I had hoped to review the 1940s movie serial exploits of the Vigilante today but I’m finding it hard to get beyond the fifth episode. The print is quite poor and the storyline is very dull.
Previous posts on Steve Does Comics about UK Marvel annuals have prompted me instead to talk about this item of memorabilia:
The Avengers Annual 1978, probably on sale (I would imagine) in the autumn of 1977, was not one I owned at the time. I added it to my collection last month, for Xmas 2015. I don’t own the MWOM annual either but have previously bought the Captain Britain and Titans annuals for that year; I was given the Spidey annual 78 as a gift from Alex Harvey (junior) some years ago.
The Name is Yellowjacket: This is of course, the introduction of a new identity for Hank Pym by way of a two-part murder mystery ( of sorts)with a shock ending. It can also be read as the beginning of Hank’s psychological problems after some years of physical ones. The relationship between Hank and Jan has been the story engine since Goliath’s introduction. The Kooky Quartet’s in-fighting necessarily moved off centre-stage. The Big Man and the Little Lady begin the process of removing themselves from being conflict-generators here; by the end of Thomas’s tenure, the vacuum will be filled by Vizh and Wanda.
Yellowjacket’s persona at first resembles the boorish Hawkeye ( an unconscious mirroring of Barton by Hank?) but he reveals a more sinister side, abducting and ( seemingly) seducing Jan , in sequences that seem a bit rapey to modern sensibilities.
However, the story also presents a sequence of gorgeous vignettes revealing the thoughts of Avengers Jan, T’Challa, Vizh and Clint. I’d wager that, Neal Adams and Cardy aside, there’s nothing to touch Buscema at DC in December of 1968.
Til Death Do Us Part: the second part of the story is equally beautiful and a comic I owned in its original format as a little kid. This is, however, the bizarre wedding ceremony between a couple where the groom claims to have fed the bride’s fiance to a spider.
The Circus of Crime seem very menacing here, really looking to settle the score with Thor, but prepared to murder the Wasp. Although they might therefore be thought of as Kirby villains, the Clown et al are Ditko creations.
While Buscema’s women are stunning ( Sue Richards, Jan and Crystal), this full-page spread of the Marvel Universe wedding guests is a stand-out: funny, charming and awesome- an overused epithet.
I had forgotten Spidey’s 1964″Duel with Daredevil” because I thought DD recognising the Princess’s python was a goof. I still think it might be, though, since the Masters of Menace didn’t appear til ’65.
More importantly, however, Jan reveals he knew YJ was Hank all along and that they are now legally married . Could this shared deceit (and Hank’s long-standing frustration and physical strain when trapped at giant size) have contributed to his breakdowns and depression? The murder of his first wife, largely forgotten after the Avengers formed, must also have had an effect. Poor Hank. With friends like these…
Despite- or perhaps because of- Thomas’s far-out plot, this is a memorable episode. As I’ve said before, the Vision has quickly usurped the brooding “man of mystery” role from the Panther. T’Challa never regains his 1968 starring role in the team and after some flirtation with Relevancy, is essentially a B-list guest-star in the title from the early 70s onward.
The Song of Red Sonja: this is a bowdlerised version of the award-winning Smith/Thomas Conan story. The scene with the “fast dip” in the pool has been cut (even though it could be seen in the Treasury Edition version, on sale two years earlier). The interlude between the king and queen of Makkalet is also cut but that could be for reasons of space. It’s also an episode of a longer arc which can be read fairly independently and obviously, the work of a British creator.
The Avengers had been incorporated into MWOM in the summer of 1976- July, as far as I can see. It seems surprising then that an annual would be on sale, nearly eighteen months later, mimicking the line-up of a title that was defunct.
Also, when you look at the contents of Avengers Annuals between 1974 and 1977, they form an interesting pattern of unseen and previously reprinted material. What’s the logic behind marketing an annual where the strips have already been read by the likely customer base, perhaps two years earlier? Particularly when compared to the MWOM annual, which reprints a Luke Cage/Moses Magnum Marvel Giant. Then again, both the Titans and Spidey annuals reprint Sixties US annuals, the latter Lieber story never presented in SMCW ( perhaps because “The Parents of Peter Parker” isn’t very good).
For me, the obvious choice for the UK Avengers Annual would have been either this story, effectively a sequel to the 75/76 one:
or this story:
where the MTIO wrap-up could have been in the Spidey annual. In any case, that’s not what happened, despite the disappointment it might have engendered in British Merry Marvelites. Nonetheless, I am now quite keen to own the annuals that do feature mid-70s material, like this one:
but that’s a tale for 2017, I think.
coming soon: more Red Sonja, Frank Thorne style.
All images presumed copyright of their respective owners