Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Defenders #127

"Dreams Of Glory"

Today we look at Defenders #127.  The Assistant Editor for this issue was Ann Nocenti, "substituting" for regular Editor Carl Potts.

Let's start by examining the cover at the top of this page. We get the "Beware" stamp plus the "Warning" in the left corner.

Instead of the usual Defenders in the corner box, we get a caricature of Nocenti, wearing Angel's costume. 

The main Defenders story contained in this issue is a "normal" tale with no jokes or AEM silliness.  But it opens with a short story titled "Dreams Of Glory", written by Nocenti herself with art from Marie Severin. 

While Marvel's Assistant Editors bid farewell to their bosses (who are leaving to attend the Comic Con), Ann Nocenti runs off to her office.  She changes from "dainty, demure, devoted assistant" into Super Editor!

Nocenti declares herself Editor In Chief in Jim Shooter's absence.  Superheroes start climbing out of her file cabinet making demands of Nocenti. Unfortunately, Nocenti's new editorial powers go to her head!  She gets Stephen King to write a series!  Nocenti decides to kill off characters (including Daredevil!) as a way to clear out the "deadwood."   

She threatens to kick freelance creators to the curb if they miss deadlines!

Marvel is thriving under her leadership, when suddenly, production manager Danny Crespi knock's on Nocenti's door.  The knock snaps Nocenti out of her delusion, turning her back into her "lil' ole me." 

And that's how the story ends.

Some notes about the people involved in this story:
Nocenti's great career was covered in an earlier post, read more about her here.

Production manager Danny Crespi worked for more than 30 years in the industry, starting as a letterer.
Annie Nocenti with Danny Crespi in 1982 (photo courtesy of AEM veteran Eliot R. Brown)
Marvel employed Crespi as head letterer and later production manager from 1972 until his untimely death in 1985.  

Penciler Marie Severin is a comic book legend.  She worked as an artist and colorist in comics from 1949 into the 2000s.  I discovered her work via back issues of Tales To Astonish and Crazy magazine.  Severin turned 85 last August and her work was recently the subject of an art show at the University of Southern California. Author (and former Marvel Assistant Editor) Scott Edelman occasionally visits his friend Marie and shares stories and photos of their visits.  Based on Edelman's reports, Severin is doing well and still enjoys sketching superheroes.

"Mirthful" Marie Severin (thanks to Scott Edelman for letting me use this great photo!)
Thanks to Annie Nocenti and Marie Severin for producing a short-but-fun AEM story!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Marvel Team-Up #137

(Note from J.A. Morris:Sorry it's been nearly two years since my last update.  All I can say is "life happens", but I promise to do better this year.)

Hello again everyone.  It's been said that if you have to explain a joke, it's not very funny.  But sometimes, that's not true.  This joke of a story requires a bit of an introduction. 

During the 1970s and early 80s, comic books often contained ads for Hostess brand snack cakes that featured Marvel Superheroes.  The "stories" took up only one page and usually involved a criminals being apprehended because the hero distracted them with Hostess Twinkies, Fruit Pies, Cup Cakes, etc.

Here's a Hostess ad that featured Spider-Man:

For more vintage Hostess ads, visit Seanbaby's site.

Now, on with the show:

"Twinkle, Twinkle" was written by Mike Carlin, penciled by Greg Laroque and inked by Mike Esposito.  Assistant Editor Bob Natale "substitutes" for regular Editor Danny Fingeroth. 

Galactus, ravager of worlds, consumer of planets, is feeling weak and hungry.  He needs a planet to consume that will sate this hunger.  His herald Nova is flying around space, looking for a planet.

But Nova is killed when a planet called Tumbla V blows itself up so that Galactus can't feed off them.

Galactus is angered by the loss of his herald, and by the Tumblans' "collective suicide."  His "insatiable need for nourishment" causes him to set a course for Earth.

Nice depiction of Galactus courtesy of Greg Laroque and Mike Esposito.

On Earth, at that very moment, Peter Parker and his Aunt May are attending the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden.  Peter is uncomfortable, since May has invited his ex-girlfriend Mary Jane to join him.  The Parkers are seated right next to the Fantastic Four and the Richards' son Franklin.

The FF see a newspaper article that reports on an incident in San Diego.  The heroes determine that they must head to the West Coast to investigate this, Spider-Man asks if he can accompany them.

Franklin asks if he can stay and watch the circus.  Aunt May offers to take care of him, Spider-Man vouches for her, and the FF agree. 

Galactus arrives seconds after the Fantastic Four's pogo plane departs for San Diego.  The Big G is looking for Reed Richards. 

