Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Continuing with Roger Stern's classic Avengers run, Marvel Comics Group, 1986

You might’ve found the clash of egos between Namor and Hercules amusing; perhaps the arguing just left you cold. Perhaps you enjoyed the complexities of their friendship. When Captain Marvel breaks up their latest row over Namor not catching Hercules---tossed in the air by the Beyonder’s parting gift, a tornado, in #265---she gets them both to focus, irritated though she is. “May your beard grow inward” from Namor’s thoughts as they work together, is the funniest thing I’ve read all day.

When Marrina flees Atlantis in #272, Hercules is the first to speak his worry. It is well that Namor realized, when Attuma repulsed him alone with the forces of Atlantis, he should in fact call Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

The entire team’s reassembled: Captain Marvel, Black Knight, Captain America, Hercules, the Submariner, and their leader, the Wasp. Now, his fiancĂ©, Marrina of Alpha Flight, is the endangered one, tortured by the new barbaric monarch. Her team mates also arrive: Vindicator, North Star, Aurora and Box join shape-shifter Snowbird against the Atlantean defenses, who offer no cordialities to their exiled prince (a story told in a 1985 limited series).
Namor overcomes Attuma, but after he frees Marrina, he must leave him in charge of Atlantis.

His regrets are much more personal; Marrina’s alien nature has asserted itself, usurped her human appearance. As she explains, she, a Plodex egg from the stars, only assumed human form because that’s the first thing she detected: her adopted mother---but what of her lifetime of human feelings? Neither Namor nor Captain Marvel can stop her. He invokes private privilege once more, in his quest to save Marrina’s very soul, and with it takes his leave of the Avengers.

His two billion dollar lawsuit is a burden he’s taken on, so that he might settle it rightfully in court, and with it, establish a true place “in the world of my father.” What an unfortunate time, especially, for him to choose not to return.

I like how Captain Marvel softens at this other side of Prince Namor, even as the team loses him this sad way. I am not sure he is right to pursue her alone without his surface friends. I do know they will shortly need him very much!

Jumping to Conclusions: the beauty of Roger Stern's AVENGERS, 1986

AVENGERS #264: The very first piece comes together long before Hercules is casually quaffing wine and popping grapes, indifferent to the Submariner’s desertion in #271. Here in this blog we’ve noted Roger Stern’s first AVENGERS storyline ties up the legal saga of Hank Pym and includes his dust-up with the Masters of Evil under Egghead.

In this story, a new villain---a rookie with some technological expertise---uses remote control devices to remove Pym’s Yellowjacket equipment and costume from within Avenger’s Mansion! It’s actually quite humorous to watch the costume seem to “walk” out under its own power, just beneath the notice of the Avengers and their temporary guests, the Fantastic Four. Hercules, for one, conveys his awe to Reed Richards concerning his ability to create all manner of marvelous machines---as well as his assertion that too many strange things have been happening around the Mansion of late! I’m amused to see Jarvis talking to Franklin Richards at play, as well, as the Yellowjacket outfit walks, as though inhabited by a ghost! On her own, the new Yellowjacket has become the first invader of Avengers Mansion, though she hasn’t been recruited to Baron Zemo’s organization yet.

The story opens with Dane Whitman, a.k.a. the Black Knight, running scientific tests on the new, expanded limits to the Wasp’s powers. (He does score a friendly dinner date!) Their session brings up her ex-husband, whose experiments led to her powers in the first place, and have proven more successful than he envisioned as Janet Van Dyne’s powers have adapted over time.

We also see Monica Rambeau (Captain Marvel) with her mom, trying on clothes, intercut with her firefighter dad bravely saving the day. (It’s nice to see a regular person do that in this book, now and then.) She ponders revealing her secret identity to the team---“Steve and Jan have been such wonderful friends---“ and has no problem with Cap, the Wasp, or the Black Knight (who is openly known as Dane Whitman). The two Avengers with no other identities, Submariner and Hercules, leave her with doubts. Namor’s new membership gives her reservations about sharing her private self, and she wonders if Hercules, for that matter, could be trusted to keep her secret (which she’s shared with her parents). She happens to be undressed---vulnerable, private---as she considers whether she should extend that trust. Judging from the events to come in #271, “Breakaway,” her caution seems grounded. This is the first small fracture in the team bond Stern explores.

The focus on Janet continues; she demonstrates super-strength enough to bend a one-inch diameter steel bar at her six inch size, and maintains her wings all the way up to just one foot shy of her regular height. The story ends with an attempted burglary of her mansion by the new Yellowjacket, which infuriates her. Her strategy to shrink Yellowjacket disorients the new criminal completely; she surrenders, disoriented and afraid.

Yellowjacket returns in #271---but this time, with Masters of Evil recruits Grey Gargoyle (whose touch can turn almost anything to stone) and Screaming Mimi (a super strong ex-wrestler with a devastating scream). With Hercules nursing his grudge, Namor devoted to his Atlantean vendetta, and Cap busy with his national hotline (as depicted in his own monthly title), the Wasp and the Black Knight are left to face the villains.

