BHOC: AVENGERS #175

While we were at the Heroes World that evening after I’d spent the day doing menial tasks in my father’s office, I didn’t just pick up back issues but also a few new books that had arrived. Because Heroes World was being supplied by the then-nascent Direct Sales distribution network, they got their new books before any of the outlets in my area. So it was exciting to walk into the place and to find books like this issue of AVENGERS that wouldn’t reach my neighborhood for another week or more. So a certain portion of my haul that night was devoted to these.

This was the latest chapter in what would eventually become known as the Korvac Saga, a veritable epic involving all of the Avengers past and present. But it had run into a few snags along the way. Undertaken at the request of artist George Perez, who wanted to draw every single one of the Avengers, George couldn’t keep up with all of his assignments, and a few issues into the storyline he was forced to bow out. Similarly affected by a changing schedule was writer Jim Shooter, who was promoted to Editor in Chief during this time, and found himself unable to reliably write every issue of the series. Accordingly, he drafted in other hand to help out, such as recent DC émigré David Michelinie on this issue. David dialogued this story after new artist Dave Wenzel had drawn it based on Shooter’s plot.

This is a bit of a transitional issue, as events move from the preliminaries and set up the ultimate conflict to come. So it opens with the Avengers departing the Collector’s hidden ship, having solved the mystery of their missing members and been witness to the Collector being struck down by some unseen assailant. Shooter does a bit of bookkeeping here–the Two-Gun Kid, who’d been brought to the present by an earlier writer, decides that he’d be happier in his native era and elects to be sent back to the old west. But for most of the Avengers, they use the Collector’s equipment to haphazardly teleport themselves back to Manhattan. This leads to some of the sort of incidental fun that Shooter liked to include in these stories, where different characters materialize in mid-air, or in the path of oncoming traffic.

From there, the focus shifts to New Jersey, where Michael Korvac is in the process of hooking up with his girlfriend Carina after having killed her father, the Collector. There’s an extended sequence here which Michelinie chooses to tell entirely in narrative captions that details the origin of Korvac. It depicts how he had come to the present from the 30th Century (where he’d battled the Guardians of the Galaxy). Coming upon Galactus’ World-Ship, he was evolved by energies contained within it to something approaching Godhood. Michael isn’t cast as a bad guy per se, he wants to make the universe a better place–at least as he sees it. This was a theme that Shooter would return to on multiple occasions, and it’s interesting in that many have equated Korvac (as well as Shooter’s later creation the Beyonder) with Shooter himself in his new position as EIC. How autobiographical any of this is is something only Shooter would know.

Elsewhere, the massive assemblage of Avengers are attempting to puzzle out their next move. They know that there’s an Enemy out there, but they have no idea how to locate them. This leads into another extended sequence that’s about probing the characterization of the assorted heroes. Iron Man is harsh and clearly under pressure as Chairman. Quicksilver is acting like an impatient jerk, much to the consternation of Moondragon, who’ll teach him a lesson wanted or unwanted in an issue or so. The team stands down for the moment until such a point as one of their members with enhanced scanning capabilities of one kind or another–Iron Man, Ms Marvel, Moondragon and Captain Marvel–may be able to turn up a lead on the Enemy.

Although it never really developed into anything long-term, one of the relationships that Shooter had been playing with was between Wonder Man, the recently resurrected Avenger who felt out of place in the 1970s and who occasionally suffered from debilitating bouts of fear and self-doubt, and Ms Marvel, a decidedly modern woman who would up and belt bad guys rather than demurely pointing and zapping them from a distance. So there’s a sequence at this point where Wonder Man is giving newcomer Carol Danvers a tour of Avengers Mansion, and they enter the gym, where there’s a massive barbell center stage. It’s set magnetically to test Thor’s strength, and Ms Marvel can’t even budge it. In an attempt to impress her, Wonder Man hefts it up–only to be in sudden distress as he realizes that he’s not quite as strong as Thor is.

