Tuesday, November 27, 2012
In which Luke Cage faces Doom!
This is sort of about the state of Marvel Comics in 1973. And it's not a bad thing. It's not my deepest wish to (merely) make fun of comic books from 1973, though it's going to seem like it numerous times in these paragraphs. No, I enjoy the hell out of these comics! I'm just sharing, you know?
This is about the time that Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, wronged once again by the white man, borrowed a rocket from Reed Richards and flew to Latveria to collect $200 from Doctor Doom after Doom skipped town without paying for services rendered.
Here's the cover:
It's got a cover date of May 1973 and it is truly an AWESOME comic book. Excellent scripting by Steve Englehart. Great art by George Tuska and Billy Graham. (And I'm a bit hazy on the details of how Doom came to hire Cage in the first place. All that must have happened in a previous issue. Doom says something about hiring Cage to track down some robots. It sounds ALMOST as awesome as what happens in this issue!)
It starts with Cage busting into the Baxter Building and mixing it up with The Fantastic Four for a few pages. Eventually everyone calms down a bit and Cage tells Reed that he wants to borrow a rocket to go to Latveria and get $200 from Doctor Doom. To which Reed replies:
What --? THE Doctor Doom? -- Our old ENEMY?
Once they figure out that, yes, Cage is after THE Doctor Doom, Reed says:
So YOU'RE Luke Cage. I read about you in Phil Fox's BROADWAY column. He says you make your own RULES, but you're HONEST and HONORABLE.
Let's make that HONEST and ADORABLE!
All that COUNTS is Doom owes me MONEY -- an' I'm collectin'!
The Thing is dubious:
Yeah, SURE, from ol' Doc Doom! Har de har har!
And Medusa, subbing for The Invisible Girl for a few issues, says:
I must say, Reed Richards, that I rather ADMIRE the man's SPUNK.
(Actually, I think I could just repeat ALL the dialogue. It's easy, after all this time, to forget what a great comic book writer Steve Englehart was. Anyway, let's move on ...)
Reed thinks it would be fun to set Cage after Doom just for a measly $200, so he lets Cage borrow a rocket. Within a few pages, Cage lands in Latveria, fights some of Doom's palace guards, meets up with the alien rebel commander (?) and the robot rebels (?) that are fighting against Doom in Latveria, breaks into the castle, fights more palace guards and finally meets up with Doom.
The best line in this section? Cage has a thought balloon when they are breaking into the castle:
Doom's been shaftin' the world for YEARS, now. I guess once I started playin' in his LEAGUE, I hadda play him SOMETIME! Surely hope it ain't a HABIT!
They fight for a while, and there's some choice dialogue! Doom starts off with:
When my MEN reported a crazy BLACK man in The Fantastic Four's craft, I knew it HAD to be you!
A few panels later - after Doom refuses to pay what he calls "a paltry $200!" and orders Cage to leave, Cage responds:
You WANT me out, you PUT me out, tin man! You can TRY!
They scrap for a few pages and Cage explains his persistence most persuasively:
Hero for Hire's a tough GIG, baby -- an' it'd get much tougher if I'd let anybody WALK on me!
Anyway, the alien rebel commander (?) shows up and tries to kill Doom, but Cage saves his life because, as he puts it to Doom a few panels later:
If you'd gotten DEAD, there'd be nobody for me to COLLECT from!
Doom finds the whole situation most amusing.
HA HA HA HA! You are the ULTIMATE, Cage! I have NEVER seen your like!
And so Doom cheerfully admits he's beaten and he lifts up his mattress and removes enough money to pay off Cage. (Not really. It's just a wooden box full of money that just seems to be laying around.)
I love the way the caption specifically notes that Cage carefully counted the money to make sure Doom wasn't pulling one over on him. It wouldn't do for Cage to get back to New York and find out that Doom had paid him with Monopoly money.
Hey! It's pink! An' it has little trains on it instead of Andy Jackson!
So Cage gets back to New York, returns the rocket and refuses to tell The Fantastic Four anything about his adventure, which pisses off The Thing.
Cage heads off to his Hero for Hire office in Harlem, $200 richer and with a lesson that he will remember for the rest of his days:
When dealing with Doctor Doom, always get CASH IN ADVANCE!