Friday, December 25, 2020


Written by Christopher Yost | Directed by Sebastian Montes

The Plot: In Manhattan, Whirilwind leads the Wasp on a wild goose chase to a construction site, where he transforms, revealed as the Enchantress in disguise. When she's joined by the remaining Masters of Evil -- Baron Zemo, the Executioner, Crimson Dynamo, Wonder Man, and the Abomination -- Wasp is easily defeated. At the Wakandan embassy, Hawkeye and Black Panther discuss the Avengers. Meanwhile, the Masters of Evil use the Wasp's ID card to enter Avengers Mansion and subdue Tony Stark in the sub-basement. Upstairs, Abomination and Enchantress transports the Hulk to the realm of the frost giants. In the training room, Executioner and Wonder Man take out Captain America.

In Central Park, Thor is on a date with Jane Foster when he receives a priority summons and heads for the mansion. But there, he's confronted by the Masters of Evil. From outside, Hawkeye and Black Panther (both of whose membership on the team is unknown to Zemo at this time) witness Thor's defeat. The duo sneaks into the mansion and, while Zemo and Enchantress speak with their prisoners, begin taking out the Masters. While Black Panther battles Crimson Dynamo and Wonder Man, Hawkeye goes after Zemo, Enchantress, and Abomination in order to free the remaining Avengers. However the heroes are subdued, and Zemo prepares to execute them.

Ant-Man, who was secretly in cahoots with Hawkeye and the Panther, appears with a weapon created in his lab during the chaos. With it, he disperses Wonder Man and then uses his Giant-Man powers to take out the Abomination. This gives Black Panther time to free the Avengers while Thor summons his hammer, which he uses to bring back the Hulk. Wonder Man reconstitutes himself, and a battle royal begins between the assembled Avengers and the Masters of Evil. When the Avengers gain a clear upper hand, Zemo orders a retreat and the Enchantress teleports the Masters away.

In the battle's aftermath, as the Avengers puzzle over what the Masters of Evil were up to, the villains appear in Arnim Zola's lab, where Enchantress reports to a mysterious master.

Friday, December 18, 2020


Story by Christopher Yost & Joshua Fine | Written by Michael Ryan
Directed by Sebastian Montes

The Plot: A satellite beams gamma energy into Las Vegas, mutating the people there. The gamma field speads out past the Cube, mutating the SHIELD agents and Avengers there. Doc Samson is knocked out, and Thor finds himself alone against the gamma monsters. Meanwhile, Hawkeye and Black Widow, who were en route to the Cube, land in the desert. Hawkeye knocks out the Widow as the Leader makes a broadcast to the world, describing his plan to mutate humanity with gamma radiation. Hawkeye sets out to find the Hulk, leaving Black Widow alone as the gamma field expands toward her.

The mutated Avengers bring Doc Samson and Thor to the Leader. Samson is dragged away, while Leader sets the Abomination against Thor. Elswhere, Hulk battles against against the Hulkbusters in Canada. Hawkeye arrives to interrupt the fight and save the Hulk. Hawkeye convinces Hulk to change back into Bruce Banner, and the duo heads to Banner's cabin to make plans. And in the Leader's Vegas lair, Thor gets the villain to begin a monologue, allowing him to regian his strength and summon his hammer. At the cabin, Banner prepares a way to counteract the Leader, then turns back into the Hulk and leaves with Hawkeye.

In Vegas, Mjolnir returns to Thor, but the Leader realizes this was part of his plan. Absorbing Man appears and takes on the hammer's physical properties, then double-teams Thor with the Abomination. Absorbing Man and Thor move outside, but Hawkeye and Hulk arrive a moment later in the Leader's control room. Abomination attacks Hulk while Hawkeye goes after the Leader, but the mutated Avengers come to the Leader's defense. Hawkeye begins hitting the Avengers with special arrows devised by Banner, which changes them back to normal. But the Leader transforms his control dais into a mech with which to fight back.

Friday, December 11, 2020


Story by Joshua Fine & Christopher Yost | Written by Michael Ryan
Directed by Vinton Heuck

The Plot: Iron Man, Black Panther, Captain America, and Wasp chase Hawkeye through Manhattan, but he disappears when SHIELD interrupts. Agent Clay Quartermain tells the group that he needs their help and leads the quarter, plus Thor, to the Cube, which is encased in a green force field. There, they meet Doc Samson. He and Quartermain show the Avengers footage of SHIELD attempting to enter the Cube, but being mutated instead. They explain that the field is expanding, and the Leader is behind it -- with several gamma-powered villains at his command.

The Avengers, Samson, Quartermain, and some SHIELD operatives enter the Cube, and are attacked by the mutated agents. The Avengers take them out, then proceed on their way, but Black Panther splits off from the group. Deeper inside the Cube, they're attacked by the U-Foes, who prove no match for the team. A moment later Zzzax attacks, piercing Wasp's containment suit, which causes her to mutate into an insect monster. As more SHIELD agents mutate, Iron Man, Cap, Thor, and Samson retreat further into the Cube to shut down the gamma generator causing the mutations.

Iron Man and Cap fall, and Samson and Thor continue into the heart of the Cube, where they find the Wrecking Crew guarding the gamma generator. The Crew is supercharged with gamma energy and attacks, putting the heroes on the defensive. But Black Panther arrives unexpectedly and destroys the gamma generator, which changes all the mutated creatures back to their normal selves. The gamma villains are arrested, but the Leader is unaccounted for. Elsewhere, the Leader, Absorbing Man, and Abomination arrive outside Las Vegas to begin the next phase of the Leader's plan.

Friday, December 4, 2020


Written by Paul Giacoppo | Directed by Sebastian Montes

The Plot: As the Avengers watch footage of Ant-Man saving Captain America's life, they're suddenly interrupted by a perimeter alarm. The Panther himself storms into Avengers' Mansion's courtyard and after testing the group in battle, requests their help in liberating Wakanda from M'Baku the Man-Ape. When the Panther shows the Avengers that M'Baku is in league with Hydra, the team agrees to help him. However, as soon as they enter Wakandan airspace, their Quinjet is shot down. Black Panther abandons the Avengers to hunt down M'Baku, and Iron Man dispatches Cap to follow him.

Iron Man, Ant-Man, and Wasp are attacked by the Wakandan army, while in Wakanda's vibranium mine, Ulysses Klaw and M'Baku demonstrate the power of the metal for Grim Reaper. Soon after, Black Panther appears before M'Baku and challenges him for leadership. In the mine, the Avengers attack Grim Reaper. When Klaw blasts a Hydra agent who accidentally shot the vibranium mound, the Reaper knocks Klaw into the metal. Somehow, Klaw's sonic weapon interacts with the vibranium and turns him into a creature of pure sound. Grim Reaper orders a Hydra retreat, while on the surface, Black Panther battles M'Baku's Dora Milaje bodyguards. When they gain the upper hand, Captain America comes to the Panther's aid. M'Baku attacks the Panther directly, while Cap fights the Dora Milaje.

M'Baku, attacks Black Panther with a sonic weapon, and as he's about to finish the Panther, an explosion bursts out of the mine, distracting him. Black Panther defeats M'Baku and is recognized as the king by his people. Meanwhile, Ant-Man and Iron Man work to stop Klaw while Wasp distracts him. Iron Man flies into Klaw, disabling him with a jury-rigged vibranium device. Later, Black Panther tells his people that Wakanda can no longer hide from the outside world, and announces his intention to join the Avengers.

Meanwhile, Hulkbusters arrive at the Cube, where they're quickly taken out by beings inside as the former prison is covered by a green force field.

Monday, November 30, 2020


NOVEMBER 6TH, 1976 - JANUARY 22ND, 1977
OCTOBER 30TH, 1978 - FEBRUARY 3RD, 1979
FEBRUARY 5TH, 1979 - JUNE 16TH, 1979
JUNE 18TH, 1979 - NOVEMBER 3RD, 1979
NOVEMBER 5TH, 1979 - JANUARY 2ND, 1980
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

Corrigan's next mission (drawn by a fill-in artist) finds him dispatched to the Middle Eastern nation of Sumeran in an elaborate plot to "steal" a gem, one half of a pair, in a ploy to draw out the thieves who stole the other gem in order to get it back. He's partnered with Yahzid, bodyguard to Sumeran's prince, for the duration of the mission. They meet Madame Kohbra, the leader of a band of insurgents, and follow her into Sumeran's desert, where the ultimate showdown takes place between Corrigan and Yaz against Kohbra and her army. Corrigan of course wins, and Kohbra is branded a traitor by her own followers thanks to his duplicity.

Corrigan has wandered a few Middle Eastern deserts in the time I've been reading this strip, but this one may be my favorite such story. In a weird way, it feels like something Carl Barks might have come up with for the Disney Ducks, and that's something I can never complain about.

Friday, November 27, 2020


Written by Brandon Auman | Directed by Vinton Heuck

The Plot: Simon Williams visits Tony Stark in an attempt to stop Stark's hostile takeover of his company. But when Stark reveals he's now the majority shareholder of Williams Innovations, Williams storms out. Meanwhile Thor and Wasp battle AIM in the skies over Manhattan. At Avengers Mansion, Nick Fury visits Captain America. Elsewhere, Williams asks his brother, the Grim Reaper, for help in dealing with Stark. They go to an AIM facility, where MODOK invites Williams to become a test subject.

