Issue(s): Avengers #85, Avengers #86
We've already met the Squadron Sinister, but Roy Thomas takes us further down the DC analogue rabbit hole by introducing another group with the same names and powers.
The Avengers had been on Arkon's world last issue, and they leave for home at the beginning of this arc...
...but only some of them arrive back on our Earth. The Black Knight appears on Earth but back in Stonehenge, and Thor and the Black Panther show up in Manhattan. The other Avengers (Vision, Scarlet Witch, Goliath, and Quicksilver) don't arrive at home.
Thor and Black Panther aren't able to investigate their disappearance right away because they're due to appear at a Toys for Tots charity event with Captain America and Spider-Man.
The lost Avengers briefly get a glimpse of an apocalypse, and then appear on a world that seems to be their own. But when they arrive at what they think is Avengers Mansion, they find a completely different team awaiting them. They first meet Nighthawk...
...and then we're introduced to some new JLA analogues.
So that's Lady Lark (Black Canary), Hawkeye (Green Arrow), Tom Thumb (i guess the Atom?) and American Eagle (Hawkman).
Tom Thumb has always seemed like a weird one to me. I don't know a lot about DC comics. But the Atom i know is similar to Ant-Man; he's a scientist who can shrink. Tom Thumb, on the other hand, is a dwarf with high tech gadgets. Wikipedia tells me he's based on the Golden Age Atom.
Since he's the least derivative of a JLA character, and since he's a dwarf floating around in a super-science chair, i like him the best.
This dimension's versions of the Squadron characters we met before (besides Nighthawk, so i mean Hyperion, Doctor Spectrum, and the Whizzer) are off on a mission launching a "solar rocket".
After a misunderstanding fight (there's Quicksilver doing his human pinball routine again, which is possibly the worst application of super-speed i can think of)...
...which the Avengers win, they convince Nighthawk that their apocalyptic vision is related to the solar rocket, and he takes them to meet the big guns of the Squadron Supreme.
This results in another (albeit brief) misunderstanding fight.
Then they all team-up and go after the bad guy, Brain-Child.
He's a child genius that had been working with the Squadron but he's bitter at the world because he's not accepted due to his deformity, so he's going to destroy it. The combined powers of the Avengers and the Squadron Supreme fight past his tricks and traps and put a stop to him, and he's reverted to a regular childhood, ignorant of his big-headed past.
Meanwhile the Avengers back in the real world have been working to bring their teammates home...
...and conveniently enough, after the Brain-Child plot is resolved, they succeed.
At the end of the story, the Vision wonders, if there's all these parallel universes out there, how do they know if they've really returned home.
Introducing a second version of characters that are based on DC characters is such a bewildering move.
A note on some character names. The Green Arrow analogue is called "Hawkeye" in this story, but of course we've already got a Hawkeye. He'll later change his name to the Golden Archer, which is a terrible name used as a joke (it's a McDonalds reference, right?) by the real Hawkeye when he was trying to convince Steve Rogers to remain a super-hero during the Nomad storyline. I track this guy as Golden Archer in the Characters Appearing section.
Then there's American Eagle, who is not to be confused with the patriotic Native American who'll later be introduced in Marvel Two-in-One annual #6. This Eagle will later change his name to Captain Hawk, and that's the name i use (the MCP lists him twice, once as American Eagle II and once as Captain Hawk, so i might be missing something here).
And there's Nighthawk, who's different than the version that appeared with the Squadron Sinister and later goes on to join the Defenders. I tag this one as "Nighthawk (Squadron Supreme)" and the Defenders version as simply "Nighthawk".
Aaaand then there's the Whizzer, who is one of three Whizzers; there's Squadron Sinister version, the Golden Age version from the "real" Marvel Universe, and this Squadron Supreme version. Oy! So this one is "Whizzer (Squadron Supreme)" and the one from real Marvel Universe is just "Whizzer". Luckily the Sinister version later changes his name to Speed Demon, so that's what i've tagged him as.
Awkward, confusing, and i could probably be more consistent about the naming, but it's not my fault that Marvel has 80 billion different versions of these guys running around and keeps changing the names of half of them.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP has Spider-Man here in a gap between ASM #94-95 that also includes a few other guest appearances.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): show
I never understood why anyone would want Spider-Man at a Toys for Tots event- with his rep, he'd probably scare half the parents away.
Posted by: Michael | December 6, 2011 7:46 PM
These comics were just awful. I don't want to bad-mouth Roy Thomas too much, because it's obvious he loves this stuff and loved his job, but boy his Avengers run is pretty painful reading.
You've got the whole Lady Liberators facepalm (issue #83), the bit where uppity black people are morally equivalent to the Ku Klux Klan (issues... 72/73?), yet another identity for Pym (#60), the weird plotless muddle that is the Kree/Skrull War, the introduction of the simply terrible yet totally superfluous Zodiac, then the Squadron Sinister/Invaders mess, then the Squadron Supreme.
