I’ve Got Some More Issues No. 9 –
The Avengers Vol. 1 #200
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and it’s time to once again talk about something I love: comic books!!! At the end of last month’s column, I stated that I wanted to fly even further back into my collection of four color catalogues. When I typed that silly statement, I was hoping to review a golden age book for my adoring audience. Unfortunately, none of the golden age books I have contain only a single story. They are filled with numerous narratives and a few single page funnies. Alas, my space and time are limited (read as: I’m lazy and my boss doesn’t pay me enough), so I’ve decided to do something a little more current, but no less fun. Over the next couple of articles, we’ll be looking at back-to-back 200th issue anniversaries. Assemble around as we take a look at the first one, The Avengers Vol. 1 #200!
Complete Arc: “The Child is Father to…?”
Year Released: 1980
Creative Team: James Shooter, George Pérez, Bob Layton, David Michelinie (writers), George Pérez (artist)
Heroes: Ms. Marvel, Wonder Man, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Beast, Hawkeye, Jocasta, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Wasp, Yellowjacket
Villains: Marcus Immortus
Notable Quotable: Thor: “Stay thy hand, youth, lest the son of Odin stay it for thee.”
This interesting issue opens with several anxious Avengers pacing outside of a “medical examination laboratory” at Avenger’s mansion. Within said lab lies an inexplicably pregnant Carol Danvers (Miss Marvel), being attended by Doctor Donald Blake (Thor) and Jocasta. The Avengers waiting outside banter back and forth, and we find out through convenient exposition that Danvers had just recently discovered she was pregnant, and she doesn’t know who the father is (Really, Carol?). Over the course of three days, her baby has gone through a nine month gestation period and is ready to burst into the world. No sooner than you can say “Make Mine Marvel’, Carol is the proud mother to a bouncing baby boy named Marcus. Danvers seems to be going through what we would call post-partem depression and doesn’t really want to see her new infant, so she retreats into the mansion. Under Dr. Blakes watchful eyes, Marcus ages rapidly. Within hours, he’s a child with a highly advanced intellect and the ability to speak who askes Tony Stark (Iron Man) for some state-of-the-art tools so that he can build something. For some reason, Tony (Who must have been drinking at the time) grants Marcus access to the requested items. As the mysterious man-child builds his macabre machine and continues to age, instances of broken time begin to happen around the world as people are yanked from present day and plopped down into the past. Soon Marcus is full grown and Carol decides that it’s time to confront her son. The rest of the story is truly bizarre. Who is this mysterious Marcus and who is his father? Why is time playing hopscotch? What is the purpose of Marcus’ machine? You’ll have to read this story to find out!
Note: Since there are several authors on this story, I will give you a little bit of history on each before critiquing the script.
Writer: James “Jim” Shooter (Legion of Super Heroes, Action Comics, Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars) is a comics legend. He started writing and drawing Legion stories at the age of thirteen and officially started working for DC when he was 14. After an illustrious career at DC comics, he moved on to Marvel, where he eventually became editor-in-chief, reigning over arguably some of Marvel’s most successful tittles and plots. His tight-fisted leadership often led him into conflict with other creators, but he did make the trains run on time. He was fired from Marvel in 1987, and has since worked or ran Valliant, Defiant, and Dark Horse, among others.
George Pérez: see below (he was the artist as well, so I don’t feel we need a double entry.)
Writer: Bob Layton (All-Star Comics, Iron Man, Hercules: Prince of Power) began his illustrious comics career as a dealer, selling books out of his apartment. He met Roger Stern and they put together a sales catalogue that that evolved into a fanzine called CPL. Stern and Layton teamed with Charlton to produce the in-house fanzine called Charlton Bullseye. At Charlton, he became an inking apprentice to Wally Wood. After a time, he starting inking books for the big two and eventually moved on to writing as well. He left Marvel in the late 80’s to help form Valliant with Jim Shooter, where he created X-O Manowar. After Valiant folded, he went back to Marvel and DC for a time before starting some of his own independent work with David Michelinie.
Writer: David Michelinie (Amazing Spider-man, House of Secrets, Swamp Thing) has been in the comic industry for years and is quite prolific. He started at DC comics in the early 70’s and eventually moved on to Marvel, where he co=plotted two incredible runs on The Invincible Iron Man with Bob Layton and wrote The Amazing Spider-man in a run rivaled only by Stan Lee in length. In the early 90’s, he bounced back and forth between Marvel, DC, and Valiant. After leaving mainstream work, he teamed with Bob Layton and Dick Giordano to form the now defunct Future Comics.
Now that we have the writer’s introductions out of the way, let’s take a look at this hot mess of a story they cooked up for a 200th issue anniversary. Each and every one of these writers in an incredible craftsman in their own right, so for the life of me I can’t figure out what they were thinking when they wrote this story or how it got past the editor (of course, that editor was Jim Shooter…so…). From the very beginning (and I won’t give away any spoilers) this book went off the rails. Carol shows up from nowhere a few issues earlier and suddenly tells the Avengers she’s pregnant but doesn’t know who the father is. This “child” she has is given tools and allowed to make some unknown device under the noses and with the okay of Iron Man and the rest of the team. The plot is nonsensical and disjointed, and some of the characters act completely off cannon and downright stupid. The end, which I will not reveal, is the most egregious bit of storytelling as it smacks of kidnapping, rape, and incest, and everyone in the book seems okay with it. Don’t just take my word for it, True Believers. To this day, none of the writers will take credit for this story.
Artist: George Pérez (Avengers, Teen Titans) is a celebrated artist known for his ability to draw hundreds of distinct characters on a page. He started his comics career in the early 70’s as an assistant to Rick Buckler. He rose to true prominence once he took over art chores on The Avengers (to which this particular book belongs). While still working on The Avengers, he went to DC to pencil both The New Teen Titans and The Justice League of America. Along with his Titan’s collaborator, Marv Wolfman, Pérez created what I consider the best comics story ever written, The Crisis on Infinite Earths. Sadly, he just recently announce his retirement from the industry. His work on The Avengers #200 does not disappoint and is the highlight of this whole debacle. As always, his lines are tight, and each character is rendered beautifully. The action (what there is of it) flows from each incredibly placed panel to the next. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen George do a bad piece of art.
Arrrrg. That’s all I can really say about this story. I wanted to like it. I tried to like it. I couldn’t like it. A 200th issue celebration should be outstanding. It should be a monumental yarn that highlights everything good about its subject. Instead, we got a pile of crap that even its writers won’t claim. All of these creators are amazing, but they certainly missed the bus on this tale. Should you read it? Unless you want to know what Carol Danvers was mad about in The Avengers Annual #10 (they do a recap in there – so reading this is completely unnecessary, but I was trying to give it some credibility), then No. Take a hard pass on this one.
My head hurts from all of this Arrrrg!, so I am off to take some aspirin. Happy Valentine’s Day and I will see you next time when we look at another 200th issue anniversary celebration! Can You Dig It!!!???!!!
Chris Swartzlander is the author of the Tripping Over Reality Sci-Fi series.