Fury takes Cap to SHIELD headquarters, Fury gives Cap his motorcycle from WOrld War II, which was passed down to him by his father, Jack Fury, and then promises Cap that SHIELD will always help him with anything he needs. Elswhere, Thor and Wasp have pursued the AIM agents back to their base. They raid the place, interrupting the Williams experiment. But Williams emerges, now made of ionic energy, and flies out of the base, straight for Stark Tower. Williams attacks Iron Man, but Ant-Man comes to his aid.

At AIM, Thor and Wasp continue their fight against MODOK, who kicks them out and seals the base, revealing it as a flying ship in which he escapes. Meanwhile, Giant-Man battles Williams in the streets of Manhattan, appealing to him as they go at it. Williams finally stops fighting, but when Iron Man shows up to continue the fight, Williams re-engages. Cap shows up, but Williams' body suddenly becomes unstable. Iron Man tries to help him with his arc reactor inside Stark Tower, but Williams fights back and disintegrates before he can be cured.

Later, after the Avengers have departed, the Echantress (accompanied by Baron Zemo and the Executioner) brings Williams back, and tasks him with destroying the Avengers.

Monday, November 23, 2020


NOVEMBER 6TH, 1976 - JANUARY 22ND, 1977
JANUARY 24TH, 1977 - JUNE 11TH, 1977
JUNE 13TH, 1977 - OCTOBER 1ST, 1977
OCTOBER 3RD, 1977 - FEBRUARY 4TH, 1978
FEBRUARY 6TH, 1978 - JULY 8TH, 1978
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

Phil Corrigan closes out 1976 and enters '77 with a case that finds him summoned to Brayne Computer Industries, ostensibly to investigate a security breach. However when he arrives, Corrigan finds that the company's CEO, Amberson Brayne, fabricated the issue in order to set up a meeting with Corrigan. Brayne wants a new head of security, and he believes Corrigan fits the bill -- but Corrigan refuses the offer and leaves. Brayne, used to getting his way, bristles at this and brings in his second place candidates for the security job: industrial spy Satin Sherwood and mercenary Rip Tower. Whichever "destroys" Corrigan will get the security job.

Satin plans to ruin Corrigan's reputation and sets about framing him for stealing secrets from Brayne's factory -- but Rip simply wants to kill the guy, and Satin as well, to get the job. In the end, Corrigan and Satin team up to defeat Rip and bring down Brayne, with Satin suggesting that she may return to the straight-and-narrow thanks to the experience.

The story is typical Corrigan fare; well-written and beautifully drawn, but never feeling like there's any real danger for anybody involved. However, we do get an interesting explanation of exactly what Corrigan does for the FBI, here. He's described by Brayne's assistant, Huggins, as a "special troubleshooter" who goes on missions all over the place and typically works alone. This seems to be a case of Archie Goodwin explaining (very, very late in the game) why Corrigan feels more like James Bond or the Man from U.N.C.L.E. than your typical domestic FBI agent. And though it is a bit late to make the distinction, it's nonetheless appreciated.

Friday, November 20, 2020


Written by Kevin Burke & Chris Wyatt | Directed by Vinton Heuck

The Plot: The Avengers search for Hulk in the arctic, but instead find Captain America, frozen in suspended animation. They defrost him in their Quinjet en route home, and Cap flies into a rage, briefly fighting the group before leaping out of the jet into the water as it approaches New York. The Avengers go after Cap on Liberty Island, where he holds his own against them until Wasp helps him realize what has happened.

Meanwhile, in Hydra's secret island lair, Baron Zemo confronts Baron Strucker for leadership of Hydra -- but learning that Cap is back, Zemo leaves the organization to Strucker and departs to seek out Arnim Zola instead. Zola gives Zemo a treatment which apparently prolongs his life. Zola and Zemo then sic Zola's creation, Doughboy, on Liberty Island. Thor, Iron Man, and Ant-Man head out to stop the monster, while Wasp stays behind, trying to comfort Captain America. Another Doughboy invades Avengers Mansion, but Wasp defeats it --then Zemo shows himself, knocking Wasp out, and attacks his arch-enemy.

The two old foes duel, and when Zemo briefly gains the upper hand, Black Panther appears and saves Captain America. Cap then continues the fight, defeating Zemo, but the villain escapes with the aid of a bomb. Realizing that the Doughboys are vulnerable to Wasp's stings, Cap and Wasp quickly depart to aid the overwhelmed Avengers on Liberty Island. After Cap explains, Ant-Man and Iron Man team up to create an energy frequency that destroys the humongous Doughboy.

Back at Avengers Mansion, Tony Stark invites Cap to join the Avengers, and he accepts. Meanwhile, Zemo returns to Zola's lab to find the scientist unconscious, and the Enchantress and Executioner waiting for him with an offer.

Monday, November 16, 2020


DECEMBER 29TH, 1975 - MARCH 27TH, 1976
MARCH 29TH, 1976 - JULY 24TH, 1976
JULY 26TH, 1976 - NOVEMBER 6TH, 1976
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

Notwithstanding Doctor Seven's giant robot, Corrigan's adventures have been as down-to-Earth as always since he returned from the lost world of dinosaurs in 1970. But here, in late '75, Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson have decided to throw Corrigan into an adventure that's as far from grounded as (in)humanly possible! In this one, Corrigan is assigned to recover a manuscript stolen from a literary museum. The author's great-granddaughter, Trisha St. Cloud, tags along with him as he conducts his investigation. At first, all seems straightforward; Corrigan deduces that one Professor McQueen masterminded the heist. But when Corrigan and Trisha catch up with McQueen aboard his chartered freighter down near the Arctic Sea, things get... weird.

It turns out that the manuscript details the true-life adventures of Trisha's great-grandfather, though no one has ever believed it. In the book, he and his fellow passengers are kidnapped from their boat and taken to a tropical island in the arctic inhabited by cavemen and aliens. Trisha's great-grandfather escaped and wrote his book, and McQueen found the diary of a sailor who got away with him, corroborating the story. Thus, McQueen now believes the aliens are real and wants their technology.

So naturally, the freighter is wrecked and Corrigan, Trisha, McQueen, and McQueen's henchman make it to the island. The last of the aliens shows himself, and reveals he's been contemplating destroying his ship since he will likely never escape Earth. When McQueen demands, at gunpoint, the ship's secrets, the alien tricks him into destroying it and the island instead. Corrigan and Trisha escape, but everyone else is killed.

Friday, November 13, 2020


Written by Brandon Auman | Directed by Sebastian Montes

The Plot: The Avengers stop the Mandrill from robbing a bank. Subsequently, the group meets with Tony Stark's assistant, Pepper Potts, to tour their new home, Avengers Mansion. The Avengers test out the facility's training room, then Iron Man briefs the team on the escaped villains.

That night, Hulk begins seeing visions of Bruce Banner, taunting him over his submissive position with the Avengers. Meanwhile, JARVIS informs Thor that there's an intruder in the mansion. "Banner", revealed as the Enchantress, pushes Hulk to attack Thor, but the Jade Gaint leaves instead. When Pepper tells Thor that he needs to find the Hulk, the Thunder God tracks him down in Manhattan and a fight breaks out between the two.

Elsewhere, Nick Fury meets with Tony Stark and tries to convince him that SHIELD wants to help the Avengers, but Stark doesn't agree. When word of the Thor/Hulk battle interrupts their meeting, Tony assembles the Avengers to break it up. Iron Man and Thor quickly realize that the Hulk has been enchanted, and when Hulk injures Wasp, he comes to his senses and leaps away. As soon as he departs, Enchantress and the Executioner ambush the remaining team members.

The Avengers find themselves on the defensive, but Banner convinces Hulk to return and help them. With his help, the group overcomes the villains, but they escape before the Avengers can capture them. Following the battle, Hulk maintains his desire to quit, and leaps away. As he rages somewhere in the arctic, he doesn't notice Captain America's frozen shield nearby.

Monday, November 9, 2020


MAY 13TH, 1974 - NOVEMBER 2RD, 1974
NOVEMBER 4TH, 1974 - FEBRUARY 15TH, 1975
FEBRUARY 17TH, 1975 - MAY 24TH, 1975
MAY 26TH, 1975 - AUGUST 30TH, 1975
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

Corrigan's next adventure begins as he flies home from Dragon Island. When he lands in the U.S., a fellow passenger is attacked by a female vigilante, and Corrigan finds that the man was transporting heroin into the country. This leads our hero into in investigation of both the drug-running ring and the mysterious woman, who calls herself Lady Vengeance. But Corrigan is stalked by a mob assassin called the Dispatcher as he conducts his investigation.

This all sounds pretty intriguing, right? And on paper, I think it should be. But there's something off about the presentation. We learn halfway through the arc that Lady Vengeance is actually Michele Fortune, daughter of an assassinated mob boss who has teamed up with some of his old associates to tackle the syndicate with the aid of her father's incriminating diary. But Corrigan quickly (and far too easily) gets her to realize that she's basically a mosquito to the mob right now, and that if the FBI had the diary, they could do a lot more damage. So Michele happily agrees to turn the book over to Corrigan, and Lady Vengeance is never seen again after this point.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the Dispatcher is the one who killed Michele's father, so we probably have a big showdown between the two at the arc's climax, right? I mean, Goodwin and Williamson have shown capable women taking out bad guys before in this strip, so it wouldn't be unexpected. But that's not what happens here... instead, the Dispatcher and his henchman, Ajax, catch up with Corrigan and Michele, and the Dispatcher is killed by ricochets from Ajax's gun when they attempt a pincer maneuver, after which Corrigan easily dispatches Ajax and brings the arc to a perfunctory end.

