Monday, December 6, 2010

An early homage to the Silver Age of Comics



It is arguable that everything in the Marvel Age of Comics is a type of homage to the intense period of activity and creative excellence of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Jack Kirby. With these late issues of Machine Man, we have the pure Kirby character creation, drawn by Steve Ditko, and then scripted, edited, and presented in a style reflective of Stan Lee, with Tom DeFalco and Denny O'Neil as writer and editor. Some might call it a version of a microcosm of the actual creative breakdown: one character creator, separated from the final product sometimes by an additional artist, and then an editor/ scripter, packaging and presenting rather than demonstrating raw creative ideas, but instead, ideas about communicating them. That is one fundamental assessment of Marvel's creative history, and not the only one. The precise elements of the synthesis are a puzzle attended by many longtime fans.

By 1980 comics were a little different than they'd been in 1964-1966, though establishing the differences by an objective standard is not my goal here. The point would be simpler to make how much this comic tried to parlay the advantage of having a primary Marvel creator's style. You can find the template of the Silver Age Comics (so-called by historians and fans) present in these last Machine Man comics. Whether it was the wrong time for this style or execution, or just a character who didn't hit home with a large enough audience, the experimented comes to an end with #19.

Now, let's wrap up Machine Man #16. If old comics reviews are not your thing, I will have fresh stories up here very soon! I am not sure what's sidetracked me, save for the nuts and bolts of starting Integr8d Soul Productions and pleasant three hour phone calls (but hey, I still sketched)!

Last column, the co-worker Aaron Stack likes was kidnapped. Unaware of this, Aaron, a.k.a. Machine Man, has used an interface with the company computer to assemble the clues for Baron Brimstone's next strike related to mass producing his stolen Sol-Mac: gold, for shielding.

Gold...like the golden bell of St. Gabriella of the Highlands Cathedral. MM rolls up as the thieves prepare to dismantle the bell and take it away in a helicopter. He walks up the wall, saying "Though I can not understand the need for opulence in a world where many go hungry...my duty is clear!" (You can only imagine the other fundamental questions available to a living robot if art and philosophy were primary over telling a scintillating superhero saga!)

The thieves are surprised, but "just as long as it ain't Spider-Man..." they'll try to "skrag this over-rated tinker toy!" and continue the heist. Snake Marston wraps around Machine Man, who loosens his waist couplings and spins his upper body at fantastic speed and flips him away. He seems more troubled by the Hammer's love of violence than the solid shots to his chin, but one chimney, ripped clear and placed around the villain's body, leaves Hammer smoking.

The Baron gives Pamela Quinn a shove from his helicopter. Machine Man reprograms his arm, magnetically detached, and prays "with whatever soul I may possess" that like Elvis Costello, his aim is true. The anti-gravity units inside the curled, telescoped arm lowers Pam to safety. He then swings up to the helicopter on the grappling hook and bursts in. The goons are short work, but he must stand the "murderous microwave energy" blast from Brimstone to punch into the hull and locate the copter's power source.


He punches through the hole; he hopes his gold shielding can hold out just long enough. Machine Man reaches into the ship’s recesses, and electrifies the copter’s hull, stunning the Baron, with energy siphoned from the copter battery. He’s still not able to determine how much of Baron Brimstone’s abilities derive from technology and some other mysterious power.

Machine Man delivers the Sol-Mac to an awaiting police chopper then dives earthward to check on Pamela. He tries to re-establish radio contact with his arm, but someone’s taken it! Now there’s a unique superhero problem.

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