Today's pick presents something of a personal paradox. On the one hand, I've never been especially fond of Steve Englehart's time on The Avengers in general nor of the Celestial Madonna story arc in particular. On the other, he introduced a team of villains at the height of that run that I consider one of the most memorable in the entire history of the World's Greatest Heroes, to wit:
4. The Legion of the Unliving
Chosen by Kang as much for their value as a psychological weapon against our heroes as for their physical prowess, the Legion proved alarmingly effective, leaving Iron Man (temporarily) dead, the Vision grievously (and temporarily) wounded, and the others disoriented and downhearted. But the tyrannical time traveler also sowed the seeds of his own defeat by choosing three pawns who were not inherently evil: Frankenstein's Monster, Wonder Man, and the original Human Torch. Frankie and the Torch eventually overcame Kang's conditioning and turned against him, aiding the Avengers and freeing the imprisoned Immortus, who used his arcane machinery to put everything right again.
As I said above, it's far from my favorite Avengers storyline, but it's full of great moments, especially the Human Torch recognizing the Vision's body as his own and Kang telling the perpetually ranting Baron Zemo to shut up. Add in some great Dave Cockrum art (undercut by Joe Giella's sketchy inks, true, but still exciting) and you get a super-villain team that branded itself into my consciousness, then and now.
Post by Icctrombone on Dec 21, 2022 5:51:19 GMT -5
4. Space Phantom/ Grim Reaper
Avengers #106-108 Marvel Comics (1972) Writer: Steve Engelhart Artist: Rich Buckler, George Tuska, Jim Starlin, Don Heck Inker: Dave Cockrum, Joe Sinnott
I have a soft spot for the Space Phantom. All the way back in issue # 2 of the Avengers series he was the opponent and his powers fascinated me. He could take the form of other living beings and place them in Limbo. It led to cool shenanigans where the original Avengers team fought who they thought were each other and it ended with the Hulk leaving the team. Fast forward 104 issues and here he is again to get revenge against the team. The plot was a bit convoluted for these 3 issues, though.
The Space Phantom wants to kill the Avengers , he needs the Grim Reaper for intel about the team. What the Reaper gets in return is a human body for the Vision who possesses the Reaper's late Brother , Simon Williams ( Wonder Man) brain patterns. Engelhart does some retconning of Caps book from around the Steranko 3 issue run and adds another battle with Hydra that ends with the wiping of the memory of Captain America's secret ID, from the human race by the S Phantom.
A few betrayals later, the Space Phantom is defeated when he tries to change places with Rick Jones but can’t because of the Captain Marvel Symbiotic relationship.
The Grim Reaper’s role is more as a stooge for the S Phantom although he also desired the destruction of the Avengers. It seems that the S Phantom had all the tech and means to beat the team and the Reaper amounts to being a third wheel.
Steranko's celebrated Cap Hydra story is a bit undone by this add on section . I’ve never heard any reaction to it, though.
The Penciling for the 3 issues is by 4 artists who all happen to be personal Favorites of mine. I will admit that it's sometimes Jarring because of their different styles.
The tale begins because Iron man, Wanda, Hawkeye and the Black panther answer a lead that the missing Quicksilver might have been sighted in an area where men were reported disappearing into thin air. It is flimsy but it starts the action.
The sequences of Captain America are all drawn by George Tuska and it makes me wonder if it was done specifically for this story, or was it meant for another Cap story.
Dave Cockrum is the Principle Inker of the 3 issue run and his stuff is superb. I think Cockrum missed his calling as an inker. It would have been a better fit, as I hear he was a bit slow and had trouble doing a monthly book.
Buckler draws this amazing panel. It’s quite scary.
I've always thought that if they had made a live action movie or show featuring the Legion of Super-Villains in their early “adult form”, David White (famous for his role in Bewitched as Larry Tate) would have been great as Lightning Lord. And hands down the lovely Ann Sheridan as Saturn Queen for that matter.
So let's back up a little. Today's choice was going to be the Legion of Super-Villains themselves, the classic adversary team to the Legion of Super-Heroes. In their earliest incarnation (as seen here) they are essentially evil and adult-aged analogues to the founding members of the Legion (Cosmic King for Cosmic Boy, Saturn Queen for Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lord for Lightning Lad respectively).
Over the years, the team evolved considerably, becoming a younger group contemporary to the teen Legion versus the adult team pictured here causing Superman headaches. Their membership grew as well, not only adding core members but eventually also absorbing some other groups in part as seen during the opening story arc of the Baxter series in the mid-80's with various members from the League of Super-Assassins and Legion of Super-Rejects now incorporated.
