Sunday, March 31, 2019

Space-Born Super Hero Part 8: Captain Marvel #5

My blogging series has reached Captain Marvel #5 and at this point, the series begins its second full creative team. Previously, Stan Lee had scripted the first story in Marvel Super-Heroes #12, but he didn't even stick around to finish the origin story. Now with Roy Thomas and Gene Colan gone after five stories together, we welcome Arnold Drake and Don Heck with "The Mark of the Metazoid". Arnold Drake is best-known for his DC Comics work, particularly for creating the Doom Patrol. He did very little writing for Marvel Comics, although he did create the original Guardians of the Galaxy while there. Artist Don Heck was one of the major Marvel talents of the 1960s, particularly for his long run on Iron Man and The Avengers. However, although Heck could tell a great story using the world outside his window, he sometimes struggled to get across the kind of big action which Jack Kirby popularized; consequently, poor Heck would be constantly derided by Marvel fandom and frequently called the "worst" of Marvel's 1960s creators. But let's see how it goes...

We open with a recap of the previous issue's battle between Captain Marvel and the Sub-Mariner as Yon-Rogg analyzes the battle for Ronan the Accuser. As you may recall, Mar-Vell basically threw that fight so that the bacteria weapon could be destroyed. Yon-Rogg is intelligent encough to recognize this and tries to charge Mar-Vell with cowardice and treason. Yon-Rogg asks Una to render her own verdict on Mar-Vell's behaviour on the grounds that she's the only other crewman on the Helion with both a name and a speaking part! Una naturally defends Mar-Vell passionately - which Yon-Rogg hopes will cause Ronan to reject her testimony. Having called Mar-Vell "Un-Kree", Yon-Rogg asks Ronan what his judgement is. Through the ship's viewscreen, Ronan admits Mar-Vell's actions give cause for concern but because Mar-Vell "brings here a record of loyalty and resolve" Ronan refrains from judgement, preferring to see what Mar-Vell's next actions may reveal of his character.

Mar-Vell brings up the case of Jeremy Logan, the hotel clerk who was put into a coma back in issue #2-3. Ronan declares the man must die, but Mar-Vell suggests killing him but draw undue attention - so suggests he employs the Mind Eraser instead. Ronan admits that was "well thought" and agrees with the plan, providing the device works. Mar-Vell departs the Helion and flies back to the Earth below, once again a loner among his own people as well as a loner among humans.

Meanwhile, a U-Boat (German submarine, that is) discharges the Metazoid upon the ocean floor. And who is the Metazoid? His origin is quickly recapped: a citizen of a communist nation who had been convicted of anti-state activities (not unlike Mar-Vell!), he was volunteered for an experiment to alter his body chemistry to "withstand the alien conditons on almost any planet!" This turned him into a hairy blue fellow with glowing eyes. His first mission: to kidnap Dr. Walter Lawson from the Cape. The Metazoid knows his superiors are evil but he follows their directives because "It makes it easier--easier to commit acts that I know are purest evil!"

At the Cape, Mar-Vell is facing yet another interrogation as 'Lawson' is finally subjected to a rigorous background check by Carol Danvers, as she's threatened since her first appearance. For starters, there weren't any photographs of Lawson in his personnel file (Mar-Vell destroyed the photos himself). Strange that the Cape didn't have any photos in their own files prior to his arrival. For the first time, we really get a sense of Carol's feminist streak as she loses her cool during the interrogation: "You scientists treat security officers as either snooping villains or comic clods! And, of course, a female s.o. is even more open to your amusing jibes! But I am not amused!" 'Lawson' reacts by accusing her of "professional conflicts" because "You're a woman--a lovely woman, in fact! And you've been given a very masculine role in life! Naturally, psychological conflicts must arise when a beautiful young woman is asked to play at policeman!" This seems a bit out-of-character for Mar-Vell, as you'd think an extraterrestrial wouldn't assume the same kind of stereotyped gender roles; also, since when is Mar-Vell into armchair psychology? Anyway, this does absolutely nothing to place him in Carol's good graces as she decides he's "too tricky to be real."

'Lawson' gets a ride with taxi driver Chester (from last issue) to visit Jeremy Logan. The Metazoid, whose body keeps altering itself depending on the environment, is close behind, latched on the roof of the taxi. When the taxi arrives at the hospital, the Metazoid continues to shadow 'Lawson'. Just as 'Lawson' is about to apply the Mind Eraser to Jeremy, the Metazoid bursts in to capture him; 'Lawson' reacts by jumping out the window. While the Metazoid wastes time threatening doctors, Mar-Vell returns wearing his battle-suit and ready for a fight! However, the Metazoid's constantly-changing body aids him again as his skin becomes sticky, ensnaring Mar-Vell's fists when they strike him. The uni-beam also proves ineffective. Mar-Vell grabs the Metazoid and flies out of the hospital and into the sky, intending to drop the Metazoid to his death, but the Metazoid again clings to his hands. The Metazoid realizes he could kill Captain Marvel at any time, but fears doing so would rob himself of his last spark of humanity.

Mar-Vell finally falls from the sky and is knocked out from the crash. The Metazoid leaves Mar-Vell alone, but Mar-vell finds an X-ray device and turns it on, bombarding the Metazoid with radiation. It seems Mar-Vell once fought "the Vintar of Galaxy-7" using a similar method. The X-Rays kill the Metazoid and Mar-Vell finally wipes Jeremy's memories. As Mar-Vell departs, his mission done, he wonders if being on Earth is robbing himself of his Kree identity; is he becoming a traitor, as Yon-Rogg claims?

Thoughts: A shaky start, but not an umpromising one. Mar-Vell being a bit chauvinist with Carol is an unfortunate moment, but there are other good developments - wiping Jeremy's memories of the Lawson-Captain Marvel connection seems to bring that plot to a conclusion. The Metazoid is an interesting idea, albeit one which Heck struggles to get across - the idea of a villain who can't control his own powers but instead adapts to any situation is a decent one and it is interesting that he was unwilling to kill Mar-Vell, yet Mar-Vell had no problem killing him - a good reminder that Mar-Vell is, from a certain perspective, one of the bad guys.

I am not a Don Heck hater, but I do think he's not in his element here - his art is kinda simple and isn't suited to big science fiction stuff - it comes across as stiff.

All told, this the first story which feels like a "native" Captain Marvel comic; no guest villains, no guest heroes, just Mar-Vell with his cast and a brand-new villain. It's a minor landmark, to be sure.

Next: Another new villain stalks Mar-Vell in Captain Marvel #6!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Space-Born Super Hero Part 7: Captain Marvel #4

So far Captain Marvel's adventures have been rooted in mythology from the pages of the Fantastic Four: the Kree, Sentry#459, Ronan the Accuser, the Super-Skrull. Who else from the FF's mythos can be brought in? Enter: the Sub-Mariner!

This story, "The Alien and the Amphibian!", is our farewell to the creative team of Roy Thomas and Gene Colan (Colan again inked by Vince Colletta). As I covered here, Stan Lee didn't even write a complete origin for Mar-Vell, so this has really been a Thomas/Colan joint - and now that's coming to an end with this story.

We open in Mar-Vell's hotel room as he reads a newspaper account of his battle with the Super-Skrull. He muses humans have accepted him as a hero, but have no idea "That it may one day be my hand which signals the fatal attack upon an unsuspecting sphere... that mine may be the voice which decrees its total destruction!" Mar-Vell knows that as a soldier he shouldn't be bothered by such thoughts, but admits it's weighing on his conscience. When he gets angry and smashes a desk, it attracts someone's attention and he has to quickly cover up his battle-suit. He notes he altered the hotel's register to change his name from 'C. Marvel' to 'Walter Lawson', correcting a mistake he should never have been so careless to make.

Mar-vell is greeted by Hal, nephew of Jeremy Logan, who is now running the clerk's desk while Jeremy is in a coma. Hal tells 'Lawson' there was a call for him from the Cape telling him to hurry over. 'Lawson' takes a taxi to the Cape, the same one he started to take two issues previously. The cab driver, Chester Fenton, remembers him. Man, Mar-Vell is cursed to keep encountering background characters who want to be part of this book's supporting cast! General Bridges is preparing to launch a new missile, the Argos III, while Carol Danvers remains as ever curious about 'Lawson' and his secrets.

The scene shifts to the North Atlantic and one of Roy Thomas' all-time favourite characters Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Namor is, at the moment, engrossed in a plot from Thomas' Sub-Mariner series and on his way to warn Mister Fantastic about the villain Destiny. Meanwhile, we learn the Argos II contains deadly bacterias which are going to be launched into orbit to examine the effects of cosmic rays upon them. However, the Argos III changes course on its way back from launch and dives into the North Atlantic. This is the fault of Colonel Yon-Rogg aboard the Helion who cannot, it seems, allow one issue to go by without inserting himself into the drama. Yon-Rogg used the starship's atomic oscillotron to change the missile's course as part of a "secret plan" which his superiors authorized (at least for once he's following orders, I guess).

