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CSBG Archive

Month of Cool Avengers/X-Men Comic Book Moments – Red Guardian Redeems Himself

All month long we will feature brand-new Cool Avengers and X-Men Comic Book Moments in celebration of their fiftieth anniversaries this month. Here is an archive of all the past cool comic moments that I’ve featured so far over the years.

We look at the sacrifice of the Red Guardian in Avengers #44 by Roy Thomas, John Buscema and Vince Colletta….

This issue is the culmination of a long-running subplot involving the Black Widow pretending to defect as a double agent working for SHIELD. She goes to work for a Red Chinese General who is working on a joint Chinese/Russian secret plan. Her mission is to destroy their new device, the Psychotron (a machine that can feed off of your greatest fears). However, before she can succeed in her mission, she discovers that her thought-to-be-dead husband is actually alive and has been brainwashed and trained into becoming the Communist version of Captain America – the Red Guardian! Her boyfriend, Hawkeye, can’t believe that she really defected so he and Hercules head to Asia to rescue her and they are captured (she also convinces the Chinese General that she is loyal to Communism – Hawkeye still believes she is lying). The rest of the Avengers track them down and a melee ensues.

Captain America and Red Guardian have an epic standoff which ends with Cap winning the day…

Later, Cap reflects upon what just happened…

Very cool way to depict a Communist villain by Thomas.

23 Comments

I’m really not a fan of Roy Thomas. I’m even one of the rare few that thinks Avengers and X-Men both suffered and declined in quality after they were passed from Stan to Roy. But even I have to admit…that’s some great writing he did there. Before this the only thing I liked from him was the Daredevil/Starr Saxon saga. Great job by him here.

“the culmination of a long-running subplot ” — Which in 1967 terms, means “about six issues.”

Ha! Pretty much, Rob.

Good pick, Brian. Some comments:

1. Really solid story. This is not a genuine classic like the “Ozymandias” page that ends AVENGERS 57, but it is very well done.

2. Vince Colletta: Man, that is some lousy inking. I actually had trouble recognizing John Buscema’s pencils.

3.T “I’m really not a fan of Roy Thomas. I’m even one of the rare few that thinks Avengers and X-Men both suffered and declined in quality after they were passed from Stan to Roy”

I can kind of see what you mean where the X-Men are concerned. For my money, Roy only started to do really good work on that title when Neal Adams came on board.With the Avengers, though, I disagree. Roy did a lot of absolutely fantastic work during his run: AVENGERS 57-58 (the intro of the Vision), 56 (Cap travelling back in time to witness Bucky’s death), ANNUAL 2 (great old vs new team stuff), 69-71 (introducing both the Grandmaster and the Squadron Sinister, plus a battle against Namor, Cap, and the original Torch in WW2), the Kree-Skrull War, etc.

For my money, Roy only started to do really good work on that title when Neal Adams came on board.

Even with Neal Adams, I wasn’t really a fan of his X-Men. I hate the Savage Land, and Roy did a lot to tie the X-Men to the Savage Land. They had gone there before under Stan, but I felt like Roy really, really, tied them there to the point that Savage Land X-Men stories became a staple. I also really hate Sauron. I like Havok, but I also think his introduction makes no sense and I could live without him.

With the Avengers, though, I disagree. Roy did a lot of absolutely fantastic work during his run: AVENGERS 57-58 (the intro of the Vision),

I don’t really like the Vision. If they just kept him as a delusional robot I’d be okay, but the idea of Scarlet Witch marrying a toaster and everyone opposed to it being treated like THEY’RE the crazy ones is really ridiculous to me. I think it is an albatross around the neck of the Avengers that really bugs me. The franchise would be so much better without that being a major part of the history.

56 (Cap travelling back in time to witness Bucky’s death), ANNUAL 2 (great old vs new team stuff),

This story just struck me as a lot of unnecessary continuity porn and fanwanking

69-71 (introducing both the Grandmaster and the Squadron Sinister,

Not really a fan of Grandmaster and I feel like stories like Squadron Sinister just served to introduce a lot of bad DC tropes into the Marvel Universe. I feel like Roy Thomas really paved the way for excessive use of DC analogues in Marvel comics, which for the most part have rarely been used well, at least not by writers of the Roy Thomas school of writing. I like what Gruenwald did with Squadron Supreme, but he wasn’t going for fanwankery in that limited series. I also feel that the parallel world thing was yet another attempt at doing a DC-style story.

plus a battle against Namor, Cap, and the original Torch in WW2),

I feel like this was more of Roy Thomas’s attempts to insert DC elements into Avengers. He was trying to create his version of the annual JLA/JSA teamups in the Avengers. What I liked about Stan Lee was that he didn’t do so many DC tributes and use so many DC tropes. The Invaders was Roy’s attempt to give Marvel it’s own JSA, and I felt it added unnecessary complicated backstory to the Marvel Universe. I like Stan’s simplicity much better.

the Kree-Skrull War, etc.

Never read that to be honest.

This great post by Omar describes how much of Roy’s writing is about bringing DC tropes and analogues over to Marvel using “trojan horses:”

http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread.php?378223-The-Marvelization-of-DC-The-DCification-of-Marvel&p=13543091&viewfull=1

Though, as someone who doesn’t hate DC, I still like Roy’s work.

