Sunday, January 10, 2016

Avengers Assemble!!

This absolutely gorgeous full-page panel by "Dashing" Don Heck with inks by "Dynamic" Dave Cockrum appeared in The Avengers #108. That's a peculiar story, written in the earliest days of "Stainless" Steve Englehart's tenure on the title, just after the departure of longtime scribe "Rascally" Roy Thomas.

This comic is the end chapter of a trilogy by Englehart and begun by then regular artist "Riotous" Rich Buckler, who was having some difficulty with the deadlines. So to help him out, they dug out a vintage story originally slated for Captain America #114.

Cap at that time had just come off three very famous issues by "Jaunty" Jim Steranko, who in typical fashion left the book quickly.

It was apparently thought at first that the story with Hydra would continue, but then a shift by Stan Lee required that "Jazzy" Johnny Romita step in and steer Cap into the hands of the Red Skull. That story eventually gave us the Falcon, so it was overall a good move.

So this story with its handsome pages by "Gorgeous" George Tuska was dusted off and a complicated narrative involving the Grim Reaper, the long unseen Space Phantom, Hydra, and even Rick Jones and Captain Marvel was crafted. It's an uneven story, but it did sparkle with artwork blended together by the handsome inks of new Bullpen addition Dave Cockrum. Cockrum was fresh off his stint at DC where he freshened up the Legion of Super-Heroes and made them fan faves again and was soon to do the same to Marvel's moribund X-Men franchise.

Rich Buckler does the frame for The Avengers #106.

Then "Judo" Jim Starlin does the frame material The Avengers #107, under a striking Buckler cover.

Don Heck steps back in to become the new "regular" artist on the book, a role he'll keep until "Battlin'"Bob Brown arrives with the #113th issue.  It's also the last time Hawkeye is featured in his post-Kree/Skrull War/ Barry Smith duds, as he'd return to his original costume the very next issue, just in time to step away from the Assemblers.

But this trilogy, while hardly a world-beater, does showcase how the Marvel Bullpen assembled to crank out some delightful stories when the chips were down.

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