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Avengers 122 Trapped in Outer SpaceTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 122 (April 1974) Trapped in Outer Space 

It’s kind of nice that you readers have been so enthusiastic about these nice little bits of escapism. That’s why I’m doing two per week now. We can all use a light-hearted distraction now and then. 

As our last installment ended, five Avengers (Thor, Iron Man, The Scarlet Witch, The Black Panther and The Vision) were battling seven of the twelve members of the supervillain team called Zodiac (Aries, Leo, Cancer, Aquarius, Pisces, Scorpio and Sagittarius).

The Avengers called MANTIS and the Swordsman were recovering from their injuries back at Avengers Mansion. Taurus, the leader of Zodiac, had lured the seven mutinous members of his criminal cartel to a seeming warehouse that was really a trap.

The Avengers, all unknowingly, had trailed the Zodiac superteam to that locale and had attacked them, only to have the battle royal interrupted by the taunts of Taurus. Taurus – openly revealing his true identity of billionaire Cornelius Van Lunt – launched the warehouse/ disguised spaceship into orbit to let his enemies die when their air runs out.    


Synopsis: At first all of the Avengers and Zodiac members are pinned to the floor by G-Forces but eventually the huge deathtrap reaches its programmed altitude and settles into orbit. The reinforced steel door slides right to reveal the Earth far below and a mostly transparent force-field enclosing the entire warehouse.

Thor hurls his hammer at the force-field, but it just penetrates the force-field, which re-forms after it passes through. The hammer tries to return to Thor’s hand like usual but his relative position to the hammer has changed as the spaceship/ trap has moved along in its orbit. Thor’s hammer remains floating outside in the vacuum of space.

Mantis trapped in outer spaceThe Vision is not able to phase through the force-field because it is the same technology that Zodiac used to seal off Manhattan from the rest of the world in one of their previous clashes with the Avengers. In 1974, when this story was published, Thor would still magically transform back into his secret identity as the lame (as in limping), mortal Dr Donald Blake after 60 seconds without his hammer.

He leaps behind one of the prop boxes in the phony warehouse and pulls some tarp over himself just in time to avoid having Zodiac see what has happened to him. The villains HAVE noticed how paniced Thor became without his hammer Mjolnir and realize something is up. Aries leads his teammates in an attack to finish off Thor, who is obviously in dire straits.   Continue reading


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Hypnotic EyeThe Hypnotic Eye is one of the most beloved bad movies of the 1960s. Its hilariously campy trailer, its sinister Eurotrash villain and its Ed Wood-level police work all make it a true anti-classic.

Jacques Bergerac, one-time husband of Ginger Rogers, played Desmond, the magician who uses the title object to augment his hypnotic abilities to an enormous degree.

After various beautiful women appear on stage with Desmond as volunteers from his audience he plants a post-hypnotic suggestion that causes them to mutilate themselves in various extreme ways after the show.

Some set their hair on fire, some wash their faces with acid ,some shove their faces into fans, etc. This being an old black & white movie the effects are very tame by today’s standards.    Continue reading


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Avengers 121 Houses Divided ...THE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 121 (March 1974) Houses Divided Cannot Stand

AVENGERS ROSTER: Thor, Iron Man, The Scarlet Witch, The Black Panther, The Vision, The Swordsman and MANTIS. 


Synopsis: Atop the World Trade Center Towers the battle between the Avengers and the supervillain team called Zodiac has come to a pause. That pause was brought on by Mantis’ mutant empathic powers filling her with the pain that Taurus’ Star Blazer Cannon inflicted on New York’s Geminis. This caused her to be overwhelmed and fall down, teetering on the edge of the roof and in danger of plummeting to her death below.

With all the combatants now focused on Mantis’ potential fate the Zodiac member Aries encourages their leader Taurus to unleash another blast from the damaged cannon to hopefully cause Mantis to fall.

Taurus refuses. With Zodiac’s attempt to kill every Gemini in New York thwarted by the damage done to the Star Blazer during the clash of superteams he now wants to simply make an escape and offers to spare Mantis if the Avengers let Zodiac go. He hints at Mantis being very, VERY important and thinks the Avengers are bluffing when they (truthfully) say they don’t know what he is talking about. 

