The Avengers Are So Hot Right Now, So Here’s This Month’s Great Cover

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I had to go with an Avengers cover for this month, didn’t I? How could I not? Disney’s Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame is in theaters and is doing monster business. Well, I’m more than willing to jump on that bandwagon, so I picked an issue of The Avengers as an example of a great cover.

This one is a little different than what one might think of as a great comic book cover. There’s no pitched battle. There’s no image of our hero or heroes about to be or having been defeated. There’s no super-villain or group of super-villains.

It’s just our heroes gathered around their conference table. They are being dressed down by a lone man, normal, no superpowers, holding a file marked “Top Secret”. He’s Peter Gyrich and he’s from the US National Security Agency, which I suppose could be considered a super-hero or a super-villain, depending on your feelings toward government.

The Avengers’ organization has gotten too big, too unruly, and too lax in their security for the US Government. They are becoming more of a risk than an asset. They need to be more tightly controlled and to do that many of them had to go. Earth’s mightiest heroes may not have started out as a government sanctioned group, but since their founding they had acquired certain privileges and clearances and funding. If they wished to continue getting those favors, they would have to follow the rules.

The greatness of this cover starts with its excellent execution by artists George Perez (penciler) and Terry Austin (inker). It’s hard to go wrong with that artistic team-up. Perez does a fantastic job of drawing and design here. It’s not easy to incorporate so many characters, 24 in all, in such a limited space and make them all appear as though they are all standing on the same floor and have their own space. They may be a little cramped, but Perez handles it beautifully here. And he didn’t even try make it easier on himself by drawing two of the characters in their miniature states, as he could have with The Wasp and Yellowjacket.

I also like the little connections between the couples of the group. The Vision is gently caressing Scarlet Witch. The Wasp is holding Yellowjacket’s reassuring hand as he places it on her shoulder. Captain America’s hug of Iron Man… Well, maybe that’s not technically a hug.

Gyrich’s arrogance and self-confidence is on full display. He boldly stands before a gathering of super-powered beings, any one of whom could easily reduce him to a quivering pile of human flesh, and dictates the government’s terms. He shows no sign of being intimidated, at all.

The cover of Avengers #181 (March, 1979) may seem an unusual choice, but I think it’s a great cover.

And Endgame? Fantastic! Bravo Marvel! Bravo Disney!

Oh! As a bonus. John Byrne and Gene Day produced what some might consider an even better version of the cover scene as part of the story. However, theirs has only 23 characters. Can you figure out which one is missing?

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It’s Yondu of the Guardians of the Galaxy who is missing.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

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George Perez: Quite An Artist, Quite A Legacy

This past weekend George Perez, one of the comic book industry’s greatest illustrators, announced he was retiring.

Retire? Hold on while I look that up…

“To withdraw from one’s position or occupation or from one’s active working life.”

What?! People can do that? How do their bills get paid?

Huh. Oh, well.

So, Perez is doing this retire thing and that got me thinking of when I first saw his illustrations. As I wrote in my blog about discovering Marvel’s The Uncanny X-Men in the summer of 1978, I had just determined to become serious about collecting comic books and start buying titles and reading the storylines, instead just buying books with interesting covers. Along with The X-men, I began buying The Avengers.

The first issue I picked up with this new zeal for comics was The Avengers #171 (May, 1978).

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It’s cover was drawn by George Perez and inked by Terry Austin and they proved to be a nearly as potent a creative team as John Byrne  and Austin were on The X-Men. The interior art of this issue of The Avengers was inked by Pablo Marcos and he proved to be an even better fit with Perez’s pencils. Some penciler and inker combinations are truly magical. Perez and Marcos was one such combo.

I quickly began scarfing up back issues of The Avengers, which had become my favorite title. (Oh, how I wish I had done the same with the Dave Cockrum drawn X-Men issues.) And what I saw was a young artist becoming great.

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Perez’s early work in the Avengers was more simple and maybe a little awkward. Some of that was undoubtedly due to the inkers he was paired up with in those early days. His drawings with Vince Colletta or Sam Grainger inking weren’t quite there yet. (See the example from Avengers #141 with Colletta inking, above.) Perez was showing promise, but he was still getting settled in and when he teamed up with Marcos his artwork soared.

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By the time Avengers #161 was produced, Perez and Marcos were creating incredible pages. The action sequences were more dramatic and dynamic. The characters’ anatomy and poses were also more dramatic and more precisely drawn. In the example (see above), how great is that explosive first panel? And the expression on Iron Man’s… um… mask in the fourth panel is far more expressive than any of the faces in that earlier sample.

And Perez’s blossoming as an artist was not only confined to the pages of Earth’s Mightest Heroes. He also turned out some fine work in Marvel’s adaption of the 1976 sci-fi classic Logan’s Run. For that series he was teamed up with inker Klaus Janson. And they also gelled well together. In the first sample, just look at the center frame. Fantastic!

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The second sample is an outstanding example of his dramatic splash pages. Also from the Logan’s Run series.

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Finally, I want to look at a cover he did for the Fantastic Four #184 (July, 1977). He did a run of both covers and interior art with pioneer inker Joe Sinnott. Now, I think Sinnott was a fine inker, but by the 1970s his inking tended to overshadow the artist, not compliment them. However, Perez’s style was not too adversely affected.

