Mighty Marvel Checklist HyperboleCheck: Sub-Mariner #36

The marauding maestros at modern Marvel may want us all to believe that now (as in NOW) is the niftiest time to be a tireless turner of the publisher’s pulchritudinous pages. But the truest of the true believers know that the sixties and seventies stood as the swingin’est span to acquiesce to the amazing adventures of the monthly mags. The beauteous boasts on the Mighty Marvel Checklist tantalizingly told us so. Why, Sub-Mariner #36 (a tale told by writer Roy Thomas, penciller Sal Buscema and–holy smokes!–inker Berni Wrightson(!)) promised no less than, “The wedding you thought would never happen! Namor marries lady Dorma — or does he? You’ll gasp in amazement when you read the final panel!” Gasp in amazement? Can this be true? Only one way to find out, True Believer.

As the illustrious issue opens, Namor, the cantankerous king of Atlantis, is indeed intended to enter into merry matrimony with his longtime lady love, Lady Dorma. She too is charging towards the ceremony with bated breath.

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This is but one sliver of a saga, however, and the title must take notice of other tumultuous turns taking place among the supporting cast, including a visit to the United Nations by the amphibious inhuman Triton and the worrisome woe of Rhonda Morris. The latter leans over the deceased form of her darling by devious daughter, the loathsome Llyra, who memorably mixed it up with the titular titan a few issues earlier. Mom may know that her offspring was officiously out-of-line, but that can’t quell her caring. Or prevent her from trying out a perilous procedure.

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Meanwhile, Sub-Mariner’s submerged sovereign state comes under assault from a familiar foe, a taste of turmoil that practically preeminent praxis in the monumental Marvel universe.

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In this instance, it’s Attuma, Namor’s number one nemesis, bounding forth to deliver something borrowed, something black-and-blue to the bridegroom. Surely this must be the serious setback the Checklist cautioned about. Think again, thrifty theorizer! Namor the Sub-Mariner scuttles this scoundrel and makes it to the church on time.

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All seems well, but there’s that pesky last panel to ponder, the one sure to make us “gasp in amazement.” The ceremony saunters on swimmingly, until Namor is pronounced bound to his bride. Suddenly a shocker!

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The shady schemer who was static and still a few pages earlier has manifested a magnificent masquerade and is now the malevolent monarch of the waterlogged wonderland of Atlantis. Go ahead and gasp, gallant ones. They’ve earned it.

Previously…
Captain America #136
Thor #186
The Incredible Hulk #138
The Amazing Spider-Man #91
Fantastic Four #104
Thor #183
Avengers #44
The Amazing Spider-Man #53
Daredevil #36
Captain America #131
Captain America #132
Fantastic Four #132
Thor #192
Daredevil #31
Avengers #97
Amazing Spider-Man #100
Fantastic Four #75
Tales of Suspense #93
Spider-Woman #25

Mighty Marvel Checklist HyperboleCheck: Spider-Woman #25

By now, it should be wonderfully well-established that the merry mavens at Marvel Comics summoned superlative skills in self-promotion throughout the sixties and seventies. The practice persisted past that ecstatic era, even if the promos proved less vivid and verbose. For example, the boastful ballyhoo for Spider-Woman #25, with a cover date of April 1980, was stylishly succinct: “Spider-Woman becomes a criminal! How?…Why? It’s a shocker!” Only a few words, but one of them is tried and true. “Shocker!” Can it really be? Only one way to find out.

The titanic tale, written by Michael Fleisher and featuring art by Steve Leialoha, begins with our hero, the alluring arachnid (as the caption calls her), in a deathtrap of a room, equipped with electrified walls, floor and ceiling and bomb seconds away from going off. She manages to elegantly extricate herself from the edgy emergency, but when the bomb goes off, the Time-Life operator employed by the malevolent Mr. Big erroneously informs him that the comely crime-fighter has become a cadaver.

