Rand Bellavia is back to share his fond memories of decades of comic collecting and reading in this month’s Random Access Memory.
Author’s Note: Random Access Memory is me looking back at the specific comics that shaped my life. Each month I go back in time – in five year intervals – to examine key comics that came out those months. (The idea is that after five years of monthly columns, I will have covered an entire lifetime – in this case, fifty years – of reading comics.) I also list all the comics I read that particular month. This will afford readers the opportunity to chastise me for not reading specific comics, and/or laugh at the horrible, horrible choices I made in the past.
Jim Shooter might not get a lot of love these days, but he sure knew how to write Wonder Man. I’ve been a huge fan of Simon Williams since he burst out of that life-size UPS box at the end of Avengers 151, but Shooter seems to be the only writer* who understand that the heart of the character is his reluctance – not cowardice or rejection. Subsequent writers seem to have missed that – which leads to him abandoning super-heroics for acting, or getting into physical fights with the Avengers in an effort to make them stop… getting into physical fights? Simon is like a stand-up comedian who has way more innate talent than his contemporaries but lacks the self-confidence to handle the daily pressure of heckling and the possible rejection of new material. That may keep him from becoming Patton Oswalt (or, for that matter, Iron Man), but it doesn’t mean he no longer wants to be near it. And sometimes being near it gives you what you need to stay in it.
Issue 164 ended with the Avengers confronting old foe Count Nefaria, and issue 165 wastes no time in showing just how souped-up Nefaria’s new powers are, as he plows through the entire team with ease.
But Wonder Man holds his own against Nefaria for nearly a whole page. Doubly impressive when you consider how much oxygen he was expending to get that many words out while fighting.
Iron Man steps up and nearly gets the job done.
Despite his doubt, Wonder Man reenters the fray, and he does okay until the precise moment he starts to speak his thoughts.
In the issues preceding this one, Jim Shooter displayed an odd tick: Thor as a literal Deus ex Machina. Issue 158 ended with the Avengers utterly beaten by Graviton, and 159 began with Thor showing up out of nowhere to kick Graviton’s ass. Issue 162 ended with Ultron “killing” the Avengers, and issue 163 began with Thor (again, seemingly out of thin air) arriving to show Ultron what for.
So, here we are at the end of issue 165, with Count Nefaria standing over the unconscious bodies of the defeated Avengers. And just as you’re thinking how lame it would be if Thor just showed up yet again at the beginning of the next issue, this happens:
*Shout out to David Michelinie, who absolutely nailed Simon Williams/Wonder Man in the Emperor Doom graphic novel.
Other Comics I Read From August 1977
- Avengers Annual 7
- Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery 78
- Captain America 215
- Grimm’s Ghost Stories 41
- Invaders 22
- Marvel Team-Up 63