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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

X-amining X-Men: The Hiatus Years #1

Incredible Hulk 150, Amazing Adventures 11-16, Marvel Team-Up 4 and Incredible Hulk 161
March 1972 to March 1973

Incredible Hulk 150 by Archie Goodwin and Herb Trimpe
Amazing Adventures 11 by Gerry Conway and Tom Sutton
Amazing Adventures 12-15 by Steve Englehart and Tom Sutton
Amazing Adventures 16 by Steve Englehart and Marie Severin & Bob Brown
Marvel Team-Up 4 by Gerry Conway and Gil Kane
Incredible Hulk 161 by Steve Englehart and Herb Trimpe
(for full credits on each issue, please visit the Grand Comics Database)

Plot
Incredible Hulk 150: Lorna Dane visits Havok, who has left the X-Men, and the pair battle the Hulk. Amazing Adventures 11: Beast leaves the X-Men to take a job with the Brand Corporation, where he manages to isolate the hormonal extract which causes mutation. In order to prevent a colleague from stealing top secret government documents, Beast drinks the extract, further mutating him. He prevents the theft, but his transformation turns out to be permanent. Amazing Adventures 12: Beast battles Iron Man, and is tricked by Mastermind into believing he killed Iron Man. Amazing Adventures 13: Confused by Mastermind's illusions, Beast joins Mastermind's incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants alongside Unus and Blob, helping the team steal a priceless jewel before coming to his senses and defeating Mastermind. Meanwhile, the army sends Colonel Buzz Baxter and his wife Patsy Walker to the Brand Corporation to investigate the Beast sightings there.


Marvel Team-Up 4: The X-Men battle Morbius the Living Vampire alongside Spider-Man. Amazing Adventures 14: Beast battles the living computer Quasimodo. Amazing Adventures 15: Spent from his battle with Quasimodo, Beast collapses in Patsy Walker's apartment and inadvertently reveals his identity to her. She agrees to help him keep it so long as one day, he returns the favor by helping her become a super hero. Meanwhile, Angel, worried about his friend, tracks down Beast and learns of his new appearance; together the pair battle the Griffin, after which Beast bumps into his old girlfriend, Vera Cantor. Amazing Adventures 16: Vera and Beast are traveling to Canada at Vera's insistence that she needs his help to save the world. In Vermont, they are waylaid by the return of Juggernaut, whom Beast is able to defeat. Incredible Hulk 161: Arriving in Canada, Vera takes Beast to a cabin where his former teammate Mimic is living. Mimic's powers are out of control, threatening all life on the planet, and he and Vera hope Beast's expertise in mutation can help him. The Hulk, weakened by Mimic's power, attacks, and Mimic's absorbs the Hulk's gamma radiation in order to kill himself and save the world.    

Firsts and Other Notables
The most notable event of this run of issues is Beast's transformation into his more famous furry, animal-like form. The logic behind the transformation is a bit dicey, as Beast drinks the formula in order to disguise himself from his villainous co-worker, knowing he has one hour to reverse the change. However, he fails to complete his mission in time, and gets stuck in his new form permanently. As a result, much of his run in Amazing Adventures is dripping in angst, but the look caught on and, barring a brief spell in the 80s when he returned to normal and his current "cat beast" look, has become the form with which most readers are familiar.


In Amazing Adventures #12 a new incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants pops up, featuring Mastermind, Blob and Unus (and for a short time, Beast). It's the first, though not the last, incarnation of the group to not be assembled by Magneto.


As detailed in Incredible Hulk 150, Havok had quit the team after using his power against Iceman, but then rejoins after Lorna seeks him out and he's able to gain better control of his power whilst battling the Hulk.

Amazing Adventures #15 marks the first appearance of the Griffin, a relatively minor cannon fodder-type villain who usually shows up in crowd scenes or working alongside other villainous groups. Here, he's working for the Secret Empire.


Amazing Adventures #16 is part of an odd crossover featuring comic book creators Steve Englehart, Len Wein, Glynis Oliver and Gerry Conway. Read more about it here.


Vera, Beast's long-suffering girlfriend from his Coffee-A-Go-Go days, pops up towards the end of his run in Amazing Adventures. Her past history with Mimic is smartly used to work Mimic into the story as well, where it's revealed that is powers have taken to cycling on and off. He apparently dies at the end of Incredible Hulk 161, but he'll pop up again from time to time.  


