Tag Archives: Marvel Comics

STAR-LORD: HIS EARLY ADVENTURES

Marvel Mania is relentless! Already I’ve been hearing it from regular readers who have come to look forward to these harmless, escapist looks at superheroes on weekends. Here’s one for this weekend, a bit later than I usually get them posted. 

starlord 1MARVEL PREVIEW Vol 1 #4 (January 1976)

Title: STAR-LORD – FIRST HOUSE: EARTH

Villains: Ariguans

Comment: This tale presented a Peter Quill quite different from the way he would be retconned by the time the character joined Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy decades later. This Peter Quill grew up feeling tormented by his secret half-alien parentage after his mother was killed in an attack by aliens called Ariguans.

Peter trained to become an astronaut and ultimately wound up serving on a space station, where an entity called the Master of the Sun granted Quill his powers, weapons and sentient vessel called Ship to become an intergalactic adventurer called Star-Lord. The figure let Star-Lord avenge himself on his mother’s killers so he could start his duties unencumbered by a personal vendetta.    Continue reading

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ASK BALLADEER: KANG THE CONQUEROR AND IMMORTUS

kang picIn the past handful of days Balladeer’s Blog’s 2017 blog posts examining the Marvel Comics villain Kang the Conqueror and some of his other selves like Immortus and Rama Tut have been getting incredible amounts of hits. I looked into it and it turns out that when the latest Marvel streaming miniseries, Loki, ended, the cliffhanger involved Kang and Immortus at Immortus’ castle in Limbo, the realm outside the time stream.

immI thought that people were just going to my 2017 blog posts because they had no idea who Kang and Immortus are. Instead, I started getting comments from readers expressing thanks for the clarity of the “Timey-Wimey” nature of Kang’s labyrinthine saga. They said that the people writing the Loki miniseries plopped everything into the far later stages of the Kang/ Immortus stories, bypassing the earlier tales that would help people understand it.

So, in the style of an FAQ, here are the links to my articles which let people in on the Kang storyline from the beginning, through his eventual metamorphosis into Immortus by way of Rama Tut II, the Scarlet Centurion and others. Think of Kang’s various selves like you’d think of the Doctor’s various regenerations on Doctor Who to simplify it. Anyway, here are the links for my reviews of early Kang stories up through the Celestial Madonna Saga. (And with The Eternals movie coming, Marvel may well work the Celestials into their movie universe, too.)

Originally, Immortus wasn’t overseeing a “Sacred” Timeline as much as he was making sure events played out properly to bring on the Celestial Madonna.

kang bid tomorrowONE: BID TOMORROW GOODBYE – Kang wants the Celestial Madonna (Mantis, who started out as an Avenger in the 1970s) and reveals she has been the reason he frequently targeted the 20th Century. Agatha Harkness guest-stars, from the years when she was the Scarlet Witch’s mentor. CLICK HERE.

TWO: A BLAST FROM THE PAST – The actual, REAL death of an Avenger as the team tries to stop Kang from obtaining the Celestial Madonna, whose offspring would grant Kang control of all time and space. CLICK HERE

THREE: THE REALITY PROBLEM – The funeral for that first Avenger to be killed in action, plus further investigation into Mantis’ mysterious past to learn how she became destined to be the Celestial Madonna. CLICK HERE. Continue reading

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SHANG-CHI: HIS FIRST TWELVE ADVENTURES

With the first trailer for the next Marvel Comics movie, Shang-Chi, out already, here’s a look at the first twelve  Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu stories.

shang chi picFirst, a little background information. In the early 1970s Marvel was experimenting with hybrid titles that would combine the old and the new by fusing licensed properties with unique Marvel twists.

The most famous and longest-lasting example was Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu. In 1973 Marvel licensed the use of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu plus other characters from the Fu Manchu tales. Rather than just churn out a Fu Manchu comic book series “the House of Ideas” instead combined it with the Kung Fu craze of the time and created Shang Chi, the son of Fu Manchu.

Shang Chi, as a surrogate Bruce Lee, and Sir Denis Nayland-Smith, as a surrogate Braithwaite from Enter: The Dragon, were the core of the new series. Shang Chi started out as an operative of his evil father Fu Manchu, but realized the error of his ways and threw in with Sir Denis and his team to battle his father’s malevolent schemes.

