Friday, November 21, 2014

What WAS the Comic Battle of the 20th Century? Part 9 - The X-Men vs. Alpha Flight (or maybe Loki).

Continuing my 12-part series reviewing comic books that claim The Battle/Fight/Bout/Showdown of the Century on their covers. Today's battle---

X-Men and Alpha Flight and Loki! Presented in X-Men and Alpha Flight #2, 1985.  Written by Chris Claremont. Art by Paul Smith. Inked by Bob Waicek & friends.


WHY ARE THEY FIGHTING?
First things first, who is fighting whom? As with most Chris Claremont written X-Men books, there are lots of characters, dense dialog, and interweaving stories. I’ll summarize to the best of my humble ability.

As members of the X-Men and Alpha Flight investigate the disappearance of an airplane, which contained several of their friends, they discover a fantastic city near the Arctic Circle. Seen here in issue #1.


They discover their colleagues, alive and very well, inside the city, along with non-mutant humans. Here they all are, also from issue #1.


Do you know everybody? I don’t. I’m just here for the fight.

You may wonder why everyone is dressed so grandly. There is a “Firefountain” of magic that shoots up through a nearby mountain. This fountain can heal all pain while also giving everyone superpowers! With great power comes impractical costumes. Here’s Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Madelyne Pryor, who were on the downed plane and now live in this magical city.


You can tell how glorious this place is by the glorious shoulder pads that Madelyne wears. (Admittedly, it was the 80's.)

The Firefountain continues to grow. Eventually it will affect the entire world! Everyone will have superpowers! There will be no more prejudice against super-powered mutants and (bonus!) no more sickness!

But, uh-oh, here comes the curve ball. All magical beings are slowly being destroyed by the same effect that heals and powers everyone else. Check out Snowbird, who Wolverine discovers—


Egad. She's seen better days.

So here’s the rub—Is it worth ending the lives of a small percentage of the world’s population to give billions of people a near perfect life? Some of the X-Men and some of Alpha Flight think it’s worth the price. Other members think it’s not. Some want to extinguish the fountain, some do not. Here comes the fight!

HOW EPIC IS THE BATTLE?
It's team member against team member, husband against wife!


We only get about three pages of battle. Below is our most action packed one. They're fighting for the fate of the world!


WHO WINS?
Northstar and Talisman fly off to the mountain in an attempt to shut down the Firefountain.


They soon discover that not only does the fountain destroy magic folk, it also destroys the “inner magic” of ordinary people. It shuts off their imagination! No more creativity on the entire planet!  One of the humans seems to have known this, but it took him a while to crack.


When everyone finds out, they stop fighting. Suddenly Loki shows up!


It turns out that the people who already had superpowers won’t lose their ability to dream. Cyclops gives a pessimistic little speech.


Everyone fights Loki and his Frost Giants. Is THIS supposed to be the Battle of the Century? I’m not sure. We gets less than a page of action.


Suddenly the sky fills with… the gods of the gods?


I notice that Loki’s tongue is not colored.  Mistake, or does he have a silver tongue? He should.

Whatever the case, the silver-tongued devil had made some kind of deal with the big guys. In return Loki had to do, “A deed of goodness, a gift freely given.” The Firefountain was Loki’s gift to mankind, but he ended up fighting people to force them to take it! Oops.


Game over.

IS IT THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY?
Hard to say. There were fights going on, but we spent much more time dealing with emotions and feelings and such. Ultimately, I would say, “No. It is not.”

As of 1985, the winner is still Superman vs. Spider-Man!

Come back Monday for Part 10! A double feature! Green Lantern vs Blue Beetle! Plus, Loco vs Pulverine! Whaaaat?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What WAS the Comic Battle of the 20th Century? Part 8 - Spider-Man vs. the Hulk!

Continuing my 12-part series reviewing comic books that claim The Battle/Fight/Bout/Showdown of the Century on their covers. Today's battle---

Spider-Man vs the Hulk! Presented in Special Edition: Spider-Man vs. The Hulk, 1979. It’s an advertising supplement to the Columbus Dispatch. I can’t find any credits for this issue, but the art is obviously penciled by Sal Buscema. I’m going to guess it was written by Jim Shooter, but it’s just a guess.


I recognize both the character poses as being Marvel “clip art” with a book being awkwardly added to Spider-Man’s hand. I guess it’s there because this is a “Big Special Back-to-School Issue!” By “big” they mean 16 pages, and by “back-to-school” they mean the fight happens on a college campus. I suppose “special” means you get it free in your newspaper. The splash page is designed to get everyone up to speed—


WHY ARE THEY FIGHTING?
Dr. R.B. “David” Banner is in New York, headed to the Empire State University “looking for salvation”, which is never explained.

Okay, hang on a moment. We all know that the Hulk is really Bruce Banner, right? He was “Bob” in the FF #25 we reviewed last week, and now he’s “David.” For some reason, that’s what he was called in the popular Hulk TV in the late 70’s. But if it comes up, I’m calling him Bruce, okay? Bruce!

