Avengers annual #2
Issue(s): Avengers annual #2
...and they have rounded up all the other super-heroes and villains in a series of big splash panels that were cut from the Triple Action reprints. Here they are (It's worth squinting at Iron Man's dialogue in the Daredevil panel to see Shellhead trash-talking DD: If he's got a genuine super-power, I couldn't see it..):
Dr. Doom, Dr. Octopus, Electro, and the Mandarin are still holding out, but unfortunately they don't show up to help the Avengers from "our" timeline.
The old Avengers are acting on the orders of the Scarlet Centurion, who for simplicity's sake i will record as "Kang".
The new Avengers fight the old Avengers and win, mainly due to a lucky break with the Hulk turning back into Banner after Hawkeye blasts him with a sonic arrow. Captain America also has figured out that Thor always stays close to his hammer, and uses that to his advantage, turning Thor back into Don Blake. So how do you like that, Cap can take Thor! Goliath beats his old Giant-Man persona, because, um, he's been developing his lung power after a fight with the Sub-Mariner, so he can hold his breath under water longer than his old self. Weirdo. The Wasp wins because she knows how to manipulate her own womanish anger.
Then the Avengers fight the Centurion, and somehow by putting Doom's time machine back together again, they defeat him. The Watcher then shows up to re-explain Kang's origin and throw in the new part about him being the Scarlet Centurion, too. The man's had almost as many identities as Henry Pym.
He also reveals that the Avengers won't remember anything about this story, which i always hate. But overall this was a lot of fun. It also seemed really familiar to me - was this same basic story used in a JLA cartoon?
Overall, the art is primitive but makes up for it with enthusiasm.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place directly after Avengers #56, where the Avengers used Dr. Doom's time machine. No Avengers should have appearances elsewhere in between that issue and this annual. From Kang's perspective, this takes place before Kang's appearance in Avengers #8 but truthfully we will get headaches if we try to untangle Kang's chronology whether or not we tag him as the Scarlet Centurion, so let's not worry about that.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Super Action #16, Marvel Super Action #17
Inbound References (1): showBlack Panther, Captain America, Hawkeye, Henry Pym, Kang, Uatu the Watcher, Wasp
I think this is the first confirmed parallel universe encountered in a Marvel book (in real-world publication order) and the first time heroes meet alternate versions of themselves.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 20, 2012 1:02 AM
Thanks for pointing that out, Walter. I've upped the Historical Significance rating.
You've actually pointed this out once before in the comments for Tales To Astonish #75-77, but sometimes it takes a while for things to sink in for me...
Posted by: fnord12 | December 20, 2012 10:04 PM
A bit of Marvel minutiae: this was one of Joe Rosen's first credited lettering jobs, after over a quarter century in the field with virtually no recognition (He was Harvey Comics' house letterer when I started to read in 1969). Big Bro Sam lettered about half of it, uncredited. Take a close look.
Posted by: haydn | May 4, 2014 12:37 AM
Oh man what a tease! When I first saw the beautiful cover by John Buscema I wanted this issue badly. Upon first opening the pages I was met with tremendous disappointment as I saw Don Heck's stiff art on the inside. I mean look at that one panel of the Hulk, Thing, and Thor's hammer. Could they look any more like cardboard cutouts? What a letdown.
Posted by: Mike | July 6, 2014 3:12 AM
I think that this issue was well ahead of its time. The Avengers (even considering their alternative version) becoming tyrants, a group of super-villanis becoming "the Resistance"... pure fresh air in the mid of the "hearts and flowers" Silver Age. And of course, as you've pointed out, the first glimpse on a parallel unvierse.
Posted by: JTI88 | August 20, 2016 6:34 AM
It also seemed really familiar to me - was this same basic story used in a JLA cartoon?
Fnord, in DC comics there is a group called The Crime Syndicate of America, who are an evil version of the JLA that rules their own parallel Earth. I'm not sure if they appear in the JLA cartoons, but there have been many, many comic book stories featuring them (they have a memorable apperance in Crisis on Infinite Earths, for example), so it seems likely that some of those may have been adapted for television. Anyway, the Crime Syndicate first appeared in 1964, so I guess Thomas may have been inspired by them when writing this story?
Posted by: Tuomas | August 31, 2016 7:25 AM
Hmm, according to Wikipedia there was indeed a JLA episode like that:
In the Justice League animated series, a team called the Justice Lords (who takes elements of the Crime Syndicate) appears as the League's counterparts from an alternate universe. They first appeared in the two-part Justice League episode "A Better World", which was originally to feature the Crime Syndicate. Unlike the Crime Syndicate though, the Justice Lords are not simply evil opposites of their good counterparts. Rather, they rule their world with an iron fist in order to end war and crime. The death of their Flash set a chain of events in motion that ended with the death of the alternate Lex Luthor (who was President of the United States at the time) at the hands of the alternate Superman.
