Sunday, 18 August 2019

Black Goliath #1.

Black Goliath #1
The world of comics has never been short of larger than life characters, and few of them have come larger than Goliath.

Or, at least, a whole bunch of Goliaths, as the Marvel editors of my youth seemed to feel it vital to have at least one giant human walking the Earth in those days.

And so it was that, in 1975, we got the launch of Black Goliath starring Bill Foster, a character who'd made his debut in the pages of The Avengers in the 1960s. Back then, he was just a friend and colleague of Hank Pym but now he's perfected Pym's growth formula and has used it on himself.

Obviously, unlike previous Marvel Goliaths, he has to have his colour in his name because that's how Marvel did things back then and he has to walk around bare-chested because that's what all black super-heroes of the 1970s did.

So, now that he has a super-hero name aimed at the visually impaired, and a bare chest, just how does he fare in the debut issue his very own comic?

Well, quite badly really.

Black Goliath #1, mugging
It all begins with Bill doing the Captain America thing and revisiting his childhood neighbourhood, in order to complain that it isn't the same as it used to be - and also to complain that it is the same as it used to be. Clearly, he's a man who's difficult to please. He also gets to complain about having super-powers.

But, of course, it's not long before he gets to use them when he's stopped by would-be muggers, leading to a bout of street lamp bending and more existential angst about whether he wants to be a super-hero or not.

Happily a hospitalised Hank Pym soon points out that he can be both a scientist and a super-hero, and he decides to use his gigantism to thwart a series of radium thefts that have been happening around the city. As he has a bucketful of radium lying around in his lab, Bill has the sense to know it's likely to be next on the hit list and so he waits for the thieves to arrive.

Black Goliath #1, Atom-Smasher
And arrive they do, in the form of Atom-Smasher and his henchmen. Atom-Smasher's henchmen are generic nobodies - although they do seem more erudite than most lackeys - but Atom-Smasher is a man with a difference. He's a man with tiny stars whizzing in circles around his head, which must get quite distracting.

Admittedly, they're obviously not meant to be stars. They're meant to be protons or electrons or neutrons or whatever bit of an atom it is that's supposed to whizz around in circles.

Needless to say, faced with such a foe, it's not long before Black Goliath's making mincemeat of...

...oh. Hold on. Our hero proves to be singularly useless at dealing with Atom-Smasher and by the final panel, having put up no fight whatsoever, he's on the brink of doom.

Clearly, this is going to be the shortest run of any comic book ever.

Black Goliath #1, morons
What strikes you about this book is just how gloomy it is. Bill really is a sad sack, having an almost Surferian gift for being depressed by every single development in his life. He's depressed by being a super-hero. He's depressed by being a scientist. He's depressed by change. He's depressed by a lack of change. He's depressed about, seemingly, every person he's ever known in his entire life.

Bizarrely, the one moment in the comic when he's not depressed is in the scene which introduces his lab assistants who are the sort of morons whose antics would push anyone normal into a suicidal state.

Black Goliath #1, oops
Anyway, it's a competent but unexceptional tale, solidly drawn by George Tuska and written by Tony Isabella. It's perfectly readable and there's nothing actively bad about it but, with its gloomy hero, terrible supporting cast and workmanlike plot, there's nothing that would particularly grip you either. In that sense, it's an almost perfect representation of the majority of books Marvel was churning out in the 1970s.

The one exception to that claim is the villain Atom-Smasher who, presented here, has no noticeable personality or charisma but his powers, whatever they actually are, are at least intriguing and give him some potential. Granted, he's basically a knock-off of Radion but he is a villain that things could be done with.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

"He has to have his colour in his name because thats how Marvel did things back then".
Like the Falcon, Luke Cage - whether as Hero for Hire or Power Man - Brother Voodoo, or Storm you mean, Steve?
There are a lot of things you could criticize about Marvel's approach to black superheroes in the 70s, but I don't think thats really one of them.
(They did all have bare chests though, except Storm unfortunately)

Mind you, if any of them was going to get lumbered with a token name it was inevitably going to be Black Goliath, who was the least well thought out, and otherwise you're review was pretty spot on.
Poor old Black Goliath - the best he managed was ending up in the Champions. Sort of.

-sean

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Gents - if you are interested in black superheroes, Issue 114 of "Back Issue" magazine, by Roy the Boy Thomas is dedicated to them. I'm reading through it now.

Can you get "Back Issue" in the UK?

