In December, 1971, Marvel Comics’ X-Men were in a weird kind of limbo. The franchise was by no means dead — indeed, there was a new issue of the young mutant heroes’ titular series published every two months. It’s just that once you got past the freshly-drawn covers (such as the one produced by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia for the latest issue, #74, as shown at right), the contents of those “new” comics were all reprinted X-stories of some five years vintage (for example, #74 featured an oldie by Roy Thomas, Werner Roth, and Dick Ayers that had originally appeared in #26).
This had been the state of affairs ever since around September, 1970, when Marvel publisher Martin Goodman — having cancelled X-Men nine months earlier, in the aftermath of Thomas, Neal Adams, and Tom Palmer’s brief but acclaimed run on the series — appears to have looked at some late sales reports, liked what he saw, and approved the “revival” of the title — but only as a reprint book. For more than a year afterwards, this would be the only place you could find the X-Men (save for a three-part Angel adventure that ran from July to December, 1970 in the back pages of two reprint issues of Ka-Zar and one of Marvel Tales, and a single guest appearance by Iceman in Amazing Spider-Man #92, published that October).
But just because the X-Men were gone (at least in terms of new adventures), that didn’t mean they’d been forgotten — least of all by the aforementioned Roy Thomas, who at this time was an associate editor at Marvel as well as a writer (and who may also have had a sentimental attachment to the team, his first superhero-writing assignment at Marvel). It was Thomas, then, who came up with the idea for a new series spotlighting just one X-Man — Henry “Hank” McCoy, aka the Beast.
At first glimpse, the Beast might have seen an odd choice to be spun off on his own. Hank was the intellectual of the group, as well as “the strong one”; while the dichotomy between his erudite manner of speech and his ape-like build made him an appealing and memorable team player, his shtick didn’t exactly scream “superhero comic book leading man” — at least, not in 1971. But Thomas had the idea to move the character in a new direction — one my fourteen-year-old self learned first learned about when I read the Bullpen Bulletins page for Marvel’s December-shipping comics, and, in the middle of an ITEM! touting several new projects from the House of Ideas, read the following:
The Beast, a “fearful creature of the night”? That certainly didn’t sound like the Hank McCoy I remembered.
The idea Thomas had hit on was to combine traditional superheroics with comics’ current trend towards horror — a trend that had accelerated since recent revisions to the Comics Code, and which at Marvel was presently exemplified by the new features “Werewolf by Night” and Tomb of Dracula. The Beast, as originally conceived by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, was certainly no horror character; but he could likely be molded into such a character, or at least something resembling one, rather more easily than could the Angel, or Marvel Girl. It was right there in the name.
I wasn’t really what you’d call a huge X-Men fan back in the day (though, like almost everybody else, I’d greatly enjoyed the Thomas/Adams.Palmer run). But the new direction for Hank McCoy indicated by that Bullpen Bulletin item — a direction supported by the comic’s dynamic cover by Gil Kane and Bill Everett, which showcased a very different-looking Beast, indeed — was nevertheless intriguing enough to get me to part with two dimes when Amazing Adventures #11 showed up in the spinner rack of my neighborhood Tote-Sum.
After coming up with the basic concept for this new take on the Beast, Thomas had turned the feature over to Gerry Conway to flesh out and script — a logical enough decision, as the two writers had followed the same procedure for “Werewolf by Night” a few months earlier (not to mention the more recent Tomb of Dracula, though Thomas had actually provided a full plot for that title’s debut issue). The artist assigned to pencil the book, however, was a rather more unexpected choice. Tom Sutton was best known for his horror work, which thus far had appeared mostly in Warren Publishing’s black-and-white comics magazines. Still, he wasn’t exactly a stranger to superheroes (I had in fact first encountered his work in 1968, in Marvel’s hero-centric parody comic Not Brand Echh; about a year later, I’d picked up his one go to date at “straight” superhero work, Captain Marvel #15), so it’s not terribly hard to understand why Marvel thought his style might help bridge the gap between the two genres the new strip seemed to be trying to straddle. Filling out the creative team’s roster was inker Syd Shores, whose illustrative approach to embellishing was perhaps not the best fit for Sutton’s bold, exaggerated pencilling style, but which nevertheless contributed more to evoke a spooky atmosphere than would the inking of Frank Giacoia, who’d take over that role later in the feature’s run.
