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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

X-amining X-Men #44

"Red Raven, Red Raven!"
May 1968

In a nutshell: Angel fights Red Raven.

Editor: Stan Lee
Plot: Roy Thomas
Script: Gary Friedrich
Writer: Gary Friedrich (2nd Story)
Breakdown Penciller: Don Heck
Finishing Penciller: Werner Roth
Penciller: George Tuska (2nd Story)
Inker: John Tartigalone, John Verpoorten (2nd Story)
Letterer: Sam Rosen, Artie Simek (2nd Story)

Plot
The captured X-Men are all placed within cells designed to nullify their individual powers, but Angel manages to escape. Rather than waste time freeing the other X-Men and risk recapture, Cyclops orders him to flee and alert the Avengers to the situation. Angel tussles with Quicksilver before breaking away and flying back to the mainland.


While crossing the ocean, Angel comes to rest atop an outcropping of rock. The rock suddenly starts shaking and rising, and Angel finds himself atop an artificial island. Going inside, he encounters Red Raven, and after a brief struggle, Red Raven tells Angel of being taken in and raised by the legendary Bird People after his parents died crashing into the floating island of the Bird People. Eventually, the Bird People decided to attack humanity, and worried that such a war would harm both his birth and adoptive races, as humanity was likely to counterattack strongly, Red Raven put all the Bird People into suspended animation and sank their island beneath the ocean. Bearing no ill will towards Angel, Red Raven lets him leave as he programs the computers for another seventy year hibernation and sinks the island once more. Angel continues on his way towards the Avengers. 

2nd Story: The Iceman Cometh!
While on a date, Bobby Drake is attacked by the local bully and his cronies. Bobby reluctantly uses his mutant ice power to save his date, but she is as terrified of him as the bullies. Word spreads throughout the town of Bobby's mutant nature, and soon a mob is at his house Bobby tries to fight them off, but is dragged off to jail. Professor X and Cyclops catch wind of the boy's situation, and a week later, the wall of Bobby's cell explodes.


Firsts and Other Notables
Red Raven appears for the first time since the Golden Age (when he headlined a book called Red Raven Comics for one issue). Except this isn't really Red Raven, as later stories will reveal that this is an android impostor, and the real Red Raven only appears in this story via the flashback to his origin. So this is, retroactively, the first appearance of a Red Raven impostor robot (who says this isn't the Mighty Marvel Age of Minutiae!).


The backup story introduces Iceman's parents, who, like most of the X-Men's parents, are little more than footnotes, though Iceman's father will get some page time in the 90s when it's revealed he's something of a bigot, a revelation that will have an impact on Iceman's character.

This is Roy Thomas' final issue, and Gary Friedrich scripts his plot before becoming the full writer next issue. Largely overlooked these days, Friedrich had long runs on some of Marvel's war comics around this time, though he'll only stick around for five issues on X-Men. His biggest contributions to the X-Men mythos will come from the relatively minor details in the backup story's three part origin of Iceman.

Penciller Werner Roth returns to the pages of the main book, finishing off Don Heck's breakdowns and handing over the backup art responsibilities to George Tuska. 

A Work in Progress
Quicksilver, whose mutant power is to run really fast, is shown to fly briefly in this issue. An editorial caption can't remember exactly when this new ability was first established. It was in Avengers #43, which is roughly contemporaneous to this issue. After this, Quicksilver's ability to fly is quickly forgotten.


 In the backup, Iceman is said to be from Nassau County. Later stories establish it to be the New York one.

Ah, the Silver Age
Toad is overly-amazed at the technology Magneto uses to imprison the X-Men, ranging from the very Silver Age-y Thermo-Nuclear Heat Tube to the rather obvious titanium handcuffs for Beast.


Red Raven grew up amongst the Bird People, never realizing he was different, despite not having wings growing out of his back.
 

Human/Mutant Relations
Unsurprisingly, a lynch mob forms in reaction to the news that Bobby Drake is a mutant. 


For Sale
For roughly ten years, all of Marvel's comics were being distributed by a distributor that was part of the same company as DC Comics. The terms of that deal restrained Marvel from publishing more than eight titles a month (which is why Marvel had so many anthology books featuring two characters, like Iron Man and Captain America in Tales of Suspense, during its Silver Age heyday). By 1968, Marvel was riding the renewed popularity in super hero comics to enough success that they were able to negotiate out of that deal and into one with a new distributor. As a result, 1968 saw an influx of new titles, as Marvel spun out the characters sharing space in anthologies to their own books, as seen in this house ad.


It's in the Mail
Keith Giffen, famed comic creator known for creating Lobo, his lengthy run as artist and writer on the Legion of Super Heroes, and being part of the acclaimed Giffen-DeMatteis-Maguire Justice League run, wonders where Marvel's villains have gone, and why the X-Men haven't had an annual yet. 


Comic Creators on X-Men*
Roy Thomas on bringing back obscure Golden Age character Red Raven: "I liked the name and the general idea of the character. Besides that, I hate the idea of creating many new heroes for Marvel, because I knew I wouldn't own them. And I knew I was going to be angry if a character I'd co-created suddenly got to be a hit, with possibilities for merchandising and the like, and I didn't own even a tiny piece of it...'Red Raven' was a solid name, and I decided I'd make him a villain."