The cartoon version of them sounds closer to the alternate Avengers seen here than the comic book Crime Syndicate, which is almost always depicted simply as an evil version of the JLA, not as good-intentioned dictators. So I guess it's possible the Crime Syndicate originally inspired this story, and this story in turn inspired later superhero stories with a similar theme, such as the Squadron Supreme series and the JLA cartoon.
Posted by: Tuomas | August 31, 2016 7:31 AM
And, of course, Busiek's Avengers Forever has a similar theme of parallel versions of the Avengers becoming despots in order to keep the peace. I can't remember whether AF explicitly referenced this story and this parallel Earth, but Busiek is such a continituity buff that I'm sure this annual was an inspiration to him.
Posted by: Tuomas | August 31, 2016 7:35 AM
In the 1960s stories, the Crime Syndicate didn't rule their world; they were just crooks rather than heroes. The idea that they rule their world is an invention of Grant Morrison's from the 1990s.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | August 31, 2016 6:34 PM
Since Wasp didn't travel through time, but remained behind in Dr. Doom's castle, how did she get from her home reality to the alternate reality? I suppose Scarlet Kang might have transported her there behind the scenes but it's never so stated. Just one of several gaping holes in this story.
Goliath seems so surprised to see Giant-Man unmasked as Hank Pym, yet seemed relatively unsurprised when he saw the alternate Janet Van Dyne with no mask and sitting right next to alternate Henry.
Why did the alternate Avengers toady up to Scarlet Centurion so readily? It's completely out of character for them to become a despot's stooges so easily. Presumably Scarlet might have hypnotized them somehow, but again no explanation is given.
Where was busybody Odin during the entire two years of his son's enthrallment?
Posted by: James Holt | October 5, 2016 10:11 AM
@James Holt... I sorta got the impression that history altered around the Wasp, who was protected from the changes by being in close proximity to Doom's time machine.
The dialogue does mention in passing that the Scarlet Centurion used some sort of mind control or hypnosis on the original Avengers. Nevertheless, I agree that it seems like the Centurion was able to manipulate the Avengers much too easily.
Posted by: Ben Herman | October 5, 2016 12:18 PM
@Ben Herman, Thanks. You're right, I re-read this story again more carefully and caught the reveal: "... my mildly hypnotic aura and vocal devices..."
On the same page SC also reveals that he "mentally caused [Cap's] sudden concern over Bucky's death," which prompted the new Avengers to travel back to the time of Bucky's death in the leadup story, and that he caused Jan's drowsiness when she "relaxed the controls enough" to materialize the new Avengers in the past, all in a long ongoing stream of villain-explains-the-plot-instead-of-killing-the-heroes dialogue.
It still doesn't make sense. We ignore the fact that there are two timeline bifurcations instead of one. The old Avengers aren't enthralled as a result of the new Avengers' time trip, they're enthralled as a result the bifurcation which happens when Scarlet Centurion shows himself to the old Avengers in 1963 (Avengers #2).
Why the extra time trip? SC would need to somehow cross over, in 1968, from his alternate reality he created, in which the Avengers became his mind-thralls, to the published Marvel reality, where they didn't. Then, somehow knowing his actions would have the desired effect, he mentally caused Cap to mourn Bucky's loss, but he shouldn't even know Cap. This is Rama Tut before he ever became Kang. Cap is still frozen in ice in SC's alternate 1968! And if he can already move from alternate 1968 to Marvel-1968, what's his purpose for the time trip to the 40s? This contrivance doesn't make sense.
Posted by: James Holt | October 8, 2016 3:47 PM
@James Holt: it seems like the only thing affected by the Avengers time hop appearance in World War 2 was iron man's armor (skipped the horned mask model) and the hulk's pants (instead of purple shorts and three toes from issue 2).
Although it may have been a case of a writer not researching and editor error than an actual part of the plot.
Posted by: Mernyferny | October 20, 2017 6:32 AM
@Mernyferny, OMG! This story almost made my head explode! Maybe this is what they mean, when they say time travel is too unpredictable and dangerous to be worth the cost, regardless of any desired benefits or goals.