He can sense Richards' presence and goes looking for him.  Galactus tears the roof of Madison Square Garden and scares away the spectators, with the exception of May and Franklin

Galactus needs a new herald to replace Nova.  He senses the raw power in Franklin and zaps him with eye beams that will give Franklin the Power Cosmic.  But Aunt May gets in the way and becomes the herald instead!  May announces that she will be known as Golden Oldie!

When Galactus says that he "hungers", Franklin offers him a Twinkie...I mean a Twinkle snack cake. 

 The Devourer of Worlds consumes the Twinkle and is pleasantly surprised to learn that "there are energies within the morsel that replenish" his "hungering system."  He wants more Twinkles, so his new herald goes in search of the snack cakes.  Golden Oldie cleans out the snack bar's supply of Twinkles, but Galactus still needs more.

Golden Oldie flies to her former home in Queens.  Nathan Lubensky asks if she is his wife May, she replies "I think so."  Nathan asks if May can turn him and their friends into what she has become, May says he doesn't want that.

 As she flies away, Nathan thinks to himself that he has nothing without May in his life.  It's a very poignant moment in an otherwise silly story, a nice touch by writer Mike Carlin.

Golden Oldie flies all over the world, collecting every Twinkle on the planet.  But that's still not enough to sate Galactus' hunger.  He dispatches his herald into space to find a planet to consume.

May seeks a planet that contains no lifeforms.  She finds one that is a giant, planet-sized Twinkle!  Golden Oldie summons Galactus to consume the cream-filled sponge planet.  But a space-dwelling being (who bears a remarkable resemblance to a certain Pillsbury mascot!) intervenes and tells May that the planet is his creation and is off limits to her.  Thankfully for May, Galactus arrives and the "Doughy Boy" (as Golden Oldie calls him) bows before Big G and says he made the Twinkle planet as an offering to Galactus.

Golden Oldie suggests that Doughy Boy would make a great herald for Galactus, who agrees with her.  Doughy says he would be honored and will gladly create "an endless supply of cream-filled planets.  Galactus will never have to consume planets with lifeforms again!

May is free from her service to Galactus and flies back down to Earth.   She is greeted by Franklin and MJ.  Using his super-powers, Franklin absorbs the power cosmic from Golden Oldie, turning her back into May Parker.

Spider-Man and the FF return, just in time to miss everything that happened.  But Galactus reappears and asks if the heroes can help him wash down the Twinkle Planet!

The story ends with the revelation that was "not a hoax, not an imaginary story, not a what if."  It was Peter Parker's nightmare, caused by a late night snack of Twinkles!

But it turns out Parker's dream was a dream within "absent" editor Danny Fingeroth's dream!

Fingeroth is relieved that his assistant editor Denatale didn't approve the Galactus story.  But then we see that Fingeroth's dream was part of Editor in Chief Jim Shooter's dream.

...which was a dream within publisher Stan Lee's dream...

...which was a part of Galactus' dream!

 And readers of Marvel Team-Up are very glad to find out it was just a dream!

Marvel Team-Up #127 ends with the letters page, which includes a column from Bob Denatale that explains the back-story of "Twinkle, Twinkle."

Thanks to Mike Carlin, Greg Laroque, Mike Esposito, Danny Fingeroth and Bob Denatale for producing one of the most memorable stories ever published by Marvel Comics!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Alpha Flight #6


This issue has been reprinted in a trade paperback called Alpha Flight Classic Vol.1.  Since it's readily available in a nice, glossy book format, I won't be featuring many scans from the issue.  

Let's take a look at "Snowblind", written, penciled and inked by John Byrne.  The Assitant Editor for this issue was Linda Grant.

Corporal Anne McKenzie (better known as Snowbird of Alpha Flight) of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is being disciplined by her superior.  She's made a nasty habit of disappearing from her post, since she's often called away when she needs to help Alpha Flight.  When asked to explain her absences, she can't, because she doubts they'll believe her.

The "Beware" of AEM stamp shows up on the splash page.

McKenzie is confined to a cell.

Nearby, oil workers are working on a well.  A worker named Thom says that the land is sacred to his people and drilling there could lead to disaster.  Thom's pleas are ignored.  Their efforts accidentally awaken Kolomaq, the Great Beast of the Snow!  He can control the snow, ice and temperature.

Their efforts accidentally awaken Kolomaq, the Great Beast of the Snow!  He can control the snow, ice and temperature.

Snowbird arrives and attempts to stop Kolomaq.

