We’re back in the Bronze Age, baby! We left the original X-Men in John’s Byrne’s X-Men: The Hidden Years and in this 12th installment in my reread of all the X-Men, we’re now into the guest appearances our merry mutants made in the dark period between 1970 and 1975 when they weren’t being published regularly.
I want to go over The Amazing Spider-Man #92 (guest-starring Iceman), The Incredible Hulk #150 (guest-starring Havok and Polaris), Marvel-Team-Up #4 (featuring Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel and Professor X), Amazing Adventures #9-10 (starring the Inhumans against Magneto), and finally Amazing Adventures #11, the most significant issue discussed today, because of permanent character changes to Hank McCoy.
I slagged a bit on The Hidden Years in my last post because it was a comic of the year 2000 with a 1980s writerly sensibility. We’re diving back 20 years now, where the action was more slap-dash and energetic, the dialogue more over the top, and the social-political positions both surprisingly advanced and backwards for the time.
The Amazing Spider-Man #92 is a quick single-issue story with pencils by Gil Kane, inks by John Romita Sr, and writing by Stan Lee. The webslinger finds Gwen Stacey and Sam Bullit, a secret criminal boss running for New York D.A. against Foggy Nelson.
To throw them off the idea that Spider-Man might be Peter Parker, Spider-Man grabs Gwen Stacey and makes a run for it, acting all not-Peter. Iceman sees this from ground level, and true to script, dumps the date he’s with and chases Spider-Man to give Marvel fighty-fight.
It’s a fun issue squarely in the Marvel tradition of hero-on-hero violence before they become allies and show that Bullit is a criminal. What is refreshing to see in this 1971 issue is the social issues – the Bugle has uncovered Bullit’s involvement with hate groups and what he intends to do to minorities if elected. This puts paid to the nonsense argument of some right-wing comics trolls who keep asking for politics to be taken out of their comics, as if the superhero genre didn’t have its roots in politics (and in my view, Marvel especially).
Incredible Hulk #150 is another single-issue monster story and one of the X-Men guest appearances I only got to read in the Marvel Masterworks in my 30s. Like many monster stories, this one is about the monster being chased or about the people affected by the chase.
In this case, Lorna Dane (Polaris) is driving into New Mexico to see Alex Summer (Havok) and the Hulk, who misses Jarella, sees Lorna’s green hair and grabs her. Havok goes into hero mode and this issue is his story. He doesn’t want to be a superhero. He can’t control his power very well and he’s so powerful that he could kill friend and foe without trying. But to save Lorna, whom he really likes, he has to make a choice to come to terms with being a mutant.
Incidentally, I always found it weird that Uncanny X-Men #145 showed Lorna and Alex living in New Mexico, but now I know the reason why: they couldn’t have crossed over with the Hulk in Alaska where the Summers clan hails from.
I was 10 or 11 years old when I found one of those big Marvel Treasury editions that reprinted this story from Marvel Team-Up #4. Gerry Conway scripts and Gil Kane arts this one. I like Gil Kane best drawing early Marvel Premiere issues of Adam Warlock or John Carter, Warlord of Mars, and other correct answers are classic Green Lantern, but he does a great job here.
Briefly, Spider-Man is dying of some toxin from Morbius the Living Vampire, and for some reason, Morbius kidnaps a colleague of Professor X.
So, in he sends the original X-Men to rescue his friend. A funny thing in this issue is that Kane puts the X-Men into their original recruit uniforms, but a nice touch is that when Professor X calls for Hank McCoy to help, Hank is distant and secretive because…
….Hank is starring in Amazing Adventures as Marvel was following movies again and jumping on the horror and monster bandwagon. Obviously Morbius is part of that monster boom, as was Tomb of Dracula, Son-of-Satan, Chamber of Chills, Brother Voodoo, and some of the larger black and white magazines.
Amazing Adventures #11 worth dipping into in detail. Firstly, the art is not superhero art at all. Tom Sutton is drawing a 100% horror comic and the proportions and texture on the Beast are meant to be disturbing and they’re effective. The Beast is really bestial and unattractive and unlike his later blue-haired Avengers phase.
Writing wise, Gerry Conway brought some clunky 2nd person narration to the issue, but the story of a man who leaves his family to find his life and fortune as a scientist is very effective. Hank McCoy is a likeable, insecure character known to Marvel fans for 8 years by this point, and he has courageous intentions. But because this is a horror story, his intentions go awry.