Luke was "my man" when he burst on the scene... perhaps b/c I was growing up in Gary, IN at the time.

Killdumpster said...

I agree, Steve, that Atom-Smasher had potential that was never realized.

As Sean mentioned, CHAMPIONS was mostly where I read about Black Goliath. I did get one issue of his book. He was battling our old pal Stilt-Man.

Killdumpster said...

I remember at a comics convention in the 90's I got into a conversation with the gentleman who ran DC's Milestone line. He was going dealer-to-dealer, promoting his titles.

He brought up the Black Panther/Goliath/Lightning/Vulcan issue, but I mentioned Storm & Luke Cage. That quieted him down a bit, but then he said "They don't call him 'White-Thor'!"

Realizing the discussion would eventually become an argument, I just said "I don't know. I guess it's because those characters were created by white guys and didn't realize it was a big deal."

He replied "Well, white people need to change their thinking" and stormed off. I understand the history and obstacles of African-Americans have been, and can be still, an ordeal. Considering yourself a constant victim with animosity towards virtually everything just creates another hurdle to overcome that doesn't have to be there.

Amazingly enough, I didn't hear any comments of racism during the release of the Black Panther movie.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

My wife and I watched Black Panther movie and we both found it mediocre at best. But, there is no accounting for taste, so...

Actually now that I think about it, I think there is a whole 2nd season of Luke Cage on the Netflix to be watched!

And I probably ought to finish Gotham. I think this was the last season and would hate to have it removed from Netflix.

But who the hell wants to be inside watching TV on nice summer days???

Killdumpster said...

You said it, Charlie.

Unfortunately I haven't been out in the sun very much this season. My head injury is ultra-sensitive to heat & sunlight. Worst summer I've ever experienced. Feels like such a waste.

Anonymous said...

Well, obviously I agree on the name thing Kd, and so far as the Black Panther goes you can see why they put the word "Black" in the name for emphasis back in '66. Plus, its cool - if it was a good enough name for the Black Panther Party it was good enough for Marvel.
But I don't get how opposition to racism equals "animosity towards virtually everything".

Charlie, like Wonder Woman there were some over the top claims made for the Black Panther film, but I didn't think it was noticeably any more mediocre than most superhero flicks.

-sean

Charlie Horse 47 said...

You know Sean... I am guessing most of the superhero flicks are indeed mediocre. E.g., I haven't bothered with a Spider Man since the first 3. Haven't seen a Batman in decades... Very few of them catch my eye. That said, we did see all the Avengers, as confusing as shit as they were in parts. And the wife and I always dug the Iron Mans.

Rotten Tomatoes gives BP a 97% rating which is rather outstanding.

Did you see "Once upon a time in Hollywood?" ANy thoughts?

There are 4 types of "panthera": jaguar, leopard, lion, tigers. Some can be all-black.

Black Panthers had an airplane (DC-3?) parked at Gary International Airport. Every few weeks we'd drive by it on the way to my Hungarian Grandmother's house. Then one day someone blew it up or burned it on the tarmac around 1968? And there it sat for years... So instead of seeing the nice shiny airplane. the biggest around, it was the burned out airplane. Either the FBI or The Nation of Islam did it, so they say.

Anonymous said...

I was meaning to tell you, Charlie, that I understand falling in love with Morena Baccarin. Good Lord. My eyeballs fell outta my head when she showed up. on that show. Less Penguin, more Morena, I say.
On another note, that fight between Black Goliath and Stiltman was pretty cool.
It had to happen, true believers! Two tall guys fighting. But I like anything with the Stiltman in it.
I do not feel this is an indication of mental instability, no matter what Sean's gonna say.

M.P.

Killdumpster said...

Hokey Smokes, Sean. I wasn't trying to homogenize racism. I believe it's a huge problem in our society, and truly an effort must be made to eradicate it.

When I was talking to the Milestone guy, though, he became a little more "militant" as the conversation progressed. The other dealers at the show told me the same thing.

What I meant to imply is many folks almost can't wait to be offended by anything. In the last couple decades it seems that there's a large group of people that are very thin-skinned. Taking things with a grain of salt is apparently a completely obsolete cliche.

Killdumpster said...

Too bad Marvel didn't have t-shirts of more villains than Dr. Doom in the 60's.

I would've bought a Stilt-Man t-shirt.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Let's face it... Stilt man is the coolest villain every, especially when drawn by Gene the Dean.

And Black Goliath is the 4th coolest black super hero after Luke Cage, Black Panther, Falcon.

