Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Invaders - The Second Wave!

It is evident that Roy Thomas was a having a grand old time writing The Invaders, as the series seemed to constantly froth with the creation of new superheroes and revised superheroes. At times the "Big Three" of Cap, Subby and Torch seemed almost guest-stars in their own comic, fighting for pages as the cast grew and grew.

Ron Wilson and Frank Giacoia
Also the pressures of actually creating the comic, along with some special side projects, began to tell as the "Dreaded Deadline Doom" became something of a chronic problem for the WWII saga. For instance the tenth issue of the comic was a few framing pages picking up the action as Cap and the others race to get Lord William Montgomery Falsworth and his daughter Jacqueline to hospital care after the battle with Baron Blood.

Between those few pages is a vintage Captain America story with art by Al Avison and Al Gabrielle from Captain America Comics #22 about a Nazi rabble rouser dubbed the Reaper who works to undermine the war effort by lowering the morale of the workers.

Jack Kirby and Frank Giacoia
Then in the next issue the team finally get the Falsworths to care and that saves their lives but proves also quite deadly when the hospital itself comes under attack by the Blue Bullet, the creation of a Professor Gold.

Herbert Lawrence Block
Thomas makes an aside that the Blue Bullet looks like a political cartoon character and the only one that came to mind that fits the bill is Herblock's "Mr. Atom", an Atomic Bomb-like figure which appeared in many of his more memorable images. (See the example above.)

Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott
After fending off the threat of the Blue Bullet, the team is shocked to discover they have a new member Spitfire who of course is Jacqueline Falsworth herself. She got her speed powers when the Baron Blood bit blended with transfused blood from the android Human Torch, who did so because of his affection for Lady Falsworth. She for her part seems to dote on Cap creating a bit of tension among the team members.

The team discover that Professor Gold only created his dangerous Blue Bullet because his brother Jacob was under threat by the Nazis back in the Jewish ghettos of Germany. The Invaders go into the Fatherland to rescue Jacob who refuses to return with them. The team is captured by the Nazis.

Jacob Gold then uses his mystical powers to raise the Golem, a creature of Jewish legend. But a well-timed lightning bolt (there are a lot of these in the Invader stories it seems) bonds Jacob with his creation and this new Golem rescues the Invaders from the Nazi commander "The Face".

Ernie Chan, Tony Dezuniga and John Romita
The Golem is a character Marvel really had a yen to do. Not only do we get a WWII rendition of the character with a distinctly Hulk-like vibe, there had been a brief series a few years before of the creature from a distinctly supernatural perspective in the revived Strange Tales. The aforementioned Hulk ran into a version also in his own magazine, maybe the same one.

Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott
The Invaders return to London just in time to meet the latest in the cavalcade of new superheroes, The Crusaders.

 The Crusaders are the Spirit of 76, Ghost Girl, Captain Wings, Thunder Fist, Johnny Lightning, and the diminutive Dyna-Mite.

Ernie Chan
This is one of those very fun unofficial crossovers the writers of Marvel and DC would do from time to time despite the constant newsstand war their bosses waged. The Crusaders are versions of DC's recently revived Freedom Fighters made up of Uncle Sam, Human Bomb, The Ray, Phantom Lady, Black Condor and Doll Man.

Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott
It turns out though that these new heroes are being run by the other side as the Nazis have concocted the Crusaders as an elaborate ruse to kill King George and undermine the English threat from within. The Crusaders have no knowledge of this though and reject the powers they are given (those that needed powers) when the truth is revealed.

Rich Buckler and Jack Abel
For their part DC then created dopplegangers of the Invaders also called "The Crusaders" and featured them in the pages of Freedom Fighters. That team consisted of  Americommando, Rusty, Barracuda, Fireball and Sparky. For more information on both teams of Crusaders check this out.

Alex Schomburg
Then comes one of the most peculiar and indulgent comic books Roy Thomas ever wrote. The first Invaders Annual is a complicated affair with a variety of purposes. For one thing, Roy wanted to write a story in longer form, similar to the original Giant-Size format the series began with, and for another he wanted to stories to be like the Golden Age team tales where they are in fact individual hero stories connected by a frame in which all the heroes appear. He does this introducing three new/old villains into the mix - The Shark, The Hyena, and a character who will be a bigger deal later --  Agent Axis. Roy then  gets veteran talent to draw his chapters. Frank Robbins and Frank Springer, the regular team handle the frame story, Alex Schomburg drew the Torch tale and supplied the awesome cover, Don Rico handled the Cap yarn, and Lee Elias rendered the Subby story. After those were done, the trio (minus Bucky and Toro left behind again) end up in the time-traveling clutches of the Grandmaster.

Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger
Because one other thing Roy wanted to do in this complex story was to showcase the battle between the Invaders (not yet called that) and three Avengers (Black Panther, Yellowjacket, and Vision) in the pages of The Avengers #71 some eight years previous. Not that anyone but he would care, but Roy wanted to explain why Cap had a triangular shield and why Namor's swim gear was different. (Roy really got pretty anal about this stuff sometimes.) Despite its ornery complications this is still a lark of a story and I like the callback of one my all-time favorite Avengers stories with great art by Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger.

Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott
Then we begin the longest Invaders story yet. Just after the Crusaders events, Spitfire and her father Lord Falsworth (formerly known as Union Jack) had departed with Dyna-Mite to find Lord Falsworth's estranged son Brian. It turns out Dyna-Mite was his best friend Roger and he had no idea how he'd gotten to be so small. The Invaders did not know any of this.

William "Biljo" White
Instead in a story drawn by fill-in artist Jim Mooney with Springer inks, they attempt to save a kidnapped G.I. named "Biljo White". Named for the real-life the William "Biljo" White fan artist and creator of one of my favorite superheroes The Eye, this Biljo was a comic artist who had drawn the story of Major Victory before his enlistment and in that story had told a tale similar to the origin of Cap himself.

Jim Mooney and Frank Springer
The Nazis thinking he knew some secrets wanted to find out and so kidnapped him, sending a beautiful Nazi agent to do so.

  Gil Kane and Joe Sinnott
The Invaders travel into Nazi territory again (living up their names for a change of pace) to rescue Biljo but get captured themselves by Master Man who is back up and punching. He'd recently had a run in with the Liberty Legion, but I'll get around to that later. It turns out Biljo did know something about Cap's origin, and the Nazi woman who kidnapped him uses that info to make herself into the super-strong "Warrior Woman".

Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia
Meanwhile Cap has escaped the clutches of the Nazis and has been helped by The Mighty Destroyer, a man who fights the Nazis behind enemy lines. Not too surprisingly, the Destroyer turns out to be Brian Falsworth who along with his buddy Roger Aubrey had fallen into Nazi hands some months before and had been used for propaganda purposes.

John Romita and Joe Sinnott
An attempt to rescue the Invaders goes awry and Cap is recaptured and the lot are sent to Berlin for summary execution. Only the Destroyer can save them, but he seems to have been killed. Spitfire and her father have arrived in Berlin themselves by other means looking for Brian.

Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia
The stories in issues twenty and twenty-one of The Invaders are truncated ("Dreaded Deadline Doom" again)  and really form a single piece.

Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia
In that finale the Union Jack reappears to save the day and rescue the Invaders who raise a ruckus in Berlin and almost capture Adolph Hitler himself before the dictator barely escapes. By the story's end, the reunited heroes return to London where hopefully Dyna-Mite can be cured, and where the Union Jack and Spitfire will join forces with The Invaders for good.

To see how this new version of The Invaders works together, check in next week.

Rip Off


  1. Fascinating – this connection between Invaders Annual #1 – and the legendary Avengers # 71. I never knew this – as I missed out on ever finding Invaders Annual #1. Do you know Rip – Is Invaders Annual #1 collected anywhere – or is one’s only recourse to hunt down the back issue?

  2. I was a big fan of The Invaders back in the day. I loved this peek back into Marvel / Timely's past and you could tell Roy Thomas was having a ball, reviving his fave characters from childhood and creating new ones. Just a few observations:
    I can't believe I never made the connection between the Crusaders and the Freedom Fighters! It's so obvious :-)
    Spitfire's analysis of the social class status of the Crusaders seems even more antiquated now than it did back in the 1970s.
    Master Man really reminds me of Marvelman / Miracleman. I wonder if Roy was aware of Mick Anglo's British version of Captain Marvel?


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