He’s discovered a mutation serum for the Brand Corporation but finds out someone is going to steal it. To foil the theft, he takes the serum. It shouldn’t be dangerous, because he can reverse its effects within an hour. He foils the theft, but it takes him too long to get back to his lab and he finds he’s trapped as a monster.
Not only that, but to twist the knife further, he finds out that his effort wasn’t even needed. Brand’s private security stopped the thief too, and killed him. And, more tragic for the reader, the woman Hank is so emotively shown falling in love with turns out to be the femme fatale orchestrating the theft.
Amazing Adventures #11 is a landmark issue in Marvel history. An important character gets drastically redesigned in a tragic way, in a sub-genre of comics that doesn’t really exist in the same way anymore which keeps the story fresh. (Arguably The Immortal Hulk or Carnage still represent in the superhero horror genre in the last 5 years, but my point is that it’s a smaller field).
And the Hank McCoy redesign is important not just in the new character it makes, but because Beast becomes a big hitter later on; he joins the Avengers, he spends time in the late-era Defenders, and in the 2000s becomes the Reed Richards of the X-universe for writers as diverse as Joss Whedon, Grant Morrison and Jonathan Hickman, and a member of the Illuminati.
Beast isn’t my favourite x-man, but the only x-man who covers more ground in the Marvel Universe is Wolverine (and Deadpool, if you mistakenly count him as an x-man). There are lots of comics that don’t age well. They were C+ or B- outings in the Bronze Age and they read worse now. Amazing Adventures was an obscure title then, but Conway and Sutton delivered a horror story with a lot of heart that still stands up today.
Next post, I’ll cover Amazing Adventures #12-17, which will be Englehart’s time at plate as the writer of this series. The issues I covered today are collected in a Marvel Masterworks and over Marvel Unlimited. I hope you’re enjoying some of this nostalgia-flavoured trip through the bell-bottom-and-sideburn era.
If you want to catch up on any of my other posts about the X-Men, they’re below:
- Part I: Introducing The Strangest Super-Team of All: Uncanny X-Men #1 (Nov 1963) to #20 (May 1966)
- Part II: Early Guest Appearances (1964-65), Uncanny X-Men #21-23 (1966), and X-Men: First Class Volume I (2006)
- Part III: X-Men: First Class, Volume II (2007) and First Class Finals
- Part IV: Uncanny X-Men #24-39: The Middle Years of the Original Team
- Part V: Uncanny X-Men #40-48: Death and Separation
- Part VI: Uncanny X-Men #49-53: Reunion and Family and Steranko
- Part VII: Uncanny X-Men #54-58 — Havok and Neal Adams
- Part VIII: Uncanny X-Men #59-66: The Savage Land and the End of the Silver Age X-Men
- Part IX: Filling in the Corners of the Original X-Men with Savage Hulk #1-4
- Part X: John Byrne’s The Hidden Years #1-4
- Part XI: Storm, the FF and Phoenix in John Byrne’s The Hidden Years
- Part XII: X-Men Guest Appearances in 1971-1972 and Hank gets Furry!
- Part XIII: Englehart’s Bronze Age Monster Horror – The Beast
- Part XIV: 1973 and 1974 – Magneto, the Hulk, Banshee and post-Watergate Captain America
- Part XV: 1974 and 1975 – The Last Tales of the Original X-Men
- Part XVI: Enter Wein, Claremont and Cockrum in 1975
- Part XVII: 1976 — Sentinels in Space and the Rise of Phoenix
- Part XVIII: Juggernaut and Magneto — For the Very First Time
- Part XIX: Phoenix, Firelord and the Imperial Guard
- Part XX: Iron Fist, Blame Canada and Some Strike-Outs
- Part XXI: Epic Magneto Triumph and more X-Men Death!
- Part XXII: 1978 — The Savage Land, Japan and Psionic Throwback Thursday!
- Part XXIII: 1979 — Chaos in Canada with Alpha Flight!
- Part XXIV: Arcade, Murderworld and their First King-Sized Annual
Derek Künsken writes science fiction in Gatineau, Québec. His first novel, The Quantum Magician, a space opera heist, was a finalist for the Locus, Aurora and Chinese Nebula awards. Its sequel, The Quantum Garden is on sale now. His third novel, The House of Styx, is running in Analog Science Fiction and Fact right now and Solaris Books will be releasing the audio and ebook editions in August (pre-order link), 2020 in advance of the hardcover release in April, 2021. He also has a novella in the Jul/Aug, 2020 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction called “Tool Use by the Humans of Danzhai County.”