BHOC: INVADERS #21

Visiting my local 7-11, I came across this issue of INVADERS on the spinner rack, and its focus on the Human Torch was enough to get me to buy it. And this wasn’t just any Torch, this was the Torch and Toro from World War II, both of whom I already knew from Jules Feiffer’s GREAT COMIC BOOK HEROES and Jim Steranko’s HISTORY OF COMICS–the two books that had spurred me to begin sampling the Marvel product once again. 

It was a weird place to come in, to be honest. All during this period, the Marvel titles were plagued by production problems, creators not being able to get their work completed in time. And the way Marvel was coping with that was by running unannounced reprint stories in the books to fill the pages. (The covers, having needed to be sent to press earlier, gave no indication that an unannounced reprint was lurking within. ) In this instance, it was the previous issue that was the problem, and writer/editor Roy Thomas took the opportunity to reprint the very first Sub-Mariner story there. So this time out, he once again only had half an issue’s worth of story and art to work with, so he again dipped into the golden age reprint well for the back half of the book. But that meant that the lead was only 9 pages long.

The artwork on INVADERS was handled by Frank Robbins, a long-time newspaper strip veteran who had also drawn the one issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA that had so traumatized me a few years earlier–not that I made the connection at this point. Robbins’ style was very much influenced by the great Milton Caniff of Terry and the Pirates, and so super heroes weren’t really a comfortable fit for him–he never quite got the hang of how to pull off the necessary dramatic exaggeration of the figure. His super heroes tended to look awkward. However, if there’s one thing that Frank Robbins could draw, it was World War II, and so he was a good fit for INVADERS.

I haven’t said too much about the story yet because there really wasn’t all that much story to comment on. But I do want to talk about one point. Again, this didn’t bother me at the time, but I find that it does now: in this particular story (and in many of the WWII-set comic books produced over the past few decades) Adolf Hitler is portrayed as both a raving super-villain and an impotent clown. And I somehow feel like this treatment of Hitler and his Nazi ideals as an extension takes away from the seriousness of what they did, lessens it somehow. The real Adolf Hitler wasn’t a stock super-villain and he wasn’t a cartoon, but he was a thoroughly reprehensible human being with heinous ideas and opinions who was able to get a whole bunch of other human beings to go along with him. I feel like it’s irresponsible to the memory of those millions who lost their lives at Hitler’s hands for modern day authors to portray him as a cartoon.

Anyway, the story opens with the Invaders trapped in the heart of Berlin. A new Union Jack has come to their aid-and in an extended flashback right at the beginning of this issue, we learn that this is Brian Falsworth, the son of the crippled hero of World War One, who had previously been operating behind enemy lines as the Mighty Destroyer. We learn all of this from Dyna-Mite, a doll-sized super hero who is hiding aboard Adolf Hitler’s plane, and who prevents him from escaping with Captain America’s indestructible shield.

The rest of the Invaders are busy battling not only the Nazi army but Master Man and Warrior Woman, two super-powered Nazi villains. In the previous issue, Toro had been badly wounded–that’s what the Torch was yelling about on the cover–and by the end of the issue, the team is able to commander Hitler’s plane and make their escape back across the English channel. But Toro lies between life and death and the Human Torch is pissed. And that’s where we To be Continued this time out.

The back-up story is a reprint of a very early Sub-Mariner adventure from MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS #10, in which, having just mixed it up with the Human Torch, Namor finds himself the target of adventurer and big game hunter Luther Robinson and his girlfriend Lynne. It’s a simple tale, very much of its time, and the reproduction is iffy at best. But as this was the Sub-Mariner that I had also previously read about in Feiffer’s book (where the story from #7 was reprinted) it all made sense to me. This wasn’t a slam dunk like those FANTASTIC FOUR comics had been, but I was interested in the INVADERS and so I would continue to seek out more.

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