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Here’s your zOMG THE AVENGERS MOVIE OPENS IN LIKE TWO WEEKS GAAAHHH post – The Avengers #15

April 19, 2012

We are all standing on the precipice of a marvellous — no pun int-, aw what the hell, pun intended — and bright new day. I don’t know if we’re ready for it, or if we’ve given it sufficient thought. Do we really realize what we’re about to have drop in front of us? Does there needs to be a contemplative moment carved out here, a chance for all of us to take a deep breath and reflect on what we’re all about to see.

Maybe I’m the only one that needs this time-out. If so, bear with me as I wax nostalgic for a minute.

I recall reading Wizard in its earliest days (it was like Time for idiot teens like me back then), when they’d have a monthly feature on potential comic book movies in the pipeline. It was speculative hype from the hype-masters, movie rumors and gossip before there were websites out in the ether that could spoil movies months before they opened, and most of it sounded made up. This was when Charlie Sheen could lobby openly to be the first movie Spider-Man, when James Cameron was attached to the property and Michael Biehn wasn’t considered too old for the role of Peter Parker. (He was, btw, even back then.)

Maybe the rumor-mongering was pointless. Maybe it was wildly inaccurate and poorly informed. But it could really gin up the imagination of an early-teenage years kid one who’d sit in bed and devour line by line of these tales of futile efforts to get his favorite characters onscreen, who’d dream that one day the effects would match the visions, and that the MY GOD WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE WAITING FOR producers would have the guts to greenlight some of these things. And that — this was the biggest pipe dream of all — somebody would be willing to actually, you know, put some characters together. Together like they’ve been in the comics for decades, because they don’t exist in damn vacuums. A team movie. A clash of civilizations, as it were.

Then, at the dawn of this new millennium, we had X-Men. Spider-Man. Hulk. The (un)Fantastic Four. Batman Begins. A misfire of a Superman movie. And some absolute garbage like Daredevil and Ghost Rider. It was all rather incredible, even the dregs. All well and good. There were even some team movies in there, but from properties that were about the team, not about established icons coming together. (Note: For our purposes I do not count that TV movie that had the Ferigno Hulk fighting the lamest Thor ever. That’s Marvel’s Star Wars Christmas Special.)

And then we got Iron Man in 2008 (an IRON MAN movie!), and that started us down the Yellow Brick Road. With the Samuel L. Jackson Nick Fury cameo at the end of the credits, there was no looking back. The success of that film, which vaulted us into Captain America and Thor movies and a reboot for Hulk later that summer (when Tony Stark showed up there, that was the moment when it all became oh so real), put us into a long, drawn out thrill ride. And an excruciating wait. SOMEONE WAS GOING TO ACTUALLY PUT CHARACTERS TOGETHER. SOMEONE GOT IT. AT LAST. It’s not all about keeping properties separate because they can make more money on their own. You don’t have to listen to the studio bean counters. Sometimes things can be more than the sum of their parts. Someone out there could actually say the word. A-v-v-v…A-v-v-v…Avengers.

The excruciating wait, with its delectable pain, is almost over. Almost. Over. We’re almost done with the agony (which for me ramped up with that second trailer) and we’re about to get the (fingers crossed) ecstasy.

And we have come a long way from curling up with the latest issue of Wizard and relying on the theater of the mind to provide us with our superhero movie magic.

So, without further ado, here’s a random Silver Age issue of The Avengers, from early in the history of the team. I thought this would be a good way to celebrate the last days of the build to Avengersmas, or whatever you want to call May 4th, 2012. No, it’s not the lineup from this movie. You’re going to have to squint and pretend that Giant-Man is the Hulk. Swap out token broad Wasp for token dame Black Widow. And just pretend that Hawkeye is firing arrows in there someplace. But it’s close enough. It’s from the greatest era that comics have ever known. And in a way it seems that we’ve been building to May 4th since those special days.

Stan Lee scripted, Jack Kirby laid out, Don Heck pencilled and Mike Esposito inked today’s thriller. (Poor Heck. It seemed he was always the guy pencilling Kirby’s layouts. And, while Heck is on the Marvel Mount Rushmore of this era, seeing that you’re not getting full Kirby — especially after a Kirby cover — always feels like getting the understudy at a hit Broadway show. Which is terribly unfair.) It’s a pretty good one, with the action and downtime that defined this period. A lot of the preliminaries involve the Avengers roster adjourning a meeting and going their separate ways, and I’ve always enjoyed the relaxed domesticity that was pumped into their relations:

The artists folio makes a lot more sense than wearing the shield on his back under his suit, that’s for sure.

Though this comic gives readers a potpourri of secondary villains (The Melter, folks. The Melter.), the main antagonist is (the first) Baron Zemo. How bad a guy is he? He uses Latin American natives as litter bearers and stairs:

I don’t even think Mengele went that far. And kudos to Stan for incorporating “surcease” into a sentence. Who said comics are for dummies?

You want something that will pull at your heartstrings? Like in the upcoming film, Nick Fury is the father figure that Steve Rogers latches onto to help him re-enter the world, and here he seeks him out with a handwritten missive (note that he follows Marvel dialogue conventions of the time by ending sentences with exclamation points):

I’m not sure about this “You won’t remember me” business. Was Cap incognito when he met Fury? Were guys in garish red, white and blue costumes with shields and feathers on the sides of their heads common in combat zones? I didn’t see any of that in The World at War or that Ken Burns PBS documentary, but then again, all the images were in black and white. Could have missed them.

Things start to ramp up when CA heads to a mailbox to mail the letter:

God, I love it when superpowered characters ride around in cars. I remember an old issue of Thor where he took a cab ride and stiffed the cabbie on the fare. EXCELSIOR.

New York City-bounded battle soon begins, with all the repulsor rays and hammer throws and high-flying hijinks that you expect. You also get Avengers lending one another helping hands — literally. The best moment of that aforementioned second trailer was the Hulk saving a free-falling Iron Man, and here you get something similar:

Not only can Giant-Man save his teammates with his building-spanning limbs, he can also scan crowds with his oversized eyes — oh, and theater marquees (which advertise Merry Marvel Marching Society features) MEAN NOTHING TO HIM:

“UH OH! THEY SEE ME!” That’s the funniest thing I’ve read in a while. It’s up there with Peter Griffin peeping in the girls’ locker room.

The broader significance of this issue (the NYC brawl between the bulk of the team and the motley assemblage of villains concludes in the next issue) comes with Cap chasing Baron Zemo — who’s kidnapped Rick Jones, bringing up terrible Bucky flashbacks for the Star-Spangled Avenger — all the way to his South American dominion. He bites the four color dust in a most stupid manner:

You have to love the good Captain’s disdain for his fallen foe — Bucky’s murderer. He may be all sunshine and light and good feeling, but he is NOT a man you want to screw with.

Words cannot describe how enjoyable it is to read a comic like this for the first time, an enjoyment that’s perhaps multiplied for someone like me who reads it almost fifty years after its publication. All the years where Avengers lore (and comic lore in general) has aged and fermented and percolated have turned vintage material like this into the finest of fine delicacies. The teamwork. The little stuff. The interactions, the way each character fills narrative gaps. What more can you say?

Enough from me for today. This Avengers issue — along with many others — was recently reprinted in one of those gigantic, glorious Omnibus volumes. I wasn’t planning on buying it. Now I might have to. Enjoy the final days of the wait, people. And of the daydreaming.

One Comment leave one →
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