Thursday, August 12, 2010

Marvel meets Nova!

Writer/ Editor: Marv Wolfman
Penciler: Sal Buscema
Inker: Tom Palmer
Letter: John Costanza
Colorist: Michele Wolfman
“Evil is the ...Earth-Shaker!”
What are Richard and Ginger doing in the front seat of Mike Burley’s car, anyway? Drive-in theaters are mostly gone now, but youth and dating communities congregated in them for about half the twentieth century here in America. So the double date intentions here seem a little divided: if Rich is “uncomfortable” it’s because, as our rear-view mirror tells us and he finds upon turning around from the driver’s seat, there’s industrial strength tonsil hockey going on in absence of any attention to “King Kong.” Well, i don’t know what Rich is doing in the car of this guy, and I don’t know how much it may have changed their relationship the one time Rich walloped him a good one back, how that may have made Mike aware of how he treats others, however much he rationalizes his need to act out the intimidation he feels at home. At any rate, Rich really ought to know what is going on in the back seat soon enough to realize face front. That introspection costs him his dates patience:
Ginger: “Richard! Are you MORE interested in the MOVIE in front of you, the GAMES behind you---or ME?” You can interpret ‘games’ how you will; awkwardness in social situation is Rich Rider’s specialty, and Marv doesn’t suggest too much more than that here. The point is that Ginger reminds him he can open up to her, which is more of a super power than he realizes as yet, and because he is at heart a decent guy, he thanks her for being there. The bummer is, he missed where King Kong is shot, his favorite part. A new Kong movie came out in 1976, so presumably that’s the one they’re attending. Only Roy Thomas knows for sure, right? At least Ginger understands that he is hopeless.
One terrific caption later, little brother Bobby approaches Rich the next morning to try out his new toothpaste dispensing gimmick. How exactly the volume of the tooth paste tube comes to cover Rich comically to the belly button, I can’t say, but at least now Bobby realizes he just left out a cut-off valve. Here we see clearly why I always imagined a hero down in the deep South would suffocate during summer (ANY where in America except here, this summer: it’s been chilly in San Diego!): Richard clearly hides his uniform beneath his regular shirt and jeans for school. Bernie stops by, and together on the way to school they check out Caps’ house. Still no Caps. Now it looks to be of serious concern.
Beneath the Earth, subterranean commander Tyrannus (from HULK #5) prepares his particular Moloids to behold the fruit of their dangerous and long labors. “Witness the Awesome Power of ---EARTH SHAKER! And know I am his Creator! I am his Master! I am Tyrannus---conqueror of the world called Earth!”
Here we see the menace from the cover. * The simple characterization of the Moloids really sums them up superbly.
Despite the awesomeness involved, Tyrannus lives up to the pejorative aspect of his name and bullies his Moloids with a laser gun while chanting his praises of his ultimate machine now in motion.
A light-hearted TV news update breaks the monotony of studying again: Marvel Comics, searching for new super heroes, requests Nova himself appear at their offices! (Shades of Fantastic Four #176, you’re getting the picture.) A huge fan of IT, THE LIVING COLOSSUS, Nova speeds over, realizing now he will know how other real super heroes became the subjects of comic books. “Wow! Maybe I’ll even be invited to a Comic Convention!” (And at the time, this IS a comic another sense.)
“Hmmm...I wonder how much they’ll CHARGE me for the free publicity?”
Well, if the world is ready for a five-foot-nine super-hero, the team of Marv and Sal begin his informal Bullpen tour and we’re just waiting for Stan Lee after the interview to approve a brand spanking new title!
So to pass the time, they go to the park and ask Nova to show his powers so Sal can take some photo reference. Turns out, to the surprise of a rookie officer, it is possible to have clearance for shooting a person upon their request. You apparently don’t need any sort of permit for frightening onlookers that you have just taken a bullet to the chest at point blank range. Because, it’s okay. He’s a super hero, you see!
No permits were filed for what comes burrowing out of the ground, however. There is no mistaking the colossal robot, a demolition vehicle nightmare, almost seventy feet tall. “To the frightened humanity who run fearfully below, it may as well be a Mile high.” Tyrannus pilots the machine in a manner reminiscent of the decade’s Japanese cartoons (there’s a particular name I ran across last year reading about the era: anyone know the first successful giant robot cartoon in Japan? The creator’s a famous animator...must look it up...).
The comics creators scatter, and while Nova fares well enough figuring out how to use his powers to spin away the Moloid invaders, a zap from Tyrannus incapacitates Nova. The “Sleeper” like robot continues his conquering terror.
Nova ends up bound in what seems to be Tyrannus’ staple trap, a set of manacles that cover the waste and lower appendages, stickin you to the wall while your life-force is connected to a type of generator. The process is meant to leave Nova a withered old man. It begins vibrating...but Nova has an idea!
He speeds up his own physical vibrations, upsetting the apparatus and forcing himself free. For the first time, he finds himself wondering how exactly he needs to clean his Nova suit! He crashes now through the hole made by his expulsion, but the big drill hand clops him and pushes him down forcefully. Beneath the Earth, Nova adjusts by using his power and speed to drill his own tunnel, and re-emerges to knock out the brains of the operation, Tyrannus.
Not a bad day’s work. But when the excited Sal and Marv bring him in to meet Stan, the guru dismisses his youth and inexperience in favor of a “blockbusters only” approach to competition. Try again next year, make a name for yourself—that’s Stan’s advice.
Cheer up, Nova, it’s schedule related. Stan leaves, telling Marv over his shoulder that “we’ve just signed up our newest character. His name’s Midas the Million Dollar Mouse! Get to work writing the book. Costanza’s drawing it. Excelsior!”
“Maybe I should go to the competition? Nah, who am I kidding? If you’re gonna be in comics, there just Isn’t any competition to Marvel. Ah, well, maybe Next Year.”

*1>My first sight of Earth Shaker---and Nova!---came in a Roger Stern penned comic book, the one my sister chose for herself while I chose Marvel Tales #120 for myself, on the one occasion Mom bought us a pair of comics while visiting Shannon, her hometown, early 1980---anyone care to guess the comic book?
Nova won’t be the last late 70’s hero to have his title threatened by a mouse and his ilk.

Bringing up the movies: Nova’s appearance the year before STAR WARS seems prescient, particularly considering Wolfman’s plans to launch his novice hero off world, likely in place from issue one at least. In fact, a boy and his space ship are united handily next issue!

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