Mr. Big starts the second step of his sinister scheme, beginning with some suspicious sketches of Spider-Woman’s scintillating ensemble. Soon, Spider-Woman is swinging towards the imposing prison where the criminal who was called the Gamesman is incarcerated. Spider-Woman has visited him previously, but this time she’s strangely affectionate, even leaving him tools designed to help him escape. When he does so, Spider-Woman is waiting to waft his away to the bank where the spoils of his sins are settled.

On their way out, the devilish duo is snatched up by Mr. Big’s men. Once they’re brought before the cur of a crime boss, the shocker of Spider-Woman’s newfound nastiness is revealed. Thinking Spider-Woman was no more, Mr. Big hired an actress to portray the hero and lure the Gamesman to give up his ill-gotten gains, but it turns out Mr. Big coincidentally recruited a good friend of Spider-Woman’s alter ego, Jessica Drew. And Jessica sniffed out the deception.

So it was when Mr. Big thought it was an actress portraying Spider-Woman, it was actually Spider-Woman portraying the actress portraying Spider-Woman in a convoluted double-switcheroo. All this deception leaves her adversaries addled enough that they crumble fairly quickly following the reveal. A shocker? They certainly seemed to think so.

Previously…
Captain America #136
Thor #186
The Incredible Hulk #138
The Amazing Spider-Man #91
Fantastic Four #104
Thor #183
Avengers #44
The Amazing Spider-Man #53
Daredevil #36
Captain America #131
Captain America #132
Fantastic Four #132
Thor #192
Daredevil #31
Avengers #97
Amazing Spider-Man #100
Fantastic Four #75
Tales of Suspense #93

Mighty Marvel Checklist HyperboleCheck: Tales of Suspense #93

Through what’s known as the Silver Age of Comics, there were plenty of punctilious publishers proficient at producing furiously fantastic feats of four-color fables, but one rocketed above the rest when it came to breathless boasts of the bountiful bustle in their brilliant books. But did the tale always live up to the tout? That was Marvel Comics. Take, for instance, Tales of Suspense #93, an illustrious issue that arrived in 1967. The Mighty Marvel Checklist that month, delivering delicious details of “Marvel-ous Mags on Sale Right Now!,” told the ravenous reader: “See Iron Man suffer his greatest defeat–at the hands of a giant whose true identity will knock you for a loop! As for Captain America, has he finally invaded the lair of A.I.M. to rescue SHIELD’s loveliest agent–only to lose her forever?” That cap caper sounds super, but it’s the Iron Man story that’ll knock us for a loop. Will it really? Only one way to find out, True Believer.

How certain are the creators (led by writer Smilin’ Stan Lee and artist Genial Gene Colan) that the story will harmonize with the hoopla? They decisively double-down on the very first page:

HOOKED! Words aren’t in letters that big and red unless they are manifestly meant! As the jolly juggernaut of nifty narrative is joined, Iron Man is trying to track the hateful Half-Face, a villain who’d been bedeviling him since the previous issue. It doesn’t take him long before he comes upon the towering Titanium Man, thought terminated at the tail-end of an earlier adventure. Could this be the “true identity” meant to throw us for a loop. That seems unlikely given that his presence is plastered all over the front cover. Regardless, the armored avenger bounds into battle, utilizing an awesome element of his arsenal that sadly hasn’t made the transfer to the big-screen version the character: his jet-powered roller skates.

If the “true identity” isn’t all that awesome after all, the “greatest defeat” portion of the promise has its own issues.

Turns out Iron Man isn’t immersed in ignominy. He’s playing possum. Flopped on the floor, Iron Man is afforded the opportunity to eavesdrop on the peccant plotting of his fearsome foes, learning of a loathsome conspiracy to frame the American government for war atrocities, leaving the hero writhing in patriotic worry.

At least it’ll be easier for Tales of Suspense #94 to live up to the contents of the “Next Issue” box.