As anyone who’s read more than a few of Gerry Conway’s Marvel stories circa 1971 doubtless already knows, the young writer was extremely fond of second-person narration at this point in his career.
As our furry protagonist ducks into a nearby building, he’s chagrined that the soldiers’ arrival has rendered his own efforts meaningless — but, hey, no harm done, right?
Unless you caught our guy addressing himself as “Hank” back on page 4, this is the story’s first indication that it’s about a member of the X-Men — though, even now, you’ll have to be able to recognize them in their civvies — well, at least until you turn the page…
The next page tells us just a bit more about Hank’s new gig — he’s going to be studying (what else?) genetic mutation — but it’s mostly more leave-taking of his costumed cohorts. As we see our hero hop into his red convertible in the final panel, Conway’s second person narration declares, “…when you drove away, you knew in your soul — it was forever.” (Well, maybe not forever — though if I recall correctly, it would be quite some time before Henry McCoy showed up in Westchester again.)
Page 10 begins with Hank’s arrival at his new workplace for his first day on the job:
The Brand Corporation is obviously inspired by the real-life RAND Corporation — though that’s a reference that completely eluded my younger self in 1971.
Jeez, Hank, you’re using the “L” word already? About a young woman you just met yesterday, and have had all of one date with? (Admittedly, it seems to have been a really good date.) I’d say slow down, buddy, if I thought you’d listen to me, rather than Gerry Conway.
In the weeks that follow, Hank makes good progress on his research — despite being regularly annoyed by his disagreeable “colleague”, Prof. Maddicks:
Hank’s sudden concern about being seen in his costumed identity seems rather overblown — especially considering that we saw him blithely bouncing over rooftops in broad daylight (startling at least one eyewitness) just a couple of pages earlier. But Conway has to provide some motivation for our hero to make the very stupid decision he’s about to make on the very next page — and so…
“You’ve stopped talking in polysyllables –” Conway implies here that Hank’s rather abrupt change in diction is due to his suddenly becoming more bestial; the feature’s next writer, Steve Englehart, would suggest that it’s derived more from his new maturity and confidence. Either way, you have to figure that Marvel simply figured that a hero who spoke more like an average Joe than had previously been Mr. McCoy’s wont would be more relatable to the majority of readers; for all I know, they may have been right. Inevitably, however, the change made the Beast somewhat less distinctive as a character — at least in the short term.
And there you have it, folks — the baleful birth of the brand-new, not-so-bashful Beast. As far as fourteen-year-old me was concerned, Marvel had a new winner. If the hard lean into werewolf and other monster tropes signified by our hero’s new ferocity (and his struggle to control it) in the final scenes hadn’t already been enough to hook me in, the last-page reveal concerning Linda Donaldson — which, I can still remember, completely floored me on my first reading — would surely have done the job. I was fully on board, and would remain so for the duration.
Somebody who wouldn’t be around for the duration, however — or even for the second issue — was Gerry Conway. Having gotten Roy Thomas’ initial concept off to a promising start, Conway promptly turned over the scripting assignment to a twenty-four year old newcomer — the aforementioned Steve Englehart — whose arrival at Marvel was heralded in the Bullpen Bulletins page for comics shipping in February, 1972 — the same month that Englehart’s first “Beast” story saw print in Amazing Adventures #12.
AA #12 was not, in fact, the young scribe’s first writing assignment for his new employer — but it represented a significant break, nonetheless. As Englehart explained to writer Alex Boney for an article published in Back Issue #29 (Jul., 2008):
I had done the stuff you did to get into writing comics at Marvel at the time… I’d gotten my shot at writing Westerns, romance comics, monsters—that’s how you started in those days. You would start way out on the fringes, and then they would move you up to superheroes. Because by the ’70s, that’s what Marvel was all about. I figure that a bimonthly title about one member of the (at the time) failed X-Men was about as far on the fringes of the superhero world as it could get.
Coming in when he did, if ultimately fell to Englehart to work out the last few details of the new “Beast” feature’s setup: Conway may have provided Hank McCoy with a promising new setting for his adventures, but how was our hero supposed to hold down a job at the Brand Corporation in his present furry state?