As the issue wraps up, Iron Man is upset to learn that their government liaison Henry Gyrich has confiscated their computer databases. Gyrich was introduced as a bit of a foil for the Avengers, well before he migrated over to the world of the X-Men. He was a by-the-book bureaucrat, but not intrinsically a bad person, but his efforts to bring the Avengers up to standards on security created a series of complications for the team. Seeking another avenue with which to locate the Enemy, Iron Man contacts the Guardians and requests Starhawk’s aid, knowing that the hero possesses extrasensory abilities. Unknown to Iron Man, Starhawk had located and battled Korvac some issues earlier, and defeated, has his ability to detect the Enemy stripped from him. So Michael is feeling confident at this turn of events as the issue ends. He doesn’t really want to have to destroy the Avengers if he doesn’t need to, he just thinks it’s likely that they’re going to get in the way of his plans to assume control of absolutely everything. And that’s where this issue is To Be Continued. There were yet two further issues to come in the Korvac Saga.

41 thoughts on “BHOC: AVENGERS #175

  1. I’ve always thought that the Korvac Saga isn’t so much an Avengers story as it is a Legion story that just happens to have the Avengers in it, because Shooter was over at Marvel.

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  2. I remember finding this storyline frustrating when I first read it. The Avengers never really understand what’s going on, and just blindly stumble through events, until finally Korvac pretty much defeats himself. It’s pretty clear where Shooter’s sympathies lie. Having the Avengers turn out to be the “bad guys” is a potentially interesting angle, but I don’t think it’s well-developed here. Shooter did the same general idea more successfully in an earlier story, where Iron Man resorts to threatening Jocasta in order to get the drop on Ultron. The other Avengers call this out as a scummy tactic, and see it as a sign that the team is going downhill under Shell-Head’s leadership. That worked for me; this didn’t.

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  3. #177 was the grand finale and I loved it. What sticks out in my mind some 44 years later is Moondragon’s thoughts in the final pages as she seemingly was the only one who realized what had just occurred…… Very emotional

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  4. I have never understood the notion that Shooter identified with Korvac. He is consistently portrayed as a murderous, paranoid megalomaniac with delusions of benevolence. He’s a superhero-comics analogue of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. The fact that the only character who was sympathetic to Korvac was Moondragon also supports my view of Shooter’s disdain. Shooter, with obvious contempt, depicted her as a haughty do-gooder know-it-all. She uses her powers to run roughshod over others’ free will and stands blithely by as Korvac slaughters her comrades-in-arms simply out of sympathy with his “ideals.” Captain America, who can consistently be relied upon to provide a morally-centered view, denounces Korvac as an “overblown, self-righteous, self-proclaimed deity who casually commits mass murder.” If you want Shooter’s view of the character, I think you have it right there.

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  5. “It depicts how he had come to the present from the 30th Century (where he’d battled the Guardians of the Galaxy).” Shooter wrote the Legion of Super-Heroes, set in the 30th Century, sometime before leaving DC for Marvel. So, he kind’a, sort’a “came from the 30th Century”. 😉 He “battled DC’s editorial “guardians”. 😉

    “Coming upon Galactus’ World-Ship….” Stan & Jack’s House of Ideas.

    “…He was evolved by energies contained within it to something approaching Godhood.” Stan’s surrogate, from reading Shooter’s online blog, as Associate Editor, then EiC.

    “Michael isn’t cast as a bad guy per se, he wants to make the universe a better place–at least as he sees it.” Shooter restructuring Marvel’s line, scrapping the position of writer/editor, having an editor for a group of books, who then report to the EiC.

    “This was a theme that Shooter would return to on multiple occasions, and it’s interesting in that many have equated Korvac (as well as Shooter’s later creation the Beyonder) with Shooter himself in his new position as EIC.” On Shooter’s blog, he mentions his preference of having a single authority at the head of an organization, whose vision is then carried out by subordinates. But you gotta watch that corrupting risk of absolute power. You can also get so high up that you lose sight of important details, or get detached.

    “How autobiographical any of this is, is something only Shooter would know.” Similarities to his career path are probably coincidental. 😉 Or, writers write what they know, and improvise the rest. 😉

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      1. Maybe I should explain that question. It’s not a rhetorical one intended to put a trolling smartass in his place.

        I have a theory about Shooter bashers among fans. They’re either boomers with an outsize regard for the Mighty Maverick Writer period at Marvel in the ’70s, or Gen-Xers (e. g. Sean Howe, Jeet Heer, the late Tom Spurgeon) who idolize the Boomer fan-press writers and editors and make a habit of parroting them. Along the way they’ll do things like Tim here, such as treat a pretty much universal way of structuring a business operation as if there’s something deviant or sinister about it. The absurdities don’t matter, as the bashing is really just a form of tribal signaling. I was looking for Tim to confirm some things.