Friday, November 6, 2020


Written by Christopher Yost | Directed by Vinton Heuck

The Plot: Graviton harasses Nick Fury above the East River, but Thor intervenes. The Raft falls back into the river as Wasp rescues Fury. Meanwhile, Iron Man crashes in a cornfield following his escape from the demolished Vault. He summons a new suit of armor to resume his journey. In New York, Thor continues his battle with Graviton, while elsewhere, the Hulk wanders into a diner with Leonard Samson. Seeing Thor's fight on TV, Hulk has an inner debate with Banner, which leads to him leaving for New York after extracting a promise from Banner that he will allow the Hulk to remain the Hulk going forward.

Graviton gains the upper hand on Thor and continues his search for Fury, but the Wasp intercepts him. He dispatches her easily, then Iron Man arrives -- only to be knocked into orbit by Graviton. Ant-Man turns into Giant-Man and joins the fray, but is also unable to make a difference. Graviton attempts to kill Fury, but the SHIELD commander is revealed as a robotic Life Model Decoy, with the real Fury watching from cover. Graviton next goes on after Manhattan, lifting the entire island into the sky. Thor reappears ant attacks again, causing Graviton to lose his concentration. Manhattan returns to Earth, and so does Iron Man.

As Graviton continues his rampage, Thor attacks again. Iron Man joins him, as do Giant-Man and Wasp. But the assembled heroes are still insufficient, until Hulk arrives. The Green Goliath proves stronger that Graviton's power and holds his own long enough for Ant-Man to distract the villain. The heroes team up and finally defeat Graviton. SHIELD immediately shows up to apprehend the Hulk, but the heroes stop them. Iron Man proposes that the group join together as a team, and Wasp christens the group, "the Avengers".

Monday, November 2, 2020


MAY 21ST, 1973 - AUGUST 18TH, 1973
AUGUST 20TH, 1973 - NOVEMBER 10TH, 1973
NOVEMBER 19TH, 1973 - FEBRUARY 7TH, 1974
FEBRUARY 9TH, 1974 - MAY 11TH, 1974
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

At long, long last, as we begin this week, Corrigan delves into some of that inter-arc continuity that that strip has been missing. When last we left our intrepid FBI agent, he was in South America following his latest encounter with Doctor Seven. The next storyline opens with Corrigan still there, preparing to head home, when he's drugged at the airport by a pair of kidnappers who fly him to the Caribbean island of eccentric millionaire Sebastian Quint. Quint had abducted ten men of action for a "survival of the fittest" type of competition, to determine which of them will serve as host for his brain when he dies. But after the group is whittled down to the final four candidates, who Quint forces into a gladiatorial match, Corrigan rallies them to fight back together, and they escape.

From Quint's estate, Corrigan heads to civilization on a neighboring island, where he catches his flight home. But aboard the plane is a small-time crook, Slade, who our hero sent up the river some time back and who was in the Caribbean to lure an old associate, Granite, back to the U.S. for a big score. Panicking, Slade tries to bump Corrigan off upon their arrival in the U.S., but fails and is himself killed instead. This leads to Corrigan investigating Slade and learning that he was planning his robbery in the Southestern United States. Corrigan heads down there and matches wits with Granite and with Slade's widow, Amber. In the end, as expected, the G-Man is victorious.

Neither of these storylines sets my world on fire exactly, but they're both decent enough page-turners. However their very existence is enhanced greatly by the inter-arc momentum mentioned above. I know maybe this is weird, but that sort of thing really can elevate an otherwise pedestrian plot for me. Give me three adventures where the main character wraps everything up in a bow at the end, with a clean break between stories, and if the plots themselves aren't riveting, I'll call them mediocre and complain. But give me those exact same plots with threads running between and connecting them -- serializing them -- and I will sing their praises to the rooftops even if they actually are mediocre.

Friday, October 30, 2020


Written by Christopher Yost | Directed by Sebastian Montes

The Plot: Iron Man intercepts a shipment of stolen Stark technology being sold by AIM to Lucia von Bardas of Latveria. Later, at the Cube, Leonard Samson checks on Bruce Banner. Meanwhile, Balder comes to Earth to warn Thor that Odin has entered the Odinsleep. Thor again refuses to return and defend Asgard. He leaves the conversation to save Jane Foster's life when a car nearly hits her on the srteet below. At the Vault, Iron Man drops off the AIM agents he captured with SHIELD's Jimmy Woo.

At the Big House, Ant-Man questions the Mad Thinker about the conversation he had with Whirlwind, while Maria Hill talks to Wasp about Nick Fury's offer for her and Ant-Man to join SHIELD. Back at the Vault, a power outage frees several super-criminals, as well as Hawkeye. The outage then strikes the Cube and the Big House as well, and villains escape from every facility. The Big House enlarge while aboard the SHIELD Helicarrier, crippling the ship. At the Cube, Samson is irradiated with gamma energy. Aboard the helicarrier, Wasp and Hill search for Ant-Man, while elsewhere, Iron Man receives word of the breakouts from Pepper Potts and JARVIS, and returns to the Vault.

Monday, October 26, 2020


APRIL 10TH, 1972 - JUNE 17TH, 1972
JUNE 19TH, 1972 - SEPTEMBER 9TH, 1972
SEPTEMBER 11TH, 1972 - NOVEMBER 25TH, 1972
NOVEMBER 27TH, 1972 - FEBRUARY 3RD, 1973
FEBRUARY 5TH, 1973 - MAY 19TH, 1973
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

Corrigan's next story arc perfectly represents simultaneously the most frustrating thing about the Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson run, and some of the best of their work. The frustration kicks things off. As is the case more often than not, we're jumping into a new storyline cold turkey, with no mention of what went on before. When last we saw Corrigan, remember, he had returned to the United States with Lushan, and had thwarted Doctor Seven's plan to find a financial backer for his terrorist organization, Triad. Any rationally functioning brain would expect to see Corrigan dwelling on such a high-profile adventure as the next arc begins. But no, Corrigan has totally moved on. He's now at Cape Meridian to investigate threats against the first U.S. space station -- which is fine on its own, but he should at least be thinking a bit about Seven as the adventure opens.

I know I'm beating a long-dead horse at this point, but it's just such a letdown to read a serialized comic strip that isn't really serialized, especially when I know, from their work on STAR WARS in the eighties, that Goodwin and Williamson are more than capable of producing just such a beast. Why they treat Corrigan in such a painfully episodic fashion is beyond me.

But on the plus side, as I mentioned above, the rest of the arc is actually quite good. The space station is bombed and three astronauts are trapped in a capsule orbiting Earth, with twenty days of oxygen and no way to make it home. What follows is a tense sequence as scientists on Earth rush to complete a rescue craft while Corrigan works to uncover the bomber, who he knows is operating from within NASA, before he can strike again. And the conclusion is somewhat surprising and exceptionally suspenseful.

Friday, October 23, 2020


Written by Paul Giacoppo | Directed by Sebastian Montes

The Plot: In the distant future, Kang the Conqueror watches the exploits of Captain America in World War II. In it, Cap and his partner, Bucky, along with the Howling Commandos, invade the Red Skull's castle. Inside, Cap and Bucky fight a monster, then are captured by the Red Skull, who reveals that he has discovered a gateway to Asgard.

As Cap and Bucky watch, the Skull has the gateway opened and a frost giant begins to emerge. Cap and Bucky break loose and attack Hydra, but a power surge causes several Asgardian beasts the Skull had imprisoned in stasis to break free. In the ensuing battle, Buckey defeats Strucker while Cap closes the gateway. The Skull attempts escape, but Cap and Bucky pursue and leap onto his jet. The Skull bails out, and Bucky gets stuck in a cable. He kicks Cap off the jet, and as the Star-Spangled hero sinks into the arctic sea, the jet explodes.

His viewing complete, Kang travels back in time to the battle, apparently waiting for Cap to emerge from the water, but it never happens. Kang is the called back to his spacecraft, where he learns that a temporal rupture is in process and his timeline is being wiped out, somehow due to Captain America. Kang sets course for the past to correct this problem, but just before he departs, his love, Ravonna is caught in the rupture. Kang vows to save her and the timeline.

Monday, October 19, 2020


OCTOBER 19TH, 1971 - JANUARY 30TH, 1971
FEBRUARY 1ST, 1971 - MAY 1ST, 1971
MAY 3RD, 1971 - JULY 31ST, 1971
AUGUST 2ND, 1971 - OCTOBER 16TH, 1971
OCTOBER 18TH, 1971 - JANUARY 8TH, 1972
JANUARY 10TH, 1972 - APRIL 8TH, 1972
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

It may suffer the same issues of light continuity and no real stakes that I've spent the past few weeks complaining about, but Corrigan's next adventure does at least venture into some unique territory for the character! In this one, the U.S. State Department gets wind of a plane found in South America, belonging to a believed-dead scientist who the government would like to have back -- or at least, whose research they would like! Corrigan is placed on temporary assignment with the State Department to investigate -- but the Soviet Union has also learned about the plane, and dispatches an operative to team up with Corrigan in his search.

