Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Number 1912: Avenge THIS!

“Avenger,” singular and plural, has been used several times for individual heroes (DC’s Crimson Avenger, ME’s The Avenger, the subject of today’s post), Avengers (British male-female secret agent team for television, and Marvel super team). Avenger is used often enough it seems a bit generic to me. And another thing, what exactly is each Avenger avenging? (That is a rhetorical question. Here is another rhetorical question: does it matter?)

The Avenger from ME was a Code-approved comic. I think it was intended to replace the Ghost Rider, which the publisher knew could not get Code approval in those strictly censorious days of the mid-fifties. ME also published a second hero, Strong Man, who was not as colorful as the red-clad Avenger, but lasted exactly as long, four issues.

The Avenger, first issue drawn by Dick Ayers, subsequent issues drawn by Bob Powell, was an attempt to revive the superhero genre. The Avenger was not “super,” but like Batman was a rich guy who set out to fight evil.. The Avenger was probably a couple of years too early, and then his name was co-opted for the Marvel gang now burning up movie screens worldwide.

From The Avenger #2 (1955):

More Avenger, this time by Dick Ayers. Just click on the thumbnail.


Daniel [] said...

There was a Street & Smith pulp hero, the Avenger, who was credited to Kenneth Robeson (a fictitious author with prior credit for Doc Savage). That Avenger (who was avenging the deaths of his wife an child, and then later evils) was licensed for use as a comic-book character by DC in the '70s; but, for Rocket Comics #2 (Nov 1940), Jack Cole produced an unauthorized clone, called “the Defender”. The Avenger and the Defender had the ability to mold their faces like plastic, and thus to disguise themselves and to bring themselves into resemblances to other people (typically adversaries). As the Defender appeared almost a year before Plastic Man, who was given the same peculiar ability, it is likely that Plastic Man was in no small part developed from that Avenger.

People in the comic-books do a lot of speaking out-loud where most of us just sub-vocalize. This Avenger apparently also had a felt need to tell himself, in 2:6, why he was where he was. And Ivan Makunin had a somewhat similar need to tell himself, in 5:1, not only why he was where he was, but his general line of work.

The Avenger was thinking of using the Purple Beam to repel nuclear attack; I was instead thinking of industrial application. The beam seems to have been a way to melt metal without heat. Assuming that metal subjected to the beam would eventually return to a state in which it would bond, molds could be formed of rubber and perhaps of other substances. Of course, the technology would likely use too much of something to be cost-effective.

In any case, I doubt that the Avenger's subsequent adventures were set in a world without the threat of nuclear war; and, given that the Soviets — who, as let's face it, were the unnamed foreign power for whom Makunin was working — also had the technology, we'd have been thrown into a world in which the number of soldiers (presumably armed with weapons of wood and stone) would determine the outcomes of war. That would have been … interesting in the mid-'50s.

Anonymous said...

Ivan looked like Spiderman's Doctor Octopus of several years later. Ayers and Powell had their ways of drawing Mr. Avenger —curious, different distortion by each. My favorite detail was the lab destruction switch with the spelled-out warning. Those rotten comrats from the Kremlin used it twice, no doubt standard-issue for evil laboratories.

That The Avenger quickly disappeared does not surprise, particularly in retrospect. When I was a kid in the '60s super hero comics did hold some interest for me —my older brother's Marvel comics, my own THUNDER agents and Captain Atom. But none of those held a candle to Carl Barks' duck comics. Such imagination, humor and enjoyable drawing. =sigh=

Pappy said...

Daniel, unfortunately, years of working alone on my job, and now years of retirement where I am alone in the house doing my bloggy thing, have caused me think out loud. Too often do I have a "thought" only to hear Mrs Pappy say, "You want to do what to Jennifer Lawrence?" (Oh horrors. Secret fantasy revealed by saying thoughts instead of keeping them in my brain.)

Thanks for reminding me of the Avenger paperbacks, both the pulp reprints and the new books by Ron Goulart. I enjoyed them, and still have a stack of them. Dunno why I forgot the character.

Pappy said...

7f7, I was and am a Barks fan. I wish I could show his work, but the Disney lawyers are too big an obstacle for me. After all, anyone who can get Congress to change copyright laws just to make sure Mickey Mouse stays in copyright is too powerful for me to challenge.

But, since much of his best work has been kept in print, or is available in comic book stores in many forms of reprint, it seems that my showing any Barks is unnecessary.

Barks and Mad were my main loves, even though at about age 12 or 13, and through junior high school I got into superheroes. Adolescent power fantasies! What made Spider-Man so popular...the Baby Boomers, and many of us identifying with the original nerdy Peter Parker.

rnigma said...

The DC comic based on Street & Smith's Avenger was called "Justice, Inc." Jack Kirby drew several issues. Walter Gibson, in "The Shadow Scrapbook," stated that the Avenger pulp stories were written mostly by Paul Ernst, not Lester Dent (the Doc Savage writer), though both series used the Kenneth Robeson pseudonym.
And there was a radio show called "The Avenger" - it was more of a "Shadow" ripoff, as its hero used a capsule that made him invisible.

Mike Britt said...

I bought this issue when it came out at the end of the Atlas and Prize superhero revival and I loved it. I was familiar with the Ayers art look from another ME title that I purchased, THE GHOST RIDER. I was disappointed with the second issue because Ayers was gone and replaced with Bob Powell. I didn't see any other issues after that as we moved from Massachusetts to a small town in Delaware where the local mom and pop store only carried Charlton titles. I don't think that I noticed that Ayers and Powell actually signed their art but I knew the difference.
Actually the only artist signatures I remember as a boy were Walt Disney and Marge.

Pappy said...

Mike, with all due respect to Charlton collectors (I see their Facebook page where they post pictures of their finds), finding oneself in a town where the only comics available are Charltons must've seemed like you had moved to comic book hell.

Charlton must've had pretty good distribution, because nowhere I lived saw Atlas Comics until the publisher sold his distribution company and made an agreement with DC to distribute, at which time I "discovered" them. I didn't see ACG or Atlas when I lived in Seattle, but they had Charltons (including Humbug, printed and distributed by Charlton).

As far as recognizing artists, I don't think I realized that people actually sat at drawing boards and drew comic books. I'm not sure what I thought — maybe, like babies they were brought by a stork — but it was at age 9 seeing The Mad Reader, with those fabulous comic book reprints signed by the artists that made me realize what I had not considered before. From then on I paid attention to artists' signatures, and was disappointed (in the case of Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck by Carl Barks), that I did not know an artist's name.