For those of you who are new around these parts, this is Mondo Marvel; the bi-weekly column where I, Paul Brian McCoy, read all the super hero comics that Marvel produced, in order, from the very beginning, starting with Fantastic Four #1. This week, we finally hit March, 1964, the month that a whole lot of nothing much happened and then, all of the sudden, there’s the return of Captain America and the introduction of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!
Two milestones if ever there were, um, two.
This is a rough week for me, as I really didn’t get into the majority of the books we have in store. I mean, come on. A giant Alien Baby vs The Fantastic Four? Iron Man vs The Scarecrow? The return of The Porcupine and The Wizard?
There’s not really a whole lot that can be said about these stories, so hopefully this week’s installment will be short and sweet – even though I’m covering ELEVEN stories in total.
Of course, you never know. Something will probably set me off and we’ll get tedious tangents, massive missives, and annoying awkwardness.
Ah well. At least it doesn’t cost anything.
Except my sanity and health.
Just kidding. I haven’t been sane or healthy in years.
And with that, allow me to introduce you to this week’s Mondo Marvel!
Fantastic Four #24
Writer: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: George Bell
Alien Baby terrorizes New York with crazy, god-like powers. Criminals try to bribe Alien Baby with candy to get it to use god-like powers to steal them riches. Alien Baby thinks it’s funny to frak with the criminals. The Fantastic Four save the criminals from Alien Baby’s god-like powers. Then, Reed calls Alien Baby’s parents and they come get Alien Baby before he yanks the sun down to Earth, destroying everything in the solar system.
Really, guys? What the hell?
Why am I reading this?
And why did Kirby steal the alien ship design from George Pal’s 1953 film version of The War of the Worlds?
Am I missing something here?
And who are these aliens? How’d their baby get loose and show up on Earth? If the baby’s this god-like in his reality-altering abilities, how powerful are the parents? If they’re that powerful, why don’t they know what their baby is up to?
I don’t really have a problem with the continuous introduction of new alien races. I actually like how the Marvel Universe is packed with countless species of alien being. So packed that we’ve also got alien races filling up other dimensions and microscopic space. That’s part of what makes the Marvel Universe so entertaining at this stage.
We’re finding out that we are most definitely not the center of creation. And while it hasn’t been overtly stated, we have been introduced to a number of alien beings and races with god-level powers and abilities. And Doctor Strange hasn’t even started introducing his various pantheons.
All of which is to say that I’m becoming fairly curious about the role of religion in the MU. There seems to be a subtle, though not intentional, I’m sure, undermining of the religious impulse. It started with Thor, but we’re seeing more and more instances where beings have the power to simply remake reality as it suits them.
And if that’s not the power of a god, I don’t know what is.
So when you have actual mythological gods walking around, or alien beings with powers that essentially make them gods, what does that do to the religious impulse?
Which isn’t to say that there’s no exploration of spiritual values, because pretty much every story is about righting social wrongs and trying to make the world a better place – sometimes against the better nature of the characters. The main influences on characters’ moral decisions are turning out to be familial and economic, with the guiding light of science providing the strange attractor around which these moral choices are made.
I know, I know. Lee wasn’t thinking about any of this when he was writing these stories.
Well, you know what? It doesn’t matter if he was consciously aware of the issues that were lurking around in the subtext. In the process of trying to develop characters and tell stories to entertain, he started incorporating real-world concerns, and a by-product of that is the emotional and intellectual baggage that comes with those narrative flourishes.
Let’s see what else is going on this month…
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Dick Ayers
The Wizard’s back and this time he’s a master of disguise. So he disguises himself as Johnny Storm, so this time when he impersonates the Human Torch he’ll also look like him when he’s not completely flaming. Or something like that.
This time, instead of using a rocket to fly, The Wizard uses a cool little anti-gravity device. But ultimately his goal is the same as always; to have people worship him like a king.
He also appears to have had some work done while in prison. He is no longer monstrously hideous and instead looks almost like a normal human being. Kind of like Ben Affleck.
And this useless story ends with The Wizard flying up into the sky, at the mercy of his malfunctioning anti-gravity device.