I’m compelled to note Buscema and Palmer’s clear storytelling and expressive faces; they are classic old-school examplars of illustration. One could primarily examine the art and find a wealth of discussion. When I return to these stories, I am sure to touch further upon it. This run is really a text book example of how to do super hero comics. They don’t veer off into the wild panel layouts; their perspectives are not obviously experimental. The story telling, however, is crystal clear, with strong anatomy to boot. Establishing shots tell you where you are; body language works with the dialogue to really bring the characters to life, as you connect with the internal state of the characters, their feelings.

Hercules’ thoughts that “not all my ex-wives together were as demanding as the Wasp!” is humorous while foreshadowing a boiling point in their conflict. Just as he is mulling over slinking back to Mount Olympus, he gets to show off and help right a delivery truck, which gets him an invitation to drinks. The Wasp, meanwhile, has another home invasion---an apartment break-in---but this one resolves nicely, a visit from Paladin. He points out how she should unwind from her stress, leading the Avengers: he casually notes his jet-setting, while making the conversation all about her. Their “date” involves Paladin escorting her to jail!

Captain Marvel, meanwhile, answers a call from Agent Freeman, who notes the break out of several super criminals of late (all the foundation for the Masters of Evil scenario). He also asks her to call him “Derek” and muses what an improvement in his life a woman like Captain Marvel would be! She promises him a date the next week; the idea really hits the spot with her, too.

This time, it’s Dane’s turn to explore the properties of his powers, actually, the powers of his mysterious Ebony Blade. He explains to the returned Captain Marvel that, angled right, it can absorb energy, but he doesn’t know if it’s a scientific property based on its metal or an enchantment of Merlin’s! Then, he begins working with her on the problem that, while she can convert to many different energies on the electromagnetic spectrum, she avoids cosmic and x-rays around people. He suggests the safe form of neutrinos, then recommends the best place to find that energy: the sun itself! This sets up her visit to our fair local star, and also takes her out of the loop when the villains attack. In fact, a crisis moment develops: he knows she trusts him to monitor the experience. Yet, as no other Avengers are present. he must aid the Wasp when Grey Gargoyle and Screaming Mimi attempt to break Yellowjacket out of jail. Stern’s already busy with his theme of divide and conquer from this first chapter.

Next issue, he will weave back in Submariner’s story in Atlantis, which has crossed-over, itself, from ALPHA FLIGHT---another example, like the homeless Fantastic Four from #264, of Marvel’s tight cross title continuity during these times, while still leaving the individual titles independent for reading. On the other side of that, the Siege of Avengers Mansion kicks into high gear! I’d love to examine specifically how he puts it together further, just as I’ve analyzed the characters at the heart of his run on the series. We’ll see how the next couple of days goes!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pride Respect: the Lion of Olympus

The recently-deposed Submariner’s in the middle of being sued for billions of dollars when he answers a call to face the warlord Attuma, the new crowned replacement monarch of Atlantis. The Wasp is furious with Prince Namor’s reckless decision as AVENGERS #271 opens. With casual disdain, Hercules disagrees: it’s a matter of honor, “not that I expect a woman to understand.” She firmly disagrees and insults Hercules for not using his brain, and the Black Knight agrees the demi-god, their strongest, longest-lived member on the roster, is out of line. A willing guy for a challenge of power or courage, and a faithful guy to come to your rescue if word reaches him, Herc has yet not acquired that viewpoint regarding female leadership, most especially if he, regardless of what he has said, is then rebuked, for he is one to let feelings get involved before logic, and quite accustomed to being accorded his way among gods and mortals alike. Pride wounded, the Lion of Olympus storms out.

I think I've just found one of the inherent problems: dealing with any other human personality when you are forever secure in the sheer awesomeness of yourself, as part of your overall invincibility. Adoration and respect, or an unabashed willingness to take it to the floor. It goes well with alcohol. Or it really, really doesn't. When you are that great, why shouldn't everything be about you? It's the unforeseen danger for one who openly, bombastically declares himself Lion of Olympus. It's the love of his father, who he considers the All-Father, that has given him this character. But what about a challenge where Hercules himself must flee?

His challengers: his two friends. Pointedly, it's between and his boss. You know how we refer to authority as "superiors"? The woman with the power to shrink, fly, and sting, has not made the sale to Hercules. Her nerve in doing so, with so much, as always, on the line, befits her role. She is leading here. She is holding everyone together. But you cannot make Hercules do anything he does not want under almost any circumstance. That is a challenge of colossal proportions, and the skill to do so under contemplative circumstances might be found within. The fact that they don't really have a second to lose underlies this scene of verbal punches. I think that sense of urgency underlies people's lives in everyday life; the financial siege of the household is an unease that makes the experience of these imaginary super humans relatable.

Fairness: that’s all he wants for himself. But what about the Wasp, and what about the Avengers? The two physically strongest Avengers, through no plan whatsoever on Zemo’s behalf, for pride’s sake tear themselves free from the team’s bosom. It’s practically an invitation to thrust a dagger in their heart.

