Characters Appearing: Machine Man, Miles Brickman, Oliver Broadhurst, Peter Spaulding, Simon Kragg
Machine Man #10
Issue(s): Machine Man #10
Steve refused to work on "flawed" heroes! No feet of clay permitted. His philosophy was (and probably still is) that heroes should be noble. Period. I asked him about Spider-Man, some of whose flaws were Steve's ideas. He explained that when he drew Spider-Man, Spider-Man was still a kid, still learning, and therefore, allowed some foibles.
I assume because of that, we're told early on in this issue that Machine Man "can't compromise his basic integrity... unlike us, he is incapable of lying... of cheating.... of backstabbing a friend".
That's very different than Kirby's Machine Man, who i believe lies to a boy in the 2001 series, and then nearly refuses to help humanity fight off an alien robot invasion because his feelings were hurt. Kirby's Machine Man was sarcastic, vulnerable, and... human, which was the point.
To further distance Ditko's Machine Man from the Kirby version. It's said that Machine Man was damaged after the fight with the Hulk, and to save him Peter Spaulding brings back Dr. Oliver Broadhurst, not seen since Machine Man #1. And Broadhurst, while fixing him, also greatly reduces Machine Man's powers and capabilities. His laser, his powerful flamethrower, and i presume his teleportation ability were all removed.
His ability to "cancel the gravity equation" remains, but he can do it only for short durations. Going forward, Machine Man's extendible limbs will really be his primary power.
We also saw in earlier issues that Machine Man had hallucinations of his dead "father", Abel Stack. It's implied here that that was really a projection built in by Stack, and a final projection occurs after Broadhurst removes Machine Man's abilities, telling his "son" that it's what he intended all along and it's ok.
I should say that in doing a Kirby/Ditko comparison, i'm leaving out the fact that Marv Wolfman is technically the writer here. Unlike Kirby, Ditko's return to Marvel doesn't result in him getting writing credits. I don't really know how much of the changes above were dictated by Ditko versus coming from Wolfman (other than what i can speculate based on things i've read about Ditko like that quote from Shooter).
With all of that out of the way, the main story here has Machine Man attacked by a mysterious group of guys in planes, and then Senator Brickman, who is a ranting loon now...
...shows up to take credit for it even though he wasn't at all involved. But Machine Man turns out to be ok, and then there's an avalanche and Machine Man helps everyone escape, even the frothing-at-the-mouth senator.
I'm really projecting now, but the tyrannical government official seems to be a Steve Ditko trope, which seems to fit with his Objectivism philosophy. I had flashbacks to Ditko's later treatment of Henry Gyrich when i read this issue. Ditko's primitive but recognizable art style is probably more to blame than anything.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place in the aftermath of the Machine Man's battle with the Hulk from Hulk #235-237.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
This always struck me as an odd fit for Ditko. He was really best, and seemed most comfortable, doing supernatural stories, and second after that, the crime drama and slice of life stuff. Last of all was the superhero stuff, and least of that, he didn't seem all that interested or terribly well suited for a relatively high tech, sci-fi concept creation like Kirby's Machine Man. I wonder if they didn't just stick him on this character because they made the Silver Age connection between Ditko and Kirby, like you did, and maybe because they couldn't really think of anybody else who might be able to rescue the character from oblivion after Kirby left. The "they" in question is probably Shooter, I guess, and, if so, or whoever it was, putting Ditko on Machine Man was probably not the best choice they could have made, for either Ditko or Machine Man.
I think a lot of Marvelites sometimes judge Ditko and Kirby more harshly than they deserve, based largely on their post-Silver Age contributions, without really taking into account how disillusioned they had both become with Marvel by this point in the late 1970s. They were both on the downward slopes of their careers, were running out of new ideas, and regardless, I really don't think they were trying that hard, knowing that the best they were going to get was page rate for their work no matter what they turned in. So Marvel by this point was maybe getting what they paid for out of them, but not much more.
Posted by: Holt | March 28, 2018 6:50 PM
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