Bye-bye, Wizard. I’m sure you’ll be back soon. And I’ll have to make my way through another meaningless adventure with no real goals or purposes behind anyone’s actions.
Artist: Steve Ditko
“Doctor Strange: The Possessed!”
Hey! Doctor Strange made the cover!
You know, it’s almost like each new character has to go through some sort of hazing incident where they stop an invasion of Earth by either aliens from our own reality or a conveniently located alternate dimension. And guess what? This month Dr. Strange gets hazed and saves the planet from an invasion by aliens from another dimension.
Here, as with the Alien Baby in FF, we are introduced to an alien race with mystifying powers that are never really explained to my satisfaction, but this time their trouble-making is intentional.
These beings have the ability to actually enter the mind and body of unsuspecting humans and completely take them over. What happens to the minds being invaded? We don’t know. All we know is that suddenly, the people of a small Bavarian village aren’t acting like themselves.
The strange thing about this invasion, is that, according to Doctor Strange, there is magic at work here, rather than alien technology or even nat
ural abilities. This, even though we see the aliens using bizarre machinery to aid their pursuits.
They are also using mental powers that Strange counters with his own powers of imagination (and calling on the aid of The Vishanti, whoever they are). The conflict basically comes down to a staring contest, where Dr. Strange has the more powerful glare.
And while the story isn’t really all that, the final two panels provide some insight into Dr. Strange’s actual level of influence, and make a somewhat disturbing and revealing statement on the psychology of the Marvel Universe.
Dr. Strange is able to seal the entrance to the other dimension with a spell, which implies that this entrance is the only one between our worlds. We’ve already seen how there can be weak spots between dimensions back in Strange Tales #103, when Johnny Storm was kidnapped and taken to The Fifth Dimension (not the band). This is the first time one has been sealed off.
If nothing else, this gives us a pretty good idea about the power levels Dr. Strange is operating at. This is essentially manipulating the basic structure of reality or space/time. It’s one thing to use technology to create a portal, or for an opening to have naturally occurred. It’s quite another for one man to be able to suture a wound between two worlds together with his bare hands. Or mind. Or whatever.
The second point raised by the conclusion of this story is that Strange just skips town once his work is done. He doesn’t explain what happened to anyone, not even those who were actually possessed by the aliens. Instead he consciously decides to leave the events of the alien possessions a mystery in order to foster superstition and folklore rather than knowledge and understanding.
So what does this say about Marvel psychology? To me, it draws a clear line between what we could call Ancient Powers, represented by magic and “gods,” and the Modern Powers, which are represented by science and “super heroes.” I think it’s very telling that so far, we don’t really have any proof that Dr. Strange’s adventures are even taking place in the same Marvel Universe where Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, and The Avengers are functioning.
I know those cross-overs are coming, but for now, Strange is playing with much older, grander powers, and magic is central to how these powers operate in our world, rather than technology. Magic has only vaguely been addressed in the rest of the MU, with Loki and the Asgardians being the most open and blatant users and abusers so far. But there hasn’t been any sort of guidelines to how magic works. So far, for Loki, he just does whatever he wants and makes it happen – much like Alien Baby. At the same time, we’ve had some examples of magical powers explained away as mutant abilities or as being centered on magical artifacts.
The rest of the time, magic is eventually revealed to either be manipulation of perception or technologies that are only half-understood. I’d say that Pandora’s Box and/or the Magical Paints from earlier Human Torch adventures could be lumped in the misunderstood technologies category so far.
And while there has been no real attempt to categorize or provide a functioning mechanism for how Strange’s magic works, I think we can already see hints of a “magic as misunderstood technology” approach. However, it is subtle and overwhelmed by concepts like psychic control of powerful energies and the summoning of strength and skills from ancient entities.
The question for me becomes, are these entities, The Vishanti, Dormammu, etc. the same types of beings as the god-like aliens we’re seeing in the rest of the MU? Are even the ancient gods really just alien beings with powers beyond comprehension? Is this what the Asgardians really are?
That’s a question I’ll take up a little more when we get to the Asgardian creation myths. Talk about undermining traditional Western religion!