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      2. Nah, not bashing Jim. Maybe you’re reading too much into my answer. He (Shooter) likely didn’t see himself as a bad guy (he seems to know no one’s perfect), despite how other staffers reacted to his decisions, or their reasons for those reactions (again, no one being perfect, they may have taken Shooter’s attempts to improve the system, many proved to be successful, as personal attacks), and he wrote Korvac similarly in that way (not seeing himself as a villain). I think Shooter was exploring the “pro’s & cons” of that level of control. Pro’s are relative to which side of that control you’re on,

        Just me comparing Shooter’s realigning Marvel’s editorial structure to Korvac’s wanting “to make the universe a better place–at least as he sees it”, isn’t “bashing”. I think some of Shooter’s editorial changes were beneficial. I never worked there, but they seemed to have the desired effects Shooter’s publicly stated- meeting deadlines being one of them. I’m too lazy right now to check & see if DC already had that system in place or if they subsequently followed Shooter’s example. Well, Julie Schwartz had his titles, Weissinger had his, etc., & they answered to a central figure by the mid-70’s, so maybe DC’s editorial structure influenced Shooter’s model. Though DC did have a few (or less- Roy Thomas, Mike W. Barr, are all that come to mind now) writer/editors after Marvel had eliminated that position. So no, Shooter’s editorial changes aren’t inherently sinister or deviant.

        I wasn’t trying to be insulting to Shooter. And I’d apologize to him, if he ever reads these comments and takes any offense. I do detect some dismissive or condescending intent in your comments. But this isn’t Twitter. 😉 This feels like a more “sacred” space, and out of respect for Tom, I won’t engage in insulting you. I really was trying to be facetious, but my word choice seems to have come off more as “feces-ious”. 😉

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      3. DC’s writer/editors of the 1980s included Roy, Marv, Gerry, Cary Bates, Mike Barr…and I think I’m missing one or two more. I would have thought Len did it too, but I can’t think of anything Len wrote at DC that he edited himself. Even when he edited ADVENTURE COMICS and wrote the first Plastic Man story of that run, it was edited by Paul Levitz.

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  6. Kurt–

    I think Tim insulted himself with his response to my original comment. I took reasoned exception to an interpretation of this story that 1) I don’t agree with, and 2) I find obnoxiously out of bounds. Equating Jim Shooter or, frankly, anyone in the comics business with a megalomaniacal mass-murderer is beyond the pale of appropriateness. I know Tom is echoing Sean Howe with this business about Shooter identifying with Korvac, but that was the low point of Howe’s book, and it was very thoughtless of him. It needed rebuttal, and pointing out that the story really doesn’t support that reading seemed the most polite way to do it. And what do I immediately get in response? Tim’s assholery, which just repeats what I most objected to, only with an extra-helping of snottiness. Honestly, how would you like it if someone treated one of your stories as an allegory for your life with that tone, all in the service of equating you with the most evil villain you’ve created?

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    1. I’d probably be amused — the nature of being a published creator involves putting one’s work out for commentary, whether you agree with it or not. That said, I don’t think either Tom or Tim was seriously equating Jim and Korvac — Tom merely notes that others have done so, and Tim was looking for parallels for fun rather than as a serious critique.

      I tend to think that if there was anything autobiographical to Korvac (and I doubt there is), it would be unconscious, and Jim would be that last guy to see it.

      But I wasn’t asking about Tim’s answer. You neatly divided “Shooter bashers” into two dismissive categories and then sneered at them for being tribal. Regardless of anything Tim said, I think both categories are insulting to those they purport to describe.

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    2. I wasn’t implying Shooter is evil or anything near a mass murder.

      “But you gotta watch that corrupting risk of absolute power. You can also get so high up that you lose sight of important details, or get detached.”

      This wasn’t to say Shooter behaved this way. It is a counter argument to what I read on Shooter’s blog about having one person having total control, creative/otherwise, final say on content or policy.

