I think the next three panels show quite eloquently why hypnotism is actually a bit shit.

When giving orders to your hypnotised slave, it's very important to consider your words carefully. The use of the phrase "Kill Daredevil!" might have been wiser than Maynard's choice of words.

From here on in, it's downhill for the Circus. Daredevil grabs the Ringmaster's hat, releases Spider-Man from his trance, and the two of them pummel the Circus into unconsciousness. In fact, such is the level to which the Circus is outmatched, that Daredevil abandons Spidey halfway through the fight, and goes back to join his friends. It was perhaps at this point that the reader should realise that the Circus may never make it into the big supervillain team league...

This, inventory post, originally presented in my other blog, back in 2005.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

"We Have To Fight - The X-Men!"

Fantastic Four #28, July 1964
(By Lee, Kirby, & Chic Stone)

Well, here we are. Stan has gotten the hang of the whole shared universe thing, and in the past three months, he's had:

The Hulk show up in the pages of Fantastic Four #25 & 26.

Iceman teaming up with the Human Torch in Strange Tales #120.

The FF try to hire the services of Nelson & Murdock in Daredevil #2.

Dr Strange help the FF take on the Sub-Mariner in FF#27.

Spider-Man and the Green Goblin running into the Hulk in Amazing Spider-Man #14.

Spider-Man and Giant-Man tricked into fighting each other, in Tales To Astonish #57.

Whilst I'm sure that these appearances weren't purely designed to flog more copies of the guest stars' own books, I have my doubts at times...

With the gratuitous plugs out of the way, we'd best track down the villains of the piece. Here they are, folks!

That there baldy fella is the Puppet Master. He can sculpt clay into little voodoo dolls. His daughter is also the Thing's girlfriend. The bloke with the big hair is the Mad Thinker. He's a genius, dontcha know?

Both the Thinker and the Puppet Master have had their heads handed to them by the FF in the past, and they want revenge. What's the plan? Glad you asked.

Either the Mad Thinker is incredibly smart, or Prof X needs to spend less time accompanying the team on missions. The Puppet Master does his thing, and before we know it, Professor X is under his mental thrall.

And here we see the benefits of Xavier's policy of training his students to obey orders without question: even when those orders are clearly bonkers, his students rush to obey them. The X-Men hop in their helicopter and head over to the Baxter Building, where they lure the FF out of the city, by dint of (that already clich├ęd strategem) kidnapping the Invisible Girl.

The FF are soon in hot pursuit, but the X-Men are waiting for them...

You tell 'er, Cyclops, you fascist drone.

Anyway, Professor X's plan, it appears, is for the X-Men to beat up the Fantastic Four. Naturally, violence ensues.

Ok, so, Human Torch versus Iceman, fair enough, could be a long fight, but it makes sense, I guess. Personally, I'd get the Invisible Girl to catch Angel in a force-field, given how hopeless Reed is at achieving that goal. And, really, Cyclops versus the Thing? Poor Cyclops. I'm assuming Beast is off-camera reading a biology book or some such, rather than joining in the bruhaha?

To liven up the battle, the Mad Thinker has set various booby-traps on the field of battle, which succcessfully capture the FF, who are too distracted by the fight to avoid said traps. Not a bad plan, as far as it goes, but naturally, the Thinker can't help but gloat.

Crivvens, what a scunner! Puppet Master orders the Professor to knock out his merry mob, but reckons without the super-brain of Hank McCoy, who can resist mental domination just be dint of being really smart. The Beast crushes the Prof X voodoo doll and rescues his team, whilst the FF free themselves, just in time for the big fight!

The Awesome Android, you may not know, can copy superpowers, which, when he's fighting nine superheroes, gives him a bit of room to get his groove on.

Unfortunately, no amount of superpowercopying mojo can overcome our heroes, particularly when Professor X gets in on the act.

And what of our villains? They're escaping in the Thinker's escape plane. Ready to work together again, boys?

Hmm, guess not. Anyway, just time for some weasil words from Cyclops...

That's right, boys, kiss and make up, until your next fight...

Friday, 14 November 2008

It's Not Only Marvel Who Can Do Cheap Reprints...


...and after...

Might want to reconsider that whole "no fatal errors" claim before you market that glider, Norman...

