All contents ©2012 Mike Pascale. Visual content ©2012 their respective owner(s).
Well, this is it—the most anticipated film of the year (for me, anyway). Marvel Studios’ THE AVENGERS opens this week! Oddly enough, the group was one of my first exposures to the wonders of comics in general, along with Marvel, Captain America, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee specifically—thru a reprint. As I wrote in my 50th column, I received the Golden Records’ sets of both FANTASTIC FOUR #1 and AVENGERS #4 as a little kid. These were big 33 1/3 RPM vinyl records (yes, vinyl—even before 8-tracks, cars and the wheel) which came with an exact reprint of the comics minus ads; the record had various voice actors reading the comics word-for-word, along with sound effects. (Next to a loving parent’s help, what better way to learn how to read?) I no longer have my copies of either because they were beaten to hell within the first few years from over-use. Hopefully I’ll stumble across one or all at a garage sale one of these days because now they fetch hundreds of dollars in decent shape.
I mentioned the AVENGERS film back in my New Year’s column and my anticipation has only grown. I hate to say it but it looks, well, marvelous. I’m trying not to inflate my expectations but it’s not easy when each trailer looks better than the last! I’m sure the snooty and snotty will pan it, but I’m not reading any reviews till I see it myself.
What I did do, however, was revisit the first appearance and origin of the team from AVENGERS #1 (1963, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) via the Marvel Masterworks edition. I know Loki inadvertently helped form the team in the comic and plays a similar role in the film, so I thought I’d read the source to see if any of plot will be reused.
All I can say is, let’s hope not! If Joss Whedon patterned his story after Stan and Jack’s, the movie’s doomed.
I don’t have space or time to go over the entire tale as I’d like (it would make for great comedy), but highlights should suffice–and I promise I’m not exaggerating. (Most pics are courtesy of Don Alsafi’s blog)
–Loki, imprisoned on Asgard’s Isle of Silence, wants revenge on his half-brother Thor, who’s back on earth as alter ego Dr. Don Blake. Loki decides he must first create a menace on earth to force Blake to change into Thor, then somehow lure him back to the Isle.
–As his floating eyes spot the Hulk leaping over some train tracks, Loki creates the illusion of lit dynamite on the track, forcing the Hulk to attempt to save an oncoming train by leaping toward it to snuff it out. Because there’s really nothing there, however, he “miscalculates the force of his plunge, crashing into the trestle and shattering it!” (Mull that bit of physics over a bit.)
–The guys on the train see Hulk’s head peeking out of the busted tracks and figure he’s trying to kill them (even tho he ended up saving the train). The nation is “shocked” and the army mobilizes to hunt him down.
–The Hulk’s teen pal, Rick Jones, summons his Teen Brigade, “a group of ham radio enthusiasts”. They decide to send a message to the Fantastic Four, the only ones powerful enough to help.
–Because the FF would “ruin everything,” Loki uses his mental powers to jam the radio waves, “diverting them to another wave length, one [he knows] Don Blake is listening to.” Conveniently, Loki’s mental powers aren’t mighty enough to figure out that if Blake wouldn’t be the only person listening to that wavelength—just so happens the Ant Man and Wasp plus Tony Stark (Iron Man) are as well, so within a couple panels they’re on their way to the southwest to help Rick.
— Mr. Fantastic ends up contacting Rick and the brigade anyway, having “intercepted” the message. He says the FF is too busy on another case, but according to Reed Richards’ “calculations”, Rick’s message “should be picked up by others who can help”! (Huh?) So there’s really no reason to even include that sequence, other than to get an appearance by the (now popular) FF in the book. And to drive up the value of the original art even more out of my reach.
–The Hulk turns up working at a circus as a robot clown (“Mechano, the world’s most powerful, lifelike robot on earth”.) The guy who apparently runs the circus even thinks he’s a robot. How did that happen? The conversation with the Hulk might have gone like this:
“I’m lookin’ for a job.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m the Hul—Um, I mean, I’m the world’s most powerful robot.”