This is the way the Siege of Avengers Mansion begins; already enemies align on a scale unprecedented in its coordination of brutish and diabolically imaginative powers. People are inclined to sometimes disagree. The dark side of teamwork is on display here. The very character values that can win the day for the Avengers are at test. Only divided, they fall. By their nature as villains, Baron Zemo and the rest discover those self same values that make a group of people effective are not present, and their simulation of those values, their simulation of a team, unsustainable. It is a question of what you stand for, whether or not you endure. If that seems like optimism to you, I hope you will consider the realism of that outlook.

I guess STAR BLAZERS will start up sometime next week. I didn't think I wanted to keep updating this every day, but it sure looks like it. I just wanted to make time for my own original creation...but that involves such delicate consideration. I think I can get drawing and guitar in every day, plus exercise, and some time being thoughtful of others, and enjoying the process of learning.

I'm sorry I can't get away from writing about my passions with an off-handed blurb, and so, I wonder how many hours I could pass obsessing over Stern's well-crafted tale, which I've re-read one time in September in at least twenty-five years. Upon opening #271, I found that my familiarity with the characters through the stories Stern has written up to this point inspires me to comment, for though I've only read most of his AVENGERS stories this one time, their cumulative narrative I've written about so cursorily here now has hidden messages for me, much like a professor re-discovering the curriculum each year, or a priest meditating on verses. I'm counting on this material, and my response to it, to prime me to participate in abundance, trust myself to assert my creativity through a process to which I must ever remain receptive.

I can only imagine what would happen if I took part in the books of my college years again. There is a certain spirit I've chosen to explore, while acquiring all the fundamental skills to make universal things with some timeless endurance, or at least, for whoever they reach to still matter enough for me to sustain my part with a limitless sense.

AS an individual, I want some sense of constructive activity, even while I follow my heart. It's been as strange as I'd hoped. It's just really important to you as an individual to establish how you feel, because it will be accompanied by thoughts. Be kind to yourself.

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online version of DNA #1!!!Fifty cents for a complete, nuanced, spine-tingling sixteen page story, written and drawn by us. Myebook - D'n'A  Comics #1 - click here to open my ebook

I actually found the DVD my friend Joe Braband gave me with these comics, and realized I was simply advertising how good I thought this run of comics was from memory, and was feeling guilty about the time I put into this project, rather than feeling comfortable with it, as it is time-consuming, and I must stay so busy to stay any good at my abilities, for which I'm thankful and dedicated to the joy I can bring people with them. I do want to finish looking at this so I can put it in another friend's hands. It might be healthiest for me to pick up my discussion of these last sixteen issues at a later date. I've been wanting to put my script, comics pages, and a comic strip page or two in DJE3's hands, not to mention a music demo, so I'm going to have to settle for whatever I can finish, as we have a couple of awesome conversations already put on hold since we last got over to see him. (Of course, I can always ask him for it again later, and maybe write some more about this at a later date!)

My challenge is to not hide from everyone because I am not done, but I really need to focus and stay energetic, because it's a lot of high-octane, youthful vigor that we've built together naturally, but I'm appreciating how even a life so humble as my own can be as difficult to domesticate, if you will, as any mighty oxen. (If you will look at my, you will find another task I've taken on, and if you want to help two stranded Americans overseas, maybe you can help pass on their story!)

In fact, whatever I finish in the next few days is also heading Joe Braband's way, as he is also going to share his own complete project, from his RECON series for Pentagon TV, his Emmy-nominated work.

I thought I might be using writing about the work of others as a crutch, but I need not exhaust my time and energy at this when it can play a part I would call my hobby, at worst, involved as I am in several things I want to put into a finished form---if only it didn't feel like I was abandoning what I complete!

But then, you can only pick up what your hands can hold, only walk with what your arms can secure, and if you just stand there long enough to be thankful, I can see that, but at some point, it's time to progress. And there you go. I did not have all I was looking for, but in the meanwhile just this morning I've changed the names, or added to them, really, of two major characters in the presentation of DANGER BOT.
They're inspired by the names of the brothers Wildstar in STAR BLAZERS, actually---their original, Japanese names, which mean "to progress or advance" and "to protect." You'll see.

So long as I am resolved, at least, even at a standstill, my work is ever deliberative, while the way feels haphazard enough to ensure I'll never be bored.

You might say my approach is like this: be mindful, and apply yourself one hundred percent in whatever you do.

What the Butler Saw: Siege at Avengers Mansion (Marvel, 1986)

Mister Hyde. Goliath. The Wrecker and the Wrecking Crew, Thunderball, Bulldozer, and Piledriver. Moonstone. Blackout. The Fixer. Yellowjacket. Tiger Shark. And more, selected to match each Avengers’ strength---and together, surpass it.
Gathered by a scientific criminal mastermind---for the purpose of destroying the Avengers, utterly, once and for all. And should they survive, then…the wrath of a god-king?