FOR STORIES TEAMING IRON FIST AND SHANG-CHI CLICK HERE.

shang chi 1SPECIAL MARVEL EDITION #15 (December 1973)

Title: Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu

Villain: Fu Manchu

Synopsis: One night Shang-Chi, the son of the insidious Dr Fu Manchu, penetrates the Mayfair home of his father’s old enemy Dr Petrie and, though he hesitates when he sees how old the sleeping man is, kills him as ordered. A wheelchair-bound Sir Denis Nayland-Smith, Fu Manchu’s archenemy, arrives in the bedroom too late to save his longtime ally Dr Petrie but is holding a gun on Shang-Chi.

Shang effortlessly disarms Sir Denis and turns to leave, only to be amazed at the way Nayland-Smith is weeping over the dead doctor. He engages Denis in a conversation about why the Britisher has opposed his father for so many decades. Shang-Chi is disturbed by the passionate conviction with which Nayland-Smith describes his father’s global activities, activities that Fu has kept hidden from his son.

mascot sword and gun pic

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What really piques our hero’s curiosity is when Sir Denis shows him how Fu Manchu had him abducted recently in Burma and tortured until he could no longer walk, thus confining him to a wheelchair. Conflicted, Shang-Chi goes to Honan, China to visit his mother and question her about his father’s true nature. She informs him that what Nayland-Smith said is true, but she had hoped her son would not learn the truth until he was much older. (Shang was around 18-19 years old as this series started.)

Determined to confront his father about his lies, Shang-Chi fights his way through his father’s international headquarters, decorated in priceless Chinese artwork and other fineries. After overcoming all of the guards barring his way, our hero faces a gorilla that has been biologically mutated by Fu Manchu. Even this creature is overcome. Continue reading

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MARVEL’S ONE-APPEARANCE HEROES FROM THE 1940s

A few weeks back Balladeer’s Blog took a look at over three dozen 1940s superheroes from Marvel Comics (called Timely Comics back then). This time around here’s a look at several of their one-appearance wonders from that same time period.

phantom bulletPHANTOM BULLET

Created By: Joe Simon

Secret Identity: Allan Lewis

Appeared In: Daring Mystery Comics #2 (February 1940)

Origin: Millionaire Allan Lewis often slummed as a reporter for The Bulletin when stories caught his eye. While investigating some unsolved murders committed by seven-fingered men he met a scientist who had developed a high-tech gun that he believed criminals wanted to steal from him. The scientist was killed but managed to pass along his invention to Allan Lewis, who donned a costume and took on villains as the Phantom Bullet.

Powers: The Phantom Bullet was in peak human condition and excelled at armed and unarmed combat. The experimental gun he wielded compressed moisture from the air into ice bullets which melted, evaporated and left no traces in the evildoers whom he shot to death. That was why the media dubbed him the Phantom Bullet.

Comment: The murders in the Phantom Bullet’s debut were masterminded by former explorer Alvarez Monez. As part of his extortion/ theft/ murder ring he commanded a Lost Race he had captured in Africa. That Lost Race had seven fingers and were part human, part ape, so naturally he called them … Bird-Men. (?)

Rather than wear a mask, this hero disguised his features with makeup when he went into action. That makeup included an exaggerated nose.

thin manTHE THIN MAN

Created By: Klaus Nordling

Secret Identity: Bruce Dickson

Appeared In: Mystic Comics #4 (August 1940)

Origin: Scientist Bruce Dickson was climbing Mount Kalpurthia in the Himalayas when he discovered a cave that led to the hidden, futuristic valley called Kalahia. Determining Dickson to be a noble and altruistic person, the valley’s Council of Elders instructed the man in their advanced science and taught him their mystic power of altering his physiology to make himself thinner and longer.       

Bruce and a Kalahian woman named Olalla fell in love and convinced the Council to permit them to go to the outside world where Dickson could use his new powers against the forces of evil.

