Thursday, September 30, 2010

Machine Man says, find yourself another hero!

MACHINE MAN #5 “Non-Hero” Jack Kirby Edits, Writes, Draws
Mike Royer Letters ‘n’ inks Petra Goldberg, Color Consulting Editor, Jim Shooter

The powerful signal emanating from Ten-For’s hand array antenna calls the intergalactic Autocron Fleet to Earth. Machine Man stands ready to shove that plan down Ten-For’s steel gullet. What of the innocent bystanders, frozen by Ten-For into status? Machine Man’s magnetized boots prove irresistible in their molecular call, yanking Ten-For across the street to him. A blast mostly misses Machine Man’s head, as he kicks Ten-For head first into the pavement. The Autocron’s chest generates a ray nearly as explosive as the one behind his hinging face plate. Now he presses the stunned hero, grappling, wrenching a light post, constricting, kicking, damaging Machine Man’s body to prevent transfer long enough for the fleet---“and that may come tomorrow ‘mister obsolete!’”.

They battle on, the floored Autocron holding Machine Man back with an energy barrier after his flung light post scores home. Now the military charge in (I don’t see their special sonic cannons in this scene; Kragg’s unit has them but has yet to converge). Running out the clock, Ten-For offers himself peacefully, attempting to play sympathies against “such a psychotic type!” Angry, Machine Man calls baloney, warning of the galactic fleet. There is no time for courts: thousands of invaders, he believes, land tomorrow. Now he’s recognized as the x-51 fugitive demonized by Washington, and the persecution complex reaches fervor peak. Brushing the soldiers aside, Machine Man springs to a nearby rooftop, with a very hostile attitude towards the duty and responsibility that drove him to act. “You’re dead to me!” he says, basically, with a fist shake in general towards humanity.

Conscience and duty: Machine Man bitterly refers to these as his failings. His trouble in taking the situation personally marks his personality, at least, as unmistakably human, and gives him a refreshing personal flaw to overcome. I find him short-tempered and abrasive many times in this run---difficult aspects to like in person---yet his despair, sarcasm and anger make him unique. There’s certainly been little relief and of course, there’s no time to meditate over the issue. Only when he resolves to accept his outcast status and impending doom does he finally find himself in the swing of things, passing as part of humanity, however condescendingly, at a party.

First, though, we have an argument between Doctor Spalding and Colonel Kragg. Spalding’s cooperated fully in the matter, and through some very strange Kirby dialogue we get a recap of the series status. Spalding speculates Kragg won’t find peace in destroying Machine Man, just as the destruction of his prototypes has not helped him, either (and military health should be a little more concerned about giving him this mission, realistically). Kragg accuses him of naturally defending a friend. (But wouldn’t a friendship help rate MM as human, even to Kragg? Perhaps a better charge, if outside Kragg’s limited representation, would’ve been Spalding’s opportunism, with this unique scholastic opportunity of analyzing a thinking machine.)

In fact, Spalding participated in bringing Ten-For to Earth (see #3---Lilting Lue), which in today’s comics would result in Blackwater-style interrogations. Spalding pitches the idea of amnesty, for this one being who can transfer Ten-For back to outer space. (Return-to-Marvel Kirby originals seem often as though they exist in their own pocket universe apart from his former tried-and-true toybox; no mention of the Avengers or Fantastic Four is here made.)

The skulking man machine answers a call from a window to join a costume party. Continuing his perverse pleasure in freaking people out, Machine Man demonstrates his strength, reflexes, and a metallic-tape wrap function to various loud mouth party guests, who coo over the (then contemporary) campy late 70s fascination with UFO culture without seriously believing the intergalactic invasion he mentions casually.

He’s relieved to be asked to dance by a masked woman we will soon know as Tracey, who’s pegged the fugitive actual identity. (He actually tries a little charm and flirtation upon her invitation.) Disappointed they won’t continue dancing, Machine Man dutifully follows her to the television set, where she wants to show him the intermittent bulletins, this time featuring Doctor Spalding’s appeal. Machine Man replies sardonically, pessimistic as to his own survival even if he dispatches Ten-For. (But you brought Ten-For to Earth, against your better judgment, asshole.)

The time has come to unmask, so Tracey does this and also introduces herself as being “in communications”; I like to think of her as a producer, but it’s not clear. Machine Man gently mocks her sense of devotion to her job, while she upbraids his lack of responsiveness, as this invasion threat seems actual. Why won’t he can the petulant child act and be a man? Now he takes his face off---his “mask”---and asks her if she knows if he is a man or a machine. Her heart goes out to him, as she at last understands his bitter anomie. Now, however, she must prepare a crew to follow up the story, and he wishes her good luck “and watch out for space lasers!” In solitude, Machine Man dramatically curses those who created him, leaving him truly unique, confused—and alone.

Meanwhile, the distant Autocron fleet bears down on Ten-For’s coordinates (That planet’s really in the boondocks, remarks one Autocron, LOL). On Earth, Spalding walks in and badgers the transparently villainous Ten-For, who relishes the coming enslavement of humanity.

So how did Machine Man come out?

This was created by Bob on the Jack Kirby Museum site; I don't have this issue with me!

As you’d expect after he saved the world from the invasion of Ten-For last issue, this issue starts with Machine Man hauled in front of a Congressional committee, which now has to decide what to do about the federal order to destroy all of the X-Series robots. In the meantime, MM is released in the custody of Dr. Spaulding, and wins over a hostile crowd by stopping a pickpocket. Oh, fickle humanity. Out in the open, Machine Man is attacked by a larger clumsy robot sent by an inventor out for publicity.

Later, Spaulding is kidnapped, and Machine Man surrenders to a waiting helicopter in exchange, ending the issue prisoner of a criminal organization that wants to copy his design. In the meantime, various political maneuvering goes around thanks to his disappearance, with his longtime nemesis Colonel Kragg surprisingly speaking in his defense.

A very nice issue with a lot of plot. Some interesting storytelling bits, including a page with vignettes in odd shaped panels of people reacting to MM vanishing and a very nice sequence of MM leaping into a missile silo.

Mike Royer handles the embellishment on the 17-page story and Terry Austin inks the cover.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nova the Human Rocket: Blackout

I’ve got to mention the back-up story in #18, where the court frees Dad on bail and Rich apologizes, in a scene heading into the house and one in at Uncle Fudge’s Shoppe, to his supporting cast for seemingly not caring. Meanwhile Robbie decides to turn his inventive quickness towards discovering the secret of Richard Rider.

“Blackout means Business, and His Business is Murder!”
Wolfman/ Infantino/ Palmer /Rosen/ Michele Wolfman

Flying free above the harbor in NYC doesn’t mean Nova’s not flunking science and math hard enough to become the first kid left back a grade at Truman Capote High. Smiles drop with the black wave of absolute darkness, that not even Nova’s special lenses can penetrate. A zap from within the unknown sends Nova plunging backwards out of control into a building. He’s been mistaken for a spy by BlackOut, who approaches with another dark-matter-like thrust aboard black circles beneath his feet. They levitate him close enough to choke Nova with his powers and explain how all heat is siphoned by his bombardments. Though Nova doesn’t “know you from Grizzly Adams” :-D, he refuses Blackout’s demand to leave and bother him no more. His bolt hits Nova like solid steel; he rolls with the force, going out the other side of the building!