A Work in Progress
Marvel Team-Up #4 features a new look for the X-Men, as they are first seen in their old uniformed costumes but then spend most of the issue in civilian clothes. According to Roy Thomas, Marvel briefly toyed with the idea of featuring the X-Men sans costumes, as their powers were visually distinctive enough for the characters to stand out without costumes. Though Angel's appearance in Amazing Adventures featured the same shirtless look he sported in Marvel Team-Up, the idea seems to go no further than that.


Beast's love interest throughout his stint in Amazing Adventures, Linda Donaldson, is an agent of the Secret Empire, a villainous organization with goals of world domination that Steve Englehart ported over from his run on Captain America


Though Beast's fur is initially gray, it turns the more familiar black/blue in Amazing Adventures #15. 

Colonel Buzz Baxter will eventually become the villain Mad Dog, while his wife, Patsy Walker, who first appeared in 1944 as the star of a humor/romance comic, will eventually become the super heroine Hellcat and have her membership in the Avengers sponsored by Beast as repayment for keeping his secret.

Juggernaut returns from the Crimson Cosmos (from whence he came and went in X-Men #46) in Amazing Adventures #16 long enough to battle Beast before getting sucked back into the dimension once more. Beast manages to tear his helmet off, which Juggernaut claims robs him of his powers, which isn't exactly true (losing the helmet just makes him susceptible to telepathy).

That 70s Comic
Beast disguises his new furry appearance with a rubber mask and gloves, and uses straps to get himself to stand upright. This fairly goofy setup is intended to create the classic super hero secret identity struggle, but the silliness of Hank running around in rubber gloves and a mask and the disguise fooling anyone colors every issue.


"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!"
Apparently the X-Men aren't allowed to leave the team with Professor X's blessing... 


Young Love
Havok leaves the team after quarreling with Iceman over Lorna, and comes back after Lorna asks him.


Upon arriving at the Brand Corporation, Beast quickly falls in love with his assistant, Linda, not knowing she's an agent of the Secret Empire. 


Human/Mutant Relations
The X-Men are staying around the mansion in light of the anti-mutant hysteria sweeping the country following the events of issue #66 (this may also be a comment on why we're not seeing more of the X-Men now, since their book was cancelled with that issue).


The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops Havok
While fighting with Iceman over Lorna, Havok loses control of his power, causing him to leave the team.


Teebore's Take
This batch of issues focuses almost exclusive on Beast. I've no idea why Beast, of all the X-Men, was singled out to star in his own feature, but as a result, Beast becomes one of the few X-Men characters to develop an identity independent of the team. Following his work with him in Amazing Adventures, Steve Englehart brought Beast over to the Avengers, raising his profile in the process and making Beast one of the few original X-Men to remain in the spotlight after the new team arrives in Giant Size X-Men 1.

These stories themselves are fairly standard by-the-numbers superhero adventures. Each issue is drowning in angst (standard for a Marvel comic of the time) as Beast bemoans his new state of being, and filled with secret identity drama (a staple of many comic books at the time) as Beast tries to keep his new look a secret from his girlfriend, co-workers and the authorities. However, we can also see an emerging trend in comics with these issues. As more and more comics are published and more fans-turned-pros arrive to write and illustrate them, the interconnectedness of the Marvel Universe gets tighter and tighter. Here, we see Steve Englehart, who was writing Captain America and The Avengers at the same time as Amazing Adventures, tie Beast's stories into the larger Secret Empire story he was telling in Captain America (the conclusion of which we'll look at next week). And after Beast's feature was canceled, Englehart, who like Roy Thomas, never met a dropped plotline he wouldn't resolve elsewhere, brought Beast over to The Avengers, where he was able to wrap up some of the loose ends from his Amazing Adventures stories.

Marvel had always touted the relative cohesion of its universe, of the fact that events in one title could impact events in another and that the characters all existed in the same world, but as more and more writers moved from title to title, bringing favorite characters and unresolved plotlines with them (heck, this post and the next are all about stories featuring characters without a proper title of their own), that sense of a shared universe becomes more and more apparent.