Powers: The Thin Man could make his body thin enough to slip under a door or between cracks in a fence while still packing the strength of a heavyweight boxer. He could also stretch and bend his body into different shapes. He piloted a futuristic StratoPlane, which the Council of Elders permitted him to build with Kalahian technology. Among other features that plane sported video screens for observing anywhere on Earth. Continue reading

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ALL TWENTY ALL-WINNERS ISSUES FROM THE 1940s

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Last week’s look at over two dozen 1940s superheroes from Marvel Comics (called Timely Comics back then) was very popular. This time around here’s my breakdown on several issues of All Winners Comics, featuring a mixed bag of their biggest heroes of the time. The one and only STAN LEE, already a master of self-promotion in the 1940s, makes cameo appearances in a few issues.

For information on the superheroes in these adventures click HERE.

all winners 1ALL WINNERS COMICS #1 (June 1941)

Story 1: Carnival of Fiends

Heroes: Human Torch (original) and Toro

Villain: Mr Matzu

Synopsis: The Human Torch and Toro clash with the espionage network of Japanese Imperial Spy Matzu when he tries to sabotage Chinese-Americans who are holding a fundraiser for their native land’s military efforts against Japan’s occupation forces.

Comment: America had not yet entered the war, so this is an interesting piece. It’s set in New York City.

Story 2: The Order of the Hood

Hero: The Black Marvel

Villains: The Order of the Hood

Synopsis: In Los Angeles, a cloaked and hooded gang of bank robbers use machine guns and a solar death ray to rob banks and slaughter anyone in their way. The Black Marvel repeatedly clashes with them and defeats them in the end.

Comment: After the villains capture the Black Marvel they do a pirate television broadcast to show them executing the hero, but he turns the tables on them. There were indeed television broadcasts at the time, but going out to thousands instead of millions like today.

Story 3: The Case of the Hollow Men Continue reading

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MARVEL COMICS’ 1940s SUPERHEROES

AwsBalladeer’s Blog takes a look at those often forgotten Marvel Comics characters from the Golden Age, when the company was known as Timely Comics. Unlike Captain America, Bucky, Sub-Mariner, etc these figures never became big hits in the Silver or Bronze Ages. But Marvel did try retconning some of them to fit in with the modern day.

blonde phantomBLONDE PHANTOM

Created By: Stan Lee, Charles Nicholas and Syd Shores

Secret Identity: Louise Grant

First Appearance: All-Select Comics #11 (September 1946) Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1949.

Origin: Wanting to fight crime and foreign spies without endangering the lives of people close to her, Louise Grant, secretary for private investigator and former OSS man Mark Mason, donned a costume and fought the forces of evil as the Blonde Phantom.

Powers: The Blonde Phantom was in peak human condition and was more agile than an Olympic gymnast. She was a master of unarmed combat and was also incredibly proficient with her .45 handgun. In addition, this heroine was an expert investigator.

Comment: For a time, the Blonde Phantom was assigned to missions by a figure calling itself Father Time (no relation to the 1940s superhero of that name). That mysterious figure had Grim Reaper qualities and sicced the Blonde Phantom on evildoers whose deaths he had ordained.

Louise Grant’s boss Mark Mason had the hots for the Blonde Phantom but overlooked his secretary Louise, who downplayed her beauty in her secret identity.

blazing skullTHE BLAZING SKULL

Created By: Bob Davis

Secret Identity: Mark Todd

First Appearance: Mystic Comics #5 (March 1941) His final Golden Age appearance came in May of 1942.

Origin: Reporter Mark Todd was covering the war between China and the Imperial Japanese invasion forces before the U.S. entered World War Two. Taking shelter from a Japanese bombing, Todd entered a cave which was the entrance to the subterranean lair of the Skull Men, a mystic race of skull and flame-headed humanoids who kept their existence unknown to the world. The Skull-Men taught Mark Todd some of their secrets, which granted him superpowers with which he fought the forces of evil as the Blazing Skull.

Powers: The Blazing Skull was strong enough to lift 10 tons, could make his head appear to be nothing but a skull surrounded by flames and was immune to fire and heat. He could completely control flames and also possessed a healing factor which let him recover from almost any injury.