Mantis action figureThe Scarlet Witch – using her romantic partner the Vision’s body as cover, quickly maneuvers into position and unleashes her mutant hex power on the Star Blazer, completely destroying the weapon. The other Avengers rush forward to attack Zodiac in order to keep them away from the prone form of Mantis and hopefully capture them.   

Virgo defeats the Scarlet Witch for the second time in as many days, then joins her teammates in using their superior numbers to keep the Avengers hard-pressed by attacking in cadres. At length Aries fights his way through the Avengers and tosses Mantis’ body over the ledge. Continue reading


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These nice, escapist bits of fun have proven very popular with readers of Balladeer’s Blog. FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MANTIS CLICK HERE   

Avengers 120THE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 120 (February 1974) Death Stars of the Zodiac 

Obviously the February 1974 date means this was years before Star Wars, so the “Death Stars” of the title are just a generic reference to astrology. This individual issue kicks off a multi-part story that significantly advances the MANTIS narrative as we head toward the Celestial Madonna Saga.  

Zodiac was a team of supervillains who had fought the Avengers multiple times previously. Periodically individual members of Zodiac would clash with individual Avengers in the pages of their own comic books. 


Synopsis: The opening scene features Taurus, in his secret identity of billionaire Cornelius Van Lunt, visiting an imprisoned Zodiac member, Joshua Link. Link is the “evil” twin of the Gemini duo. Van Lunt, who has concealed his true identity from his teammates in Zodiac, has been forced to reveal himself to Joshua Link.

The reason for that is to get Gemini ready for an upcoming jailbreak, since Taurus wants ALL the members of Zodiac on hand as the team enacts his master plan.

NOTE: Cornelius Van Lunt had been a background figure in the Avengers’ comic books for quite a while by this point. He was one of those people from Old Money in New York and his family was friendly with the family of Janet Van Dyne (The Wasp), likewise from New York Old Money. As in all the way back to when New York was a Dutch possession in the 1600s. 

For a real-life example of such types think of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt. Hell, if you go back far enough their family was known as “the Van Roosevelts.”

Mantis Death Stars of ZodiacAt any rate Cornelius had often used his family ties to try to romance Janet Van Dyne and his family fortune to hassle Tony Stark and would try plots to leverage Avengers Mansion out of their hands to force the team out of New York City. Until it was revealed that he was secretly Taurus he just seemed like the typical Marvel Comics civilian character who harasses the heroes, like J Jonah Jameson with Spider-Man, Senator Kelly with the X-Men, General Ross with the Hulk and the Yancy Street Gang with the Thing.

Getting back to the story, after Taurus busts Joshua Link out of jail and welcomes him back to Zodiac, their next move is to have Joshua move against his “good” twin, Damian Link. Damian is the New York Police Department’s Liaison with the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. Continue reading


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By reader request here’s more of Marvel Comics’ superheroine Mantis.  FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MANTIS CLICK HERE   

Mantis CollectorTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 119 (January 1974)  Night of the Collector

Avengers’ Roster: THOR (Donald Blake, MD), IRON MAN (Tony Stark), CAPTAIN AMERICA (Steve Rogers), THE SCARLET WITCH (Wanda – last name unknown at the time of this story), THE BLACK PANTHER (Prince T’Challa), THE VISION (Not applicable), THE SWORDSMAN (Jacques Duquesne) and MANTIS (Name unknown at the time).


Synopsis: The Avengers arrive back in New York after wrapping up their usual post-battle debriefing and press conference regarding their just-concluded adventure from last time around. Since the team was in Los Angeles without their Quin-Jet (if you recall Dr Strange teleported the Avengers and Defenders to LA) they borrowed an aircraft from S.H.I.E.L.D.

Mantis Collector pose 2The eight Avengers – accompanied by Loki, helpless and insane from what happened in the Dark Dimension – land the borrowed aircraft on the roof of Avengers’ mansion and exit from it. Exhausted, the heroes forgot that the S.H.I.E.L.D. transport did not have their Quin-Jet’s setting for disarming the defense systems of Avengers Mansion.

