Marvel Two-In-One #4: Doomsday 3014

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Cover date: July 1974

Writer: Steve Gerber

Penciller: Sal Buscema

Inker: F. Giaoia

Letter: C. Jetter

Colorist: P. Goldberg

Editor: Roy Thomas

Continues from: Marvel Two-In-One #1,#2 and #3, Fantastic Four #5 (sorta, Doom’s time machine is pivotal to the plot)

This feels a little slight, perhaps due to the double page splash that eats up the page count with little plot advancement. However, it does have the BADOON.

The Badoon are an alien race I was unduly fascinated with as a teenager as the Marvel RPG provided stats for them, but no picture. I knew all the other aliens mentioned from comics I had read at the time, but the Badoon eluded me for decades until picking up the reprints of this and the Defenders. They didn’t live up to the exoticism those FASERIP stats had given them.

More importantly to the Marvel Universe, this issue is where Gerber begins to reintroduce the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan in a one shot Marvel Super-Heroes story in 1969, they had remained unused since, until Gerber revived them in this book, The Defenders and Marvel Presents.

This issue starts with Ben and Wundarr visiting the Central Park Zoo. Ben takes his eyes off Wundarr for a second and the manchild has let out all the animals. You’d think after the Lizard’s frequent escape parties at the reptile house they’d have better security at this point.

This interferes with a date Sharon Carter and Steve Rogers are taking in the park, so he suits up and becomes Captain America. And to add to the coincidences, Namorita happens to be walking through the park with her friend Annie.

After everything gets sorted, Ben invites Steve and Sharon back to the Baxter Building to explain what’s going on with Wundarr. During this Ben accidentally switches on Doom’s time machine and summons a princess from over 1000 years in the future.

She explains that she is Tarin, and that she comes from the year 3014, when the Badoon have enslaved the solar system. Captain American wants to head to the future to help out, and Ben & Sharon want to go with him. So Reed sends the three of them with Tarin back to the future. Where they are immediately ambushed by a pack of ZOMS. The Badoon, taking a page out of the Dalek playbook, have created these Zoms, men turned into living machines to serve the aliens.

The heroes do OK against them, but then the unoriginally named “MONSTER OF BADOON” shows up and lays them out. As the three heroes are dragged off, Tarin look on from a hiding place swearing vengeance as we end the issue.

NEXT ISSUE: THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY! (not those ones, the original ones)

Marvel Two-In-One #3: Inside Black Spectre

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Cover date: May 1974

Writer: Steve Gerber

Penciller: Sal Buscema

Inker: Joe Sinnott

Letter: Dave Hunt

Colorist: P. Goldberg

Editor: Roy Thomas

Continues from: Marvel Two-In-One #2, Daredevil #109, Shanna The She Devil #4, Ka-Zar #2.

This is a Daredevil story that is appearing in The Thing’s book, as it continues Daredevil’s battles with Black Spectre. Which in turn is actually a continuation of a Shanna The She Devil story. All of which Steve Gerber wrote or co-wrote.

I have a fondness for grand stories that just happen to be told across whatever Marvel titles a writer ends up writing at the time. Jim Starlin’s tales of Thanos are probably the most obvious of these, but I have a fondness for Joe Casey’s tales that spread from Cable in the 90s to Vengeance just a few years ago.

This comic though, it’s not really moving things forward, it’s more treading water.

Two things are advanced here for the ongoing Two-In-One storyline, it’s confirmed that Wundarr is an adult man with the education of a newborn infant and Reed creates him a suit to control his powers. Not exactly exciting stuff.

It does lead to Daredevil’s appearance in this book as during the tests on Wundarr there’s an explosion, which ol’ hornhead thinks might be another Black Spectre attack and investigates (every superhero in Manhattan is but an explosion’s earshot away from one another).

Once he realises it’s the FF that have caused the explosion he goes to the Baxter Building to give them a piece of his mind about setting off explosions in the middle of the city. There he meets Wundarr, for whom Reed has built a special suit that will prevent him exploding again. And between panels, Daredevil and Ben explain their ongoing story lines to one another.