Roger Stern’s Avengers themselves have been my primary focus; we’re going to mix one more fantasy oddball, Dr. Druid, and head towards old-fashioned costumed super criminals and face the gods themselves! (Wow, what that character could’ve been in the right hands! After Stern, he pretty much makes you hate him.) The Masters of Evil are the first threat Uncle Roj wraps up with his start on the title in ’82. For that matter, two of these owe their identities to Hank Pym’s career: Goliath and Yellow Jacket. How appropriate, at the Avengers’ last stand, a former burglar, Scott Lang, has used Hank Pym’s very first superhero identity, the one first partnered with now-leader the Wasp, who has taken, since her Silver Age debut in 1963 along with all the great Marvel heroes , an arc like Captain Marvel’s: from regular person to rookie super hero to expansion of powers to leader of Earth’s Mightiest Avengers.

Our last heroic spotlight, however, is on one unsung stalwart who stays true to the team, after punishments no ordinary man should bear. The failure to protect him symbolizes the extent of Zemo’s achievement in laying siege to Avenger’s Mansion, a place not only to gather heroes in vigil, but to train, to share downtime life, to think quietly alone, and to break bread---served by the man who makes Avengers Mansion a home, their butler Edwin Jarvis.

Jarvis is the human being who really holds together any sense of normalcy, the metaphorical manservant who sets strangers at ease, who bears delicious mutton, clean linens, and humanizes the refuge of the super humans, who, after all, are just people, too, with favorite foods and activities and moods. His fastidious upkeep of Avengers Mansion provides a lot of comic relief, in relation to the largely undomestic nature of a very far-out array of sudden house guests, many of which just may need a plate of cold cuts and a reminder not to stain the carpet!

I could go on for some length about the ingenuity, planning, and tricky alliances that comprise Zemo's one-by-one elimination or capture of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. He really has an answer for all the known factors. But the hardest thing to watch is bruiser Mister Hyde first destroy Captain America's original shield and his few keepsakes in a foot locker from his early life...beat the stuffing out of the Black Knight, who is after all also just a mortal man...and then, he brutalizes, cripples, and nearly kills poor Jarvis before the eyes of his super hero captives. In the aftermath of this nearly-lethal assault, Edwin Jarvis has to make a realistic examination of the danger to himself, living in the midst of these metahuman beings and their intense rivalries carried on at the behest of truly damaged, ugly-to-the-soul criminals.

He really proves to be the common man's thread; his history is their history. He's paid a lot of attention to the human element, shared many a confidence, and his story in AVENGERS #280 is the perfect epilogue to Siege at Avengers Mansion.

The Avengers: Kang, Masters of Evil, Olympus, and the great Roger Stern superhero period

Meanwhile, our remaining t-shirts are available at Convention Special Price, for $12 each plus $3.00 for shipping & handling.

• The members of this period are notable as experienced super heroes, rather than new ones, and overall older adults. The New York setting Stern used so well in his first two years rarely appears, as the team’s adventures happen mostly in exotic settings, like Limbo, outside time and space; Hydrobase, their new off-shore head quarters in the Atlantic Ocean; and Mount Olympus, home of the Greek gods.
Hercules (expansion, space, super-hero period)
*5. Black Knight (transition, Vision/ space period)
Submariner (superhero period)
6. Doctor Druid
Thor, * She-Hulk

A great on-going writer not only develops his characters across the length of his series, but continues consequences from previous storylines, so as to develop the team’s story over time. In this case, the Vision’s breach of national security (see “Ultimate Vision” posts---Loquacious Lue) has lead to a fight for the Avenger’s security clearance. They lose their permit to launch their two Quinjet crafts (the team’s shuttles) out of Manhattan, and so the Wasp goes shopping for real estate. The offer: an artificial island, built for scientific research, owned via international salvage laws now by Dr. Walter Newell, the sometime-costumed hero Stingray.

Along with this new ally, they discover the exiled Submariner, recently dethroned Prince Namor, content to gather seafood for dinners with the Newells and brooding on the beach. This doesn’t sit well with Hercules, who starts a fight just to shake him up. He’s one of the few strong enough to get away with calling him “Prince No More” and tossing him around a bit; it’s his smart aleck way of being good natured and cheering up the Sub-Mariner. Then, he proposes his new sparring partner for membership. Namor, a halfbreed Atlantean royal whose father was a ship captain, has a checkered history: he invaded NYC from Atlantis in those early Fantastic Four stories and often uneasy with the surface world’s pollution and reckless commerce, but he’s also stood as one of Earth’s Mightiest Defenders.

Stern remembers Marvel’s First Mutant was an Allied hero of World War II, and for the first time I know since their clash over the Evil Eye during Englehart’s run, his team work with Captain America is referenced. In a soul-searching conversation on the beach where Cap reveals to Namor for the first time that the Savage Submariner accidentally returned the Star Spangled Avenger to the world from suspended animation, leading to the team finding Cap. The two men strike up their old friendship, which predates the modern Marvel Age, and Cap vouches for the hot tempered ex-monarch’s bid for a new life.