Any comic that has the coolest villain ever, fighting the 4th coolest black superhero is a MUST READ!

I could also troll the net looking for other works by Morena Baccarin.

B.t.w. for all you aficionados of the great Will Eisner The SPIRIT SECTION from Dec 1, 1940 with the SPANKING COVER is up on ebay starting at $599 in cherry condition! How the hell Eisner got away with that, given the whole bloomin country read the Sunday funnies in 1940 is beyond me!!!

Anonymous said...

Once Upon A Time only just got released here Charlie - I'll probably catch it mid-week when its cheap night at the cinema near me.
Fwiw, I did enjoy seeing both Kill Bill films again on tv the other night.

Morena Baccarin played Vanessa in both Deadpools, which are the superhero films I enjoyed the most (despite - or maybe because - I don't know anything about the comics). Can't say I was much into Iron Man.
I looked up the Joker film you were on about M.P., and apparently the woman who played Domino in Deadpool 2 is in it, which sounds like a definite plus. On the other hand, the screenwriter said he aimed for a Scorcese-style script, which seems a bit... well, lets just say Taxi Driver might not have been quite as convincing if a geezer in a bat costume and mask turned up to stop Travis Bickle.

-sean

Charlie Horse 47 said...

You know... it just occurred to me that would be a great poll question for Steve to run! If you could insert any comic character you want on The Spirit's lap, waiting to be spanked, who would it be??? We don't have to stick with characters already invented by 1940, since that would rule out characters like The Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Sue Storm, Pepper Potts, Mary Jane Watson, Aunt May, Rawhide Kid...

Anonymous said...

Kd, wasn't trying to imply anything, it just sounded like an exaggeration to the point where it seemed not to mean much (I do that sometimes too).
I'm not really familiar with Milestone Comics, so can't comment except to say I did once read an interview with the late Dwayne McDuffie on the subject of black superheroes and working in comics that seemed quite reasonable to me.

-sean

Anonymous said...

I remember McDuffie as being one of the writers on the Justice league animated series and later THE writer and editor on Justice League International, both of which were amazingly good. Better than good.
Particularly if you're a Green Arrow fan like me (pissed-off working-class liberal).

M.P.

John Bradley said...

The last issue of the book had a great story and really good artwork along with a great alien. If it had been given a chance it could have been something. STill he played a good part in Project Pegasus as Giant-Man.

Anonymous said...

If I recall correctly, it was Ben Grimm who suggested the name change to Giant-Man in that issue of Marvel Two-in-One with Deathlok covered here only a couple of posts ago.
I'm always impressed by the careful planning that Steve obviously puts into this blog...

-sean

Anonymous said...

That Project Pegasus storyline was great!
Ben Grimm as a security chief at some super-science facility. Which in turn sometimes holds dangerous super-villains in custody.
Man, you could come up with loads of good stories from that premise, which is what they did!

M.P.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Project Pegasus involved some sort of energy research? Having that kind of advanced super-science facility doubling up as a prison for super-villains was asking for trouble really.

-sean

Anonymous said...

*involve (duh, typo)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Sean, it pains me to admit it but you have a point there. Maybe it wasn't thought-out very good. I know they had Solarr and Klaw locked up in there.
At the same time.
Well, I guess they needed a good security chief, what, with a Deathlok from an alternate timeline bustin' in and causing problems.
Or was he from this timeline. I forget. I know he tried to assassinate Jimmy Carter.
But Jimmy carter turned out to be the Impossible Man...
...Y'know what, Sean, I'm done talking to you for a while because my head is starting to ache from all this. I blame you.

M.P.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Was this Project Pegasus of which thee speaks, the precursor to Arkham Asylum... i.e., locking up a bunch of really bad dudes in one place?

Should have sent them all to the Negative Zone to keep the planet safe!

Anonymous said...

That has been tried and it didn't work out too good either, Charlie.

M.P.

Anonymous said...

...can you imagine working in Arkam Asylum, I mean, like on the staff?
How do they get anybody to work there? Maybe they got good dental.
"Well, see you tonight honey, unless I get smile-gassed to death."

M.P.

dbutler16 said...

I did like #1 of this series, with Tony Isabella, but didn't think it was quite as good after that, when Chris Claremont took over. Not that it lasted long anyway.

Steve W. said...

I think this was the only issue I ever had. I always thought I had the Stilt-Man issue but, from having recently looked at it, it seems I didn't. I must have been mixing it up with Stilty's appearance in The Champions.

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