Monday, 14 October 2013

Giant-Size Invaders #1.

Giant-Size Invaders #1, Frank Robbins
What a cruel mistress The Mighty World of Marvel could be. Much as I loved it, there were times when it could inflict horror unimaginable upon a reader.

One such occasion was when it decided to run reprints of Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos for what seemed like an eternity. I really did try to read those stories but must confess that after a while I simply gave up and habitually left that section of the comic unread. How I celebrated when they were dropped from the mag, to be replaced by some other strip or other.

The other nightmare was when the comic started running reprints of The Invaders.

At this point, I have to come clean. As a kid, I hated war comics - all that, "Achtung!" and, "Donner und blitzen!" Even as a young child, it all seemed horribly stereotyped and juvenile. The truth is that the main reason I read Marvel Comics in the first place was because they bore no resemblance to the war comics that British publishers routinely inflicted on us.

The only exception to this antipathy was Weird War Tales - but that was only because it was full of ghosts and great artwork.

Sadly, The Invaders possessed neither, being straightforward super-hero fare and drawn by Frank Robbins. I don't like to be harsh on Frank Robbins but if he wasn't drawing The Shadow, I couldn't cope with his weirdly distorted characters who fought in strange balletic poses, with proportions that suggested they 'd been through some sort of mangling machine.

Well, the first time they made their appearance was in Giant-Size Invaders #1. How will that comic fare, upon me re-reading it for the first time since the late 1970s?

After bashing up some Nazis, Captain America learns that one of the scientists who helped create him has been taken to hospital after a run-in with yet more Nazis. There, he discovers the Germans have created their own super soldier known as The Master Man who's out to attack a British battleship headed for America.

Cap, Bucky, the Human Torch and Toro head off to stop him - and discover the Sub-Mariner's already on the boat. Our heroes then proceed to hit the Axis Antagonist from all sides.

When The Master Man's finally dispatched, it turns out his target on the boat was Winston Churchill who tells them to stay teamed-up in order to thwart the Germans, at which point our heroes go all gung ho and tell the Nazis (who aren't there) that they're going to smash their faces in, or words to that effect.

It'd be nice to say my adult self was won over by all this in a way my youthful incarnation never was but I still didn't like it. Roy Thomas' script is full of caricatured Germans being beastly and having silly accents (I'm sorry, I should have said, "Haffink der silly accents, schweinhund!") and it has to be said The Invaders are strangely inept and ineffectual. The only reason they beat The Master Man is because he loses his powers at an inconvenient moment, otherwise they'd have failed completely in their mission and Britain would have been looking for a new Prime Minister.

On top of that is the same old complaint that Frank Robbins' art just isn't suited to super-heroes. He was suited to the 1940s - just not men in tights in the 1940s.

There's also the problem that Namor talks like he did way back in the Golden Age. Granted, this makes some sort of sense, bearing in mind that the story's set in that era but, for a reader used to the more haughty Silver and Bronze Age Sub-Mariner, it really is jarring to see him rattling on about, "Ratzis," and slanging it up big-time. You also have to feel sorry for him not having a youthful sidekick like the other two adult members do. Could Marvel not have let him abduct Aqualad or something?

So, there you have it. I remain unconvinced that I was ever wrong about the strip. Still, at least it's not Nick Fury and His Howling Commandos.

Now that really would be a terrible thing to be.

PS. You can never say this blog isn't educational. Apparently, the phrase, "OMG," was first used in a letter sent to Winston Churchill way back in 1917.

I have no info on whether his diary entry for June 6th 1944 read, "Just invaded France. lol."


Anonymous said...

Steve, totally agree about Sgt. Fury and Invaders in MWOM. Apparently Sgt. Fury was created by Jack Kirby after Stan Lee bet him that he couldn't create a war strip, or something like that. By the way, the Fury strip was replaced in MWOM by the Fantastic Four after The Complete FF was cancelled and merged back into MWOM which they'd left only 2 years earlier of course.

Anonymous said...

Have to also agree with the Sgt Fury strips ( unless John Severin drew or inked them)and never understood how "Fury" a comic that didn't last too long got so much of MWOM at the time, a real low point for that comic. Re Frank Robbins I too recall not liking his stuff at all (except for the DC Shadow work which was really good)he seemed to be everywhere at Marvel in all the books I liked Ghost Rider,and more especially Captain America and the Falcon , even a guest spot on Daredevil all some of my favourites, however it was around the time of his work on the Invaders that I kinda "got it" from then onwards Ive pretty much been a massive fan of his stuff even Human Fly some really fun stuff - I would encourage folk to look again at Franks work its really good and fun stuff (honest it is !) McScotty

Anonymous said...

Supposedly, the Sgt. Fury comic started on a bet between Stan Lee and publisher Martin Goodman. Goodman said that any comic with costumed superheroes would sell, and Stan said that any comic, regardless of genre, would sell well if done in the Marvel style. To prove his point, Lee created "Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos." That's Stan's story, and he seems to have stuck to it. But, for it to be true, you have to accept that Goodman would publish a comic that he expected to fail. And in 1963, there was no reason to think that a war comic would fail. DC and Charlton were both publishing them, and all three companies continued to do so into the late 1970's (or even the early 1980's), when war comics died out and superheroes came to dominate the medium. I even wonder if Goodman asked Stan to create a Marvel counterpart to DC's Sgt. Rock, just as the Fantastic Four and Avengers began as Marvel's answer to the Justice League.

Anonymous said...

I was OK with Robbins on the Shadow and the Invaders, since his style had a sort of Golden Age feel that was suited to series set in WWII or earlier. And I could tolerate it in some Batman issues (if the story was a 1930's-style murder mystery). I didn't care for it in comics that had a modern setting.

Joe S. Walker said...

Re Sgt Fury, I've read that Steve Ditko asked Stan why they were doing a war comic when any kind of superhero book would sell better, and Stan just said Goodman wanted it. Worth pointing out that if there hadn't been Sgt Fury there'd be no Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD.

Longbox Graveyard said...

The Invaders were a heartbreak for me. I should have loved that book. I loved Cap, I liked Roy Thomas, I was interested in World War 2 stories, but the series never delivered for me. Rather than a favorite sandwich, it seemed the worst of all worlds, and Frank Robbins' art didn't do the series any favors. I still have a dozen or so copies in my collection, but every time I gird myself up to read them, the reaction is the same -- blech.

baab said...

Frank Robbins Batman stuff is wonderful.
I hated it when I was younger,He is a master.

Much like don Heck,who could ruin my week if he was the featured artist in a favoured strip.

But now,on occasion I can admire his style.

Dougie said...

I love the Invaders and especially Frank Robbins. My particular favourite storyline is the Union Jack/ Baron Blood/ Spitfire arc, closely followed by the Liberty Legion. I also like the fact the second UJ is a very understated gay character. I wish a third UJ had been launched instead of Captain Britain - that's how much I like him!
I do accept that the Nazi dialogue is desperately cliche and rather insulting.

Kid said...

Baab, Dougie - so this is where you are. Get over to my blog this instant and leave a comment, you rascals.

Steve, they haven't even had their tea yet. Sufferin' Shad!