Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

X-amining Marvel Team-Up #150

"'Tis Better to Give!"
February 1985

In a Nutshell 
Spider-Man and the X-Men team up to fight Juggernaut and Black Tom. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Artist: Greg LaRocque
Inker: Mike Esposito
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Danny Fingeroth
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In New York, Spider-Man returns home and unsuccessfully attempts to dodge his landlady. In Asia, Juggernaut returns to the temple where he received his powers and takes the Ruby of Cyttorak, intending to give it, and thus the power of the Juggernaut, to Black Tom for his birthday. Back in New York, the X-Men complete a training session in the Danger Room, after which they see a news report on Juggernaut's Asian rampage. Seeing the same report, Spider-Man leaves his apartment to check the city for Juggernaut. Meanwhile, Juggernaut arrives at Black Tom's birthday party in Manhattan, and gives him the Ruby of Cyttorak. When he touches it, Tom suddenly grows in size and mass to match Juggernaut. At the X-Mansion, Nightcrawler uses Cerebro to locate Black Tom, and the X-Men head into the city. In Manhattan, an angry Tom demands that Juggernaut turn him back to the way he was, and a fight breaks out between them that spills out into the streets.

In the process, they realize that Juggernaut's power has been split between them. Responding to their fight, Spider-Man arrives, and the two friends focus instead on fighting Spider-Man. He holds he own against them, but is eventually worn down, at which point the X-Men arrive. Rogue touches Black Tom, absorbing his power, and takes on Juggernaut herself. In the process, she touches him as well. Overwhelmed by Juggernaut's memories, Rogue goes on a confused rampage until Juggernaut retrieves the Ruby of Cyttorak and with it, his full power. He launches the ruby into orbit so that no one can find it again, then grabs Black Tom and escapes via the sewers. Unwilling to pursue the pair and risk destroying New York's sewer system, and with the cops closing in, the X-Men and Spider-Man depart, having gained a greater respect for one another.

Firsts and Other Notables
This is the final issue of Marvel Team-Up, cancelled despite reportedly strong sales to be replaced by a third exclusively Spider-Man title, Web of Spider-Man. It is a double sized issue and cost $1.00

This issue unveils a new skullcap for Juggernaut, one comprised of his armor that fits snugly around his head and his worn beneath his regular helmet, meant to provide additional protection against psionic assault should his helmet be removed.


On sale at the same time as Secret Wars #11, Spider-Man references having learned that his black costume from Battleworld was an alien symbiote, and mentions its currently being contained by Reed Richards.


Though not yet an official member of the team, this issue marks Rachel's first adventure with the X-Men.

Near the end of the issue, Juggernaut launches the Ruby of Cyttorak into orbit, so as to prevent anyone else from touching it and stealing all or some of his power. I'm fairly certain it returns to Earth eventually, but I'm not sure if it's ever shown doing so or if a later story just features it again without explanation.
This issue is written by former X-Men editor and future New Mutants and X-Factor writer Louise Simonson, and contains some of her earliest work writing for the characters she used to edit. The cover was done by Barry Windsor-Smith, of "Lifedeath" fame.

The Chronology Corner
Cannonball guest-starred in the previous issue of Marvel Team-Up, in a story that is considered to occur just prior to New Mutants #22. Little of consequence happens (he helps Spider-Man defeat a one-off villain while trying to buy a hat for his mom's birthday), which is why I didn't devote a post to it. 

Though on sale at the same time as Uncanny X-Men #190 and New Mutants #25, the events of this issue are considered to occur between Uncanny X-Men #188 and #189.

A Work in Progress
Juggernaut references his defeat by Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #230.


It's revealed that Juggernaut has taken to bolting his helmet onto his armor to make it harder to remove his helmet.

The X-Men are shown training in the Danger Room, and I'm reminded that at this point in time it seems like the X-Men are seen training in the Danger Room in other titles far more often than they ever are in their own (obviously, this is because training in the Danger Room is an easy way to introduce the characters and their powers to reader who may not regularly read X-Men).  