When word gets out gradually, the public is divided, with protesters on both sides of the issue. The Wasp regrets not having a proper press conference to ease his transition, but the cat’s out of the bag, so to speak. No pepper spray’s required: Namor proves himself rescuing a helicopter damaged by Moonstone, who’s stirring up the protesters in disguise. No, the interesting bit is the two “security officers” who lead Moonstone away are actually recruiting her for the Masters of Evil! For his trouble, Namor is successfully served a summons, regarding a billions of dollars lawsuit for damages incurred by his previous invasions.

In between, the Beyonder ends his time on Earth, and nearly ends the Earth, save for the efforts of the Molecule Man and the Silver Surfer. The Avengers also get caught in Limbo, the shifting, nebulous place outside of time, with its own eerie progression, and hordes of Dire Wraiths exiled there by Rom, Spaceknight! It’s part of Kang the Conqueror’s plans to eliminate his other divergent selves spawned by his time travels. Captain Marvel observes Captain America’s steadying influence on the Sub Mariner, who she finds very difficult to trust. Hercules also begins to take serious issue with the Wasp, having never in three thousand years obeyed a woman before. Black Knight, beginning to crush on Janet secretly, notes her ability to get Hercules to be constructive, but wonders if the time will come when he won’t be bothered to listen.

They need all the team unity they can manage. Baron Zemo, son of the original Nazi Baron Zemo, wants to destroy Captain America for killing his father (who died from his own attack in early issues of AVENGERS) and his team as well. To this end, he’s assembling the biggest Masters of Evil yet, manipulating their dissension and their base desires to keep as many as seventeen super-villains in line. The story of the Siege of Avengers Mansion is worth a post in itself; that’s where I first bought the title, towards the end of 1986. It’s the definitive Roger Stern Avengers story arc!

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Marvel Comics' Avengers, 1985 from Roger Stern Beyonder: That's Some Turkey

Finally: the last in my Turkey Day Triple Treat:
Oh yeah, you’ve been waiting for it: SECRET WARS II. Whether it took you on a tour of the comic shop, with all its cross-overs (that really was the perfect place to explore as much of it as you wanted), or whether you just wished the whole war stayed a secret, the Beyonder’s visit to Earth became the Marvel Event of the Year, at a time when such a concept had never been tried.

The Thanksgiving turkey has arrived.
Storywise, how do you write about confrontations with a being of limitless power? It’s an exercise in frustration, and you’re going to watch every one that stands against him be humbled if not humiliated, while no reasonable force could be brought to bear in equal portion. (No Ultimate Nullifier on the shelf, here. Who knows what it would’ve meant to the Beyonder, anyway?) Early on, though, there’s the question of what to do with the curious being from another universe, how to interact---what to even believe! When the Beyonder attempts to emulate the superheroes---even creating a body for himself that replicates that of Captain America, without the particulars of his training---the Avengers take a wild gamble and offer him probationary membership in their program. Who knows what might’ve been? Nonetheless, after the Skrull Gene Bomb, the Beyonder finds Firelord.

Firelord tells him they are out to stop Nebula. Beyonder takes this as his cue to

remove Nebula---just as she's about to be brought to justice.

This leads to Starfox leaving the Avengers. He takes it personally upon himself to track Nebula, for she claims to be the grand-daughter of Thanos---his brother. Firelord, wishing to settle the score for Xandar's destruction, joins him.

We're just a few months away from seeing a lot of the Beyonder in THE AVENGERS; he has them out-classed to such a frustrating degree, at most we get more speeches, as well as courage in the face of futility. The best moment regards Namor's apparent decision to throw in with the Beyonder. In the end, the power of the Molecule Man is brought out of retirement to undo the damage he creates, in an epilogue shown in AVENGERS #266. I love the part where the survival of Saks is second on the Wasp's list of things worth saving in the world.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Avengers, Skrulls, and Space Opera: 1985

Second Part of a Three Course banquet of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!
FIRELORD: Hot Air Balloons

As if their inability to save the Savage Land were not enough, the Avengers return home to find that National Security Council agents ransacking their headquarters.

According to Raymond Sikorsky, in light of information from the Vision's debriefing, the Avengers' priority clearance has been suspended. Without a moment to breathe, they're called in to confront Firelord, only to find the former herald of Galactus already defeated by Spider-Man.

That’s right, Firelord.
Any Spidey fans remember him trying a slice of New York Pizza?
Hercules proves the rare voice of reason, convincing his ally of old to join the Avengers in their next great danger, as a way of making amends for his rampage on Earth.

The Skrull empire is in disarray, warring provincial powers dividing hegemony with shifting alliances.


Starfox has a power he keeps secret at first from the Avengers; this may not have been intentional, but it demonstrates a lack of understanding to do so. Mentally, he can stimulate pleasure centers in the minds of sentient beings, used in conjunction with persuasive words and conciliatory gestures. This proves handy in more than one battle, but when the awareness comes out, he’s held at an arm’s length by female team members. This “cheat” alters the nature of his charm and appeal to the opposite sex, even though he’s never depicted using this on anyone but an enemy in these stories. It might be beneath him to ever use this power on a female who is undecided about him---unaware being the operative word---but it’s hard for them to ever know.

