Thursday, September 25, 2008

Marvel Team-Up Prototypes: Girl Trouble, Part 2

Spider-Man 86-new Black Widow
Spider-Man #86 (1970) 

Amazing Spider-Man #86 (July 1970)
Stan Lee/John Romita/Jim Mooney
“Beware… the Black Widow!”

Doug: So, after two years’ time, how would Spidey handle a battle with another femme fatale? About the same, as far as my assessment goes. Like ASM #62 was a test-market for a Medusa or Inhumans series, this issue really serves as a vehicle to launch Madame Natasha in a solo series (inaccurately billed as “Amazing Tales” at the end of the story) of her own.

Karen: Yup, there’s an unabashed plug for her new series right in the story. Who says it wasn’t the Mighty Marvel Age of Marketing?

Doug: I really don’t care for the cover of this book. Spidey doesn’t look his usual self; he’s somewhat awkward. Additionally, while the figure work on the silhouette is fine, doesn’t it look like Marvel Girl? The mini-skirt, the belt… I’m not opposed to throwing the reader off; it’s just what it looks like to me.

Sharon: It sure doesn’t look like Natasha…perhaps when he did the cover, Romita hadn’t yet settled on a costume design for the Widow?

Karen: That shadow actually reminds me of the non-powered Wonder Woman outfit.

Doug: Stan and John give us a nice recap of Natasha’s career, but not possessing all of Marvel’s Silver Age books, I’m left to wonder when exactly she dropped off the radar. I know her appearances in the pages of the Avengers had become sporadic as the 1960’s wore on, but judging by Stan’s words she’d pretty much dropped out of sight superhero-wise. Her original costume looks so dated in the first pages of this story – it needed an update whether she was going to be a full-timer or part-timer anyway.

Sharon: I always liked her original costume, but I wonder if the costume was changed in part because Marvel felt it was too similar to DC's Black Canary, who was then enjoying a renaissance—she’d came over to the Justice League in 1969 (and she was just about to become a prominent player in the ground breaking GL/GA book). Marvel may have felt they couldn’t compete with DC’s blonde bombshell, so they went the Emma Peel bodysuit route with Natasha.

Karen: Doug, when I read this story I was also puzzled about how much time had passed since Natasha had been seen in the Marvel Universe. I could clearly remember when she broke up with Clint – which was Avengers 76, surprisingly from May 1970, only two months prior to the Spidey story. Before that I think her last previous appearance might have been in Avengers 63-65, in the storyline where Clint became Goliath. But she might have appeared elsewhere in that time period.

Sharon: In real time (release dates of the comics), the events occurred like this: March 1970: Avengers #76 (cover date May 1970) and ASM #85 (cover date June 1970) were released (the Avengers book was then dated two months ahead of the actual release date, though most of Marvel’s monthly books- - including ASM- - were commonly dated three months ahead.). April 1970: Avengers 77 (cover date June 1970) and ASM #86 (cover date July 1970) were released, and in late April Amazing Adventures #1 (cover date August 1970, it’s a bi-monthly mag) was released.

Sharon: So, in little over than two months’ “real time” (March-April 1970): Natasha breaks up with Clint (Avengers #76); fights Spidey (ASM #86); and stars in her own feature (in Amazing Adventures #1). Now obviously, we don’t know how much “Marvel time” elapsed between Avengers #76 and ASM #86, but wow—she must have taken some pretty potent hair growing vitamins in the interim!

Sharon: Karen is correct; the Widow had last appeared in Avengers #63-64 (she did not appear in #65, the last part of that arc), and had also appeared in a Captain Marvel issue that was connected to events in Avengers #63. In these issues, she had long hair for the first time since Avengers #31, but it was still black. All of a sudden, she shows up in ASM #86 with red hair! What's more, in her flashbacks (to her earlier days) she has red hair!
Sharon: About her new look: I have always felt Romita took a visual cue from DC's Batgirl here--the red hair, the sleek black/blue bodysuit--and in future appearances, the yellow costume accoutrements (here in ASM #86, the Widow's belt, bracelets, etc. are white but in future appearances they're colored yellow). In interviews Romita has said he based the Widow's costume on a Golden Age heroine, Miss Fury; but if you take a look at Miss Fury, you'll also see a striking resemblance to the Silver Age Batgirl costume (mask, cape, etc....and plot-wise, also the fact that the Fury and Batgirl costumes were not originally intended to be superhero costumes, but rather created to be worn at masquerade parties by their alter egos).