The Soviet operative turns out to be the beautiful Colonel Tanya Greb, and she joins Corrigan, his pilot Parez, and Professor Stone (an archaeologist from a previous Goodwin/Williamson arc) to investigate. Stone is along due to the fact that some dinosaur bones were improbably found in the plane, and carbon dating says that they're only a couple hundred years old. So as you might imagine, before long, the group finds their way into a land lost to time -- a prehistoric jungle in the rainforest, where dinosaurs still live!

The ensuing adventure sees our heroes locate the missing scientist, Professor Branveldt, work to repair their crashed helicopter while evading T-Rexes in the jungle, and eventually escape via raft as the entire lost world collapses around them. This arc is about as far from the standard law-enforcement procedural that we usually get from Corrigan, and veers far into high adventure territory -- and I love it for that. I don't think all of the strip's woes are suddenly solved here, but at least we have a nice diversion into some uncharted territory to liven things up for a bit.

Friday, October 16, 2020


Written by Christopher Yost | Directed by Vinton Heuck

The Plot: Ulysses Klaw and a band of mercenaries attack a SHIELD installation outside of Wakanda, where scientist Hank Pym is working as an advisor. Pym shrinks to become Ant-Man and fights back. He takes out the mercs and sends Klaw packing. Later, back in the United States, Pym's girlfriend and "manager", Janet van Dyne (the Wasp) fights the super-criminal called Whirlwind. Ant-Man catches up with her to help take the villain out.

Later, Ant-Man and the Wasp drop Whirlwind off with Nick Fury aboard the SHIELD helicarrier. Fury tries to recruit the duo to his group, but Pym refuses. Fury reveals that Whirlwind was working for Klaw, trying to steal vibranium for him.

In Wakanda, King T'Chaka, the Black Panther, is challenged by M'Baku, the Man-Ape -- leader of the White Gorilla tribe. T'Chaka lays low his foe, but is sniped by a sonic cannon that throws him off balance and allows Man-Ape to win their duel. T'Chaka is killed, and Man-Ape seizes the Wakandan throne. T'Chaka's son, T'Challa, escapes and takes up the mantle of Black Panther. In the aftermath, M'Baku gives his ally, Klaw, some of Wakanda's vibranium.

Monday, October 12, 2020


NOVEMBER 17TH, 1969 - FEBRUARY 7TH, 1970
FEBRUARY 9TH, 1970 - MAY 2ND, 1970
MAY 4TH, 1970 - JULY 25TH, 1970
JULY 27TH, 1970 - OCTOBER 17TH, 1970
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

Corrigan's next adventure begins as he and his wife, Wilda, vacation in the Riviera while he recuperates from a gunshot wound sustained in the prior arc. But the couple's romantic getaway is quickly interrupted when Kasim, the prince of a nation called Turistan, becomes smitten with Wilda and kidnaps her to become his bride (he needs to marry posthaste in order to ascend to the throne). Corrigan follows them back to Turistan in a chartered plane, but runs out of fuel and lands near the castle of Sarkhan, Kasim's sinister cousin. Phil is captured by Sarkhan, but a beautiful servant named Yasmina, secretly loyal to Kasim, helps him escape.

Meanwhile, Kasim has realized the error of his ways and wants to return Wilda to her husband -- but his palace is attacked by Sarkhan, plotting a coup with the aid of a mercenary troupe. Corrigan and Yasmina arrive, and Corrigan helps Kasim defeat his cousin, returning control of Turistan to its rightful prince, who finds in Yasmina the wife he had wanted.

It's a bit weird, but there's sort of a FLASH GORDON vibe in this one. Desert palaces were not an uncommon sight in Alex Raymond's run on that strip, and Wilda's predicament here echoes Dale Arden's periodic imprisonments by Ming the Merciless -- occasions during which he would typically dress her in skimpy attire and lust after her, trying to force her into marriage. But beyond that, there's nothing particularly special about this arc. We're getting back to the rut I noted a couple weeks ago, where there's no continuity to speak of and it never feels like anyone is in any real danger, which means the strip itself feels like it's going through the motions.

Friday, October 9, 2020


Written by Michael Ryan | Directed by Vinton Heuck

The Plot: Thor intervenes when the Wrecking Crew attempts to steal a Stark Enterprises gamma ray emitter. As soon as the battle is done, Thor is summoned to Asgard by Heimdall, who tells him the realm is under siege. Thor arrives to defend Asgard from Loki and the frost giants. Thor drives off the giants, but Loki ambushes him. However the Thunder God refuses to give in and defeats his brother.

Thor brings Loki before Odin, who banishes the villain to the Isle of Silence. Odin announces that he is about to enter the Odinsleep to recharge his powers and orders Thor to protect Asgard, but Thor refuses and leaves for Earth instead, to defend it against the new and varied threats cropping up there.

The Enchantress watches Thor leave, then transports herself to the Isle of Silence with her ally, Skurge the Executioner. There, Loki tells them that all is going as he planned, and that no one knows what's coming next.

Monday, October 5, 2020


JULY 29TH, 1968 - OCTOBER 12TH, 1968
OCTOBER 14TH, 1968 - JANUARY 4TH, 1969
JANUARY 6TH, 1969 - MARCH 15TH, 1969
MARCH 17TH, 1969 - JUNE 14TH, 1969
JUNE 16TH, 1969 - AUGUST 30TH, 1969
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

Last week I spoke a bit about the stakes in these Corrigan stories feeling extremely minimal. You go into every single arc knowing that not only will Corrigan win, nobody will die and the bad guys will all be captured, and he'll move along to his next mission the very next day. I suggested just a little bit of lethality to perhaps up the ante for our hero. I noted that otherwise, things might get tedious as we move along.

It occurred to me after I wrote those words, however, that there are other ways to break up the tedium, and Archie Goodwin's plotting may be part of my problem here. He writes every arc as straight and episodic as possible. There are no twists or turns. Corrigan shows up, finds out what the problem is, then solves it; the end, on to the next unrelated story. No wrenches are ever thrown into his plans. He never gets blindsided. And, while I have gone on record before as saying that I enjoy watching hyper-competent characters do their thing and succeed at everything, that's not exactly what this is. Hyper-competence is great, but it works best when the characters are using it to overcome serious obstacles. Corrigan tends to sleepwalk his way through every situation, because there are no obstacles that challenge him, and no villains he can't outwit in a very straightforward fashion.

I guess what I'm getting it is that I don't necessarily need to see anybody die to make these stories more compelling. I just need some better plots from Archie Goodwin! Sub-plots, twists, continuing continuity, and so forth. This was something Goodwin and Williamson did pretty well in the STAR WARS newspaper strip of the early eighties. They actually had ongoing plotlines outside of the current story arcs, and they had arcs that built upon one another (and sometimes led directly from one to the next) toward a narrative finish line. That is what I hope to see them bring to Corrigan! Otherwise, it just feels like going through the motions in every storyline.

Friday, October 2, 2020


Written by Kevin Burke & Chris Wyatt | Directed by Sebastian Montes

The Plot: Bruce Banner wanders into Las Vegas, where he is briefly chased by police before escaping. Inside a diner, he meets with "Crusher" Creel, the Absorbing Man. Banner believes that SHIELD is experimenting on villains inside the prison called the Cube, and he wants Creel, an escapee, to tell him about it. But when Creel reveals that he now has super-powers as the Absorbing Man, Banner transforms into the Hulk. Hulk makes fairly short work of the Absorbing Man, but is subsequently attacked by General "Thunderbolt" Ross's Hulkbusters after the fight moves outside city limits.

Ross is ordered to withdraw his troops when Black Widow and Hawkeye, agents of SHIELD, arrive. Ross, however, defies the command and attacks the Hulk even as he battles the two agents. Huulk saves them, but is injured by Ross's missile to the point that Black Widow is able to subdue him with her Widow's Sting. Banner and Absorbing Man are then taken to the Cube, where Hawkeye visits Banner, who tells the Archer that SHIELD has taken his blood and wants to make more Hulks.

Hawkeye watches as Black Widow sneaks into a medical wing and takes Banner's blood sample. Suspicious, he pokes around the Widow's hidden files and finds record of a communication between the Widow and Hydra, in which she promises the sample to the terrorists. Hawkeye follows her out into the desert, where he interrupts the drop. But when SHIELD arrives, Widow takes out her two Hydra contacts and accuses Hawkeye of being a double-agent. Hawkeye is taken to the Vault, while the Widow retains the blood sample and speaks once again with her Hydra contact.

Monday, September 28, 2020


DECEMBER 4TH, 1967 - FEBRUARY 17TH, 1968
FEBRUARY 19TH, 1968 - MAY 4TH, 1968
MAY 6TH, 1968 - JULY 27TH, 1968
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

So it turns out Phil Corrigan is married! Who knew? Certainly not me, so I Googled it after meeting his wife in the first of this week's story arcs. It turns out that during the 1940s, SECRET AGENT X-9 morphed a bit to feature some soap opera elements, and one of those was a romantic rivalry for X-9's affections between his assistant, Linda, and a mystery novelist named Wilda. In the end Wilda won Corrigan's heart and the two were married in 1947 -- meaning that by this point, they've been living in wedded bliss for twenty years of real time!

