Thursday, October 31, 2013

One Night in Rutland: 1981

(Okay, let's try this: instead of 1977, Part 2 as I promised last night, let's visit Rutland, Vermont in 1981 for tonight. Then, tomorrow, I'll take you to the rest of 1977. why? Because I didn't find the comic book until late this afternoon because I was looking for a comic titled Deadman/Phantom Stranger instead of DC Super Stars. D'oh!)

Although the glory days of superheroes visiting rutland, Vermont, for the annual Halloween Parade was the early 1970s, it still remained an occasional stop on the tour route for big demonic crossover super-battles well throughout the 1980s: at least as well as it could, with the competition from Disney World being what it was. Let's step boldly into the era of Reagan and Thatcher to see Marvel's famous non-team, the Defenders, fight a foe almost as supervillainesque as those two. Who could it be? Could it be...Satan???

Why yes. Yes, it could.

Two-page splash spread from Defenders #100 (October 1981), script by J. M. DeMatteis, pencils and inks by a whole lotta guys undoubtably struggling to get this thing in on schedule, colors by George Roussos, letters by Janice Chiang and Shelly Leferman

(Click picture to Satan-size)

Yep: it's Defenders #100: the first number 100 issue that I ever bought, and it''s just not very good. Admittedly, it does have that nifty two-page spread of Satan taking over Manhattan's Times Square, but honestly, he's just making it a more interesting place than it is now with Bubba Gump's and the ESPN Lounge and fifteen Swatch stores. Instead of handing the reclamation of Times Square over to Disney, we really should have had this guy do the redesign!

And yep: that really is Satan, the Devil himself, rather than one of Marvel's usual stand-ins for the role like Mephisto or Asmodeus or NFL Superpro. I must admit that I never before (or after) pictured the Prince of Darkness wearing little red stretch shorts with a hole in it for his tail, but hey, he's rocking those deltoids of steel and he's entitled to show them off. (Besides, I am scarcely one to talk about having little pants with a hole for your tail in them.)

This anniversary story is also notable as the one that revealed Patsy Walker as the Daughter of Darkness. And yes, I've used that phrase as a cheap excuse to post this music video of The Man Who Can Sing Any Song on Earth:

And I'm not kidding, either! In this ish, Patsy had been retconned into being Satan's daughter, who he's training to take over the family business since his son (Daimon Hellstrom,, Son of Satan) had gone into real estate or something like that.

What the--? Patsy Walker? Now wait one darn minute, Mister Devil (I say, in my Jimmy Stewart voice). You can corrupt a lot of people in the Marvel Universe (go ahead, take the Whizzer,; thats' a free one, on me), but what you may not realize is that Patsy Walker has a squeaky-clean and happy-go-lucky image in the Marvel Universe that's nearly as old as Sub-Mariner, Captain America, and the Original Human Torch! And yet they never invited Patsy to be a member of the Invaders...more's the pity. That's right! Patsy first appeared in 1944 in Miss America Magazine #2, beating out Millie "The Model" Collins by a few months to lay claim to being the grand dame girl of Earth-616, in her seemingly never-ending series of high-spirited romantic comedy adventures.

Patsy was in many ways the original Wolverine, because she had metal claws that extended from his knuckles she was the first Marvel character to successfully cover-star in multiple simultaneous titles throughout the Timely and Atlas Age: Miss America (1944-1958), Patsy Walker (1945-1965), Patsy and Hedy (1952-1967), Patsy and Her Pals (1953-1957), A Date With Patsy (1957), Patsy Walker's Fashion Parade (1966), Spider-Man/Patsy Walker Team-Up (1977-1982), Patsy Walker and the Micronauts (1982-1984), The Uncanny X-Pats (1990-1999), and the recent PATSYWALKERMAX (2010-2013). I may have made some of these up. Truly, she was the best she was at what she did, and when she became a superhero (Hellcat) in the 1970s within the pages of The Avengers, few readers at the time knew her vast and lengthy history. I guess what I am saying is I love you 1940s Patsy Walker!

Cover of Patsy Walker #26 (January 1950), painted cover by Louise Altson

How big was Patsy's kick-in to the coffers of Martin Goodman and Timely/Atlas/Marvel Comics? Well, take a gander at this factoid, probably inflated and exaggerated to some amount by Stan Lee, but there's likely the nearness of truth in the fact that Patsy comics sold more in one month than the entire industry does today in half a year.

Cover of Patsy Walker #17 (July 1948), pencils and inks by Al Jaffee

Yep: you read that right: that cover is by the king of Mad magazine's crazy fold-ins, Al Jaffee! Now, I'm not recommending you do this with your vintage copy of a Patsy Walker comic, but if you fold it in, you get something like this:

Man, Al Jaffee: I will never stop being amazed at how he does that. Uncanny.

Anyway, back to Rutland, Vermont. Well, yes, part of this story takes place there, in a return to the New England village for the non-team. It's not Halloween, and there is no parade, and (for shame!) no appearance by Tom Fagan, but the three founding Defenders—Dr. Strange, Sub-Mariner, and the other one—fight one of Satan's minions at Bald Mountain outside Rutland.

This employee-o'-Satan erupting outta Bald Mountain is not Chernobog, but instead is Doctor Strange's occasional foe, Satannish! He's not Satan, he's just Satan...ish.

Then, the whole mountain explodes and the Defenders die in a pool of hot molten lava and the book is cancelled and oh, Rutland must have been wiped off the map as well and J. M. DeMatteis was free to write Moonshadow all he wanted to now.

So there you go: the reason why, even today, if you're driving up through central Vermont to espy the foliage, there's a big smoking hole at the intersection of State Routes 4 and 7, just behind the Krispy Kreme. Ah, Rutland, Vermont: This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.

Special bonus pin-up: Satan in his little red pants and a snazzy hat!

Tomorrow! One Night In Rutland...1985 1977 again!

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