Sharon: About Natasha’s flashbacks (recounting her history): she (or Stan) gets a lot of her career chronology wrong. She originally started out as a non-costumed, non-powered villainess when she attacked Iron Man in Tales of Suspense in a couple of issues. Several issues later (still in TOS), she met Hawkeye (his debut) and induced him to join her in her crusade against Iron Man. Still later (in TOS #64), she finally starts wearing a costume (supplied by her Communist cohorts), though she adds the finishing touch by designing a mask to look like Hawkeye's (as she puts it).

Sharon: So when she's relating her story, what does she mean by "fate had turned two enemies (she and Hawkeye) into star-crossed lovers?" They were on the same side when they met!

Sharon: Well…I guess I have to ascribe her faulty memory to the literary technique known as "unreliable narration"--she's relating the facts as she believes them or remembers them. After all, no one one's memory is 100% accurate- - right, Stan? ;)

Doug: In my opinion, Stan did a pretty lousy job of writing dialogue for the Widow. As a lifelong Russian, albeit recently living in the States, I thought her speech patterns didn’t fit with how I thought I should “hear” her speak. She seemed too comfortable with American slang and culture. Yes, I know she was a high-caliber spy and would probably be well-versed in such things, but I still thought it didn’t work.

Karen: Unfortunately I have a tendency to hear Natasha’s “voice” too much like that other Natasha, from Bullwinkle!

Sharon: Marvel tries to explain her new speech pattern in an issue of Amazing Adventures; Natasha claims her ease with American English is the result of many hours of Berlitz lessons. But her dialogue in AA, and here in ASM #86, is at odds with her more formal, sophisticated dialogue in her preceding appearances, which were mostly in Tales of Suspense and the Avengers.

Sharon: Back to ASM #86: all of a sudden she’s revealed to be living a life of luxury and wealth? This lifestyle was never hinted at in her prior appearances.
Sharon: The new way of speaking, the new haircolor and costume, and the new angst - -all of a sudden she was preoccupied with her dead husband and worried about a “curse”- - meant she was for all intents and purposes a brand new character…sort of like what DC did a couple of years earlier when they depowered Wonder Woman and her look and manner and personality changed. As mentioned, Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel was hot then, so in the late 1960s a bunch of female characters emerged, who had no real inborn “super” powers and who--like Peel-- relied on superb athletic skills, karate, jiu-jitsu, judo, intelligence, etc. –Batgirl, Diana Prince, Black Canary (sure, she had a silly canary cry but her real forte were her fighting skills), Thorn (of Rose and the Thorn), and- -the Black Widow. A year or two later Marvel would finally create some more female leading characters who were not part of team --the Cat, Shanna, etc., but Natasha could be said to be Marvel’s first in that direction.

Doug: Jazzy Johnny’s art is again stellar, and as I commented in the previous blog, his females are beautiful. If I have one complaint, he really under-exaggerates the Widow’s waist. Wow – is she thin!! It’s been well documented that Romita designed her new costume and it works just great for her. It’s certainly functional for the type of fighter she is and the simplicity of it is a real update from the more elaborate original costume. The scenes involving the supporting cast are rendered with care – they’re not just throwaways. But then, Spider-Man is perhaps the comic magazine with the most well-developed supporting cast, and I think Stan took a lot of pride in keeping them at the fore month to month.

Karen: I have to say that I didn’t enjoy the art in this issue as much as some others, mainly because of the heavy Mooney style. I do think the Widow’s sleek costume is fantastic – simple yet sexy and cool. Here’s a question: is this the first time she was shown with red hair? I think it works for the new costume, although I have to admit I liked her dark hair with her old costume.