      “’How autobiographical any of this is, is something only Shooter would know”.’ Similarities to his career path are probably coincidental. 😉 Or, writers write what they know, and improvise the rest. 😉”

      Again, not an indictment of Shooter as evil. The career path comment referred to the comparisons I made about Shooter & Korvac being “from the 30th Century”, Galactus’s world-ship to Marvel, as influenced by Lee & Kirby. And given “god-like” abilities with becoming the big cheese, EIC, w/ final say on content, character fates, creative & editorial assignments, etc.

      My comments weren’t an attempted character assassination of Jim Shooter.

      Good night, all.

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  7. Thank you, Kurt, sincerely. I know I can be a pain in the ass, even be an a-hole at times, w/o trying, which I wasn’t in this instance. It’s a defect of mine.

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    1. I think it was pretty clearly you were just building a mock-parallel building off of Tom’s description of Korvac, in the same paragraph that he mentioned people saw parallels, for amusement and conversational value, not as a serious critical dissection.

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      1. “You neatly divided ‘Shooter bashers’ into two dismissive categories and then sneered at them for being tribal.”

        I’m not astute or clear thinking enough to have thought of this, or to articulate it. I wish I was. 😉 (Hey, when’s that new Busiek book out? I wanna add it to my LCS subscription list.) 😉

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  8. Kurt–

    I’m trying to get a handle on your view of appropriate rhetoric. Many years ago, when I was writing for The Comics Journal, I gave a book by Gilbert Hernandez a negative review. A couple of years after that, Hernandez gave an interview in which he called me a pedophile who didn’t like the book because it didn’t include enough crotch shots of young girls. Do you think what Hernandez said was in bounds?

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      1. OK, I’ve got a fix on you now. You and I have had back-and-forths over the years in several forums. And despite your superficially polite and reasonable veneer, you’ve never once given an inch as far as acknowledging I might have a legitimate point. The truth is you’re not going to criticize any discourse in the comics community, no matter how objectively disgusting, unless it challenges the community in some way. Going forward, I’ll be staying out of your exchanges with people, and I’ll thank you to stay out of mine.

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      2. That’s an interesting way to get a “fix” on someone. But at least it fits your earlier approach in this conversation.

        I don’t remember our previous conversations, but if I didn’t acknowledge you had a legitimate point it might be cause I didn’t think you did, or because the conversation wasn’t such that it needed such assurances of validation. In any case, no guarantees I’ll stay out of further ones, since I won’t remember “Ah, RSMartin — that’s that guy who wanted me to judge an exchange I haven’t seen!”

        But so it goes. Have a good evening, or night, or whatever the case may be.

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  9. “OK, I’ve got a fix on you now. You and I have had back-and-forths over the years in several forums. And despite your superficially polite and reasonable veneer, you’ve never once given an inch as far as acknowledging I might have a legitimate point. The truth is you’re not going to criticize any discourse in the comics community, no matter how objectively disgusting, unless it challenges the community in some way. Going forward, I’ll be staying out of your exchanges with people, and I’ll thank you to stay out of mine.”

    Kurt’s criticized my comments in the past, specifically on Twitter. Cut me down to size, and I didn’t think I quite deserved it. And he’s refuted my points about his work and others’ in the past. On here, he’s previously counted my remarks, but backed up his reasons pretty soundly.

    I’ve already replied earlier in this section that I wasn’t equating anything Shooter’s done to Korvac’s fictional atrocities. And this isn’t just an exchange or conversation between us. This is Tom’s forum, open to people who sign on, and ultimately up to Tom what flies or what’s unacceptable. I think I’ve come close to the edges of Tom’s patience before. But he’s yet to call me out on my comments on this topic.

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    1. Kurt had two options with that query. The first was to say that even though he didn’t know enough to comment on that specific situation, he did think insulting someone by calling them a pedophile was out of bounds. The second was to play dodgeball. He chose to play dodgeball. The hell with him.

      My overarching point in my back-and-forth with you is that equating a mass murderer with someone who is by all accounts a perfectly law-abiding individual is wrong. My view is that this sort of rhetoric reflects some of the worst aspects of fan-community discourse. There’s nothing funny about it. The only reason it should ever be repeated is to denounce it.

      The other comments reflect my considerable annoyance at getting trolled the moment I say something I know some people don’t want said, My rule with writing is that it’s to say things that need to be said that aren’t being said elsewhere. It often puts people on the defensive, so I get trolled a lot. It does seem I overreacted to you somewhat, and I apologize.