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Meanwhile, back in the “real” world, we get Lee and Ditko’s second month straight of obsessing over identity and trust issues. It also continues the exploration of how economic needs force unpleasant and unpopular decisions to be made. Unfortunately, it’s really only Betty who really suffers from this theme.
Sure Pete is poor, and after last issue’s flirting with outright fraud he’s not entirely immune to making poor decisions because of his financial needs. But he was given the opportunity to redeem himself both through his physical actions and his moral choices. By accepting the loss of money at the end of the issue, he balanced out his unethical choices earlier.
And if that weren’t enough, this month Aunt May gets a free vacation to Florida with her neighbors! Awesome! Party at Parker’s house!
This issue we discover that Betty has made some poor financial decisions, as well. Only hers were with a loan shark, and now she’s in over her head with this issue’s criminal element. And she’s in a tight spot. She needs help, but she won’t let Peter get involved because she doesn’t want him to get hurt. So there’s a nobility at work here, but ultimately it ends up being another poor choice.
Ironically, she wishes that Spider-Man could help her, but doesn’t feel worthy of his notice.
I’m not comfortable with where Betty’s heading. At the same time, though, her portrayal is interesting compared to the other female characters in the MU at this time. She’s clearly younger than any of the other women who play central roles, but she’s being forced into much more mature decisions with much more intense repercussions. Nurse Jane Foster is nowhere near as interesting, and we won’t even mention The Wasp in the same breath.
At the same time, this month we see Flash demonstrate a little more humility and at least the hint of possible friendship toward Pete when he tries to warn him off bragging about knowing the identity of The Big Man. It’s a small touch, but shows that even the minor characters in this comic have more depth than we were originally led to believe.
Of course, the central focus of this issue is the identity of The Big Man. As with Electro’s premiere last month, a large portion of this issue is spent with J. Jonah Jameson using his newspaper to try to convince the world that Spider-Man is our villain. The twist this time is that Pete thinks The Big Man might actually be Jameson.
Of course he’s not. Although that would have been bold.
Instead, he’s the stereotypical “guy you least expect” wearing lifts and a fat suit. In fact, once one of Jameson’s “most capable columnists” is introduced and is given the opportunity to comment on Jameson’s obsession and how it could undermine trust in the paper, we know something’s up.
But really, I don’t think it’s supposed to be that big a surprise. If anything, it’s another example of how just about anyone in the MU, when given the opportunity to profit from the suffering of others, opts to do just that. Even this slight weakling with the extremely receding hairline, who tries to stand up to Jameson for a second, talking reason and responsibility, is actually filled with anger and uses his criminal henchmen to threaten and control the entire underworld.
Let’s face it. The villains far outnumber the heroes in the MU.
What does that say about those moral choices I was talking about earlier, then?
I suppose for the most part, the citizens
of the MU, the human ones, anyway, aren’t really in any position to do anything but just get by. Is that why they’re so quick to believe the worst about the costumed vigilantes? Is that why they demonstrate jealousy and suspicion before just about anything noble?
Their largest cities are almost constantly under attack by something or someone, I suppose. It must be nearly impossible to feel safe; in New York, particularly. Is Betty’s experience typical of the everyday life of ordinary people in the Marvel Universe?
That’s kind of bleak.
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck
And here’s another example of what I’m talking about.
Iron Man is flying around and witnesses a robbery. He swoops down from the sky to stop the crook, who runs away, ducking into a theater. Inside, The Uncanny Umberto, an acrobat, is performing. In a quick-thinking attempt to drum up some publicity for his show, Umberto tackles the crook before Iron Man can, which earns him a compliment and thanks.
Immediately, I mean seriously, before Iron Man has even left the scene, Umberto has decided that playing the hero is a sucker’s game and with his skills he could be a fantastic criminal. So he steals the trained crows of a retiring vaudevillian and snatches a scarecrow costume from a store window, and before you know it, he’s planning on burgling Tony Stark.
Because a swinger like Stark is sure to leave his apartment empty all the time, making him easy pickings.
And it’s not a bad plan, really.