He jokes about his “worst strategy for winning fights that I’ve ever seen” as high tension wires rush to greet him---but not before Blackout gives him the carbonite treatment just like on the cover. “Your one chance is to get out of there before your air runs out! Which should be in about two or three minutes. Be seeing you, if you’re lucky.” Luck, blah, blah, you’ve got a fifteen minute supply of recycling air in your helmet, homey, free your head, the rest will follow. Good job! Anything IS possible. “Now, if only I could convince myself that would work with School. Oboy, speaking of’s almost nine. Five minutes before class starts. Four hundred seconds until Rich Rider gets yet another late report. “ (Caption: Three hundred, actually, but then, Rich is lousy at math, isn’t he?)

Burst! Secretive change to school clothes. As soon as his helmet is soft and tucked away, he steps out, glad to see Ginger. Barry-Wally joke in background...Ginger’s sweet on Rich again with the miscommunication gone, and mentions his Dad rushing to a meeting along her way. What is THAT about? Anyway, class, study date...a breeze of normality washes over the scene in Hempstead...

We pick up on Canal Street, where Blackout’s musing he’s “returning to the scene of the crime, so to speak.” What HAS he begun? His blacklight blast smashes inside, and then becomes a path for running over to freeze the safe door with yet another application. So he’s lived through someone named Croit’s experiments. That’s who enters, exclaiming: “You? Marcus Daniels?” Blackout doesn’t believe Croit has a cure such as he offers to make; he expects treachery to eliminate the possibility for what he knows about Croit’s mulit-million dollar grant funded research. He then “merges” Croit “into the color spectrum” to leave him somewhere he can hear and think, but helpless to Blackout’s mercy. First he must complete his work, then come back and reveal all and relish the agony!

See, as he trashes the lab, Daniels explains: as assistant, he was framed for Croit’s fraud, looking at fifteen years or agreeing to play guinea pig for Croit, attained via bribery. So they’re harnessing the power of a “black star” and “reducing its incredible output to an infinitesimal degree”, to cure disease; and the release of too much will result “in a nice funeral.” For three days his body’s super charged, and he is unapproachable. Sealed away, Daniels was now a walking generator, and he used his powers to escape.

Rich and Ginger leave the basketball game to study, quite against Rich’s desires. He relents, confessing on the way home how humiliating it is to ask his fifteen year old younger brother “to explain logarithms.” She’s got brains for this. Good thing, the approaching darkness at four p.m. nearly sends Nova to look for Blackout, but he studies a couple of hours anyway. Now a storm’s followed. He uses a rushing car’s momentum to make it evade a pedestrian, and blasting away, Nova realizes the girl would’ve been easier to move. But “I can’t be cute AND perfect at the same time.”
Roy Thomas would be happy to tell you King Kong’s died here in Manhatten twice, and Kojak uses”its own special dirt and grime as background.” The clouds, fed with black light, rain lightning down. The power will either make Blackout invincible or tear him apart in pulsations. Perhaps he will be “lost in the rainbow forever,” atoms merged with the light spectrum. He plans to use a machine stabilizer to focus his excess energies into Manhattan to cripple the city and save himself at the same time.

But then he recognizes the speeding form of the Human Rocket!
With beams and barriers Blackout hammers and delays Nova, who then uses his helmeted head to batter through that and a second one before it’s solid. Next he must smash his body into the side of the building to crush the coating of ice that forms around his body.

Blackout charges Rich’s body with the Blacklight, threatens to split him apart. Hollow protestations end with by Nova’s last ditch show of force, and the double handed smash topples Blackout onto the generator. Now Nova reintegrates, helpless to stop Blackout from himself fading. He joins Croit in the light spectrum. He becomes part of the light waves, his voice trailing: ”but it can’t end like this...”

As for that...Nova berates himself for having no answers at all.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

vacation vacancy

I am without my material on this computer, (I use a router for mine) but I'll have it again later this week. All
my best friends in Rome, GA (birthplace of myself, and the West Coast Avengers)are hosting us, and much dancing, drawing, singing, laughing, and relaxing follows.
I would LOVE to start up some new integr8d fiction---I've never discovered just how some blogs end up with a kazillion followers but I will work on expanding my audience, keep bringing you my remaining NOVA and MACHINE MAN write-ups, and soon afterwards will try to pick a new piece. Any requests? Lone Ranger? Captain America? Sherlock Holmes? Spider-Man? Scrooge McDuck? Have a great time, it may be the only life you ever know!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nova and the Yellow Claw Suspiria (horror movie theme)
“Tidal wAve” Wolfman/ Infantino/ Palmer / Rosen / Vartanoff
Nick Fury and Nova: bound inside plexiglass bubbles, helpless aboard the neutron missile directed at Washington, D.C. Do any of Nova’s powers help now? He a matter of fact, he rides on electrons across the air. Can he point himself to a path of electrons pointing away from dry land...but the pain! So great, he wants to surrender...but force the rocket away, he must---and his second “honest-to=the super=hero-union-guidebook idea” of the day works!
With Yellow Claw’s pressure dome to protect Fury, Nova has time to snap his titanium straps. A few minutes later they rise from the water, to see the missile explosion wake.
Late! Richard’s changed, beating the bell to class, only to run straight into Caps. Suddenly all the tension between Ginger, Caps and Rich ---his surly reply, their questions, the lack of respect---ends their friendship. (Rich looks exactly like Sean Penn in this panel.) But his goodbye just leaves the two more curious than ever what has come over Richard Rider!
Now he arrives to see his father in jail, and the family proves just as volatile, with Mom slapping Richard, who offers to move out. Storming out, Richard begins to realize how hot-headed he has become of late, as though yearning for the release in his power constantly. Fury approaches the morose teen on a pier, and tells him this will pass---get with the program. He takes awestruck Rich into an inner sanctum of SHIELD, where a huge Kirby-inspired unit, the fabled E.S.P. Control Chamber, stands for the experts to explore the enigmatic human mind. Fury places Nova in a soft foam cushion, and before he can ask, the ESPer unit draws thoughts to his mind, so quickly as to cause him pain and disorientation. They begin again at low power.
Now Yellow Claw wishes to declare his plan before his captive: this evening he unleashes a massive tidal wave, cresting three thousand feet tall. He wants to show the country he cannot be stopped, and from there continue his quest of peace on earth, without wars, crime or aggression---at his bidding. Then he hypnotizes the struggling Sam Burley, to use his NASA engineering skills to complete the machine.
In Chinatown, trenchcoated Nova and Fury enter a shop and exchange code phrases with the smoking shop keep. A wall opens to a stairwell, and a tiny submersible craft below shoots them to the Claw headquarters, where they are greeted as agents seven and three. Those agents have been mind-probed---and those schematics now exist in the memories of Nick Fury and Nova the Human Rocket, quickly rescuing their first targets. A sliding door slams shut in an effort to drown them, but Nova has the muscle. Fury promises to hustle the captives to safety and return with the SHIELD assault squad, as Nova bursts in on Claw. But the tidal wave’s already activated! Now begins a battle with the Yellow Claw, aboard his throne, which converts to a fire-breathing dragon as he gloats over the logic of blackmailing the world’s governments. Forget him---Nova, stop the tidal wave!!!
But how? Smashing into it with his shields in place does nothing. But SHIELD’s now in place, as Fury brings out “the Gaff’s” killer wave smasher. This invention, created for tropical hurricanes, depends on something called “hydronic rays”---and Nick doesn’t think it has a chance. He sends Nova speeding back to Claw.
Claw, though, rams straight for Nova beneath the water. The “dragon” seems to change shape; now Claw’s face appears, and Nova feels his strange psi powers attack his mind. Dragons seem to flow towards the star, breathing fire in which Nova refuses to believe. Now he sees: they’re divers, firing stun guns! Stung through his super-skin, he plows into them, only to discover his oxygen supply’s done! Claw refuses to fall back to contingency plans; the wave, battled by sky-borne laser firing SHIELD air cars, looms above all of New York.
Nova bravely bursts in on the master menace, ready to face him toe-to-toe. Yellow Claw feigns interest in a truce...and beckons him to talk...his laser gun sparking brightly behind his back.