Also, the entire point of the Vision was that he wasn’t a toaster, even from the very first story. It’s a theme at least as as old as Frankenstein (the novel, not the movies), arguably as old as the Golem legend. Isn’t it telling that no one runs around calling Jim Hammond, the Golden Age Human Torch, a “toaster,” even though he’s sometimes been given romantic partners? He and the Vision are the same sort of entity (well, usually they’re even the same entity, period), but one is treated very differently than the other by some fans.

Even John Byrne himself, the guy who referred to the Vision as “a toaster,” had Hammond in a romance plotline with the human Ann Raymond in that same run of West Coast Avengers! No one ever complains that this is the act of “a delusional robot.” But then, Hammond looks more like a regular human, so no one treats him like the Vision. And again, that was the point of the Vision as a character concept.

Also, one of the more pointless things Brian Michael Bendis evr did was resurrect the Red Guardian as if he were a longtime, bitter foe of the Black Widow. I think he was going for the “bitter ex” idea, but that makes little to no sense given the only other story to feature the character. And it utterly undoes the nice moment here.

I like Roy’s work. The sequence in 56 where Cap watches Bucky die again is really gut-wrenching.
And what Omar said. It’s made quite clear when the Vision debuts that he’s not a machine but a lab-created living being. So toaster, not so much.
I do agree that Sauron was less than impressive. Much, much, much less than impressive.

T:”Even with Neal Adams, I wasn’t really a fan of his X-Men. I hate the Savage Land, and Roy did a lot to tie the X-Men to the Savage Land. They had gone there before under Stan, but I felt like Roy really, really, tied them there to the point that Savage Land X-Men stories became a staple.”

I would argue that Chris Claremont had rather more to do with making the Savage Land a staple of the X-verse.

T:” I also really hate Sauron.” I like Sauron as a one-off villain; the bad decision (made by other creators, not Roy) was to keep bringing him back.

T;” I like Havok, but I also think his introduction makes no sense and I could live without him.”

Alex Summers was created by Arnold Drake, not Roy.I agree that his intro made no sense. A brother out of nowhere? But Roy and Neal’s subsequent work with the character was outstanding.

T:”I don’t really like the Vision.” I think that you are really in a minority there. Most AVENGERS fans that I know see him as integral to the AVENGERS mythos.

T:” If they just kept him as a delusional robot I’d be okay, but the idea of Scarlet Witch marrying a toaster and everyone opposed to it being treated like THEY’RE the crazy ones is really ridiculous to me.”

Again, that is something that has a lot to do with subsequent writers (cf. steve Englehart’s living bombs story in 113), not Roy.

T:” I think it is an albatross around the neck of the Avengers that really bugs me. The franchise would be so much better without that being a major part of the history.”

Maybe, but a lot of people seem to disagree on that one.

T:”This story just struck me as a lot of unnecessary continuity porn and fanwanking”

I hardly think that Cap wanting to confirm the death of Bucky in a 1960s AVENGERS story counts as continuity porn. To reach continuity porn levels, Roy would have had to have written a story where Cap travels back to WW2 to find out what happened to the beautiful girl disguised as an old hag agent who worked for OPERATION:REBIRTH.

T:”Not really a fan of Grandmaster”

I disagree. The Grandmaster was a solid addition to the mythos.

T:” and I feel like stories like Squadron Sinister just served to introduce a lot of bad DC tropes into the Marvel Universe. I feel like Roy Thomas really paved the way for excessive use of DC analogues in Marvel comics, ”

Again, how much responsibility does Roy bear for what others did?

T:”which for the most part have rarely been used well, at least not by writers of the Roy Thomas school of writing. I like what Gruenwald did with Squadron Supreme, but he wasn’t going for fanwankery in that limited series.”

That rather depends on your definition of “fanwankery.” Although I enjoyed Gruenwald’s SS mini, just about everything that I liked about it depended on my knowledge of the DC characters that Gruenwald was riffing on.

T:” I also feel that the parallel world thing was yet another attempt at doing a DC-style story.”

Yeah, Roy was almost certainly influenced by DC’s use of parallel worlds, but he also used the concept in a harder edged, MARVEL UNIVERSE type style.

T:”I feel like this was more of Roy Thomas’s attempts to insert DC elements into Avengers. He was trying to create his version of the annual JLA/JSA teamups in the Avengers.”

Again, though, note the difference. The JSA-JLA team-ups were love-fests. Roy gave us the MARVEL version, two teams slugging it out.

T:” What I liked about Stan Lee was that he didn’t do so many DC tributes and use so many DC tropes.”

Actually, Stan did a lot of riffing on DC tropes.Indeed, it’s almost impossible to look at 60s MARVEL and not notice how Stan was deliberately zigging where DC zagged. DC heroes are mature adults, so Stan gives us Spider-Man. DC heroes are feted by the public, so Stan gives us heroes who are feared (X-Men, Spider-Man). DC heroes view their powers as fantastic boons, Stan shows us heroes who are deeply hurt/troubled by their powers (Spider-Man. the Thing. the Hulk, the X-Men, Iron Man’s bad heart, etc).