Anyway -- we meet Wilda here when Corrigan is assigned to investigate what made a government scientist go rogue and blow up his own missile defense system. As part of the investigation, Corrigan realizes that the doctor spent some time at a luxury resort, so he brings Wilda along for cover to spend some time there. And it turns out to be a good thing he went to the resort first (of all possible places), because that's exactly where our poor scientist was corrupted! It turns out the place is run by "Ma" Murkel and her three sons, a group of bumbling bad guys being paid by a foreign power to turn high profile U.S. scientists into traitors.

Corrigan eventually gets to the bottom of the scheme and, after rescuing Wilda -- held as a hostage by Murkel and her sons -- he arrests the goofball family and heads home with his wife.

Friday, September 25, 2020


Written by Brandon Auman | Directed by Vinton Heuck

The Plot: Iron Man defends the United Nations from an attack by Hydra. While fighting against some dreadnaught robots, he discovers that the terrorists are using his technology in their war machines. SHIELD arrives as the battle winds down, and Iron Man realizes that SHIELD's Mandroid suits are also designed using Stark tech. Iron Man confronts Nick Fury aboard SHIELD's helicarrier, and following their argument, Fury realizes that there's a leak within SHIELD.

The captured Hydra operatives are taken to the Vault, where Fury interviews Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. Meanwhile, one of the Hydra agents is revealed as the villainous Grim Reaper in disguise. The Reaper springs Strucker and presents him with his Satan's Claw gauntlet, which allows the elderly villain to drain life force from SHIELD agents and restore his youth. But Fury defeats both Strucker and the Reaper, and they're recaptured.

Continuity Notes: this episode features the debuts of Tony Stark/Iron Man, his operating system, JARVIS, Pepper Potts, James Rhodes, and Hydra, plus Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Jimmy Woo, and SHIELD. The Hulk is mentioned a couple of times as well, and it's noted that super-villains are becoming more common in the world.

The Vault is described as "the first of the super-villain prisons", for tech-based super-criminals. Among its inmates are the Crimson Dynamo, Technovore, MODOK, and Strucker. Two more prisons -- the Cube and the Big House -- are mentioned, with Fury hinting, to Hill's surprise, at the existence of a fourth.

During the fight between Fury and Strucker, the baron saps some of Fury's life force, giving the head of SHIELD his distinctive gray temples as he gets a bit older.

Monday, September 21, 2020


JANUARY 20TH, 1967 - APRIL 8TH, 1967
APRIL 10TH, 1967 - JULY 1ST, 1967
JULY 3RD, 1967 - SEPTEMBER 9TH, 1967
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

No, your eyes don't deceive you! Though we're continuing the adventures of the man we've known over the past three weeks as X-9, the title of the strip has changed. Per the introduction to IDW's first volume of SECRET AGENT CORRIGAN strips, around the time Al Williamson and Archie Goodwin came aboard as the strip's creative team, King Features Syndicate changed the strip's name as well, in the interest of drumming up some new readers for a feature whose circulation had never been exceptionally high. I don't know if the name change had any impact on that circulation, but I can say with certainty that the Williamson/Goodwin team makes this strip instantly more enjoyable and simply more readable than it was thirty years earlier under Alex Raymond, Dashiell Hammett, and Leslie Charteris.

Certainly this is due in part to the passage of time and changing tastes and attitudes among the readership. The strips of the sixties are more in line with the sort of stuff I compared the vintage X-9 material to last week -- the faster-paced stuff like SPIDER-MAN and DICK TRACY. Where the 1930s X-9s typically featured four panels and copious words, these strips are generally three panels as a rule with much fewer word balloons and captions. On one hand, that makes them less dense than the older stuff, but at the same time, it also makes them way easier to read.

Plus, these strips are scripted by Archie Goodwin, a comic book writer by trade, so he knows how to tailor his words to a sequential art medium, unlike novelists Hammett and Charteris. That helps immensely to make this stuff more palatable and much more fun to read. In fact, let me put it this way: over the past three weeks, it took me multiple sittings to get through every X-9 storyline, even the shorter ones. But for today's post, I read four arcs in one sitting of about an hour -- and I don't feel as if anything was rushed past in the process.

Friday, September 18, 2020


And now for something a little different! I'm enjoying my dip into the newspaper strip realm of Secret Agent X-9/Corrigan, but I know that sort of thing isn't everyone's cup of tea. A lot of people (probably most people) read this blog for superhero comic book posts. The Spider-Man strip sort of fit into that mold, but X-9 definitely doesn't -- and in the past, when I looked at things outside the purview of superhero comics, I was typically putting up two posts a week, so you still had the super-stuff on Mondays and the "grab bag" stuff on Fridays. That hasn't been the case for some time now, but I've decided to try and get back to two posts a week in a fashion that feels more "doable" to me than all comics, all the time.
I've tossed around the idea of posting about a TV show for years, but it never really happened. However, I'm at a place now where I think I can manage it. And, for a few reasons, I've decided that my first trip to TV-land around these parts will be via one of my all-time favorite animated series, AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES (not to be confused with the Joe Casey-written mini-series that I wrote about here a few months back). For one thing, the advent of Disney Plus has the series right at my fingertips, on whatever screen I'd like to use. For another, it turns out that next week (September 22nd, to be exact) marks the ten-year anniversary* of the series' premiere on Disney XD! (Technically, that would be the debut of the "microseries" that preceded the series proper, but I'm not gonna split hairs here.)

When EMH premiered way back when, it seemed to be Marvel's way to introduce kids to the Avengers before the big upcoming movie. Remember, back in the fall of 2010, there were only three entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: IRON MAN, IRON MAN 2, and THE INCREDIBLE HULK. THOR was still half a year away, and CAPTAIN AMERICA was slated for the following summer, with AVENGERS still nearly two years in the future. But Marvel Studios was already planting seeds in their films, and a TV tie-in would be a fine way to get the characters out into the hearts and minds of a major chunk of the movies' audience.

Monday, September 14, 2020


APRIL 21ST, 1935 - July 27TH, 1935
JULY 29th, 1935 - SEPTEMBER 21ST, 1935
SEPTEMBER 23RD, 1935 - NOVEMBER 16TH, 1935
By Alex Raymond w/Leslie Charteris

X-9 parts ways with his sidekick, Sidney George Harper Carp, as this arc begins. Carp is headed "down south" to look into some investments, while X-9 returns to Washington for a new assignment. And thanks to the departure of Dashiell Hammett, it feels like a new beginning for the strip. Immediately, Alex Raymond rectifies some of Hammett's prior mistakes. For one thing, we finally actually see X-9's boss, "the Chief", showing at long last that our hero really does report to someone in the government. The Chief takes statements from some Texas Rangers who are on the trail of a group of bank robbers called the Iron Claw Gang, and a young man they kidnapped, Philip Shaw -- the son of a banker who was killed in a robbery.

In Texas, X-9 learns that the robbers are after some untapped oil mines which Shaw and his father owned. But Shaw doesn't know where they are -- however, he tells the robbers that there's a map hidden in the bank. Carp returns around this point; through sheer coincidence he happens to be in the vicinity of the robbery. X-9 also has an assistant for this case, a beautiful Federal agent named Ruth Meredith. It's kind of funny; every storyline so far has featured an attractive girl -- but unlike, say, the Spider-Man strip, where Peter Parker would be floored by every chick he met and frequently wind up making out with them, X-9 remains entirely chaste at all times. It's like the strip wanted to introduce a new love interest in each arc, but couldn't actually do anything with them due to the moral standards of the time. It's weird.

That said, young Phillip Shaw does fall for Ruth when she and Carp show up to save him from the gang, and the two become a duo for the remainder of the storyline, jumping in and out of trouble at every turn as they try to reunite with X-9. (Which, by the way, is kind of refreshing to see in something from this era. Ruth comes across as a pretty confident and capable operative, not needing to be rescued by anyone -- and in fact doing some rescuing herself -- as she tries to protect Phillip.)

Monday, September 7, 2020


DECEMBER 17TH, 1934 - MARCH 9TH, 1935
MARCH 11th, 1935 - APRIL 20th, 1935
By Dashiell Hammett & Alex Raymond

Secret Agent X-9's next storyline is easily the most 1930s-ish piece of fiction you'll ever find, if for no other reason that than it features a spunky newsboy named -- wait for it -- "Harmonica Slick" abetting our hero. The arc focuses on a girl named Jill, the center of a bitter custody battle between her working-class mother and her wealthy aunt. The aunt had previously disowned her son for marrying a simple factory worker, but now that he's dead, she wants the fruit of his loins to raise in a life of privilege. But naturally, Jill's mom would like to keep her daughter.

Enter X-9 (still going by the name of Dexter, though he made clear in the very first story arc that it was merely one of may aliases he's used). For reasons never explained, he arrives to sit in the gallery at the hearing -- and it's fortunate that he does, for Jill is soon kidnapped by mobsters working for the notorious "Rocks Greer". Greer wants to hold the girl for ransom, and X-9 sets off on the crook's trail with Harmonica Slick by his side. Eventually, after several harrowing chases and narrow escapes, X-9 catches up with the criminals and rescues Jill -- but Greer escapes.

