Blast From the Past!: Strange Tales #180

Strange Tales #180

June, 1975, saw the release of Strange Tales #180, a pretty Warlock-centric book that also happened to feature the first appearance of the most dangerous woman in the universe: Gamora. Here’s the synopsis:

“While battling a couple of the Black Knights the Soul Gem almost takes control again and Warlock decides, that he must destroy it, however as he takes it off Warlock collapses and realizes, that he can no longer exist without the Gem as it has been sucking out Warlock’s Soul in the last three Years thus becoming his life force. The Matriarch wants to make a Slave out of Warlock now instead of killing him. After trying to remove the Gem Warlock is invited by the Matriarch to the Sacred Palace, an obvious trap, but since she claims, that she knew that the gem would become a danger even to Warlock himself, Warlock decides to accept the invitation and ditches Pip. The Matriarch reveals to Warlock, that the Magus is his future self and not a conjuring of the Soul Gem as he believes, at first he refuses to believe. Warlock falls through a trap door and lands in front of Kray-Tor for trial. Kray-Tor’s statement makes it quite obvious that Warlock’s trial is a sham, Warlock argues that he cannot be tried by this Court because it has its power from the Magus – thus from a part of Warlock himself gone mad, so he insists, that he be tried by the Magus himself – the motion is denied. The Prosecutor calls for a witness – a rebel and infidel, to Warlock’s satisfaction the witness Yon-Lok doesn’t blame him to be guilty of High Church Crimes but Kray-Tor and his Court, for this he gets killed and the Jury is ordered to ignore that statement, all other witnesses point to Warlock as the perpetrator of a dozen false crimes. As Warlock strongly objects he gets gagged and is sentenced to a Church-House of Correction, Warlock however resists and Kray-Tor reverses his ruling and sentences Warlock to death. Gamora finds Pip and tells him, that she wants to find out if Warlock can indeed defeat the Magus, if so she joins him and if not she will kill him. Warlock uses the Soul Gem to kill Kray-Tor saying, that he now knows, that the gem was sent to him by some higher power beyond his comprehension to destroy evil such as Kray-Tor, afterward Warlock knows Kray-Tor’s thoughts and realizes, that he truly believed in what he was doing, truly believed that Warlock was threatening his beliefs and realizes, that by stealing Kray-Tor’s Soul he truly became the villain. “

Looks like this book helped set up what would later turn into Marvel’s massive Infinity Gauntlet event. I can’t help but laugh at the monster on the cover, though. It just looks really stupid. I’m definitely going to see if I can get my hands on this book somehow. Looks like a blast.

Blast from the Past!: Fantastic Four #66

Fantastic Four #66

Fantastic Four #66, written by Stan Lee and pencilled by Jack Kirby, was released in September, 1967 and featured the first appearance of Adam Warlock. At the time, he was an Enclave creation known as Him. Here’s Marvel’s synopsis of the issue:

“Learning that Alicia has gone missing, the Fantastic Four begin trying to learn what happened to her. While Alicia has been brought to the Beehive, a secret science laboratory where the scientists (dubbed the Enclave) have created an artificial being known only as “Him”, which they cannot even look at due to it’s blinding radiance. They ask for Alicia’s aid, as her delicate hand for detail and her blindness would allow her to describe to them what their creation looks like. While back in New York, Reed has created a device that recreates the scene in Alicia’s apartment just before her disappearance. Back at the Beehive, Alicia is prepared to enter the room where Him is kept, and as she confronts Him back in New York Reed has found a way for them to find Alicia: With a picture of the bracelet that her kidnapper was wearing, Reed believes that he can duplicate it.”

And here are a few excerpts I found:

FF #66 Excerpt FF #66 Excerpt 2

Glad to see Adam Warlock hasn’t changed too much over the years. He’s always had a sort of Dr. Manhattan-esque objectivist thing going on and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t always emerge from a cocoon.

Blast from the Past!: Marvel Preview #7

Marvel Preview #7

In the summer of 1976, Marvel released Marvel Preview #7, featuring a haunting depiction of Satana on the cover. This particular issue included five stories including: “Why a Devil’s Daughter…?”, “Damnation Waltz” (the Satana story), “From the Devil, A Daughter”, and “Just Over a Year Ago Today,”  but among all the devils and daughters and ellipses, there was a continuation of a story that began just 3 issues prior in Marvel Preview #4 (Star-Lord’s debut): “The Sword in the Star! Stave 2: Witchworld,” where fans got their first glimpse of Rocket Raccoon (then known as Rocky). Marvel’s official synopsis for this story is as follows:

“Continuation and the last chapter (incomplete) of The Star in the Sword! saga. Here Prince Wayfinder comes to the mysterious planet known as Witch-World, a strange planet that appears as a big forest. Here he meets Rocket Raccoon, who allied with Wayfinder when a monstrous tree, the Plagueosaur, appears. After the Plageosaur’s defeat and death, a mystical being called Kirke appears. “

So, before he met Groot, Rocket aided in the destruction of a different monstrous tree character. That’s interesting. You know, I’d really like to see if I can get my hands on this “The Sword in the Star!” series. As far as I know, Rocket Raccoon is the biggest thing to come from it, but it could be fun.

