Saturday, January 18, 2014

365 Days of KirbyTech, Day 18: SHIELD's "Wild Bill" Robot

Sure, I'm kinda enjoying ABC-TV's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.*, but to be honest, it could use a little more of this:

Splash page from "Who Strikes At---SHIELD?" in Strange Tales #142 (March 1966), co-plot and script by Stan Lee, co-plot and pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Mike Esposito, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

Now that's the SHIELD I'm used to: lots of bizarre over-the-top mechanical and electronic devices, and Nick Fury reacting with incredulity that they exist. Admit it, can't you just hear Samuel L. Jackson muttering "I'm sick of these &%$@#*&ing robots on my &%$@#*&ing helicarrier!" For my twelve cents, this is a splash page which truly gives you your money's worth: bright bold colors, a big bombastic killer robot running amok with weird-lookin' guns (say, why is he holding guns anyway? Why aren't they just built into him?), a header that reminds us what SHIELD stands for (truth, justice, and the super-spy way), a goofy, self-deprecating credits box, and a note that tells us that even in this half-issue saga, this robot just got thrown un because it looks cool.

This is SHIELD's "Wild Bill" security robot, but it's hopped up on robotic goofballs or something, because, like its name sake, it's running wild. Somebody check the switch on the back and see if it's set to "evil!"

You've got to love a Kirby device that takes another Kirby device to switch off.

Say, why wasn't American industrialist Tony Stark, cool exec with a heart of steel shrapnel slowly killing him there when they switched on Bill? It isn't mentioned in the text but Stark probably had a finely-manicured hand in the design and construction of "Wild Bill," as he's shown to be quite active in SHIELD R&D during this period. So where the Sam Scratch was that guy? Well, in a typical and lovely piece of cross-title continuity, Tony has his hands a little bit full right now, thank you:

Panel from "The Fury of...the Freak!" in Tales of Suspense #75 (March 1966), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Gene Colan, inks by Jack Abel, letters by Sam Rosen

Did Happy Hogan just bitchslap Iron Man? Yowza! Truly this was the Marvel Age of Comics!

The various SHIELD series contain more KirbyTech than Q had admonishments for 007, especially in the early, Jack Kirby drawn-and-coplotted days. It' probably not a surprise then that so many of them (f'r instance, Nick Fury's communicator-quarter coin?) are never seen nor heard from again. "Wild Bill" gets a second lease on life, however, when it returns to menace Captain America and the Falcon. Yeah, like that's gonna work. At least it's getting better billing here as "the deadliest robot assassin of all time," rather than "this guy isn't really important to the story." Looks like ol' Wild Bill spent the early '70s finally getting himself a decent agent.

Cover of Captain America #190 (October 1975), pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Joe Sinnott, letters by Dan Crespi and Gaspar Saladino

Cap and the Falc-man dont' even know what this ferschluggin' metal man is, so thankfully Marv Wolfman fills us in that yes, this is the "Wild Bill" robot, with a couple carefully placed caption boxes. And, good thing Wild Bill's aim is so far off with his left-hand gun, or we'd be smelling roast Falcon right now. More proof that robots can be unidextrous.

Panel from Captain America #190 (October 1975), script by Tony Isabella, pencils by Frank Robbins, inks by Vince Colletta, colors by Michele Wolfman, letters by Dave Hunt

Luckily, the Falcon's faithful animal pal, Redwing (founding member of the Pet Avengers), swoops into the action to save the day!

And Captain America takes out the killer robot with an ol' one-two from his mighty shield and his dashing pirate boots. HECK YEAH AMERICA!

Thus "Wild Bill" becomes the only robot in the history of the Marvel Universe defeated by a bird. Except for Ultron-17 and Thor's exotic cockatoo.

*Skye Has Insipid Emotions Like a Doll

1 comment:

Blam said...

// You've got to love a Kirby device that takes another Kirby device to switch off. //

Amen. Especially when the latter is a whole blamed wall-sized "cut-off unit"* rather than just a switch or button or even voice command. [*Your John & Lorena Bobbitt joke here, right now: $0.10]