Friday, July 27, 2018

Unholy Ghost! (Marvel)
Iron Man #239 When: February 1989 Why: David Michelinie & Bob Layton How: Jackson Guice & Bob Layton

The Story So Far...
When elusive tech company Electronica Fabrizzi jumps at the first low offer from Stark industries -- industrialist Tony Stark travels to Italy to investigate further.

Discovering his old business rival Justin Hammer behind the flagging corporation; Stark enters into an unlikely deal for the soul of a young man named Donald Gill.

Hammer has fostered Gill's burgeoning criminal career as the new ice-powered Blizzard, thwarting Stark's attempts to mentor him back to the straight and narrow. Hammer agrees to leave the boy's life for good on one condition: Stark must send Iron Man to deal with a saboteur he thought was dead: The Ghost!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Iron Man 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Draw 5 (Professor)
Speed: Iron Man 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Iron Man 6 (Generator)
Agility: Ghost 2 (Average)
Fighting: Iron Man 4 (Trained)
Energy: Iron Man 5 (Arsenal)
Total: Iron Man 31 (Super)

It's time for a tech war as our hero meets one of his most unusual adversaries!

Ghost isn't your usual, run-of-the-mill corporate terrorist! He's a completely anonymous mercenary, known to sometimes lend his services to the very corporations he ultimately aims to destroy!

The mystery of Ghost's past is guarded through his suit's ability to render him invisible to most monitoring systems, and intangible to the material world! He can move freely through most physical barriers, carrying a variety of concealed weaponry and hi-tech devices, which allows him mastery over machine systems!

This is technically the first time we're seeing Ghost in action in the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, but he was in the area when Luke Cage and The Avengers got the drop on Juggernaut, back in Thunderbolts #150!

Ghost was recruited into the Thunderbolts black-ops team by Norman Osborn, whose "Dark Reign" was a means to consolidate military-corporate influence under one entity -- only to infect and destroy it from within! A similar philosophy that first led him to target Stark Industries asset Accutech in the employ of Carrington Pax - a Roxxon Oil executive.

You don't mess with Stark Industries without running afoul of Iron Man! The armored Avenger is, of course, billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, posing as his own bodyguard while suited in one of his most impressive inventions!

Iron Man has no shortage of technological enemies! We've seen him take on the blitzing buzzsaw of Whirlwind [Iron Man Annual #11], his modified War Machine [Iron Man #310], heavily armored Titanium Man [Iron Man #316], diabolical Doctor Doom [Mighty Avengers #10], and Soviet counterpart Crimson Dynamo [Invincible Iron Man #14]. All similar to himself in some way -- unlike Ghost!

Few opponents are able to evade Iron Man's super-strong clutches, let alone render his armor near moot! Psylocke penetrated his defenses psychically in Contest of Champions II #1, while Jesse Bedlam's mutant power to disrupt machines shut him down completely, later in the same issue.

Ghost simply isn't like the others, and although Iron Man has defeated him prior to today's featured fight, he knows all too well Ghost can evade his detection methods, and catch him by surprise! A psychological component to Ghost's assault that plays an extra role in any of their encounters!

The Tape: Iron Man Ranking: Iron Man (#3)

What Went Down...
Broadcast news of Tony Stark's tour at Electronica Fabrizzi is all that's needed to lure The Ghost into a showdown. Iron Man scans the building as he waits to spring his trap, but is surprised to find The Ghost has modified his technology to evade his sensor's detection!

The evasion method isn't Ghost's only upgrade since his last encounter with Iron Man. Raising his fist before him, Ghost reveals the ability to render objects invisible -- including a hi-tech gun!

Iron Man takes evasive maneuvers, going aerial to fly out of the path of the unexpected gunfire! He narrowly avoids every blast as Ghost unloads!

Observing the improved speed and maneuverability of Iron Man's new armor, Ghost abandons the gun in favor of his preferred methods. He becomes translucent as his body begins to disappear through the floor.

Answer Ghost's challenge -- Iron Man takes chase by blasting a hole through the floor with his gauntlets! He kicks his jets into maximum thrust in order to keep up with The Ghost, whose escape continues on the floor below. It's a trap!

The careening pursuit plays right into the hands of The Ghost, who rendered a massive piece of technology invisible! It provides an unseen wall for Iron Man to collide with -- momentarily knocking him to the ground!

Ghost approaches his downed adversary, who prepares to take advantage of their close quarters. When Iron Man thrusts his armored hand in The Ghost's direction - it passes eerily through him!

A chip attached to his armor has rendered Iron Man intangible! Worse still, the chip itself is intangible even to the man its attached to! The Ghost gloats that his nemesis is now beyond nourishment, or aid. Leaving him to a slow death.