Posted by: Holt | October 20, 2017 7:06 AM
@James Holt: Here's my thinking. SC was already trapped in the alternate timeline, where he managed to manipulate the Avengers but could not destroy them himself (as he clearly stated). In order to destroy them, he planned to bring the Avengers from his original timeline. But, in order for those Avengers to make the jump, he needed them to participate in a time bifurcation of their own (just as he had jumped through a different time bifurcation), which was the reason for the trip to the 40's. Somehow, he calculated that such an incursion would cause them to jump to the exact alternate timeline where he was now trapped. How's that?
Posted by: Mutant R | October 27, 2017 11:38 PM
@Mutant R, That's probably workable if you want to believe that. The "somehow" part is troubling to me-- why didn't the writer explain it? It's hard to remember the story exactly since it's been over a year since I re-read it. If the writer gave us any reason at all to think that 1968 Marvel continuity is SC's original timeline, I don't recall it. IIRC, SC was originally Rama-Tut from FF #19 & FF Annual #2. Originally, Kirby & Lee had it that Rama-Tut next appeared in Avengers #8, changing his name to Kang, after first traveling to the 25th century (or some other future century). However, here in 1968's Avengers Annual #8, Roy Thomas has inserted some continuity saying that, prior to becoming Kang, Rama-T. traveled back to Avengers #2 & became Scarlet Centurion (SC). At no point in his personal history at that point did he encounter Captain America or the future events that led up to Captain America being an Avenger in 1968, which started with Avengers #4 in 1963 or 64. In FF Annual #2, which fnord12 has placed just before Avengers #8, Rama-Tut met Dr. Doom but didn't recognize him. Therefore I'd assume that he wouldn't have recognized Captain America either, nor have any way of knowing Cap had joined the Avengers in Avengers #4. So we need more than what the writer gave us..
I'm a little pressed for time right now, & cramped for space to explain it better within the character limit here. Maybe I'll open a topic in the forum for this purpose later. Thanks, signed: James Holt
Posted by: Holt | October 28, 2017 6:08 AM
I meant to say "1968's Avengers Annual #2" instead of "1968's Avengers Annual #8" which is another good reason why this extended discussion might be better suited for the forum, because I can't even make that simple edit in my post, so now I have resorted once again to posting a double post. Out of time, sorry again, & ttyl *shrugs*
Posted by: Holt | October 28, 2017 6:12 AM
...And then there's the Scarlet Centurion who appears in Squadron Supreme...
Posted by: AF | October 28, 2017 6:19 AM
lol I know right?
Since Avengers Annual #8 has opened up the paradoxical reality of alternate realities in the Marvel Universe (multiverse?), we might well assume that he's an alternate Scarlet Centurion, who may or may not have gone on to become Kang (or an alternate Kang) in one alternate universe or another. Very confusing.
Watch that next step now...
Posted by: Holt | October 28, 2017 8:55 AM
Well, don't forget that he's not native to any of those realities, and Earth-616 Grandmaster is meant to have fought this/that Scarlet Centurion and Squadronverse doesn't really have versions of Earth-616 characters - arguably it's part of the Omniverse rather than Multiverse... I've never seen any reason he can't have gone there after his defeat in Annual #2 (or rather after attempting it again and failing in What If #29).
I've always seen an actual clear progression with each Kang identity:
Posted by: AF | October 28, 2017 9:37 AM
I agree as far as my more limited knowledge will allow me. One of the points I was trying to make above was that the Scarlet Centurion who appears in Avengers Annual #2 wasn't native to the 1968 Marvel mainstream reality. The story's simultaneously frustrating & intriguing because it gives little or no hint as to just how SC learned so much about the mainstream reality.
I hadn't considered the idea that the Marvel multiverse is also inclusive of What If? stories, but it makes perfect sense. Only vague memories of the Immortus stories remain to me. When Avengers Annual #2 appeared in Marvel publication history, Rama-Tut had only been seen in FF #19, FF Annual #2, Avengers #8 flashbacks, & Avengers Annual #2 flashbacks. Excluding his later doppelgangers, the personal history of the original Rama-Tut persona seemed to end when he became Kang in Avengers #8. Avengers Annual #2 put the lie to that story, not only by inserting the Scarlet Centurion persona into his personal timeline, but also by introducing the concept of alternate realities for the first time (in Marvel publication history).
What follows is a string of confusing doppelgangers-- multiple Scarlet Centurions, Kangs, Rama-Tuts, Immortuses (Immorti?), & so forth. Does the original time-traveler we knew as Rama-Tut from FF #19 still reside as SC in the alternate reality of Avengers Annual #2?
About out of comment space again... this time I won't double post. To be continued elsewhere/elsewhen... prob.the forum
Posted by: Holt | October 28, 2017 6:18 PM
It's explained in Avengers West Coast 60 that the man who would be Kang learned much about the 20th century heroes before he even met them as a result of watching recordings of the 20th century made by his ancestor.