Rachel notes that in her future, Juggernaut and Black Tom helped the X-Men fight against the government.


Nightcrawler is able to use Cerebro to find Black Tom thanks to a recording of Black Tom's thought patterns made by Professor X.


In light of their confrontation in Secret Wars #3, Spider-Man worries the X-Men may side with Black Tom and Juggernaut when they first arrive. 

After wearing a modified version of her green costume for a few issues, Rogue is back in her orange and brown costume from immediately following Secret Wars.

Nightcrawler does the old "teleport around his foe as he punches him" trick.


I Love the 80s
Black Tom has invited some fantastically attired women to his party.


A newspaper Spider-Man is reading contains an ad for Web of Spider-Man.


Teebore's Take
This is a largely inconsequential issue, especially in terms of the X-Men narrative, but it is notable for being one of the first times former X-Men editor Louise Simonson writes any of the characters she used to edit, making it a look ahead to her time helming both the X-Men spin offs (and, in perhaps a nod to both her time as the X-Men editor and a willingness to take some cues from Claremont, she's careful to feature the team as it was around the time of publication, a consideration other writers may not have made). It's also features a rare Black Tom/Juggernaut team-up for this era (though Juggernaut will pop up again during Claremont's X-Men run, I'm pretty sure Black Tom disappears after this issue until appearing early in Rob Liefeld's X-Force run).

But aside from some mild historical notes, there isn't much to the issue. The art is workmanlike and the story routine, though Simonson gets some mileage out of the Juggernaut/Black Tom friendship, something which is always fun to read for being so unique, as well as the idea that Black Tom may not want the power of the Juggernaut (and that Juggernaut never thought to ask), resulting in them humorously snipping at one another throughout their initial confrontation with Spider-Man. Honestly, that's about all there is worth mentioning, but I thought it was worth a post acknowledging the end of a series that gave us Captain Britain (us Americans, at least) and Karma, as well as provided an additional creative outlet once upon a time for Chris Claremont. And though the series ends here, the two stars of this issue, Spider-Man and the X-Men, will go on to dominate superhero comics in the course of the next decade (moreso than they already were), making this both a little bit the end of an era and a hint at things to come. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, we chill out with the Iceman limited series (sorry, couldn't resist), then return to Uncanny X-Men with issue #189 next week.

17 comments:

  1. @Teebore
    It's revealed that Juggernaut has taken to bolting his helmet onto his armor to make it harder to remove his helmet.


    And here I had assumed he had always done so. Was it just resting on his head before? Double sided tape? And how does he turn his head, anyway?

    I'm fairly certain it returns to Earth eventually, but I'm not sure if it's ever shown doing so or if a later story just features it again without explanation.

    Probably the latter. Onslaught ripped the gem out of his body and imprisoned him inside of it. At first, I thought this was just some kind of metaphorical representation of Onslaught removing Juggernaut's powers, but the gem sat on Xavier's desk for a while and I'm pretty sure Mark Waid intended it to actually be the gem. Since he always thought the gem was actually inside of Juggernaut, I doubt he knew it was thrown into orbit or really anything else about it.

    she's careful to feature the team as it was around the time of publication, a consideration other writers may not have made

    And this really makes me realize how different the X-Men were at the time. Look at that cover. You've got Spider-Man wearing what he always wears, and three of the four X-Men wearing clothing that would be unrecognizable to earlier and later fans. I think it's easy to forget how much of a contrast there was between this era's "street level" X-Men and everyone else in the MU

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Dan: Was it just resting on his head before? Double sided tape? And how does he turn his head, anyway?

    The Juggernaut doesn't need to turn his head! He just charges ahead regardless!

    Seriously though, I guess we're just supposed to assume the helmet previously attached to the armor in some way that wasn't as strong as bolting it in. It probably was just resting there, like any old hat, kept in place by its relative weight.