I can't say there's much to write home about here. The story is fine, and I'm sure it was probably of more interest to the people of 1934, since from what I've gathered over the years, they ate this sort of thing up (orphans and kids playing the harmonica, I mean). But, as with the prior two storylines, it's pretty unspectacular. Indeed, thus far the only saving grace to the strip has been Alex Raymond's artwork. I mentioned last time that I'd discuss it this week, so let's do so now.

Monday, August 31, 2020


JANUARY 22ND, 1934 - SEPTEMBER 11TH, 1934
SEPTEMBER 12TH, 1934 - DECEMBER 15TH, 1934
By Dashiell Hammett & Alex Raymond

Secret Agent X-9 begins his newspaper run in grand fashion, with a storyline that runs over nine months and sees him tangling with a local mob as he works to solve the murder of a wealthy magnate.

Strangely, I'm not sure yet exactly what X-9 is supposed to be. I mean, obviously he's a secret agent. He spends this storyline going by the name of "Dexter", but he mentions more than once that it's an alias and says at one point that he's used so many names, he doesn't remember what his real one is. He reports to a mysterious "Chief" and a quick flash of his ID is all it takes for the cops to immediately snap to attention and begin taking orders from him.

It all adds up so far, right? He's clearly some kind of super G-Man with top security clearance. But if that's the case, then why does the soon-to-be-murdered Mister Tarleton Powers ring him up at home and ask him for protection like he's a common private detective? Is that part of his cover? It's never explained. But in any case, it's a good thing this random old guy does call our protagonist, because he's quickly swept up in the murder investigation, which leads him to uncover a plot by local gangsters, led by "The Top", to hijack a shipment of gold bullion coming into the United States.

Friday, August 28, 2020


Reading all those Spider-Man newspaper strips has me in the mood to keep going along those lines, so I've grabbed a small stack of books that has been sitting in my bookcase, unread, for a few years now: the adventures of SECRET AGENT X-9 (a.k.a. SECRET AGENT CORRIGAN).

I'll forgive you if you've never heard of this strip. I hadn't heard of it either, until I began researching Alex Raymond when I reviewed his ten-year run on FLASH GORDON back in 2017. It seems that around the same time he was drawing Flash's Sunday adventures on the planet Mongo, Raymond also illustrated another strip for the King Features Syndicate. This one, a detective serial, ran as a daily strip, and Raymond drew it from its inception in January of 1934 up through October of 1936. (The decade on Flash also started in January of '34.)

Surprisingly, the first X-9 storyline is written by none other than Dashiell Hammett, of THE MALTESE FALCON fame, among much more. According to the foreword in IDW's collection of the vintage X-9 strips, Hammett had repeated disagreements with King Features about the strip, while Raymond often found himself unhappy with Hammett's scripts. So when Hammett finally departed the series, Raymond himself took over as writer for the remainder of his run.

SECRET AGENT X-9 didn't end with Raymond's departure, however. The strip continued until it was cancelled in 1996! I have no idea why I had never heard of it until just a few years ago, but there you have it. It doesn't appear much of the strip is reprinted outside of Raymond's work, though, aside from one very big exception: IDW has also collected thirteen more years of the strip, 1967 through 1980 -- a run written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Al Williamson.

As a huge fan of the Goodwin/Williamson STAR WARS newspaper strip*, which I read in its rejiggered comic book format and reviewed here way back in 2014, this little tidbit was a revelation to me, and I eagerly grabbed all five of IDW's volumes collecting that run, right around the same time I picked up the Raymond book. Like I said up top, I've had these volumes sitting on my shelf for for about three years now, and I've finally decided to read them.

And to think I never would've known about any of this if it weren't for Flash Gordon! (Indeed, I kind of love weird interconnected coincidences like this. FLASH GORDON was part of George Lucas's inspiration for STAR WARS. The STAR WARS newspaper strip introduced me to the Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson team. I read FLASH GORDON because I knew it inspired STAR WARS. And because of FLASH GORDON, I discovered that Goodwin and Williamson had collaborated on another strip. It's not exactly what you'd call full circle -- more like "full zig-zag" -- but I like it.)

So, for the next several weeks starting Monday, we'll delve into the world of SECRET AGENT X-9 circa 1934-1936, followed by the renamed SECRET AGENT CORRIGAN adventures from 1967 - 1980. (And fret not if this sort of thing isn't your cup of tea -- I'm fully aware that it's sort of a niche thing and most readers come here for super hero stuff. Well, good news -- in just about three or four more weeks, I'll be ready to announce the triumphant return of regular, ongoing Friday posts, which will cover some Marvel material -- though not necessarily in the way you might expect!)

* For the chronologically inclined, Goodwin and Williamson started their team-up on the STAR WARS strip in 1980 -- so they jumped straight from CORRIGAN to STAR WARS without missing a beat, and their newspaper strip partnership therefore lasted for a whopping seventeen years, up to the STAR WARS strip's cancellation in 1984.

Monday, August 24, 2020


DECEMBER 6TH, 1993 - MARCH 3RD, 1994
By Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Paul Ryan, & Joe Sinnott

Surprise! We're not quite done with newspaper Spider-Man after all. As I was making my way through the run of 1980s strips we just covered, it occurred to me that there's one more fully collected Spidey story arc out there from a few years later: "The Mutant Agenda", the storyline conceived by Marvel in 1993 as sort of a "multimedia" project. Marvel published a comic mini-series by the same name, written by Steven Grant and illustrated by Scott Kolins, while the Spider-Man newspaper strip did its own version of the story by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber (with Paul Ryan and Joe Sinnott on Sundays). A year or so later, the story was also adapted into the SPIDER-MAN animated series on Fox.

As it happens, Marvel published a collection a while back of the comic series and the strips, so I figured that since it was out there, I might as well purchase the digital version and check it out. You may recall I've mentioned previously that this was my first exposure to the Spidey newspaper strip in "first run" format. Of course I had the old BEST OF SPIDER-MAN book which I've mentioned many, many times here, and I had read it to pieces when I was seven or eight years old -- but our local paper didn't carry the Spidey strip until "The Mutant Agenda" started. When that happened, I decided to follow along in the papers.

...I didn't last long. I just couldn't get into the strip. I don't know if it was reading only a few little panels per day or if it was Stan's writing or Lieber's artwork or what, but at the age of fifteen, I just couldn't get into the strip. In part, I know it was because it felt simplistic and hokey next to the then-ongoing comics -- but even if you take that out of the equation, it simply didn't seem up to par with even the material in THE BEST OF SPIDER-MAN.

Monday, August 17, 2020


With every volume to date of IDW's Spider-Man newspaper strip collections now in the rear-view mirror, I've read all of the strip's first decade of publication -- January 1st, 1977 - December 31st, 1986 -- and so I thought this would be a good time to sum up my thoughts on the whole thing. The verdict, in case there were any doubts, is that I really like it... for the most part. This version of Spider-Man feels more real to me somehow than most comic book versions. Not realistic, because it’s a far cry from that, but more... natural? Correct? Don’t get me wrong; I have great fondness for most of the late eighties/nineties Spider-Man comics I grew up with. I adore Roger Stern’s run too, more than I can articulate (though I tried some years ago). And I love the original 1960s-era Stan Lee/John Romita run nearly as much.

But this is different from all of those. It’s its own thing, but it feels more true to my own idea of what Spider-Man is meant to be. And I suspect part of the reason for that goes back to the formative years of my childhood, and the book I mentioned several times over the course of these reviews: THE BEST OF SPIDER-MAN, published in 1986. When I announced my first round of Spidey strip reviews in 2017, I said of that book:
"When I was a youngster -- say, maybe seven or eight years old -- I had a book called THE BEST OF SPIDER-MAN, which reprinted a handful of story arcs from the earlier years of the Spidey strip. I very nearly read the cover off that thing, to the point that it became one of the most battered, dog-eared books I owned. In a way, it was more formative of my understanding of Spider-Man than the monthly comics, since I had never really been a regular ongoing reader at that point."
And it's true. Though I was a Spider-Man fan from a very young age -- the first comic I can remember owning was AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #245 -- I dind't start reading with real regularity until the Gerry Conway run on SPECTACULAR and WEB circa 1987 or '88 -- and even then, I was only picking up random issues from spinner racks as I saw them. I didn't become an actual, honest-to-goodness montly reader of Spider-Man until somewhere around AMAZING #360 in 1992.

Monday, August 10, 2020


NOVEMBER 9TH, 1986 - DECEMBER 31ST, 1986
By Stan Lee, Dan Barry, & Floro Dery

After well over a year of uncredited pinch-hitters from the Marvel Bullpen handling the daily strips, Spider-Man finally gets a new regular artist as the final storyline of 1986 begins -- and he's kind of a catch, too. Beginning with the July 28th installment, daily art chores are handled by veteran newspaper strip artist Dan Barry -- best known as the artist of Flash Gordon for many years after originator Alex Raymond departed the series.

Barry's run on Spidey will turn out to be quite short, really only lasting the duration of this single arc, but it's notable nonetheless. As this is the final arc we're looking at for now, Barry is the last artist we'll see on the strip -- but following his departure, Larry Lieber will return and proceed with a remarkable run as artist from 1987 all the way through to the strip's cancellation in 2019!

