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I’d like to see him square off with Apache Chief – Black Goliath #4

February 27, 2011

I’m getting this one in just under the Black History Month wire, and I don’t know why, but there’s perhaps no better symbol for a sinister and malevolent “whitey” than the Stilt-Man, whose name I’ll hyphenate in this post despite its unhyphenated status on the cover and in the title. More on that whitey stuff in a moment.

Black Goliath, with his 70s-era prominent collar, is yet another in that long line of African-American heroes to have their skin color emblazoned in their names. I cringe every time I see that old trope, but it’s an unavoidable part of comics’ evolution. For this particular hero, here’s the opening blurb from this issue to give you his gist if you’re not familiar:

“Enter Stilt Man — Exit Black Goliath,” written by Chris Claremont with art from Rich Buckler and Don Heck (and a cover featuring the distinctive flat-tipped fingers of Jack Kirby), doesn’t quite rise to the level of Blaxploitation, but it has its moments. In case that “up out of the ghetto” stuff needs some reinforcement, we early on get the stock low-life black characters — the strung out punk and his girlfriend straight out of racial stereotype central casting:

Blessedly, we’re not subjected to much of that. The bulk of the action is centered around a meaner, nastier Stilt-Man, whose robbery of a bank (I appreciate how he always sets his sights low) brings out Black Goliath to stop him. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any beef with the Stilty, and I always take pleasure in the opportunities his suit provides for artists to flex their perspective muscles. But he’s also always struck me as a perhaps one of the “whitest” of Marvel villainy’s lower rungs. A stiff. Think about it — no self-respecting brother, Asian, Latino, Martian or whatever would be caught dead in that suit. He’s Whitey McWhite-White. And I say that as a stiff white man.

In other words, he’s a perfect foil for this “up from the ghetto” hero.

You can’t go wrong with some outsized panels to contain these two behemoths, and in that vein I dig this two page centerfold:

Some guys look at centerfolds of naked women. I look at centerfolds that have giant black men grappling with men on stilts. To each their own. I like the way Goliath is proportionally big, but Stilt-Man is clearly an armored but normal-sized man with long legs. It’s a nice little contrast.

The battle is about what you’d expect from these two, i.e. a lot of punching and jibber-jabber, though I did admire the simplicity of Stilt-Man’s ace in the hole ploy to defeat this hero:

Luckily for Goliath, he has a soft landing. The battle continues, and the issue ends with Stilty banishing Black Goliath to another dimension with a new ray-gun, a move that Rom would make famous in later years.

I don’t really have much to say about this comic, and, apart from the contretemps with Stilt-Man, it wouldn’t have a whole lot to recommend it (perhaps there’s some interest in terms of comics archeology, since Claremont’s script is an early on and predates the days when his name would be synonymous with The Uncanny X-Men). Black Goliath, or Giant-Man, or just plain Goliath, whatever alias you want to call him, never had that much traction in the Marvel Universe, though he was killed quite famously by the Thor clone many years after his debut.

If I’m not mistaken, he was buried at his giant size. I take a morbid amusement in that. Perhaps Stilt-Man attended the funeral in a dark suit that had pants with a twenty-foot inseam. I take more amusement in that.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Thelonious_Nick permalink
    March 2, 2011 2:24 pm

    Ah, yes. This issue was the hardest Stilt-Man appearance to track down, for some reason. It was the first (and only) Black Goliath I’ve read and I found it to be a step down from the Luke Cage comics of the time.

    Good point about Stilty’s whiteness. The Kingpin was played by a black man in the Daredevil movie with no resulting cognitive dissonance on the part of the audience, but it’s somehow hard to imagine that working with this guy.

    Plot-wise, it’s rather unfortuante for Stilt-Man, whose whole point is that he’s out of reach of the heroes, to encounter a guy whose power is to make himself bigger.

  2. April 17, 2013 3:33 pm

    Hey found your post as I was preparing my own blog post about Black Goliath (I hope to publish it tomorrow).

    But anyway, love the blog and plan to spend some time exploring it. Keep it up!

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