    Onslaught ripped the gem out of his body and imprisoned him inside of it.

    Yeah, that's the next story I can think of offhand that prominently features the gem, but it's also possible it was specifically brought back in some non-X-related comic, as Juggernaut tends to be one of those X-Men villains that gets used in other titles fairly frequently.

    I think it's easy to forget how much of a contrast there was between this era's "street level" X-Men and everyone else in the MU

    And just how much change is a constant part of the X-Men (though change, however temporary, is easier to do with a team book). The team on this cover is different from the team that would have appeared a year ago, and that team different from the one that would have appeared a year before that, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Surprisingly, since I'm a big fan of Spider-Man and the X-Men and I love Juggernaut and Black Tom, I've never read this issue. Most likely because even though I love the characters, I am not much of a fan of this iteration of the X-Men, and I don't like the BWS cover (seriously, what's with Spidey's sassy cocked-hip pose?). Also, until literally two minutes ago, for some reason I always thought this was written by Ann Nocenti, whose writing I usually don't enjoy. I guess I got my female X-Men editors mixed up with regards to this issue a long time ago.

    All that said, your synopsis actually makes this sound like a fun read. Maybe I'll try to track it down someday.

    "This issue unveils a new skullcap for Juggernaut..."

    Huh, I never know the skullcap had an "origin". The first (and I think last) place I'd ever seen it was the Nimrod/Juggernaut story in Uncanny not long from now. I guess he got tired of wearing it at some point, because he hasn't had it for a very long time.

    Also, what does he mean that he "made from the scraps when [he] trimmed down [his] big one"? He still has the big one in this issue...

    "It's revealed that Juggernaut has taken to bolting his helmet onto his armor to make it harder to remove his helmet."

    I was going to comment on this, but I see Dan beat me to it. Weren't the bolts always drawn on, all the way back to Kirby?

    ReplyDelete
  4. So after reading both of your questions about the Gem of Cyttorak, I just did some quick research. Per UncannyXmen.net, after this issue, Galactus's herald, Nova, knocks it back down to Earth in Avengers West Coast #64.

    But after that, the chronology simply says that it was somehow infused into Juggernaut's body. It's unclear from the article whether this was revealed during the gem's next appearance in Dr. Strange #44, or during the previously mentioned Mark Waid-written scene from "Onslaught", years later.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Matt: All that said, your synopsis actually makes this sound like a fun read.

    My analysis downplays this more than it probably should, but it is a fun read. It's ultimately pretty inconsequential to the X-Men narrative (and, I assume, the Spider-Man one as well) but it is entertaining. Having admittedly not read many of them, it frankly strikes me as being suitably representative of most Marvel Team-Up stories: an ultimately inconsequential but entertaining-in-its-way done-in-one story.

    Huh, I never know the skullcap had an "origin".

    Nor did I. Does he also have it on during the story in Uncanny #217 and #218? I can't remember.

    Also, what does he mean that he "made from the scraps when [he] trimmed down [his] big one"?

    Yeah, I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. Maybe Weezie intended for the helmet to be drawn noticeably smaller (presumably with a less wide base) and that got missed?

    Weren't the bolts always drawn on, all the way back to Kirby?

    A quick look at his first on-panel appearance seems to suggest the presence of the bolts, likely a result of either Toth or Colletta, who penciled and inked that issue (Kirby was down to layouts at that point). So, yeah, I dunno. Maybe he's bolting it on stronger in this issue?

    Per UncannyXmen.net, after this issue, Galactus's herald, Nova, knocks it back down to Earth in Avengers West Coast #64.

    Ah, I've read that issue, so that must be why the idea of someone knocking it back down to Earth stuck in my head.

    Thanks! What the heck did we do before the internet?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Does he also have it on during the story in Uncanny #217 and #218? I can't remember.

    He does. Dazzler cuts it off with a laser.