“Can you dress like a clown and juggle animals?”
–A tiny ant, “unnoticed by the Hulk” (ya think?), “watches his act” and mentally contacts Ant Man to tell him about it! Ant Man thinks it could be the Hulk. (Or the ant had too much wood alcohol.)
–Flying to the circus, Ant Man orders millions of ants to tunnel under the Hulk to weaken the ground beneath him (in a matter of minutes!) and he falls. The Hulk recovers, wipes off his clown makeup and commences the obligatory big brouhaha with Iron Man, Ant Man and Wasp.
–Meanwhile, Thor has figured out Loki’s involvement and gets father Odin’s permission to confront his nasty half-bro. After surviving several traps, including a giant purple troll, Thor finds Loki and they battle. Loki creates a bunch of mental images of himself to fool the thunder god, but Thor twirls his hammer “at the speed of a giant propeller”, to blow all of the mental images off a cliff, leaving the real Loki hanging on the edge. (That’s right—physical wind to blow mental images away. Did I mention I’m not making any of this up?)
–Thor rubs his hammer along the ground to soak up the “strong flow of magnetic currents that give life to the trolls below” and uses the force to pull Loki up so he’s stuck to the hammer.
–Meanwhile, the Hulk has leaped all the way to a huge Detroit auto factory. Rather than buy a nice, big, green’63 Pontiac, the emerald goliath resumes his battle with Iron Man. They trash the factory, thus starting GM on early road to eventual bankruptcy 45 years later.
–Suddenly, Thor flies in, carrying the stuck-like-glue Loki and explains who’s really behind the whole thing. Loki suddenly makes himself radioactive to escape the magnetic hammer’s pull. (He couldn’t have done that in Asgard and saved the trip to Detroit? Maybe he had his eye on a nice gold Caddy—with big golden horns on the front to match his headgear.)
–Before the god of mischief can make good on his threats, a swarm of ants obeys Ant Man’s “silent commands” and triggers a trap door underneath Loki, and he falls into a lead-lined tank. The ants somehow quickly seal the door tight. Why an underground lead-lined chamber? It’s “where the trucks that carry radioactive wastes from atomic tests dump their loads for eventual disposal in the ocean.”
Wait, let’s get that straight—the atomic tests were conducted out west, mostly in New Mexico. So trucks drive out from Detroit, pick up the wastes, drive nearly 1,600 miles back to Michigan to store it in the lead chamber, then later drive another 500 miles east to the Atlantic (guessing either Staten Island or Secaucus, NJ); otherwise they’d have to drive back another 2,400 miles to the Pacific! Hard to believe? Not as much as the fact that Stan says he never did drugs. He wrote this one sober, people.
–Because Loki can’t (won’t?) remain in the tank for more than a couple minutes, Thor says he’ll take him out and return him to Asgard. Before that, Ant Man and Wasp suggest becoming a team, the others agree and the rest is history (if not unintentionally hilarious). Which means that Motown is the origin city of the Avengers! (How’s that for surefire Comic-Con bar-betting trivia?) Sadly, I believe that the movie heroes form in New York, so as usual, Detroit gets the shaft. But you and I at least know the truth!
Now do you see why this is one instance we don’t want the movie to follow the comic? I hear the plot more closely follows the current cartoon series, but as I’ve not read an Avengers comic book in decades, it could be any number of iterations of the team, or totally made up by Whedon. When you see the movie, feel free to let us know in the comments section of any comics tie-ins. And of course, what you thought of the flick!
Next week, I’ll review it and give you the common sense answer to the calls to boycott the film, along with some differing perspective on the Kirby controversy surrounding it all.
In the meantime, Avengers assemble!
P.S.: If you’d like an original commission of the Avengers or any individual member, I’m your guy. I promise a speedy turnaround and wall-worthy work. Just ask Craig here!