Anyway, Paul Parker happens to be going to the college at the same time. Ha ha. Kidding. It’s Peter Parker.

Bruce sees a little girl fall into the water at the docks and freaks out. Bruce! Be cool, man! Nope, he changes to the Hulk, but he still saves the girl.


People yell at him. He jumps off as the police shoot at him. He’s misunderstood, you know.

Meanwhile, across town, we get a one page Spider-Man adventure. Oh no! He’s late for the first day of school! (I guess it is a back-to-school issue!)


Spidey stops the criminals, but a shop owner runs out to yell at him for breaking the front window. He’s under-appreciated, don’t you know.

After class, since it’s the first day of school, Peter decides it’s a great time to hit on the local talent.


Smooooth. Oh no! Peter’s spider-senses suddenly go off! He dumps the girl and throws an internal pity-party. Then, fight time!


HOW EPIC IS THE BATTLE?
Spidey tries to web the Hulk, but that never works.


The Hulk doesn't talk in this issue, he only growls and such. Again, blame it on the TV show. There’s a two panel bit that’s humorous, but in some ways, it's merely ahead of its time.


The Hulk rampages. He’s very good at it.


Spidey does his best to keep all the students out of danger, when--


We get a little break from the fight to see what Spider-Man's made of—


He’s made of determination with a goodness filling!


Oops, that last page is from 1966’s Amazing Spider-Man #33. My mistake.

WHO WINS?
The fight continues! Spidey’s holding his own (sorta), but is probably not going to win. Then something happens that changes everything!



Didn't we go through this lifting thing already? Anyway, the army suddenly shows up to blast the Hulk! Spidey, however, webs them up so that Hulk can jump away! (Which he could have done anyhow.)

Our story wraps up with a couple more comic book clichés. ‘Cause perhaps newspaper readers have never seen them?

   
IS IT THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY?
Naw. Hulk breaks things and Spidey get throw around a lot. It might win as the CLICHÉ Battle of the Century! However, it is a good introduction to the world of comics, which is its purpose.

The Battle of the Century title remains with the Superman/Spider-Man fight of ’76. For now.

Come back Friday for Part 9! X-men vs Alpha Flight vs Loki! (More or less.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

What WAS the Comic Battle of the 20th Century? Part 7 - Machine Man vs. Ten-For!

Continuing my 12-part series reviewing comic books that claim The Battle/Fight/Bout/Showdown of the Century on their covers. Today's battle---

Machine Man vs. Ten-For! First presented in Machine Man #4, 1978. Written and drawn by Jack Kirby. Inks by Mike Royer.


The villain’s name is “Ten-For”, good buddy. This was written around the time CB radios were popular, especially with truckers. "Ten Four" was the lingo for "affirmative". However, I see zero connections to the villain and truckin’. I can't decide if Kirby was somehow being topical.

WHY ARE THEY FIGHTING?
As the issue begins, it appears they’ve already been fighting! Machine Man has a cylinder attached to his forehead, which is keeping him immobile. The alien, Ten-For, is apparently to blame.


Dr. Peter Spalding (whoever that is) is attempting to remove the device using Machine Man’s very own laser finger.


The doctor doesn’t finish his sentence because the cylinder comes off! Machine Man is fine. He’s off to find Ten-For. But where is Ten-For? Crashing in to an alleyway for some reason.


As I read, “Scurry for cover, you putty-skinned carrion! Where an Autocron steps there he rules,” I wondered for the first time-- Did Stan Lee’s writing style influence Jack Kirby’s writing style? They worked together for years to see nothing but success. Has this question ever come up?

Moving on.

Unfortunately as Machine Man seeks Ten-For, the military has caught wind of “two machine men” on the loose. A solider tries to stop our hero,  but Machine Man escapes using his silver tongue and cool moves.


As Machine Man sits in a tree, he decides to use a “dimensional transfer,” which is essentially transportation. It gives us some cool Kirby visuals.


Machine Man leaves the restaurant with some cool Kirby humor…


…and finds himself in Central City.


Hey, Machine Man! You know what IS a common sight in Central City?

The Flash. (No, he's not in the book.)

Okay, we’ve made it to page 23. Let the fight begin!!!


Wow, the red color really makes that furniture sign important! It's not.

HOW EPIC IS THE BATTLE?
Ten-For’s face flips up and he fires the first shot!


Machine Man fires back!


Ten-For leaves.

What? That’s it?!

Ten-For shoots once and Machine shoots once? The cover promised me “The Fight of the Century” as created by Jack Kirby! Alas... if only I were a robot, so I wouldn’t feel this aching disappointment that swells within my human heart.

Slow to follow, Machine Man suddenly realizes that he could use his Dimensional Transfer ability and “shove Ten-For as far from Earth as possible.” However, when Machine Man catches up with our villain, Ten-For has captured some humans. They would (somehow) go with him if he’s transported. What will Machine man do?

Continued next issue! 

WHO WINS?
Hmmm, I’m going to check the info on www.comics.org. Give me a second.