As I was considering how to approach for today, I remembered this side appearance of the LSV in Jimmy Olsen #87 from 1965, in which Brainiac creates a new version of the “Anti-Superman Gang” (the name previously used by various non-powered criminals to organize threats against Superman). He quickly recruits Luthor and the early adult Legion of Super-Villains as pictured, dubbing them in fact as the “Cosmic Anti-Superman Gang” in certain panels as can be seen below.
The story itself is pretty much typical crazy Silver Age storytelling, but this is a fantastic villain line-up to me combining my love of the Legion with the classic pairing of Luthor and Brainiac. I really wish they had revisited this team again, but alas it was not meant to be.
And I'll leave you with this thought, back on “casting” the characters here: I'm going with William Frawley (aka “Fred Mertz”) as Luthor from this era.
4. Viper and Silver Samurai first appearance (together, obviously): Marvel Team-up #83
I’ve always liked this evil-doing duo, and that’s mainly on the strength of their first appearance together, in the pages of Marvel Team-up as the main adversaries in what I consider by far the best multi-part story in that series: the amnesiac Black Widow arc in #s 82-85. I reluctantly decided not to include it in the previous 12 days event dedicated to team-ups, because I set a rule for myself that I would only pick team-ups between two protagonists exclusively, and this one ended up having four. So I’m happy to be able to include it now. And I genuinely like Viper and Silver Samurai: they’re a good couple (yes, they’re also lovers) and they work well together, as she’s the stronger personality, a ruthless schemer and organizer, while he’s the enforcer. And I liked the way they were introduced in the Marvel Team-up story, with Viper initially staying in the shadows. And even though nothing topped this first outing for them, I was always happy to see them show up elsewhere (like the pages of the X-men a few years later).
#4 - The Mummy and the Mastermind Lightning Comics v. 2 #1
So I came across the cover of Lightning Comics #6 somewhere, probably on this forum. The good guy, Flash Lightning, aka Lash Lightning, aka Lightning, was flying towards a glowing mummy holding a hostage on a stage. I thought it looked pretty cool, and was curious about the insides. I read a couple of Lightning's adventures, and 2 of them featured the villain, the Mummy.
This guy I really liked. Nothing supernatural, he was a scientist who found a way to treat cloth with radium to make it impenetrable, and wrapped himself up as a mummy. (Never heard of Madame Curie, I guess.) I also read 2 stories featuring a baddie called the Werewolf, who I also liked. (Real werewolf.) I decided to check out more of this series, and thought it'd be cool if those two bad guys met up.
So I read the whole ((F)Lash) Lightning series. (I even thought about doing up a review thread here. But ye gods, the stories got bad towards the end.) Turns out, the Mummy had a third appearance, and the Werewolf 2 more. But they never did meet.
But in his third appearance, the Mummy did team up with another villain called the Mastermind. And I liked the way they worked this team-up. So when this year's theme was announced, this story had to be on my list.
Continuing the monstrous villain theme, the Mastermind wore a vampiric cape over a yellow shirt and striped pants. He could teleport, somehow, and was a scientific genius who devised a means to give himself lightning powers comparable to our hero. But, being a smart guy, he decided that wasn't enough. So he breaks the Mummy out of prison, offering to help destroy Lightning in return for the secret of the radium coating.
Before the Mummy can re-create his formula, the two fight Lightning and capture him. But then, unsurprisingly, the two have a falling out, as the Mummy decides he wants lightning powers too. It doesn't end well.
And since this was before the comic afterlife had a revolving door, that was it. The Mummy was dead. The Mastermind went on to be Lightning's arch-enemy for the next 3 issues, but my guy never came back. So we had a super-villain alliance, out of mutual advantage, falling apart and ending in death. You know, just the way things would probably actually wind up.
#4 – The Dark Judges: Judge Death, Judge Mortis, Judge Fear and Judge Fire As seen in 2000 AD #224–228 (1981)
This isn't the first time that they've appeared in this year's event, but there's no way I could not choose the four Dark Judges, as seen in the Judge Dredd strip in 2000 AD. Specifically, I'm choosing their first appearance in the classic "Judge Death Lives!" storyline from progs 224–228 of 2000 AD.
For the uninitiated, the Dark Judges are a twisted, undead, horror movie version of Judge Dredd and his fellow Mega-City One law-keepers from an alternate dimension where life itself has been declared a crime. Led by the fiendish Judge Death, there were two things that made the Dark Judges so speacial: a) you didn't normally get supernatural characters like Death and his comrades appearing in the strip, so they were a distinct departure for the comic, and b) they had a tremendously striking look, with their appearance being that of a twisted, undead, horror version of the Judges themselves.