As this arc begins, Peter and Mary Jane are in a good place. MJ knows Peter's identity, so he no longer needs to hide his exploits from her. They're dating, they're in love -- the only fly in the ointment is that Mary Jane still can't commit to Peter's marriage proposal. But the wall-crawler's concerns quickly turn from his love life when corrupt politician Howard Danton Hayes begins accosting Mary Jane's uncle, Judge Spencer Watson. Hayes wants Watson to go easy on a friend of his, mobster Abner Zilden. And with that setup, we're off into a storyline which provides a surprising and much-needed jolt to the recently boring newspaper strip.

Monday, August 3, 2020


July 20TH, 1986 - NOVEMBER 8th, 1986
By Stan Lee w/Floro Dery & Friends

Seven-month storylines seem to be the norm for the Spider-Man strep by this point. In the early days, they tended to last three or four months, and as a general rule, that carried all the way through the artistic tenures of both John Romita and Larry Lieber. But partway through Fred Kida's run (actually in the middle of his final storyline), they began to get longer. This is now our fifth five-plus-month-long arc in a row, and for the record they've gone seven months, five months, nine months, seven months -- and now seven months again.

Spider-Man's 1986 ends with Stan Lee beginning to plant the seeds for the web-slinger's marriage to Mary Jane Watson in 1987. I'm honestly a bit surprised Stan was thinking about this so far in advance, but I guess maybe he figured such a momentous event should have some build-up. So we have Aunt May worrying over Peter's lack of a wife and steady job, while MJ returns to New York with a promotion at Compton Computers -- she will now be running the company's franchise operations. Peter feels a bit inadequate in the shadow of MJ's success, and sells his motorcycle for some quick cash to take her out. He wants to propose, but when he ducks out on a New Year's Eve date to play Spider-Man, MJ declares that she doesn't want to speak with him again.

This finally prompts Peter to decide that he will reveal his identity to MJ. But first he needs to get past her cold shoulder to do it. His persistence pays off, and he eventually gets her to meet him at his apartment, where he shows her his costume and demonstrates his power, then tells her his origin. But Mary Jane is taken aback by the revelation, and tells him she needs time to think about it. So Spidey sets his mind to another task: a rash of ATM robberies in the city, which has drained Aunt May's savings. Unfortunately, a gung-ho cop is hunting him as well, seeking the glory of unmasking Spider-Man. (Which seems odd, since we're explicitly told more than once that Spider-Man isn't currently wanted for anything -- yet this guy, Detective Kovanson, pulls a gun on Spidey in the street, yelling at him to unmask for no apparent reason, twice -- and even shoots at him once as well!)

Monday, July 27, 2020


MARCH 18TH, 1985 - DECEMBER 21ST, 1985
By Stan Lee w/Floro Dery & Friends

Spider-Man leaps from his seven-month-long Dar Harat adventure into an unprecedented nine-month long soap opera storyline as we begin this week's installment. Peter returns from Dar Harat's island to find that the bills have piled up while he was away, and he has no cash with which to pay them. This brings to mind an odd question about the timeline, as the Dar Harat story, while running for seven months in real time, felt like it only lasted a few days in the strip's continuity. And certainly, Spidey was only out of the country on Dar Harat's island for no more than a day or two! But hey, maybe the bills were accumulating prior to Dar Harat (Spidey did spend some time suffering from amnesia and then working for the mob, after all).

Anyway, in order to earn some quick cash, Peter decides to leverage his "friendship" with Spider-Man by offering Robbie Robertson an exclusive, in-depth interview with the web-slinger to tell his life's story. In a nice (and rare) touch if inter-storyline continuity, Robbie reminds Peter that the Daily Bugle got burned once with their interview series on the Spider-Man imposter, but he's willing to give it another go. However, Jameson refuses to let Peter write the story himself (which seems reasonable to me since he's a photographer, not a writer), and assigns one J.S. Saxon, the Bugle's top feature writer, to the story.

It turns out "J.S." is actually Jenny Sue Saxon, a beautiful woman with whom Peter is instantly smitten. But Jenny has a daughter, Jody, who is terrified at the mere mention of Spider-Man. When Peter describes Jody's behavior to Aunt May, May says that the girl is exhibiting all the signs of a molested child.

Friday, July 24, 2020


After a couple months off, The Unboxing returns with two books and a few digital items. First, from Marvel, it's the SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK BY JOHN BYRNE OMNIBUS. I own this run in four formats now -- original comic books, two trade paperbacks, digital versions of those trades, and now this Omnibus. I can't help it; I love Byrne's She-Hulk! Heck, if IDW was ever to offer an Artist's Edition of pages from this run, I'd buy that, too!

Which turns out to be a nice segue to our next book, from IDW: DAVE COCKRUM'S X-MEN ARTIFACT EDITION. Prior to buying this, I owned exactly one Artist/Artifact Edition, which hit The Unboxing just about two years ago, and that was the JOHN BYRNE'S X-MEN ARTIFACT EDITION... so you can see where my tastes lie. Further, since I don't buy these things very often, I went ahead and splurged on the signed and numbered limited edition, which has a "virgin" wraparound cover, as well as a Chris Claremont autograph. I did the same thing with the Byrne book a couple years ago -- it was a Comic-Con exclusive, signed and numbered by Byrne.

Monday, July 20, 2020


AUGUST 12TH, 1984 - MARCH 17TH, 1985
By Stan Lee w/Floro Dery & Friends

Spider-Man's 1984 continues with another epic-length storyline -- the start of his second seven-monther in a year! This time, rather than gangsters, the villains are terrorists: a group from the Middle East called Dar Harat, led by the sinister Doctor Mondo. The U.S. government gets wind that Dar Harat is out to kidnap Spider-Man, and a government think tank called the Cerebrum Institute realizes that Mondo plans to duplicate the Web-Slinger's powers for his own agents. In order to warn Spidey, Cerebrum's top thinker, Alana Lamond, enlists the Department of Analysis and Remedial Expedients, a clandestine agency (a.k.a. DARE or "The Department", to lure him out of hiding.

The Department sends its top operative, Simon "Smitty" Smith, to help Alana. Smitty lures Spider-Man into rescuing him from a staged accident, then he and Alana explain the situation to the web-slinger. Spidey and Smitty devise a plan to let Dar Harat capture him so that they can bust the organization up from inside. But when Alana returns to Washington to report to her superiors, Peter Parker follows. He's smitten with her, and wants to meet her without his mask -- so he propses a story about the Cerebrum Institute to Jonah Jameson, and uses that as his cover to meet Alana. Alana, however, is just as uninterested in Peter as she is in Spider-Man.

(This may have something to do with the fact that both in and out of costume, Peter hits on the woman relentlessly. Like, I know I've applauded the outgoing nature of comic strip Peter before, and noted several times how comfortable he is around women, but his behavior here is beyond the pale. He obnoxiously badgers Alana nonstop with comments about her looks. It's way beyond anything similar I've ever seen Stan do, and I'm not sure what was going through his head at this point!)

Monday, July 13, 2020


MARCH 22ND, 1984 - AUGUST 11TH, 1984
By Stan Lee & Fred Kida w/Floro Dery & Friends

Our next storyline is the final one that was collected in that old BEST OF SPIDER-MAN book I've mentioned here so many times. It was also the most then-recent arc in the book. Most of the strips therein were from the Lee/Romita heydey, with only the Muffy Ainsworth story and this one from the post-Romita period. And this storyline, from 1984, was only two years old when the book saw print. However, its presentation in that volume was unique. All the other story arcs in the book were printed in black-and-white -- even the Sunday pages. But this one was printed in a special color section, which included only the Sunday strips, with brief summaries of the dailies that ran in between. So while I have sort of read this one before, I've never read it in its entirety.

The arc, which the old book titled "The Imposter Must Die!", picks up a thread from our previous storyline. I didn't mention it last week because it was incidental to the plot, but throughout the Eliminator/Braxton story, there was a sub-plot about the Daily Bugle running a "Who is Spider-Man" contest, with a grand prize of $50,000 for the person who could prove the Wall-Crawler's secret identity. That plot now takes center stage in this arc. And by the way, I think this is the first time I can remember the strip doing something like this. Aside from the more "window-dressing" type stuff, like whether or not Peter and Mary Jane are an item at any given time, the strip has rarely, if ever, carried continuity through its story arcs in this fashion. Usually every arc is a "done in one" deal, with most plot threads resolved in time for the next story to begin. So kudos to Stan and/or his ghost plotter (more on that in a few weeks) for going a bit more sophisticated with his writing at this point.

Monday, July 6, 2020


AUGUST 1ST, 1983 - MARCH 21ST, 1984
By Stan Lee & Fred Kida w/Floro Dery

At the end of the previous storyline, Mary Jane tried to give Spider-Man a kiss for saving her life, but he bolted, worried she would realize he was actually Peter Parker. Knowing Stan Lee, I doubt he remembered that he had already trod this ground before, a year or so earlier, and that MJ did briefly wonder after a kiss with the Web-Slinger if he might be her boyfriend. But in any case, it does make for a nice callback. But the problem for Peter is, he's tired of hiding his secret from everyone, which means -- yes, it's time for another installment of the classic "Peter wrestles with the burden of his secret identity" story. (In fact, we were probably overdue for one at this point.)