Stark is rich, living above the rest of the world, and would be a tempting target. Except for the fact that his “bodyguard” is Iron Man.
And what does The Scarecrow do as soon as he accidentally steals some of Stark’s plans instead of his valuables? He turns on his country and tries to sell them to Cuba, “where all enemies of America are welcomed.” In a span of 8 pages, Umberto went from being an opportunistic acrobat to an enemy of America.
Because he was poor and his skills, while impressive, couldn’t earn him a living wage. So he made a choice. A pretty damn common choice in the MU.
Needless to say, Iron Man stops him, but not before giving him a good thrashing, sinking a Cuban gunboat, and then abandoning him in Cuban waters. The final panel is of Scarecrow sitting in the dark on a beach, “exiled! A man without a country!!”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Dick Ayers
Hey look! The Porcupine is back!
No, seriously. The Porcupine is back and this time he’s got a devious plan that…
I can’t do it. I was going to try, but there’s just nothing here.
Porcupine joins a group of kids in a Giant-Man fan club, they all dress up like villains (Porcupine’s costume is the most realistic!), then he kidnaps Jan (because she’s just not very bright!), and escapes from Hank (because he’s got a fractured ankle!). Then, for some reason, he lets Jan escape in order to follow her back to Hank’s secret lab. Even though he and the kids were just at Hank’s house or something. Once there, they fight, Jan gets stuck on flypaper, and Porcupine steals a handful of Giant-Man’s special pills and downs them all.
Like a fool.
Then he shrinks into oblivion. I can only assume he’ll end up conquering a sub-atomic kingdom. Because they’re everywhere and their inhabitants are usually pretty dumb.
Oh, and then Jan practices telling her latest science fiction story to Hank, before wowing the handsome ex-GIs down at the Veteran’s Hospital. It’s a bunch of nonsense, and then it turns out Hank was ignoring her anyway.
What a waste of time.
Writer: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Chic Stone
And while this isn’t the best Thor story I’ve ever read, it beats the socks off most of what’s come so far. Part of the reason is that this is the second half of a two-parter, so Lee and Kirby are focusing on telling a larger scale story. That means that the soap-opera elements that have been dominating have been set aside for a bit.
If you remember, after having his strength and power cut in half by Odin as punishment for disobeying his Will regarding Nurse Foster, Thor was defeated by Zarrko and swore to serve him in the future, helping him conquer the Earth. Being a man of his word, Thor does just that. But once Zarrko is in charge, his duty is done and he kicks Zarrko’s sorry future butt.
This issue proves two things to me.
First, I think I only like Thor stories without Jane Foster.
Second, Chic Stone is a fantastic inker for Kirby!
Stone had been working in comics since 1939, when he was 16! During the Forties, he worked on Captain Marvel and other titles, but took some time off during the Fifties to become an art director for magazines. He returned to comics at the start of the Sixties and after doing some uncredited work at DC, landed at Marvel and was in the right place at the right time to get an opportunity to ink Kirby’s pencils. And boy, did he run with it!
While it lacks some of the heavy, blocky line work that I associate with Kirby, Stone’s inks are much more detailed than other inkers. Not only is there a lot of fine detail, Stone also provides more shading than is common, which helps to really make Kirby’s layouts pop. And he does all of this without losing the energy and bombast that make Kirby’s art Kirby’s art.
This is excellent work. Hopefully, the writing will start living up to the visuals, soon.
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Paul Reinman
“Tales of Asgard: Death Comes To Thor!”
If you ever wanted to see just how different Kirby’s art looks when two different inkers were working on it, then look no further. All that delicate line work of Chic Stone looks even better after you see the heavy-handed masses of ink that Paul Reinman applies to the pencils for this “Tale of Asgard.”
Not that it’s horrible, and there are a couple of panels that are gorgeous in the way they use those heavy shadows, but there are even more panel
s that look like they were inked with magic markers, and the backgrounds are sorely lacking (I know, that’s more Kirby’s fault than Reinman’s).
The story, however, isn’t bad. It introduces Hela, the Goddess of Death, briefly. She really doesn’t do much. We also meet Sif for the first time, and it’s a very different Sif than the one we’ll eventually see standing side-by-side with Thor in battle.