The Ultimate Super hero!

“The Final Showdown!” Wolfman/ Infantino/ Tribe / Rosen / Vartanoff
Cascading giant tidal wave...treacherous super villain...on both fronts, doom looms before the heroes.
Mind blast! First the Claw and Voltzmann bash him as he sees attacking monsters, and with a whirlpool of illusion noble Nova plummets through the lens of his own mind.
Nova undergoes the closest trap of all: his own thoughts. Rejection and disappointment from all his family and friends, and bleakness, utter darkness save for those miseries within.
Wait! What is his secret? The Yellow Claw demands to know: how does he break this spell thus? Nova obliges, with a crack to the jaw and the simple explanation: he showed Nova what he might become, the fears suppressed in his increasing loneliness.

This snapped him free to his own true self, and for that, he thanks him. The Lone and Shining Star turns confidently and decks the “sneaky side kick”, tough guy line and all. Broken, Fritz Von Voltzmann panics to escape---and too late remembers they ride a dragon air ship that FLIES. Now the Claw and Nova remain one on one, as though by Claw’s design: frozen, awaiting each the next’s move, the youth and the centuries old mastermind.

The massive wave begins to break on the Gaff’s devices, and evacuation orders were given at first formation. The wave’s destructive power remains, and washes Fury free of his perch on the air cars.

Another mind-graying assault begins, but Nova’s discovered everything he must live to right, and in this finds the power to fight. Victory and sense of self come with battle-ending blow.

Nick Fury executes a dive into the harbor to save his own hash, and sees the wave become a spout, to great appeal.

No. Nova believes he can win, but with success in mind he still must pummel the Yellow Claw. His last ditch attack leads Nova to believe he is himself burning with flames, causing him to smash his way out of the ship and into the drink. Tricked, Nova rockets back to the ocean surface, to watch: he’s burst out through the control panel, and now the ship shimmers and blows to bits with a force that rocks him below.
Nova surveys the area, wishing to be pleased with his victory over the Claw’s plans, but certain the man has died, which he finds stirring. There’s no sign of Voltzmann either. The wave eliminated, Fury’s arrived on the spot, with more banter and a ride home.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nova the Human Rocket Sheena is a Punk Rocker
“Death is the Yellow Claw!”

Wolfman/ Infantino / Palmer / Rosen / Vartanoff

Richard’s sweating the essay portion of a Spanish test, and as we see, letting his worries isolate and distract him helps him not a whit. Ginger’s really had it with this trend; rather than enable it, when she runs into him in the hall, she asks why he’s avoiding their friends---what’s happened to the easy going guy “I once cherished”? Deciding to nix talking about Nova problems, and his dad’s guarded troubles, Rich’s attempt to slough it off, but she makes a point of HIS reticence.

Ginger Jaye switches from firm confrontation to asking him to share, open up, as she reads his eyes. He keeps the burden of his splitting family, as well as his life as a lone and secret star, to himself. “If we’ve ever meant anything you can tell me what’s wrong” she says, but he runs out, nearly kayo’ing Caps as he rushes off to be alone, leaving two worried friends. Ginger feels the gentle-guy she knew and felt sorry for has been replaced by someone she doesn’t like. She doesn’t belong to anyone, though; when this guy Mack we’ve never seen invites her to “go off someplace” she realizes, “why not?” Caps sees his best friend’s “just lost the greatest gal---ever!” (Now that could’ve been “great gal for Rich” but if she wasn’t over the moon for his best friend, how does Caps feel about her? Doesn’t matter to him...especially with Rich so troubled.

Richard realizes Ginger’s totally right about all she said. But a few minutes later, he walks in the door to brother Robbie’s bombshell: Dad’s been arrested---committing some type of robbery! His experience with Mike B., who he doesn’t even like, has taught him there may be more than meets the eye. Robbie’s certain there’s some sort of foul-up. “Huh? You’re Right, Bobby, Dad’s so straight-laced he couldn’t rob his own piggy bank!” They hope the call is Mom...”not unless yer mom smokes stogies, kid. It’s Fury!” What a time for a crisis in both lives. He’s got to rush out mysteriously and leave Robbie with Dad in jail. By the time Robbie makes it up stairs, he slams open the door, to Rich’s clothes on the bed
Fury’s independent agent catches up to his copter to find “he’s struck!” Nova hopes aloud this is a real alarm---“you’ve just turned my whole family against me.” “Then this’ll make yer day, kid. It’s the whole enchilada!”

200 fathoms ---1200 feet---beneath the coast of New York, the most fantastical undersea headquarters of all, “Von Horstenbaden” asks to be called Fritz Von Voltzman, as he has many enemies “from the fatherland” made in his old life, as he discusses the end of the threat of war forever. With our hidden mastermind he watches Fury’s copter, as the sky squids are launched to dispatch Fury. “Indeed,” he says, “my neutron absorber will guarantee this world remains safe from all radiation.” Now the war fleet, of rocket-pack born soldiers and mechanical leviathans, converges on the chopper.

Nova and Fury wade into them mid-air in a Steranko-approved manner. Punching and grappling with an air infantryman, Fury loses his grip on the flying belt, and they both detach from the jet-pack. Fury takes Nova’s catch in stride, as he expects the other man to be rescued as well. Fury finds the pack into which Nova eases him (hi Frank) respectable enough “to get me to Hoboken and back” and the two flying roustabouts slam into the flying armored troops.

Robbie arrives to support Mom and Dad. Charles takes Rich’s unexplained absence to imply his judgment for the guilt he already feels.

Fury tells Nova to “spin it ninety degrees! Them buggers are takin’ pot shots at the Roosevelt Island Tramway!” The Human Rocket initiates a mid-air rescue over mid-town Manhattan, taking people two at a time from the heated tram car. He flies to ground with the last girl when the tram explodes!

He tosses the girl to safety, as the shock wave slams him into the chilling East River. Nova’s helmet supplies oxygen immediately. Now he shows the months of training, bashing his airborne foes side-by-side with NicK Fury himself.

But now, thanks to an activated image inducer: the big reveal. A hundred-foot tall hologram of the Yellow Claw appears to declare himself master of men. One of the air Squids fires a beam that fells both heroes, “victims of my cerebral de-programmer. Agents! Grab them!” The Sky Squids dive with the helpless super heroes past a seeming oil derrick spotting the surface of the continental shelf. (It’s true, M.M.S. is signing off on these regulations without any investigations whatsoever!)

In the lair of the Yellow Claw, he declares Fury must die for the many times their paths have crossed, and Nova, “though a mere child in the cosmic stream of time” as well.

(I believe he’s one of those longevity-formula villains, himself---a resource later revealed as Fury’s secret as well...back when it mattered!) His absolute dominance in the peaceful new dynasty requires, first, the destruction of an U.S. eye-spy satellite positioned above his base. He is pleased Fury’s awakened “in time to witness your own death.” They are encased in plexiglass shield so that they may survive the escape velocity of the neuton warhead to which they are attached. Thus begins the Yellow Claw’s thousand year reign!

