Characters Appearing: Diane Arliss, Stingray, Tiger Shark
Marvel Comics Presents #53-56 (Stingray)
Issue(s): Marvel Comics Presents #53, Marvel Comics Presents #54, Marvel Comics Presents #55, Marvel Comics Presents #56 (Stingray story only)
The story starts off with Stingray and his wife Diane fighting off some sharks.
And then going home to what was surely meant to be Avengers Island, although the script says it's an Avengers-funded research facility in Florida.
They are contacted by
Why would it be said that the Avengers have moved "back" to New York? Did i miss the issues where they were stationed at the Newell Oceanographic Institute?
Another placement consideration is that this takes place after Tiger Shark's defeat in West Coast Avengers #16, and based on what the Guardsman says, Tiger Shark hasn't been anywhere else since being captured.
So that would rule out this taking place after Tiger Shark's appearance in Wolverine #19-20 during Acts of Vengeance. Which means that Avengers Island actually should be available, since it was destroyed during Acts of Vengeance. So why place Stingray and Diane on a random island in Florida that we haven't heard about before? I guess Marvel was just hedging its bets, or didn't want to cause confusion with readers who vaguely knew that Avengers Island had been destroyed but weren't thinking about the timeline.
The Vault has taken the liberty of bringing Tiger Shark to the island so that Stingray can help with whatever is ailing him. But it turns out that Tiger Shark was just faking (by slowing down his metabolism "like a shark"), and he breaks out of his tube and takes Diane hostage.
Why i hate Marvel Comics Presents (or at least one of several reasons). Something like this every eight pages:
I get that the cliffhanger/splashpanel combo between issues is the easiest way to create some drama and bring readers that missed the last installment up to speed. But reading this stuff all at once, it's a speedbump every eight pages.
A related problem is the way an entire installment can turn out to have no purpose. Issue #53 ends with Tiger Shark holding Diane and trying to escape. All of issue #54 has Stingray, with some help from the lone Guardsman stationed on the island, fighting Tiger Shark...
But it ends the way it begins, with Tiger Shark escaping with Diane.
The Guardsman is too injured to participate any further. Stingray has to pursue Tiger Shark on his own.
I included the scan of the unmasked Guardsman because i'm wondering if the intention at the time the story was drawn (before it was scripted) was that it was Michael O'Brien, the Avengers' security chief. O'Brien was the second Guardsman, and he was stationed on Avengers Island, although i don't believe he ever wore his Guardsman armor at that time. The fact that we're only seeing a single Guardsman on the island, and that artist Jim Fern took the time to draw him unmasked, suggests that it's someone we're supposed to know as opposed to just a generic guy. If that was the case, by the time this was scripted and colored (O'Brien has red hair), it was decided to just make it a nameless Guardsman. I could be completely off base here, and it's really not that important. I'm just looking for possible revisions since i think the location of the story was deliberately moved, so there may be other changes as well. Plus i think it's odd that O'Brien never used his armor as Avengers security chief, and this would have been a case of when he did.
Anyway, after an opening splash panel and a second page devoted to recapping the first two parts, issue #57 uses its remaining six pages to show Stingray searching for Tiger Shark. And fighting a giant squid.
Meanwhile, brother and sister get on each others' nerves.
It's not really clear why Tiger Shark took his sister.
Stingray locates Tiger Shark, and they fight.
The fight causes a cave-in that buries Diane.
Tiger Shark refuses to help rescue Diane, and he swims away. Stingray turns to the task of digging out Diane. But then Tiger Shark returns and starts helping.
During the rescue, a self-destruct sequence is accidentally activated (they are in an old Dr. Dorcas hideout). Tiger Shark stays behind to hole up a wall so that Stingray and Diane can escape. The idea being that there's still something of Tiger Shark's human side left in him.
This story could have been improved by hinting all along that Tiger Shark wanted his sister to try to reach out to his human side. Not only would that make the ending less saccharine, but it would have explained why Tiger Shark kidnapped her in the first place. I guess we can assume it's implied. But in terms of character development, the story is really really weak. In the long run that's for the best, since the last thing we need is to see an awesome villain like Tiger Shark reforming. But in the short term it would have at least made some narrative sense.