In AA #12’s “Iron Man D,O.A.” (which played further into the horror vibe by having “Werewolf by Night” artist Mike Ploog ink Sutton’s pencils), it turns out to be a rather straightforward — if not entirely convincing — process, which starts with a couple of illicit late-night visits to a public library and a costume shop, and continues in Hank’s apartment as he labors through the night and into the early morning…
Once he has the mask done, Hank fashions a couple of “hands” using the same process. And then, it’s on to the little matter of standing upright; the new Beast’s natural at-rest posture is a perpetual crouch, which just won’t do for Henry McCoy, researcher…
Y’know — I believe the guy just might do it.
Or perhaps I should say that my fourteen-year-old self believed it, back in February, 1972. My sixty-four-year-old self, of course, is well aware that our boy Hank was never coming back from being a furry fellow — at least not permanently — though he (and we) would see changes to that form over time (the first of which we’ll get to in a few paragraphs).
Still, it’s worth spending a little time with that last panel above, as the positive attitude demonstrated by Henry McCoy there would prove to be key to Steve Englehart’s approach to the character — and, to some extent, to his approach to superheroes in general, throughout his career.
As the writer told Back Issue in 2008:
The situation he was in when I started writing him was incredibly distressing. In the original X-Men, he had been a human who just had big hands and big feet. The new series turned him into a big, blue, furry creature. With any other character, this could have been turned into a tragic situation. But I guess I’m an optimistic person myself, and I decided he should roll with the punches and get beyond the tragedy of the situation. He was living it — he couldn’t just ignore it all—but because he was so smart, he had the ability to put it into perspective.
Under Englehart’s direction, the Beast’s optimism would gradually evolve into a distinctive sense of humor — one which would follow the character into his later gigs as a member of the Avengers and of other teams. But for now, it mostly signified a modification of his solo feature’s genre-straddling approach. After Englehart’s first couple of issues, in which the Beast temporarily (and erroneously) believed he’d killed Iron Man in a feral rage, Hank’s fear that he might succumb to his “animal instincts” and do something truly monstrous was decidedly downplayed; eventually, as Englehart steered the series away from horror, putting it firmly on a course of straight-up superheroics, the concern stopped being referred to altogether.
Following his dust-up with Iron Man, the Beast had confrontations with the current version of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants — old, well-established X-Men foes, every one of ’em — as well as the walking sentient computer Quasimodo, and a new villain named the Griffin. (That last guy sported a pair of wings and flew; so, naturally, Hank’s X-buddy, the Angel, showed up to help take him down.) All of these baddies were eventually shown to have ties to the same mysterious organization Carl Maddicks and Linda “Agent Nine” Donaldson were working for back in AA #11.
Meanwhile, the Beast’s activities on the Brand Corporation campus led to a U.S. military security liaison being assigned to the location — and to what was probably Englehart’s most surprising innovation of the whole run (art by Sutton and Giacoia):
My younger self had nary a clue as to the identity of this nice-looking young couple, but more savvy fans than I would have recognized the star of Marvel’s 1945-65 humor-romance title Patsy Walker, along with her longtime beau, “Buzz” Baxter. Back in 1965, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had established Patsy and her supporting cast as part of the same Marvel Universe as where the company’s superheroes did their thing by giving Patsy and her friend Hedy Wolfe a brief cameo in Fantastic Four Annual #3. Englehart, who had been collecting everything Marvel put out at the time, remembered the joke, and thought it would be fun to follow up by not only bringing Patsy back, but also giving her something to actually do.
Patsy, or Pat, would thus go on to play a significant role in the Beast’s life — beginning especially with the opening scene of AA #15, as the mysterious creature Pat’s husband had been searching for turned up wounded on her doorstep, and promptly collapsed. (Luckily, Capt. Baxter wasn’t home at the time.) Hank woke up later on the Baxters’ sofa to find that more than one thing in his life had suddenly just changed (art by Sutton and Giacoia):
I’m guessing that the sales reports Marvel was receiving for Amazing Adventures weren’t looking great, impelling them to try the cosmetic adjustment of changing the color of the Beast’s fur from gray to blue. (Yes, I know it says “black” on the page above, but those blue “highlights” ultimately took over, as so often happens in comics.) Honestly, you’d think that Marvel would have realized that gray characters didn’t work after Hulk #1 (May, 1962), but I guess not.