This Sif is a pretty, but dainty, flower-wearing fair maiden/hippy chick who has been given to Hela by the corrupt King Rugga in exchange for power. Thor volunteers his own life in exchange for Sif’s and Hela is so impressed that she lets them both leave the underworld unharmed.
And with that act of selfless nobility, teenaged Thor gained full possession of Odin’s magic hammer.
It’s not much of a story, but it’s a good one, nonetheless.
Writer: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Art Simek
We all know about Captain America, right? Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created the character and debuted him in Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941) where he appeared on the cover, punching Hitler in the face. The book was actually on sale in December of 1940 – a full year before America entered the war.
Anyway, Cap soon became Timely Comics’ most popular hero, and with his side-kick Bucky, eventually teamed up with Namor and the Human Torch in the All-Winners Squad.
Now that’s how you name a team!
Bucky was eventually wounded and Cap got a young female partner (named Betsy Ross, oddly enough), before Captain America Comics ended with issue #75 (February 1950). However, when Timely became Atlas, Captain America was revived for a short time as “Captain America, Commie Smasher!” This didn’t last very long, though, and before a year was out, Captain America was again gone from the comics landscape.
Until a couple of months ago in Strange Tales #114, when The Acrobat disguised himself as Cap in that Human Torch adventure. Remember how Lee and Kirby used that as an audition for bringing Cap into the Marvel fold?
Well, I guess the readers approved, because with this issue of The Avengers, Captain America enters the Marvel Age.
There’s a lot of good stuff in this issue, but the most important bit is an immediate rewrite of existing continuity.
You see, according to Lee and Kirby, Cap disappeared at the end of the War, and Bucky died. We’ve all seen the story. Cap and Bucky were trying to stop an explosive-filled drone plane from taking off. Cap didn’t make the leap, but Bucky did, and when the plane exploded, Bucky was killed and Cap was plunged into the icy waters off the coast of Newfoundland.
The last thoughts going through his mind as he passed out were that he’d been powerless to save his young partner. And with that loss, Captain America’s personality is pretty significantly scarred for quite a while. And the death of Bucky becomes one of the most durable moments in Marvel History. Until recently, anyway.
The one thing not mentioned, though, is what about those Commie Smashing adventures in the Fifties? We’ll find out the story behind those eventually, but not for a long, long time. Check Wikipedia if you’re not up on that. Or current issues of Captain America, for that matter.
But what happened? How does Cap end up with The Avengers? Well, after last issue’s battle with The Hulk and Namor, The Sub-Mariner is pissed. After he stumbles across a group of Eskimos worshiping a figure in the ice, he throws a tantrum and smashes everything up, hurling the figure into the ocean, where he happens to get picked up by The Avengers, who are out hunting for Namor.
To the surprise of everyone, Cap isn’t dead, and wakes up in a panic before sinking into a depression. He’s not lucky enough to forget who he is forever.
So Cap lost twenty years in the ice before waking up in modern America. This is the second of the recurring themes we’ll see Cap stories become preoccupied with through the following years. And they’re both firmly established right there in the first few pages.
Then, as if that weren’t enough, Rick Jones shows up and Cap goes a little mental, declaring that Rick looks exactly like Bucky, and in order to not seem crazy he agrees to help Rick find the Avengers.
Oh yeah. I forgot. When they got back to New York, the Avengers were all turned to stone before they could introduce Cap, and he just figured they were some weird modern art. It’s an okay plot point, but really only serves to get the other characters out of the way so we can spend some quality time with Cap.
Turns out Namor hired an alien to turn the gang into stone, but Cap quickly susses out what’s what, tracks him down, beats the crap out of his henchmen, and makes the alien turn the team back to flesh and blood. In the process, Cap debunks the myth of Medusa. It seems this alien fellow has been stranded on earth for hundreds of years and Namor promised to salvage his spaceship if he helped defeat The Avengers.
And if all that weren’t enough, Namor stumbles across a troop of his elite guard who are out searching for him. The rest of Atlantis may have abandoned him after the fiasco of Fantastic Four Annual #1, but not these guys. And suddenly, Namor has a small army.