When General Bridges learns Argos III landed near New York Harbor he quickly has himself, 'Lawson' and Carol flown out there, hoping to quickly retrieve the missile before the bacteria can be released into the atmosphere. A US Navy vessel is dispatched to begin the retrieval operation but when the Sub-Mariner swims by the ship warns him of the missile. Mar-Vell slips aways and contacts Yon-Rogg, who tells him they've been given clearance to unleash the bacteria as a scientific experiment on the humans. Mar-Vell is wounded by this, as his conscience tells him to prevent the bacteria from being released. And this, right here, is the kind of angst this series should have been playing with from the first.

The Sub-Mariner goes to help deal with the missile, forcing Mar-Vell to head underwater and fight him. Mar-Vell is bright enough to realize how strange this is: "That I--whom the primitives of Earth call a hero--should do battle with a long-sworn foe of the humans--who seems to wish only to save them from their own folly!" This is one of those comics where a bit of science is permitted and so Mar-Vell is unable to speak underwater, forcing him to communicate entirely with his fists. Of course, Namor is much more adept at underwater combat, plus draws strength from the ocean. Mar-Vell finally realizes the answer to his dilemma is to address Namor as though he were a villain; grabbing Namor, he flies him to the surface and tells him to unleash the germs against the humans he hates so much. Of course, Namor intends to do the opposite of that and Mar-Vell gives him enough information to safely dismantle the missile while making it look as though he's still trying to stop Namor. Ultimately, Mar-Vell causes the missile to explode, destroying all of the bacteria; Namor is hurled away by the blast and Mar-Vell flies away.

Thoughts: This was pretty good! There is a tradition of playing Namor as a villain and Thomas was sharp to note how Mar-Vell is essentially a reluctant villain posing as a hero. It's an interesting bind for the character to be in and one which I wish Thomas had explored more during his tenure. Of course, Thomas returns to the series eventually (not Gene Colan though, he's done for good), but the series will be quite different by the time of his second run.

So far the series hasn't added much to the Marvel mythos beyond Mar-Vell, Yon-Rogg, Una and Carol Danvers, but starting next issue we'll get the first-ever all-new super villains for Mar-Vell to fight! ...And, uh, they're not exactly memorable.

Next: Arnold Drake and Don Heck take over for Captain Marvel #5!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Space-Born Super Hero Part 6: Captain Marvel #3

We pick up the series with Captain Marvel #3 and the story "From the Ashes of Defeat!" by the usual creative team of Roy Thomas and Gene Colan (once again Vince Colletta inks). The Super-Skrull has just defeated Captain Mar-Vell and drags him off to his spaceship. Tearing off the hero's helmet he states, "Beneath your battle-helmet, you are as loathsome as I expected--almost as repulsive as the Earthlings themselves!"

Strapping Mar-Vell into his Psycho-Probe, the Super-Skrull begins observing Mar-Vell's memories. This provides an opportunity to recap what's happened so far; in particular, considering the story began in Marvel Super-Heroes #12-13, it's the first time those events have been recapped in the pages of Captain Marvel; the recap takes up 3 pages of the story! What the memories don't explain to the Super-Skrull is why a Kree soldier was fighting a Kree Sentry; yeah, it didn't really make sense based on what we knew about Mar-Vell at the time, I understand the Skrull's confusion.

Mar-Vell revives and uses his uni-beam to break out of the Psycho-Probe, beginning a second fight with the Super-Skrull. Having decided the Super-Skrull is simply too powerful to fight, Mar-Vell attempts a hasty retreat, setting course for Yon-Rogg's ship, which we now learned is called the Helion. Thanks to the Helion's aura of negativism the Super-Skrull doesn't know the vessel is there; the problem is that Mar-Vell's jet-belt isn't built for in-orbit flight (also that Yon-Rogg might not bother helping Mar-Vell, even against a Skrull).

Indeed, Yon-Rogg declares he can't reveal his presence to the Super-Skrull in order to justify abandoning Mar-Vell. However, Mar-Vell's belt manages to barely reach the Helion and Yon-Rogg has no choice but to permit his entry. The Super-Skrull turns back to retrieve the cylinder he found earlier. This is the first time Mar-Vell has met face-to-face with Yon-Rogg and Una since his first appearance. Naturally, this means Mar-Vell has to justify destroying the Sentry to his superior (something which happened earlier in that same day by the timeline so far). Yon-Rogg accuses Mar-Vell of speaking like "a research scientist who has become enarmored of his own guinea pigs." To this, Mar-Vell suggests he contact the Imperial Minister personally to explain his actions. In the midst of all this, poor Una is miffed that Mar-Vell hasn't taken any time for her (patience, m'dear... let him clear his reputation first).

Mar-Vell contacts the Kree homeworld, which is depicted like a ringed planet surrounded by confetti. Mar-Vell describes it as "artificial rings of defensive space-mines... and its flotsam-like cosmic sea of enemy-detecting sub-sonic crystals." Mar-Vell begins to explain the danger of his cylinder's nuclear bomb going off; the Imperial Minister isn't interested in that, but definitely wants Mar-Vell to dirve off the Super-Skrull. Meanwhile, the Super-Skrull transforms into the appearance of Walter Lawson and goes looking for Sentry#459, asking General Bridges and Carol Danvers to guide him there. Mar-Vell returns and fights the Super-Skrull for a third time. The Super-Skrull finally decides to resort to his seldom-used fifth super-power, super-hypnosis (he only brings it out when the other four powers fail); unfortunately, Super-Skrull chooses to use this when a solar mirror on the Cape is lying nearby and a blast from Mar-Vell's uni-beam causes the Skrull to mesmerize himself; with the Skrull in a suggestible state, Mar-Vell finally retrieves his cylinder and deactivates the nuclear bomb, then orders the Super-Skrull to get into his ship and leave Earth. Meanwhile, Jeremy Logan is in a coma and being sent to a hospital.

Thoughts: Not too much happens in this issue, what with the lengthy recap; considering the enmity between the Kree and Skrulls, I wish Yon-Rogg had actually aided Mar-Vell for a change; it would have shown a different side to his character. Yon-Rogg and Una are both pretty bland and they don't offer much at this stage besides watching Mar-Vell get into fights.

Next: Roy Thomas bids the series farewell and drags in one of his favourite characters for the occasion! It's Captain Marvel #4!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Space-Born Super Hero Part 5: Captain Marvel #2

We have reached the second issue of Captain Marvel and the story "From the Void of Space Comes... the Super Skrull!" by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan (inks again by Vince Colletta).

The story wastes no time, opening on the Skrull homeworld and its ruler, Emperor Dorrek (and his pet robot dog Machino). Dorrek watches a video report of the previous issue's events, taking note that a Kree soldier and a Kree Sentry have both been sighted on Earth. Dorrek wonders why the Kree are taking an interest in Earth so summons his greatest warrior: the Super-Skrull! By the time the Super-Skrull has reached Dorrek's throne room, Dorrek (and Machino) has been joined by his daughter Princess Anelle (who like her dad had previously appeared in Fantastic Four). When Dorrek orders the Super-Skrull to seek and destroy Captain Mar-Vell, the Super-Skrull wonders why a lone Kree is so important.

Dorrek's response is one of Roy Thomas' most influential additions to Marvel Comics' lore: y'see, as we learn from Dorrek, the Skrulls and the Kree are enemies and Mar-Vell has faced them before in battle. "Well do our war-annals recall how fiercely, how valorously he fought against us in the war for control of the satellite galaxy NGC 205! If our age-old enemies have sent a battle-hero such as he to Earth... it must be of vast importance to them! We must learn why!!!" This page here is the root of so many future Kree stories, not the least of which is the Kree-Skrull War. This page is basically the birthplace of outer space politics in Marvel Comics stories. It should be mentioned this is also the first time we readers have been given information on what Mar-Vell had been up to prior to being sent to Earth; this becomes a major part of backstory for his character, not only that he's an enemy of the Skrulls, but that he has a significant history of combat in his past.

It's still immediately after Sentry#459's defeat as Mar-Vell flies back his hotel room to get out of his battle-suit. He takes some of his breathing potion (distilled with water) then reaches for his carry-all cylinder, only to discover the device has gone missing (stolen last issue by Jeremy Logan). Unfortunately, as Mar-Vell reveals, there's a miniature nuclear bomb inside the case to prevent tampering, which is what Logan accidentally triggered last issue (a nuclear bomb to protect their clothes? talk about paranoid!). In only two hours, the bomb will explode. At that moment, Jeremy is driving to the Cape to show the cylinder off to General Bridges. But, just to compound what a terrible day Jeremy is having, he attracts the attention of the Super-Skrull, who is trying to find Mar-Vell by searching for the radiation signature found on their battle-suits, and picks up the cylinder. The Super-Skrull easily overpowers Jeremy and snatches the cylinder from him.