In NYC, a robotic hand begins altering the computer program of the warhead, as it bears down on “the very satellite I’ve planned for months to control!” So the undersea villains watch it alter course...activate...and head towards Washington, D.C.! Suspiria (horror movie theme

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

One more Seventies summer post

First I wanna say Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen, who wrote a later revival of NOVA, has been reading along! Pretty cool.

[i]Not ready for Nova Prime Time Players[/i]

When this issue hit the stands, the general American public’s ideas of super heroes most likely came from campy sources, as BATMAN and WONDER WOMAN were the two most successful adaptation of super heroes in a decade. The popular culture has seen THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN since 1974, and other than WONDER WOMAN, that’s about it when you think about it. Saturday morning cartoons and comic books were seen as about on the same level by most of the public, despite the deeper characterizations and more mature themes that had crept in since the Silver Age. STAR WARS is coming, bringing less costumed-seeming super-heroes, or rather, bringing a super villain and mostly a motley crew playing hero in super circumstances, with powers, yes, which they're only beginning to grasp.

SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE is still a year away, right? That’s the first super hero from comic books for adults or a general audience---hence its PG rating, back when such things often had more bearing in parental decisions. This generation must have seemed to be growing up relatively fast, with less reverence to what was institutional before. There were arguments that much about society had been wrong all along, and so a kind of relativism factored into the less morally restrained young adults in the teens and twenties here. I've heard the stories, I know. So a straight ahead comic book like Nova was still in a medium as yet undiscovered much by new adult readers, though some had hung on or come back from earlier.

He must've seemed a bit square to someone. Yet you can criticize it harshly as a fannish regurgitation of what had since become formula, or the brightest possible celebration of all that is the comic book super hero. Before the darkening of Wolverine and the lionizing of the Punisher and post-modernism occasionally gone awry, this is one last super hero creation, pure and as free of fads as can be.

The Man Called Nova is one last Boy Scout without the Junior Woodchuck Manual hopelessly lost from his troop as a mere cosmic webelo. meant to carry on a non-ironic stance, one last son of frenzied fanzine dreams who could've neatly fit into the Golden Age pantheon of some company, save only for the trademarked self-doubt that most colorfully plagues the company's flagship character, who shares with him one other milieu: high school. There's no Teen Titans (ah, New WArriors) for this guy, and the closest thing to a mentor until the coming of Nova 0:0 sixteen years later is a cold and distant star ship, belonging to a dead hero who, in that Golden Age, would've been the title character.

With his death at the start, longtime fans are reminded of the Green Lantern, whose successor also died while putting awesome powers into the hands of an Earthling. Yet Nova's a good bit more average than the supposedly fearless Green Lanterns. Too bad the Guy Gardner character couldn't have been a Nova, as those powers would've suited him! On the bright side, at least Rich didn't end up a kid sidekick. His powers legacy is where he gains a trait in common with many other super heroes: as a Nova Prime Centurion, at least, he is a kind of orphan!

THE INCREDIBLE HULK will be on TV before the year is out, though. Don’t even get me started about Spider-Man, please, though I did wear out a perfectly good Halloween costume in the days afterwards, sneaking about and jumping from things like live action Spider-Man! I had to win an argument with Mom that I’d grow out of it by next Halloween, anyway. Anything to save a dollar back then, though!
So here’s Nova, pitched in that setting, not so very long after it looked like the super hero trend might fade---a fad past its cycle. Maybe it was. Maybe the contingencies of keeping the line pumping out there do not always bring us the best in art, it’s true. But here was another caretaker for the Marvel Universe and its continuity, smack in the middle with a villain from its Silver Age, and, from behind the scenes, a villain from its Golden Age, harkening back to the pulps that started it all.
[IMG][/IMG] Give a Little Bit

[IMG][/IMG] Heroes

“The Fury Before the Storm!”

Marv Wolfman writer/ editor Carmine Infantino & Tom Palmer, “artists extraordinaire”
John Costanza letterer Ivan Vartanoff colorist

Nova’s patrol turns up his ally Crimebuster, whose Batman-style approach has alerted him to an antique furniture theft by the Krimmons gang. “CB” discourages banter, though he tells us all about inserting his net cartridge into his “whammer” ( a type of platform gun) to snare a runaway not clobbered by the Human Rocket, who’s rather impressed. Now he impresses himself: he’s set to fly out of the way of a barreling truck, but he’s blocked by a stone overhang. He elbows the wall hard enough to bring the overhang down onto the truck. Crimebuster interrupts his interrogation to demonstrate his hypnotic eye lenses, yielding the location needed to wrap things up. He then turns down Nova’s offer to wrap up the collar, thanks him for his help, and prepares to notify the police from his flying lab.

All this is observed by a masked thief, which we know from last issue is Mike Burley, obeying to save his brother’s life. He jimmies the lock and sets off the alarms, which brings Nova; he quickly uses metallic bars to wrap up his opponents and quickly arrive, smashing the window. The thief begs “please” as he’s taken down; Nova unmasks him and then, despite being strong enough to do all the above, he’s shoved back in surprise and then lets Mike acrobatically skip out the window and into the alleyways, which Nova decides are too dark and varied to begin searching. (Perhaps he’s divided, too, about hauling Burley in.) He’ll check at Burley’s house later.
Robert addresses Rich in the shower, regarding their father’s mysterious plans and hours, and the apparent advance four month payment in cash for the mortgage. He should be worried: at the moment, Charles Rider’s receiving his orders in exchange for the cash, standing in a location in Huntington, Long Beach before the shadowed Inner Circle. How exactly their contract to re-possess all he owns if he doesn’t obey, I’m not sure, but Charles realizes his pride has left him open to their manipulation.

Son Rich struggles through several volumes of subjects “made easy”, as he has for three and a half hours. Since Ginger isn’t likely to still be at Uncle Fudge’s Shoppe, and Bernie’s jokes seem tedious with Burley and his father’s problems on his mind, it’s time to go Nova! In this, he at least finds some boost to his self-esteem. Now his helmet receives a call over police band about some unspecified disturbance at Shea Stadium, so his speed takes him to the scene almost instantly.
Now Iron Man apparently attacks him, from nowhere! More shockingly, Spider-Man arrives to web up his face. Nova takes a few hard hits before the need to reason drives him to flee. Now the Hulk piles on, landing on his back, then punching him!

Nova grabs a girder to re-distribute his inertia, only to take Captain America’s shield, right on the chin. Nova dismisses the idea that this is a hazing as stupid.
So five figures fall into Shea Stadium, and now he notices the impossible: Spider-Man and Captain America fly in! He pounds “Spider-Man”, expecting the latter’s strength to reveal him as non-human---in fact, a robot. Now Nova begins tearing into the non-heroes ferociously. The explosion of the “Hulk” sends him flying into monkey bars in nearby Flushing Meadow Park. Even the little kids resent him “hoggin’” the set; he bemusedly dusts himself off with an extra dash of pity.

Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D., the super-spy agency walks up to congratulate him for passing his test against the Life Model Decoys. He takes Nova to the Helicarrier via chopper, addressing him by his name, Richard Rider. He reveals the checking they did, after a kid was hit by a strange bolt from the blue. They checked the medical records and from there deduced Nova’s identity, though he promises they’ve covered up his tracks.

After some banter, Fury explains Burley’s brother is a top flight nuclear scientist, kidnapped before Sandman attempted to nab Mike last issue. The villain behind it all is revealed to Nova, but not the reader, and he agrees to partner with S.H.I.E.L.D.

