Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pencils to Inks: Adam Kubert New Avengers 50 Cover

Drawing a cover for a team book is a unique challenge.  In Adam Kubert's variant cover for New Avengers #50, the characters are not all clustered together.  Here's the pencil rough:

New Avengers 50 Adam Kubert pencils

Each hero is charging toward the reader, posed in a unique way that describes their character.  Kubert's left out certain details, like Spidey's webbing that he's going to add himself in the inked version:

New Avengers 50 Adam Kubert inks

I like Spider-Woman's pose here, for some reason that really reminds me of her old school roots.  Now let's see the finished product with color and logo:

New Avengers 50 Adam Kubert color

Notice how the colorist added the sun sparkle around Ms. Marvel's hands where Kubert had indicated.  The shadows and highlights really make this cover pop.  Nuff said.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hulk Takes A Hostess Fruit Pie Break

How do you survive the onslaught of both the Abomination and the man-eating Wendigo?  Only with the help of a Hostess Fruit Pie!

Hulk Hostess Fruit Pie ad

Yes, Hulk feel much better, now Hulk can smash!

I’d like to see Hostess Fruit Pie ads return in Marvel Comics, perhaps with a David Finch drawn Spider-Woman enjoying a yummy Cherry Fruit Pie.  Nuff said.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pencils to Inks: Wolverine #73 Cover by Adam Kubert

Adam Kubert kind of silently migrated back over to Marvel Comics (while his brother Andy is staying put at DC Comics).  I am glad he is back, because we are getting some great covers.  Like this one from Wolverine #73…

Wolverine 73 pencil cover by Adam Kubert

I like the design of this cover, with the perspective of Wolverine shot from below the motorcycle.  The speed lines are drawing your attention into Wolverine’s figure.

Wolverine 73 cover color by Adam Kubert

The color version really pops when you notice those sparkle-reflections from Wolvy’s claws as he hurtles toward this prey. 

This cover gave me an idea.  Wouldn’t Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert produce a kick-ass comic if they worked together?  Nuff said.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monster Mondays: Greg Land and Marvel Zombies 4 cover

This cover hit me right out of nowhere.  Greg Land doing a terrific rendition of Son of Satan, Man-Thing, Morbius, and Werewolf by Night for…Marvel Zombies?

Marvel Zombies 4 cover by Greg Land, featuring Morbius, Son of Satan, Werewolf

It turns out that in a world overrun by zombies, these supernatural creatures are the best resistance the planet has to offer.  I’m very interested in reading this one.

I’m beginning to think Greg Land loves the classic Marvel Monsters as much as I do.  Nuff said.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Silver Surfer Saturday: Galactus by Livio Ramondelli

Here are two pieces by a wonderful artist that I discovered on Gelatometti, the blog that features all kinds of artwork from Jim Lee's Wildstorm crew.

Livio Galactus FINISHED

Livio Ramondelli did this great rendition of the Galactus and Silver Surfer exploring a world together.  Looks like the Big G is getting ready to chow down.

Ramondelli Galactus Acrylic

Here's another Surfer-Galactus piece that is slightly more Kirby-esque.

I think these are fantastic!  You can visit Livio's website here.  Nuff said. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

LBJ Loves the Hulk, but Nixon hates Greenskin!

When you’ve got a rampaging green Hulk running around the country, naturally the commander in chief needs to be involved!

Tales to Astonish 88, President Johnson wants to pardon the Hulk!

Lyndon B. Johnson sees that Hulk fella on television (in Tales to Astonish #88) and thinks, hey Doc Banner ain’t so bad after all.  He calls up General Thunderbolt Ross and authorizes a full pardon for the Hulk.  Unfortunately, Ross decides not to give the pardon after the Hulk smashes a Dairy Queen.

Hulk 139, Ross speaks to Nixon

Fortunately for General Ross, the conservatives moved into the White House in 1969.  Ross has so much juice in this administration that he can get a direct line to President Nixon whenever he calls!  Nixon looks pretty relaxed in this scene.  Was he drunk?

Hulk 139, Nixon okays the Leader, does Congress know

I suspect inebriation, because on the next page he authorizes Ross’ secret project that involves the Leader.  Not only that, Nixon compounds this mistake by making Spiro Agnew the liaison!  What’s Nixon thinking?  He’s not thinking, he’s drinking himself right out of office!

Hulk 147, Nixon confused by Spiro Agnew

Later on, both Spiro Agnew and Nixon appear to check out the project to destroy the Hulk.  Nixon is utterly baffled by Agnew’s penchant for alliteration.  I suspect this was a turning point in their relationship.  A few months later, when Agnew offered his resignation for pleading no contest to tax evasion, Nixon accepted it gladly.  The Leader scandal was never uncovered by Woodward or Bernstein.

Hulk 174, Nixon mourns the passing of the Hulk

In a rare sober moment, we see Nixon mourning the apparent loss of the Hulk, along with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.  I imagine it was a somber moment as Nixon could see his own fate looming on the horizon. 

I’ll bet anything that Herb Trimpe voted for John Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, and George McGovern!  Nuff said.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nick Fury, Nixon, and Femme Force One!

Step into the shoes of Nick Fury, leader of S.H.I.E.L.D.

You’ve got thousands of agents, Helicarriers that constantly seem to fall from the sky, Life Model Decoys, and lots of super-gadgets to pay for.  Who pays for that?  Tax-paying True Believers!  And once in a while, Nick Fury has gotta do something great to show our government how these well these billions are actually spent.