The first question to answer in a Stingray story is "what do i get from this that i wouldn't get from the Sub-Mariner". And there isn't really an answer to that question. As Dr. Walter Newell, Stingray is also a scientist, so that's potentially an angle to explore that isn't available for the Sub-Mariner. But aside from using that as the story engine (i.e., it's why the Vault brings Tiger Shark to the Newells' island), there's nothing science related about the story. Tiger Shark has family connections to these characters, but he has connections to Namor as well (and it's not like Tiger Shark's family connections are actually explored in this story, except in the most superficial way), and in any event that's not making a case for Stingray as a character. He can't always fight Tiger Shark. So without anything distinguishing for Stingray, we're left with a generic aquatic adventure and a grudge fight. Aquatic heroes are already a hard sell; the Sub-Mariner's ability to carry a series has been increasingly dubious. So the chances for Stingray were even less. Which is too bad. I was introduced to Stingray during Roger Stern's Avengers run, so to me he's always been an "important" character and a little intriguing, honestly just because he was with me during my formative years. So i'm definitely open to a Stingray story. But there's nothing really here.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place "several months" after West Coast Avengers #16 and should be Tiger Shark's first appearance since that issue (excepting perhaps scenes of him in captivity at the Vault). Since Marvel went out of their way to make sure this didn't take place on Avengers Island, it can pretty much go anywhere between West Coast Avengers #16 (Jan 87) and Tiger Shark's Acts of Vengeance appearance in Wolverine #19 (Dec 89). A good policy to follow in such cases is to place the story as close to publication date as possible, so i'm placing this in 1989, before Acts of Vengeance.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
What was it about Marvel Comics Presents being unable to run its stories when they were produced? There's this story, which was clearly meant to take place before Avengers 311. Then there's the Deathlok story in Marvel Comics Presents 62 and the Volcana story in Marvel Comics Presents 88, both of which ran AFTER the stories that they were supposedly "prequels" for. We had the Hulk story with Fixit working for Bernegetti and the story with Tony Stark paralyzed, both of which ran long after those status quos were over and done with. And we'll later see stories from Gerry Conway and Erik Larsen running long after they left Marvel.
Posted by: Michael | August 3, 2015 6:46 PM
In retrospect, if whoever rescripted those establishing shots had paid a bit more attention to the continuity of the rest of the story, they would have just kept it at Avengers Island and stuck a footnote in placing it before Acts of Vengeance.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | March 30, 2017 10:47 PM
I love Stingray. I always dug the costume and the whole scientific intellectual angle. What I keep seeing, though, is a pattern where islands and/or the sea serve as perpetual settings for Stingray stories much as the jungle does for guys such as Tarzan or the Phantom. Stingray's aquatic hero nature pegs him down in a similar manner. And then there's Diane, who is usually portrayed as a damsel in distress wearing skimpy clothing (bikinis for her while Walter merely suits up) and who frequently needs rescuing by Stingray because she's his wife. Diane is supposed to be a smart lady but we rarely see that aspect of her, such as working alongside Walter on some project or having her help him out with the bad guys. Their characterization as a couple harkens back to Lee and Kirby's handling of Reed and Sue in the Fantastic Four. In the hands of a more thoughtful writer, you might end up with something along the lines of Grant Morrison's Animal Man run, where the fact that the protagonist was a married man was a crucial part of the series. The problem with Stingray's stories is that nobody has yet to try a different angle other than what we've kept seeing since the late 60s and that's a damn shame because it hasn't helped elevate him from lower tier status.
Posted by: Clutch | April 7, 2017 7:44 AM
Stingray would do well to equip his wife with wrist blasters, wouldn't you say? And as for holding his own with Tiger Shark...Todd is as strong as Namor, and Stingray's nowhere near his level; of course, in referencing WCA #16, losing to Tigra and Hellcat must've stung.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | April 24, 2017 12:18 AM
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