Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Fantastic News from 1967

My string of posts about 1967 wouldn't be complete without mentioning Fantastic Four King-Size Special #5 (a.k.a. Annual #5).

Promising to announce the biggest surprise of the year, the main story began with Susan Richards fainting—raising concern from her friends and family. The suspense ended later that issue with news that Sue was going to have a baby. Born in King-Size Special #6 (Nov. 1968), the son of the Invisible Girl and Mr. Fantastic came to signify how much time had passed in the lives of Marvel characters from that point forward.

In less surprising news, King-Size Special #5 also included a backup story starring the Silver Surfer.

Fantastic Four King-Size Special #5. Nov. 1967. "Divide and Conquer!" Stan (The Man) Lee and Jack (King) Kirby. Inked by Joltin' Joe Sinnot. Lettered by Swingin' Sammy Rosen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tales from 1967

In honor of the cliffhanger from Defenders #8 that referenced 1967, here's a look back at more memorable events from comic books published that year.

Out for revenge against Hank Pym and Wasp, the fiendish Whirlwind trapped the size-changing duo in an ant hill. After they escaped from that death trap in Avengers #46 (Nov. 1967), Pym installed cybernetic antennae into his latest costume as Goliath—regaining the insect-control powers he originally used as Ant-Man.

Nick Fury began to show his age in Strange Tales #154 (March 1967). Whereas prior issues depicted the S.H.I.E.L.D agent with a full head of brown hair, Nick Fury now sported "snow" around the temples. The distinguishing trait signaled the passage of time since Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos, a series published at the same time but set during World War II.

By the Seven Rings of Raggadorr! In another story from Strange Tales #154 (March 1967), the master of the mystic arts fought off hostile creatures in the Dark Dimension on his quest to the castle of Umar. There, Dr. Strange encountered the evil sorceress who had captured and threatened to kill Clea.

To protect his secret identity in Daredevil #25 (Feb. 1967), attorney Matt Murdock began the ongoing ruse that he had a twin brother named Mike. That issue also marked the first appearance of Leap-Frog, a villain whose son would later become the struggling hero known as Frog-Man.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sideways into 1967

The newly published Defenders #8 ended with a teaser … NEXT: SIDEWAYS INTO 1967! Given the sliding nature of time in most comic books, stories from 1967 now would have occurred reasonably close to the present. Just the same, here are some memorable events from comics published that year.

Ever-hounded by the people of Earth, an angry Hulk demanded that the Silver Surfer take him to a far-away planet in Tales to Astonish #93 (July 1967). While sympathetic to the Hulk's predicament, the former herald of Galactus was himself trapped on Earth and could not oblige. When all attempts to reason with the green goliath failed, the Silver Surfer flew off in frustration.

Avengers #43 (Aug. 1967) introduced the original Red Guardian (a.k.a. Alexi Shostakov, the estranged husband of the Black Widow). Though he died the following issue, the Soviet counterpart to Captain America would later inspire Dr. Tania Belinsky to become the second Red Guardian.

Iceman, the youngest of the original X-Men, celebrated his 18th birthday in X-Men #32 (May 1967), the first in a two-issue battle against Juggernaut. Acknowledging that the the original X-Men were adults, the merry mutants received individualized costumes in X-Men #39 (Dec. 1967).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Against the Swarm

A string of fatal insect attacks against leading entomologists prompted the national Department of Covert Extranormal Investigation and Disinformation to enlist the help of Dr. Druid (Secret Defenders #18-19).

At Dr. Druid's recommendation, Henry Pym received orders from the highest levels of government to investigate conspicuous insect infestations at the Rand-Meachum Technology Facility in Houston.

Though back to his Giant-Man powers at the time, Dr. Pym brought along a cybernetic helmet from his days as Ant-Man. Accompanied by Iron Fist—who was already on site as Daniel Rand, chairman and CEO of Rand-Meachum Inc.—Pym concluded that a singular consciousness was controlling the army of insects that stormed the facility.

Meanwhile, Dr. Druid, Shadowoman, and Cadaver of the Secret Defenders worked behind the scenes to battle Swarm, the collective intelligence responsible for the attacks.

During the encounter, Dr. Druid sensed that Iceman and Angel had previously faced Swarm (Champions #14-15). For backup, Dr. Druid cast an illusion in the minds of Iceman and Archangel that Professor Xavier wanted them to report to the facility. The two mutants arrived at the tail end of this latest conflict.

Secret Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 18. August 1994. "A Tiny Little War." Tom Brevroot & Mike Kanterovich (writers), Bill Wylie (penciler), Hudson + Dezuniga (inkers), John Costanza (letterer), Jim Hoston (colorist), Craig Anderson (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor in chief).
Secret Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 19. September 1994. "Survival of the Fittest." Tom Brevroot & Mike Kanterovich (writers), Bill Wylie (breakdowns), Tony Dezuniga (finishes), John Costanza (letterer), John Kausz (colorist), Craig Anderson (editor), Tom DeFalco (bee-hind it all).

Friday, July 13, 2012

Captain Nemo

An unfolding storyline in the pages of the Defenders revealed that more than 100 years ago Prince Namor's mother had banded together with an unusual array of pulp-era adventurers, including the likes of Captain Nemo. A key piece of evidence emerged in Defenders #5, when the modern heroes discovered the remains of the Nautilus submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne.

This would mean that Captain Nemo was not only a character from 19th century literature but also a historical figure within the world of Marvel characters—and a topic of discussion among the latest version of the non-team (Defenders #5).

Red She-Hulk: Do you think the dead guy there is really Captain Nemo? From the books and such?

As his teammate spoke, Namor looked closely at a photograph of the fabled captain.

Namor: What books?
Red She-Hulk: Jules Verne?
Namor: Is he an Atlantean author?
Red She-Hulk: No, he--
Namor: Haven't read it.

The half-Atlantean observed familial resemblance between himself and the legendary captain, so Red She-Hulk broached the subject.

Red She-Hulk: Could he be your father?
Namor: … It doesn't matter. I know who I am.
Defenders. No. 5. June 2012. "Namor: The 99 Daughters of Pontus." Matt Fraction (writer), Mitch Breitweiser (artist), Mitch & Bettie Bretweiser (color artists), VC's Clayton Cowles (letterer).
An illustrated adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ran in Marvel Classics Comics #4 (Jan. 1976). The Mysterious Island appeared in #11 (July 1976).