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  10. I wasn’t expecting an apology. Thank you. And I hadn’t considered your initial comment about equating Shooter’s actions w/ Korvac’s. I was only thinking of Tom’s post. So no trolling intended.

    As far as Kurt dodging whether you deserve to be called a pedophile, he said he hadn’t read Hernandez’s comments in that interview you mentioned. I don’t think it’s unwise to read something before commenting on it. That doesn’t mean Kurt agrees with the accusation that you’re a pedophile.

    If that’s what Hernandez said, it seems extreme based on the reason you said he accused you- how could he even know what you wanted or didn’t want to see whatever images he claims you wanted to see? And if he was “joking”, yeah, that wouldn’t be funny. That’s a serious charge to make about anybody, & being pissed about a review is obviously no reason to accuse someone of evil. Maybe you have a possible legal suit.

    Without reading the quote by Hernandez, that leaves your interpretation, Which could very well be valid. But, it’d be assumption, & could lead to more miscommunication.

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    1. I would really like to end this whole conversation, but I’ll address this before bowing out.

      I can accept Kurt not commenting on that specific incident, but I was asking him to comment on the rhetoric. He could at least muster the principle to say rhetoric of that sort is wrong. He couldn’t even manage that. He also seems to want to give Hernandez the benefit of the doubt that the rhetoric was justified rather than give me the benefit of the doubt that I’m not a pedophile. As I said before, the hell with him.

      By the way, if you’re curious about that the specifics of what happened with me and Hernandez, here’s a link to the review.

      http://rsmwriter.blogspot.com/2011/03/comics-review-speak-of-devil-gilbert.html

      And here’s a link to the interview.

      https://web.archive.org/web/20121216184259/https://www.tcj.com/the-gilbert-and-jaime-hernandez-interview/

      Gary Groth replaced the “pedophile” with “[censored]” after I complained with reference to Michigan’s libel laws. I’d ended my business relationship with TCJ and Fantagraphics a year or so earlier after Gary tried (and failed) to cheat me out of several hundred dollars I was owed for review work. He cut the check for most of what I was owed after finding out that Michigan serves small-claims lawsuits via certified mail. He had signed it in such a fury that the pen ripped through the check paper.

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      1. I’d really like to end this conversation as well. And so I shall. This matter is closed, all further posts concerning it will be deleted. And RSMartin, it’s only because my attention was elsewhere that the “purity test” you attempted to give to Kurt was permitted to stand. That won’t happen a second time. You can say what you want here so long as you treat others with dignity and respect, and that move edged over the line in my opinion. But for now, all is good, so let’s put this to bed.

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  11. Fascinating as all the above was, can I just ask: what did people think of Dave Wenzel’s pencils on this issue? Yes, I know they are largely subsumed beneath Pablo Marcos’ inks, but whenever I read about the Korvac Saga -and I have read Sean Howe’s book – I always think first of how in MY wholly subjective opinion it was spoilt (if that is not too strong a term) by Wenzel’s pencils.
    Even after forty four years I find myself wondering how a non-name artist such as Wenzel – I recall that he was largely associated with the British black and white Marvel reprints – got a high-profile gig like this… other than, perhaps, no-one else was available.
    Anybody got any ideas?

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    1. To be fair I think George Perez might have reasonably been considered a “no name” as well when he started on Avengers in 141. George’s first Avengers story doesn’t look better than the artist he replaced either. Probably due to the Vince Colletta inks… which generally looked pretty good on George Tuska, but did Perez no favors. When paired with a more suitable inker we Avengers readers got spoiled pretty quickly by George Perez… Wenzel sure seemed like a step down in comparison, but Avengers was a pretty inconsistent book art-wise throughout the 70’s and 80’s with the exception of a few notable highlights…..until Buscema and Palmer came on board for a lengthy run.

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      1. In fairness to Dave Wenzel’s art I shouldn’t have written “sure seemed like a step down.” It’s overly harsh and goes against my larger point that a new artist sometimes takes a while to find the groove on a specific title. I bought the book off the stands and read it numerous times so the story and the art must have had an appeal.

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    2. I was thinking of posting some thoughts on this yesterday, but didn’t get around to it. And this morning I happened to be chatting with Roger Stern, who edited that run, so I figured I’d ask him.

