Friday, November 12, 2010

A Byte of 1979

Machine Man #11 Wolfman/ Ditko
Marvel is essentially---especially in 1978---a superhero/ villain universe at heart. Late Kirby projects seem at home in their own worlds; something that crossed over within the books like his Fourth World would've been a great idea. Personally I love to imagine Machine Man meeting Captain America and the Eternals; I'll bet in Kirby's brain, inter-book crossovers weren't totally vanished like cigar smoke. Although Howard the Duck would've been...never mind!
But not only are we about to get super-hero/ villains, they will even keep around a bit of science fiction. At least a few bytes. Moreover, the new look's coming from Ditko, who created Marvel's strongest Silver Age look outside of the Kirby-influenced "House Style." But the cover's got a hand in Kirby Perspective, right? At any rate, Col. Kragg and the Army are gone, too, so it's a secret identity/ fighting villains kind of book. I would say it has elements of a Spider-Man comic, with two Spidey creators at the helm---but it never quite yields a Peter Parker.
So one day, you end up with Nextwave, :lol:
I wish they'd picked up Trish, the reporter, again. Any critique's subjective, however reasoned, so I'll save weighting the comparisons.
[color=#004040]"Byte of the Binary Bug!" [/color]
[i]Written/ Edited by Marv Wolfman Drawn by Steve Ditko Lettered by John Costanza Colored by Michele Wolfman Supervised by Jim Shooter[/i]
A green-garbed burglar floats like a dirigible over the skyline, disguised in a grey cloud. He detaches his gravity-defying device to begin a computer-oriented theft from a vault...of a fellow who runs an insurance company. He also has a friend who's come to introduce another friend who's working out his life: Aaron Stack, who quickly deduces monkey shine and levitates to the penthouse to surprise the thief, who's quickly gassed the security guards. This Binary Bug, however, says he's been warned about Machine Man (?) and produces one of his circuit-screwing amoeboids, like a featureless "Facehugger" that sends Aaron's controls berserk, while he escapes.
Dr. Spaulding rushes to detach the amoeboid weapon, just as his friend Byron Benjamin appears. Machine Man informs him they prevented a theft, and the papers involved, to Byron's gratitude, are certificates and bonds of great value; how can he thank Aaron? With a job, it so happens. So how about one at Delmar Insurance? (That's where Wolfman's Torpedo, Brock Jones, is vice-president; longtime ROM fans recognize the superhero deputy of Clairton, WV, who joins that book in 1981 with issue #21!---Lyron).

Senator Brickman's tee'd off about the poster we glimpsed on the splash page. He tears the image of Machine Man menacing the world to shreds, accusing some as-yet anonymous source of parlaying fear of the living robot into personal gain, such as he did in running for Senate as a congressman. He expects to use this to become President. He insults the help and insists they dig up the scoop here.

Aaron's a bit grumpy about shopping; maybe a lack of empathy is involved, 'cause even when he's not being harried by the public at large he often carries a bit of a chip. On his shoulder :-D. He's measured by a tailor, who assures Aaron the suit sleeves will ride up with wear. Well, no, but he does ask if Machine Man's a quarterback, with such shoulders. Next they pick out a toupee. (I can't help but wish they'd played this scene out a bit; Wolfman probably had more notions than 17 pages accomodate--even with Ditko's story-packed six and nine grids.) Now it's day one at Delmar, whose staid offices seem to lack individuality to Machine Man. He also replies to expectations of fraudulent claims: "Inequity breeds such injustices." (One percent of the country made 25% of the dough last year, so does he have a point?)

Just as Mr. Benjamin nearly introduces Brock Jones, Gilroy arrives with the requested Anderson policy, which Aaron is asked to take to Compucord, the processor. (The depiction of technology in the office in particular is a time capsule; the personal computer advent is a few years away.) Aaron's flabbergasted, privately at the very notion of two million dollars of jewels, as he gets the impression people care more about securing money than respecting life. In a small loft, the Binary Bug prepares in an Osborn-style secret nook. Compucord is his objective, too, as soon as the records room is empty between shifts. "His fingers dance across the sensor touch keyboard." I'm not positive what it is he's checking here on his home made console, but revenge against Delmar is his motive. We'll join his grey cloud over 57th st. when we return.


  1. good catch with the Delmar Machine Man & Torpedo connection. i think a What If issue featuring ROM and Machine Man would have could have made for great story given that you had two noble characters struggling to "find" their humanity.

  2. I'm really trying to picture it! I loved leaving the character's history behind for the curious, and enjoyed working from ROM's P.o.V. in retelling some of his tales. I need to finish some original stories, really---but when the day comes to ponder a new pastiche, that's an interesting premise. Right now, everything's tied into figuring out how to articulate my novel!