Daredevil then goes to see Foggy Nelson and Shanna O’Hara (aka Shanna the She-Devil). She thinks Black Spectre has something to do with the Mandrill, the mutant supervillan who kidnapped, and subsequently murdered, her father.

Then changing back into street clothes, Matt Murdock goes on a date with Candace Nelson, Foggy’s half-sister. This date involves going to heavy handed parody of avant garde theatre, which ends in a hypnotised actor portraying Hitler killing an actor playing Captain America before blowing his own brains out.

Daredevil investigates, discovers a Black Spectre agent, but gets attacked by the Black Widow, the surprise having already been spoilt by the cover.

In order to pursue the Black Spectre aircraft he sees flying away with her, he goes back the Baxter Building to ask to borrow the Fantasticar. Well, steal it actually.

Ben catches him and after an explanation the pair go off to clobber Black Spectre. They board their ship and after some pummelling of henchmen, they get roundly defeated by the leader of Black Spectre and Black Widow, who drug Daredevil and hypnotise Ben.

The pair are thrown off the ship in the Fantasticar. Why they didn’t just throw them off and keep the car I don’t know. Plus, Ben would probably be OK however he fell. He’s super strong monster made of rock. Really bad planning here by the Mandrill, who the mysterious Black Spectre leader obviously is (he has a giant statue of a Mandrill on his aircraft). Nekra was in this fight too, but does so little it wasn’t worth mentioning her.

Within panels, Matt comes to, and lands the car. The abrupt and disappointing end. There aren’t even enough pages for the abject and utter failure of our heroes to rescue their friend to sink in. To be continued in Daredevil #110.

All in all a let down after the first two issues. We get some progression with Wundarr in the side story, but the main story ends up pretty much where it started. I imagine you’d have been fine just reading the Daredevil issues and skipping this.

Buscema’s art is fine, the highlight being the theatre sequence. I was never a Sal Buscema fan as a kid, but turned around on him as an adult. I guess changing artists three issues in goes to show that comic launches haven’t changed all that much in the ensuing decades.

Marvel Two-In-One #2: Manhunters From The Stars

Cover date: March 1974

Writer: Steve Gerber

Penciller: Gil Kane

Inker: Joe Sinnott

Letter: Artie Simek

Colorist: Glynis Wein

Editor: Roy Thomas

Continues from: Marvel Two-In-One #1, Sub-Mariner #68 & #69, Fear #17.

Remember how last issue’s tale of the Molecule Man continued in Iron Man Annual #3? Here we get some of that title-to-title storytelling going the other way. This issue picks up story elements from other comics being written by Steve Gerber at the time, namely Sub-Mariner and Adventure Into Fear.

The big one is the introduction to the book of Wundarr, the satirical take on Superman that Gerber had introduced in Fear #17. We get a recounting of his origin here for newcomers, how his father went mad, thinking his planet was doomed, and sent his infant son in a rocket to Earth. However he was not discovered for 22 years, and so he has the body of a man and the mind of a child (and thinks Man-Thing is his mother).

As the issue opens he falls out the sky and is saved from drowning by Namorita, Sub-Mariner’s far less weird than she ought to be, cousin/clone of his actual cousin. The reason he is falling is that while Wundarr has the leap tall buildings in a single bound part of Superman’s powers down, he hasn’t got the hang of landing yet.

Namor handles the appearance of this superpowered manchild with all the subtlety and understanding he is known for and Wundarr flees in terror from the shouty Atlantean.

Meanwhile, aliens from Wundarr’s homeworld seek him out, in order to slay him. They fear he will seek revenge for the death of his parents at the hands of the Dakkam Internal Security Force and so send a robot called MORTOID down to Earth to do their dirty work.

Over in New York, Ben Grimm is in a mood, a mood not improved on when Wundarr drops out the sky into New York traffic. The inevitable hero on hero fight ensues. Then Namor and Namorita show up and try to break up the fight.