We readers would only be beginning to glimpse the ramifications of Patsy Walker Baxter’s learning our hero’s secret identity before the ax fell on the series, as #15 turned out to be the next to last issue of Amazing Adventures to feature the Beast (not including #17, which reprinted the Beast’s origin as told in old issues of X-Men). Issue #16, in fact, didn’t feature Patsy at all, meaning that we’d have to wait until Englehart brought both Hank and Patsy into Avengers a couple of years later to see what would come of all that (cough, Hellcat, cough).
As for the other woman in Mr. McCoy’s life — the lovely but lethal Ms. Linda Donaldson — you may be wondering if our boy ever caught on to the fact that his beloved was a murderous spy. And the answer is — not for the duration of the Beast’s Amazing Adventures run. And if you think that reflects badly on Hank, consider that she somehow never caught on to the fact that the guy she was leading on was wearing a rubber mask whenever she was with him. Some spy, right?
We did eventually learn a little bit more about Agent Nine — or at least about the shadowy organization she was working for — when she called in to report to her supreme leader, Number One, in issue #15:
The Secret Empire was an old-time Marvel outfit, first introduced in Tales to Astonish #81 (Jul., 1966), and seemingly defeated a few issues later. Readers of that storyline had seen Number One perish while trying to kill the Hulk, but since then he’d been replaced by a brand new guy, as Englehart would eventually make perfectly clear (heh). Still, to find out more about the Secret Empire’s plans — as well as to learn Linda Donaldson’s ultimate fate — Amazing Adventures readers would have to wait until Englehart could pick up those plot threads in yet another series that, like Avengers, he’d be picking up later in 1972: Captain America.
For, just like Patsy Walker, Linda Donaldson (and her allies and their boss) wouldn’t figure into the last Beast story in Amazing Adventures at all. Rather, issue #16 would find our hero leaving the environs of Brand Corporation to spend an adventurous Halloween in Rutland, Vermont… but, as that’s a story I’ll have quite a bit more to say about in ten months, we’ll need to leave it at that for now.
Not much to say here; I don’t remember this book from ’72, but fifty years later, I have to say that Conway’s reasoning for Hank taking the mutagenic serum was frighteningly weak. There were so many other ways Hank could have resolved that issue without altering his DNA, that this tragic reasoning doesn’t hold up in any way except to further a comic book story, which I guess is the only reason Marvel needed. Of course, the mask and fake hands were equally implausible and ridiculous as the new size and contours of Hank’s face would have stretched any mask out of shape and ruined the resemblance. I understand this “Mission Impossible” approach was popular at the time, but the only place it could ever have worked was, you guessed it, a comic book, so I guess it’s lucky for Hank that he was in one. By the way, how did he cover up his fangs? Did Hank’s skills include making really over-sized false teeth too?
In defense of Conway in regard to Hank and Linda’s “best date ever,” I think that took place over two days, Alan. She walks him to his car wearing one outfit (doesn’t it seem strange that Hank would report for his first day of work and then go home when all he did was get the tour and meet his co-workers?) and then we’re back in the lab again in different clothes for date night. So, two days, right? Once upon a time, I’d have asked for a No-Prize for that. Though you’re right, using the “L-word” after one date is fast, even for a comic book.
I had no idea this is where Patsy Walker made her major debut in the Marvel Universe. I don’t even think I’ve read it or ever heard it mentioned by anyone before. Nice to know I can still be surprised. That certainly was a scandalous little outfit Pats was wearing when the Beast woke up on her couch, though, wasn’t it? Not on the same level as Black Widow in the shower, but still, I’m sure Buzz would have prefered his wife to cover that up with a robe in front of strangers (and no one is stranger than a big blue furry wolfman).
While the story is typically Conway of the time, the art is interesting. I was never a big Tom Sutton fan, but his pencils here, along with Syd Shores inks, do give the story a nice horror vibe that works. I almost wish Englehart had kept the horror theme of the book going. Marvel certainly had their fair share of conflicted man-beasts at the time with Hulk and Ben Grimm, but there was a flavor to this that might have been fun to explore, especially in terms of how it related to Hank’s being a mutant to begin with.
