BHOC: INVADERS #18

I bought a lot of comics during 1978 from 3-Bags, those ubiquitous plastic bags hung on pegs or dropped onto shelves in department stores, toy stores and grocery stores during the 1970s and beyond. Every once in a while, a new batch of 3-Bags would show up (this would happen on a monthly basis, I take it, but I never went to any of the outlets that carried them regularly enough to know that for sure.) While the DC 3-Bags of this year were of limited interest to me as they were repackaging comics that I’d either bought new or passed on, the Marvel bags were a rich source of recent back issues, one that I’d be able to look forward to for at least a few more months, before they eventually caught up to the point where I came in as a reader.

This particular issue of INVADERS sported a very attractive Gil Kane cover touting the return of the Mighty Destroyer, a character created during the actual wartime by a young Stan Lee. In those 1940s stories, he wasn’t really much more than just another Captain America knock-off. But there was something appealing about his purple face mask and skull insignia–something that even his striped leggings couldn’t detract from. But now, writer/editor Roy Thomas had decided to bring him back to prominence again–though he’d be making a bunch of changes in the character along the way (not all of which were apparent in this initial adventure.)

I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned it before, but in recent years especially I’ve grown a bit uneasy about the depictions of Adolf Hitler in the comics of the postwar era. So often, like in this issue of INVADERS, the man is shown not as an actual human being–one responsible for the worst horrors of the 20th Century–but rather an almost cartoonish figure, a joke, a punch line. Maybe that’s the only way that the creators of this era felt that they could approach him, especially after so many years of propaganda coloring people’s perception of him (the wartime Looney Tunes cartoons showcasing patriotic ‘Toons socking it to Hitler would still occasionally show up on weekday afternoons, though by this point they were beginning to get pulled out of the rotation.) Somehow, this all seems to me to undercut just how the actual flesh-and-blood Hitler was able to galvanize his nation into perpetrating horrific acts. It minimizes him in a way that leaves me uneasy–makes him more a figure of fun rather than a cautionary tale that could happen again if we take our eyes off the ball. Anyway, this is just one of my personal issues.

Anyway, the Invaders had gone in search of the captured American G.I. cartoonist Biljo White–named after the fan of the same name–who inadvertently possessed some knowledge of the Super-Soldier Formula that had created Captain America. But the Invaders were ambushed by Master Man and the brand-new Warrior Woman, and defeated–and Captain America was hurled from the top of the castle. Between his own acrobatic prowess and a handy catch from a newcomer, the Mighty Destroyer, Cap survives the fall–and when the Nazi’s come down to recover his body and shield, the two heroes set upon them.

The Destroyer routinely operates behind enemy lines, and so he’s able to help squirrel Cap away in hidden alcoves within the castle, where the two men can catch their breath and talk. It’s here that Roy begins making his changes to the Destroyer’s backstory–rather than being an American war correspondent named Keen Marlowe, the Destroyer is in actuality English–and he removes his awesome face mask to see if Cap will recognize him. His identity isn’t revealed in this issue quite yet, but (spoilers!) he’s really Brian Falsworth, the son of Union Jack, the costumed hero of World War I who had been a featured player in the series.

And speaking of Union Jack, the handicapped and elderly Lord Falsworth is even at that moment parachuting into Berlin along with his daughter Spitfire and their friend, the diminutive Dyna-Mite. It seems like a hazardous thing to do, especially for a man who cannot walk, but Falsworth is willing to take the risk in order to try to help Dyna-Mite recover his lost memories of himself, a task which can only be accomplished in Berlin. Back at the castle, Hitler decides that he’s going to carry the Invaders back to Berlin with him , so he can parade them through the streets in triumph. And having gotten all there is to have out of Private Biljo White, Warrior Woman orders the American prisoner executed.

But before that can happen, Captain America and the Destroyer burst in, clobbering the Nazi soldiers who were escorting Private Biljo to the execution block. Upon discovering the fate of his friends, Captain America vows to follow them to Berlin, and either free them or avenge them. And that’s where the issue wraps up this time out. I haven’t said anything about regular artist Frank Robbins this time out, but he’s in strong evidence here. His super hero figures continue to be posed awkwardly and to often seem as though they’re floating in midair, typically with toes pointed almost ballet-style. But his Milton Caniff-derived style was actually a pretty good match for the era and the subject matter, and inker Frank Springer continued to sand down his roughest points.

4 thoughts on “BHOC: INVADERS #18

  1. Gil kane often showed Cap with white eyes. “Safety First!” Keeps the dust out! Always made me imagine Bruce Wayne was wearing the suit of the star-spangled sentinel…

    The Destroyer’s skull & stripes reminded me of Lee Falk’s Phantom. Even before I had this issue, I thibk I recognized him from old articles. I remember him in thus story as confident. But later on, with Brian as Union Jack, he seemed more insecure, complaining he was the weakest Invader. Maybe that was to set up the electrical powers Roy went on to give him,

    I never got the next issue, so it was thanks to you, Tom, that I now know Brian was the Destroyer. Is it a coincidence that 2 of Marvel’s premier costumed English heroes are both named Brian?

    Robbins was perfect for this series. He worked in the Golden Age. It seemed authentic to have him on this book. I prefer his Cap over Joe Simon’s. His style is something like Alex Toth meets Jim Aparo. Taught, tense, kinetic, if abstract.

    And what a star turn by Joan Crawford as Warrior Woman. 😆
    This is some really good stuff, by Frank’s standards. I’ve seen weirder from him. I love the shot of the Destroyer scaling the wall with a rope. His left leg exaggerated to give it the forced perspective in the foreground.

    Nice issue to spotlight.

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  2. I know everything you are both saying about Springer is absolutely true, but teenaged Steve loved his work. Heck, middle aged Steve still gets the same thrill seeing his art. To me he always seemed stylized yet still realistic with the action almost feeling like it was escaping the page!

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  3. Steve. I agree.

    Tom, as far as the cartoon caractiture of Hitler, I lean towards your POV. But I read or heard Mel Brooks talk about empowering Hitler through comedy. Make him look ridiculous, and maybe fewer would try to emulate him.

    That’s tricky to do without minimizing the evil. The scale of genocide. The hate.

    I’d have to read a mental professional or a social scientist’s opinion on which approach would best deter others. Though we’re likely to always have extreme hate with us. And crazies who act on it. How is it best contained? Maybe education.

    I’m sure you know in Germany, they take their stained history very seriously. Hitler & what he did are no joke. They teach students the awful truth.

    Maybe Brooks’ method works for him. But maybe humor can’t or shouldn’t overwhelm the true picture.

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