Apr 20, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 785: Super-Villain Team-Up #17, June 1980

https://www.comics.org/issue/34473/

I was looking at Arvell Jones' Wikipedia page, to see what kinds of extended runs he has done, that I might know him from. I found out that he drew a Supergirl/Doom Patrol team-up story one of the numerous Super-anthologies of the Seventies. He only has two pages of credits as a penciller at the GCD, the most sustained being a run on All-Star Squadron in the mid-Eighties. Not a series I have any real familiarity with. I can't for the life of me, figure out why his name rings out so prevalently in my head. Ah well. It does, and perhaps that's enough.

Today's comic was very, very fucking weird. What we're seeing is the final chapter of a 3-part story in which The Red Skull, The Hate Monger, and Arnim Zola are trying to create a new Cosmic Cube (basically the Tesseract from the movies, for you non-comics Marvel fans). So we all know that Skull and Zola are nazis, right? Their basic back stories are that they're nazi mad scientists. But what I didn't realize is that the Hate Monger, under that hood, is actually a clone of Adolf Hitler. No fucking joke. So we've got these three full-on nazis trying to become gods. Hate Monger's actual identity is no secret to anyone, and is referred to slyly until his reveal partway through. But there's one moment where the Cube is nearly ready and Monger and Skull look at each other and realize that they're actually going to end up betraying one another, and then the Red Skull has this soliloquy-style lament, alone in his darkened chamber, sitting at his desk, over how all he ever wanted was for he and Hitler to be able to work together, to achieve their goals together. It's very. Fucking. Strange.

Of course, the Skull ends up betraying Hitler, and seals his soul inside the Cube, which is not in fact a Cosmic Cube but actually a prison for Hitler's psyche. Because reasons.

Now, the aforementioned Mr. Jones guides us through this very odd comic with aplomb. I imagine that when an artist gets a script, there's only a few reactions one can have. I think mine, upon reading this, would be "What the hell?" But I suppose the practice of art requires one, and teaches one, to stretch the creative muscles into things we may not have expected. I can't imagine this story was expected. Mr. Jones' work has to a bit of the Kirby, I think. But it's Kirby in a more organic style that's reminiscent of the big names of the era: Brunner, Buckler, Mayerik. But in the facial expressions I sometimes think I see a bit of the undergrounds, a bit of that dark cartooniness. I'll have to keep an eye out as I read more of his work.

To be continued.

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