Aside from this, he’s brave, buoyant, and knowledgeable of advanced scientific technologies…especially those of his native Titan. Ahh, but we know from the Vision’s chapter as chairman about the hazards of Titanian technology. As a matter of fact, the Vision’s the one person who knows about his “persuasive power,” and perhaps he appreciates playing things close to the vest. If the Vision’s will were altered by the process of becoming one with ISAAC, however, happy-go-lucky Eros finds himself questioning his part in whatever harm was done.
Thus, it’s a more contemplative Starfox who utilizes more of this Titan moon technology to pilot a starship full of Avengers, plus Firelord, to Captain Marvel’s rescue in the Andromeda Galaxy.

As summarized by SuperMonkey’s comprehensive blog:

Once reunited with her teammates, Captain Marvel presents them to the Skrulls' leader. General Zedrao, who tells them how, after Galactus's destruction of their throneworld, the ruthless Nebula and her mercenaries had taken over world after world of the shattered Skrull Empire. Although Captain Marvel had engineered a ruse making it seem that Nebula had destroyed Zedrao's base, Nebula is still at large and in command of Thanos's immensely powerful ship. Thus, although neither side truly trusts the other, the Avengers and the Skrulls become allies against their mutual foe.

Following the Avenger's decision to side with the Skrulls in order to stop Nebula's bid to take over the universe, Firelord refuses to ally himself with a race that has shown so much aggression toward his Xandarian people (See my blog “Nova’s Finest Hour” (September, 2010) for more on the four-fragmented world of Xandar—Literate Lue). He returns to his home world of Xandar to find it in ruins, tracking down its ruler Queen Adora, Firelord learns that it was attacked by Nebula's forces.

Elsewhere in space, the Avengers and Skrull commander Zedrao prepare to deal with Nebula, commanding Thanos' Sanctuary II ship. First they teleport a communications tube near Sanctuary II which is promptly brought to Nebula. In it, Nebula views a message from Zedrao and Captain Marvel asking her surrender. Blasting the device, Nebula furiously orders her soldiers to battle... one she begins losing to the attacking Skrulls and Avengers. Nebula has devastating weapons, but if she lowers her ship's shields, Captain Marvel can penetrate them in her energy form.

Firelord rushes back to play cavalry to the Avengers. While he turns the tide, he's also blasted into the next moon---but not seriously hurt. Who's this standing over him asking: "Are you one of the Avengers?"

Alongside her team, Captain Marvel tries at first to penetrate Nebula's shields, then smartly decides to over load her system. Spent, she returns to human form.

Thanos and the Avengers apparently board the Skrull ship, feared by all. In reality, it's Captain America leading a group of disguised Skrulls into the heart of the operation.

Thanks to a Gene Bomb, we’ll see the entire Skrull people lose their shape-shifting abilities. In addition, they are frozen in whatever form they possessed when the bomb activated! It all goes down in AVENGERS #258-260, and a 1985 cross-over of summer annuals, between FANTASTIC FOUR and THE AVENGERS.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Avengers: Buscema/ Palmer, Skrulls, space, and the Secret Wars II period

Myebook - D'n'A Comics #1 As promised: the
online version of DNA #1!!!Fifty cents for a complete, nuanced, spine-tingling sixteen page story, written and drawn by us. Myebook - D'n'A  Comics #1 - click here to open my ebook

Meanwhile, our remaining t-shirts are available at Convention Special Price, for $12 each plus $3.00 for shipping & handling.


AND!! You can use the button provided; the $15 will cover your postage.

D'n'A t-shirt #1


D'n'A t-shirt Puzzle pieces (girl and boy)

While we prepare demos to go gig-shopping again, we have numerous other ideas in the works.
We offer online home concerts, through Ustream (which is free; please tip through Pay Pal!) and We'd love to play for you, personally, or for your party. If you are NOT on the Pacific coast, adjust for time !! We are three hours behind the East Coast, for example. copy and paste this to see tickets! Welcome to our concert site! It's easier than visiting all four hundred or so houses we invited but it's almost as fun!!!

our welcome video, for new people on, for example

3. Savage Land / Skrulls, Space / Secret Wars II Period) 1985

Fourth great Stern Avenger, Starfox

3. Savage Land / Skrulls, Space / Secret Wars II Period) 1985
Fourth great Stern Avenger, Starfox (NY period, expansion, space; Eternals, Nebula)
Great Captain Marvel story guests: Ka-Zar and Shanna Plunder

Every X-Men creative team that likes to imitate the arc of “Sentinels, then Savage Land” innovated by Thomas/Adams back in the 60’s must’ve collectively wailed when Stern and his new collaborators shocked much of fandom with the destruction of the Savage Land! A Marvelverse sort of “Lost World” via Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Savage Land also played home to its Tarzan-derivative Ka-Zar, who in this story is expecting a baby with his equally wild and acrobatic wife, sometimes known as Shanna the She-Devil. Their adventures in the Bruce Jones-written KA-ZAR series ended about a year before, so while it was great to see these characters again, in those pre-Internet spoiler days it must’ve been a shock to see the nearly-unstoppable alien Terminus ravage the land Galactus-style! The alien, introduced recently in FANTASTIC FOUR #269-270, has a giant secret uncovered here in battle.