    About this MTU issue... A fun enough story, but even though I think LaRocque was a fine Spider-Man artist at the time, he's not that great with the X-Men. Nightcrawler especially looks weird. And that cover is not one of BWS's finest moments.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I got this issue along with Alpha Flight #1 as a Christmas present maybe 15-17 years ago. In all honesty, I had completely forgotten about it as I don't think it really wowed me as a kid, but as someone who was buying a lot of 90s X-Men and Spider-Man at the time, it was interesting to see them in their 80s forms. I think this was my introduction to Bambi, Candy and Randy as well.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Ugus: He does. Dazzler cuts it off with a laser.

    Ah, yeah, I remember that now. Thanks.

    And that cover is not one of BWS's finest moments.

    I definitely agree with you and Matt; that's definitely, at best, a pretty blah cover.

    @Jeff: I think this was my introduction to Bambi, Candy and Randy as well.

    I'm not too familiar with this era of Spider-Man, but, not surprisingly, considering this was more or less a third Spider-Man book, there's definitely some stuff in this issue that seems pretty directly related to the goings-ons in the other Spider-Man book, like those three, or Spider-Man's offhand reference to Black Cat.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Juggernaut and his damn helmet. It's sad that he even had to resort to "bolting it on" (I'm going to go with Marvel's sliding timescale and suggest he originally used 3M Command Strips) because his opponents were constantly prying the damn thing off. It's the comic book equivalent of eating a power pellet and turning the ghosts blue.

    Were Sinister, Apocalypse, Sabretooth, and the other major X-villains impervious to psionic attacks? Most of them don't even have helmets and I don't recall them getting brain zapped. If Juggernaut never wore one, I doubt anyone would have even thought to attack him that way. The damn thing just drew attention to his head.

    And if it was just resting on his head, wouldn't it fall off every time he leaned forward? I assume it would be like wearing a fish bowl on your head. I'll bet Mysterio never bolted his helmet on.

    Where was I going with this again?

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have never thought about it before, but your comment that this was the start of a new era at Marvel is a shrewd one. If the final issue of Marvel Team-Up had happened five years earlier, then no doubt, Spiderman would have appeared with the Avengers or Fantastic Four. The X-Men have now leap-frogged from a cult favourite, hidden away in a corner of the Marvel Universe to the company's biggest stars.


    And the writing is on the wall for Claremont too. This issue is the first that I can recall in which, a writer other than Claremont, succeeds in capturing the spirit of the X-Men. It is almost as though it is a dry run – Marvel’s first tentative steps in loosening Claremont’s grip on their top selling merchandise. Next they give X-Factor to Bob Layton (killing the Cyclops/Rachel plot in the process), and Roger Stern the Avengers/X-Men mini-series. In earlier times, these would have been obvious jobs for Claremont – and if Claremont didn’t have the time to write them, they would have waited until he did have the time.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I bought this comic as a random back issue, and it left almost no impression. I'll stick up for Barry Windsor-Smith* on just about anything, but that's not a great cover.

    Which brings me to Louise Simonson: I don't think I've liked75% of the comic she's written. The few Louise Simonson X-Factors and New Mutants I've read were either kind of blah or just bad. Power Pack was okay (helped immensely by June Brigman's cartooning), but even there her dialogue rarely worked for me. It felt unnatural and without the stylistic flourishes that made some other comic book scripters' work enjoyable.

    - Mike Loughlin

    * What a weird idea. It's like saying I'll stick up for Berni Wrightson or George Perez or something.

    ReplyDelete
  12. @Dan: Were Sinister, Apocalypse, Sabretooth, and the other major X-villains impervious to psionic attacks?

    The first two were, more or less. Sabretooth was not (Psylocke memorably picked his brain for info on the Marauders in #213, and there that whole "addicted to a telepathic 'glow'" thing in the 90s).

    And if it was just resting on his head, wouldn't it fall off every time he leaned forward?

    I'm picturing it kinda like a fitted baseball hat. There's nothing bolting it/physically attaching it to my head, it just stays on because it fit. Maybe Juggernaut's helmet is like that?