Sharon: Yes, ASM #86 is the first time she had the red hair. I too prefer her black hair, but I guess the powers that be felt her black hair wouldn't contrast enough with her new black-blue bodysuit.
Sharon: The credits call Romita and Mooney the "illustrators", but it's a similar set up as we saw in the earlier Medusa issue--Romita did the layouts/breakdowns (and final touch ups where necessary) and Mooney did the finished pencils--and he also the inks. You can really see Mooney's influence in the faces, especially in the innocent, childlike, rounded “Moon” eyes (his trademark)...though to me Natasha's sharper features look to have been fully handled by Romita. In Write Now! #18, regarding his Spider-Man tenure, Mooney states he "mostly did finishes. I penciled some of them, too" and that Romita sometimes did the "tight penciling, sometimes it was the loose penciling, sometimes it was just the breakdowns." And according to an interview he gave in Comic Book Artist #7, Spidey was Mooney’s first Marvel’s assignment (he’d asked Stan for work, fearing his days at DC were numbered with the emergence of Neal Adams’ realistic style—very different from Mooney’s more simplistic style). Mooney stayed on ASM for a couple of years or so. Interesting that Mooney, who was known for his work on teenagers (such as DC’s Supergirl), would come over to Marvel and work on a strip with a largely young cast--a good fit for him!Karen: Did anyone else notice that in the flashback, the Crimson Dynamo looks more like the Titanium Man?

Sharon: The Crimson Dynamo predated Titanium Man, so I would say TM was based on CD! Both were created (visually) by Don Heck, he must have liked that bulky design.

Doug: The battle is again predictable. It’s a pretty typical plot device. What’s interesting to me is that the Widow sought out Spider-Man to prove herself (and come on – as big as Manhattan is and he swings by her just like that??), and although we get to see her in action, we never really know the extent of her abilities (how does she cling to walls?). Perhaps this was editorial’s way of getting the reader to pick up her solo mag. You know, in both the Medusa tale and this one, Spider-Man never really exerts himself against his female antagonizers – no harm done, not even a punch thrown. In fact, the Widow leaves disappointed because Spidey does virtually nothing but flex a little muscle.

Karen: There’s more than a little sexism on display. Even after she attacks him, Spidey offers to “help her down” from the building, since it’s a dangerous place for a girl to be! I know, it was a different time…

Doug: Again, this book could be a precursor to Marvel Team-Up. As the Medusa issue served to launch her solo adventure and test the waters for an Inhumans feature, this issue did the same for a Widow solo series. Perhaps one could argue that forthcoming books like Marvel Spotlight would serve as the launching pad for such series, but one cannot deny the fact that Spider-Man was Marvel’s biggest marketing tool as the Bronze Age dawned, and his selling power could only help burgeoning characters/books.

Karen: Spidey was definitely used to sell books in the 70s; Hulk too. It seems like they were showing up in other character’s books all the time. I would almost bet that every new series started had an appearance by one or the other of them within the first 5 issues published!

Doug: By the way, this story is also reprinted in the 1977 trade paperback The Superhero Women by Stan Lee.

Karen: On a nostalgic note, I recall getting this comic from a neighborhood kid (I traded him some Hot Wheels I think!) a few years after it was published. Since I also got a bunch of Avengers and Fantastic Fours, this issue kind of dropped to the bottom of the reading pile!

Sharon: I was not a regular reader of Spider-Man back then, but I was a fan of the Widow’s from her Avengers appearances (I was a regular reader of the Avengers), so I bought this issue solely because of her. I recall being disappointed—as mentioned, she came across like an entirely new character and not the cool, cerebral Natasha who’d appeared in the Avengers. After a while I grew to like this new Natasha, but I will always have a fondness for the old version, fishnets and all.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Marvel Team-Up Prototypes: Girl Trouble, part 1

Amazing Spider-Man #62 (July 1968)
Stan Lee/John Romita/Don Heck/Mike Esposito
“Make Way For… Medusa!”