On leaving the X-Men with issue #44: "I just got busy and something had to go. X-Men wasn't going anywhere and I didn't have such a great attachment to it after the year or so I did it....Stan [Lee] may have played a small part in the decision, because he sometimes had ideas of what I should give up."

Teebore's Take
Well, Roy Thomas departs the book in the only way he knows how: by dredging up an obscure character from the Golden Age and shoehorning him into the story. Marvel's "let's see what sticks" approach continues, as the book continues to rotate through different "headliners" (presumably, Marvel watched sales to see which headliner had the most impact). And so, in the midst of an X-Men vs. Magneto story, Angel takes center stage and has a largely pointless encounter with Red Raven. The novelty, of course, is that Angel is fighting someone with wings, just like him. As flimsy an idea as that is to hang a story on in the first place, it's downplayed as the two winged characters tussle for all of two pages before Red Raven decides that Angel is different too and thus it's okay to share his secret origin with him. The general stupidity of Red Raven and the Bird People provide some unintentional mild chuckles, but otherwise...next, please.


*DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p26

8 comments:

  1. I know how to nullify Angel's power, it's called a ceiling!

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  2. ...why are all those bird people identical in appearance? and where are the female bird people?
    Are they...are they asexual?

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  3. @Dr. Bitz: I know how to nullify Angel's power, it's called a ceiling!

    With an ingenious mind like that, you could be a super villain!

    @Falen: why are all those bird people identical in appearance?

    Laziness?

    where are the female bird people?

    I'm pretty sure there are female Bird People, somewhere (though, unsurprisingly, there aren't a lot of "Bird People" stories out there, so who knows?).

    I imagine we don't see any in this issue because we mainly see them as they are preparing for war, and this was the sixties, so that meant no chicks in the army, Bird People or otherwise.

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  4. Teebore: Red Raven grew up amongst the Bird People, never realizing he was different, despite not having wings growing out of his back.

    Ha! And how much did his adopted race truly want him to feel accepted if, when they did give him wings, they were red metal batwings? "Psst... Let's also call him Red Raven, so folks are always asking why his name isn't Red Bat! Gosh, I love giving this kid things to stress about."

    Not that you didn't know this, but Roy Thomas did bring back the actual Red Raven as part of The Liberty Legion in the pages of The Invaders and Marvel Premiere. Two of that team's members would, of course, later be tied to Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch in pages of The Avengers.

    VW: nosid — "I'm sorry, Mr. Caesar, but we can't do that."

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  5. @Blam: "Psst... Let's also call him Red Raven, so folks are always asking why his name isn't Red Bat! Gosh, I love giving this kid things to stress about."

    Yeah, something tells me he wasn't too broken up about knocking out and imprisoning his entire adopted race indefinitely. ;)

    Roy Thomas did bring back the actual Red Raven as part of The Liberty Legion in the pages of The Invaders and Marvel Premiere.

    To be fair, Thomas thought he was bringing back the actual Red Raven in this issue; it was just a later retcon (an Erik Larsen issue of Defenders, I think) that changed it on him.

    Two of that team's members would, of course, later be tied to Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch in pages of The Avengers.

    A connection which would later get retconned too, though I don't recall offhand who came up with the "Magneto is their father thing", other than the fact that Claremont didn't like it and more or less ignored it.

    Never let it be said there was a Golden Age character Roy Thomas didn't like!

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  6. John Byrne came up with the idea that Magneto was the father of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Issues of X-Men and Avengers, published within a month of two of each other, and both drawn by Byrne (though scripted by Claremont and [I think] Michelinie, respectively) gave enough clues for readers to deduce the truth. There was even a letter column explaining how Byrne had come to the conclusion (the stories and the column are all available in the Knights of Wundagore trade that Marvel published a few years ago).

    The thing is, Byrne intended it to always be an "open secret" -- the readers would know, but the characters would never figure it out! But it only took a few more years for the "big revelation scene" to appear on-page, and pretty much everyone in the Marvel U. has known the truth ever since.

    Personally, I prefer Byrne's idea of keeping it forever a secret from the characters.

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  7. @Matt: Issues of X-Men and Avengers, published within a month of two of each other, and both drawn by Byrne (though scripted by Claremont and [I think] Michelinie, respectively) gave enough clues for readers to deduce the truth.

    There's a brief scene sometime after the new X-Men/Magneto volcano battle in issues #112-113 (maybe in issue #125?) which depicts a recovering Magneto on Asteroid M gazing fondly at the picture of his late wife, who looks an awful lot like Scarlet Witch.

    I seem to recall reading somewhere that was, if not the first such, one of Byrne's clues towards Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch's parentage, and it's definitely a clue he could sneak in past Claremont (that is, a visual one that requires no involvement from Claremont).

    Personally, I prefer Byrne's idea of keeping it forever a secret from the characters.

    Having never read comics in a world where everyone didn't know that Magneto was their father, I have a hard time being objective about it.

    There have certainly been some decent stories born out of the idea of Magneto being the father of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, but I can definitely see the allure in keeping that info a secret from the characters.

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  8. @Matt:Personally, I prefer Byrne's idea of keeping it forever a secret from the characters.

    The problem is that once the idea was introduced, it's pretty much inevitable that the characters will find out about it - there will always be some writer who thinks that it's a good idea to reveal it. And let's face it, there's not too much point to reveal it to the audience if you're not going to follow up on it - I see no point in having Quicksilver say "Hmm, I just noticed that Magneto's hair looks similar to mine. Oh well, mystery for another day."

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