OUT OF THE BACK ISSUE BIN
Views and Reviews of Comic Books from the Past
John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino
THE AVENGERS (vol.1) #164, 165, 166 (1977)
Written by: Jim Shooter
Drawn by: John Byrne
Inked by: Pablos Marcos
When Jim Shooter was Editor-In-Chief of Marvel Comics from 1978 until 1987, it was a controversial love/hate relationship between him, his bosses, the creators under him and fans. But regardless of his business sense and authority issues, I have always thought of Jim as an underrated and under appreciated writer. The guy has got to be given some major props for his talents and what he brought to the comic book world. At the tender age of 14 he started selling stories to DC Comics writing for both, Action Comics and Adventure Comics. He created the highly popular Superman villain, the Parasite, many characters for the Legion of Super-Heroes and not to mention, creating the legendary rivalry between Superman and The Flash to see who's really the fastest man alive.
John Byrne has been past his prime since the 1990's, but back in 1977 he was becoming the "hot" new artist on the horizon that would eventually rule the 80's. During that time Byrne redefined The X-Men, The Fantastic Four and Superman to such a degree that they have become the "standard" to many creators in the field. His work was simply amazing at this time and perfect for the Avengers because it was so large in scope and you got to see his interpretations on many heroes and villains.
Pablo Marcos was another underrated comic artist and commercial illustrator who had his best run on comic books during the 70's. He has worked on such notable characters as Batman, Conan the Barbarian, and (his most accomplished work) The Zombie from Marvel's horror magazine called Tales of the Zombie (1973-1975). He may never have gotten the "buzz" as inker Terry Austin did over John Byrne's pencils in The X-men, but during their run in The Avengers, he complimented Bryne's style very well.
Okay, enough with the creators, let's get to the issues...
THE AVENGERS #164
"To Fall By Treachery!"
This issue basically starts up the 3-part saga where Count Nefaria begins to manipulate the Living Laser, Whirlwind and Power Man (a villain that was created in 1965, who later became part of the Thunderbolts and not the African-American character, Luke Cage) into attacking the Avengers. This team consists of Beast, Wonder-Man, Scarlet Witch, Yellow Jacket, Black Panther and my hero, Captain America! The battle is pretty good, but Wonder-Man just happens to always doubt himself because he is scared that he will die again, so he usually stands around and takes a beating (just stop the whining and fight for cryin' out loud Simon!!). But Nefaria with the help of Professor Sturdy and his laboratory has plans to become a super-immortal and begins to slowly siphon the villains energy and powers. They get absorbed and increase a hundred-fold into Neferia's body who basically becomes a Superman with a slick goatee and mo-statch (can anyone out there say "Super" Clark Gable!!!). Oh boy, oh boy, when Nefaria all decked out in his new super-trunks and flashy cape confronts the Avengers, they all know they're going to be in for a long night.
THE AVENGERS #165
"Hammer of Vengeance!"
The action starts right away, as Count Nefaria kicks the crap out of our heroes (and I mean literally) and trashes Avengers mansion. The charming bastard now has too much going for him; almost-limitless physical strength, hypersonic speed, heat vision, invulnerability, leaping with Hulk-level ability (now that's far baby) and not to mention, dashing good looks. He will go off to wreck a bank and grab a hot-chick that can admire his new found glory. Soon Nefaria is met up by the Whizzer, who is easily defeated. But the aged speedster makes Nefaria realize that he's not immortal even with all the powers he absorbed, this makes the Count go nuts because he wanted to rule the world forever (get in line buddy). Round 2 with the Avengers starts as Iron Man shows up to help out his teammates. They once again, prove to be no match for Nefaria even though Iron Man provided an opening by hurting him just a little, which Wonder-Man blows because he is still shaking in his boots, so the opportunity is lost (jackass). The Avengers are completely humbled as the Count drops a forty-story building on them. Nefaria gloats more about his new found power and wants to prove to the world that he can even defeat its champion...The Mighty Thor! And then suddenly, lightning crashes all around Nefaria as he hears, "Thou hast dared much, villain--and, verily, thine hour of judgement hath come!" This brings tears to my eyes because this is what fanboys like me want to see, the battle of the real heavyweight championship between the two Supermen! Nefaria then screams..."THOR!" as the Thunder God hurls Mjolnir at him. What a cliff-hanger!! To me, this is how you write a true superhero comic!! It's a shame that I was too young to buy comics off the rack because I can bet fanboys and readers from all over couldn't wait to see the next exciting issue!!!