The Hammer...
Well, that certainly got grim at the end!

I have to imagine Ghost isn't the first villain to threaten Iron Man with some form of attrition. The fact that intangibility is a prison completely out of Stark's dominion, taking away his very capacity for invention, is what gives it a unique element of psychological horror! Or at least, it would...

The reader probably has every confidence the end will be undone in the next issue! If you guessed an electro-magnetic pulse would disable Ghost's chip long enough for James Rhodes to shoot it off -- you'd be right! That type of solution was certainly my thinking when reading the issue the first time.

The only question left to answer: Does this predicament constitute a defeat?

The circumstances are certainly unusual. Iron Man isn't kayoed, or incapacitated in the traditional sense. His eventual escape from the trap in the next issue can provide only so much context for assessing the conflict, but it matters. When Ghost leaves, Tony Stark is still in full control of his faculties, and presumably his armor - the primary method of his eventual freedom (with Rhodey's assist).

Grand designs for permanent intangibility and eventual starvation don't pass the acid test, but there's more than one way to beat an opponent. Death does not victory as victory is but a temporary state.

As close as I was to calling this an inconclusive draw - Ghost does clearly walk away with his opponent taken out of the fight. Being intangible isn't in and of itself defeat, but by applying it offensively, Ghost gets the better of Iron Man. It's unconventional, but I've got to give it up to him on points!

Of course, in a much later incarnation, Ghost himself will begin to spend more time in a state of intangibility. Not that you'd say he does this without adverse effects. The later Ghost is an increasingly gaunt, eerie presence.

The later version, featured prominently in Thunderbolts, was a lot of fun, and gave the character a bit more edge than the original incarnation. There's a Psycho Mantis quality to him, for those who know their Metal Gear characters.

Fans who've now seen Ant-Man and The Wasp in theatres will know an entirely different character called Ghost, who shares trace elements of the original, in both of his memorable incarnations.

The Ant-Man films have been some of the most aggressive in changing the Marvel Comics they adapt, which might be why I fell in love with the original comic book appearances of Ghost while rummaging through back issues.

The concept is given a lot of weight right from the get-go [starting with Iron Man #219], at a time when Iron Man was surrounded by plenty of memorable foes! If you were a fan of the mid-nineties Marvel Action Hour cartoon, you'll recognize a lot of the villains active during this late slice of Layton & Michelinie. Ghost himself takes on cartoon stalwarts Blacklash, Whirlwind, and Blizzard, earlier in the issue featured today.

Sometimes that kind of hubris in introducing a new villain is horribly misplaced, but here - it worked! Ghost is pretty instantly a memorable, credible nemesis - even though they seemingly killed him off after the first three-issue arc!

Upping the threat in this return rematch was a great way to continue developing the character. The concept really fits in with the hi-tech, corporate world Iron Man moved in, at that time. It's still American superhero, slightly outmoded by the concurrent cyberpunk of Japanese manga, but that was part of the Iron Man charm. I've always enjoyed the notion that America builds their machines big.

The Ghost design is a little generic in these early appearances. It reminds me of a non-descript action figure design. At some point, I know I was confusing a triumvirate of white villains - Ghost, Whyteout, and Slyde. Admittedly, Ghost is easily in a league above the other two.

Ghost was especially complimented by standing out from the other IM villains of the time. He looked and behaved differently from the other pure comic book super-villains, but also the usually armored techno-fiends. It was easy to embrace the update mentioned earlier, but there's a charm to this original style. I daresay the movie finds a nice balance between both, too.

I've had a lot of fun looking back at this era of Iron Man. Quintessential Marvel comics with fast, fun superhero action and melodrama. Not as smooth or punchy as it could've been, but very digestible never the less.

If you'd like to feast on more classic confrontations like this one: dive into the Secret Index to find every featured fight archived in order of publisher, series, and issue number! You can also get daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day by following on Twitter and Facebook! A like and share is a nice way to show you care and help support the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths!

Winner: Ghost
#312 (new) Ghost
#3 (--) Iron Man

Friday, July 20, 2018

Rest and Sweet Glory Part 2: The Bootstrap Model (Marvel)
Marvel Comics Presents #114 When: October 1992 Why: Dwayne McDuffie How: Ron Wilson

The Story So Far...
Bill Foster's experience working with Hank Pym granted him incredible powers that come with exposure to Pym Particles! The wonders of increasing and reducing his size have made him the newest Giant-Man -- but it's his scientific prowess that Dr. Edwin Hawkins wants!

Recruited at the recommendation of Mister Fantastic: Bill Foster is embarking on a new journey working for Stane International. His knowledge of Pym Particles and biochemistry can help Hawkins build a working quantum mechanical model that could revolutionize physics!