Doug: We thought it would be a good idea to take a look at some Amazing Spider-Man issues, and what better way than to explore some stories that led to later Bronze Age-goodness in the pages of Marvel Team-Up. Before the Marvel Age, the company was known for test-marketing concepts in the pages of their less-famous magazines, for trying out characters under other names, or even in slightly different circumstances than what we’d later become used to, etc. In this next series of blogs, we’re going to check out Spidey’s encounters with Medusa, the Black Widow, Quicksilver, and Iceman. This first issue that we’re going to critique is reprinted in Essential Spider-Man Volume 3, the mid-70’s classic from Fireside Books The Super-Hero Women, and The Amazing Spider-Man DVD-ROM (which I used for this reading).

Doug: Before we really get into the meat and potatoes of the story itself, I wanted to highlight a couple of the oddities and/or points of interest included in this issue. My main focus here is the Mighty Marvel Checklist, typically in this period found near the back of the book. ASM #62 spotlights an encounter between our hero and a solo Madame Medusa, and upon closer inspection a youngster in 1968 who liked this story might have felt compelled to run down to the local drug store and snatch Marvel Super-Heroes #15 – also featuring the beautiful Inhuman (and rendered by Gene Colan) – off the spinner rack. Another Inhuman, Triton, guest-starred in Sub-Mariner #3 – could this month have been an overall try-out for the Inhuman series that would later launch in the pages of Amazing Adventures? Also of note is a teaser on this same page for Marvel’s larger-sized The Spectacular Spider-Man B&W magazine. Stan mentions it in his Bullpen Bulletins, and there is also a full-page ad for it a few pages later. This is extra-significant in regard to ASM #62, as one of the foreshadowing plot devices in this issue shows a very disturbed Norman Osborn, who can’t seem to shake images of the Green Goblin and a mysteriously unmasked Spider-Man. This leads directly into Spectacular Spider-Man #2, which was in color and, sadly, was the last issue of the series. By the way, Spectacular Spider-Man #2 predated the famous “drug issues” of Amazing Spider-Man #’s 96-98 and contains a very psychedelic drug scene. One more thing, and I found this to be very funny: in between story pages 18 and 19 is an ad for an 8x10 autographed glossy of The Man himself, “suitable for framing, or pinning on your dart board!” Classic tongue-in-cheek Marvel humor – the ad, though small, has many more laughs. All for a buck plus 25 cents postage and handling…

Karen: Doug, I agree with you regarding this issue (and Sub-Mariner also published that month) as being try-out issues for an Inhumans series. Unfortunately, I just don’t think they have ever worked in their own title. They add some spice to other books they have appeared in, and are a nice addition to the Marvel Universe. But so far I don’t think anyone has made them work. Although they are still trying! We had Inhumans mini-series in 2007, and a Secret Invasion Inhumans book is on the stands as I write this.

Sharon: I agree…the Inhumans seem better suited as guest stars—at least, back in the Silver Age. Apart their visual appeal, they really weren’t very developed as individuals. There were interesting, tragic aspects to Black Bolt (his power, voice, relationship with his brother), but the others were basically ciphers. Triton would be trotted out to appear with Namor. There was the Crystal-Johnny romance that had started off as a Romeo-Juliet sort of thing…but once the physical barrier to Attilan was destroyed, she became assimilated into human society so there was absolutely no tension or interesting angle to their relationship. And there was Lockjaw, an inspired visual creation. But the others were, for the most part, one-dimensional. Medusa’s strong personality did a one-eighty degree turn when she returned to the Inhumans in #45; she became bland and prone to inconsistent handling (as in ASM #62). And Gorgon and Karnak were one-trick ponies. Maximus had the most exciting personality out of the bunch!