Since the Captain America story championed no scintillating surprises, there’s no cause to subject it to the same assessment process. But it would have fulfilled any boastful billing with its Jack Kirby splash page alone:

Previously…
Captain America #136
Thor #186
The Incredible Hulk #138
The Amazing Spider-Man #91
Fantastic Four #104
Thor #183
Avengers #44
The Amazing Spider-Man #53
Daredevil #36
Captain America #131
Captain America #132
Fantastic Four #132
Thor #192
Daredevil #31
Avengers #97
Amazing Spider-Man #100
Fantastic Four #75

Mighty Marvel Checklist Hyperbole Check: Fantastic Four #75

Back when everyone simply had to know that we were in the midst of the Marvel Age of Comics, the publisher had a nifty knack for promoting their pulchritudinous periodicals with defiantly dazzling descriptors. Every adventure promised picturesque peril and powerful peaks of pageantry. For example, the fearsome Fantastic Four #75 was touted thusly: “We’ve had the presses running overtime, but we’ll never satisfy the demand for this one! The Silver Surfer is hiding from Galactus in a strange new world–and no words of ours can describe the wonder that awaits you!” A superlative saga that so staggers the superciliously silver-tongued Stan Lee that he’s struck speechless? This we’ve gotta see!

Lee was of course the word-slinger on this effervescent epic, joined by awesome artist Jack Kirby. The story finds three-fourths of the Fantastic Four–Mr. Fantastic, the Human Torch and the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing–a little bruised and battered in their home base of New York City, having spent the preceding publication swapping punches with the Punisher (a different one than you’re probably thinking about, True Believer), who’d been sent by the globe-gobbler Galactus in an effort to retrieve his high-tailing herald the scintillating Silver Surfer. As the hearty heroes await the their interstellar adversaries next move, bashful, blue-eyed Benjamin J. Grimm vents frustration of his mounting impatience.

Galactus may not have heard that huffy howl, but the Fantastic Four are surely shuffling about his mighty mind. He decides his earthbound enemies are exactly the ones ideally equipped to assist in once again securing the services of the Silver Surfer. The best way for Galactus to guarantee that they’ll serve as his steadfast subcontractors is through an all-out attack.

Following a long-distance lashing, the meticulous mind of Mr. Fantastic determines that the only way to secure the sanctity of the society they’re sworn to safeguard is to acquiesce, assisting their astronomical adversary.

“Yes, yes,” you yowl, “but what about the ‘strange new world,” that “no words…can describe’?” A reasonable request, Real Frantic One! The slippery Silver Surfer is shrinking to severely scaled-down size, so small he can soar into the subatomic specks of the smear on one of Reed’s Richard’s microscope slides. That’s where the wonders await.

Certainly staggering, sahib. Although there may be a miscue in the Checklist. No words can describe these wonders? I can think of one: Kirby.

‘Nuff Said!

Previously…
Captain America #136
Thor #186
The Incredible Hulk #138
The Amazing Spider-Man #91
Fantastic Four #104
Thor #183
Avengers #44
The Amazing Spider-Man #53
Daredevil #36
Captain America #131
Captain America #132
Fantastic Four #132
Thor #192
Daredevil #31
Avengers #97
Amazing Spider-Man #100

Mighty Marvel Checklist HyperboleCheck: The Amazing Spider-Man #100

When the magnificent maestros of Marvel Comics were at the top of their game and still trying harder, the only thing they did better than spin scintillating stories was crow about their cornucopia of comics with crazy, colossal claims of cacophonous calamity. Sometimes these awesome assertions were spot-on, but also they were occasionally off the mark. The only way to know for sure, then as now, is to read the riotous comic in question. For example, the landmark Amazing Spider-Man #100 was was said to be: “The greatest of the great! the sensational, senses-shattering 100th anniversary issue! Featuring the most unbelievable ending of all time! Truly a must!” That’s a weight wad of wonderment being promised. Even sage storytellers like writer Stan Lee and artist Gil Kane might have trouble holding up to that hype!