Genuinely creepy as hell and impossibly cool looking: that's the Dark Judges! That's why they were always going to be high on my list.
Last Edit: Dec 21, 2022 7:33:04 GMT -5 by Confessor
If there's one thing I like almost as much as a good story, it's a good puzzle, and Marvel offered up an enticing one when Steve Gerber introduced this bizarre trio (expanded to a quartet as of the above issue): all of these memorably bizarre villains had appeared in the same Marvel comic in the previous year. That should have been easy; how could you miss a blob of a man with shrunken bones, a human with a gorilla body from the neck down, and a mystic?! (Well, Chondu, the mystic, wasn't all that memorable at this stage, but Gerber was going to mess him up real good in the issues to follow?
I wish I could say I solved that puzzle, but I didn't, because it turned out that all these guys had appeared in a recent reprint comic, one that I did sometimes buy, but this issue of which I had passed up:
Brilliant and devious of Steve Gerber to mine obscure Atlas horror comics to turn the unfortunate souls in a horror anthology into leading villains in a superhero book! It was a harbinger of one of the aspects of mainstream comics I loved in the 80's and 90's: digging up the forgotten characters, the wild ideas, the one-shot shorts and giving them a boost to bring them back into the comics universe. I was hooked on THE DEFENDERS from my first issue, #4, riding that book to the bitter end, but it was never as good as it was when Gerber and Sal Buscema were in charge. The Headmen were just so, so "Defenders" material, it's hard to imagine them being introduced anywhere else. And I dug the theme that united them: something weird involving their head:
Arthur Nagan, a guy whose head was transplanted onto an ape body by a tribe of gorillas Chondu, a mystic who soon finds his brain transplanted into an ongoing series of stranger and stranger bodies Jerry Morgan, who developed a means of shrinking himself like Hank Pym, but found that his bones didn't come back to their full size, leaving him with a prominently deflated head Ruby Thursday, a woman with a "head" that is a globe of "organic circuitry" capable of many strange abilities
Monstrous, diverse, thematically connected, and, for the time, exclusive to my favorite (non)team, The Headmen are an unforgettable team of super-villains that easily make it into my top echelon for this Christmas celebration.
And since I take any opportunity to bring up my favorite obscure writer from the 20th Century, Harry Stephen Keeler introduced the world to the concept of a human brain in a gorilla body in his bizarre masterpiece, Sing Sing Nights, from which three motion pictures were adapted: Sing Sing Nights, The Mysterious Mr. Wong (which shaxper is surely familiar with, as it starred Bela Lugosi!) and, without giving Keeler any credit, The Monster and the Girl, which adapted the Gorilla's Brain segment of Keeler's novel in addition to the framing content Keeler used to link three of his outrageous short stories into a unified structure. (I played a part in bringing one of Keeler's unpublished novels, Strange Journey, to print, by transcribing scan's of Keeler's typewritten pages into Word!)
My write-up consists of four words: playing cards are cool.
But I need to write more, right?
Playing cards are cool. Do I even know the rules of poker, bridge, etc? No. I think my experience of playing cards goes back many years - and only to basic games. But there’s something cool about playing cards. I even know of a friend who collects them, but doesn’t play them (makes it so easy to buy a birthday gift for him at times).
We want colourful characters in comics. And heroes are nothing without good villains. A team with a playing card gimmick is about the best that anyone could come up with, hence my reason for including them on my list.
My next pick comes from, for my money, one of the best written comic series of this century -- Attack on Titan. (Though some people would argue that Hajime Isayama didn't quite stick the landing. Quite passionately, in fact, given the outrage over the final chapter. However, I suspect that may change as the series is evaluated and re-evaluated in the years to come.) Not the best drawn manga you'll ever read, though the art improved as the series progressed. The anime, on the other hand, is state of the art.
4. Colossal Titan, Armored Titan and Female Titan
Attack on Titan tells the story of a world where humans are forced to live within three circular walls that protect them from the giant, mindless Titans that attack and eat humans on sight. The central protagonist is Eren Yeager, a young boy who lives within the outermost wall. Early on in the manga, the outermost wall is attacked by two new types of Titans, the Colossal Titan and the Armored Titan.
The attack creates a hole in the wall that allows smaller Titans to enter the town, and in the ensuring chaos, Eren's mother is eaten by a Titan. Witnessing his mother's horrific death, Eren vows to destroy the Titan and joins the military. Five years later, the Colossal Titan attacks the second wall, and Eren and his companions encounter the sentient Female Titan.
