Yes, I’ve been reduced to writing a review of a story entitled “Avenjerks Assemble!”
Roy Thomas, 27 years old at the time, heads out to deliver the script for this issue to “Dashin’ Donnie Heck.” Roy is riding a tricycle and wearing green checked slacks with a yellow Nehru jacket and hippie beads with a medallion that says Grok. He sports a pointed, beatnik-like goatee. Roy quotes the “Merry Marvel by-laws” that “Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow shall stay a Marvelmaniac from his appointed rounds.” Unfortunately, the by-laws say nothing about water and Don lives on Long Island so Roy has to waterski (sliding along on his rear end) to cross Long Island Sound. Roy arrives and finds Don riding away on his horse. Don thinks Roy is a “pest” and declares, “That guy’s got as many story plots as the Democrats have candidates!” (Hey, that bit works again!) He decides he’d better humor Roy. “Maybe it’ll be an easy one this time…with only 87 heroes!” (So, did Don Heck really own a horse? I guess we’d have to ask Roy.)
Back at Don’s place, Roy tells him the story involves “a rousin’ slugfest between the old Avengers and the new ones.” Don, at his drawing board, says, “Avengers? I thought I was doin’ the X-Men now! Nope that was last week! Besides Groovy Gary [Friedrich] writes that one! Or is it Affable Arnie [Drake]?” You think maybe Marvel was a little chaotic at the time?
Roy gets so worked up with his description that he ends up socking himself in the face. Don doesn’t notice because he’s too busy looking at a tiny Iron Man who is standing on, and leaning against, his lamp. He tells Roy about “the little people…the ones I’ve been seein’ ever since I started drawing all those nutty superhero groups! Werner Roth says he sees ‘em, too!” He watches a tiny Goliath “grunt” and “wheeze” as he lifts up the corner of the comic panel that Don is in. With the panel lifted, the next panel has an all-white background. Roy is now dressed as Shakespeare as he tries to come up with a “mellifluous melodrama” to rival the Bard “or maybe even Stan Lee!” A tiny Thor, though, carries Don away.
Roy gives up and goes to John Buscema’s house to give him “the plot for the regular Avengers ish.” “It’ll be a pleasure to talk to somebody normal for a change!” says Roy but John’s house is creepy and dark, perched on the top of a hill with bats flying around. Roy consults his notes as he rings John’s doorbell. “Lessee…Cap visits the Avengers who currently consist of Hawkeye, Panther, Hank, Jan, Richard Nixon…Richard Nixon?? Gee…he pops up everywhere these days!” (At the time, Nixon was running for the Presidency and making as many appearances as he could.) The doorbell goes “Ring-a-ding” and Roy wonders, “Could be I’m at Romita’s place by mistake?” (Hah. Like that one.) A trap door opens up and drops Roy in. John runs up, dressed as Hawkeye, hoping that it’s “the mailman, bringing me my wondrous wages,” but it’s only Roy, who is lowered down on a chain. Roy complains that “all these word balloons are bad for my sinuses,” so they go outside, specifically to the Silver Surfer’s surfboard, which says “Buy Marvel Comics!” on the bottom of it. The Surfer himself hangs on for dear life, dangling over the edge, as John (no longer dressed as Hawkeye) and Roy take over. They fall (or jump) off the surfboard, the impact absorbed by the curled edges of the panel, although they also squish a tiny Cap and tiny Hawkeye. John interrupts Roy’s plot synopsis. “I can see it all now, right in my brain,” he says. “Couldn’t you keep it in a safer place, like maybe a safety deposit box on the Titanic?” asks Roy.
Roy gets back to the Marvel offices, an ice bag on his head. Behind him, a sign on a door reads, “Office of Stan Lee! Please Prostrate Self Before Entering!” Roy remembers that he didn’t finish his story for Don so he tries to call but is “cut off” because a tiny Sub-Mariner hangs onto his beads with one hand while using scissors to snip his phone cord with the other. Don is in bigger trouble. He can’t get to the phone because tiny versions of the Beast, Marvel Girl, Cyclops, Iceman, and Angel have tied him up and are parading around him. “Oh well, at least it’s by the X-Men this time,” he says. Roy flies in through the window, a rocket pack on his back, as a tiny Captain Marvel punches Don in the nose. “And next time, don’t draw me with a red-white-and-blue shield,” says Mar-Vell. (This didn’t really happen, did it?) As Roy recites his plot, Don gets free and uses Thor’s hammer to bash the miniature super-heroes.
Next, Roy takes a balloon over to John’s place. A World War I vintage airplane shoots holes in his balloon. “That Phantom Eagle never knows when to call it quits,” says Roy, “Or is that Von Hammock, the Enmity Ace?” (This is a reference to the DC character, Enemy Ace, the German WWI ace Hans Von Hammer, known as the Hammer of Hell.) Roy tries to sneak into John’s place by the back way and is caught in a booby trap in which three boxing gloves sock him in the head from three different directions. John, back in his Hawkeye outfit, peels back the panel to look. “Pshaw! It’s just the fakir from Flatbush, again,” he says, “This time I was sure it was the Red Skull!” The boxing gloves floor Roy and send his beads scattering. When he moans, “Broken, smashed, mangled beyond repair,” he isn’t referring to his body but to his beads.
Back at the office, with the ice pack back on his head and an “In” box filled to the sky, Roy gets a call from Don to tell him that he’s “ready to lay out the other half of the Special.” Roy hurries over on a wooden scooter but “our gregarious young groover is too pooped to palaver.” He races back and forth between Don and John. He tells John, “Jarvis has to appear in the first part of the story” with John telling him “But I’m already up to page 9.” (“Okay, so I’ll write this ish backwards,” Roy replies.) He tells Don he wants Captain America to be “the hero of the Special” with Don telling him, “I got him clobbered back on page 40!” (And he did, too. That’s where Cap gets encased in ice.) He tells John “be sure to play up the Black Panther” with John telling him, “I’ve been drawing Black Bolt in every other panel.”
The deadline looms. Roy chews his fingernails at the office, wondering if the work will arrive in time. John and Don appear but get wedged in the door frame as they try to enter at the same time. Their pages go flying and get mixed together. Buried under the pages, Roy says, “Well, anyway, they made it! Now, I can go home and sleep for a week!” But Stan comes out of his office in the last panel and tells him “I was just talking on the phone to Jolly Solly Brodsky! And he tells me you’re all three late on next month’s mags!” A sound effect answers him. “Plop! Plop! Plop!” Roy, Don, and John all, apparently, pass out. And Stan says, “I wonder if it was somethin’ I said?”
Right next to Stan in that last panel is a poster of Spider-Man with four arms and four legs. (At least, I assume he has four arms and four legs. We only see part of the poster.) Oh, so that’s why this story got a review of its own!
It’s a ridiculous little story but it is an amusing end to this issue after 44 pages of time paradoxes and Kang incarnations. I always enjoy comic creators making fun of themselves and Roy sticks it to everyone, himself included. John Buscema and Frank Giacoia do a nice job with the caricatures and the craziness. It looks like everyone involved had fun with it. I hope they did.
It’s nothing earth-shaking, it’s not hilarious, but it gets the job done. I’m giving it three webs.
Next: How about something even more unexpected? Like Inferior Five #10?