All in all, another interesting trip to a comic I never read. Thanks, Alan!
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Gotta admit, Hank being able to successfully hide his new, more beastly self under a mask and gloves also struck me as ludicrous even as a kid, but, hey, “comics”! But then Conway’s scenario in the debut had put the series in a corner — they couldn’t keep up the aspect of Henry working for the company if he couldn’t somehow appear to still look like the version of Henry they had hired and apparently Thomas wanted to stick with Henry’s transformation being permanent and incapable of switching back and forth. Does somewhat recall early Hulk stories and the absurdist aspect of Bruce Banner somehow managing to keep his transformations a secret from his colleagues and military bosses for so long — “well, we chased a big green monster wearing torn-up purple pants here but now there’s just this pale skinny guy in torn up purple pants here. Mighty suspicious, Dr. Banner, but we know you can’t possibly be one and the same as the Hulk even though we live in a world where it is public knowledge that a World War II fighter pilot, Ben Grimm, was transformed by cosmic rays into a big ugly Thing and that you were hit by a big blast of gamma rays shortly before the Hulk started showing up and you’re never around when he appears. But none of that could possibly be connected! But we’re very suspicious of you, Banner, because we think you might be a commie!’
Glad that Englehart dropped the costume-charade when he brought the Beast into the Avengers, and also had him stop moping about his condition.
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You’re welcome, Don! And you’re obviously right about the Hank-Linda date chronology — I got sloppy there. I’m going to go back and change “this morning” to “yesterday” (which means that anybody who reads this later will wonder what we’re talking about, but oh well). As for Patsy’s nightie, Englehart says in his “Marvel Masterworks” intro for this run that he threw that in because he was trying anything he could come up with to boost the book’s sales. 🙂
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I actually got this issue when it was new on the racks – sadly, it was among those thrown out by my dad when my family moved from California to Utah a few months later. Missed most of the rest of the series until issues 16 & 17. I wonder whose idea it was for Linda Donaldson to be a spy for a revived Secret Empire, whether Conway’s, Thomas’ or Englehart’s. Her code name of Agent 9 in this issue is certainly seems to hint of the Secret Empire’s involvement, although it would be few more years before I’d read reprints of their original appearances in old Hulk & Sub-Mariner stories from Tales to Astonish. Perusing that scene with the hooded #1 in AA #15, I’m also now curious if Englehart had yet given much thought to who was under that hood and if he’d already determined it would be the most prominent U.S. politician of that era, although that wouldn’t be made implicit if not “perfectly clear” for about another 3 years!
Anyhow, I was certainly taken in by the story and felt for poor Hank’s predicament, one rash decision resulting in a traumatic transformation as well as falling hard for a very lovely but deceptive and dangerous woman! I think I also got AA #12 when it was new (if so, it was also tossed out) — at least I recalled having read the story before when I got the reprint in Avengers #135. I think Englehart made the right decision in steering the series away from another horror title — it would have been too similar to the recently launched Werewolf By Night series as well as to aspects of the Hulk and the Thing. But then the series proper only lasted 6 issues (coincidentally, the same as the original Hulk series with a somewhat similar setup). It was about a decade too soon for X-Men fever to favor it and perhaps the early horror aspects mixed with super-heroics didn’t appeal to enough readers. Englehart would do much better with his runs on Captain America & the Falcon, the Defenders and the Avengers. I did eventually fill in the issues of the Beast’s stint in AA that I missed, and enjoyed them, although some of Sutton’s art was a bit cartoonish for my tastes.
In late 1971, I was still too new to the Marvel universe to have any strong feelings about Hank’s radical change, probably the most extreme of any of the Marvel superheroes introduced by Lee & company circa 1961 through 1964, which had previously consisted of a few costume changes, most radically for Iron Man and Daredevil, or that other Hank’s transformations from AntMan to Giant-Man to Goliath to Yellowjacket, as well as Hawkeye’s brief stint as the new Goliath. Of course, since at the time the X-Men had been reduced to perhaps 3rd tier superheroes, hanging only in reprints in their own mag and occasional guest appearances over the next few years, Henry McCoy became easy picking for playing with. As a top tier character, Spider-Man wasn’t going to be permanently changed to a six-armed “freak” but changing Henry to look more beastly? Obviously, Lee himself had no particular vested interest in the character to deny the proposition, and so Hank got decidedly much harrier and feral in appearance and switched out his X-Men togs for a Speedo.
