Friday, 31 October 2008

Ten Things We Learn From These Two Issues Of Uncanny X-Men

Uncanny X-Men #5-6, March-May 1964.
(By Lee, Kirby, and Reinman)

Or rather, ten character traits which will become well-established over the next 40 years or so.

1. The Scarlet Witch (here in her first appearance) takes no guff from anyone!

2. The Toad (in his first appearance) is a grass.

3. Mastermind (yes, it's his first time out as well!) holds a grudge (just ask Phoenix in about 16 years).

4. Professor X and Magneto like to rant at each other on the psychic plane.

5. Angel, heir to the multi-billion dollar Worthington Industries, apparently has amnesia! (OK, this one is a cheat, and I guess Warren Worthington's not been established as a billionaire-to-be yet, but, hey, it made me laugh.)

6. Magneto likes to have a cool secret headquarters.

7. And he gives one heck of a pep talk!

8. Cyclops doesn't appreciate being interrupted when he's brooding.

9. Quicksilver (you guessed it) really cares for his sister.

10. Professor Xavier is a jerk. Continued, forever.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Rommell? Gunner Who?

Sgt. Fury #6, March 1964.
(By Lee, Kirby, and Roussos)

And we're back in the golden age of World Wars, as Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos take on the might of the Afrika Corps. But that's not really what this book's about. Oh no, in this issue, the Commandos gain a new member, one George Stonewall. Let's see what he makes of the team, shall we?

"No, I'm not shaking your hand, you damned spaghetti-eating, opera-loving, greaseball!"

"Don't think you can make nice with me, Hymie!"

"Holy hannah, there's a n#%&er in the barracks! The US army isn't due to be integrated for another 10 years! Must be a spy."

"What's this guy's problem? All I did was ask if he wanted to help me lynch the spy..."

"I don't care how hard the colorist works to make him look like a white man, I'm gonna pound him!"

"Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter."

"I'm sure Fury thought it'd be funny teaming me up with the Jew, and I'm sure he won't be upset by my casual reference to the present persecution of his people. Zing!"

"Hmm, I seem to have a belly full of shrapnel, I sure hope that my buddy, the Jew, wasn't offended by that 'ghetto' crack."

"I'm far too shy to say something nice to the guy who just saved my life in front of the German. I'll thank him later. If I remember."

"It's back home for me. Wait till I tell the folks back in Hazzard County what's going on in the army these days!"

And finally, a word from Nick Fury:

Hallelujah, brother! You'd think a comic in which the bad guys are Nazis wouldn't have to look too hard to find some bigots...

Actually, this isn't a bad issue, by any means. It's a bit simplistic, as you might expect, given the target age group, the sensitivity of the subject matter, and the year the comic was published in, but it takes on the subject as boldly as it can, and doesn't go for a cop-out ending of having the new guy decide that, actually, the ethnic minorities in the team aren't so bad after all.

I imagine if this had been published now, Garth Ennis would have been writing it, and Nick Fury would have left Stonewell staked out in the desert somewhere...

The First Time Around

Is this the most retold sequence in Marvel history?

Somehow I suspect it will be. Watch this space.

From Avengers #4, March 1964
(By Lee, Kirby and Art Simek)

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Thor's Personality Profile

Journey Into Mystery #101-102, February - March 1964.
(By Lee, Kirby, George Roussos & Chic Stone)



Domineering Parentage!


Persistent Foes!

Still Arrogant!

Still Whiny!

Arrogance, Gullibility, and Something of a Lack of Imagination!

Equally Gullible Parent!


Not As Dumb As He Seems!

Really Sulky!


Too Fond of Exposition for his Own Good!

Poor Anticipation Skills!


Definitely Not as Dumb as He Seems!

Oh, and about Thor's hammer:

Seriously, why doesn't he use it every other issue to save the day? I know I would...

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Spider-Man: Before They Were Cliches!

Peter Parker, welcome to the rest of your life...

From Amazing Spider-Man #9, February 1964.
(By Lee & Ditko)

Saturday, 18 October 2008

The Avengers Meet ... Sub-Mariner!

Avengers #3, January 1964.
(By Lee, Kirby, and Reinman)

So, where were we? Ah yes, the Avengers, a team consisting of Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man (now Giant Man), the Wasp, and the Hulk. Only, the Hulk's not much of a team player, so he's quit the team. Needless to say, the Avengers don't want to leave him wandering the deserts of the United States, so they're on his tracks. Cue a few gratuitous cameos:

Yes, the Marvel Universe has quickly become a unified body, in a way that DC rarely managed at that time. We've had cameos, guest appearances, but not yet a full-blown crossover. Watch this space.

Anyhoo, fortunately, the Hulk's old pal, Rick Jones, has managed to track down the Green Goliath, and he can always be relied on to do the right thing.

Even if the right thing, in this case, is to nark out the guy who saved his life a few months ago. Cheers, Rick..!

So, the Avengers show up to take down the Hulk, who's not so keen on a reunion with his former co-workers.

He's a shrewd one, that Hulk. He knows better than to trust Tony Stark as far as he can throw him, and history will vindicate that opinion. Naturally, conflict ensues, including an almighty broohaha aboard a speeding train.

Lucky for the Hulk, his cunning flour bomb catches pretty much the only Avenger who doesn't have any way of avoiding being blinded by the smoke screen - if only he had super-lungs or some other get-out.

And in case you were wondering, yes, the Hulk has not yet arrived at his "Hulk smash puny fish man!" persona.

And speaking of puny fish men...

Namor has just (in Fantastic Four Annual #2) been thwarted in his plan to invade the surface world, and has been abandoned by his own people, to boot. And, like the Hulk, he's got a serious grudge against humanity.

Yes, it's time for a Super-Villain Team-Up! Agreeing to work together to defeat the Avengers, the two rogues start out on stage one of their plan: the invasion of Gibraltar!

You heard me.

You see, Gibraltar has a network of caves under it, filled with military ordinance left over from WW2. Useful if a gang of superheroes turns up to arrest you, I suppose, although I'm surprised that Subby doesn't have any weapons lying around in that underwater kingdom of his.

The Avengers waste no time in setting out to confront their foes, but the Sub-Mariner is well-prepped.

However, no amount of preparation can take the place of team-work, and that, tragically, is what Subby and the Hulk are missing:

Yes, apparently, the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner have been watching too much tag-team wrestling, and are unaware of the benefits of, say, both fighting at the same time.

The result is fairly inevitable:

Bruce "Must shout out my secret identity!" Banner flees the scene, whilst Sub-Mariner decides that discretion is the better part of valour.

So, if you fight well, Thor will let you go free? That doesn't seem to be a very sensible attitude for the forces of law and order. I'm with Iron Man on this one.