THE AVENGERS #166
"Day of the Godslayer!"
The Grand Final!! Thor lashes out at Nefaria, hurts him, but even though Nefaria is intimidated and amazed by Thor's great strength and powers, he survived. Now Nefaria strikes back with new found confidence! Nefaria will then throw a sky-scraper on top of the Thunder God, but still Thor, who is impressed by Nefaria's raw strength fight's on (this "Warrior-Born" God will never quit). A great moment in comics happens next as Thor tries to strike with Mjolnir, but Nefaria stops the hammer with one hand...YYOOOOWWWZZAAHH!!! This is a first in Marvel history as Thor yells, "ODD'S BLOOD!" Even Nefaria couldn't believe how strong he had become and while Thor was shocked and off-balance, he punches the God to the pavement! Soon from the help of Hank Pym, the Vision awakens and enters the frey. The android tries to disrupt Nefaria's substance by putting his hand into the villain's body, but Nefaria is too super-charged with energy for this maneuver to work so Vision is knocked back even while he was in ethereal form and rendered useless. Thor now recovers and locks up once again with the Count. They go back and fourth until Professor Sturdy comes out of the shadows and stops the them. Sturdy tells Nefaria that he is aging at an incredible rate and will soon die and only he has the ability to control his aging process. But as luck would have it, right at that moment Sturdy has a heart attack and falls. Nefaria stands in disbelief as Thor tells him to surrender as the Avengers will help him. But Nefaria starts to go crazy as he throws a surprise back-hand that floors the Thunder God and leaps off to destroy everything in his path. The Avengers regroup as an injured Captain America gives Wonder-Man his shield to use in the fight before he falls unconscious (oh, now he'll fight...Simon's a jerk). Now Wonder-Man (armed with Cap's shield), Scarlet Witch, Thor and Iron Man use teamwork to eventually hurt Nefaria and the Vision drops from the sky (at maximum mass and density) finally knocking him out. Everyone recovers, dusts off, looks at the billions of dollars in property damage and Iron Man finds the time to yell at Thor for showing up whenever he pleases (give the God a break, if he didn't show up you'd all be dead). But Shell-Head proves to be a hypocrite as Cap points out he has been doing the same thing and he's even the teams current leader (maybe Tony's back on the booze??). And to make matters worst, Hank Pym interjects that before Professor Sturdy died he told him that the aging Nefaria was experiencing was only a temporary side effect and the super-energy in his cells would extend his lifespan indefinitely. So in effect the guy was immortal!! Could things get any worst? Ahhh, such is the life of a Marvel Superhero.
HERO ENVY REPORT CARD
Reread Factor: 5
Overall Grade: 5
(grading numbers 1 thru 5, with 5 being the highest)
This 3-part saga is some great stuff during a time when comics were just so much fun to read! This story is essentially, in my humble opinion, how a "Superhero Comic" should read and feel. The tone of the story is perfect with a ton of twists, turns, drama and action with cliffhangers galore all the way through it. Any kid or an adult can pick these issues up, even today and experience a fresh fun tale with excitement and enthusiasm even without knowing anything about the characters or plot lines. And that is something many of today's comics lack. To find them, you'll have to check the back issue bins at your local comic shop because these three issues have yet to be reprinted in any format (such a shame). I sometimes wonder if Marvel still carries a few grudges against Jim Shooter so they might never reprint them. It's okay though, because each issue can run you anywhere between just 5 and 10 dollars (depending on condition). So it's well worth the money! And being an old comic, each issue has the smell, texture and color that we old-school comic fans consider priceless!
If not, then...ODD'S BLOOD!!!
Agree, disagree? Let's hear it fanboys!
John "The Mego Stretch Hulk" Cimino - "Hero Envy" Central
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles". He buys, sells and gives appraisals on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to BACK ISSUE Magazine and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. He has written and starred in the "Hero Envy" webisode series, is the host of the Reckless Sidekick "Swass-Cast" and has contributed to the "Hero Envy" comic book. John also thinks he's really Captain Marvel, people just don't have the heart to tell him he's just an obsessed fanboy that loves to play superheroes with his daughter Bryn. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on twitter at @Elastic_Hulk and have some fun.