Wednesday, February 24, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: October 1964, part 3


A couple of issues ago, Thor had sent Zemo, Enchantress and Executioner into another dimension. But now the Enchantress uses her own magic to bring them back to Earth.

They immediately start plotting their revenge against the Avengers. They recruit a former industrialist named Simon Williams (put out of business by Stark Industries' superior products) who had turned to embezzlement. Zemo infuses Williams with “ionic rays,” giving him super strength and invulnerability. A rocket belt lets him fly. Now called Power Man, he manages to join up with the Avengers as a mole.

He’s actually got no choice. It was only after Zemo gives him power that he’s told the process leaves him with only a week to live. Unless, of course, he helps capture the Avengers and earns an antidote from Zemo.

Well, he does help capture the heroes, but balks at killing them. In the end, he seemingly gives his life to save the Avengers. But this is a comic book universe, where few deaths are permanent. A few years down the line, Wonder Man will be back and will eventually become a regular member of the Avengers.


A guy with purple skin known as, well, the Purple Man, has the ability to control the minds of people when they are close by. He uses a pretty neat tactic to steal—he just asks people for stuff. Under his sway, they “freely” give it to him. He gets money from a bank, swanky rooms at a hotel and an army of bodyguards just by asking for it all. Technically, he’s not breaking any laws.

Daredevil is able to resist his mind control tricks, so the Purple Man sics a mob on him. Eventually, though, Daredevil is able to trick the bad guy into confessing to actual crimes. He also figures out that the color of the villain’s skin is a component to his power. In his later appearances, this would be further clarified—it turns out his skin cells actually produce a will-sapping nerve gas.

Purple Man’s first appearance, though, is still a well-plotted story. His M.O. makes him a fairly interesting villain, though his lack of visual appeal means he never becomes a major player in the Marvel Universe. He simply never got used that often.

That’s it for October 1964. In fact, this wraps up three full years of the modern Marvel Universe. Pretty much all the major good guys for the 1960s and early 1970s have shown up. The Hulk has his own series again. Captain America will have his own solo tales starting next month. We don’t seem to get invaded by alien races quite as frequently as we did during the first year or two, but it’s still not that unusual an event. We’ve also had trouble with several subterranean races and Atlantis. The Fantastic Four and Spider Man are still the cream of the crop, but every series has its strong points. Thor is on the cusp of becoming downright incredible, though it’ll be another year before it really gets there. Dr. Strange will be having some of his best stories ever. Even the fairly weak entries like the Human Torch’s Strange Tales series and Giant Man have improved. It’s a good time to be a Marvel fan.

So next time, we’ll jump into November 1964. Sue and Johnny’s new-found dad will apparently get superpowers; Spider Man gets publicly castigated as a coward; Johnny and Ben tangle with old enemies, as does Thor; Dr. Strange makes a powerful enemy, but also meets his future girlfriend; Iron Man goes up against the Black Knight; Captain America stops some ill-mannered louts from invading the Avengers H.Q.; the Avengers add another member to their rogues’ gallery; and the X-Men run across another mutant with a bad attitude.

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