(That said: good work giving Kang some extra prominence, redeeming the Collector, and making Quicksilver a somewhat more complex character.)
Anyway: all of this really dubious content, in a graceless, Stan Lee manque writing style.
I appreciate that Thomas is an important figure in American comics, and Lord knows I've spent a lot of time obsessing over comics from my own childhood so I don't want to knock him unfairly. But this particular run is not very fun to read.
Posted by: James Nostack | December 8, 2011 1:39 PM
There was also an American Eagle during the Golden Age, but not at Marvel/Timely. And this is the 2nd Brain-Child created by Roy Thomas; the first being one of the Savage Land Mutates from X-Men.
Historical Firsts: First "The City/Woman/whatever is not for Burning/Killing/whatever" title at Marvel. I suspect this was taken from a popular song, but I have no idea which one.
The title to #86 may be a Tolkien reference.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 10, 2011 6:02 PM
The title to issue #86 is from Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, a poem by Robert Browning. It was also the loose inspiration for Steven King's Gunslinger series.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 10, 2011 7:08 PM
You know when I saw the Brainchild cover of the Avengers, I always thought it was the same one as the Mutate...which always confused me on why would a Mutate be attacking the Avengers without Sauron, Lorelei and the others.
Posted by: Ataru320 | September 3, 2012 11:32 AM
Shouldn't Sinister Whizzer be listed as Speed Demon? That's the villainous identity he eventually adopts and sticks with to this day.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | February 24, 2013 6:42 PM
Probably, Walter. That will help with the confusion. I haven't gotten to that name switch yet, but i'll likely change it when i do (it's in the current back-issue pile). In the meantime, "Sinister Whizzer" has its own charm.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 24, 2013 6:59 PM
Yeah, Tom Thumb never made any sense to me either. He's nothing like the Golden Age Atom, either - that guy was short, but Wolverine short, not Puck short. And he wasn't a scientist with gadgets, he was just a guy who punched dudes.
Posted by: S | February 24, 2013 8:21 PM
Per Roy Thomas in Alter Ego #118: Len Wein was uncredited co-plotter on #85 and created some of the Squadron Supreme.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 10, 2013 1:41 PM
Was there ever an explanation as to why different Avengers wound up in different places in #85? the Collector's doing, perhaps?
Posted by: William Quinter | November 8, 2013 9:34 PM
William, sorry for being slow to respond. I wanted to flip through the issues first. And now that i have, i don't see any explanation. I expect it was just meant to be random, that traveling between dimensions is an iffy thing.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 10, 2013 12:34 AM
Re Quicksilver's "human pinball routine again, which is possibly the worst application of super-speed i can think of...":
Posted by: Shar | January 6, 2014 8:10 PM
He's better known now as Max Mercury at DC. DC changed the name since Marvel's character became better known.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | January 6, 2014 9:23 PM
Not the best issues but these seem to have inspired an amazing two parter for the Justice League cartoon.
Posted by: David Banes | January 7, 2014 3:25 AM
Right you are, CK--I'm sure you already know this but for those who may not, DC/National acquired the rights to Quality characters, Plastic Man is probably the prime example.
Posted by: Shar | January 7, 2014 1:09 PM
Now, now, you can't do a parody/homage of the JLA with just four heroes, so of course the Squadron haas to be, well, squadron-sized. And I personally love tweaking Hawkman, humorless interstellar cop that Katar is, with "American Eagle", paranoid pseudo-patriot. Roy probably didn't mind taking a swipe at the right-wingers who were seeing "commies" on every corner, either. Good for him.
That said, the art here is rushed and sketchy. Paging Tom Palmer, paging Tom Palmer..
Posted by: Dan Spector | August 1, 2014 12:52 PM
I, of course, love the Squadron Supreme, but they look terrible.
When the mini-series comes around, they will pseudo ret-con by saying the original Supreme members were the analogues to the original 7 JLA members, so there are still two members we haven't met (Princess Power, Amphibian) and one we will only meet in flashback (Skrull).
Wikipedia is way wrong on Tom Thumb - he is an analogue to the SA Atom, but Thomas decided to have him short rather than shrink. He's a scientist (like Ray Palmer, the SA Atom) and is nothing like the GA Atom.
American Eagle is probably listed as American Eagle II because in the mini-series we will learn that his father was the original American Eagle in WWII.
Posted by: Erik Beck | February 2, 2015 12:32 PM
Per Len Wein in Alter Ego #130: he actually did call the character the Golden Archer, but Roy changed it to Hawkeye for a reason nobody remembers.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 25, 2015 11:31 AM
I think the "for burning" names were after THE LADY'S NOT FOR BURNING, a play by Christopher Fry.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | March 27, 2015 11:52 PM
In a funny turnabout, when Marvin Wolfman and George Perez went to DC they created the Teen Titans villain Gizmo, who is a carbon copy of Tom Thumb.