Just one problem! Project Head Dr. Michael Stockton isn't all he appears to be, and Stane International is interested in more profitable markets for their super-science. Recovering from a prototype malfunction - Giant-Man finds the truth!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Draw 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Draw 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 2 (Average)
Stamina: Draw 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Giant-Man 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Dr. Nemesis 2 (Arsenal)
Total: Draw 22 (Champion)

A couple of weeks ago we had the long & short of it, but today it's big & tall all the way! We're super-sizin' our fightin' fun with two challengers whom, by any other name, would smell as sweet! Info's in the introductions...

Doctor Nemesis is scientist Dr. Michael Stockton, whose field of research is the subatomic. He was recruited by Advanced Idea Mechanics, becoming a self-styled nemesis to Hank Pym and the Wasp! By stealing Pym's unique particle technology, Stockton acquired similar skills of shrinking and enlarging.

This Doctor Nemesis is not to be confused with James Bradley: A World War II-era vigilante, and Nazi collaborator turned hunter, whose unique biochemistry saw him associate with Beast and the X-Men into the modern age. The potential for confusion doesn't end there, though...

Stockton had multiple run-ins with Hank Pym as Ant-Man, but today's battle with Giant-Man is not a rematch in his oversized alter-ego!

At this time: Dr. Bill Foster had assumed the mantle of Giant-Man. He adopted the moniker at the suggestion of his good friend and Project Pegasus colleague - Thing! He had previously adventured as the costumed Black Goliath.

Foster worked alongside Hank Pym as a biochemist at Stark International. He was later responsible for duplicating the Pym Particles formula and removing it of harmful side effects. This was how he acquired his powers, which most typically involve increasing his size to goliath proportions.

Goliath grappled with Pym (as Yellow Jacket) during the Avengers Civil War between registered and anti-registration heroes [Civil War #3]. Goliath and the Secret Avengers were ultimately undone by Iron Man, and a bio-mechanical clone of Thor dubbed Ragnarok. Ragnarok killed Goliath in Civil War #4.

Dying is neither here, nor there. Bill Foster's alive and ready to take on Doctor Nemesis in today's story! As an experienced adventurer - he's got a compelling case for beating him, too! Giant-Man's gone toe-to-toe with the Hulk! The only snag could be Nemesis' ability to warp the science of size-manipulation for devious ends -- combined with the element of surprise!

These two are incredibly evenly matched! Let's see who takes the win!

The Tape: Draw Ranking: Giant-Man (#586)

What Went Down...
Growing to gigantic proportions: "Giant-Man" Bill Foster intimidates his way through his employer's restricted access doors. Inside awaits a hi-tech device -- quickly identified by his colleague, Dr. Edwin Hawkins, as a warhead!

The shock that Hawkins' research has been utilized for military application is quickly interrupted by the arrival of Stane International security, led by project head Dr. Stockton. The revelation of international arms dealing provokes action!

The super-sized super-hero rips a sheet of metal from the lab floor and wraps it around a scrambling, armed security team!

Giant-Man challenges other security forces to join the fight, but instead finds another opponent revealing himself! Dr. Stockton removes his lab coat and dons the guise of the notorious Doctor Nemesis!

Foster knows his enemy thanks to Hank Pym, but not the new developments he's made thanks to the search of Dr. Hawkins! Nemesis plucks a button from his lab coat and demonstrates the manipulation of weight but not size!

The tiny button strikes Giant-Man in the stomach with unexpected force! He doubles over, dropping to his knees as Nemesis postulates the button must've weighed a focused forty pounds by the time it hit its target!

Embarrassed by the simplicity of the attack, Giant-Man recovers to his feet - getting even bigger to tower ominously over the bad Doctor! A body-sized fist collides with Nemesis for an equalizer!

Giant-Man follows instantly with a crushing hammer fist to finish the job!

The battle may be won, but the war with Stane International is just beginning! A shadow casts over Giant-Man as he contemplates calling the Avengers, signaling the arrival of another foe -- the gargantuan Goliath!

The Hammer...
A short story delivers a big winner: Giant-Man claims victory!

We're back in Marvel Comics Presents territory, exploring Part 2 of a six-part adventure starring Bill Foster! As covered in The Tape section [above], you may know Bill Foster better as "Goliath".

Foster debuted as the in-fashion "Black Goliath" in 1975, back referencing a character first seen in Avengers #32 (in 1966). He's part of a tangled web of monikers: one of three heroes to have gone by Giant-Man -- and a small handful of heroes and villains who've answered to Goliath.

If I had to pick one Goliath to rule them all - it would be Bill Foster - but to make matters a little more complicated, he's under attack from another well known Goliath at the end of today's featured chapter.