12 comments:

  1. i still think it's weird that beast becoming fuzzy didn't actually happen in an x-men book.

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  2. This happened at a time when the Comics Code became a bit more relaxed, and thus comics were flooded by pseudo-horror concepts like Morbius the Living Vampire. In that context, Having "Beast" headlining Amazing Adventures makes some sort of sense (as do the terrible angst and bizarre transformation logic, which are typical of this type of comics - remember when Spider-Man grew four extra arms ?).

    It's obvious that Marvel were struggling with this, though ; the story keeps changing direction throughout (what does the road trip have to do with anything before ?), and it's replaced by something completely different after only 6 installments (7 if you count the reprint of his origin story in #17, an obvious stopgag fill-in).

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  3. @Falen: i still think it's weird that beast becoming fuzzy didn't actually happen in an x-men book.

    Yeah, that is an odd bit of X-Men trivia. He won't actually show up in X-Men in his new form until the 110s, and he won't rejoin the team until 1991!

    @JD:In that context, Having "Beast" headlining Amazing Adventures makes some sort of sense

    Ah, good point. I'm familiar with the loosening of the code and the flood of pseudo-horror comics (Morbius has always been the representation of that to me) around this time, but I never made a connection between that and the selection of Beast (and his immediate transformation into something more monstrous looking) as the star of Amazing Adventures. Makes sense.

    It's obvious that Marvel were struggling with this, though ; the story keeps changing direction throughout (what does the road trip have to do with anything before ?), and it's replaced by something completely different after only 6 installments (7 if you count the reprint of his origin story in #17, an obvious stopgag fill-in).

    Absolutely; the tone and style changes so much in these issues that I'm surprised Englehart wrote all but the first. Really, the only continuing thread throughout is Hank's angst and the machinations of the Secret Empire in the background which, like the random road trip story, gets resolved in another book (can you imagine reading this back in the day and picking up issue #17, expecting the "going to Canada to save the world" story to be continued and instead get news that the feature is being replaced and here's a reprint story to tide you over?).

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  4. Actually, fuzzy Beast does make a cameo in #94, the first issue of the series after the reprints, to tell Xavier of the crisis the Avengers are too busy to deal with.

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  5. i always appreciated that Beast was so well-rounded in the Marvel universe (and had friends on the Avengers).
    Also- super cool that he sponsored Hellcat

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  6. @JD: Actually, fuzzy Beast does make a cameo in #94

    Ah yes, I'd forgotten that (clearly I haven''t re-read that far ahead yet).

    It is sort of interesting that, if memory serves, we never get a scene with the X-Men reacting to Beast's transformation (aside from Angel in Amazing Adventures 15).

    @Anne: i always appreciated that Beast was so well-rounded in the Marvel universe (and had friends on the Avengers).

    Ditto. Toss in his stints with the Defenders and X-Factor, and he's one of the more team-friendly X-Men around.

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  7. "Marvel had always touted the relative cohesion of its universe, of the fact that events in one title could impact events in another and that the characters all existed in the same world, but as more and more writers moved from title to title, bringing favorite characters and unresolved plotlines with them (heck, this post and the next are all about stories featuring characters without a proper title of their own), that sense of a shared universe becomes more and more apparent."

    You mind forwarding that Marvel headquarters? :)

    Remember when the Defenders (Namor, Hulk, Silver Surfer and Dr. Strange) took over the world and ruled with an iron fist but none of that was mentioned in any other Marvel title including Hulk's own title?

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  8. @Dr. Bitz: Remember when the Defenders...took over the world and ruled with an iron fist but none of that was mentioned in any other Marvel title including Hulk's own title?

    All too well, sadly, all too well...

    You'll note I used the past tense when discussing the cohesion of Marvel's universe. :)

    As we get further along in these posts, it'll get brought up again, but the zenith of Marvel's shared universe came in the 80s, when Jim Shooter was editor-in-cheif and, for better or worse, ruled with an iron fist.

    Then the 90s happened, and between the glut of titles and the rise of superstar creators whose names sold books more than the characters within those books, Marvel started to care less and less about maintaining the cohesion of their universe (to the point where, in the mid-90s, Marvel divided its publishing line into "houses", each with its own editor overseeing it, for a short time).