From Amazing Spider-Man #14, July 1964
(By Lee & Ditko)
And Amazing Spider-Man #122, July 1973
(By Gerry Conway, Gil Kane, John Romita & Tony Mortellaro)

This cheap gag originally presented in my other blog, February 2006.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Giant Man, The Big Bully

In retrospect, Janet probably should have seen it coming.

From Tales To Astonish #54, April 1964
(By Lee & Heck)

Thursday, 6 November 2008

The Origin Of Daredevil!

Daredevil #1, April 1964.
(By Stan Lee and Bill Everett)

Just look at that cover. What's it trying to say, exactly? "If you like our other books, you'll love this one!" Don't bother trying to sell the book on its own merits, Stan. We haven't even turned the page yet, and already, I'm tired of "fun-loving" Foggy Nelson.

And good lord, that costume. They can't all be classics, but suffering god, that outfit looks like it was designed by a blind man.

I don't usually like to play art critic here, but I gotta say, the art here is very different to the usual Marvel style, much more gritty than we've gotten used to. Just look at these first few panels:

I don't know if the concept of retro-art was around in 1960s comics, but if not, this would be a decent example of it. To be fair, this is not so much retro, as Bill Everett drawing in the style of Bill Everett, much more realistic than Kirby's style, and less "pretty" than Ditko's.

Anyway, this first issue introduces Daredevil, as he takes on the thugs pictured above, then flashes back to his origin.

Young Matt Murdock lives with his dad, "Battling" Murdock, a washed-up boxer, determined to see his son do better for himself. Young Matt, in a sterling example to the youth of today, meekly abides by his old man's directive, regardless of the scorn and disdain his peers have for him as a consequence. But at least it makes his dad happy...

Selfish pig. Anyway, while Murdock Junior is slaving away at his stufies, Murdock Senior has signed up for a new promoter, dubbed "The Fixer". This is going to go well, don't you think?

Whilst Papa Murdock is making his deal with the devil, Matt is heading for the most dramatic four panels of his young life:

Yes, folks, it's the 60s, where the good folks at Ajax Atomic Labs are still allowed to drive trucks of nuclear waste through the streets of New York City.

Poor old Matt ends up in the hospital, his eyesight gone, but with an unexpected consequence:

Stranger things, like turning eminent scientists into giant green monsters, perhaps. Anyway, Matt goes to college, where he quickly becomes BFF with Franklin "Foggy" Nelson. His senses, meanwhile, continue to astonish:

Pretty neat, daddio! Meantime, Matt's dad's career appears to be on the rise, but the Fixer has other plans. It's time for Battling Murdock to take a dive. But wait, what's this?

Crime may not pay, but standing up to criminals isn't always a beneficial situation either. Our Matt swears to avenge his dad's death, but remember, he promised not to fight. Thankfully, Matt's now a qualified lawyer, and thus is able to resolve this dilemma: he cheats.

By "recognised", he presumably means "pointed at", "laughed at", and "harrassed into adopting a less asthetically unpleasant uniform within, say, seven issues"...

In his new costumed identity, Matt, as Daredevil, has tracked down the Fixer to his seedy gambling joint, which is where we started.

While Daredevil is taking on New York's underworld, his partner at the law firm, our pal, Foggy, is working on the romantic sub-plot which is becoming a staple of Marvel Comics. Meet legal secretary, Karen Page.

Seriously, is this how children are introduced to the idea of relationships? It's healthier than Eastenders, I suppose.

Meantime, back across town, Daredevil, having made short work of the Fixer's goons, goes after the big man himself.

How much fun does DD look like he's having here? Being a superhero, even one avenging his dad's murder, is obviously a dream come true for young Matthew. When you consider the repeated kicks in the crotch which fate, and Frank Miller, will deal him over the years, one almost wants to dive into the comic and warn the poor sap.

Anyhoo, the poor old Fixer's heart can't cope with the excitement of Daredevil's colour-scheme, and he drops dead. Still, better than being thrown in front of a moving train, eh?

So there you have it, Daredevil makes a bold entrance, the bad guys pay for their sins, and Foggy and Karen fawn around the office. Any last words, Matt?

And off he goes, to the Superhero Costume Discount Store.