Blast from the Past!: Iron Man #55

Iron Man #55

In February 1973, Marvel published Iron Man #55, an issue that not only features the first appearance of Drax the Destroyer (who can be seen on the cover), but it also contained the first appearances of Mentor and Thanos, the Mad Titan, among others. Marvel’s official synopsis is as follows:

“Drax telepathically warns Iron Man about the Blood Brothers, but the two villains are already battling him. The duo render him unconscious and transport him to Thanos’ desert base. Thanos confronts Drax and reveals that he has been monitoring him and simply chose not to interfere. On Titan, Mentor prepares to aid Drax. As Iron Man is led into Thanos’ base he fights back against the Blood Brothers and evades them. While he is trying to free Drax, Thanos enters and steps on his hand, damaging his right gauntlet. The Blood Brothers recapture Iron Man, but Mentor and ISAAC send a blast of energy from Titan and through Iron Man’s unibeam, destroying Drax’s manacles. Drax and Iron Man quickly best the Blood Brothers. Thanos prepares to destroy his base but Drax obliterates the self-destruct switch. Iron Man punches Thanos’ head, only to shatter it apart, revealing Thanos has gone, leaving a robot duplicate in his place. Suspecting a booby trap, Drax advises Iron Man to exit quickly. The base is destroyed just as they depart. Drax is certain that Thanos still lives and that he will face him again. He thanks Iron Man for aiding the people of Titan. “

And here are some excerpts from this action-packed book:

Iron-Man-055-16 Thanos-3

Thanos looks, more or less, the way he always looks, but get a load of Drax and that big purple cape. I certainly can’t imagine the modern day Drax wearing that thing.

Blast from the Past!: Marvel Preview #4

Marvel_Preview_Vol_1_4

On January 10th, 1976, the world got its first glimpse at Star-Lord with the release of Marvel Preview #4. This issue featured two stories: “Starlord First House: Earth!” and “The Sword in the Star!: Stave 1: Alas, the Seeds of Man!” (whew, what a mouthful). Of course, the former was the story that featured Star-Lord. It was written by Steve Englehart, and illustrated by Steve Gan and Bob McLeod. Unfortunately, an official synopsis is not available from Marvel, nor is the comic available to download (shucks), but the Star-Lord’s origin is pretty much the same as it was in the issue of Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1 which was published not too long ago.

How cool is that costume, though? Not terribly different from the uniform he wears for most of his career, though I like the pulpiness of this one, with the ray gun tucked into his belt holster.

Blast From the Past!: Tales to Astonish #13

talestoastonish13

Tales to Astonish #13 (November, 1960) marked Groot’s official debut into the Marvel Universe. The issue included other stories titled ‘I Found the Abominable Snowman!’, ‘My Friend is Not Quite Human!’, and ‘I Found the Hidden World!’, but the highlight was ‘I Challenged Groot! the Monster from Planet X.’ Marvel’s official synopsis is as follows:

“In the Autumn of 1960, scientist Leslie Evans and wife Alice witnessed a blinding object falling from the sky. When Evans went to investigate the next day, he not only found the object, but discovered it was alive. Evans looked on as the alien creature, Groot, grew larger by the minute as he absorbed wooden objects into his own body. There in the woods, Groot announced his presence to the nearby community. Claiming to be the Monarch of Planet X, Groot announced that he had come to Earth to take a small Terran town back to his homeworld for its scientists to study. While the humans resisted, no gunfire, or even conventional fire could penetrate Groot’s hide. Seeing the futility of trying to fight Groot directly, Evans abandoned the townspeople and raced back to his laboratory, for which he was labeled a coward.

Over the next three days, Groot used his ability to control trees and plants to turn the forest into a make-shift army. His announced intention was to use Earth’s native vegetation to create a net of roots to allow him to lift the town into space whole. When Groot entered the town, Evans snuck up behind him and unleashed the fruits of his frantic work: a specially bred colony of termites. The insects voraciously ate through Groot’s hide, and into his core. Groot collapsed in a a state of shock, and was believed dead by the townsfolk.”

I don’t know what was going through Stan Lee’s mind at the time. I’m sure no one expected Groot to amount to much after that first outing, considering his really lame weakness, but I think we can all be thankful for his eventual re-branding in 2005 for Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos.

To be perfectly honest, I much prefer Groot when he is only able to say “I am Groot!” The whole “Who dares to defy me?” attitude is too Hulkish for my taste. And I love Hulk. But maybe he would’ve been more terrifying if he couldn’t speak at all, or in a language no one could understand. But who am I kidding? As silly as it all is, it sounds like a hell of a lot of fun to read. I wish comics like this were still published.

Either way, this is how Groot entered the world, and I’m glad we can get a good laugh in because of it because, let’s be honest, how easy is it to take a walking, talking, sentient tree seriously in the first place?