I wonder if this was on Bendis’ mind when he had Fury come up to Spider-Man with his secret identity, uncovered in a similar fashion in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN? Seems likely.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The new Nova comics and the return of the Sphinx

Here's Andrea DeVito's Sphinx redesign, from NOVA #32.
Now, longtime Marvel fans may have thought The THING #34 marked the end of the old Nova villain, but the present team of Abnett and Lanning have worked in a revival of the Sphinx that better uses his long life and time traveling possibilities.

Me? I actually look forward to catching up with Nova again.
Here I'm going to finish off my Machine Man reviews for now very soon. I'd love to hear from any fans of these series and encourage people to give my original material a try in this blog as well!

Friday, September 10, 2010

My alternative take on the lost cybernetic hero

Another cool trick might have been: if Ten –For had been beaming plans for machine men down to Earth scientists...then, he uses x-51 to create his dimensional transfer, unaware, perhaps, of the human personality engraved by Abel Stack. He expects to take over the Machine Men when he arrives on Earth. His waiting Autocrons, made unwittingly by the Earthlings, then go berserk, due to the insanity of the human to which he is linked at this point, broadcasting their instructions.

Doctor Spalding’s patient Aaron Stack volunteers to help out at the sanitarium to foot his session bills, and seems keen on analyzing the neuroses observed therein. Aaron reveals his secret when the military clashes with the recently-arrived rover, Ten-For.

Now Machine Man must face the remaining x-models that serve Ten-For, while the Autocron fleet approaches. Perhaps another nearly makes the choice to be “human” and perhaps another is analogous to a female in its demeanor? His relationship with the home made Autocronies and Ten-For could play out over three acts.

Just hit me. We never know what we’d lose if the story were interpreted any differently, though if Jack was figuring out his last days at Marvel loomed near, he chose a terrific multi-part arc (a perfect limited series) instead of keeping the Autocron invasion around for a larger epic.

But I dearly love every crazy panel of these original issues! You see the response when Ditko comes aboard is to go from “reluctant savior” to “super hero with secret identity. This would open the door to creating villains, desperately needed after the perfect arch foe’s...ah, but that would be, perhaps, a spoiler!

Boldly, the team decides to go for originals, whereas formula might’ve dictated more guest stars and recurrent villains, to mix MM in more with the tight continuity of Marvel. But that never could’ve been the Kirby ways. Say what you will about the man, but he didn’t fall back on characters he’d already explored in an effort to re-create his glory days. The glory’s in a surrender, of sorts, to the unexpected inspiration around the corner of a hallway you never intended.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Dr. Spalding: “I’ve drawn back your brain unit, Machine Man! Have I done it correctly?”---this is exactly why I love Jack Kirby’s stories. That the speaker is a psychiatrist is just pop culture excellence. Unique!
“Would you fight for those who fear and hate you? It’s a very tough decision to make---especially when you have more in common with the enemy than those you must defend! Here is a Heavy question, to be resolved in cosmic fury!”---opening caption from Jack Kirby.

[IMG][/IMG] Aaron’s face
Ten For face

“Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”

MM 4 continues: The injured soldiers found in Ten-For’s wake subvert any poetic justice Machine Man feels over the Army’s dust-up with the machine man from another galaxy. Yet the hatred in Kragg’s voice for Machine Man’s existence---for the entire conception of his being---floods him with despair. He’s overheard the alarm to the big brass to act; Kragg’s advised not to pursue Ten-For, as his regiment’s been “stomped flat!” For all their distinctions as beings, Machine Man concludes he’s now lumped in, not only with his x-model predecessor, but with this menace, unstoppable, he’s sure, save for the efforts of ---himself? But what place does he have in a line of defense preparing to snuff his own life without remorse? He feels like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, scorned for his appearance, and if you my friend have ever known such a feeling, your heart might be just a little wider for the experience.

The visage of his father floats before his eyes in his lonely agony, reminding him: I gave my life for you. Would a man do that for a mere machine? If your father sacrifices of himself for you, are you not special? And if he would die for you, are you not worth the ultimate price a man might pay?

“Yes...a dedicated scientist might sacrifice himself to protect a unique invention!” says a depressingly disconnected Machine Man.
“Don’t reject me” speaks his father. “You above all should know the pain inflicted by such an act!”
“Go away! You’re not my father! I was kept in your home only to be conditioned as a human being...”

“That’s the cold, cruel statement of a cynical man! Do you hear me, Aaron? I said MAN!!”
“Stop it! Stop it! I’m not a man—and you’re not alive!”

“Then you would reduce me to a phantom...and yourself---to a thing of metal?!”

“It’s the truth, isn’t it? You’re an image, triggered by my memory banks---and if that doesn’t convince you, take a good look at the reality behind this face!”

“My humanity consists of nothing more than a welded mask!”

“How deeply hurt you must be---to say such a thing! I’m terribly sorry, son!”

“Must you keep calling me son?!? You know full well that I’m the product of some secret government project!”

“Something happened to the products of that work, Aaron—something that baffled their creators---the wonderful mystery that binds us to each other!”
“I’m not human, I tell you!”

“You’re my son—and with or without that mask you cannot kill the love we had for each other!
If that love wasn’t real, you’d have readjusted your memory circuits to shut me out! Now, stop acting like a child and reclaim your face. It’s not the source of your problem.”
“Yes, father,” he says, kneeling obediently.

So, as he hears his father---how he does this, I let you interpret---Machine Man welds his face back into place. Now he sees this disaster as an opportunity to prove his value to humankind. They’re still on his trail, though; a soldier has the drop on him. Machine Man volunteers to put his hands up, then telescopes them into the trees to pull himself off the ground.

Now he tries a dimensional transfer. (I didn’t have #3 until very recently, so I didn’t realize Ten-For’s escape/ invasion plan was the origin point for this power.) It seems one of the blasts in #1 has taken out his anti-grav power for the duration. He takes a chance, not knowing the coordinates of his re-assembled molecules. (Privately, I think he loves blowing minds, despite his protests about attracting undue attention.) He reassembles at a diner counter, excuses himself with a jest, then finds his appearance on the streets of Central City a bit distracting to others. His boot-springs hurtle him atop a police car, speeding towards confrontation with Ten-For.

Ten-For sneers at his continued efforts and misplaced loyalty, while congratulating his quick recovery. Now the arrogant cyber being’s face hinges open, to reveal a laser cannon of devastating proportions, and Machine Man responds with intense flames from his hand weapons system. Ten-For continues to rail about the inevitable Autocron invasion, which requires a signal from himself, so he ignites his boot jets and flies away, dissipating the flames. He knows Machine Man still has the dimensional transfer effect, with which he can quickly end the Autocron’s plans.

Machine Man’s telescoping arms snag him a ride on a helicopter. Now he pushes his anger aside, determined “this time there will be no battle!” He drops from the sky into the street beside Ten-For, who reveals the pedestrians around him are frozen in stasis---and if Machine Man utilizes the Effect, they will go with him! “While you’re making your mind up,” he grins, “I’ll be sending a transmission to the Autocron fleet!” His hand weaves a Kirby-esque apparatus, while all Earth hangs in balance.

NEXT: Day of the Non-Hero!
Now that’s my kind of melodrama.