Erik Josten towers as Doctor Nemesis' extra muscle, but looms largest in Marvel Comics lore as the altruistic "Atlas". That was an identity he grew into, having adopted it as one of Baron Zemo's insidious Thunderbolts: villains pretending to be heroes while capitalizing on the Heroes Reborn disappearance of the Avengers and Fantastic Four. [A long story that started in Incredible Hulk #449 if you're really interested!]

I'm sure at some point we'll get around to checking out Foster v Josten, if only for its curiosity factor!

A little bit like Wasp's adventure in Marvel Super-Heroes #3, these Bill Foster asides are some of the fun curiosities you got from Marvel's anthology offerings in the early nineties. Hidden gems buried beneath usual MCP cover star Wolverine, and at this time, Ghost Rider and Iron Fist.

If you feel like you've seen a different cover for Marvel Comics Presents #114 - you aren't mistaken. The series was running with a flip-book gimmick around this time, so there's another cover on the other side. I guess it was somebody's idea for pushing dual lead stories, and it's kind of fun as an artefact, but it's also a needless complication on the racks, and when reading.

"Rest and Sweet Glory" (the title of the Giant-Man serial) doesn't seem like it was ever intended for elsewhere, as is sometimes the case with these anthology series. It doesn't have the heft of a new series pilot, or ambitions of Dwayne McDuffie's introduction to Damage Control in Marvel Comics Presents #19.

It's actually kind of the perfect secondary story for a series like Marvel Comics Presents. A fun episode with a super-hero who might not otherwise be in the spotlight, but is part of the wide, wonderful Marvel Universe.

In this case, the story serves a purpose of helping establish the new identity of Giant-Man. A security guard even gets a helpful correction when he refers to him as Black Goliath -- a nice acknowledgment of his established history, and meta-reference for readers who might be making a similar adjustment.

The shift to Giant-Man wasn't the right fit given its iconic association with Hank Pym, but it probably seemed like a good idea, at the time. It's a classic Marvel moniker that somebody might as well have been using. Pym had been doing his own thing in West Coast Avengers and didn't seem likely to go back. Thirty years into the Marvel saga, it was easy to be naïve about a thing like that.

The Tarantino fueled retro-appeal of haphazardly throwing "Black" in front of an African-American character's name wasn't there yet. I don't know the origins of the practice, but it's always seemed weird. "Black Goliath" probably needed a nineties update and just Goliath had those villain ties. In the end, it turned out to be a much better choice. "Black" or not, Goliath was a well earned name.

Goliath is also a name you'll now have heard if you saw Ant-Man and The Wasp in theatres! Laurence Fishburne brings a maturing Bill Foster to the screen. Sadly, he doesn't perform any feats as Goliath -- which is exactly why we had to go rummage in the comics for that kind of real shared universe fun!

If you'd like to find more curios and classics, you can find every featured fight index by publisher, series, and issue in the Secret Archive! Follow along on Twitter and Facebook for daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day -- or do it the old fashioned way, and steer your own destiny by following links to characters and series throughout this post! You never know when there'll be a follow-up! Tell your friends while you're at it, too!

Winner: Giant-Man
#357 (+229) Giant-Man (Bill Foster)
#853 (new) Doctor Nemesis (Michael Stockton)

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Return of The Vulture (Marvel)
Amazing Spider-man #7 When: December 1963 Why: Stan Lee How: Steve Ditko

The Story So Far...
The Vulture has built a new flight harness and flown the coop from prison to again spread terror from above!

His new and improved magnetic mechanism flies rings around police helicopters, and effortlessly takes Vulture anywhere in the concrete jungle! An open window is all that's needed to pick a jewelry showroom clean of its extravagant riches!

Fortunately for the citizens of New York City, Spider-man knows the way to beat the Vulture at his own game! He still has the anti-magnetic inverter he built to clip the Vulture's wings. He's ready to do it all again -- or so he thinks!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Spider-man 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Draw 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Spider-man 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-Like)
Fighting: Spider-man 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Spider-man 2 (Projectiles)
Total: Spider-man 29 (Meta-human)

The stat sheet paints a pretty one-sided picture, but you can never completely count out the lethal foes of Spider-man! His opponent makes the sky his home and when the bird comes a-swoopin' that spider's gonna hope he has cover!

Vulture is Adrian Toomes: a genius inventor and electrical engineer who discovered a method for personal flight through the use of an electronic harness. The device allows for levitation and propulsion which he steers using a winged suit. The harness is also said to increase his strength and vitality.