The story start with our weary wall-crawler in a contemplative mood, the sort of melancholy musings one might turn to on the occasion of an especially epochal anniversary (not that Peter Parker is actually privy to the sudden significance of the number on the cover of his monthly mag). His reverie is further informed by the recent reconciliation with gorgeous Gwen Stacy, his longtime lady love. Peter finally decides that it’s time to retire his amazing alter ego, so he makes his way to his makeshift apartment laboratory to set his sterling scientific smarts to the task.

His serum suitably steeped (or so he assumes), Peter pounds back and daunting dosage. As the bounding bubbles around his noggin notably announce, the “senses-shattering” portion of the promise has been presented, at least to our hapless hero.

Bad trip full engaged, Peter descends into devilish dreams. Page after page finds Peter in pugilistic peril against angsty adversaries. He’s in his Spidey suit, chasing cries of help and encountering the most vicious villains that have previously darkened his days. Since these former formidable foes are merely fearsome figments, they have a perfect predisposition for picking at the pesky imperfections in Peter’s put-upon psyche.

Besides the loathsome Lizard, he must grapple with the gruesome Green Goblin, descend into a donnybrook with the dangerous Doctor Octopus and careen through a chaotic clash with the contemptible Kingpin. It really is all the action anyone could take, True Believer! But what of the “most unbelievable ending of all time”?

Having fought his way to freedom, Spider-Man spots the source of the sounds that summoned him. It’s none other that Captain George Stacy, the police chief father of his groovy girlfriend, who met his maker just a few issues earlier (how could you forget the instant classic Amazing Spider-Man #90?).

The suspended skull of Stacy gives Spider-Man the pertinent pep talk needed to snap him from his slumber. That leads to the last page. So how’s the ending? Is it “unbelievable”?

Yeah, I think that qualifies. Surely it can’t get even nuttier from here, can it?

Previously…
Captain America #136
Thor #186
The Incredible Hulk #138
The Amazing Spider-Man #91
Fantastic Four #104
Thor #183
Avengers #44
The Amazing Spider-Man #53
Daredevil #36
Captain America #131
Captain America #132
Fantastic Four #132
Thor #192
Daredevil #31
Avengers #97

Mighty Marvel Checklist HyperboleCheck: Avengers #97

When the marvelous mavens at Marvel meant to magnify the merits of their magnificent mags, there were no better place than the Mighty Marvel Checklist, typically taking up one crazy column in the monthly Bullpen Bulletins page. Starting with sterling Stan Lee, the scattered scribes had a special skill for pumping every periodical as the pure pinnacle. The awesome Avengers #97 was no exception. The blurb boasted: “At last! The cataclysmic conclusion of the Kree-Skrull War! Plus a zillion Marvel-ous guest stars!” Now there’s not a lot of hyperbole in that summary, but there’s one odd assertion. A “zillion” guest stars. Well, that we can count.

Let’s be generous with this scintillating sage written by Roy Thomas and penciled by John Buscema. While the most recent preceding cover that provided some sense of the status of the roster with the tiny heads in the corner included the likes of Scarlet Witch and Goliath, issue #97 has the Vision in the corner and only the big three blazed across the banner:

So let’s say every other major figure is a guest star and count from there. Let’s begin in the nefarious Negative Zone.

We can count Rick Jones as a guest star. Annihilus is more of a villain, but tally him as a guest star. That gets us to two.

Quicksilver makes it three.

Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel get us to five.

I’m a little more skeptical of this one, but let’s call the Intelligence Supreme number six. Then Rick Jones is challenged to conjure up the colorful character he spied in an old comic book, which greatly gooses the guest star tally.

That’s a different Captain America, so he counts. And then Golden Age figures the Sub-Mariner, the old Vision (also known as Aarkus), the Fin, the Human Torch, Angel, the Patriot and the Blazing Skull. Just like that, we’re up to fourteen. That’s a lot of guest stars, sure, but there’s still a long way to go. Anyone else?

Nick Fury makes it fifteen. A colossal counting challenge certainly, but significantly short of zillions. The Marvel maestros needed to muster up mightier math mastery.