    Where was I going with this again?

    Couldn't tell you. But I enjoyed the journey. :)

    @Bernard the Poet: If the final issue of Marvel Team-Up had happened five years earlier, then no doubt, Spiderman would have appeared with the Avengers or Fantastic Four.

    Definitely. Heck, the fact that the series started with a Human Torch team-up and ended with an X-Men one is a pretty nice summation of the transition Marvel went through between 1972 and 1985, along with, as you say, the rise of the X-Men in that time.

    In earlier times, these would have been obvious jobs for Claremont – and if Claremont didn’t have the time to write them, they would have waited until he did have the time.

    We're definitely arriving at the time where the demand (perceived and otherwise) for the X-Men outstrips the amount of work Claremont can do in a month, and where the money Marvel sees in that demand is great enough that it outweighs whatever desire they have for maintaining the consistency of Clarmont's vision.

    @Mike: The few Louise Simonson X-Factors and New Mutants I've read were either kind of blah or just bad

    I really like a lot of her X-Factor stuff, but most of her New Mutants work is pretty rough. It suffers from an edict by Marvel that the characters be written as younger then they had been, an edict which Weezie has admitted she took too far. But there was some dicey plotting in there as well, and no element of her writing was helped by the Blevins art throughout most of her run.

    ReplyDelete

  13. I vote Mr. Lichtenberg's "Double-sided tape?" into the Comments Hall of Fame.

    Rogue looks kind-of like Glenn Close on that cover. Which is particularly funny in light of us later getting Uma Thurman as Magma on the BWS New Mutants cover during Marvel's 25th-anniversary head-shot month.

    When he touches it, Tom suddenly grows in size and mass to match Juggernaut.

    "Now you can finally be the bottom!"

    Black Tom has invited some fantastically attired women to his party.

    They're still not dressed as oddly as he is (never mind Juggernaut). I don't care if you're unconcerned with hiding your status as a supervillain; you probably still wouldn't have friends or, hell, mind-controlled captives over to your hotel room for your frickin' birthday party and remain in costume.

    making this both a little bit the end of an era and a hint at things to come

    And that era was my personal Silver Age. If my Golden Age as a precocious reader was roughly 5-7 years old, my Silver Age was about 12-15 — not that I loved comics any less in the intervening years, just that I can mark those periods as relating to a first-blush, eye-opening, age-appropriately naive love and a burgeoning mature, intellectual, more creatively and commercially savvy love, respectively. Marvel Team-Up played a role in both periods, and I was sorry to see it end; I'd been getting Spectacular Spider-Man for a while, partly I think because I was intrigued by the introduction of Cloak & Dagger, but I fully cop to the black costume prompting me to jump aboard Amazing and Team-Up in earnest for the first time since I started following series in truly dedicated fashion via regular trips to the comics shop vs. picking up whatever had looked good on the spinner rack at the drugstore. The next cover appearance of the black costume after its Amazing #252 debut was MTU #141, a cover curiously signed "Adams/Mignola" but obviously even to my 13-year-old eyes not Neal Adams' work that turned out to have been Art Adams' second published job ever for Marvel. I can't disagree with the maligning of #150's awkwardly pretentious BWS cover here, but at the time I remember finding it intriguing because it just looked so serious and a series that had existed as long as I could remember ending at #150 felt like a big deal.

    Not only were the X-Men co-stars of Marvel Team-Up #4, it has just dawned on me, which was my first issue of the series and a very early exposure to those characters, but in that issue the team was likewise in a period of flux. Surely there's as much to contrast between the issues as there is to compare, because the X-Men's status quo around MTU #150 was 180° from that of the "reprint years" in terms of commercial viability. It's worth observing, however, that none of the X-Men who appear in #150 had even been created in 1972 when #4 was published, and yet (with the possible exception of Rachel) they're all signature/core characters of the franchise today, as it is that the four of the original five X-Men co-starring in #4 are decidedly "street-level" (to quote Dan's usage of a phrase which I'd probably have employed even if he hadn't) and as plainclothed as half of the quartet in #150. La plus ça change la plus c'est la même chose... mais la change est la change tout la même.

