People in the ’60s were so baked. Take, for example, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Y’know those Spider-Man and Iron Man movies you loved so much? How about that Fantastic Four movie you endured, hoping Jessica’s Alba’s top would turn invisible or Michael Chiklis would finally show us what a dong made of orange rocks looks like? Or the Hulk movies that you didn’t watch at all because in the case of the first one, you’re still not sure who Ang Lee is, and as for the second, hey, Ed Norton and Liv Tyler… really?
Well, Stan co-created all of the characters inhabiting those flicks, teaming with both Kirby and a genius/batshit-crazy Objectivist named Steve Ditko to design the characters and stories that powered the recent $4 billion Disney buyout of Marvel Comics. And based on my reading of one of their milestone works, I’d say at least one member of the trio spent all of the early 1960s wasted out of his gourd. It’s that fucking nuts.
The milestone in question is Avengers #1, released in 1963 for the whopping sum of 12 cents. In theory, the tale it tells will be the basis for the Avengers movie that Disney/Marvel will be releasing in 2012. I say “in theory” because any Hollywood screenwriter who tried to do a faithful rendition of this story would promptly find himself relegated to writing for Lifetime movies during the week and snorting coke off Joe Eszterhas’ hairy taint on the weekends.
The story begins with our villain –Loki, Norse god of evil and hella suave antler aficionado– doing that villainous thing where he stands around explaining to thin air why he’s pissed and what he’s gonna do about it.
So, after roaming the earth psychically for a few panels, Low-Key Lyesmith spots a giant green dude hopping around the countryside. A lesser god might have assumed this was Kermit getting his BALCO on, but Loki correctly identifies him as the “incredible” Hulk. (I maintain that a truly incredible Hulk would know better than to opt for purple pants.) Using an evil imagination honed by centuries of (apparently) playing Mousetrap, he plants an illusory TNT bundle near an oncoming train, which draws the attention of a clumsy Hulk, who –using his own special gamma-irradiated variation of Bến Tre logic– destroys the trestle while trying to save it. Aside from exercising his penchant for sheer dickishness, Loki’s goal here is to create a PR nightmare for the Hulk, which will draw Thor out of his secret identity and set him up to be… well, that part’s not clear at all.
You want a convoluted revenge scheme that requires dozens of variables to work out just so, in precise sequence, across multiple time zones and planes of existence? Loki’s your dude. Want a clearly defined goal? Not so much.
Soon, word of the Hulk’s boo-boo is sweeping the nation, where it gets the attention of one Rick Jones, a character who spent at least a decade as the designated deus ex machina of the Marvel Universe. Jones could always be relied upon to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, fuck something up, or take a small problem and make it bigger. In that sense he was a bit like Scooby-Doo, only without the charm of palling around with a dirty hippie, a womens’ studies major, the hot bimbo she’s “studying”, and a guy so deep in the closet he doesn’t even realize how gay his ascot looks.
That doesn’t mean Rick didn’t have friends, though. He had his pals in The Teen Brigade, an informal organization of enterprising youth who, judging by this panel, included at least one crazy-eyed bastard.
In this case, Rick’s instinct is to try and contact the Fantastic Four on their “special wavelength”, hoping they will be able to peacefully contain the Hulk. Thanks to Loki’s intervention and Jack Kirby’s Cro-Magnon-like understanding of the principles of radio, Rick’s message goes astray and is picked up by others.
Which others? You’ll find out in our next installment! Or, you could, y’know, look at the cover image up at the top of this installment. Either way, I’m cool.
To be continued…