The rest of the issue is a battle scene between The Avengers and Namor’s troops. After The Avengers free the alien’s ship.
There’s a lot of very well orchestrated action here, with everyone getting some shots in (even the Wasp buzzes around and blinds Namor for a moment!), but there’s a stand-off once Namor captures Rick. But Cap’s not having it, and rescues the lad.
The launch of the alien’s spaceship causes the island where the fight is taking place to explode and gives Namor and his army the cover to escape.
And with that, The Avengers invite Cap to join the team, and Rick Jones suddenly becomes part of a love triangle that will come back to haunt the team. Whatever will The Hulk think when he finds out Rick’s with Cap now?
Writer: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Paul Reinman
As usual, we open this issue with some X-Men training action. But this time, the training session ends with cake! It’s Jean’s birthday and it’s been one year since Xavier’s class began.
It’s a nice little moment and serves as a very effective contrast for the scene that follows. The next panel cuts to four strangely garbed individuals, also sitting around sharing a meal, but while the X-Men bicker playfully, these folks don’t really seem to like each other much at all.
Except for Pietro and his sister, The Scarlet Witch, anyway. Don’t worry, she’s in scarlet on the inside of the comic. Even though she’s wearing green on the cover.
Before too long, a fight breaks out, with Pietro, a.k.a. Quicksilver, decking the
illusionist, Mastermind. Luckily for everyone, fear of the mysterious Leader, keeps the fight from continuing. And guess who the Leader is?
None other than Magneto, of course. And these folks are The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!
But for a group with “Evil” in their name, it’s pretty clear from the start that Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch don’t quite fit in. Sure, Pietro’s a jerk, but he’s not evil. I mean, you can just look at The Toad or Mastermind and see that they’re evil. They freaking look evil.
Pietro and Wanda are different. They’re a part of the team because Magneto saved Wanda from a superstitious crowd of villagers with actual pitchforks who were coming to get her for being a witch. So Wanda feels she owes Magneto, and Pietro is there to take care of his sister.
Right off the bat, the dynamic of the Evil Mutants is actually more interesting and exciting than that of the X-Men. Which is strange. Lee and Kirby don’t usually have any trouble giving their groups an edge.
Now that I think about it, it probably has something to do with what I was praising last time out. The way the X-Men train together doesn’t really allow for anything but harmless bickering. There’s not a lot of real drama in their relationships, beyond the “who’s gonna date Jean” tension. A well-oiled machine isn’t very dramatic.
The last time we saw Magneto he’d captured a military base and was threatening the world. This time, with the help of an illusory army and a stolen freighter, Magneto and his Brotherhood conquer the “tiny republic” of Santo Marco. And in case you weren’t convinced that these guys are Evil, their phantom soldiers are very Nazi-looking. And once they’re in power, their real soldiers are just as Nazi-looking.
Fascist flair is fashion cool, afterall.
At least, I think they’re real. I suppose they could be illusions. It’s not really clear. If they are real, what’s that say about their moral choices? Or maybe they were just Nazis-in-hiding who saw an opportunity to relive their glory days.
What I like the most about this issue is that not only is Magneto established as a credible and frightening threat to humanity, we kind of get a glimmer of Xavier’s crazy side, too. The psychic confrontation between the two of them escalates from Professor X urging the creation of a Golden Age side-by-side with ordinary humans and Magneto responding with a declaration that humans are only worthy of slavery to Mutant rulers, to Xavier screaming about fighting Mutant vs Mutant to the death if need be! He gets so worked up, he snaps out of his psychic meeting.
The climax of the issue, however, makes it plain that while Xavier might be a bit obsessive and idealistic, Magneto is just a maddog killer. He sets up two bombs. A small one, designed to kill the X-Men when they bust into his headquarters; and a large, nuclear bomb, capable of blowing up the entire nation of Santo Marco.
He’s going to nuke an entire small country just to cover his escape. As they flee, he says that in ten minutes Santo Marco will be a wasteland!
That’s some serious shit.