Toomes was initially inspired to a life of crime when his business partner absconded with embezzled funds. He quickly became one of Spider-man's earliest arch-villains, defeated in Amazing Spider-man #2 by an invention designed to incapacitate his flight harness.

A wingless Vulture was able to escape Spider-man while he fought Electro in Marvel Knights: Spider-man #3. A later gathering of the Sinister Twelve saw Vulture targeting Spider-man and Black Cat, before the Avengers intervened to bring about the team's defeat, in Marvel Knights: Spider-man #11.

Spidey's swinging solo in today's fight, and although Toomes is essentially just an old man in a fancy flying suit -- his aerial acrobatics negate one of Spider-man's most unique advantages: his maneuverability!

Human Torch almost used his aerial advantage to panfry Spider-man in Fantastic Four #543! The web-head only got the better of a gliding Green Goblin after grounding him in Marvel Knights: Spider-man #1! If it wasn't for the cosmic powers of Captain Universe giving him flight of his own: Spidey might've met his match fighting Magneto way back in Amazing Spider-man #327!

Versatility is the key difference between our two foes. Spider-man's spider-sense, web-slinging, strength, speed, agility, and wall-crawling give him a gamut of skills to call upon, not to mention his smarts. Vulture exclusively controls the air.

Like the bird that snatches the spider from its web - Vulture's dangerous - but if Parker can capitalize on the city environment, and any of his other skills, he can ground the Vulture. Something he's done many times later in his career! Will he do it in this - their second major encounter? Let's find out!

History: Spider-man (1-0-0)
The Tape: Spider-man Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...
A web-swinging search of the New York City skyline uncovers the Vulture fresh from a jewelry showroom heist! Spider-man's danger senses alert him to the aerial villain's proximity, but he has no way of knowing Vulture has taken counter-measures for the "anti-magnetic inverter" that defeated him last time!

Spidey sticks to a nearby building, waiting for Vulture's swooping attack to bring him close enough for the hi-tech gizmo's deactivation range.

The overconfident wall-crawler also draws his camera, aiming to get Daily Bugle photographer Peter Parker the perfect snapshot of Vulture's moment of defeat! Everything appears to be going to plan as Vulture plays along -- perfectly timing his sudden downward spiral towards the pavement!

As he makes chase, Spidey isn't sure if he noticed a smile creep across the face of Adrian Toomes. The speed of Vulture's descent sends the leaping hero on a course of ledges -- obscuring his vision to his winged foe's convenience!

Vulture pushes his wings down, hugging the side of a building as he turns his trajectory upwards! Even the pang of spider-sense fails to warn Spider-man of the oncoming threat just below his feet! The Vulture strikes!

The winged warrior knocks Spider-man from the building ledge and follows his aerial assault with a flying kick! The blows throw Spidey tumbling into open space! He desperately shoots a web towards the nearby buildings -- but misses!

Fast reflexes and a powerful core give Spider-man his only back-up plan -- an attempt to ease the impact of his fall by twisting in mid-air!

The web-slinger still hits hard when he crash lands onto a nearby roof space!

The Vulture proclaims victory as he soars the New York skies above a horrified crowd. Perched upon a flag pole he contemplates his newfound notoriety, while a prone Spider-man lies motionless -- surviving only by the grace of a radioactive spider that imbued him with its proportionate strength!

The Hammer...
That means Vulture registers a victory as we finally expand upon his profile with a meaningful spotlight! I only wish it were under more joyous circumstances...

Sadly, the world has lost legendary co-creator of Spider-man (and Vulture): Steve Ditko. News of his passing on June 29th only reached the wider world late last week. He was ninety.

As the originator: Ditko was both lauded for the inventive quirks he instilled in Spider-man, but also all too easily overlooked. Followed by generations of subsequent iconic artists, Ditko provided the foundation upon which many built.

I've been guilty of taking Ditko for granted at times, and even glossing over the charms that made him a great comic book artist. There's a simplicity in some of his work that doesn't always jive with me, but that's not the whole story.

Truth be told, I've been enjoying Steve Ditko's work for nearly the entirety of my life! It's been working its way further into my mind in recent months, with Amazing Spider-man #7 on the docket for quite some time. I was eyeing a Ditko Marvel Masterworks the night before the unfortunate news.

I think back fondly to the Ditko t-shirt I prized as a youngster: White, soft, with the cover of Amazing Spider-man #14 on the front. The blacks were raised with smooth stitching that gave the art an interesting tactile element. It was pretty great. Which was probably why I'd occasionally stuff it in my backpack in the 2nd and 3rd grades, switching shirts once I was safely embedded in school. That was probably the dual 'bad influence' of Ditko and Degrassi, but I digress...