Captain Marvel’s on an errand designed to distract her from the Vision’s takeover plans, but she gets a surprise when she discovers Sanctuary II, boarded by pirates of space. The ship is from the fleet of Thanos of Titan, which the well-studied Captain realizes means it’s a dangerous weapon that could tilt the scale of inter-stellar wars. The pirates attempt at first to cajole her, but she realizes their leader, the blue-skinned woman called Nebula, is not only nefarious, but also has the upper hand, once she launches the ship into hyper-drive! Going along with the crew’s plans, she uses her powers to disrupt the security system of a Skrull outpost. Good for her that she uses the commandeered outpost to send a cosmic S.O.S. to the Avengers!

Along with the return of Hercules, who once joined for a year while exiled from Mount Olympus comes another Avenger from his contemporary era some two hundred issues before: the Black Knight. Scientist Dane Whitman’s life turned upside down after he took up the mantle of his criminal uncle, Nathan Garrett, for whom he was first mistaken. Then, he acquires the Ebony Blade, indestructibly forged by Merlin, some say, and eventually takes the place of his 12th century predecessor as Black Knight…all of which leads to his absence through most of the intervening years. His unfamiliarity with the new super heroes plays like a “man out of his time” story, somewhat like the revived Captain America, and makes a terrific stand-in for the long absent fan getting a grasp of the new characters. His amazement and curiosity over the improbabilities and wonders of the Avengers world keeps it from becoming too commonplace---another reader point-of-view character is born afresh.
When the Wasp returns from her vacation, reinstated as chairwoman, the Black Knight becomes the newest Avenger, answering a mysterious South Atlantic distress call that lead to their Antarctic battle against Terminus, outer space ravager.
After the Avengers meet Ka-Zar and his sabre tooth tiger, Zabu, Starfox rescues his pregnant wife Shanna. Like in the Lost World, Terminus enters the Pangean jungle by way of a plateau he blasts through, wrecking the artificial environs of the Savage Land, which reverts to Antarctic tundra. Black Knight severs one of Terminus’ giant hands, revealing it as part of a giant robot exoskeleton. In another X-Men callback, Starfox hurls Hercules “fastball special” style into the armor, which he rips apart to reveal John Byr---er, a pale, obese and helpless alien exaggerating the worse traits of reclusive comics fans.

Personally, I think right about here, with some adjustments to account for the Beyonder’s role, Roger Stern has a great movie plot! It’s true that our investment in Starfox has now reached its third year, but while he’s all business now in these stories, his part in them is perfectly clear if this is where you came in.
In fact, we’ll discuss Starfox next, as we head to outer space to the call placed by Captain Marvel---before her apparent disintegration! Nebula’s torpedo, however, does destroy the Skrull outpost Marvel was sent to scout. Unbeknownst to her, Captain Marvel sticks by in energy form---a hologram she will use strategically.

Now, we get to Starfox, the next of Stern's great Avengers characterizations.

Terrific scene from AVENGERS #250.

Friday, November 25, 2011

She's the Boss: the Wasp and Captain Marvel, Avengers, pt. 2

4. The Superhero period (AVENGERS 262-285) 1986, 1987

“Wait a cock-eyed second,” you might say: “aren’t all Avengers stories superheroic?”
Ah, but in this period the settings become detached largely from the view of the average person. We’re no longer in the familiar New York streets; everything’s exotic.

As his run ends, Roger Stern writes the graduation of Captain Marvel, who came in with him as a rookie and, just as he turns in what will prove his last scripts on the title, becomes the team leader, the Wasp, handing the baton to another, very different young woman---someone a lot like a less-experienced version of Cap, a real model Avenger---who makes mistakes, but not out of impoverished character. Monica’s role models definitely include Miss Janet Van Dyne, the team leader of note through her entire evolution. She, like the Wasp, respects people’s experiences, even her parents, all the while thinking for herself. For my money, they are as strong a pair of characters in any serialized medium with parallel arcs.

Maybe Monica’s a bit too pristine, a bit tragedy-free, to really hit that spot you find with the Lee/Kirby/Ditko Marvel Classic characters, but she is the bridge to that sort of humanism, and is what she must be. It goes unspoken, save in her demonstrated character, but frankly, as an African-American first, and as a woman on top of that, she must be at least twice, if not ten times as exemplary, as a super-hero. She carries a lot on her shoulders, but never casts her dilemma in terms of race, but of individuality. Wasn’t that Martin Luther King’s dream: to be judged, not by one’s skin, but by one’s character? The fact that Stern handles her evolution with this conviction is shown, not told, and is therefore strongest for that. Even when she is scared nearly to death going into Avengers #250, she goes into battle alongside the Avengers anyway. This illustrates the point that she never nurses self-pity. Go big or go home. Her exploration of her powers as time goes on is another wonderful science-fiction experience. If Stern is maybe too respectful of her reputation, it’s an error to his favor; what she stands for means everything to him, and his female characters play out before the chiefly young audience in an impressionable way.