This leads us into the next storyline, and it's a doozy, running seven months long! It begins with Peter deciding that rather than giving up his identity or going bad or whatever else, he's simply going to announce to the world that he's Spider-Man, so he won't have to keep juggling his personal life and his costumed one. But first, he wants to propose to MJ. Indeed, his main reason for planning this revelation seems to be so he can be with her and not have his secret between them, but at no point does he consider that maybe he could just tell her and no one else!

But Peter gets cold feet the first time he intends to reveal himself and propose. This delay allows time for an assassin called the Eliminator to arrive in town, on a mission to kill Jonah Jameson at the request of crime boss "Big John" Braxton. Meanwhile, Peter buys a motorcyle with which he intends to impress MJ. Then, on a rainy night, Peter and the Eliminator are involved in a crash. Peter is stricken with amnesia, finds the Eliminator's wallet and staggers away, now believing that he is the Eliminator. He finds his way to Braxton, where he learns his "profession" and his mission to kill Jameson. Eventually he winds up in his apartment, where he argues with Mary Jane, and then heads to the Daily Bugle to fulfill his contract.

Monday, June 29, 2020


DECEMBER 27TH, 1982 - APRIL 16TH, 1983
APRIL 17th, 1983 - JULY 31ST, 1983
By Stan Lee & Fred Kida w/Floro Dery

Spider-Man's first storyline of 1982 marks something of a milestone for the strip, as it acknowledges for the first time that there are other super-characters out in the world besides Spider-Man and some of his enemies (save perhaps the Hulk, who has been mentioned in passing once or twice, but it's hard to tell in context whether that's as an existing creature or a fictional character). This arc sees Peter dispatched aboard a sketchy ship called the Missing Link with a Daily Bugle reporter named Harry McNeil and a beautiful oceanographer named Sam Taylor to investigate the disappearances of several ships in the Bermuda Triangle -- but there, they run into Namor the Sub-Mariner, and help him to battle his enemy, the renegade Atlantean, Krang.

Suprisingly, Peter never once changes into Spider-Man during the duration of this three-and-a-half month-long storyline. He never has much of an opportunity, for one thing -- he and Sam go down in a bathysphere together, which leads to an attack by Krang, then Namor shows up and they bring him back to the surface after Krang beats him. Namor then captains the boat to a nearby island, where the group is cornered in a cave and then fights Krang until he is defeated. There are a few moments where Peter is separated from the group, but he never changes for fear of blowing his secret identity -- which eventually results in him using his spider-powers and web-shooters during the final fight to aid Namor, without his costume. Though Harry is unconscious during this battle, Sam sees -- and after she and Peter are returned to New York by Namor, she tells Peter that she knows his secret and needs to get away for a while to clear her head.

Even though Sam spends much of the arc crushing on Namor, she and Peter appear quite close by its conclusion. Hopefully we haven't seen the last of her, because she's a charaacter who I really like, and different from the normal sorts Stan pairs Peter with in these strips. She's a bit more assertive and independent than Spidey's usual damsels in distress and/or connivers (notwithstanding the fact that she swoons over Namor from the moment she meets him).

Monday, June 22, 2020


MARCH 22ND, 1982 - JUNE 12TH, 1982
JUNE 13TH, 1982 - SEPTEMBER 19TH, 1982
SEPTEMBER 20TH, 1982 - DECEMBER 26TH, 1982
By Stan Lee & Fred Kida

Following an okay, but somewhat silly Doctor Doom plot, the Spider-Man strip returns to the sort of story it does best with this next arc. Back in New York following his excursion to Laveria, Peter finds that Spider-Man is still a celebrity —- and that a fashion company is cashing in on his likeness by manufacturing “Spidey Jeans”!

The jeans are a smashing success. Everyone is wearing them (even Harry Osborn in a one-panel cameo). Naturally, poor Spidey wants his cut of the profits. He goes to Howard Huffman, the civil rights lawyer who defended him during the “humanoid” arc (and who Peter Parker consulted for advice during the assassin storyline). Huffman takes Spidey’s case and begins building a suit against the owners of Spidey Jeans, Melissa and Phillip Trent. (Melissa is, in keeping with the strip’s long tradition, a total fox, while Phillip is a distinguished gentleman confined to a wheelchair.)

But since the Wall-Crawler has never copyrighted his name or likeness, he’s in the public domain and his case has no legs. Determined to profit somehow off Spidey Jeans, however, he agrees to ride shotgun with the company’s delivery trucks, which have recently been hijacked a few times.

Monday, June 15, 2020


OCTOBER 5TH, 1981 - DECEMBER 6TH, 1981
DECEMBER 7TH, 1981, 1981 - MARCH 21ST, 1982
By Stan Lee & Fred Kida (w/Larry Lieber)

Stan Lee and Fred Kida continue the adventures of a more "grounded" Spider-Man in the first of this week's storylines, which quite honestly could've been ripped from today's headlines! It's about a shady oil tycoon who decides he wants to be president -- and he wants Jonah Jameson to be his Secretary of Information in exchange for the Daily Bugle's endorsement. Robbie is of course against this, but Jonah has stars in his eyes and goes along with the billionaire, Thurston Thurwell.

Meanwhile, Spider-Man has become a celebrity following the previous adventure, in which he thwarted the assassination of a visiting cosmonaut. Mary Jane is smitten with the Web-Slinger, but still won't give Peter the time of day since he skipped out on her play to stop the assassin. So, to get back into MJ's graces, Peter offers to get her a poster of Spidey autographed by the Web-Slinger himself -- and to have Spider-Man deliver it. Spidey eventually does, but he ducks out in a hurry to do some crime-fighting, and MJ immediately decides that he's a flake.

At the same time, a group of young vigilantes calling themselves the Spider-Brigade have become the toast of the town. (I think they're more like a neighborhood watch than actual vigilantes, but vigilantes is the way they're described in narration and dialogue.) Thurwell can't stand this, as he believes the young men are taking the law into their own hands, and forces Jameson to condemn them in the Bugle. At the same time, Thurwell also anonymously offers $50,000 to anyone who can scale the side of the Bugle building like Spider-Man, certain that whoever tries will fail and be killed, thus turning public opinion against the Wall-Crawler.

Monday, June 8, 2020


MAY 26TH, 1981 - AUGUST 8TH, 1981
AUGUST 9TH, 1981 - OCTOBER 4TH, 1981
By Stan Lee & Larry Lieber

Stan Lee and Larry Lieber continue the "primetime TV" approach to Spider-Man that I love so much in both of this week's storylines. First, at a college dance, Mary Jane is harassed by a new student named Vince Rigby. Peter stands up for her, but a chandelier falls, nearly killing him and breaking his arm. It turns out that Rigby has telekinetic powers, and uses them for his own selfish purposes. But when he shows off for MJ, she tells Peter about Rigby's ability, which prompts Peter to inform Robbie and Jonah, which leads to Rigby going public and accepting a bounty from Jameson: if Rigby can best Spider-Man in battle, JJJ will pay him ten grand.

Fortunately, Peter's quick-healing abilities have his arm back to normal around this point, and he goes out to meet Rigby's challenge. Everything comes to a head at -- wait for it -- a roller rink, where MJ is on a date with Rigby, and where Jameson happens to be showing the niece of his biggest advertiser a good time, when Spider-Man shows up. Rigby goes berserk, ranting about how he will kill Spider-Man, but the web-slinger tricks him into overtaxing his power, so that when he finally attempts to move something relatively small (which Spidey secretly webbed to the floor), he's unable to. After this, Rigby's power shuts down, an outcome Spider-Man compares with blowing a fuse.

Monday, June 1, 2020


JANUARY 12TH, 1981 - MARCH 14TH, 1981
MARCH 15TH, 1981 - MAY 25TH, 1981
By Stan Lee & Larry Lieber

Our return to the Spider-Man newspaper strip coincides with the return of Doctor Octopus as well. Ock was last seen in early 1977 (the strip's second storyline, in fact), which means it's four years at this point since we last saw him! Contrast that with the Kingpin, who made multiple appearances over the previous few years, and Kraven and Doctor Doom, who each popped up twice, and it seems odd. Doc Ock was, at this time, generally accepted as Spider-Man's "main" villain, so the fact that he was used so sparingly is a bit of a surprise.

Strangely, this strip seems to be ignoring that previous appearance. Here, Ock is released from prison on parole and decides that, even though he has "a fortune" socked away, he should lay low and live as a common man -- so he goes in search of a room for rent. Meanwhile, Aunt May has been recently robbed and has decided she shouldn't live alone, so she's placed an ad for a boarder. Naturally, Ock shows up and there's much discussion about the last time they encountered each other, right?

Nope. Ock does, of course, answer the ad, but it's presented like the first time he and May have met (and the first time he's met Peter, as well). This seems to be a sort of "soft reboot" of the strip's continuity. You may recall that in its earliest story arcs, the strip presented Spider-Man and his villains as if they had some sort of prior history. First Doctor Doom, then Doc Ock, then the Kingpin -- all were shown as having tangled with the web-slinger in the past (or at least having known about him), and in Ock's case, his past as Aunt May's beau was acknowledged as well.