Now, just to jam in an early action sequence, the automatic defenses of the mansion activate and attack the Avengers until the Black Panther succeeds in penetrating to the cut-off switch. The Scarlet Witch, obviously feeling feisty after her defeat of Dormammu last time, chews out her fellow Avengers for forgetting that the borrowed aircraft did not have the necessary tech. Continue reading

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Fungus IsleFUNGUS ISLE (1923) – Written by Philip M Fisher. Fungus Isle has the same proto-Creature Feature feel to it that The True Inheritors (qv) had. In the case of the previously reviewed story it was a forerunner of various giant spider flicks. In the case of Fungus Isle it seems like the inspiration for Attack of the Mushroom People, aka Matango, the Fungus of Terror.  

A handful of friends find themselves shipwrecked on an uncharted island near New Guinea. The island is crawling with various types of fungus and our protagonists eventually encounter some fungi that are nearly humanoid and can walk.

The spores shot out by the fungi cling to human flesh, eventually accumulating to the point where they completely cover the body. Salt water serves as an effective remedy to clean off the spores but there is no food on the island except mushrooms. Continue reading

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These days when it comes to pop culture it’s Marvel Comics’ world and the rest of us are just potential LMDs. You readers wanted more Marvel and I’m delivering. FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE   

Mantis 8 cover To the DeathTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 118 (December 1973)  To The Death

AVENGERS ROSTER: Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, The Scarlet Witch, The Black Panther, The Vision, The Swordsman and MANTIS

DEFENDERS ROSTER: Doctor Strange, Sub-Mariner, The Hulk, The Silver Surfer, Valkyrie and Hawkeye

Last time around the globe-spanning war between the Avengers and the Defenders came to an end in Los Angeles when both teams at last compared notes and realized they were being manipulated into fighting each other.

The 14 assembled heroes had recovered all six fragments of the Evil Eye of Avalon, which relic was hastily stolen by Dormammu. That flame-headed man-god who ruled over the Dark Dimension was a foe of Dr Strange and the Defenders.

Mantis torsoFor years Dormammu had been bound by his Galactus-like vow not to invade Earth’s dimension ever again but the reassembled Evil Eye of Avalon gives him the power to bypass that vow by simply MERGING our dimension with his.  

As Dormammu taunted the Avengers and Defenders, our entire universe was becoming one with Dormammu’s vile domain. The landscape and buildings were all turning surreal and distorted, the sun’s light was fading and some people were transforming into the kind of monstrous beings who inhabit the Dark Dimension.  


Synopsis: This story resumes right where we left off, with the Avengers and Defenders defiantly telling Dormammu that they’ll do whatever they have to do to save the universe from him. In typical pulp fiction fashion there’s an arbitrary but dramatic deadline to race against: Dormammu tells the heroes that in one Earth-hour the merging of dimensions will be complete and irreversible.

While the other superheroes fight off the demonic creatures beginning to surround them, Dr Strange casts a spell to prevent the Avengers and Defenders from turning into Dark Dimension creatures for the necessary hour. He tells his comrades that he can’t protect everyone on Earth the same way or he’ll be too weak to help them fight Dormammu.

The Doctor wants the Avengers to join him and the Defenders in a direct attack on Dormammu but – rather foolishly, given what’s at stake – the Avengers argue that they can’t abandon the innocent people of Los Angeles to their fate. Strange counters that the entire damn UNIVERSE will suffer if they don’t act quickly.

Avengers 118 to the deathAs the argument continues amid battles with Dark Dimension demonoids, Nick Fury, Countess Valentina Allegro de Fontaine and Dum Dum Dugan arrive with dozens of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Fury’s outfit was as much a paramilitary organization as an intelligence unit and, with guns blazing they tackle the monstrous beings now reproducing geometrically out of the local population.

Satisfied that S.H.I.E.L.D. will be fighting to help the locals the Avengers agree to accompany the Defenders. Dr Strange casts a spell that takes the 14 superheroes out of Los Angeles and into the heart of Dormammu’s realm. Meanwhile the Countess and some of Nick Fury’s other agents turn into demonoids themselves.

MORE bickering breaks out among the heroes as Thor calls out to all of those Avengers and Defenders who can fly to join him in racing to the far-off spot where they can see Dormammu and his ally/ pawn Loki standing.   Continue reading

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