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I also want to point out that Perez could be a maniac when it came to drawing backgrounds. There would sometimes be an incredible amount of detail involved, but he kept it under control and kept his covers and pages from looking too busy. That’s not an easy thing to do. I think the two covers I’ve included here are good examples of his attention to detail.

And this is all just his work from the 1970s!

George Perez’s career in comic books would span an additional four decades! Over those decades, his artwork maintained the highest quality as he worked for both Marvel and DC Comics. His work always looked fresh. He kept up with the times, while never losing that classic George Perez look. That in itself is a rare and terrific feat.

The man has left an impressive legacy as he now embarks on his well-earned retirement.

Kudos, Mr. Perez!

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And, for my money, no one drew Ultron better than George Perez!

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

This Story Is Bonkers!

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Is this R. Crumb? The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers? Or some other weird underground comic from the 1960s or 70s?

Nope. It’s Marvel Comics‘ double-sized anniversary issue number 200 of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – The Avengers. This issue is dated October, 1980 and… it’s bonkers!

At this point, I’m going to warn you that I will be spoiling the heck out of this 38 year old comic book.

In the lead up (issues #197-199) to a very special issue of The Avengers, readers learn that Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel, is pregnant. We also learn that this is no ordinary pregnancy. Not only is it progressing at a highly accelerated rate, according to Ms. Marvel, who would surely know, there is no father. In fact, she stops just short of admitting to The Scarlet Witch that she’s a virgin.

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“When I shouldn’t even be pregnant at all! I never even… I-I mean, there couldn’t be…

Blast it, Wanda, there isn’t a father!

In a matter of days, with the assistance of Dr. Donald Blake, aka The Mighty Thor, and Jocasta, a robot created by the evil Ultron to be his mate (it didn’t work out – long story), Ms. Marvel delivers a healthy baby boy. The big-brained science members of The Avengers whisk the baby away for a battery of tests, while the new mom is wheeled off to her room for some rest. This does not upset Carol, as it might most any other new mother, in fact, she doesn’t want anything to do with the boy. She doesn’t consider him to be her son.

That’s actually probably a good thing considering what happens later. And what happened before.

Much the same as with the pregnancy, the boy grows at an incredible rate. Within hours he is talking and building a special machine for a purpose he refuses to reveal. He’s incredibly intelligent and resourceful; and he’s named himself Marcus.

As Marcus was growing, Captain America thought he’d ask the miracle boy some questions to determine just what is going on.

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Captain America asks, “For starters, where did you come from?”

Marcus answers, “My mother.”

“Yes, we know that, but… that is, how were you conceived?”

“Uhhhm… By my father?”

“Well, of course, blast it! But who is your father?”

“I am.”

Hold the flip phone! Virgin birth? The kid is his own father? Well, what do you know? I guess this can be considered my Christmas blog.

Somehow Marcus is causing all manner of space/time continuity errors to occur. Ordinary people from modern times are being shifted to earlier time periods. Spacecraft from the future have been brought to 1980. A medieval knight attempts to skewer The Scarlet Witch in a hallway of the Avengers Mansion, while an impossibly large T-Rex attacks it from the outside.

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I mean, seriously, that dinosaur is way too big.

Ms. Marvel finally gives in and goes to meet her “son”, who is now a young man, very nearly her own age. When she sees him she feels immediate stirrings. And not the maternal kind.

Eventually, Marcus tells his tale.

He’s the son of an evil time lord named Immortus, who ruled over the timeless realm of Limbo, but he was originally from earth. (It really is a long and convoluted story. Just go with me, OK?) Immortus was lonely in Limbo, so he plucked a woman from earth to be his mate, and along came Marcus 1.0. However, Marcus is not like his father. He is not evil.

When Immortus disappeared, due to a battle with the Avengers, Marcus was abandoned in Limbo. He wandered lonely for what might have been an eternity, when he thought since he was born into Limbo, perhaps he could be born out.

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Taking a page out of his father’s book, Marcus scanned earth for a suitable woman. He found Ms. Marvel, zapped her into Limbo, showed her a good time with the assistance of Shakespeare and Beethoven, and she responded favorably. They… er… gained carnal knowledge of each other, during which Marcus implanted his “essence” into her. (This was approved by the Comics Code Authority?!) She was then sent back to earth a “mere second” after he had abducted her, with no memories of what had happened.

Then came the fast track pregnancy and – voila – Marcus 2.0!

Sadly, his presence was causing the time shift problems and would soon doom the earth if he couldn’t stop it. That’s what the machine he built was supposed to do, but hot-headed, shoot-first-ask-questions-later Hawkeye barged in and destroyed it. That meant Marcus couldn’t stay on earth. His plan had failed. He now had to return to the loneliness of Limbo.

However, he wasn’t going to be alone. Ms. Marvel, feeling an intense attraction and love for Marcus, decided to go with him.

Technically, Marcus isn’t her son. They don’t share DNA. And he existed before she gave birth to him…

She gave birth to him! She doesn’t want to be his mother, she wants to be his lover! That’s bonkers! Right?!

This tale was conceived by Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, David Michelinie, and George Perez. Michelinie wrote the final script and the incomparable Perez drew it with inks by Dan Green. Not a woman in the bunch. No mothers around to say, “Boys! This plot line is bonkers!”

Years later, Star Trek: The Next Generation would use the fast track pregnancy and quickly growing alien offspring plot (The Child – Episode 1, Season 2) involving Counselor Troi. However, she didn’t develop the hots for her kid.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books.