Nice overview and observations, Alan!
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It’s interesting that the X-Men reprints retained the original series’ title and numbering instead of being given a reprint title like Marvel’s Greatest Comics or Marvel Tales (which reprinted FF & Spidey). I suppose since Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man were ongoing that it made sense to have a different series name for earlier reprint material.
Even stranger to me was DC’s run on Tarzan, retaining the numbering of the prior series published by Gold Key (or was it Dell?), then Marvel reboots the series afterwards, as did Dark Horse. Perhaps that was a stipulation of the Burroughs estate in 1972 when Joe Kubert adapted Tarzan’s origin story, that the numbering continued in the 200s.
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I re-read this book early this past week so for a change I can jump into this discussion early. In my comments to your other blog posts recently, I seem to be a brioken record writing about how comic books that I thought were great when I first read them 50 years ago seem less so now (gee, you think it could be that I was ten years old then and sixty years old now?). Not this time though.
When I first read this comic in December 1971, I wasn’t very enthused. For one thing, I guess I had been one of the few people that liked the original Amazing Adventures lineup of the Inhumand and the Black Widow (although I was grateful that the Black Widow was now co-starring in Daredevil) so I looked at this new iteration as a step down. Secondly, I was not a fan of Marvel’s new foray into horror movie type characters. Third, despite the fact that even when I was a kid I thought that the original Beast was a trifle silly with his only power appearing to be having oversized feet (speaking of, if you all are going to talk about silly unrealisitc attempts to conceal identity, how about Hank McCoy trying to hide his big feet–talk about footbinding, must have been horribly painful to try to fit into shoes several sizes too small), I liked Hank McCoy because I identified with his nerdiness (even though that word did not exist in those days). As a result, I found the whole issue rather irritating.
Not anymore. First of all, I love the Tom Sutton/Syd Shores work on the first seven pages and the last six pages and I find it rather clever that the style changes from atmospherically dark and menacing to rather pedestrian, safe and ordinary during the flashback sequences in the middle. Secondly, I hope you are sitting down because I am about to say very nice things about Gerry Conway (aka “The Man Who Killed Gwen Stacy as Well as Namor’s Father”) again, all the more ironic because he left the series after this inaugural effort. I find it puzzling how he could script so awfully in so much of his early work (e.g. Daredevil, Iron Man) but can step it up so much in others (e.g., here and in Thor). While Hank’s reasoning for drinking the potion in the first place may seem specious (more on that in a moment), his personal agony as he deals with what happened to him is very real and believable. Conway makes it explicit that Hank’s attack on Matticks was not a result of his becoming a monster but because he was angry at himself for getting him into that situation (“I almost strangled him! And why? Because he did this to me? I know that’s not true. It’s because I can’t face the fact that I blew it, and tried to wipe out my agony by crushing him.”) I didn’t even notice the second person narration that Conway uses that much and, as you know from my previous posts, I usually loathe his use of that style.
Moreover, I thought that the scenes of when Hank leaves the X-Men were very poignant and, being a big fan of the X-Men, one thing I did like about this book when I read it in 1971 was to see them (somewhat) currently in the flashback sequence as I missed them (I did think at the time and I guess now that if the book was successful enough to publish in reprints, why not give them new stories?).
Now, onto the two points Alan that you and some of the commenters mostly were critical of. First of all, Hank’s drinking the potion in the first place. Yes, it (obviously) was very foolish. However, his concern about his secret identity wasn’t that far fetched. It’s one thing to bound around in public among folks that are strangers. It’s another thing to do it at work among people that know you and see you every day. What if he ran into Matticks? If anything it’s MORE realistic than the timeless and ancient comic book trope that a hero (or villain) can hide a secret identity even if the person shows up in a costume with only a mask that covers eyes or a mask that doesn’t cover a face which would help disguise a voice (as an aside, I know that I was very upset as a kid about having to wear glasses partly because they obviously made me look so weak and scrawny if people couldn’t tell that Clark Kent was Superman because he wore them).
