This week’s timely installment of Make Mine Marvel features the origin tale of this year’s box office behemoth… The Black Panther! It also features as many literary references as scribe Roy Thomas could shoehorn in, and that’s a lot! Probably too many! How many? Let’s find out!
AVENGERS #87 (Apr. 1971): “REVEALED AT LAST! THE ORIGIN OF T’CHALLA!” During some low-key chillouts at the Avengers Mansion, Black Panther lets it slip that he’s feeling homesick and his teammates waste no time in being assholes/making it about themselves:
Despite that, he charitably agrees to tell everyone about his homeland and himself. Following the death of T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka (killed by Klaw while stealing Wakanda’s vibranium), he is sent by his father’s trusted aide N’Baza to study in the best European and American schools with his childhood friend B’Tumba. I’m not entirely sure how a deep and abiding respect for the European educational system and Wakanda’s policy of total isolationism intersect, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there.
N’Baza tells T’Challa that in order to seize the mantle of Wakanda’s leadership, he needs to pass the tests left for him by his father. One is the sacred rite of Beating Up a Bunch of Guys (naturally) while the other (which follows the bequeathing of Black Panther’s costume) requires locating and eating the sacred heart-shaped herb. T’Challa suspects N’Baza is enaging in treachery and trying to get him killed, a feeling deepened when he comes across an A.I.M. ship [Advanced Idea Mechanics – the former science wing of Hydra] stealing vibranium.
It turns out that the traitor is actually his friend, B’Tumba, who was jealous that T’Challa was better than him at doing stuff! At the crucial moment, though, B’Tumba finds himself unable to kill T’Challa, and in the ensuing fight with the A.I.M. agents, he is the one who dies.
And back at the Avengers Mansion, the Black Panther’s friends proceed to make this story all about themselves.
INCREDIBLE HULK #138 & 139 (May 1971 – June 1971):
Roy Thomas kicks off the post-Space Moby Dick issue of the Hulk by quoting THE ENTIRETY of Yeats’ “The Sorrow of Love”:
Like, we get it, Roy. You read a book once. Geez louise.
Anyway, Bruce Banner heads to an upstate private hospital to visit Betty Ross, where, at the same time, the Sandman is forcing a doctor to do a total blood transfusion on him in order to try and stop his body from turning into glass (?!). The Sandman abducts Betty for her blood and the doctor doesn’t object to this clearly unethical and TOTALLY MESSED-UP scenario. Meanwhile, Bruce spies on the procedure from the hallway and watches as the doctor swaps all of the Sandman’s toxic blood into the woman he loves. And DOES NOTHING. Bruce does nothing because OH MAN, WHAT IF BECOMING THE HULK IS MORE DANGEROUS TO HER THAN GETTING SEVERAL PINTS OF RADIOACTIVE BLOOD PUMPED INTO HER BODY?!!?
At this point—KIND OF AFTER THE FACT—Bruce turns into the Hulk and he and the Sandman have it out. General Ross scoops them up in a cage (wait, how does a cage hold the Sandman—he’s made of sand?) and dumps them in the oceans, where they continue to pummel each other until the Hulk wins by dispersing the Sandman’s sandy molecules.
Cut back to the hospital where General Ross goes to visit his daughter and discovers…
Elsewhere, the Leader has figured out that no one single adversary of the Hulk’s has ever beat him on their own… but what if he faced them all at once?! If that happened…
So… you want to give the Hulk a heart attack. Yeah. Okay. That’s a good sounding plan. This must be that ‘unrivaled intellect’ we’ve heard so much about, Leader. [rolls eyes forever]
Cut to the woods, where the Hulk is having a nice time with the wildlife.
In any case, in yet another bout of catastrophically poor decision-making, General Ross and President Nixon agree to turn the top secret Project Brain-Wave over to the Leader in order to stop the Hulk. The Leader conjures mental projections of the Hulk’s foes to battle the Hulk but ultimately the Hulk fights his way to the Leader who is trapped in his own nightmare where multiple Hulks menace him. Then the Hulk bounds away. The end.
AVENGERS #88 (May 1971) & INCREDIBLE HULK #140 (June 1971):
This two-part crossover is notable for one main reason: iconic sci-fi author (and legendary prick and notable sexual harasser) Harlan Ellison came up with the story. And like, it’s not a great story either. (It’s certainly not helped by Roy Thomas dropping in references to Ellison story titles wherever he can wherever he can like a desperate fanboy.) There is, for instance, an extremely dubious scene with some bayou Voodoo worshippers.
That said, Part 1 does feature this all time classic panel:
And Part 2 features, as far as I know, the first appearance of any incarnation of Smart Hulk.
Smart Hulk almost gets a nice life as the ruler of a microscopic green people…
…but before that can happen, he’s ripped back to our world, because the Hulk can’t have nice things.
READ BUT NOT REVIEWED: Conan the Barbarian #4-6 (Apr. 1971 – June 1971):
There’s nothing wrong with these issues. There’s just also not a lot that’s particularly noteworthy. Issues #4 & 5 are Robert E. Howard adaptations (#4 is the very excellent adaptation of ‘The Tower of the Elephant’) and #6 is a new story mostly notable for the brief appearance and sudden demise of a couple of off-brand Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser knock-offs (who DC held the licensing rights for at the time).
AD OF THE WEEK:
Believe it or not, this is from an ad that was marketing slacks to teenagers to make them feel more grown-up.
NEXT TIME: The in-no-way sexist first issue of Savage Tales!