Posted by: Michael | October 28, 2017 8:23 PM
You must mean Avengers West Coast #61, written by Roy and Dann Thomas, & yet another in the long string of retcons. I suppose we have to accept this story as canon, but how can we be sure which of the many doppelgangers this Immortus is? Or from which of the many alternate realities he comes? We have to assume he's speaking the truth (as he understands it), even though he admits to being a liar a few pages later, because he's enthralled by Agatha Harkness. Yet this is Roy Thomas again, this time almost desperately trying to put the lie to his predecessors' stories, & do a big rewrite on all of them-- Byrne, Englehart, & I don't know who else. It may be canon, or may have been canon at the time, but that doesn't make it truth in the truest possible sense. It's always subject to later retcons, just like everything written by Kirby &/or Lee, Englehart, Byrne, & yes, even Thomas himself. Here Thomas is actually even retconning himself. None of it solves the infinite problem Thomas started himself, the problem of infinite alternate timelines. How can we ever be sure which one of anything is the "real" one, or the original one? I've said several times that I like Thomas as a person; he's a nice guy-- but to me this is just sad. It further weakens the literary integrity of the entire decades-long body of work. Infinite variations ultimately lead to ultimate uncertainties-- secret wars, & final crises. He did the same thing at DC with Earth 2. -- JMO
"The man who would be Kang," lol
Posted by: Holt | October 29, 2017 5:20 AM
The scene in Avengers West Coast #61, where the man who would be Kang was shown watching recordings of the 20th century, was traced by eye from two similar panels in Fantastic Four #19. The flashback in AWC #61 was given in the context of Immortus recounting his experiences for Agatha Harkness. The flashback in FF #19 was Rama-Tut recalling them for Reed Richards.
In AWC #61, the man who would be Kang clearly knew that Nathaniel Richards was his ancestor, at the time he was viewing the recordings, & watching them was what directly led him to visit his ancestor's shrine, where he discovered the time machine, but in FF #19, no such associations were drawn, and his later visit to the ruins of his ancestor, & his discovery of the time machine, appeared to be coincidental, rather than directly related to Reed or FF videos.
The authors' intentions in FF #19 were merely to tell a good story. In AWC #61, the intention was to retroactively tie up continuity problems introduced by several previous writers, but putting authors' intentions aside, it seems fair to conclude that the Immortus character in AWC #61 was not the same man as the Rama-Tut character in FF #19, and that he was instead a doppelganger from an alternate timeline, or, more accurately, from an alternate series of alternate timelines.
Posted by: Holt | November 3, 2017 1:26 AM
OK, but what about West Coast Avengers 21-23? Those issues take place concurrently with FF 19 and Rama-Tut makes it clear he learned of the Avengers from his studies in the future.
Posted by: Michael | November 3, 2017 8:07 AM
I haven't read WCA #21-23 any time recently-- it's very likely that I've never read them at all-- and I'm running out of time right now, but thanks for pointing them out-- I'm anxious to check them out here on the SMMCC site & will try to get copies of them if I don't already have them.
If they take place concurrently with FF #19 and involve an additional time trip, then my limited understanding of the "past is immutable" rule established by Marvel Two-In-One #50 strongly suggests that WCA #21-23 must also take place in yet another additional alternate timeline.
Posted by: Holt | November 3, 2017 8:46 AM
There seem to be several examples of the Doom time machine enabling same-timeline travel: Fantastic Four v.1 #5, Fantastic Four v.1 #19, Avengers v.1 #56 (confirmed as 616 to 616 travel in the Handbooks), and WCA v.2 #21-23.
However, in two of those instances, the time machine was directly manipulated or altered by an outside agency -- the Scarlet Centurion in Avengers v.1 #56, and Dominus in WCA #21-23.
WCA #61 tries to resolve these issues by suggesting that Immortus is behind some of the other times the machine traveled "backwards" and not "sideways." Avengers Forever arguably adds more evidence for all of this. The Kang seen there seems to be the one who will ne day become Immortus, and a oplot device called the Forever Crystal separates him from his Immortus incarnation. This is also apparently the same Kang from the last mega-arc of Busiek's Avengers run.