Finally, regarding Linda Donaldson, at first as I started re-reading this issue I rolled my eyes at how she immediately came onto Hank and went out on a date with him. However, after re-reading the last page, which I had forgotten about and had the same reaction you did Alan, then and now, I decided that it was more of a Mata Hari spy-type thing where Donaldson was trying to get information out of the brilliant new hire. As Hank was a nerdy type who didn’t seem popular with the women, I could understand his falling hard for a lovely woman who showed him attention (sadly, when I was 12, I developed a crush on a girl who showed me attention even though it soon became clear she was doing it just to tease me).
That said, I do want to mention here that despite what I wrote in the last paragraph, I doubt that Conway wrote the subplot with that logic in mind. Not because Conway was a bad writer, but because women falling for men right away was a big comic book trope back then which I think could have been very harmful to its young male readers (specifically to its nerdy ones like me) as it created unreal expectations of what male/female relationships were like. Certainly, the notion that women imnediately pursue men sincerely caused the unfortunate situation I mentioned above when I was 12 and the unrealistic expectations described in comic books caused me great psychic pain for years as I unsuccessfully tried to get girls interested in me (too bad I wasn’t reading comics when Spider Man started–Peter Parker’s experience was definitely closer to reality for people like me, but no, I started reading in 1968 when he had two beautiful women doting on him).
At the risk Alan of hitting on a book that you are going to review later this month (although I doubt that you will), the December 1971 comic book crop included a Conway written Sub Mariner issue where Namor, having lost his memory (again!), is found by a young woman on the street who takes the stranger up to her apartment to nurse him and even calls him handsome. She then says that she needs to be with him and winds up going with him on a dangerous mission with Doctor Doom! If this story sounds a little familiar, it definitely reminded me of the Phantom Stranger book you blogged about last month where the blind woman picked up a total stranger (phantom or otherwise), took him up to her apartment, became romantically interested in him and accompanied him on a dangerous mission (at least she had powers though, unlike the woman in the Sub Mariner). Happens every day right? Sorry to go on like this–on a personal topic yet–but I really wanted to get this off my chest.
As usual, I didn’t read the part of your post about the subsequent issues or the comments dealing with them. I will say that I look forward to reading them after I re-read the books on my own during their actual half century anniversaries as I loved Steve Englehart in his first stay at Marvel (and I know that I still do because I did re-read a lot of his stuff when I first got Marvel Unlimited in 2014).
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” It’s one thing to bound around in public among folks that are strangers. It’s another thing to do it at work among people that know you and see you every day.”
Fair point, Stu, but the problem there is that Hank’s fictional world is one in which folks regularly do just that. Take Daredevil, who back in the ’60s not only convinced Karen and Foggy that he wasn’t Matt Murdock, but that he was actually two *different* DDs, the second showing up after Matt’s fake twin brother Mike “died”. As I see it, once you’ve established a genre convention in which the audience is expected to accept that a colorful spandex unitard and a half-face mask renders one completely unrecognizable even to those closest to them, you don’t get to ignore that convention when it becomes inconvenient for a particular story. 🙂
Oh, and no worries about spoilers for this month’s Sub-Mariner — I’m not going near that one!
Besides (and I’ve obviously spent too much time thinking about this), if Hank needed a disguise, why not just wear his Beast costume? We know he had it and that would seem like the simpliest, easiest fix. To drink a new and untested chemical compound just seems unrealistic and wildly irresponsible, especially for a scientist. Of course, what am I saying? Peter Parker is a scientist and he did the same thing in Spidey #100 just a few months before. COMICS!!
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At one point, I had a line in the post about “too bad Hank wasn’t hanging out with Peter Parker, who could have told him this was a really bad idea”, but I ended up cutting it out. So thanks for getting that parallel into the comment thread, Don!
But getting back to the disguise question — the way I read the story, Hank *did* consider suiting up back on page 15 (“If I become the Beast…”) but rejected the idea for fear he’d be recognized. Stu’s point was that that was in fact a reasonable concern, while my take was that in the *real* world it would be, but that in the Marvel Universe that ship has long since sailed.
Of course, at the end of the day we’re arguing about the verisimilitude of a fictional character’s decision to do something which is in and of itself impossible. Like you said, Don — COMICS!
Just wondering … Do you think brown-haired Hank ended up with grey fur because of Werewolf by night?
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Hmm… good question!