Thursday, March 12, 2015

Avengers History 201

Welcome back to our continuing Avengers coverage!

Picking up where we left off, we start with Avengers #35 (December 1966, art by Don Heck) and, welcome aboard Roy Thomas, as the new writer of the team, taking over for Stan Lee. This is the beginning of a more advanced Avengers run, so we’ll be moving through a little more quickly, and taking advantage of the rich history of the team and how much more connected the Avengers universe becomes.

Carrying A Heavy Load

The team proceeded along as usual, finishing their battle against the Living Laser, and fighting the invading robots called the Ultroids (over the course of issues #36 and 37, until meeting up with a demi-god in Avengers #38 (March 1967) and this was a different demi-god than the mighty Thor, who had been a member!). Though, oddly enough, that’s where he got his start.

Yes, Hercules began his legendary journeys (for mighty Marvel) in Journey Into Mystery Annual #1 (1965, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby), then the son of Zeus continued his battles with Thor in his own magazine for a time, as well as his own Olympian father, Zeus (himself no stranger to using lightning as a weapon, not unlike Thor), and the Olympian lord of the underworld, Pluto (as Hercules tried to take Hollywood and got into a bad contract that his friend Thor helped him out with…ironic, as Hercules wasn’t to be in the Thor movie, or the Avengers movie…), before becoming a guest of the Avengers after a battle with the Enchantress, who wasn’t above using strong men in attempts to defeat the team.

The Avengers kept this super-strong demi-god busy for a while (fighting the Hulk in Tales To Astonish #79, Fantastic Four foes like the Mad Thinker in #39, Sub-Mariner in #40, Diablo and the Dragon Man in #41 and 42, meeting Black Widow along the way, who was having commitment issues with Hawkeye and the Red Guardian – a Russian version of Captain America - and she didn’t join the Avengers at this time in #43 and 44.

The Avengers faced a team of Avengers villains including former Avenger, the Swordsman, and the Enchantress and her two other strong men, Power Man and the Executioner, in their first Annual) before finally letting him join the team in Avengers #45 (October 1967, drawn by Don Heck, while facing the Super-Adaptoid, who had previously only menaced Captain America in Tales of Suspense). The team deals with Magneto in Avengers #47 and 49, and a few other problems like the Black Knight in Avengers #48 as well.

Hercules didn’t stick around long, leaving soon after a confrontation with the titan Typhon in Avengers #50 (March 1968, drawn by John Buscema, and Typhon first appeared in Avengers #49, also by John, though not on the cover) …and disappeared for a while after that as well. Over the years, Hercules would wander back to the team (usually to fight an Olympian menace like Ares, Herc’s half-brother and the god of war) and leave the Avengers for a time, meet up with Thor and help the son of Odin, co-founded the Champions (with Black Widow, Ghost Rider, Angel and Iceman) to combat Pluto, and just be the great Greek almost-god that he was living the life in Hollywood, and even recently became strong enough to carry his own title, the Incredible Hercules! True, Hercules has had difficulties over the years, but he’s always fought back!

African Royalty

But, with Hercules leaving, the team needed a new member, and were lucky enough to find one in the acrobatic Black Panther. T’Challa started out in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby), and he was the chieftain of the land of Wakanda, a technologically advanced nation in Africa that controls the world’s supply of vibranium (a metal which absorbs vibrations). After testing himself against the FF, they aid him in his battle with Ulysses Klaw, the man who killed T’Chaka, the Panther’s father. T’Challa defeats Klaw, who returns as a being of sound thanks to his mechanical hand in Fantastic Four #56. (November 1966, by Lee and Kirby). After aiding the Fantastic Four and the Inhumans in a battle with the emotion-manipulating Psycho Man in Fantastic Four Annual #5, (November 1967, by Lee and Kirby) Black Panther goes to meet Captain America in Tales of Suspense #97-99 (1968) and Captain America #100 (April 1968, all by Lee and Kirby), as together, they battle the forces of Baron Zemo.

When the king and the super-soldier defeat the faux Zemo, Cap suggests that the Avengers take Black Panther as a member in Avengers #51 (April 1968, art by John Buscema) and T’Challa joins the team in Avengers #52 (May 1968, drawn by John Buscema) where the team needs the help against the Grim Reaper – a foe just introduced, but with ties to the Avengers’ past, he’s the brother of Simon Williams/Wonder Man (whom the Avengers haven’t dealt with since his “death” at the hands of the Masters of Evil), who holds the Avengers responsible for Wonder Man’s death. The Grim Reaper is the first of many villains that are introduced at this time that will come back to be a constant menace to the Avengers, no matter what their membership.

After a quick battle with the X-Men in X-Men #45 and Avengers #53, the new Avengers face a new Masters of Evil in Avengers #54-55, that includes some of the original members like the Melter and Radioactive Man, plus Black Panther foe Klaw and Whirlwind (formerly the Giant-Man & Wasp foe, the Human Top, who changed his name to Whirlwind when he returned in Avengers #46 to combat Goliath), a new Black Knight (Dane Whitman, the nephew of Nathan Garrett of the original Masters of Evil, who died after sustaining injuries fighting Iron Man…and as the Avengers found out in Avengers #48, was not villainous) and mystery villain, the Crimson Cowl, who is really the robotic Ultron (making his first appearance in Avengers #54, July, 1968 drawn by John Buscema). Ultron is like the Energizer Bunny, he just keeps going!

The coming of Ultron…leads into the induction of the next two Avengers, and their creation as well, which the team deals with after getting a little more information on Cap’s past and how he came to be frozen in Avengers #56, (September 1968, art by John Buscema) and dealing with the time-traveling Scarlet Centurion (yes, he’s an alternate Kang too and comes back as a menace to another alternate world) and alternate versions the early Avengers in Avengers Annual #2 (1968). This is an early example of the Avengers traveling to alternate dimensions and through time…something they will continue to do, even recruiting from those places…and time is something that will reveal more about the next Avenger as well....and we'll have more on them soon!

Though Black Panther didn't leave the Avengers for a while, it take a little time for him to get his own series, first in Jungle Action (from issues #5 to #24), then his first own series that lasted 15 issues from January, 1977 to May, 1979 (finally ending in Marvel Premiere #51 to #53), and back to working with the Fantastic Four, and having a few mini-series, and then a 62 issue series from November, 1998 to September, 2003 and another regular series lasting 41 issues from April, 2005 to November, 2008 that involves him with the X-Men and Fantastic Four as well as the Avengers and the Civil War! 

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