Readers of a certain age defined their Spider-fandom by the Ditko or John Romita years. I'm grateful to have been exposed to both. Romita's vivid pop sensibilities age better, but there's simply no denying the fantastic canon of characters established during the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko run.

Vulture is just one of many classic villains defined by Ditko's rendering, but he's a fine example! Hovering with arched-eyebrows, and a wicked grin that curls beneath prominent nose and cheekbones, he's a fully realized character. I buy wholeheartedly into the cranky old man in fur-lined green bodysuit. Which is probably a big reason the character endured in the face of modern disbelief.

Ditko's Spidey is stiff and awkward, still new to his powers. At times it seems a trait of the artwork, but there are immediately available exceptions throughout this very issue. The graceful, leaping contortionist would evolve out of these early, gawky examples of wall-crawling.

Page 5 of Amazing #7 is a personal favourite. It shows Vulture gliding over the city, rooftops, street, and gracefully into a vulnerable jewelry showroom. The six panel array is masterfully economic in creating its sense of motion and storytelling. Vulture's character is on display throughout. A pleasure to behold!

Ditko was responsible for creating and co-creating some great characters. My favourites might be the Spidey rogues gallery, but there are many contenders!

While not perfect, I'd say the atmosphere and world of Doctor Strange also ranks among his best [see; Strange Tales #114]. The great Mike Mignola shared a fun story about Al Milgrom pulling him aside to see Ditko flashing Strange's hand gestures during an animated conversation with Bill Mantlo [about ROM].

By all accounts, Ditko himself was a pretty interesting guy. A man of firm held beliefs and philosophies that weren't necessary congruent with the praise he's now to be heaped with. John Siuntres (of Word Balloon) made note of his vocal disdain for the cult of personality, while various fans shared special memories of the meaningful, hand written correspondence he was known to send.

I came across a letter shared by one Scott Mills, with particular resonances for the present day. It struck me as a fine read, and reflection of the man I've largely known only through second-hand descriptions.

I hope Mr. Ditko wouldn't mind, too much, an appreciative fan reflecting on some of his much enjoyed work.

Naturally, Spidey is down but not out at the end of Amazing #7! No doubt we'll be back some time in the future to follow up on the rematch!

If you'd like to enjoy the same issue featured today, you can do so by picking up one of several collected editions from Amazon!

By using the embedded links provided, you'll ensure Amazon supports the site at no extra cost to your order!

You can also follow on Twitter and Facebook to share daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day! Go deeper by diving into the Secret Archive for all featured fights indexed by publisher, series, and issue number. You can also find more by following tags linked throughout this post. Be sure to share finds with friends!

Winner: Vulture
#319 (+222) Vulture (Adrian Toomes)
#2 (--) Spider-man

Friday, July 06, 2018

Kingsize Problem (Marvel)
Marvel Super-Heroes #3 When: September 1990 Why: Dwight Jon Zimmerman How: Amanda Conner

The Story So Far...
Janet Van Dyne is living the glamorous double-life of a fashion-designer and founding member of The Avengers!

Being one of Earth's mightiest heroes has its advantages when it comes to inviting the biggest names to a fashion show, but keeping the two lives separate isn't always so easy! While strutting the catwalk of Bloomingdales in her latest designs, Wasp finds herself the target of a brand new villain!

Kingsize is an inhuman giant out to quash the supposed tyranny his people have suffered at the hands of tiny humans. Storming the stage as a literal raging bull -- he plans to make Wasp the first fashion victim of a new age of giants!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Kingsize 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Wasp 2 (Average)
Speed: Wasp 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Kingsize 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Wasp 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Wasp 3 (Cosmic Power)
Total: Kingsize 21 (Champion)

Sometimes big problems call for small solutions and that's exactly what we've got today! It's the first appearance for our featured villain, so without further ado -- let's take a closer look at the competitors!

Kingsize debuts to wage war for a forgotten folk he refers to as "inhuman giants"! He's clearly a big fella, but the real danger comes from a mysterious jewel encrusted in the cowl of his costume. It appears to allow him to transform into giant-sized animals and insects with the red & black pattern of his costume -- and significantly enhanced durability!

Kingsize claims his race of giants were victims to the tyranny of the tiny -- humans, that is. The regular kind, it would seem. He aims to pave the way for his people's return. Why his first target is the diminutive Wasp - I don't know!

Janet Van Dyne has been a charter member of the Avengers since the team was founded thwarting the schemes of Loki! Wasp was already an experienced hero in her own right, partnered with Dr. Hank Pym to avenge her father's murder by an alien. Their heroic career became a relationship that frequently saw them battling the likes of Egghead, Whirlwind, AIM, and Ultron.

