Soundtrack: Concrete Blonde — Bloodletting
The story is called Night of the Collector, and the issue appeared on the stands in October 1973 (although the cover date is January 1974–my birth-month). It’s one of a number of Marvel and DC adventures that took place in Rutland, Vermont on Hallowe’en, and since it’s the only one I still have, it’s the I’m going to discuss…
pencils: Bob Brown
Inks: Don Heck
Upon re-reading this, I find myself concluding, quite against my will, that it’s not one of the better Ruland stories. There’s nothing supernatural going on–unlike in some of the earlier issues of Thor and Marvel Feature (the “feature” was The Defenders) where forces of evil like Dormammu and Loki provided the opposition. In this one, we have to make do with the Collector, who never really developed into anything resembling a proper antagonist for a team like the Avengers… It’s a pity really, because his particular Elder of the Universe tic ought to have made him really useful–he actually has a real (albeit extremely neurotic) reason NOT to kill the protagonists… It must be hell to write super-villains, because you somehow have to make them seem menacing, despite the fact that, they cannot, by definition, ever succeed at what they are trying to do (which usually involves–when it is not completely fixated upon–killing the heroes). The Collector is just a powerful guy on a perverse quest to round up other powerful characters–who knows why? Maybe he got picked on at Elders High and has been trying to prove his “manhood” ever since (one wonders why he didn’t just pick out a serviceable Elder-bride and get married, right Eve?)
Anyway, the Collector’s obsessions are such that he can enjoy at least a limited amount of success (by his own deranged standards) without completely decimating the ranks of your favourite super-hero team. When Dr. Doom caprtures the FF and then just hangs on to them in order to “torment” them, it just comes across as a real gaffe on his part. But the Collector? Well, he’s got carte blanche to squander whatever opportunities he gets to eliminate his opponents, because he’s playing a different game entirely.
In this issue, he manages to capture half of the team, before he is vanquished by a gregarious bunch of adolescent comic-nerds in pretty spiffy outfits, who basically talk him out of his gourd (I am not kidding). Englehart makes one his (less successful) vaunted stabs at “characterization” here, by having the Collector shriek: “What? Children! I must escape! Flee! I can stand no more! Now, more than ever, I know why I chose the life of a Collector! It is a solitary life!”. Hunh? As flip commentary on the probable social dysfunctionality of people who get into the habit of amassing things like comics, movies, toys, etc., this is probably dead on, but it seems kind of foolish in the context of this issue… Everything is going splendidly well for the villain, until those pesky kids (led by Tom Fagan) show up–at which point things fall apart in a real (and inexplicable) hurry.
Not that any of this matters–the issue is still a great snapshot of the Avengers right on the verge of the great “Celestial Madonna Saga”, with Wanda ranting about dull normals and how much she has begun to despise them; Mantis telling T’Challa that she is “nothing to speak of” (before falling in to a trance that causes her to channel the message: “DANGER TONIGHT… IN RUTLAND…”–and this is never explained either, I guess the Collector is responsible for it, somehow… who knows? at least it’s kind of supernatural…); and the Swordsman confessing that he has begun to lean very heavily on the aforementioned martial artist. And this proves to be a fine occasion for the dreaded exchange–which I think comprises roughly 10% of all of the dialogue balloons Chris Claremont ever wrote–Sword:”I love you.” Mantis: “And I you.”. And I you!?!? Nobody talks like that. They either say “I love you too” or maybe “Well, I don’t love you (that’s not an easy one to say, believe me!), or maybe just “Thanks”. But they don’t say “And I you”. Or do they? If any of you out there have ever said this, please let me know! (and please, Chris Claremont, if you ever happen to read this, don’t even start with me–you are clearly too far gone, in this respect, to participate in the debate. On the other hand, I would dearly like to hear from the Stainless One on this matter, because I don’t recall that he committed this offense regularly, which makes it all the sadder that he started the trend in the first place. Can it be that he saw how it looked on the page and muttered to himself “No. Never Again…”? I’d like to think so!
Anyway, Avengers #119 isn’t really all that great, but it’s fun, and has some nice renderings of the Rutland Hallowe’en Parade (which Christine & I are still hoping to make it to, one of these fine years) in full swing, and it ends with “morning and November break[ing] across the cool Vermont mountains”, and there’s nothin’ wrong with that…
Good night friends
Happy Hallowe’en (anyone notice the seasonal Google Banner?)