Previously…
Captain America #136
Thor #186
The Incredible Hulk #138
The Amazing Spider-Man #91
Fantastic Four #104
Thor #183
Avengers #44
The Amazing Spider-Man #53
Daredevil #36
Captain America #131
Captain America #132
Fantastic Four #132
Thor #192
Daredevil #31

Mighty Marvel Checklist HyperboleCheck: Daredevil #31

By now we’ve established that the mighty mavens of Marvel Comics were only bettered in their talent for titanic tales by their positively prodigious promotional prowess. This was trues as ever in the swingin’ sixties when almost every single soaring saga was touted as the living end. For example, 1967’s Daredevil #31 was described as follows: “Possibly the most sensational of all DD’s adventures! Imagine the Man Without Fear minus his super-senses–forced to battle his most deadly foes while he’s actually sightless! It’s Daredevil’s most fateful moment–and when you see the ending–HOOO BOY!” Does the supposed stunner by Stan (The Man) Lee and Gene (The Dean) Colan live up to the hype?

Now might be a good time for a little additional explication about the cracking crimefighter known as “The Man Without Fear.” Meet Matt Murdock: a lean, laudatory lawyer who has reached his professional pinnacle despite the fact that he’s blind, the result from an accident in his childhood. Though one sense said “Sayonara,” he’s otherwise endowed with heightened senses and a radical radar sense, all these attributes helping him careen across the city as Daredevil, the horned hero of Hell’s Kitchen. At the time of the stellar story in question, Matt Murdock was trying to divert people from discovering he was Daredevil (a situation started when Spider-man let the story slip) by making up a phony twin brother he called Mike Murdock. Matt would occasionally pose as Mike Murdock around his cohorts Foggy Nelson and Karen Page. But at the start of issue #31, Matt’s heightened senses had abandoned him, causing clattering clumsiness.

Like blurb boasts, Daredevil is without his super-senses, so that stands up. As for battling his “deadliest foes,” testing the truthfulness of that tidbit might require grading on a curve. For much of his history, Daredevil’s rogues gallery was exactly populated by particularly perilous plunderers and perps. So yeah, even sad sacks like Mr. Hyde and Cobra probably do qualify as “most deadly,” even though the latter is more interested in flaunting his flexibility.

So as it stands at this moment, Daredevil is now a blind superhero who pretends to be sighted while in his superhero guise and has protected his secret identity by creating a fictional twin brother, who he occasionally masquerades as, who is purported to be Daredevil, but now that he’s lost his compensatory super-senses (and extra sense) he can no longer easily portray the fictional twin brother with perfect sight so he’s done the only logical thing: he’s decided to pretend that the fictional twin brother has suddenly gone blind as well.

That’s Karen Page, longtime love, responding to Mike’s harrowing hardship by tearing up because he can’t see the new hairdo that she got just for him.

Back to the adventure at hand. Daredevil decides that he can’t let his fearsome foes figure out that he’s without his sight, so certainly the sure-footed solution is to take to a tightwire tugged taut above the city streets.

“HOOO BOY” is echoed from the commercial copy as Daredevil offers his own assessment of almost plummeting towards the street. His decision to act all cas about nearly dropping a few stories is amazingly effective as that feigned nonchalance indeed convinces Mr. Hyde that Daredevil is definitely dandy, no probs whatsoever. Maybe not something that merits “most sensational” as a descriptor, but it’s all at least unlikely enough to be surprising. It’s the actual ending, though, that’s supposed to leave the reader reeling. So what’s that radical revelation, true believer?

Daredevil may have tricked Mr. Hyde, but Cobra saw through (so to speak) his ruse. “HOOO BOY”? Well, that’s one way to put it.

Previously…
Captain America #136
Thor #186
The Incredible Hulk #138
The Amazing Spider-Man #91
Fantastic Four #104
Thor #183
Avengers #44
The Amazing Spider-Man #53
Daredevil #36
Captain America #131
Captain America #132
Fantastic Four #132
Thor #192