Wasp shared the size-altering abilities granted by "Pym Particles", classically shrinking to the diminutive scale of an insect. A wing-adorned flight suit gave Wasp extra maneuverability, with an energy-blasting "stinger" weapon providing greater offensive abilities than the typical Ant-Man!

We've seen Van Dyne go upscale from time to time, too. Blazing Skull brought her down during conflict between The Avengers and Invaders in New Invaders #0The Sentry knocked down a symbiote-infected Giant-Woman during a battle between post-Civil War divided Avengers, as well [New Avengers #36].

Each case reveals the perils of becoming a bigger target, which might be why the Wasp often keeps things small. Parallel universes are our best examples on file for the advantage of being tiny. In Marvel Zombies #1, it was Wasp's ability to go unnoticed that ultimately doomed the Magneto of that world. An attempt to infiltrate Galactus' inner sanctum didn't quite go to plan in What if...? #70, but it did spare Wasp the fatal fate of her fellow Avengers.

If Kingsize is going to make good on his plan to usher in a new age of giants, he'll be looking to use his size advantage to squash the Wasp! Given a seeming unlimited pool of animalistic transformations, he has a wide array of natural predators to draw upon, including wasp-eating spiders, lizards, and birds!

Wasp has a lot of experience and maneuverability to draw upon. Lets see how she handles Kingsize!

The Tape: Kingsize Ranking: Wasp (#75)

What Went Down...
Walking the runway in the latest designs: Janet van Dyne receives the approval of the fashionistas in attendance, but not everyone is quite so enamored by her sense of style! Kingsize crashes the party as a literal raging bull -- announcing his intention to expose the dark secret of the Wasp!

The bemused Avenger shrinks out of her designer dress, revealing the winged uniform of the Wasp! She charges her opponent head-on -- striking with a "bioelectric knock-out sting" to the snout! It should've put him down, but the resilient beast just rears up on its hind legs and goes on a mad charge!

The literal bull in a china shop negates his clichéd predicament, revealing his true form as a humanoid giant. Seeing isn't quite believing for Wasp, who can't accept the existence of a race of giants.

Her frustrated foe accommodates Wasp's disbelief, making contact with the jewel on his forehead to transform into a gigantic frog! This only draws laughs from the pint-sized heroine, but she soon stops laughing when a massive frog tongue darts in her general direction!

Kingsize isn't kidding around as he gives chase! His tongue leads, while a giant frog body negotiates the department store floor display, tossing mannequins in his wake as the airborne Wasp darts nimbly ahead!

A busy mall escalator provides obstacle for the giant crawling frog, but Kingsize returns to the form of a man just as easily as he became a frog!

Wasp sees the opportunity for a knock-out sting, but Kingsize uses the busy shoppers around him to block a clear shot. With a mere thought, he renews his offense, turning himself into a king-sized cobra!

Panicked patrons clear out as the giant snake goes back on the hunt for the Wasp! She blasts him with a dozen bioelectric bolts, but her sting is barely felt by the snake's hide! She takes a risk to get a close-range shot to the head, but the cobra strikes -- catching her in his mouth!

Fortunately for Wasp, another fashion-conscious hero was shopping nearby: the model turned private investigator - Dakota North! She opens fire on the snake's maw, sparing Wasp a fate as snake food! She threatens to target Kingsize's forehead jewel next, but a swing of his snake tail catches North unawares!

Wasp returns the favour to a kayoed North, swooping in with a stinger blast to the side of the head that finally gets Kingsize's attention! The pain earns his ire as he transforms briefly back to a man, before taking the form of a giant bee!

The battle goes aerial, but Wasp still has a size advantage when they come upon a just opening elevator. She slips between the slowly opening doors before shoppers spot the giant bee behind her, and make a beeline for safety!

Kingsize assumes he has the Wasp trapped, but she has her own view of the situation. Hitting the button to close the doors, she boxes the giant bee in where it has no room to maneuver! The miniature Wasp, on the other hand, is free to dart out of harm's way with a volley of stinger blasts!

The gambit backfires when Kingsize manages to spin at surprising speed, beating his giant bee wings with enough force to endanger the tiny Wasp's life!

She makes a desperate escape, hitting the button to open the elevator doors at the perfect moment. Kingsize isn't far behind the flying Wasp, now in the form of a gigantic spider!

The giant claims he's merely been toying with Wasp to demonstrate her true helplessness. With that, he catches Wasp in one of his many hair spider arms and claims victory! Or so it seems...

By snaring Wasp at such close quarters, she's finally able to unleash her bioelectric stinger with both barrels at point blank! The bolts blast the massive jewel on Kingsize's spider-head -- instantly beginning his reversion to man!