Before they get a chance, the Mortoid arrives, Wundarr gets zapped, the Mortoid gets Imperium Rex’d, the Dakkamites flee and Benjamin Grimm gets left holding the baby. A baby in the body of a 22 year old man.

The ending reads just about as rushed as I wrote that last run on sentence, with the entire palming off of Wundarr on The Thing done in 3 panels, as Namor and Namorita rush back to whatever they were up to in the pages of Sub-Mariner.

Pacing issues aside, it’s a funny issue, with the narrator at one point stopping and asking the reader if they are keeping up with everything that’s being set up in the comic. And Namor’s still wearing that funky black leather 70s costume so that’s good too. A Gil Kane Namor is no Bill Everett Namor, but it is very much identifiable as a distinctly Gil Kane Namor. It’s the nose I think.

There’s also a ship’s captain character who is drawn so differently to everyone else, that I presume people in in 1974 would recognise who he’s supposed to be. I wasn’t even born then, so if he is a reference to something it has flown right over my head.

Marvel Two-In-One #1 : Vengeance of the Molecule Man

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Cover date: January 1974

Writer: Steve Gerber

Penciller: Gil Kane

Inker: Joe Sinnott

Letter: Jean Izzo

Colorist: G  Roussos

Editor: Roy Thomas

Continues from: Marvel Feature 11, Marvel Feature 12, Monsters Unleashed #3, Fear #13, 

Following a trial run in Marvel Feature, this is the launch of the team up book starring Aunt Petunia’s favourite nephew, Benjamin Grimm aka The Thing.

In this issue Ben is mad at Man-Thing stealing his codename and plans to go to Florida to beat him up. This is far more straightforward than the usual misunderstandings and mistaken identities that usually lead to superheroes battling one another. 

However, in a dazzling bit of coincidence, the “son” of the Molecule Man finds his way to Earth via the Nexus of Realities that Man-Thing guards. This is part of Gerber bringing back the character of the Molecule Man after a long absence, a story that is not finished here, but in the pages of Iron Man Annual #3. Here we get his apparent death in the dimension the Fantastic Four had trapped him in years prior.

After a collection of fights and reality alterations, the new Molecule Man dies due to the accelerated ageing he undergoes in Earth’s dimension. We end with Ben giving a kid the villain’s wand believing it inert, but the final panel definitely gives you the impression that more is to come. 

Just not in the pages of this book.

Gerber and Kane blast through the pages, keeping the plot moving and taking all sorts of turns. We get the old trick of Ben getting turned back into his human form for a short while, but with the added tragedy of Man-Thing getting turned back to Ted Sallis too, which puts Ben’s plight in perspective.

Manga Mania #29 (December 1995)

Complete with the tape that held the badge onto the cover.

Ghost In The Shell was about to debut in the cinema, and so it gets the cover this month as part of the hype for that. Also it allows the magazine to indulge itself in all things “cyber” even more than usual. The four pages GITS gets is pretty dense, with the last two pages full of side bars packed with words in teeny tiny fonts.

Regular column Cyberdrome runs down other “cyber” films including The Net, Hackers, Johnny Mnemonic, Strange Days and Virtuosity. Only Hackers and Strange Days get the thumbs up. Similarly, the column Short Cuts covered various “cyber” anime and abused the word cyber something awful. Finally, replacing Dirty Pair, we get an Appleseed side story as the new comic this issue, alongside the continuing Akira and Striker (aka Spriggan).

On a less sci-fi note, there was also a feature on The Cockpit OAV based on Leiji Matsumoto’s Battlefield manga.

There was next to nothing anime related in the news, as the Xmas period was light on releases. Apparently a company called CD Vision had high hopes for VCDs and were going to put out Akira, Ninja Scroll, Appleseed and Streetfighter II. That was about it. Streetfighter II topped the Virgin Megastore anime charts.

The most interesting thing I found flicking through this issue was an advert for a Gerry Anderson’s Space Precinct comic, as I had totally forgotten that Space Precinct had existed, let alone that it had a comic. And a sticker album. And action figures.