Doug: Amazing Spider-Man #62 has a gorgeous cover illustration featuring Spidey in the clutches of Medusa’s tresses. Set on a white background, the image is striking and supports my strong opinion that John Romita can flat-out draw women. His faces are always beautiful, and his proportioning of the female form, unlike today’s fanboys-turned-aritsts, is always practical and tasteful. Don Heck is credited as the “delineator” in this issue, so I guess that makes him the penciller? Nowhere did I really feel like Heck was exerting any of his own influence on Romita, who we should perhaps suppose did the lay-outs? Unlike Heck’s own pencils, which by 1968 had become stiff, his faces very gaunt, Heck seems to give us only a darkening of Romita’s actual roughs (again, I’m only assuming what’s gone on, based on a suggestion by Sharon in a conversation from another time). The only other time that I can recall when Heck seems undetectable on the page is X-Men #64, in which his pencils are buried under Tom Palmer’s inks to the point that the graphics look more like Neal Adams than anything Heck ever produced on his own. In regard to the design of Medusa’s costume, I can’t recall a time before, nor after, where she was drawn in this green/light green outfit.

Sharon: Note how vague the credits are—“Another Titanic Triumph by Smilin’ Stan Lee and Jazzy Johnny Romita.” Here, that means Romita did the rough pencils/layouts--which is tantamount to “plotting”- -hence the co-starring role with editor Stan. Heck, who is credited as the “delineator”, had to fill in (finish) the pencils already laid down by Romita. It became apparent that Romita was no speed demon like Kirby or John Buscema; so Stan had Romita do only the roughs thinking it would help Romita out time-wise (since JR didn’t have to turn in a finished product). But in terms of saving time, it may have been a wash because then Stan would have Romita go over Heck’s work and make corrections- - such as Mary Jane’s face, which had to look a certain way. Mike Esposito supplied the inks, using one of his pen names, “Mickey Demeo”—he also used the name “Joe Gaudioso” on occasion.

Sharon: By the way, by not doing the full pencils, Romita was freed up to do corrections/touch ups on other artists’ work (when directed to do by Stan). Unlike most of the other artists, Romita was on salary--it was the only incentive Stan could give him to come to Marvel- -so Romita functioned as a de facto art editor (in addition to getting paid on a freelance basis for his penciling). Some time later, Romita was officially given the art director position.

Sharon: And yes, it was a striking cover: Medusa's tendrils are in keeping with the tentacle motif that appeared on many ASM covers from that time.

Karen: No doubt about it, Romita Sr. probably drew the prettiest women of the Marvel Silver Age. They are all curves – just beautiful, flowing figures. It reminds me of a comment Romita makes in the documentary, “Searching for Steve Ditko”. He said that when he followed Ditko as the artist on Spider-Man, he tried to emulate his style as much as he could, but he couldn’t help drawing good-looking characters! This is why all the girls are gorgeous, and Peter Parker went from being a scrawny nobody to a well-built, handsome lad.

Sharon: Yes, Romita has frequently mentioned in interviews that he really tried, but he was incapable of drawing Peter as anything less than muscular and handsome! His version of Peter really changed the whole concept and tone of the Spider-Man comic. Evidently the new look was very popular, as within months of Romita taking over Spider-Man became Marvel’s top seller.

Karen: To me, Medusa’s green costume looked like a precursor to Jean Grey’s X-Factor uniform, with the X across the chest. Wonder if this issue influenced that look?

Sharon: The 1980s Jean Grey X-Factor costume…yep, it’s virtually identical to what Romita designed here. Scott wore a version, too (in blue and yellow)…but damn, Jean really started to look like Medusa’s lost twin in the 1980s (the coloring, the masks, etc.)! Take a look at Jean in, say, the X-Men Inferno or X-Tinction Agenda arcs; not only the costume but her hair has become distractingly massive. Granted, this was 1989/1990 when big hair was the norm, but with Jean it just seemed to be more exaggerated than with most other female characters.

Sharon: Back to ASM #62 and Medusa: I wonder why Romita felt the need to redesign Medusa’s costume for this one shot—though he kept the Kirby designed gloves and boots. The only other time I’ve seen this Romita Medusa design used was in Alan Davis’ wonderful 2007 mini-series: “Fantastic Four: The End.”