      He said Dave was Jim’s choice, at that point, and he didn’t remember all the details, but we figured out a variety of contributors factors.

      The first was that the book was enormously late. AVENGERS had been a deadline nightmare at least since Steve Englehart had been writing it, and everything they did to get it back on schedule only seemed to work temporarily. George was overcommitted, and Jim had just become editor in chief, which was a sudden and large drain on his time.

      So when George left the book, it was late. And Jim was late with plots. Late to the point that even with the very fast Sal Buscema drawing the first non-George issue, which you’d think would catch the book up on the schedule some, the next issue was also by Sal, but with seven inkers. That many people being called in to get a 17-page comic done is a sign that it was hugely, hugely late, which means that two things were almost certainly both true:

      1. Jim had been very late with the plot.

      2. Sal had other deadlines to meet.

      So Jim, knowing the EIC thing was not going to go away, needed a penciler who could work around that.

      Dave was around — he’d done a few jobs here and there, and he brought three clear strengths to the job from an editorial point of view:

      1. His storytelling may not have been terribly dramatic, but it was clear, something Jim always valued.

      2. He was available.

      3. He had no other books to draw, so if a plot came in late he wouldn’t have other deadlines to meet; he could jump right on the story. It may have been a crunch deadline, but it was work and it was money.

      So Dave (and Pablo Marcos) could be counted on to draw clearly-told pages, and not have any schedule conflicts, making up for the late plots. And even so, the last issue of the story needed two inkers to get it out on time.

      And as a mark of just how late the book was, after the end of that story there were three issues in a row of inventory jobs before they got the new regular team going; that’s what it took to dig the book out of its schedule hole.

      Dave may not have been an ideal artist for AVENGERS aesthetically (though he did wonderful work elsewhere, including the best-selling and still-in-print HOBBIT adaptation, and THE WIZARD’S TALE, which he and I did), but he fit the book’s needs in other ways.

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      1. Also: AVENGERS wasn’t yet really thought of as the high-profile gig it is today — it took the Direct Market to really make that happen. It was to my mind the core book of the Marvel line, since so much of the Marvel Universe converged in the book, but saleswise it was seen as a B-level book, and not one of the “star” titles of the day, like AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, FANTASTIC FOUR, HULK and CONAN.

        Once the market was driven by fans rather than casual newsstand readers, AVENGERS (and X-MEN, and a few others) gained in importance. But in the 70s it was a good book, but not considered a “top book.”

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  12. I liked the opening splash page. Had a bit of a Mike Zeck “Secret Wars” feel (long before “Secret Wars”), with all the characters, & their poses. I especially liked Mar-Vell’s crouched, “crash position”. Even at that angle, he looked cool, included w/ all the others.

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  13. I suppose I’d have qualified as a Shooter basher during his EIC period: However much he may have improved operations, I hated most of the creative decisions he influenced or proclaimed. Forty years later, I’m not a fan but it’s now part of his overall history so I’m less inclined to bash. He has, after all, done a shit-ton of good work in the field, including this run on Avengers.

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  14. As I understand it, Henry Peter Gyrich was originally meant to be a sort of Jim Shooter clone. He was certainly drawn very tall in early appearances but shrank over the years when drawn by successive artist who weren’t told he was supposed to be tall. Kinda the opposite of what happened with the Thing. He was always shorter than Reed Richards, but modern artists kept drawing him bigger and bigger.

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    1. I think, since Gyrich was co-created by Jim himself, that it may be unlikely he’d cast himself as a petty tyrant who the Avengers tend to make look bad. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if John thought it made a good joke visually, and Jim shrugged and went along with it.

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  15. It’s obvious Jim Shooter has left some kind of lasting legacy on Marvel due to all of the myths/legends/conspiracy theories that have sprung up about him in the last 30-40 years. Personally, it was Secret Wars that got me into Marvel when I was 10, so I thank him for that. I remember the Bullpen Bulletins making him out to be a real larger than life figure, “Big” Jim Shooter etc, which I found fascinating.

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  16. I’ve always regarded Shooter as an equal mix of brilliance (or the comicbook equivalent of street-smarts, at least) and blowhard. Fascinating to see the reactions he still provokes after decades.

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