Honestly, the "alternative timelines only" rule only seems to apply to a particular era of Byrne-written and Gruenwald/Macchio-written or -edited stories, and to the various "Days of Future..." X-Men arcs; nearly every other time travel story we see uses the single-timeline rule, if only because without it time travel stories have no real stakes.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 3, 2017 7:19 PM
Well, don't forget that he's not native to any of those realities, and Earth-616 Grandmaster is meant to have fought this/that Scarlet Centurion and Squadronverse doesn't really have versions of Earth-616 characters
This seems to be untrue to some extent: there's a Kyle Richmond in both timelines, for example. And its Hyperion turned out to be an Eternal. Plus they have Skrulls of their own, since the Skrullian Skymaster was their Martian Manhunter manque. Web of Spider-Man #99-100 also introduces an Earth-616 counterpart of Thermite. The Squadron's Earth clearly diverged substantially and early, but occasional overlaps do occur.
The really odd part is that the Squadron has never encountered any of their universe's counterparts of the cosmic beings of the 616 universe, such as Eternity, Infinity, Death, Galactus, or Oblivion. Nothing says these counterparts don't exist, but they don't seem to have met the Squadron.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 3, 2017 7:23 PM
Michael, I concede your point after locating a copy of WCA #21 on marvel.com. It seems like such an Englehart contrivance though, that Rama-Tut should actually specify "West and East Coast Avengers" without actually knowing that he was talking to the West Coast Avengers-- but not to put too fine a point on it, considering all the other contrivances and silliness in WCA #21. Plus, getting back to Avengers Annual #2 for a minute, there was still no mention of Captain America being one of the Avengers in Rama-Tut's original timeline, nor any certain guarantee that WCA #21 had the same Rama-Tut who became Scarlet Centurion in Avengers Annual #2. I can't remember which comic it was that established that there were multiple Kangs in multiple alternate timelines-- I'm still looking for it-- but I'm sure that there was such a comic. And there was at least one timeline in which Cap didn't become an Avenger-- that timeline was the alternate timeline in Avengers Annual #2.
Omar, my pet theory is that FF #5, FF #19, etc., did feature divergent timelines... you & I already compared theories briefly in the comments for Marvel Two-In-One #50. I'm enjoying this whole discussion but keep running out of comment space-- I'm expanding on my theory and I'll try to post more on it soon in the forum where I'll have a better chance to do it justice.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments guys.:)
Posted by: Holt | November 3, 2017 11:42 PM
The Utopians (Power Princess' people) were Kree experiments too, but Earth-712 noted doesn't have a Watcher, a Sorcerer Supreme (they have a Wizard Supreme instead) and they don't have Eternity (they have someone called "Alternity" who dies when the Squadron are away). Places all have different names but history seems to ultimately mirror ours closely.
Honestly, Earth-712's make-up is not in line with the rest of the Multiverse because it's based on DC's universe. There's bridging with a few ties but I would say referring to how the DC universe works is more apt than referring to Earth-616's make-up and saying "there might be all the same things, they're just never ever mentioned".
Posted by: AF | November 4, 2017 7:51 AM
Earth-712's Wizard Supreme is called a Sorcerer Supreme in Quasar #19 IIRC. By Doctor Strange himself. If it is the same for Strange's purposes, it ought to be enough for us as well.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | November 5, 2017 9:27 PM
Thomas has written the splash of pt 2 was a homage to the cover of All-Star Comics #35.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | June 22, 2018 8:07 PM
This issue was just spotlighted on Alan Stewart's blog Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books. Alan states that, according to Roy Thomas' intro for the Marvel masterworks collection containing this annual, Don Heck provided layouts and Werner Roth then did the finished pencils over those.
Also, as Luke Blanchard states in his comment, in that intro Thomas also relates that he instructed Heck to draw the splash of the Scarlet Centurion as a homage to Irwin Hasen's cover of All-Star Comics #35, the issue that introduced the Justice Society's own time-traveling foe, Per Degaton.
@Tuomos: In his blog Alan Stewart observes that, given this is Roy Thomas we are talking about, any similarities to JLA or JSA stories are no doubt entirely intentional :)
For those who are interested, here's a link to Alan's excellent blog...
Posted by: Benjamin Herman | July 15, 2018 8:11 PM
In the 1960s stories, the Crime Syndicate didn't rule their world; they were just crooks rather than heroes. The idea that they rule their world is an invention of Grant Morrison's from the 1990s.
It's a bit more ambiguous than this... While their first appearance in Justice League of America #29 (from 1964) does show the Crime Syndicate acting like stereotypical supervillains (stealing valuable artifacts etc), the very reason they decide to attack the JLA is because they've become complacent, since no one can stand up against them. And in the opening narration JLA #30, it's said that the members of the Crime Syndicate "dominate their Earth because they are the only super-beings on it". So maybe Thomas decided to expand on that idea and show what it would be like if super-beings really dominated an alternate Earth to the point of having become its dictators.
Posted by: Tuomas | July 16, 2018 5:11 AM
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