As his body twists and compacts, Kingsize curses his defeat. His was supposedly a destiny to end human tyranny and prepare the return of his giant people. Instead, he falls unconscious -- suffering a king-sized defeat!

The Hammer...From the files of obscurity we crown Wasp winner in a nice little solo adventure. We knew we were venturing into new territory with the featured villain, but how about that stealthy site debut for Dakota North? Her cameo registers an assist in the Fight Club Rankings. Updates are included at the bottom of this post.

Kingsize isn't a character I remember ever seeing again, but I'm told he showed up in some issues of the Civil War era Heroes for Hire. Apparently he was recipient of a Skrull organ transplant. His debut in today's story ended with Wasp vowing to call the Fantastic Four, speculating about his "Inhuman" origins.

Not really a character I feel an overwhelming need to see more of, but I'd be interested to know if his backstory was ever intended to be fleshed out. The whole concept seems a little odd and hodgepodge, but as it relates to the anthology short around it, I can kinda find some appeal in Kingsize...

They say American anthology comics usually have a tough time maintaining an audience. I would argue the bigger problem is usually maintaining quality. Like Marvel Comics Presents; the seasonal Marvel Super-Heroes specials were a hit & miss array of genuinely interesting obscurities - and slightly pointless asides.

This story always struck me as the former, functioning as an interesting case for more solo adventures for Wasp. Something I didn't necessarily know I wanted.

It might not be a soft sell to the average reader, but personally, I've always had a bit of a taste for the world of high fashion. The principally visual art forms of fashion and superhero comics are a natural fit. There are many realms that support the visual flair of classic superhero aesthetics - couture is one of them.

Exploring Janet van Dyne's career as a superhero/designer strikes me as a great starting premise to build a series around. It immediately opens her stories to the metropolitan centres of the world, and invites interesting new characters into her orbit, like the featured Dakota North.

North's style was memorably lauded in Marvel house ads of the mid-eighties, announcing an impending debut with a minimalist, fashion-style spread high on attitude, collar, and shoulder pads. The series only ran five issues, but the ads alone were enough to leave a strong impression.

She was a retired model who set up private investigation branches in New York, Paris, Rome, and Tokyo. Not quite the next big find, North's loitered in Marvel's periphery over the decades, crossing paths with everyone from Spider-man, Luke Cage, Black Panther, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil. She could've been a great supporting character in a globetrotting Wasp series!

Of course, any such series should keep its feet firmly planted in the superhero genre, as well. Which is where Kingsize's crusade for a forgotten race of 10 foot giants might've worked as a serviceable sub-plot. A new villain from the ol' play of opposites - the giant who hates the wasp.

As an on-going concern that rears its head from issue to issue, perhaps with greater illumination about the legitimacy -- or illegitimacy -- of the villain's claims, Kingsize could've worked. A friend like Thor could consult on the matter, given his familiarity with the giants of Jotunheim. A follow-up to that Fantastic Four mention might've been nice, as well. The thought of Kingsize following Wasp for a duel in Paris conjures a joy I can't fully justify.

Tony Salmons gave the Dakota North series a slick, minimalist style, but one of the things I love most about the Marvel Super-Heroes story we're talking about is the work of Amanda Conner! Her grasp of what looked hot in 1990 worked for me. Scale is a little hit and miss throughout, but Conner's compositions were worth it. Inks by Brad Vancata are generous and inky when they need to be.

My memory of comics in 1990 is that a lot of books had a thick, dark, inky print. I suspect paper stock and printing techniques soon changed that. It could look a little grubby, and sure doesn't scan great, especially when I'm off my head on contrast. We're all much better for sophisticated colouring and slick stocks, but I still have nostalgic affection for those inky newsstand issues.

We're pondering what might've been, but here in the now, there is a Wasp solo series, starring the all-new lost daughter of Hank Pym. It's not the Janet van Dyne reference fest I would've loved to see in the early nineties, but it's out there if you're so inclined.

The big screen has delivered another new Wasp in Ant-Man and The Wasp - the latest big screen offering from Marvel & Disney!

The great Michelle Pfeiffer plays Janet van Dyne on the big screen, with Evangeline Lilly stepping in as her daughter Hope. If you saw the first film, you know Ant-Man is one of the most muddled Marvel-made adaptations. Michael Douglas starred as a Hank Pym more senior to Paul Rudd's Scott Lang.

If you'd like to find more from the Marvel heroes, be sure to follow links littered throughout this post, or dive in to the Secret Index for an archive of every featured fight! You can also follow on Twitter and Facebook for daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day. A like & share helps show your support!

Winner: Wasp (w/ Dakota North)
#44 (+31) Wasp (Janet van Dyne)
#534 (new) Dakota North [+1 assist]
#852 (new) Kingsize