    I thought that the bolts had always been drawn on Juggernaut's helmet too, by the way.

    ReplyDelete
  14. @Blam: Which is particularly funny in light of us later getting Uma Thurman as Magma on the BWS New Mutants cover during Marvel's 25th-anniversary head-shot month.

    Ha! I never thought of that before, but now that you've said it, I can't not see it...

    as it is that the four of the original five X-Men co-starring in #4 are decidedly "street-level" ... and as plainclothed as half of the quartet in #150

    Great point about the similarities between the first and last appearance of the X-Men in MTU. I'd completely missed the fact that both instances of the team were relatively plainclothed, which is interesting. At the very least, it's a reminder that the idea of the X-Men as non-traditional superheroes didn't originate with Claremont.

    ReplyDelete
  15. "I really like a lot of her X-Factor stuff, but most of her New Mutants work is pretty rough. It suffers from an edict by Marvel that the characters be written as younger then they had been, an edict which Weezie has admitted she took too far. But there was some dicey plotting in there as well, and no element of her writing was helped by the Blevins art throughout most of her run. "

    Catching up ... late to the party ...

    But I feel so out-of-sync with X-fandom when I see stuff like this. To me, the Simonson X-Factor was awful, and New Mutants was OK. I think all her dialogue sounds like children, so I'd much rather read it coming out of teenagers (or, ideally, Power Pack) than the ostensible adults in X-Factor. (I think of Maddie taunting the X-Men by calling them "wimpy" during an Inferno issue, or Cyclops whining at Jean to "Cut it out! I said, cut it out!" during a training session in the Days of Future Present crossover.

    And while Walt Simonson is an acknowledged great, I think X-Factor is some of his weakest work, while I really enjoy Bret Blevins' storytelling, and the way he handles body language.

    Neither is something I go nuts for, but ultimately I find Simonson's NM to be eminently readable and her X-Factor totally off-putting. But I dont' think I've ever seen anyone online with the same opinion.

    I'm an outcast ...

    ReplyDelete
  16. Neither is something I go nuts for, but ultimately I find Simonson's NM to be eminently readable and her X-Factor totally off-putting.

    Generally speaking, I prefer the first half of Simonson's X-Factor run (say, from her start up through "Fall of the Mutants") far more than the second half (her "Inferno" work is indeed a step down, and Walt's art suffers in those chapters as well). I really enjoy watching her extricate the book, not always elegantly, not without some speedbumps, from the mess of a premise Layton dropped in her lap, and the way those early issues go for straight soap opera at times.

    As for her New Mutants work, I'll give you that Blevins has a knack for body language, but the complete 180 the characters' looks take upon his arrival has always bugged me, and I just can't get excited about stories involving Bird Brain, the Ani-Mator, and Gossamyr. I also get bummed out by how Weezie turned Claremon't measured Magneto into a shrill nag. There's some bits and pieces in there I don't mind (the post-Doug's death issue is actually pretty good, and I thought she handled this side of "Inferno" much better than in X-Factor) but overall, it leaves me cold.

    So...I guess I agree with you in part, though my appreciation for Weezie's X-Factor over her New Mutants still stands.

    I'm an outcast ...

    Hey, look at it this way: so were the X-Men! :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Say what you will about Barry Windsor-Smith's cover, but I like that there's no action taking place on it. It's almost somber; accepting the fact that the series which has been quite popular and relatively well-written is getting cancelled. I have no idea who is in charge of what gets put onto a cover (the writer? The artist? The editor?) but I think it was a good idea to make this one relatively calm.

    ReplyDelete

Comment. Please. Love it? Hate it? Am mildly indifferent to it? Let us know!