Myebook - D'n'A Comics #1 As promised: the
online version of DNA #1!!!Myebook - D'n'A  Comics #1 - click here to open my ebook

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Grease is the way we are livin': a commentary on Machine Man Grease

I was thinking of how delightfully out of contact with the “latest” Kirby’s Machine Man is, in 1978; the robot is practically a metaphorical persona for the out-of-place cartoonist himself, reinvented as a young man who just might live forever in the pre-pubescent four color world that gave him birth. The then-dated Beat-style lingo and thinking, mixed with fringe mass culture elements such as u.f.o.’s, is so yesterday that I crush on it ironically and un-ironically.

My parents were enjoying being a young couple in 1978, so I have regarded that time fondly as I wrote. The fetish for things ‘50’s in those times also reveals just where Machine Man, who is more Twilight Zone than Twilight, really fit into the culture.

The artificial intelligence storyline never gets too technical; it is more Bradbury than Heinlein, except Machine Man is rather a bit like more like a Heinlein character, himself. If Nova would’ve been the best Saturday morning cartoon of the late ‘70s, then Machine Man’s storyline is like a throwback to the alien marauders of the 1950s cinema. His mechanical can-do, the Army, the extra-terrestrial invader...and especially the ending of the Ten-For saga...all would’ve been right at home in 1950s science fiction thrillers. Considering what the Japanese were doing with cartoons like Gatchaman, one can only dream of what his development could’ve been like, paired with passionate animators!

He is like an ultra-modern Universal Monster, in the wake of the exploration of consciousness that marked 1960s counter culture. He is a strange anachronism, a deliberately non-sexual being in a decade of sexual revolution; he is as alienated as any Silver Age Marvel hero ever was, as little understood, cursed and blessed in balancing measures with some unusual state of existence. If you can imagine him, as with the best, you are challenged to consider a new state of being. He is Mary Shelley’s synthesized Byronic hero, retooled for the lately-passed 20th century, by the masterful hands of a soul who imagined himself a young man, forever.

A less romantic version of the machine man, outpacing the human in the workplace, has come about in the years since. Robots have, indeed, taken jobs on Detroit assembly lines. But the fun in Kirby’s creation lies in the disarming glimpses at discrimination, trust, faith, wonder and humor afforded when we realize a part of ourselves, too, that is more than the human we know!

Meet me over at Be Chill Cease ill blog soon: artificial intelligence and other matters!

Face off of the machine men: "Battle on a Very Busy Street!"

1978 “Battle on a Busy Street!” Kirby!
Royer, inks, letters
Holocaust! Ten-For lurks outside the sanitarium where he manipulated Machine Man and Peter Spalding into building a dimensional interface. A very surprised U.S. Army regiment,, prepared to destroy x-51 once and for all, find themselves at the merciless graces of the rover from the stars. Time is running out!

Now Machine Man must guide Dr. Spalding through a simple, yet delicate operation, to free his body from the vertigo-inducing cylinder affixed to his forehead (by Ten-For last issue---Lyron). First, the human must draw back the casing of Machine Man’s head, to remove vital circuitry...from his work space! Then, Machine Man’s fantastic hand weapons system requires Spalding’s maneuvering, to bring the powerful torch from his finger to bear against the cylinder. Together, they cut the inducer from his brow, and Machine Man acrobatically proves his balance restored. He feels contempt for the soldiers whose sonic rifles, aimed for him within the walls, riled the machine man from outer space, but he rushes to their location.

There he finds Ten-For has moved on speedily, creating mayhem for which, he notes, he “would never forgive” himself. He ponders the twist that has led to this clash of his enemies, neither of which did he choose.

Ten-For chills the marrow of people as he walks down the streets of Central City. He prepares for the arrival of his Autocron brethren, whose invasion fleet follows his signal as he marauds worlds across the universe. Meanwhile, our hero, aware painfully of the orders to end his life evil while he tries to stop Ten-For, suffers a unique identity crisis. Notice Kirby poses both machine men without their "faces": Machine Man as he attacks himself, emotionally, and Ten-For, when he decides to destroy his earth-born brother.

Integr8d Apparel lady's tank top in pink w/ graphic: Only $11! Free shipping & handling this month; send along your order and address to :!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ten-For is no good buddy


“Ten-For is a Mean Ma---shut yo mouth!---hey, I’m just talkin’ bout Ten-For...”

Fingers pressed to a raving man’s head, the thinking robot named Machine Man transmits visual vistas based on the visions transmitted to the patient’s head, here in the sanitarium wherein our hero has taken refuge. A spaceship falls into some unspecified sun, and its pilot cries out for help, boisterously demanding they not waste precious moments!

He speaks directly to Machine Man, expecting him to understand: they must create an interdimensional bridge, and he will now tell how.
Meanwhile, Col. Kragg and company home in once more on Machine Man, using the device sequestered in his head. For the platoon’s honor, they prepare revenge upon the last of the x-model robots, their sonic mortar-style cannon prepared amidst rushing, yelling soldiers.

Locked away momentarily, Machine Man produces a device from his own parts. He shows this to Dr. Spalding, his friend in charge here, who insists they must hurry on with their rescue, if it is indeed possible. Machine Man points out Spalding only assumes what they are dealing with: he’s personally found something cold and arrogant in the alien that the doctor would excuse as desperation. Nonetheless, the die is cast, and the dimensional effect proves capable of sucking in everything in the room, and quite nearly, Machine Man and Spalding.

He pushes the doctor to safety, while the effect attempts to exchange the items of this space with the stranded pilot. Courageously,
Machine Man pulls himself across the floor until he can disable the device he’s made with a few judicious deletions. He insists the pilot wished to trade places with them and leave them to die aboard his gravity-mangled ship. The pilot confirms this, but Machine Man insists “we’re all equals here!” and prepares the rescue device without planning to sacrifice anyone.

This time, his activation renders the molecularly-restructured form of Ten-For, who congratulates Machine Man for a task “only a high-level Autocron could master!” Machine Man, however, is not “a high-level anything!” and does not like the blue-hued android goliath, who paralyzes Doctor Spalding when he interferes with the disposal of the patient Ten-For used.

Machine Man insists he un-do the ray, but Ten-For advices him that he is a “Holocaust officer first class,” and a galactic rover calling the Autocron empire to worlds for conquering. Ten-For atomizes the transfer device, but Machine Man announces he has the circuitry now to generate the effect and send the Autocron packing.

As they engage, Kragg’s men blast the walls with sonic cannons, which do not annihilate Ten-For through his onboard defenses. (I like how he need not even turn around to dismiss this attack---suggesting he is more powerful, perhaps, than the hero, incapacitated by these cannons in #1.)

He does not believe Machine Man has not lured him into an ambush. Before he can vent on the Army, he fires a cylinder onto Machine Man’s forehead that causes him to fish out. Machine Man internally wrestles with a non-space vertigo that threatens to reduce his self-control to spasmodic helplessness forever.

Pitching about, he calls for Spalding as soon as Ten-For leaves to hammer the military. Spalding attempts to pry the cylinder loose, but remains confident the authorities looking for Machine Man will be a match for Ten-For. Machine Man figures there’s zero time to lose, fearing the worst in his foe from the stars.

Breaker-breaker, Ten-For's going pedal-to-the-metal to kick some dogface butt!

Sand gets in your eyes

[IMG][/IMG] 14
“Massacre at Truman High!”
Wolfman, Buscema and Giordano Costanza letters, Michele Wolfman colors

Hiroshima Mon Amour
The Sandman completely understands Karl Von Horstbaden’s plan to kidnap Mike Burley from Harry S. Truman High School, and quickly the deadly villain flies on the winds of the city as a whipping sandstorm.