Sharon: I'm reading this ASM story in the black and white Essentials, but I recall in the original ASM comic her hair was colored orange (like Crystal and Jimmy Olsen) and not her usual tomato red (like Jean Grey and the revamped Black Widow as she appeared in 1970). If this hair color change was deliberate, the only thing I can think is that in ASM, the tomato red hair color was reserved for Mary Jane…sort of like in the old Hollywood pictures, you couldn’t have two platinum blonde actresses in a movie—one of them would have to appear with “mousy brown” hair.

Doug: The story itself is a good example of Stan and John’s Silver Age collaboration. Stan’s dialogue proves to be predictable; there’s the usual teen angst between Peter, Gwen, Harry, and Mary Jane, J. Jonah Jameson is at his bombastic best, and the plot device Montgomery G. Bliss is a send-up of a Harvey Korman-type character from the old Carol Burnett Show. John’s storytelling is well-paced, and his figure work is as expected in this era. The plot, however, is somewhat formulaic – heroes meet, misunderstanding takes place, heroes fight, everything’s OK by the end of story page #20. But then, that was the beauty/bane of the later Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-In-One books – the chance to see two characters who might not normally be between the same pages, even if the guest-star was often a B- or even C-lister.

Karen: Really, this is a forgettable story, only notable for the appearance of Medusa. It’s your typical “Super-heroes have a misunderstanding and fight, then figure out they are not enemies” shtick. It really doesn’t make a lot of sense – Medusa is in New York to see how people react to her, so she can tell Black Bolt whether they can join humanity? I didn’t think they had much interest in leaving their own little world. The art however, is quite nice.

Doug: I thought Medusa was written a little out-of-character. She really seemed to be the victim of hormones gone awry – very edgy, distrusting, prone to violent reactions. Her early years, most notably in the pages of Fantastic Four showed her with a varied personality. The Inhumans’ mistrust of other peoples was well-documented. I just felt this story was an ambling exploration of Medusa’s moods (although happiness was never on display). Hardly the depiction of noble royalty she might have been shown as.

Karen: Medusa comes off as a complete jerk. Very imperious, always referring to herself in the third person, throwing a tantrum at the modeling shoot – this is not her proudest moment. I think we can probably attribute this to being a “rush job” on Stan’s part – it just seems like little thought was put into the story.

Sharon: “Imperious” is the perfect word for how she’s written here and it’s out of character given the time period and character development up until that time. Her character is much truer to form in the Marvel Super-Heroes #15 Medusa story (on sale the same month as Spider-Man, though who knows when in continuity the MSH story is supposed to have occurred--from what I have read, it was an inventory story). The MSH artwork by Colan and Vince Colletta is utterly sublime artwork—their depiction of a flashback scene of Black Bolt freeing his people from the dome is, if anything, superior to Kirby’s original rendering in terms of power and drama. Archie Goodwin scripted the MSH story and did a great job capturing Medusa’s essence. Medusa rejoins the Frightful Four hoping to find a cure for Black Bolt’s muteness. It’s in fact a love story of the sort you’d find in 1940s Hollywood movie: she’s the reformed bad girl who is sacrificing her virtue to help her lover. And the deus ex machina ending is an absolutely fitting coda; it’s rhapsodic.

Doug: Overall, the book was a nice table-setter or try-out for Spidey teaming with other characters from the Marvel Universe. It was a done-in-one, although there were references to previous issues and, as stated above, foreshadowing as a way of promoting future books. I found it a mostly fun and completely predictable, if not memorable, read. No damage done and a fair contribution to the historical record as the Silver Age began to segue into the Bronze Age.

Sharon: As my esteemed colleagues Karen and Doug have noted, not one of Marvel’s better efforts. This Spidey issue seemed like filler, featuring a strained premise resulting in a predictable “misunderstanding.”