I can't say anything about the Titans or their origins without giving away a gazillion spoilers, and the manga has such a complex plot, with so many twists and turns, that I couldn't do it justice even if I tried. What starts out as an adrenaline filled battle against these monster Titans turns into an incredible epic that touches on war, justice, politics, discrimination, love, destiny and hope.
There's more than meets the eyes to these Titans.
Last Edit: Dec 21, 2022 21:16:09 GMT -5 by commond
4. Boss Thorne and Mayor Hill Occurred in Batman #341-354 and Detective Comics #511-520 (November 1981 thru December 1982) By Gerry Conway, Gene Colan, and Don Newton
While many brilliantly evil costumed maniacs have tried their hand at destroying Batman, in 1982 it was a plainclothed mob boss and a corrupt mayor who came closest. Over the course of a year, they nearly killed and ruined the lives of Commissioner Gordon, Harvey Bullock, Bruce Wayne, Jason Todd, and (of course) Batman. Perhaps the most striking aspect of this prolongued struggle was having the police, the city, and public opinion all turned against Batman, something Frank Miller somehow gets credit for inventing five years later. It certainly was powerful to see our hero and his allies get crushed a little bit more, issue after issue, for a full year, with no hope in sight, but the absolute most memorable part for me was the utterly disturbing, tragic, and yet pathetic end to this team-up, as a spooked Rupert Thorne (being tormented by the ghost of Hugo Strange) stumbles in, gun cocked, and everything goes to Hell fast:
It's definitely in my Top 5 favorite individual Batman issues of all time.
A snafu by Harley sends Poison Ivy back to Arkham, and Ivy swears off working with Harley forever. But Harley won't take no for an answer, so when Ivy breaks out and heads to South America, Harley's right behind her. Oily politicians, cutthroat mercenaries, and shower scenes abound.
This is Paul Dini and Bruce Timm doing what they do best and essentially extending the Batman: The Animated Series reality in this madcap romp. Taking advantage of the older demographic reading comics, Dini takes the lesbian subtext that ran through Harley and Ivy's appearances in BTAS and makes it all but text. This portrayal of Harley and Ivy's relationship got picked and became canon for the mainstream DCU.
But mostly, this miniseries is just sheer, unbridled fun. It is full of all kinds of in-jokes for fans of the show, including a scene where Harley beats up Mark Hamill (although not named as such) after mistaking him for the Joker.
I’m feeling triggered. It’s exactly this kind of harassment that shows why the forum needs a “dislike” button.
And as I’ve pointed out time and time again, Rick Jones succeeding, in this instance and many others, has nothing to do with any specific actions he’s consciously taken but rather pure, EXTREMELY dumb luck or happenstance.
"As a youngin' I used to share the colt 45 on the street corners with my friends. I'm not proud." - icctrombone
"An empire toppled by its enemies can rise again. But one which crumbles from within? That's dead. Forever." - Baron Helmut Zemo
The fact that there is a Highway to Hell but only a Stairway to Heaven should tell us all we need to know about expected future traffic.
The Ghostly Trio were one of those villains as a little kid that I always liked. The first comics I got as a kid were mostly Harvey books. Richie Rich really didn't have a pure antagonist but Casper's uncles were good enough to be a burr in Casper's transparent saddle. Fatso, Fuzzo and Lazo always wanted Casper to follow in their footsteps to be mean and scare humans. While their intentions were good Casper wanted to be friends with everyone. Introduced in the cartoon series, the trio then came into the comics and became foils for Casper with the occasional niceness but mainly to taunt Casper into being their personal assistant. Fatso is the leader while Fuzzo (the normal looking ghost) and Lazo (the tall thin ghost) were dealt out orders to spook and scare anything.
This is a pure childhood nostalgia selection. I do like them in all incarnations, even the live action films where they really shined and made the Casper film a fun family watch.
On the Ninth Day of Christmas, the Ghost of Christmas Villainy brought to me a host of Hyborian Age prestidigitators, Set's Styygian sorcerers, the incomparable Thoth-Amon teamed with The Black Ring of Stygia and powerful wizards of other lands including the Great Shaman of Damballah that Thoth Amon uses as pawns in his schemes against Conan the First, King of Aquilonia as told in King Conan #1-4.
I love me some scheming wizards, and Thoth-Amon is the epitome of that trope, and here he schemes so well with a host of other partners, pawns and proxies as he puts himself against Conan of Aquilonia leading to the ultimate confrontation between those two. Not my favorite Conan story, but one of the best in encapsulating the menace and majesty of Thoth-Amon and his use of alliances and pawns as a mater of villainy and vileness. Toth-Amon never turned down a team up or a potential minion in his efforts to gain power and eliminate his enemies.