Comment: This figure was one of the Golden Age superheroes conjured up by a godlike Rick Jones to battle the Kree soldiers of Ronan the Accuser during the Kree-Skrull War in 1972. Continue reading

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TIGRA: THE EARLY ADVENTURES

TigraPop culture at the moment remains superhero-crazed, and Balladeer’s Blog’s readers always want more articles about them. Here is a look at the early adventures of Tigra the Werewoman from the 1970s.

Before Greer Grant went on to become Tigra, she started out as the Cat, a superheroine whose escapades led to the transformation. Therefore, it will be necessary to start this blog post with the five stories featuring the Cat before she was turned into Tigra.

cat 1THE CAT Vol 1 #1 (November 1972)

Title: Beware the Claws of the Cat

Villain: Malcolm Donalbain

Synopsis: Chicago resident Greer Grant was the lab assistant for her former physics professor Dr Joanne Tumolo, who was working on an experimental method of taking women to their physical and intellectual peak. Having run out of grant money, Tumolo accepted money from eccentric investor and playboy Malcolm Donalbain.

After subjecting both Greer Grant and Donalbain’s underling Shirlee Bryant to the process, Dr Tumolo accidentally discovered that Donalbain planned to combine Joanne’s enhanced females with high-tech cat-suits which would grant them additional abilities. Through mind-controlling collars he would use his army of super-powered Cat Women to take over the United States. Dr Tumolo saw Shirlee Bryant fall to her death while testing the cat-suits, then stole one for proof and fled to tell Greer Grant what she had learned. Continue reading

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X-MEN: THE NEW TEAM’S FIRST TWENTY STORIES

With superheroes continuing to dominate pop culture right now, here’s a look at the first twenty stories of the “All New, All Different” X-Men beginning in 1975. I have a soft spot for superhero stories because reading them as a kid served as a gateway to two of my adult passions – mythology and opera.

new x-men 1GIANT-SIZE X-MEN Vol 1 #1 (May 1975)

Title: Deadly Genesis

Villain: Krakoa

NOTE: This was the very FIRST appearance of the new team of X-Men who replaced the original, blander team launched in 1963. That team’s original series had been canceled and reduced to reprints (reruns).

Synopsis: The story opened with a series of vignettes featuring Professor X traveling the world rounding up a new batch of mutants detected by his invention Cerebro. Three of them had prior history in the Marvel Universe:

*** WOLVERINE (real name unknown at the time), who had fought the Hulk and the Wendigo in Canada. Wolverine willingly joined the X-Men and angrily resigned from Canada’s Department H, which had been sending him on missions up to that point. This would have repercussions down the road.

*** BANSHEE (Sean Cassidy), a sometime foe and sometime ally of the original team of X-Men. This Irishman had also fought Captain America and the Falcon.

*** SUNFIRE (Shiro Yoshida), a Japanese mutant who had fought the original X-Men as well as Sub-Mariner, Iron Man and Captain America.

The rest of the mutants Xavier rounded up were new:

*** STORM (Ororo Munroe), from Africa, where her weather-controlling powers had made her revered as a goddess by an isolated tribe.

*** NIGHTCRAWLER (Kurt Wagner), a German circus performer whose monstrous appearance made him the target of a mutant-hating mob from which Professor X saved him.

*** COLOSSUS (Piotr Rasputin), a Russian teenager working on a Collective Farm in the Soviet Union.

*** THUNDERBIRD (John Proudstar), a Native American mutant from a reservation in the American Southwest.

Once they were all assembled at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, the professor introduced them to Cyclops (Scott Summers), the leader of the original X-Men, who briefed them. He had led the original team – Iceman, Angel, Marvel Girl, Polaris and Havok (Beast was joining the Avengers at this point) to investigate a new mutant detected by Cerebro on a Pacific Ocean island called Krakoa. The original team vanished and only Cyclops escaped in their aircraft, but with no memory of what happened there. Continue reading

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IRON FIST: THE EARLY ADVENTURES

Balladeer’s Blog’s readers always make it clear that they feel superhero blog posts make for nice, light diversions over the weekend, so here comes another one. This one takes a look at the early stories of Iron Fist from the 1970s.

iron fist aMARVEL PREMIERE Vol 1 15 (May 1974)

Title: The Fury of Iron Fist

Villain: Shu Hu the One

Comment: In the 1970s “Everybody was Kung Fu fight-iiiiing” and Marvel Comics jumped onto the bandwagon with a series of martial arts characters. By this point in 1974 the company had already introduced Shang-Chi the Master of Kung Fu, the female Avenger called Mantis and the Sons of the Tiger. Now would come Iron Fist, real name Daniel Rand, later modified to Daniel Rand-Kai.