Mar-Vell, of course, is also on Jeremy's trail and catches up just as the Super-Skrull has thrown Jeremy over a cliff. Mar-Vell flies after Jeremy and catches him, but the impact knocks him unconscious (thus setting up the next phase of Jeremy's odd journey). The Super-Skrull shows off his various Fantastic Four powers, although Mar-Vell's uni-beam is able to snuff out his version of the Human Torch's flames. The fight eventually leads them through the Cape and across several of the soldiers. This leads to an interesting line where the Super-Skrull calls the soldiers "primitive aborigines". The fight draws the attention of Carol Danvers to remind us she's still interested in learning more about Captain Marvel. Yon-Rogg also takes a moment to watch the fight from his spaceship, hoping that if Mar-Vell dies in battle he can have his enemy killed without getting into trouble with the Imperial Minister. The Super-Skrull knocks Mar-Vell out, having forgotten about the cylinder; the nuclear bomb is still counting down.

Thoughts: There's not much to this story - just your typical super hero fights super villain tale. However, as the introduction of the Kree-Skrull enmity it's a landmark in the history of the Marvel Universe. So heck, even though this era of Captain Marvel is not renowned as a great comic book series, it managed to introduce something significant to the lore.

Next: Captain Marvel #3 and the conclusion of the Super-Skrull fight!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Space-Born Super Hero Part 4: Captain Marvel #1

As noted last time, the story which began in Marvel Super-Heroes #12-13 was meant to continue in issue #14, but instead Captain Marvel received his own series. This was quite a novelty for Marvel Comics in 1968 - '68 was the year in which the company expanded their line of titles. No longer restricted by DC Comics as their distributor, they could afford to publish as many titles as the marketplace could bear. Thus, the anthology books like Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish and Strange Tales were broken up and their star players given their own titles. Of course, this also meant Marvel needed more writers as Stan Lee had less and less time for scripting. Although Marvel later tried the anthology format again with Amazing Adventures and Astonishing Tales, they didn't really work. Into this climate, we have Captain Marvel's first issue!

The declares he's "Marvel's Space-Born Super-Hero!" hence the title for this blog series. The story, "Out of the Holocaust--a Hero!" is again by Roy Thomas & Gene Colan (with inks by Vince Colletta) and resumes where Marvel Super-Heroes #13 left off: Captain Mar-Vell is in battle with Sentry#459. Although the Sentry recognizes Mar-Vell as a Kree officer (calling him "Man of the Kree", a phrase which will be repeated often) it ignores Mar-Vell's authority because he's telling it to stop its rampage. All Mar-Vell can do at first is leap for his life and try to keep the Sentry away from the Cape's nuclear arsenal. Mar-Vell tries using his uni-beam on the robot, but the Sentry can repair damage very quickly. Meanwhile, the base's soldiers overhear the Sentry calling him 'Mar-Vell' and take it to be 'Marvel', which is how our hero gets the moniker 'Captain Marvel'.

Meanwhile, in her quarters aboard Yon-Rogg's ship, Una crawls to a Mend-Mek, a repair robot. She asks the robot what it knows about Mar-Vell's fight; the robot can't answer because Yon-Rogg has blocked any such responses. Aren't you glad we checked in with Una? Meanwhile, back at Mar-Vell's hotel we finally learn the hotel clerk's name: it's Jeremy Logan and Mr. Logan has broken into Marv's room to exmaine the cylinder his equipment was kept in. Logan unwittingly sets off something inside the cylinder.

Back at the Cape, Carol Danvers stumbles out of the wreckage of the Sentry's attack; Mar-Vell defends her and she's impressed by his air of authority: "When he speaks, I almost believe--that we have a chance of survival!" Mar-Vell unleashes his uni-beam's most powerful attack, only to be mocked by the Sentry: "If I had an Earthling's sense of humor, pitiful one, I would be moved to laughter by your puny attempts! But, I am a mechanical being--and so can merely react--by annihilating you!" That Sentry, what a card.

Sentry#459 has cut off the rest of the base's soldiers by creating a barrier of sub-atomic particles. This results in a 2-page sequence of soldiers trying to blast their way through the barrier, with no effect. There's no good reason for this sequence to appear here, except that I think Colan was much more at ease drawing scenes of military men toiling with contemporary equipment than he was in colorful costumed characters firing energy blasts at robots. Finally, as Sentry#459 can simply repair any damage, Mar-Vell fires a narrow uni-beam blast at the robot's interior which fuses its circuits and causes the Sentry to implode; the robot is finally defeated.

Yon-Rogg is miffed to have failed yet again, so decides he'll go tell Mom-- er, that is, he'll call up the Imperial Minister and inform him Captain Mar-Vell just destroyed one of their Sentries. Although we see the Imperial Minister (still unnamed), he's with Ronan the Accuser and lets Ronan do the talking (this being Ronan's debut in the series). It should also be noted the minister is being coloured blue - which might just be a lighting thing at this stage, but as we'll eventually learn, there are two different skin colours for the Kree - the pinks we've seen up 'til now and blues like the minister (Ronan will also get retconned into being blue). Ronan puts Yon-Rogg in his place, revealing he's aware of everything, including how Yon-Rogg tried to use the Sentry for his own purposes. Ronan warns Yon-Rogg not to imperil their mission again; and this is our introduction then to the Imperial Minister/Ronan the Accuser subplot, which seems harmless now but will do its damndest to sink this series later on.

With Sentry#459 beaten, General Bridges is the first to formally dub Mar-Vell 'Captain Marvel', assuming him to be a super hero. Carol isn't quite so sure - she's aware Mar-vell saved her life, but has a few doubts about him. Good instincts, Carol! Mar-Vell himself is quite aware that while now he's being hailed as a hero, if the people at the Cape knew his purpose on Earth, he'd be their enemy.

Thoughts: We're finally getting this book on its feet; Mar-Vell's first battle is done and his supporting cast all introduced; the Jeremy Logan plot continues, Carol is now curious about Mar-Vell's identity and there some kind of conspiracy going on with Ronan the Accuser. There is also a hope that perhaps we'll go one issue without Yon-Rogg making a lame attempt on Mar-Vell's life. Heck, the series is full of possibilities! I choose to remain optimistic!

Next: Captain Marvel #2 and the introduction of one of the most famous rivalries in comics!

Monday, March 25, 2019

Space-Born Super Hero Part 3: Marvel Super-Heroes #13

Welcome back!

Last time I looked at the first appearance of Captain Marvel in Marvel Super-Heroes #12 (1967). We pick it up now with Marvel Super-Heroes #13, continuing the character's introduction under the auspices of Roy Thomas and Gene Colan (with inks by Paul Reinman) in the story "Where Stalks the Sentry!"

We open in Mar-Vell's hotel room, where he's working on his ray gun weapon (introduced last issue as the Universal Beam Weapon), refitting it from a handheld gun into a wrist-mounted weapon and renamed the Uni-Beam, which is much simpler. Already Roy the Boy is trying to figure out how to make this character run more smoothly. Strangely, Mar-Vell does this important work with his helmet off, which means he must be using up his 60-minute breathing potion. With the Uni-Beam on his right wrist and the Wrist Monitor on his left, Mar-vell now has something clamped on each wrist. Switching into his civilian clothes, Mar-Vell leaves his hotel, attracting the attention of the hotel clerk. It seems Mar-Vell hasn't paid him yet and he signed his name as 'C. Marvel' in the register. I remarked how dumb that was last time out and it's going to continue to bring trouble to Mar-Vell.

Mar-Vell is running out of breathing potion (probably because he foolishly walks around with his helmet off in places where humans can't see him) so he heads to a nearby remote location to await the arrival of a new batch of potion. While he waits, he tests out the Uni-Beam (thus finally giving the audience a chance to see what exactly his weapon can do). In addition to the blacklight ray we saw last time, Mar-Vell can fire destructive energy bolts and a magnetic beam. With the test over, he finally puts his costume and helmet on (how are we supposed to think this 60-minute time limit is such a big deal when Mar-Vell is so casual about it?), then he tests out his air-jet belt (now called "jet-belt") and flies up to meet Yon-Rogg's vessel.