Okay. It looks like Ten-For is in the next two issues. But, in the issue #6 info, under “Characters”, it states “Ten-For (death).” Well then--

Winner – Machine Man!

IS IT THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY?
Me trying to get the last of the toothpaste out of the tube this morning was a bigger battle. So, “No.”

The Battle of the Century title remains with the Superman/Spider-Man fight of ’76.

Come back Wednesday for Part 8! Spider-Man vs. The Hulk!

Friday, November 14, 2014

What WAS the Comic Battle of the 20th Century? Part 6 - Superman vs. Spider-Man!


Continuing my 12-part series reviewing comic books that claim The Battle/Fight/Bout/Showdown of the Century on their covers. Today's battle---

Superman vs. Spider-Man! First presented in Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man, 1976. Written by Gerry Conway. Art by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano.


WHY ARE THEY FIGHTING?

First of all, let’s talk about how they even coexist! Superman is published by DC Comics, while Spider-Man is published by Marvel. They come from two different universes! However, in this joint-published book, it appears they’ve always existed together and merely have never met. Smart move. No story time is wasted with explaining "crossing dimensions" or such.

New York City is holding a “World News Conference." Anyone who’s anybody in the news business is attending, including Clark Kent - reporter, Lois Lane - reporter, Peter Parker - photographer, and Mary Jane Watson - um, trophy girlfriend?


Lois later bumps into Peter and they start talking about how much they admire each other’s work. Mary Jane shows up sporting a ‘tude.


Yep. Superman shows up too! The gang’s all here. I wonder what wonderful…  WHHAAAAA?!


Did… did Superman just disintegrate Lois and Peter’s trophy girlfriend?!?

Peter decides to investigate as Spider-Man, which treats us to this hi-larious panel.


Clark Kent has been here the whole time? Something’s not right, now is it? Both our heroes decide to investigate outside the building.

HOW EPIC IS THE BATTLE?
I’m not sure why Spider-Man is so giddy to see Superman. He considers him either a murderer or a kidnapper!  Superman considers Spider-Man a criminal and possibly behind the women’s disappearance. There’s going to be a fight! Superman against Spider-Man. This should last about two seconds.


Hold on, there’s a couple of guys lurking in the shadows. And by “shadows” I mean a brightly lit rooftop. It’s Lex Luther and Doctor Octopus! Luthor was masquerading as Superman!


Our villains are pleased that Spider-Man is unexpectedly involved, and decide to give him a little boost to his power level.


Looks like the power boost worked! There’s a rumor that Neal Adams re-penciled some of the Superman art. This page makes me believe it.


Spider-Man knocks Superman around for a few pages. Superman never hits back. He’s trying to start a conversation. Such a gentleman.


Finally, Superman loses his patience and throws a punch! However, being a very quick thinker, he realizes, “Great Krypton—What am I DOING? If this blow connects—it’ll KILL HIM!” He stops it at the last moment.


Well, blow me down! It still knocks the living bejeebers out of Spider-Man! (I took the liberty of rotating this page from its original vertical orientation.)


Spider-Man flies through the air and through some windows, in one side of a building and out the other. I suppose if he had hit a wall, it would have been a shorter comic. Spider-Man comes back and attacks Supes with an angry two feet to the chest! But…


No more Red Sun Radiation performance-enhancement for Spidey! But, he still continues to attack.


It's sad, really.

When I got to the above page, I knew I had to make a gif!


It's like me trying to convince my phone company they over-charged me. Am I right?

WHO WINS?
In a surprising turn of events, Supes and Spidey soon decide they should work together!


(But  I’m secretly calling Superman the winner.)

Okay, the Superman vs. Spider-Man battle is over, but there’s still thirty-some pages left in the book! Let’s see… Nasa has launched a “Comlab One” satellite and Luthor has taken control of it. He can now manipulate the weather! I'm not sure why he teamed up with Doc Ock. Even mad scientists get lonely I suppose.  He has kidnapped Lois (and Mary Jane who maybe was invading Lois’ personal space when the ray hit?) to lure Superman to his lair. Luthor wants to gloat as he DESTROYS THE ENTIRE EARTH! Doc Ock realizes that Luthor puts the “mad” in “mad scientist” and wrecks Luthor’s equipment. Earth saved!

Superman and Spider-Man then wrap up the story by talking about how great they are.


IS IT THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY?
In 1976, Superman and Spider-Man were arguably the two biggest names in superheroes. Also, two different companies had to work together to make this book happen, so it was a harder match to manage. The fight itself was fairly impressive. (And BIG! This happened in a “tabloid” sized comic.) The real question is-- Does it beat the Hulk/Thing battle of 1964?

The Hulk/Thing fight was a great brawl, but eventually, their tussles became fairly commonplace. The Superman/Spider-Man battle remained very unique!

So, I’m going to say, “Yes." In 1976, the Battle of the Century is the Superman/Spider-Man Showdown!

Come back Monday for Part 7! Machine Man vs. Ten-For! If you dare!