    Nowadays, the general approach seems to be "if everything fits, great; if not, so be it", with even the yearly line-wide crossovers more relaxed. Marvel (and DC, of course, but we're talking about Marvel) is far more concerned with letting creators, big name or otherwise, tell the stories they want to tell, and if the cohesion of the Marvel Universe suffers as a result, oh well.

    For example, if Busiek and Larsen wanted to do "The Order" story in Defenders, so be it, but Marvel wasn't about to tell Bruce Jones to interrupt what he was doing in Hulk's book to reference it, whereas even ten years earlier, that's exactly what they'd have done.

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  9. Teebore: ... the look caught on and, barring a brief spell in the 80s when he returned to normal and his current "cat beast" look, has become the form with which most readers are familiar.

    My first exposure to The Beast was circa 1975-76, in the pages of Avengers. So my Hank McCoy has always been the furry, blue, jaunty "Oh my Stars 'n' Garters!" Hank McCoy. I was a little young for all that Roxxon Oil intrigue and the women's-lib aspect of Patsy Walker's character, but Marvel being a little over your head as a kid was partly what made it an appealing alternative to DC at the time (even though I was then, and remain, a DC boy at heart).

    The "cat beast" look that started with, I think, Morrisson & Quitely's New X-Men is a real turnoff for me. It actually was translated very well in the X-Men: The Last Stand film, but... it wasn't my Hank McCoy.

    "Concentrate. Add your mental powers to the machine's."

    Yes, Jean, please, help the machine's mental powers. (Or, "Ah, the Silver Age is alive and well in spirit...")

    "... we have had to stay in hiding here ever since."

    Even you, Jean, who look like a totally normal hot redhead and whose mutant abilities have no obvious visual component to bystanders!

    VW: remani — Gypsies who stay behind.

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  10. Anne: i always appreciated that Beast was so well-rounded in the Marvel universe (and had friends on the Avengers).

    Teebore: Ditto. Toss in his stints with the Defenders and X-Factor, and he's one of the more team-friendly X-Men around.


    Well, yes to Anne, but, Teebore, at the risk of being pedantic... Angel and Iceman were in the short-lived Champions, on the same "New Defenders" team as Beast, and of course also in X-Factor. Beast had that long association with The Avengers, however, palling around with Wonder Man and being generally accepted as a fuzzy blue Speedo-wearing stud, whereas Angel was painted as a spoiled rich boy and Iceman a dropout as they bounced around in guest appearances, so he certainly somehow wins the Accepted in the Marvel Universe Award despite being a mutant who can't actually hide his identity. You just know that Nightcrawler was following him around going, "Teach me! Teach me! ... Is it the German accent?"

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  11. @Blam: but Marvel being a little over your head as a kid was partly what made it an appealing alternative to DC at the time

    Definitely. And also what made Marvel fun to re-read, as you got older, and all that over-your-head stuff became more clear.

    The "cat beast" look that started with, I think, Morrisson & Quitely's New X-Men is a real turnoff for me.

    Yeah, Cat Beast is a Morrison/Quietly thing. I'm fairly indifferent. I much prefer Ape Beast, but I don't mind Cat Beast.

    Even you, Jean, who look like a totally normal hot redhead and whose mutant abilities have no obvious visual component to bystanders!

    Frankly, the idea that any of the original X-Men (pre-Beast transformation) had to hide at all is ludicrous, what with Beast's over-sized shoes disguising his feet and Angel's harness strapping down his wings.

    Morlocks they ain't...

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  12. @Blam: Angel and Iceman were in the short-lived Champions, on the same "New Defenders" team as Beast, and of course also in X-Factor.

    You are correct, of course, yet Beast has a reputation for being a man about the Marvel Universe, so to speak, that eludes Angel and Iceman, even if his X-Men colleagues have been on just as many teams.

    The reason, I think, also answers this:

    so he certainly somehow wins the Accepted in the Marvel Universe Award despite being a mutant who can't actually hide his identity.

    I think it's his time as an Avenger that does it. For whatever reason, the general populace of the Marvel Universe hates mutants, unless the Avengers provide their stamp of approval, in which case everything is hunky dory.

    "Ew, it's a disgusting mutant. What? He's an Avenger? Oh, he's okay then."

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