Yon-Rogg realizes if he "accidentally" presses his ship's weapons he can kill Mar-Vell and have it done with (although that would look really bad in the mission report, as it would make Yon-Rogg's assignment a total failure). Una guesses what Yon-Rogg is about to do (because the man lacks subtlety) so Yon-Rogg orders her locked up in her quarters. To show how little he cares about pretense, Yon-Rogg takes a moment to line up his shot through a viewfinder instead of simply brushing the weapon's trigger. Even then, he misses and hits an airplane which emerges from a cloud bank at just the wrong time (or right time, from Mar-Vell's perspective). Mar-Vell explores the wreckage and finds a dead man whose identification papers name him as Dr. Walter Lawson, an expert on missile guidance systems who was headed to Cape Canaveral. Which is, apparently, the place Mar-Vell stumbled through in the previous issue. Mar-Vell realizes if he swipes the dead man's papers he could gain access to the Cape on behalf of his vaguely-defined mission. No idea what he did with Lawson's body though - or the airplane wreckage. I mean, wouldn't the security officials have questions about these things?

Anyway, from her quarters Una opens up a can of morpheo-gas and vents it through the ship, causing Yon-Rogg and the rest of the crew to fall unconscious. Without Yon-Rogg to stop her, Una is able to send a new batch of breathing potion to Mar-Vell; she teleports it directly into Mar-Vell's room, so I have no idea why he went to the bother of trying to rendezvous with the ship.

The following day Mar-Vell goes to work at the Cape by claiming to be Dr. Walter Lawson; he carries along with him the cylinder containing his Kree battle suit. A week goes by as Mar-Vell studies Earth's missile defenses to better understand their present level of technology. Strangely, although last issue his presence nearby a missile caused its guidance systems to go haywire due to the radiation in his body, but now Mar-Vell is working on guidance systems with no problem at all (it's almost as if Stan Lee had to invent some reason for Mar-Vell to get into a fight last issue!). Mar-Vell continues taking his breathing potion every hour throughout the week, which means either Una sent him a very large bottle before, or Yon-Rogg has resumed shipping them down (as we'll see, Una is still confined to her quarters).

At the start of his second week, Mar-Vell finally meets General Bridges, the military official in charge at the Cape, who brings him to meet Carol Danvers, the Cape's chief of security. This is the first appearance of Carol who would, of course, become a super hero herself a decade later, join the Avengers and take Mar-Vell's name to honour him. But at this stage she's simply a security official, dressed casually in a sweater and slacks (no idea why she's dressed like a civilian in what's clearly a military operation). Oh, but I'm burying the lede: Carol is currently occupied in analzying Sentry#459, the Kree robot whom the Fantastic Four fought and was supposedly destroyed, setting off the chain of events which brought Mar-Vell himself to Earth. This makes Sentry#459 the first character from another Marvel Comics series to appear in Captain Marvel. As is quickly explained, the Sentry was found by pearl divers at the island where the Fantastic Four fought it and it was transported to the Cape.

General Bridges wants 'Lawson' to study Sentry#459 because his expertise also includes robotics. Carol Danvers is not exactly pleased to have Lawson there, as she explains: "Your dossier is still being examined by my security division! If you must know, you've always had a reputation as a recluse... even an eccentric!" Carol is convinced 'Lawson' has something to hide; of course, we know she's right, but there's more to this situation than what first appears - as will be covered in future issues.

Yon-Rogg is pleased to see Sentry#459 has been found and notes it has grown in size, which is one of its powers (possibly Roy Thomas covering up for Colan having drawn the Sentry as twice the size of what Kirby designed). Rather than seeing Sentry#459's survival as an aid to his empire's designs on Earth, Yon-Rogg just sees another opportunity to kill Mar-Vell. He activates the Sentry then sits back to watch the chaos. Sentry#459 awakens and does quite a lot of ranting and boasting for a robot (Roy's Sentry is little more verbose than how other writers treat them). General Bridges puts in a call to Dr. Lawson's hotel, which of course puts him in contact with the suspicious hotel clerk - because Mar-Vell wasn't smart enough to switch hotels after adopting Lawson's identity. Ergo, the clerk has begun putting together that 'C. Marvel' and 'Walter Lawson' are the same person. Good one, Marv. Mar-Vell puts on his battle suit and sets out to confront the Sentry. The Sentry recognizes Mar-Vell as a Kree officer and asks if he's come to join it in its rampage. If Mar-Vell refuses, then the Sentry will consider him its enemy. So now Mar-Vell is in a bind as we end on a cliffhanger. Why is this a cliffhanger? Well, Mar-Vell now says his job is to study Earth to determine if it should live or die, but the Sentry could destroy the Earth on its own. Okay, that's just a bit contrived, but we've got to get to a fight somehow.

Thoughts: A huge, huge improvement over the previous issue. Mar-Vell still isn't being called 'Captain Marvel', but Roy Thomas takes the time to explain what the Uni-Beam weapon is capable of (and moves it to Mar-Vell's wrist, which is a good idea). The supporting cast is expanded as the hotel clerk starts to become a significant figure (albeit still unnamed) and we meet General Bridges and Carol Danvers!

Roy Thomas deserves particular kudos for Carol Danvers. At the time, virtually every female character Stan Lee introduced in his comics worked in very stereotypical female roles like nurse (Jane Foster), secretary (Pepper Potts, Betty Brant) or were independently wealthy (the Wasp). Carol's role as security chief has a built-in tension to set her against 'Lawson', which is good grist for the series' storytelling engine. But security chief is just not the kind of occupation Marvel's civilian ladies held in the 1960s. She's not introduced as a love interest either - in this issue, neither she nor Mar-Vell evince a romantic interest in each other. Good for you, Rascally One.

While in the previous issue Mar-Vell's only action scene was a brief clash with the military, here Thomas & Colan set up Sentry#459 as Mar-Vell's first true foe. Although the premise of the series is still a little too murky, simply getting Mar-Vell into secret identity troubles and fights against super-menaces do a lot to help the series find its foot as a super hero book. And although it's in a throw-away line of dialogue, we finally know what Mar-Vell is doing on Earth - he's there to decide whether or not it should be destroyed. There's a great deal of potential in the premise, of Mar-Vell as a would-be invader who instead becomes Earth's defender. Heck, it's so good plenty of other super hero stories have done it (like Hawkgirl on Justice League). It's an especially provocative idea in 1968, when resistance to the Vietnam War was growing among young people, granting Captain Marvel a chance to tap into the youth culture of its time. We'll see how well Captain Marvel's creators handle it (or bungle it) here.

Strangely, the letters page in Marvel Super-Heroes had a very muted response to Captain Marvel's debut. Letters for #12 appeared in issue #14, but were mostly concerned with the reprint features! Only one letter complimented the new Captain Marvel.

Next: Marvel Super-Heroes #13 asserts the story continues in the next issue (#14), but actually Mar-Vell was launched into his own comic book series, Captain Marvel! So next time we'll look at Captain Marvel #1!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Space-Born Super Hero Part 2: Marvel Super-Heroes #12

We now begin my feature Space-Born Super Hero in earnest with Marvel Super-Heroes #12, the first appearance of Captain Marvel!

I should begin by talking about the series Marvel Super-Heroes. For the previous 11 issues, it had been titled Fantasy Masterpieces and reprinted various giant monster/sci-fi stories and Golden Age super hero tales. Beginning here, the new look for the series was to lead with a brand-new super hero tale (note the "All New! Never Seen Before!" on the cover) with the reprinted stories in the back.

Although Captain Marvel would quickly graduate from the pages of Marvel Super-Heroes to his own series, the other rotating stars weren't so lucky - features like Medusa and Phantom Eagle (issues #15 & 16) led to naught; although Ka-Zar and Doctor Doom (issues #19 & 20) would obtain their own books, it would be with different creative teams and plotlines than those seen in Marvel Super-Heroes, making them something of a false start; there was, of course, the Guardians of the Galaxy in issue #18, although they wouldn't make a second appearance until Steve Gerber intervened many years later. The real diamond in the rough is the Doctor Doom story in issue #20, which became a very well-regarded story in the villain's characterization.

Anyway, on with our tale, "The Coming of Captain Marvel!" Which is also the only place in the story where the lead character is called "Captain Marvel", which is something of a problem. The story is by Stan Lee & Gene Colan (inks by Frank Giacoia). We open aboard a Kree spaceship en route to Earth. Aboard we meet three of the officers: blue-clad Colonel Yon-Rogg, purple-clad Medic Una and green-clad Captain Mar-Vell, our hero. Yon-Rogg orders Una to administer the 'breathing potion' to Mar-Vell, who will be the lone member of their landing party. This concerns Una as it's against "all standard practice." Mar-Vell whispers to Una that Yon-Rogg is trying to split the two of them apart because he wants Una for himself. They probably shouldn't whisper about this roughly five feet from where Yon-Rogg is standing, but whatevs. Una surmises that Yon-Rogg hopes Mar-Vell will be killed in action. He's like King David to Mar-Vell's Uriah, if you will.