Posted by: Andrew | April 11, 2015 7:39 PM
Brain-Child is also an analogue of the old Justice Society villain Brain Wave. This was an unofficial crossover with Justice League of America #87, which features "The Justifiers of Angor," a group of Avengers knockoffs that includes the thunder god Wandina, the Silver Sorceress, the superfast Jack B. Quick, and the shrinking flying Blue Jay. They, too are revived, though much later, in the 1980s Justice League title, where they get a bunch of villains who are all knockoffs of major Marvel villains.
This kicks off a short run of such "unofficial crossovers," including one that manages to drag int he Rutland Halloween Parade for added metafictional pointlessness.
When the Justice League cartoon used a variation of this plot as David Banes mentions above, Bruce Timm and his co-creators named the Brain Child character after Roy Thomas and revealed that he was a mutated child who was forcing everyone on his parallel world to live in an illusory, nostalgic past. I'm not sure if it was an homage or a critique.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 18, 2015 10:02 AM
Last night I was re-reading this story, and a few others, in my copy of Essential Avengers Volume 4. I like it better than some other people. For me the main selling point is that it reminds me somewhat of the unsettling sci-fi stories that EC Comics produced in the 1950s, with the vision of Earth's inhabitants getting consumed in the fires of apocalyptic super-nova, and Brain-Child, an atomic mutation with a grotesquely oversized brain. There's a genuine horror quotient to this tale.
The Squadron Supreme seem to work better here in their intro than in nearly all of their subsequent appearances, probably because when Roy Thomas introduced them he must have intended them to be fun one-off parodies / homages to the JLA and I doubt that he expected that they'd end up returning again & again over the next four decades.
Having said that, I do sorta wonder how a meeting between the Squadron Supreme and the Shi'ar Imperial Guard would go. Which of the Superman expies, Hyperion or Gladiator, would prove triumphant?
Oh, yes, as David Banes and Omar Karindu previously mentioned, this story does seem to have been a major influence on the fantastic Justice League animated two-parter "Legends." The League gets transported to a parallel Earth where they meet the Justice Guild (an homage to the Justice Society) who are being manipulated by an atomic mutant with a grotesquely enlarged brain named Ray Thompson.
Posted by: Ben Herman | July 31, 2016 12:41 PM
Which of the Superman expies, Hyperion or Gladiator, would prove triumphant?
I'd bet on Hyperion, since Gladiator is technically a Superboy expy.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | July 31, 2016 1:49 PM
Because it's canon.
Posted by: AF | July 31, 2016 4:17 PM
I like Omar's reasoning, but I also like the reasoning in the scan AF links - Gladiator's had to prove himself and been in a lot more fights against a lot more super strong guys more than Hyperion has, so Hyperion's just never had to gain the battle skills Gladiator has. Makes sense to me.
I do also think we've seen more Superman-style feats (lifting the Baxter Building, even if it is psychological, or the time in Simonson's FF where he operates at super speed so he can move normally when everyone else is stuck in a time freeze) from Gladiator than we have from Hyperion, though I might be forgetting something.
Iirc the 80s Handbooks didn't even have Hyperion being Class 100, he was more like 75-80 tons.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | July 31, 2016 6:33 PM
@AF... Thanks for the link to those scans. I hadn't realized that Hyperion and Gladiator actually met. But it figures that if anyone was going to write that fight scene it would be Mark Gruenwald.
Posted by: Ben Herman | July 31, 2016 9:08 PM
What we need is a throw-down between Sinister Hyperion, Supreme Hyperion, Hickman's Hyperion, Sun God, Gladiator, Wundarr, the Sentry, Count Nefaria, the Blue Marvel, and Ethan Edwards.
Did I miss anyone?
Posted by: Andrew | August 2, 2016 7:27 AM
Yeah Andrew, there's also Supreme Power Hyperion.
Posted by: cullen | August 2, 2016 9:51 AM
And the evil bald Hyperion from Exiles.
Posted by: AF | August 2, 2016 10:26 AM
Issue #85 has a really weird ending: as the Avengers and Nighthawk are flying in Squadron Supreme's ship to stop the rest of the SS from launching the rocket, they suddenly have a vision of the Earth being scorched to death by the sun, just like they saw when they traveled too far in time at beginning of the issue... And it can't be just the Avengers remembering the apocalyptic scene they saw earlier, as Nighthawk is shown to be shocked by the vision too. But #86 continues almost directly from that, yet no one says anything about the vision, and there's no indication that it even happened.
Posted by: Tuomas | September 22, 2016 5:53 AM
The Golden Age American Eagle eventually became public domain and was used again by
( 1.) AC Comics (publisher of Fem Force), and
( 2.) America's Best Comics (aka ABC, Alan Moore's Wildstorm Comics imprint) in Tom Strong #11-12, and then again in the 2003 spinoff miniseries, Terra Obscura. Since Wildstorm was later sold to DC comics, DC now has the rights to this character.
Posted by: James Holt | November 3, 2016 11:23 PM
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