T:” The Invaders was Roy’s attempt to give Marvel it’s own JSA, and I felt it added unnecessary complicated backstory to the Marvel Universe. I like Stan’s simplicity much better.”

Well, Stan had already brought back Namor, Cap, and the Golden Age Human Torch, with their WW2 origins intact, so one could certainly argue that it was Stan who brought a big chunk of backstory into the MU. As for making things complicated, how does telling us that the MARVEL Big Three of the Golden Age fought together as a team against the Axis count as complicated?

T:”Never read that to be honest.”

I strongly recommend it.

T:”This great post by Omar describes how much of Roy’s writing is about bringing DC tropes and analogues over to Marvel using “trojan horses:”

Yeah, that was a nicely thought out piece by Omar.

Actually, Stan did a lot of riffing on DC tropes

He totally did, but he seemed to be doing it in order to turn them on their head and push boundaries and subvert them rather than to simply homage them. Roy seemed to want to writer DC books but couldn’t at the time because of his deep involvement with Marvel, so he decided to just write the DC characters and concepts he wanted to do in a thinly veiled way at Marvel.

That’s a big difference to me.

Though, as someone who doesn’t hate DC, I still like Roy’s work.

Oh yes, to be clear to other people reading, I hope it didn’t come off like I was saying Omar agreed with me.

Also, I don’t really hate DC (with the exception of Mort Weisinger’s work and John Broome’s writing). I just feel though that incorporating too many DC elements into Marvel ruins a lot of the unique innovating vibe that Stan, Steve, and Jack built for the company. I don’t want to read Marvel comics that are homages to DC tropes but told with a Marvel flair. If I want to read a DC style story, I’d rather just buy a DC comic rather than ruin Marvel’s uniqueness to tell such a story.

T:”He totally did, but he seemed to be doing it in order to turn them on their head and push boundaries and subvert them rather than to simply homage them. Roy seemed to want to writer DC books but couldn’t at the time because of his deep involvement with Marvel, so he decided to just write the DC characters and concepts he wanted to do in a thinly veiled way at Marvel.

That’s a big difference to me.”

Oh, I agree. Roy did seem to like using DC tropes in a more straightforward fashion than Stan did, but I am just not certain that that is necessarily a bad thing. For that matter, I would also point out that even when Roy did use a DC trope in a fairly orthodox way, he would bring a MARVEL edge to it.For example, look at AVENGERS 85-86. That was a pretty clear riff on the DC parallel worlds trope (the Avengers travel to the world of the Squadron Supreme). However, Roy also used it to comment on the difference between the 60s MU and the DCU. The Squadron gets a clean win in their world, with no lingering doubts or ambiguities. When the Avengers arrive back on their world, things end on a more uncertain note.

Ah! The 1960s – an era when a name like Colonel Ling was considered neither racist nor sexually suggestive.

Hey guys,

i just wanted to say how refreshing it is to see people on the internet have differing opinions and disagree with each other, and yet treat each other with respect.

Thanks for bring some real world civility to the internet!

I just think it’s strange that China and the Soviets would be working together on a secret all-powerfull weapon at a time of such great hostility between them.

Marvel tended to follow stock views of Communism, including that all Commies, everywhere, were part of a vast monolithic force out to take over the freedom-loving peoples of the West. The idea that Communists would actually prioritize their national interests over Communism was a shocking one that took a while to sink in–Americans weren’t really aware of it until the mid-sixties (IIRC, so anyone with better knowledge feel free to correct me). So it’s not surprising Roy rolled with a joint China/USSR project regardless of real-world facts.
While Marvel did many wonderful things in the 1960s, the handling of Communism was about as subtle and complex as a sledge hammer (There’s one story where Rick Jones discovers an actual Card Carrying Communist).

Fraser, that reminds me of an article I read once that was pretty interesting:

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2012/10/card_carrying_communist_frank_marshall_davis_did_he_really_carry_a_card_.html

The history of the term card-carrying communist and whether or not there was any truth to the concept.

That was interesting indeed, thanks T.

Of course the guy Rick was dealing with was a Red spy so having a membership card for a “subversive Communist front organization” in his wallet wasn’t the best cover.

Oh yeah, even if card-carrying communists existed, a deep cover spy would definitely be the least likely type of communist to carry one haha

“Thanks for bring some real world civility to the internet!”

I second anjack’s comment. This thread has been a great read, guys. The civil discourse is refreshing.

Thank you.

In the spirit of being civil I should say that while Stan Lee wrote some awful Commie-themed stories, I don’t recall any that were as insane as Robert Kanigher’s Egg Fu.

Thanks for bring some real world civility to the internet!

I may not be a fan of Roy Thomas’s work, but I do think he was very competent at doing the type of stories he set out to do. Those types of stories just don’t happen to be my cup of tea. But I respect the craft and effort that went into them, and as a result respect the opinions of anyone who defends them, so it’s not hard to be civil.

I have a history of being less civil when it’s artists and writers who I think are incompetent, have poor craft, and are lazy, but I’m really trying to get better about that.

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