Captain America #110
Issue(s): Captain America #110
Oooh, Jim Steranko! The opening sequence here (Man in trenchcoat approaches camera, suddenly the Hulk bursts through a wall, man throws off trenchcoat to reveal he is Captain America) is so awesome.
It should be set to music or turned into a movie or something. Rick Jones is around as well, but the Hulk is just so far gone at this point he doesn't even recognize Rick, and Cap rescues him and takes him back under his wing (he also prevents the army from killing the Hulk, which is interesting as well).
Rick finds an old Bucky costume and puts it on. It freaks Cap out at first, but then he decides to let Rick keep it and be his partner.
Suddenly they hear an alarm. Hydra is under the city, trying to poison the water supply. I know from my Essentials book that the Marvel Super Action reprint decided to cut out a big splash page depicting the Hydra force in order to stay within the reduced 70s page count, but i chose to go with the color in MSA versus the extra page/panel in Essentials. It was a tough choice. My PDF has the full spread:
Hydra is currently being led by Madame Hydra, later to be known as Viper.
According to the GCD again, Madame Hydra was probably based on Madame Spectra, a James Bond villain that had appeared in his newspaper strip not long prior to this.
Rick kind of screws things up a bit, but not too badly, and they manage to drive off the Hydra horde (there's a great scene where after, a fight between Cap and an agent in a power vest, the agent says "Captain America is dead. Never again will he mock my power vest.". It's even funnier because it's actually Cap, posing as the Hydra agent.).
So to recap, this issue has:
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: Due to an annoying trend of cliffhangers spilling into unrelated stories in the Hulk at this time, there is no break in Hulk issues where his appearance here can be placed. This issue which features the Hulk on a rampage in New York City and the "transfer" of Rick Jones from Hulk's book to Cap's, best takes place during Hulk #106 (specifically between the end of page 5, where the Hulk is buried under rubble by the Missing Link, and the beginning of page 6 where he is suddenly free of the rubble and leaping. This issue actually has him bursting out of a collapsed wall, which works fairly well.), which features the Hulk rampaging in New York and Rick Jones' last appearance in Hulk for a while. To place it here, however, i've had to move Cap's appearances back in time (relative to the publishing date) quite a bit. This is the Feb 69 issue of Cap but it is placed in December of 68.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Super Action #12
Madame Hydra may have been influenced by Diana Rigg in the TV Avengers.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 6, 2011 11:05 PM
I know it was the 60's and tobacco wasn't seen the way it is today, and the scene looks so good, but Steve Rogers smoking a pipe on the first pages? It's...kinda off. I hate being that guy who says it. But it's not just OOC, it's like imagining Clark Kent smoking cigarettes. The optics are so wrong, but the page looks so good. At least it was a pipe and not Lucky Strikes.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | July 3, 2016 7:42 AM
It was really a high-tech superheroing spy device disguised as a pipe. That's the ticket.:)
Posted by: James Holt | October 9, 2016 4:12 PM
I just read about this issue and it is my first exposure to Sterenko. I have to say I disagree about the high praise Steranko gets. His "excellent sequencing" really is inconsistent and uneven. There is a lot of what-the-heck-just-happened moments to his sequencing. For every good sequence, there is two bad sequences. A good sequence like the first page has bad sequences like Cap and Ricky being surrounded by Hydra or by the Madame Hydra-Ricky fight.
In the first bad sequence, Cap and Ricky are in a narrow tunnel with Cap saying that something ahead is heading in their direction. In the next panel, they are no longer in a narrow tunnel and the "something ahead" suddenly has surrounded them and they are already fighting each other. What happened in between? If we have to fill in the blanks, then that is a bad sequence.
The second bad sequence I mentioned is even worse. In one panel, Ricky was in a narrow tunnel, the next we see of Ricky, he is being tied up by Madame Hydra, and then the next panel shows them next to a whirlpool in which Madame Hydra pushes Ricky. The reader is left to fill in the blanks on this crucial scene: did Madame Hydra surprise Ricky from behind as Ricky emerged from the tunnel and tie him up? Or did Ricky see Madame Hydra after emerging from the tunnel and they fight with Madame Hydra winning the fight? Like I said, if the reader has to fill in the blanks, it is a bad sequence.
So, Steranko does not do "excellent sequencing" consistently.
Posted by: OptimusFan | January 30, 2017 1:10 PM
Madame Hydra's real name will turn out to be Ophelia Sarkissian.
The Madame Spectra (why not Madame Spectre?) connection is interesting. I had never heard of that. But according to mi6-hq.com the story she appeared in, The Golden Ghost, ran from August 21st 1970 to January 16th 1971 in the British Daily Express. If Captain America #110 has a cover date of February 1969, taking into account the fact that the comics usually appeared well before their cover dates and on top of that the lead time involved in creating them, it seems impossible that Steranko could have based his character after the character in the James Bond strip. If anything it may have been the other way around.