And then, when all’s said and done, Quicksilver saves the day by defusing the nuke, and Professor X has been wounded by the small bomb and has lost his psychic powers!
Now that’s adding drama to the story.
Particularly when you consider that if it weren’t for Quicksilver having a conscience, the X-Men would be dead right along with the citizens of San Marco in a nuclear apocalypse. Sure, Pietro says it’s a one-time thing, but the seeds have been planted. All is not well in the land of Evil Mutants.
I think the inclusion of the first super-villain team in the Marvel Universe (not counting the Red Ghost and his Super Apes) was a good idea. I don’t think it would have worked as well in another book just yet, as so far, most of the Marvel villains don’t really have ideological motivations. These folks are together with a cause. That helps to make them a bit more threatening when all’s said and done.
That and most of them don’t mind killing millions of people to get what they want.
Writer: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: George Bell (George Roussos)
Yes, that is the “Desert Fox” in the title.
Our story opens with Fury on his way to a date with Pamela, and being Nick Fury, he stumbles across some Nazi saboteurs and beats them senseless before catching a film with his girl. During the newsreels, Pam and Nick discuss Rommel and when she says that we must have faith that he will eventually be defeated, Nick responds with, “Faith ain’t gonna stop the Desert Fox.”
And there we have our religious lesson for the day, courtesy of Sgt. Nick Fury.
This issue is theoretically about the British military assigning the Howling Commandos the duty of hunting down Rommel in the African desert. But there’s really something else entirely going on.
Since preparing for this mission means a bout of intense training before heading out, that’s what we get. Unfortunately, during this training, Dino is injured and lands in the infirmary and out of the mission. This means that Fury needs to break in a temporary replacement at the last minute.
Enter, George Stonewell and watch any subtext come flying to the surface.
This is also one of the things that makes this series so awesome.
You see, the new guy is immediately put off by Dino, refusing to even shake his hand. Fury thinks it’s weird, but moves on, introducing him to Izzy next.
That’s Izzy Cohen for those of you playing along at home.
Again, he’s standoffish, so Fury rationalizes it away, assuming that Stonewell is trying to seem tough to make a good impression on the Commandos. But then, Stonewell meets Reb and Dum-Dum and is extremely friendly, commenting on how nice it is to be around his own kind. He’s then introduced to Gabe Jones and starts to say what a real American name Jones is, when suddenly he sees that Gabe is black.
And freaks the hell out.
Gabe offers to bunk with him, asking if he wants the top or bottom and Stonewell doesn’t even want to sleep in the same barracks.
And then Fury goes apeshit!
“You’re a genuine 14-carat, dyed-in-the-wool, low down bigot!. . . There’s no time to trade you for a real human being! . . . Rat’s like him aren’t on any side! They just crawl outta the mud long enough to poison whatever they touch!”
That last bit is directed face-front to the reader. How awesome is that?
No longer are The Howling Commandos just an unremarked upon mixed race and ethnicity group. Fury is in the reader’s face shouting at you that if you’re a bigot, you’re scum. I love it!
But then the mission must go on, and, as you can probably guess, Stonewell gets paired up with Izzy, who ends up saving his life when he’s hit by shrapnel. Then, the only person in camp with a matching blood type is Gabe, who gives Stonewell a live-saving transfusion. Even though Stonewell isn’t too happy when he wakes up and realizes who’s blood is pumping into his veins.
Finally, it turns out that Stonewell getting shot was the best thing that could have happened, since not only does it provide him with a life-changing experience, it also gives the British command the opportunity to find and stop the Command
os from killing Rommel.
You see, British Intelligence has discovered that Rommel is involved in a plot to kill Hitler. So in order for Hitler to die, Rommel must live.
Sure the plot fails, but better safe than sorry, eh?
In the end, Stonewell is humbled and as he leaves the Commandos, he casually drops a note, thanking Izzy and Gabe for saving his life and leaving his address so they can write to him.
Aw. They made a friend. A genuine, 14-carat, dyed-in-the-wool, low down bigot of a friend.
I love this comic.
Man! And here I thought this would be a shorter week and I wouldn’t write a bunch of nonsense. Oh well.