Nova wakes up to the shadowed mastermind of the plan, who explains the death trap set for the Human Rocket. Clamped by tentacles, Nova’s been sealed in a chamber with liquid nitrogen set to freeze him from above and intense gas jets poised to burn him from below. All it takes is a tiny movement to trip the photo-electric cell to freeze and incinerate him instantly.

A trap of another kind closes on Rich’s father Charles Rider: fired and black balled, the ex-high school principle is denied a loan. A security guard whispers to the angry patron: a secret organization knows him, and at the address on the card, the Inner Circle will help. He ponders losing his home and thinks of his boys and wife; the situation’s dodgy, but his curiosity and desperation spur him on.

Evaluating “another fine mess”, Nova decides his alien costume should outlast the villain's machine. Instantly fire and ice bombard the super suit, and his helmet, designed to survive space, begins cracking! The Nova uniform only has a fifteen minute air supply and time starts to run out! At endurance’s limit, with one last effort Nova shatters his restraints and the booth's glass!

Villainous henchmen attack the wobbly Human Rocket, who falls into a power generator. He turns it around to shock his attackers. An effort to stab Nova and ends with their knives shatter on his skin! To quote a movie of the times, he’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it any more---and with his strength, down they go.

Harry S. Truman High School hosts a typical schoolyard of teens conversing, while the Sandman blasts his way through the wall and grabs Mike Burley. Unlike his first showdown in a high school, instead of the principal’s scolding, it’s Mike's classmates who attack the super-villain! Rich's friend, Roger "Caps" Cooper, jumps on the Sandman, completely aware of the horror of being a supervillain’s captive. While there’s little normal humans can do against Sandman, the weakened Human Rocket arrives to save the day!

Nova smashes through every form of sand weapon thrown at him, as the two exchange explosive blows! The Sandman knocks Nova through the school's outer wall into a construction zone, pressing the attack savagely.

From the building top, Sandman hurls the two towards the ground. Now the Sandman turns into a solid block, to hammer exhausted Nova like a mallet with their inertia when they strike the ground. Nova wrenches free, and like a human rocket flies clear. Hurtling groundwards, Sandman realizes: that’s a cement mixer below. Too late! Nova slams it shut, turns it on, and if you thought Sandy was mixed up before, just wait a few minutes. Now a true blockhead, one immobile cement-hardened Sandman falls from the mixer! The police take custody, and Nova heads home.
Karl Von Horstbaden calls Mike Burley later that evening, with a shackled prisoner in the background. It’s Mike’s brother, and Von Horstbaden tells him to follow his instructions or the blood will be on his hands!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Go,Go, Go, Machine Man!


X-51's strange life continues as we see for ourselves his symbolic fear.

Meanwhile, Doctor Spalding, who had met X-51 hitchhiking in #1, orders sedation of a patient, who cries out repeatedly in technical language, despite his apparent eight-grade education. Dr. Spalding deduces his delusion involves a space-ship falling into a sun.
As Cragg and his men move in, MM bursts out of the gas station (thank you Kirby Museum---I always felt he over-paid for the tires and never considered his down payment on collateral damage). He moves like a hot rod on his new wheels (three tires attached to him with rods), which afford him an escape worthy of Evel Kneivel. Asking some cyclists for directions, since he shocks one of them into wiping out, is a bust, but he's within half a mile of Central City before you know it.

He then goes to see the doctor, surprising him with a laser light for his pipe. Harried, Machine Man bluntly asks to stay a few days with the psychiatrist, who agrees to help him. Just then MM notices an interstellar transmission, which is the same thing the patient had been receiving, and translates it into a visual representation of a ship in distress. They begin to plan a rescue, which will lead to the battle with Ten-For.

This is the week of Jack Kirby's 93rd Birthday. And my Dad's 62nd!

Mike Royer inks the 17-page story, Frank Giacoia inks the cover and Jack Kirby writes a text page about potential machine rights. Man---if only he'd been writing these back in the 1960's! So very cool.

I do not own the rights to Machine Man; Marvel Comics does! But they should be thrilled I'm still stoked about this character, especially with his new Marvel Zombies 5 story comin' out!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Machine Man

MACHINE MAN #1 Jack Kirby: writer, artist, editor Mike Royer: inker,letterer Petra Goldberg: Colorist>
Archie Goodwin: “Enjoyer” (most likely, coordinator and cheerleader)

“He Looks like a man...he Thinks like a man...but nowhere in this world is there Anyone as exciting and different as ...” “Machine Man” (title) The story following features four encounters between the Machine Man and humans, along with two interludes at the project base, discussing his origin, where his end is plotted and also argued.

The hiking rescue

A trio of hiking friends cries out for their fallen buddy, and while Machine Man observes “hiker’s carelessness” aloud, his hand telescopes speedily down the sheer face of the cliff to help, with bars from the center of the tentacle-like arm piece that extend “like a ladder!” The hiker, Freddie, slips, so while he knows he’ll blow their minds, Machine Man leaps and engages his anti-gravity units while calming his passenger. Amazed, the girls ask if he is an inventor of technological marvels. “No, I don’t invent them, “he says, retracting the arm into place, “I demonstrate them.” They flatter him, but he reveals a humbleness about the wondrous creation that is his body. “Your friend owes his life to space age experimentation!” he says. (Does anyone remember optimism connected to innovation, as-zeitgeist?) “What do we call you?” they ask, as his boot interface smoothly with the sheer cliff and allow him to walk down it upright. “Just call me...Machine Man.”

Meanwhile, at a top-secret division of governmental research...

Doctor Broadhurst remorsefully engages the bureaucrat who’s come to shut down the department responsible for the x-model robot soldier project. His reluctance does not silence him when asked what went wrong. He theorizes grimly that the self-aware robots “suffered a condition common enough to humanity---an identity crisis! In short, it drove them mad!” He mourns the loss of Abel Stack, the psychiatrist who adopted the x-51 model as his son, giving him a face, love, and guidance, at the ultimate cost of his life, removing the built-in destruct charge. After a deadly battle between the Army and the psychotic x-models, x-51’s termination is mandated.

Into the woods...

Seeking the nearest town without causing a stir by flying, Machine Man, with a mind to hitchhike (!) crosses a forest, where he finds a stalled truck before a fallen tree. “Looks like my day to play Good Samaritan,” he muses, before telling the flustered driver he’d have to go around. The sides are too overgrown for this, so Machine Man demonstrates his might by lifting and turning the tree off the trail.

“Good Lord! He looks like the pilot of a U.F.O.!” thinks the driver. In thanks, he offers M.M. a lift, and happens to live in Central City, California. M.M.’s request not to be pelted with question doesn’t exclude a bit of friendly small talk, and he finds himself riding with Peter Spalding. From his “spot analysis” about Machine Man’s expressed innocence and desire for a relatively anonymous American Dream life, the offended Machine Man deduces correctly Spalding’s a psychiatrist, which turns him off so much he asks to get out of the truck on the highway. Dr. Spalding offers his sincere friendship and tells him to look him up. “Not a chance!” answers our smartly metal pants hero.

Why don’t you go play in traffic?

Momentarily, his choice is his own, for, in an inspired twist worthy of Iron Man’s roller skates, Machine Man snaps together extensions from his boots to make a skateboard, “for tight squeezes. I can regulate my speed with my foot jets.” Looks rather cool, and he’s quite agile with it (what an attachment for a machine soldier, right?), but he annoys the other drivers considerably. When the police hit their sirens, he abandons this mode for his anti-grav flight, thinking: “I need to watch getting myself into tight spots like that in the future!”