Yon-Rogg tells the duo "There will be no whispering in my presence!" So yes, he's not a moron. Mar-Vell takes Una's breathing potion, which will permit him to breathe Earth's atmosphere for 60 minutes without his helmet. The spaceship adopts "the aura of negativism" to avoid detection (this is the same technology Ronan the Accuser used in his first appearance) and lowers closer to the ground. Yon-Rogg orders Mar-Vell to exit the craft; Mar-Vell notes "space regulations" permit a 30-second farewell, so he hugs Una and shakes her hand farewell. "May the Supreme Intelligence ever watch over you, my captain!" Una states woodenly. "Your love will be enough to sustain me!" Mar-Vell answers. Mar-Vell exits the craft using his "air-jet belt" which allows him to fly (unfortunately it means when he flies it looks like he has exhaust fumes coming out of his butt). Mar-Vell observes "the pull of gravity is far stronger in the Kree Galaxy than it is on Earth--my freedom of movement--and sheer physical power--will be many times greater than any ordinary Earthling here on this light gravity world! But, that's only true so long as I continue to wear my protective helmet and battle suit! For, if it should be be necessary to disguise myself with the simulated Earth clothes I've packed in my carry-all cylinder--my strength will decrease in exact proportion to the time I am exposed to this alien atmosphere!" Are you following all of this? He has a breathing potion, a battle suit and 'sheer physical power' but he can only breathe Earth's air unaided for 60 minutes and he gets weaker without his battle suit. Stan has spent barely any time explaining what Mar-Vell is capable of, but damn, he loves piling on what Mar-Vell's weaknesses are, doesn't he?

Exposition continues as Mar-Vell notes how Earth people recently defeated Sentry#459 & Ronan the Accuser, thus referencing the Fantastic Four stories which introduced the Kree. Finally, we get to know a little about the purpose of Mar-Vell's visit to Earth: "It is my duty to succeed where Ronan failed! I must make the Earthlings realize that no race may--" and then he's cut off. We'll have to get back to this. Mar-Vell comes upon a missile base where a test launch is being conducted. Mar-Vell's presence creates radiation which throws the missile's guidance off-course. Man, if he's that radioactive it's little wonder he died of cancer! Instead of using his air-jet belt, Mar-Vell takes a variety of Hulk-style leaps to try and get away. Naturally, that's not quick enough and the military deploys a squad to investigate.

Mar-Vell whips out his gun, the Universal Beam Blaster, which emits a black light beam to blind the pursuing soldiers. Mar-Vell is amazed that humans are "unfamiliar with the galaxy's most common all-purpose weapon!" Uh, which galaxy would that be, Mar-Vell? You said you hailed from the "Kree galaxy." Anyway, with our action scene over, Mar-Vell finally thinks to turn on his air-jet belt and streaks away. Switching into the civilian clothes he brought, Mar-Vell flags down a truck and gets a ride to a hotel where he checks in on the register by "Americanizing" his name to "Marvel". "It was simple!" Mar-vell boasts, having just written down a derivation of his actual name while on an undercover assignment. Methinks Mar-Vell is more suited to combat than subterfuge. Just as Mar-Vell is getting settled in, Yon-Rogg activates the wrist monitor on Mar-Vell's left wrist. It seems only Yon-Rogg can remove this device and when it's active Mar-Vell is totally paralyzed. That seems like a terrible way to communicate with a field agent, as it could inadvertently cause the soldier's death. Then again, we've already established Yon-Rogg wants Mar-Vell to die.

However, the transmission isn't from Yon-Rogg, it's from "the Imperial Minister of the Supreme Intelligence." Although unnamed here, this guy will eventually get the name Zarek. One wonders if Stan Lee had expected to see the Supreme Intelligence itself in that panel and had to write around it when Colan drew simply some alien guy rather than the big green spaghetti-head which Kirby had earlier established. Anyway, Zarek tells Mar-Vell that the Sentry and Ronan both failed in their missions but Mar-Vell must succeed. So all he says are things we've already established that Mar-Vell knows and we the audience know. What a hoser. That very important message imparted, Mar-Vell regains control of his body with just enough time to get his helmet on before his 60 mintues are up. Mar-Vell muses that he is "Alone--unknown, and unsuspected, I hold the fate of a planet within my hands!" And there the story ends.

Thoughts: Not a very good start. To be most fair to Stan Lee & Gene Colan, they only had 15 pages with which to tell this story. Then again, since the 1950s these two had been telling stories for Marvel Comics which at times could fit an entire character arc within 4-5 pages. This story is much too fragmentary.

On the one hand, Stan takes advantage of the existing stories with the Kree and could rely on a little reader familiarity with those concepts. But all it really amounts to is that the Sentry and Ronan got into fights on Earth and lost - now Mar-Vell has a very vague mandate on Earth. To what, pick ineffectual fights with super heroes? What is the premise of this series? I mean, I know because I'm reading this book as a retrospective, but based on Mar-Vell's first appearance, what is this series about?

We only meet Mar-Vell, Yon-Rogg and Una (although Zarek will eventually get a name and motivation). Everyone is quite simple: Mar-Vell is a duty-driven warrior; Yon-Rogg seems to be his shady superior; Una is a dewey-eyed damsel. But what are they up to? What do the Kree want with Earth? What is Mar-Vell's mission supposed to accomplish? Is this basically a super-villain strip?

What makes this frustrating is that Stan Lee doesn't stick around to finish establishing the book's premise. Gene Colan carries on, but as of the next issue, Roy Thomas takes over. And what's more, once Stan is gone, he stays gone. For most of the Marvel heroes he helped launch, Stan would take occasional breathers (usually because he prioritized scripting whatever Kirby & Ditko were drawing) but would later return to the series (as he did during the initial run of Thor, for instance). But Stan not only never writes another issue of Captain Marvel, he never writes the character again.

There are basically two reasons why this Captain Marvel exists: first, because it was a good super hero name which was then up for grabs by anyone and it made sense for Marvel Comics to control the name; second, because there was interest in a cartoon series called Captain Marvel. Basically, all Marvel Comics really wanted was the name - everything else was secondary. Unfortunately, in this story you can see an early example of Stan Lee's "make-a-buck" persona - the kind of work he would hack out to pay the bills and satisfy his overlords but had little passion for. Similarly, years later he would help introduce the character She-Hulk by writing her first appearance (so Marvel Comics could control the 'She-Hulk' trademark), then left the character behind. Much like Mar-Vell, She-Hulk would face an uphill battle to win over comics fandom and faced a massive amount of resentment for existing primarily due to commercial concerns.

This book has way too much exposition without really getting into the storytelling engine. You really need the next issue just to grasp what this series is going to be about. Mar-Vell's powers and abilities are barely introduced and his vulnerabilities are far too numerous and require too much explanation. Worse, the story keeps repeating these points, such as the constant reminders that Mar-Vell can only breathe for 60 minutes.

Stan Lee had a gift for bringing creative zest into comic books at a time when it was thought no one took them very seriously. Unfortunately, when he wasn't invested in the characters the work always suffered. Boy, imagine what 15 pages by Kirby would have looked like! There would have been so much action, so much space spent explaining how Mar-Vell's powers work and probably a few great action scenes; you just know Stan would have brought his A-game to one of Kirby's tales. Colan on the other hand - he didn't excel at drawing spaceship interiors with weird futuristic technology - it all becomes abstract, dull spaces. Colan could do great super hero strips, but this isn't the best places for his considerable talents.

Does it get any better from here? We'll find out...

Next: Roy Thomas arrives in Marvel Super-Heroes #13!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Space-Born Super Hero Part 1: Introduction

The recent movie version of Captain Marvel got me thinking about the Marvel Comics hero - specifically, the character of Mar-Vell who was Marvel's first character to use the name.

Mar-Vell is kind of interesting in so far as how uninteresting he was. The popular opinion in comics fandom is that the best story starring Mar-Vell was The Death of Captain Marvel - that is, the one where he died. Generally speaking, most people's favourite interpretation of the character is the one by Jim Starlin. Even though Mar-Vell had been around about 7 years before Starlin started drawing the series with issue #25 and he ultimately only worked on the book for about 11 issues (plus the graphic novel), Starlin was the one who gave Mar-Vell his blond hair and Cosmic Awareness powers, to say nothing of pitting him against Thanos. Starlin is pretty much the only reason Mar-Vell is remembered favorably today.

This is despite the fact that the Captain Marvel comic book series had a lot of talented hands toiling on it. He was created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan and other contributors prior to Starlin included Roy Thomas, Arnold Drake, Don Heck and Gil Kane - not exactly a bunch of Joe Schmoes.