Posted by: Andrew | July 2, 2017 7:59 AM
Best villainess introduced in the Marvel Age to this point?
Posted by: Cecil Disharoon | January 12, 2018 4:27 AM
Enchantress is the only other real competition for that position though (and I'd say she ultimately wins). Interestingly they both are clad in green. But I will say Madame Hydra definitely has the better backstory of the two.
Posted by: AF | January 12, 2018 7:08 AM
Pretty slim pickings for competitors. The only other substantive silver age villainess I can think of is Madame Masque. Of the three, Madame Hydra is the only one who didn't spend time as the hero's girlfriend (though I didn't read Secret Empire, so I could be wrong....)
Posted by: Andrew | January 12, 2018 8:51 AM
There's one more really nasty one: Umar! I'd also count Hela and Karnilla. And the Black Widow and Medusa both started as villains.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | January 12, 2018 9:51 AM
And the Scarlet Witch, if we're going that way. Notice they are all witches or femmes fatales, or both.
Posted by: Andrew | January 12, 2018 2:20 PM
Viper's origin, as an orphan growing up in a refugee camp, is also reminiscent of the origins of Modesty Blaise, the lead of the famous British comic strip. Blaise was created in 1963 and predates this issue. In several ways, Viper seems like an evil Modesty Blaise, and if the character has an antecedent, I would say it was Modesty.
Until the 1970s handled modern feminism as a model for some female characters, most villainesses had an obvious sex appeal and used their feminine wiles in some way regardless of their actual powers. They either tempted the hero, or used it to control their male minions and peers. Some exceptions might have occurred in Wonder Woman's rogues gallery as the dynamics of female versus female rivalry would be very different.
Posted by: Chris | January 12, 2018 6:06 PM
With regard to the discussion of female villains it's worth recalling that Hela wasn't really a villain in her early appearances under Kirby's direction. She's initially portrayed as a more neutral emissary of death, despite being introduced as one of the "Enemies of Asgard" in one of the early Tales of Asgard backups.
As far as female villain whose seductiveness isn't played up in some way, the Viper remains distinctive in being unambiguously evil and yet not a seducer, a sorcerer, or a potential love interest for a quite a while afterwards. Marvel in general lacks major female villains, and once you get past the Viper and Mystique, it's hard to find many that avoid femme fatale or "in love with the hero" tropes. Hela eventually gets there, but it takes some time, , and eventually we get Nebula from Roger Stern. Even then, Mystique picks up some of the femme fatale and "romance with a hero" stuff after Claremont leaves the X-books and Hela's gotten one or two stories that suggest she's got a crush on Thor.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | January 14, 2018 6:53 AM
Less than a year after the new leader of the Maggia is revealed to be a woman we have the new head of Hydra also being female. Was this some way of addressing the Women's Lib movement ?
Posted by: Mike Teague | January 19, 2018 1:03 PM
Having suggested in my previous comment that having the heads of The Maggia and Hydra as women was a victory for the Feminist movement, I was forgetting that aside from both ending up with the same first name (Madame), they also both ended up with scarred faces. Was this a male chauvinist way of saying that for a woman to become successful there will be a price to pay (so don't do it) ? Or am I reading too much into what is a comic ?
Posted by: Mike Teague | January 20, 2018 5:16 AM
With Madame Hydra, it seems like Steranko is consciously aping Doctor Doom, who's had a few of these "smashing the mirror" scenes already; it's a way to establish her as a dangerous psychopath.
With Madame Masque, it's apparently intended as a way to make her sympathetic and may have been inspired by the French art-horror film Les yeux sans visage/Eyes without a Face.
More generally, it's perhaps a really screwed-up way to enforce the idea that these villains *don't* rely on their sex appeal to take on the heroes or to suggest that a woman with this kind of toughness must lack some stereotypically "feminine strengths" and therefore has to take on ostensibly masculine ones. I really hope I'm wrong about that, but I think it's there as unintended cultural subtext even it isn't consciously the writers' intentions.
Certainly Steranko women otherwise tend to be eye candy; the Contessa is introduced as someone who can literally and figuratively flip Nick Fury, but that's about the last we see of her competence as a field agent in his work. After that, she's around for love scenes and gets rescued a lot, and her next and last action scene in Steranko's SHIELD series is about her hesitating too long and shooting the wrong person. (Of course, it's possible this was a subplot setup of some kind, like the unresolved Scorpio mystery and Jimmy Woo/Fury friction from those stories.)
Posted by: Omar Karindu | January 20, 2018 9:40 AM
Why not "Supreme Hydra" instead of "Madame Hydra?" After all, even the Space Phantom can be "Supreme Hydra." "Supreme Hydra" is like musical chairs, where all the old white guys eventually get to sit down in the "Supreme" seat if they play at it long enough, even the weird alien from outer space. Because he's a guy, and he's white.
A male "Madame" would obviously be a pimp, but do they call him "Mac-Daddy Hydra?" Oh, no.
Posted by: Holt | January 20, 2018 10:46 AM
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