Colonel Stagg

Colonel Stagg seems a General Ross type at first glance; his loss of an eye and several men to battle with the x-models makes his orders to take out Machine Man more personal. Dr. Broadhurst, to the last, argues that Machine Man is sentient, with human feelings. Though he begs them not to destroy Machine Man’s brain, Broadhurst complies with a homing monitor. The soldiers follow a tracking device in his skull to his present location, armed with sonic blasters intended to disable his internal circuitry. To himself, to his God, Broadhurst begs forgiveness for “the curiosity which drove him to divine your hidden truths! Forgive us—forgive us all...”

“Take it, you creeps!”

Unaware of this, Machine Man has a blissful moment spying on a subdivision from a thousand yards away on telescoped electric eyes. I love how he plans to walk right up to people each time, as a glowing-eyed robot man, and ask to be accepted just as he is. He walks this last symbolic distance, with faith he will find someone who will not fear “someone who is...different!”

He notes a jet-copter above, and falls victim to a sonic blaster that disrupts his anti-grav capacity and right leg. Deeply resentful, Machine Man activates his hand-weapons-system, ports opening on the joints closes to his knuckles. “I can make things just as hot for you!” he snips, while building a defensive wall of flame against the soldiers. Under this cover, he suffers another blast from behind, disabling his legs, and fires back with “a rude shock---the kind that kicks like a mule!”, shattering the rifle. Before Stagg and his men can press the advantage, Machine Man’s arms open to reveal tractor-type treads that drag him across the field beneath the underbrush.
His evasion complete, Machine Man begins looking over the damage to his body, and decides, two miles outside Central City, he needs shelter for repairs. The city name rings a bell: Dr. Peter Spalding lives there. He must admit, misgivings aside, he could use some help!

Comments: I love Jack’s text pages almost as much as the skateboard scene, or more. Care to hear about “Machine Man---as the dude next door”?

Notice how Machine Man processes information like a personality---not like a computer. For an audience open to more sophisticated speculation, one senses the action demands would be more periphery, as human interaction and quandaries based thereupon seem more deeply intriguing, rather than developing a rogue’s gallery.

I'm working out an essay on consciousness this morning, found over on Be Chill, Cease Ill

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Corduroy Adventures

1976. Jack Kirby’s highly-anticipated ETERNALS brings the Chariots of the Gods style to Marvel; issue #2 has a bullpen announcement about the excitement over the new hero, the Man Called Nova. Though most new heroes are launched in try-out books in these times, Stan Lee’s enthusiasm for the new hero gets him a first issue of an ongoing monthly title. “Now if only Wolfman, John Buscema and co. will hurry up and finish it!”
That’s the way it was, in 1976: rock’s getting a new shot in the arm through punk, why not super hero comics with a punk of their own? Meanwhile, a bizarre flipside take on super heroes and high school coalesces in Nova’s contemporary, OMEGA THE UNKNOWN, as different from super heroics of the day as Nova was their embodiment. HOWARD THE DUCK and RED SONJA are the other two big debuts that come to mind, taking off by ’76 as smash hits embodying passing trends...though HOWARD seems built around its creator’s idiosyncratic persona, the sword by which the concept lives and dies.
So the year passes. Steve Englehart’s begun his big run on Detective Comics and Justice League of America, while LOGAN’S RUN, BLACK PANTHER, and MS. MARVEL are highlights of the new Marvel crop. It’s not a market where things catch a lot of traction; can anyone name a launch of the era that survives? For this reason doth this be the Implosion Era, in some ways; a blizzard in early ’78 causes a distribution nightmare, and when we get there we’ll find a cavalcade of hopeful new ideas in need of a good spinner rack. But by summer of ’77 Marvel’s about to score its biggest licensing hit yet with STAR WARS and her Human Rocket’s still blasting into monthly adventures, like...
Nova #13, 1977

“Watch Out, World, the Sandman Is Back!”

Wolfman / Buscema / Sinnott Annette Kawecki, letterer; Phil Rache, colorist

8:30 am: the Hempstead National Bank has Richard Rider bemoaning his two hundred and fifteen dollar account, as it will prove little help with the mortgage, and oh yeah, Sandman is smashing the window with a gang in tow, sandblasting the guard in his fashion. This time, a new crimefighter, the Crimebuster, dives into the fray, combating the hired thugs with tactics and a lasso-gun. By this point Rich is Nova, going against the grain (:-( and his dubious mindset by standing up to his super-powered foe, whose strength rivals Diamondhead. Some quick thinking leaves Sandman pouring into the vault, where Nova locks him. Now he meets Crimebuster, who says he’s waited for two years to debut. He makes his getaway with superb timing in a hovercraft waiting overhead.

The victory dance is short-lived; after all, how will they get Sandman out? He works this problem out to his advantage, sending his grains out through an air-vent, but cashless. Another manipulator watches him with anticipation, while a German-accented man in the shadows, identified as Von Horstbaden with an apparently dark past, prepares to procure Sandy’s services.

At Truman High, Nova rockets through an empty room window to change into his wrinkled clothes. Ginger Jaye now spots him in the hall and offers her tutoring help to the “all-night studying” spazz she calls cutie. Now they attend psychology class together, where lotus positions and shared feelings are the order of the day. To his chagrin, he’s asked to begin by going around the room telling what he most dislikes about his friends. When he holds back, Mike Burley’s happy to pitch in, slamming the rampant jealousy towards himself and confessing his envy that they, his classmates, live without the constant pushing that forces him to excel.

Meanwhile Sandman badgers himself with an even more brutal assessment of himself than is typical for our hero. Under the name Heinrich Von Flessle, our shady “Karl” from before presents his services as shrink. Soon his “therapy” includes a set-up that echoes a Kirby laboratory, featuring an “encephalographer.” The offer to increase his confidence apparently begins with a torturous walk through his previous failures against Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and Hulk, and a negative-conditioning of extreme pain.

The phony shrink calls up our behind-the-scenes villain, our BSV, who now awaits phase two. The Sandman is theirs to control, a situation he wishes to extend to an unidentified man in chains.

Nova’s bored. Time to zip around the town. The people he thinks envy him below actually scapegoat him for their frustrations. The Thing’s intense reading of Dracula sets him up to spook himself as Nova flies by. Time for Charlie’s Angel’s on TV.

Nova finds a man worse for wear, begging him to rescue a Doctor T’Kora. Nova slams feet first into the getaway car’s engine block, then uses tires to immobilize the gunman before he makes off with his hostage. The Doctor here knows T’Challa, knows NYC is wild, but has no idea why anyone would hurt him. The Sandman does, however, and he and Nova clash. The helmet re-breather helps once more, as the thoroughly-punched hero flies out of the harbor to attack Sandman again.

His dive passes him about halfway through Sandman’s controlled granular body, which he now uses to crush Nova. He takes both of them hostage. Soon Nova hangs in a trap described as jets beneath, waiting to burn him, while liquid oxygen nozzles then freeze him “as brittle as spun glass” as he hangs tethered by each appendage by metallic tentacles. Sandman lies back for another “therapy session”, and painfully absorbs information about his next target: “athlete supreme,” “student wizard,” and overall BMOC, Mike Burley. The last panel previews the assault preceding Mike’s kidnapping by the sandy villain, while Nova begins to stir in his sealed environment, unaware of the nature of the trap he must endure and escape.