 

 

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That time Captain Britain and Shadowcat turned into poorly drawn anime characters.

I remember hating Excalibur #18 when it came out in 1989. In general I wasn’t well disposed to any non-Alan Davis issue of the comic anyway, but the lengthy “Cross Time Caper” storyline had already shown signs of coming off the tracks and this issue was full of super ugly, off-model, inconsistent art.

At the time I did not realise that this issue, and to some extent issue 19, was intended as a parody of anime. In particular Speed Racer and Dirty Pair, actually only Speed Racer and Dirty Pair. What artist Dennis Jensen was apparently doing was portraying Kitty and Brian turning into anime characters the longer they stayed in the alternate Earth they’d ended up in. But only them, not the rest of Excalibur. And apparently only the “Lovely Pair” looked like anime characters in this world, as the evil anime Jamie Braddock looked like evil normal Jamie Braddock pre-lobotomy.

Nowadays I can appreciate the Cross Time Caper as a whole, as I’m not waiting a month between issues and getting annoyed the lack of plot movement. Nevertheless, Excalibur #18 is still a horrible comic.

When you had Bret Blevins working at Marvel at the time, having an artist who inked Carmine Infantino in the 70s draw your anime parody seems an odd choice. A clue to why it’s so sloppy and all over the place may lie in the inker credits “Dan Adkins & Co”. Never good sign when there are multiple inkers, even less of a good sign when there’s no space to list them all.

Ignoring the horrible, clunky art, the story is a mess too. There’s some barely comprehensible plot with Meggan’s powers behaving oddly around Rachel’s Phoenix powers. The whole “my powers are behaving strange” is one of my least favourite superhero plots and here it gets two issues worth of story.

And the villain is an alternate reality Jamie Braddock which means… Reality Altering. Claremont really likes that power, I wonder if him giving Jamie that power was another “can’t use Jim Jaspers” work around like the Adversary? Plus the comic is Claremont at his most verbose, possibly attempting to hide the art with as many speech bubbles as possible.

A rotten comic. Thankfully #19 had Rick Leonardi on it, who I hated when I was 14 years old, but what did I know, I was a teenager. Rick Leonardi is awesome. Go get his work on Cloak & Dagger, it’s pretty neat.

I’ll leave you with more of Claremont’s homage to the Dirty Pair from #18.

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Manga Mania #28 (November 1995)

(cover art by Wil Overton)

While Babel II is the cover story, and there’s a pretty good article on the OAV series, the big thing here is a Go Nagai interview. Conducted at the San Diego Comic Con, it’s a pretty good potted history of his career straight from the man himself. And of course, it being Manga Mania, somehow manages to get a mention of Buichi Terasawa’s CD-ROM in there.

The third article was on Sol Bianca, which only warranted a single page and kind of had the vibe of “well if you like these other things, you might like this. Maybe.”

The Ghost In Shell movie’s UK screenings were announced. I went to see one of them at the Odeon West End cinema, it was not the greatest cinema experience, as it was not the greatest cinema. Also making the news was Koji Morimoto’s music video for Ken Ishii’s record Extra. Patlabor 2 was coming out on VHS, as was The Cockpit.

RecontamineTed 1995, a convention held at the Birmingham Grand Hotel, was mentioned in the news items. This is likely the first I had heard of it, and it would prove to be my first convention.  Angel Cop 5 was September’s best selling anime tape and there was another reader’s poll. I may have even sent one in, such was my fervour for anime at this point.

In the columns, Cyberdrome was mainly about ChibaMOO, where you could pretend to be a cyberpunk on the internet or something like that. Animatedly Yours covered the changes being made to Dragonball as it hit US TV screens, and Megabyte gave the SNES version of Doom 90%.

Julie Davis’ Manga Files covered Go Nagai & Kenichi Sonoda and Peter J Evans covered Astro Boy in his Screen Gems column.

Pretty good issue, certainly an improvement on a lot of the Manga era ones I’ve discussed so far.

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