However, prior to Starlin, Captain Marvel had a pretty lousy reputation. If you look at the nascent comics fandom of the late 60s and early 70s, you'll notice a number of fan publications which seriously pooh-poohed this series. Some of this was simply due to the character's name; the original Captain Marvel (published by Fawcett) had been the single most widely-read super hero of the 1940s. Aging fans mythologized the then-defunct Fawcett hero to the point that seeing another hero assume his name was taken as a personal affront. In that sense, comic book fandom has not changed much in the last 50 years...

But beyond fandom's antipathy regarding the hero's moniker, there was also a great deal of scorn directed at the comics themselves. Marvel had been producing one hit after another in the 1960s but Captain Marvel was the first hero who did not impress audiences right out of the gate. Heck, even the much-mocked Ant-Man had his early adventures illustrated by Jack Kirby. But while most Marvel heroes were introduced with either Kirby or Ditko participating in the character creation, Captain Marvel proved unfortunate. Gene Colan is no slouch, to be sure, but it was Kirby and Ditko who established the Marvel look and at a time when Kirby was designing almost all of the Marvel heroes' visuals, his lack of participation seemed to mark Captain Marvel as an also-ran. Beneath the King.

True. the Kree had been created by Kirby in the pages of Fantastic Four, but they hadn't yet been codified into one of Marvel's great extraterrestrial races. Further, Colan took very little from Kirby's own designs and when he did attempt to draw the same Kree whom Kirby had created, it appeared off-brand. Even fans who weren't incensed at Mar-Vell for bearing the name Billy Batson once held considered Captain Marvel to be possibly the single worst Marvel super hero comic of the 1960s.

So! Why then am I blogging about this series? Despite having been an author of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe for eight years, I didn't delve too deeply into Mar-Vell, reading only those issues which I needed to. Therefore, the pre-Starlin stories are mostly unknown to me and what I did read wasn't in sequential order. Thus, I'm going to read the saga of Mar-Vell in original publication order and blog about what I find until I reach issue #24. Will I find Captain Marvel to be as bad as its reputation holds? Dunno. I have an open mind and I enjoy finding something interesting within neglected works. Let's see what I find...

Tomorrow: We begin with Marvel Super-Heroes #12, the first appearance of Captain Marvel!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Angola in the Comics #11: Thrilling Comics #1

Here's a treat - I get to combine two of my favourite things: the nation of Angola and the super hero team the Justice Society of America! I've blogged about the Justice Society of America (JSA) a few times in the past, but very briefly, they were DC Comics' premiere super hero team in the 1940s, the precursors to the Justice League of America.

In 1999, DC ran a mini-event called "The Justice Society Returns!" which ran through a series of interconnected one-shots. After this event, the new ongoing series JSA began. You might assume these two publishing events are connected, but you'd be wrong; "The Justice Society Returns!" stories were set during the team's 1940s continuity and penned by a series of writers & artists other than those responsible for JSA; JSA was set in contemporary continuity with a new Justice Society team comprised of various surviving heroes of the 40s joined by successors to various dead or retired members.

What concerns us is the comic book Thrilling Comics #1 by writer Chuck Dixon and the amazing artist Russ Heath (who passed away last year). Each of these one-shots teamed up two different Justice Society members, in this instance Hawkman and Wildcat. The one-shots were named in honour of 1940s comic book series, although the 1940s Thrilling Comics were not published by DC Comics.

Anyway, the story--"No More Tomorrows"--is set entirely in Angola and opens in the year 1945 as a Nazi patrol out in the bush are attacked by Hawkman and Wildcat. And of course, if you know anything about which African countries participated in World War II you'd be wondering why there are Nazis in Angola, considering it was pretty far from German control and that Portugal remained neutral throughout World War II. Patience, we'll get there.

Hawkman and Wildcat easily beat the Nazis, interrogate them about their leader, then move on, unaware two other figures are trailing them (we'll later learn who they are and can only wonder why they didn't reveal their presence to their fellow heroes immediately). Flying over herds of elephants and antelope, Hawkman finds an immense crater with a transmitter tower built in its center. Hawkman is shot at by a German plane and falls to the earth.

Back with the captured Nazis, night has fallen but Wildcat remains where he is, waiting for Hawkman to return. He is, after all, just a decent prizefighter who wears tights. All of a sudden Tigress leaps out of the tall grass and threatens him, but Manhunter appears and makes Tigress back off, explaining Wildcat is on their side. No idea why they waited until nightfall to have this conversation, but these are the rules of drama. Both Tigress and Manhunter are rather complicated characters and neither are members of the Justice Society; Tigress actually debuted post-war as a Wildcat villain, but was later retconned to have been a heroine during the war, and likewise made an ally of Manhunter. As to Manhunter, DC has published so, so, many versions of the character - this one is Paul Kirk, an authentic 1940s DC super hero. There wasn't much to him back in the 40s - he was simply a former big game hunter who fought crime. Considering his background, Angola isn't such an unusual place for him to turn up at.

Wildcat brings Tigress & Manhunter up to speed on the overarching plot: there's a godlike villain called Stalker who fought the Justice Society and empowered seven of his agents, whom he dispatched around the world. Justice Society comics of the 1940s would usually feature the team splitting up into solo adventures to stop the henchman of their adversary, then meet up together at the finale to face the main villain - which is actually what's happening in this mini-event. Anyway, Wildcat & Hawkman are in Angola to find one of Stalker's men.

Meanwhile, Stalker's lackey has captured Hawkman and explains why they're in Angola: "The 'neutral' government here was kind enough to allow myself and my 'security' force to build this installation." Okay, that explains the 'why'. The lackey shows Hawkman a massive drilling machine he designed to bore deep into the earth "to the rich oil pool lying miles beneath the continent. A deposit equal to all the world's known reserves." Which, sure enough, post-war Angola did discover they had a massive amount of oil & gas (although mostly in Cabinda). Hawkman notes this oil supply would be pretty valuable to the Nazis, but that's not why they're drilling: the lackey intends to ignite the oil field and "erase Africa from the map." Which, once you say it aloud, sure sounds stupid. No matter how much oil & gas is down there, I can't imagine the explosion would wipe even Angola off the map, much less the entire continent! It's a pity this is the villain's big plan, 'cause it's dumb comic book science - but maybe it was intentionally dumb in the way so many 1940s comic books were. I mean, who would ever write a story about a super-villain trying to destroy the North American continent by lighting a match underneath Texas?

Hawkman wonders what the lackey's Nazi allies think about this plan. "They think we're prospecting for oil," the lackey (who desperately needs a name) tells Hawkman. This is why his explanation was done in English. Hawkman wonders why he was left alive, to which the lackey answers he needed bait to draw out Hawkman's allies. On cue, Wildcat, Tigress and Manhunter burst in, Wildcat and Manhunter both brandishing guns. And Tigress? She's got spunk and very nasty nails; they might even break a person's skin! The lackey is unimpressed; he obtained super powers from Stalker and wanted to test them out on super-powered enemies. The lackey transforms into a giant gooey purple monster. Whereupon, Tigress turns and runs away. Good instincts!

Hawkman orders Wildcat & Manhunter to switch off the drill while he fights the gooey monster, grabbing a rifle to slash at the monster's tentacles with its bayonet, then hurls it into the monster's eye (which is strange, actually - the Comics Code Authority was still around to police this comic in 1999 and they usually censored eye injuries; eye injuries happened a few times in 1940s comics though).

While Wildcat & Manhunter destroy the drill with grenades, Tigress returns to the fight sporting a flamethrower and saves Hawkman by burning up the monster. The drill's destruction causes a big explosion which collapses the tunnels (but doesn't blow up the continent of Africa, in case you were worried). The four heroes escape the destruction and meet up with the mystical hero Doctor Occult (also not a member of the Justice Society) to be transported to the next chapter of the story. But for us, this is where we end.

Thoughts: How do you manage to set a story in Angola (or anywhere in Sub-Saharan Africa) and not depict a single black person?

It's interesting to see Angola as the scene of the story and that Dixon had enough on the ball to know the country was neutral during the conflict. It seems as though the nation was chosen because of the oil & gas supply. Angola is seldom depicted in North American comic books, much less as the setting of a historical story.

Dixon succeeded at the extremely challenging task of writing Wildcat in a way which didn't bring out my snark; however, the real props belong to Russ Heath, who turned in the sort of lush art he was renowned for.

  • +1 estrelas for correct use of an Angolan natural resource (oil)
  • +1 estrelas for correct use of Angolan wildlife (elephants, antelope, lions)
  • +1 estrelas for correct historical information about Angola's neutrality during World War II

TOTAL SCORE: TRÊS ESTRELAS!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Creator credits for Captain Marvel (2019)

Here is a list of which comic book creators were responsible for characters and story elements adapted into the most recent Marvel Cinematic Universe film, Captain Marvel. If you see errors or omissions, please comment below!