Sharon: Some closing thoughts on this “team up” issue: The Inhumans had just wrapped up as a back up series in Thor (a month earlier) so yes, as Karen and Doug have said, it's probable that this story, the MSH story and the Triton appearance in Subby’s book were meant as a lead in to an Inhumans series or book in 1968 (they also appeared in Fantastic Four #82-83 later in 1968, but alas, still no Inhumans book…) For some reason, the project was shelved, possibly due to Marvel’s realization they had “over-expanded” in 1968 (when Cap, Subby, Iron Man, et al., received their own mags). At any rate, in 1969 Stan felt compelled to explain the delay in his Soapbox; astonishingly, the continued absence of an Inhumans book was attributed to Marvel switching to new printers (don't ask...). Finally, after much ado, in 1970 the Inhumans appeared in Fantastic Four #99, and it was this issue that served as Marvel’s “lead in” to them receiving their own feature a couple of months later in Amazing Adventures.

Sharon: Prior to ASM #62, Spidey and Medusa had never had any interaction, though if you take a look at Fantastic Four #36 you’ll see he just missed bumping into her (and the rest of the Frightful Four)! Also, check out the cover of Fantastic Four Annual #3 (Reed and Sue's wedding): Spidey and Medusa are adjacent to each other (Medusa does not actually appear in the story).

Doug: Those examples aside, it does just crack me up how these characters bump into each other at the most opportune (or inopportune as the case may be) moment.

Karen: As a kid growing up in California, it really bothered me that ALL the superheroes were in New York! Sure, it allowed them to interact more often, but what was the rest of the country? Chopped liver?

Sharon: By the way, was Medusa--who made her debut in Fantastic Four #36, cover-dated March 1966--inspired by DC's Spider Girl, who'd appeared in the Legion story in Adventure #323, cover- dated July 1964? Spider Girl's power: her long hair, which she could (as she described it) "expand into a web" to ensnare foes. Alas, the poor girl couldn't control her hair all that well, so she was denied LSH membership…and in later years was shown to have joined the Legion of Super-Villains.

Doug: Regardless of what’s been said off and on through the years, someone at Marvel was reading DC (probably a copy boy – that was his main job) and vice versa. Even today, there are ideas coming out from both companies that can be directly attributed to what’s come before from the competition.

Sharon: Also, in ASM #62, a passerby remarks that the magnificent Medusa “makes Raquel Welch look like a boy!” Well, good looks obviously run in the Amaquelin family because back in Fantastic Four #45 Johnny said of Crystal “she makes Dorrie Evans look like a boy!” (also written by Stan and evidently a very common expression of appreciation back then, at least to Stan). What a line. By the way Dorrie was Johnny’s then-paramour and had appeared regularly in the Torch's Strange Tales feature, but she was only occasionally mentioned in the FF’s stories themselves (and doesn't show up in the FF book until 1973's FF # 134).

Doug: Yeah, those kinds of comments are a little grating on the nerves. And particularly when you cite two examples of the same line! But, since Stan was writing virtually everything Marvel, I’ll give him a pass. But it’s still not a good line…

Sharon: And in that same sequence, when Medusa says she merely wishes to walk among humans as an equal, a black cop replies: “There’s no law against that, lady.” This was 1968, folks, and we weren’t too far removed when there were laws against that. Along those same lines, a tragic coincidence was that ASM #62 was released in April 1968, mere days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Doug: Early morning, April 4, shot rings out in the Memphis sky…

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What the ????

Check out this map of Asgard, which I believe is from Journey Into Mystery Annual 1 (I got it from Marvel Masterworks vol.30). Jack Kirby has produced a breath-taking two-page panoramic spread of majestic Asgard.(Sorry for the gap between pages)

Looks like you'd imagine the home of the gods, right? Magnificent buildings, fantastic statues, the funky giant tree. But what's that in the bottom right hand corner? Here, I'll blow it up for you...

That's right, it's the Mall of the Gods! Because the All-Father might want a new pillow when he takes another Odin-Sleep!

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