Synopsis: The origin story of Iron Fist is told through flashbacks this issue and the next. This story starts with action and THEN delves into the superhero’s origin, a formula I think works best, but I’m not a comic book expert. In the Himalayan Mountains, in the mystical city called K’un-Lun, Iron Fist is battling four opponents under the watchful eyes of K’un-Lun’s ruler Yu-Ti the August Personage of Jade and his subordinate Dragon Kings.     

NOTE: This K’un-Lun is not THE K’un-Lun from Chinese mythology but it uses the same name and many of the inhabitants go by names corresponding to Chinese gods. Yu-Ti is one of them, Lei Kung the Thunderer is another. This K’un-Lun is an enchanted city that appears on Earth only once every ten years before returning to its pocket dimension home for another ten.

Back to the story – Iron Fist defeats his four opponents and, having survived this Challenge of the Many, now asks Yu-Ti for permission to face the Challenge of the One (Shu Hu). Yu-Ti wants Iron Fist to be sure that is what he desires, so he tells him to contemplate the path that has led him to this Day of Days. Continue reading

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FIRST TWENTY DEFENDERS STORIES FROM THE 1970s

To me there’s nothing like the ORIGINAL historical context in which fictional heroes were introduced, so I’ve examined 1930s, 1940s and 1960s superhero characters, often reviewing their first 20 stories. Here are the first 20 Defenders stories from the 1970s.

Marvel Feature 1MARVEL FEATURE Vol 1 #1 (December 1971)

Title: The Day of the Defenders

Villain: The Omegatron

Defenders Roster: Doctor Strange (Stephen Strange, MD), the Hulk (Bruce Banner, PhD) and the Sub-Mariner (Prince Namor McKenzie)

Comment: The Defenders were originally far different from the mere “street level” heroics that fans of Marvel Television adaptations associate with the team’s name. In 1971 Marvel had just one Avengers team in addition to the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. The Defenders often fought to save the entire world or even the entire universe or multiverse.

Doctor Strange and the Hulk had been around since the 1960s. The Sub-Mariner was introduced in 1939 (so BEFORE Aquaman), back when Marvel Comics was called Timely Comics. 

Synopsis: The sorcerer Yandroth, an old one-off foe of Dr Strange, has been spending his years since his defeat at Strange’s hands mastering science as thoroughly as he had previously mastered sorcery. He is on his death bed after having devised a scheme to ensure that the world will be destroyed shortly after he dies.

With typical villain bluster, Yandroth has Dr Strange summoned to his death bed and taunts him about his plans and tells him that in five hours the entire Earth will be destroyed by his creation the Omegatron unleashing every nuclear and biological weapon in the world. Before passing away, the villain reveals that he used BOTH sorcery AND science to create the Omegatron, ensuring that it cannot be defeated by JUST sorcery or JUST science. It will require the proper combination of the two.

Marvel feature 1 splash pageKnowing he has no chance of stopping this menace with his magic alone, Dr Strange mystically summons the Sub-Mariner, Monarch of Atlantis, to his side and explains the situation. Since even Namor’s realm of Atlantis will be destroyed by the Omegatron he allies himself with Stephen.

The Sub-Mariner suggests that Dr Strange also enlist the immensely powerful Silver Surfer to fight beside them. The sorcerer conjures up an image of what the Surfer is up to at that very moment. He and Sub-Mariner see that the Silver Surfer is, for the umpteenth time, trying to penetrate Galactus’ barrier which keeps him banished on Earth. Once again the Surfer fails and plummets back to Earth.

Since the Silver Surfer will need hours to recover from his crash landing back on our planet, Doc and Namor instead summon the Hulk to help them. Our heroes track down the Omegatron to an abandoned lighthouse in the northeastern United States. Continue reading

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