My master list of Marvel Cinematic Universe creator credits is right here.

Stan Lee: co-creator of the Avengers, a team of heroes whose ranks include the Hulk (Avengers #1, 1963); of Captain America as an Avenger (Avengers #4, 1964); of the Skrulls, a race of green extraterrestrials with ridged chins who have the ability to shapeshift into anyone; of four Skrulls becoming agents on Earth (Fantastic Four #2, 1962); of Skrulls wearing the colour purple in their uniforms (Fantastic Four #18, 1963); of the Kree, an extraterrestrial race of conquerors; of the Supreme Intelligence, the artificial intelligence which rules the Kree (Fantastic Four #64, 1967); of Ronan the Accuser, a Kree who wields the hammer-like Universal Weapon (Fantastic Four #65, 1967); of Bruce Banner, the Hulk (Incredible Hulk #1, 1962); of Mar-Vell, a pink Kree agent who operates undercover on Earth; of Kree uniforms with white and teal, pointed shoulder pads, a half-mask and pointed helmet; of Yon-Rogg, a pink Kree who is Mar-Vell's superior, a war-mongering Kree officer (Marvel Super-Heroes #12, 1967); of Nick Fury, Nicholas Joseph Fury, a soldier in the US Army (Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1, 1963); of S.H.I.E.L.D., an international espionage agency; of Nick Fury having lost his left eye; Nick Fury as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. with rank of colonel (Strange Tales #135, 1965); of the Black Widow, an elite operative (Tales of Suspense #52, 1964); of the Cosmic Cube, a massively powerful artifact (Tales of Suspense #79, 1966)

Jack Kirby: co-creator of the Avengers, a team of heroes whose ranks include the Hulk (Avengers #1, 1963); of Captain America as an Avenger (Avengers #4, 1964); of Steve Rogers, alias Captain America (Captain America Comics #1, 1941); of the Skrulls, a race of green extraterrestrials with ridged chins who have the ability to shapeshift into anyone; of four Skrulls becoming agents on Earth (Fantastic Four #2, 1962); of Skrulls wearing the colour purple in their uniforms (Fantastic Four #18, 1963); of the Kree, an extraterrestrial race of conquerors; of the Supreme Intelligence, the artificial intelligence which rules the Kree (Fantastic Four #64, 1967); of Ronan the Accuser, a Kree who wields the hammer-like Universal Weapon (Fantastic Four #65, 1967); of Bruce Banner, the Hulk (Incredible Hulk #1, 1962); of Nick Fury, Nicholas Joseph Fury, a soldier in the US Army (Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1, 1963); of S.H.I.E.L.D., an international espionage agency; of Nick Fury having lost his left eye; Nick Fury as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. with rank of colonel (Strange Tales #135, 1965); of the Cosmic Cube, a massively powerful artifact (Tales of Suspense #79, 1966)

Gene Colan: co-creator of Ronan depicted with blue skin; the Kree depicted with blue skin; of Ronan allied with Yon-Rogg (Captain Marvel #1, 1968); of the enmity between the Kree and Skrull races (Captain Marvel #2, 1968); of the Skrulls using a device to probe Captain Marvel's memories (Captain Marvel #3, 1968); of Mar-Vell, a pink Kree agent who operates undercover on Earth; of Kree uniforms with white and teal, pointed shoulder pads, a half-mask and pointed helmet; of Yon-Rogg, a pink Kree who is Mar-Vell's superior, a war-mongering Kree officer (Marvel Super-Heroes #12, 1967); of Carol Danvers, a blonde NASA officer who works with Dr. Lawson/Mar-Vell and becomes involved in Mar-Vell's struggle against the Kree; of Mar-Vell's sympathies turning towards humanity, in defiance of Kree plans; of Mar-Vell adopting the identity of Dr. Lawson in order to infiltrate NASA (Marvel Super-Heroes #13, 1968)

Roy Thomas: co-creator of Ronan depicted with blue skin; the Kree depicted with blue skin; of Ronan allied with Yon-Rogg (Captain Marvel #1, 1968); of the enmity between the Kree and Skrull races (Captain Marvel #2, 1968); of the Skrulls using a device to probe Captain Marvel's memories (Captain Marvel #3, 1968); of Captain Marvel's ability to generate photon blasts from the hands (Captain Marvel #17, 1969); of Carol Danvers receiving powers from the explosion of a Kree device due to Yon-Rogg (Captain Marvel #18, 1969); of Carol Danvers, a blonde NASA officer who works with Dr. Lawson/Mar-Vell and becomes involved in Mar-Vell's struggle against the Kree; of Mar-Vell's sympathies turning towards humanity, in defiance of Kree plans; of Mar-Vell adopting the identity of Dr. Lawson in order to infiltrate NASA (Marvel Super-Heroes #13, 1968); of the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo, an eagle within a circle (Strange Tales #154, 1967)

Chris Claremont: co-creator of Carol Danvers traumatized from losing her memories (Avengers Annual #10, 1981); of Carol Danvers as a US Air Force pilot (Ms. Marvel #9, 1977); of Joseph Danvers, Carol's father (Ms. Marvel #13, 1978); of Steve Danvers, Carol's older brother (Ms. Marvel #19, 1978); of Nick Fury and Carol Danvers as allies during an early period of Fury's career (Uncanny X-Men #158, 1982); of Carol Danvers receiving massively powerful energy manipulation powers, surrounding herself with swirls of cosmic energy (Uncanny X-Men #164, 1982)

Kelly Sue DeConnick: co-creator of Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel; of Carol's red and blue costume with yellow highlights and red gloves; of Carol's helmet which shapes her hair into a mohawk (Captain Marvel #1, 2012); of Carol Danvers' cat turning out to be an extraterrestrial Flerken whose mouth opens up into a host of tentacles which can swallow up enormous amounts of matter; of Torfa, an alien world (Captain Marvel #2, 2014)

Gerry Conway: co-creator of Carol Danvers as a feminist; Carol Danvers discovering she has the ability to fly; of Carol Danvers wearing a blue and red costume with a starburst on the chest; of Carol having a second personality as that of a Kree warrior (Ms. Marvel #1, 1977); of Carol discovering how Yon-Rogg had been responsible for her gaining super powers (Ms. Marvel #2, 1977)

John Buscema: co-creator of Carol Danvers as a feminist; Carol Danvers discovering she has the ability to fly; of Carol Danvers wearing a blue and red costume with a starburst on the chest; of Carol having a second personality as that of a Kree warrior (Ms. Marvel #1, 1977); of Carol discovering how Yon-Rogg had been responsible for her gaining super powers (Ms. Marvel #2, 1977)

Roger Stern: co-creator of Monica Rambeau, an African-American person from Louisiana connected to Captain Marvel; of Monica asserting she can transform into energy (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, 1982); of Maria Rambeau, Monica's mother (Avengers #246, 1984); of James Rhodes as one of the Avengers (West Coast Avengers #1, 1984)

John Romita Jr.: co-creator of Monica Rambeau, an African-American person from Louisiana connected to Captain Marvel; of Monica asserting she can transform into energy (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, 1982)

Gil Kane: co-creator of of Captain Marvel's ability to generate photon blasts from the hands (Captain Marvel #17, 1969); of Carol Danvers receiving powers from the explosion of a Kree device due to Yon-Rogg (Captain Marvel #18, 1969)

Dave Cockrum: co-creator of Nick Fury and Carol Danvers as allies during an early period of Fury's career (Uncanny X-Men #158, 1982); of Carol Danvers receiving massively powerful energy manipulation powers, surrounding herself with swirls of cosmic energy (Uncanny X-Men #164, 1982)

Carla Conway: co-creator of Carol Danvers as a feminist; Carol Danvers discovering she has the ability to fly; of Carol Danvers wearing a blue and red costume with a starburst on the chest; of Carol having a second personality as that of a Kree warrior (Ms. Marvel #1, 1977)

Mark Gruenwald: co-creator of Atlas, a blue Kree who works with Minerva; of Minerva wearing a domino mask and uniform similar to Carol Danvers (Quasar #9, 1990); of Korath the Pursuer, one of the Kree Pursuers (Quasar #32, 1992)

David Lopez: co-creator of Carol Danvers' cat turning out to be an extraterrestrial Flerken whose mouth opens up into a host of tentacles which can swallow up enormous amounts of matter; of the planet Torfa (Captain Marvel #2, 2014)

Dexter Soy: co-creator of Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel; of Carol's red and blue costume with yellow highlights and red gloves; of Carol's helmet which shapes her hair into a mohawk (Captain Marvel #1, 2012)