He creates a blizzard around them, rendering Snowbird...snowblind, as the title would indicate.  Snowbird counters by using her shape-shifting powers to  transform into a white bear.  She attacks Kolomaq, this is what it looks like:

It goes on like this for several pages, as Snowbird changes from white bear to white owl.

Eventually, Snowbird defeats Kolomaq and buries him under rubble.

I want to acknowledge the contributions here from letterer Michal Higgins.  You can almost see the battle due to Higgins' action-packed words in the "blizzard" panels. 

I know some readers didn't like the "blank" panels, but I've always thought they were funny. 

At the end of the issue, we get this "message in a bottle" from Linda Grant.  It's drawn by legendary artist Marie Severin.

Thanks to John Byrne, Michael Higgins, Linda Grant and Marie Severin producing an entertaining AEM issue. 

That's all, for the rest of the story, pick up the aforementioned Alpha Flight tpb. 


Friday, April 12, 2013

Daredevil #202

"A Life In The Day"
Welcome back to Assistant Editors' Month Online!  Today we look at Daredevil #202, the Assistant Editor for this issue was Michael Higgins. 

Let's take a look at the cover.  It's got the "beware" of AEM stamp.

In the corner box, instead of Daredevil, we get a frightened Foggy Nelson commenting on the cover action.  Also, the "Pop Art Productions" caption is a reference to Marvel's brief name change in 1965.  They were trying to cash in on the Pop Art movement of the 1960s.  

There's nothing unusual about the main story.  But it is important since it introduced Micah Synn.  He's mostly forgotten now, but Synn was a major player in the Daredevil series for most of the next year.

Here's the splash page:

Let's zoom in & take a closer look at the credits:

Higgins has not only scribbled over the name of regular editor Bob Budiansky, he's spelled "editor" incorrectly!
This issue requires a little background, since some of the jokes and references are even more "inside" than usual.  It features an obscure Marvel character named Dirk McGirk.

Dirk McGirk was created by Mike Carlin in the pages of Crazy magazine (a Mad magazine knockoff published by Marvel in the 70s & 80s).  Dirk's "homework assignments" were often featured in Crazy.  Here's his "book report" on Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, (from Crazy #86):

We also see Turk Barrett in this story.  Turk was a prominent supporting character in Daredevil at the time.  Turk first appeared in DD#159 (it was later retconned that he first appeared in #69, but I always thought that was silly,since the "Turk" in that issue hardly resembles the later character), he had already appeared in 18 issues of the title when this issue was published.

Turk Barrett, as he looked in early appearances.
Turk was a low-level hoodlum who often tried to get on the Kingpin's good side.  He was a bumbling baddie, usually used for comic effect.  Turk also frequently served as an (unwilling) informant for Daredevil.  Interactions between the two often ended with Turk going through a window.  Even though he was a bad guy, I always felt sort of sorry for Turk, not to mention his equally hapless sidekick Grotto.

Which brings us to our featured story, "A Life In The Day". It's written by Mike Carlin, penciled and inked by Luke McDonnell.  Their names (and the rest of the credits) are written under the crossed-out names of the usual creative team.


It's Show-And-Tell day in Miss Speld's (yep, that's the teacher's name) class.  It's time for Dirk McGirk's presentation.  Miss Speld calls his name, but he's not present. 

Suddenly, the classroom door flies off its hinges into the room, with Dirk on top of it.  He's wearing a homemade Daredevil costume.  He says that Dirk couldn't make it to class, but his friend Daredevil will present on Dirk's behalf.

"Daredevil" gives a brief summary of his career and the villains he's fought.  It's accompanied by drawings of DD's villains, such as Electro, the Owl, Bullseye, Elektra & Black Widow.  Dirk, er, Daredevil seems to get "Electro" confused with "Elektra". 

Miss Speld is NOT amused.  When Dirk lobbies for an A, it looks like Speld will "grade" his presentation with her ruler!  But suddenly, someone comes crashing through the window.  

It's Turk! He's a bit dazed, when he sees Dirk, Turk thinks he's the real Daredevil. 

Then Daredevil shows up.  He thanks Dirk for "holding" Turk until he arrived to pick him up. 

Miss Speld decides to cancel class, since Daredevil made such a mess in her classroom.  Dirk gets an F for his presentation, but he's treated like a hero because of his interactions with DD, carried on the shoulders of his classmates.  The End.

As far as I know, this is the last time Dirk McGirk is seen or mentioned in comics.  As a fan of Crazy, I'd love to see Dirk revived someday.

Thanks to Mike Carlin, Luke McDonnell and Michael Higgins for another fun-filled AEM story!