Call it politically correct if you will, but it was the only right way to do it for the times, it was sincerely inspired by, and called attention to, strong people in the real world, and stands as an honorable contrast to the “girlfriend in the refrigerator” mentality that makes women objects of brutalization to “motivate” violence contributed by the vengeful male heroes.

The leadership position casts the Wasp as a character played in the round, so to speak, with mistakes and temptations. If anything, in her love of luxurious creature comforts and pursuits that would make a lot of sense and be a lot of fun in the real world; if Monica is the reader’s fantasy of superhero dedication with her energy being able to pierce the veil of imagination, Janet’s a fantasy of adulthood, in a somewhat more prosaic sense. The power to shop till you drop on Park Avenue and know it’s decadence is a fantasy you’ll not have a hard time finding in America. Monica’s easy to admire, and her powers are amazing, and she really is someone to whom you could look up to, which is fantastic! Janet, however, you just might underestimate---fortunately, her powers change to where she can shrink only about a foot in height before sprouting her wings and flying, which is an appealing ability, and she has a wicked energy “sting.”

If you have some prejudice regarding gender roles, you may find her unrelatable at times, talking of make-up and constantly changing her costume, or regardless of your gender, you may enjoy all of this, maybe even feel like you’ve learned a little something. It could be the rich thing: Monica’s modest working class background is beautifully done with a touch of New Orleans culture, but without exploitational stereotypes, while Janet’s epicurean tastes might rankle those who frankly find those things wasteful, the province of snooty people. They come with their stereotypes, too, but Janet’s always contrasted with them, and seems attuned to need in people---particularly of the type of need you have by the time you need Avengers! For now, let’s put that comparison aside, and not pit one against the other. Stern never makes rivals of them; why should I?
Chairwoman Wasp gets a pair of very head-strong super-strong men---an exiled undersea monarch and a son of Zeus---in the last incarnation of the team I’ll discuss.

They’re enormous fun, Namor and Hercules, a couple of characters I wouldn’t have related to much growing up, but you give them to Roger Stern, and it sings! Hercules in particular bristles under the command of the Wasp; if he were dating your sister, you might see a haughty, braggart swain, as Thor might growl when they are at logger heads (Lee/Kirby did it so well, you may not be able to read anything new very easily after they’ve spoiled you). If She-Hulk thinks of Thor as a bit of a chauvinist, Hercules is like Superman as a Frat Boy. Yet there is Cap, obeying, and the team, winning! No wonder Black Knight gets to feeling a bit insecure sometimes in this company. He has to hand it to Janet: she takes Hercules successfully in hand, as when they are lost in Limbo, seeking Kang the Conqueror. It’s noticeable, when he’s finally not in his right mind, Hercules makes a very bad judgment call based on this smoldering disrespect…and his mistake becomes compounded when his mighty father believes the Wasp is at fault!

She takes that consideration in, herself; if she hadn’t been leader, if she hadn’t been someone he resented so, he would’ve…but she does this soul-searching, knows she and Cap both tried to stop him from walking into a deadly ambush, and is strong enough to realize, try as she might, her people make their individual decisions, and come to her group with their values already in place.

She cares, though, because she is a true leader, ready to sacrifice herself if necessary, and always giving of herself to the team. When her back is against the wall in the team’s darkest hour---when there IS no team left but herself----she conquers her own guilt and fights for the life of Hercules himself against the twisted romantic couple of the Masters of Evil, Titania and the Absorbing Man, complete badasses---with the most unlikely, but appropriate, super-hero imaginable: Hank’s successor as Ant-Man---Ant-Man! Her bedside manner’s good for Hercules, but it sure gives those two a headache. No, she can’t do it all alone, but she can decide, and that, more than her deeds, makes her who she is. After all these years, the Wasp, an original Stan Lee/ Jack Kirby creation of the fertile Sixties, is a decider: as a woman, and as a super-hero, and as a leader of last hope.

Meanwhile, our remaining t-shirts are available at Convention Special Price, for $12 each plus $3.00 for shipping & handling.


AND!! You can use the button provided; the $15 will cover your postage.

D'n'A t-shirt #1


D'n'A t-shirt Puzzle pieces (girl and boy)

Myebook - D'n'A Comics #1 As promised: the
online version of DNA #1!!!Fifty cents for a complete, nuanced, spine-tingling sixteen page story, written and drawn by us. Myebook - D'n'A  Comics #1 - click here to open my ebook
While we prepare demos to go gig-shopping again, we have numerous other ideas in the works.
We offer online home concerts, through Ustream (which is free; please tip through Pay Pal!) and We'd love to play for you, personally, or for your party. If you are NOT on the Pacific coast, adjust for time !! We are three hours behind the East Coast, for example. copy and paste this to see tickets! Welcome to our concert site! It's easier than visiting all four hundred or so houses we invited but it's almost as fun!!!

our welcome video, for new people on, for example