John Byrne: creator of the Skrulls as a band of refugees with no homeworld (Fantastic Four #262, 1984); co-creator of James Rhodes, an African-American hero (Iron Man #118, 1979)

Brian Michael Bendis: co-creator of the Skrulls arriving on Earth as refugees (Secret Invasion #1, 2008); of Nick Fury as an African-American man (Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #5, 2001)

Al Milgrom: co-creator of Maria Rambeau, Monica's mother (Avengers #246, 1984); of Minerva, a female blue Kree agent who opposes Mar-Vell (Captain Marvel #50, 1977)

Jamie McKelvie: co-creator of Carol's red and blue costume with yellow highlights and red gloves; of Carol's helmet which shapes her hair into a mohawk (Captain Marvel #1, 2012)

Keith Pollard: co-creator of the Pursuers, powerful Kree soldiers who wield baton weapons (Inhumans #11, 1977); of Carol Danvers as a US Air Force pilot (Ms. Marvel #9, 1977)

Mark Millar: co-creator of Nick Fury depicted as Samuel L. Jackson; the Avengers as a team organized and run by S.H.I.E.L.D. under Fury's guidance (Ultimates #2, 2002)

Bryan Hitch: co-creator of Nick Fury depicted as Samuel L. Jackson; the Avengers as a team organized and run by S.H.I.E.L.D. under Fury's guidance (Ultimates #2, 2002)

Mike Manley: co-creator of Atlas, a blue Kree who works with Minerva; of Minerva wearing a domino mask and uniform similar to Carol Danvers (Quasar #9, 1990)

Ralph Macchio: co-creator of Project: Pegasus, a special government research institute which explores unusual sources of energy (Marvel Two-in-One #42, 1978)

Carmine Infantino: co-creator of Joseph Danvers, Carol's father (Ms. Marvel #13, 1978); of Steve Danvers, Carol's older brother (Ms. Marvel #19, 1978)

Sal Buscema: co-creator of Project: Pegasus, a special government research institute which explores unusual sources of energy (Marvel Two-in-One #42, 1978)

Don Heck: co-creator of the Black Widow as an Avenger (Avengers #111, 1973); of Hala (Captain Marvel #8, 1968); of Hala as the Kree homeworld; of Captain Marvel's red and blue costume with starburst design on the chest (Captain Marvel #16, 1969); of the Black Widow, an elite operative (Tales of Suspense #52, 1964)

Steve Epting: co-creator of Ronan working with Korath, Minerva and Atlas as members of Starforce, an elite Kree battle group (Avengers #346, 1992)

Bob Harras: co-creator of Ronan working with Korath, Minerva and Atlas as members of Starforce, an elite Kree battle group (Avengers #346, 1992)

John Romita: co-creator of Carol Danvers wearing a blue and red costume with a starburst on the chest (Ms. Marvel #1, 1977)

Roberto de la Torre: co-creator of Carol Danvers' mysterious ginger cat (Ms. Marvel #4, 2006)

Scott Edelman: co-creator of Minerva, a female blue Kree agent who opposes Mar-Vell (Captain Marvel #50, 1977)

Andy Kubert: co-creator of Bron Char, a blue Kree soldier with exceptional strength (Captain America #8, 1998)

Mark Waid: co-creator of Bron Char, a blue Kree soldier with exceptional strength (Captain America #8, 1998)

Michael Golden: co-creator of Carol Danvers traumatized from losing her memories (Avengers Annual #10, 1981)

Doug Moench: co-creator of the Pursuers, powerful Kree soldiers who wield baton weapons (Inhumans #11, 1977)

Glenn Herdling: co-creator of one of the Rambeaus using the identity 'Photon' (Avengers Unplugged #5, 1996)

M. C. Wyman: co-creator of one of the Rambeaus using the identity 'Photon' (Avengers Unplugged #5, 1996)

Leinil Francis Yu: co-creator of the Skrulls arriving on Earth as refugees (Secret Invasion #1, 2008)

Jim Steranko: co-creator of the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo, an eagle within a circle (Strange Tales #154, 1967)

Joe Simon: co-creator of Steve Rogers, alias Captain America (Captain America Comics #1, 1941)

David Michelinie: co-creator of James Rhodes, an African-American hero (Iron Man #118, 1979)

Mike Allred: co-creator of Nick Fury as an African-American man (Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #5, 2001)

Greg Capullo: co-creator of Korath the Pursuer, one of the Kree Pursuers (Quasar #32, 1992)

Bob Layton: co-creator of James Rhodes, an African-American hero (Iron Man #118, 1979)

Bob Hall: co-creator of James Rhodes as one of the Avengers (West Coast Avengers #1, 1984)

Gerardo Sandoval: co-creator of Soh-Larr, a Kree soldier (New Avengers #4, 2016)

Peter David: co-creator of Talos, a Skrull warrior (Incredible Hulk #418, 1994)

Gary Frank: co-creator of Talos, a Skrull warrior (Incredible Hulk #418, 1994)

Brian Reed: co-creator of Carol Danvers' mysterious ginger cat (Ms. Marvel #4, 2006)

Steve Englehart: co-creator of the Black Widow as an Avenger (Avengers #111, 1973)

Al Ewing: co-creator of Soh-Larr, a Kree soldier (New Avengers #4, 2016)

Arnold Drkae: co-creator of Hala (Captain Marvel #8, 1968)

Archie Goodwin: co-creator of Hala as the Kree homeworld; of Captain Marvel's red and blue costume with starburst design on the chest (Captain Marvel #16, 1969)

Friday, March 8, 2019

Helluva shame.

As I came late to independent comics, there were many long-running series which I felt a little intimidated by and unsure whether I could jump in; for instance, it was only through the encouragement of Usagi Yojimbo fans that I started reading that series, as I learned one could begin reading anywhere and quickly pick up on the cast and stories.

I kept away from Mike Mignola's vast Hellboy stories until the release of the Hellboy motion picture in 2004 by director Guillermo del Toro. The advertising for the film intrigued me and, then as now, I felt compelled to support any film which had been adapted from a comic book. I went to see the film with my friend Craig and had a really good time; the characters were easy to care for, the plot was easy to grasp and the humour tickled me in the right places. It was the first Guillermo del Toro film I'd ever seen and although I've found much of his work off-putting - gorgeous to look at but a bit too disturbing to be immersive - Hellboy left me with a very good impression of his work.

In 2004 I made various attempts to read Hellboy. I read the first volume of his stories, Seed of Destruction. I read the first volume of BPRD by John Arcudi & Guy Davis. But I'm afraid I never made it very far into the series; from time to time I would see a new Hellboy universe comic on the stands and, taken by the artwork of talents such as John Severin or John Paul Leon, I would try it out. However, I could not make myself care about the world of Hellboy; I found most of the characters to be very thinly-written and off-putting. Unlike their film counterparts, I did not care what happened to them and the goals of their enemies were often very vague.

And then, along came a Hellboy comic which I really liked: the 2008 one-shot BPRD: The Ectoplasmic Man by John Arcudi and Ben Stenbeck. It told the origin of BPRD member Johann Kraus, a character I had been interested in from the start. For the first time, I made a strong emotional attachment to a Hellboy comic, because Arcudi's treatment of Kraus was steeped in emotion. That same year Kraus appeared in del Toro's sequel film Hellboy II: The Golden Army, but, regrettably, he was portrayed by Seth MacFarlane and played principally for laughs.

When word of the new Hellboy film began circulating, I was wary. Del Toro's version of Hellboy was and is my favourite interpretation of the character and learning that he and actor Ron Perlman would not be back dimmed my interest in the film. This was heightened when Mignola stated the new film would be truer to the characters from his comics. Well, great for Mignola, I'm sure, but again, Mignola's version of his cast are not my favourite versions. There was a sense of bad blood between Mignola & del Toro's crew, what with actor Jeffrey Tambor lashing out at Mignola on Twitter. Mignola breaking from del Toro in favour of director Neil Marshall also felt questionable; I mean, giving up an Academy Award-winner in favour of the guy who made Doomsday and a bunch of TV episodes?

But, whatever - I had decided pretty early on that the new Hellboy didn't interest me. I'm only speaking up now because of what I've learned since then - that John Arcudi had been dropped from the Hellboy comics by Mignola and, although the new movie would be employing several of his co-creations, he was apparently shut out of the project, along with Guy Davis. Arcudi has been very modest about this on Twitter, encouraging his fans to keep their cool over this, but this now this film has struck upon one of my most sensitive pet peeves - the treatment of comic book professionals. From where I sit, the picture being painted is of Mignola as a very ungenerous collaborator, a guy who once hired John Byrne to script his comics for him because he lacked confidence in his abilities, now severing ties with the people who helped make his property a success.

All of which is to say: shame on you, Mike Mignola.