In 1971 (Captain America #144), Fury gave President Richard Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew, and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird this little show.

Captain America 144, hey Nixon here's Femme Force One

Presenting the newest S.H.I.E.L.D. squad, Femme Force One!  Led by Sharon Carter, Captain America’s girlfriend.  It’s her big chance to prove that women are as valuable to S.H.I.E.L.D. as men, in their skintight super-suits.  Diamondback was never this ambitious.

Captain America 144, Femme Force One attacks Hydra

It sure doesn’t hurt that John Romita drew Femme Force One.  Right on, Sisters!  These girls look like supermodels! It only lasted for two panels, but it made me forget about the Femizons for a while.  Keep in mind, the Wonderbra had not been invented at this point in time.  Right on Sisters!

Captain America 144, Nixon explains Congress

Nixon’s grinning from ear to ear, but he makes one thing perfectly clear to Fury, by explaining how the government really works.  I really didn’t like Nixon after reading this—he’s treating Fury like a high school dropout!  Basically by the time this proposal makes it through all stages of government, Nixon’s out of office and it’s dropped like a hot potato.

Captain America 144, Nixon's pals love Femme Force

Defense Secretary Melvin Laird also insults Nick Fury in this panel.  You can see why these guys lost the war in Vietnam, they are totally ignoring the dude who saved our bacon time after time.  Spiro Agnew, however, appears to be so sexually excited that he is speechless!  What a horndog he appears to be, grinning from ear to ear.  Hopefully these images were a comfort to Agnew after he resigned in disgrace.

I wonder if Quentin Tarentino read this issue of Captain America?  Uma Thurman makes a reference to a fictitious TV show called “Fem Force Five”. 

I’ll bet anything that John Romita voted for George McGovern.  Nuff said.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thing Tuesdays: Ben Grimm and Richard Nixon

Let us begin a week of celebrating the Presidents of the Marvel Universe.  And what better President to start with than numero 37—Richard Milhous Nixon!

Fantastic Four 103 (1970) Richard Nixon checks on Reed Richards

In Fantastic Four #103, the Atlanteans attacked New York City—again!  As this was 1970 and early in Nixon’s administration, naturally he’d be concerned about a city full of liberals getting overrun by mermen.  The Thing is pretty excited to see the commander in chief on Reed’s big screen TV.  I suspect Ben’s really elated to have a device that is decades ahead of its time!

Fantastic Four 103 (1970) Richard Nixon makes one thing perfectly clear

You’re going to see one line over and over again in these Nixon appearances: “Let me make one thing perfectly clear!”  This was Nixon’s signature line in speeches and press conferences.  The Thing’s pretty sure this will be over as soon as he gets his hands on Namor.  Only the problem isn’t just “fish-face”, it’s the evil mutant Magneto behind the attack on NYC!

Fantastic Four 104, Nixon says, what happened to your plan, Reed

When the Fantastic Four fail to defeat Namor, Nixon gets on the horn a few hours later.  He’s pretty quick to smackdown Reed for his failure to stop the armed hordes running around Manhattan.  “This is a sad day for Amahrica!”  Love how Stan Lee writes that Nixon accent.  I have to admit, seeing the Sub-Mariner lining up his troops in the Big Apple, that Nixon may have been justified in his frustration.

Fantastic Four 104, Nixon says we never lost a war!

Nixon lets Reed off the hook one last time.  What’s he gonna due, nuke New York?  He might prefer getting rid of those liberal voters.

My favorite Nixon line seems to be a prophetic one: “We’ve never lost a war before—and I don’t intend to lose one now!”  That’s a not-so-subtle reference to the real-life Vietnam war, which we did lose under Nixon.

The Thing’s reply is classic: “Why worry?  There’s lotsa wars!  Ya lose one—ya find another!” 

I’ll bet anything that Stan voted for Hubert Humphrey. Nuff said.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monster Mondays: Blade the Vampire Slayer

Tomb of Dracula 10, 1973, His Name is Blade!

Back in 1973, vampire hunting was the province of white dudes with English accents.  But Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan shook up that entire dynamic when “His Name is—Blade!” appeared in Tomb of Dracula #10!  He was athletic and street smart in a way no other vampire hunter had ever been.  Blade was the only guy who did what I thought was common sense: don’t bring just one stake—bring a dozen wooden knives to kill those suckers with!

Tomb of Dracula 12, Blade fighting Dracula

Blade wasn’t afraid to get physical with Dracula.  Looking back at these old issues, I wonder if we would have had Buffy without Blade?  Blade’s daring and physical prowess in this series almost seems like a blueprint for Buffy.  Blade’s “costume”—trenchcoat, glasses (to protect his eyes from blood spatters) and blade-holding sash belt—may seem funny today, but back then it was pretty cool.

Tomb of Dracula 12, Blade takes no crap from Drake

Nor did Blade take any guff from the rest of the Dracula-hunters (Quincy Harker, Frank Drake, etc).  In Tomb of Dracula #12 he told Quincy his origin story—that a vampire attacked his mother as she was giving birth to Blade!  Little did we know that this vampire—Deacon Frost—was also the maker of vampire detective Hannibal King.

Tomb of Dracula 13, Blade kills Dracula

In Tomb of Dracula #13, we were stunned to see that Blade had actually succeeded in staking Dracula through the heart.  However, killing Dracula and ending Dracula were two separate things.  A horde of villagers were able to carry away Dracula’s body before Quincy and Blade cut remove his head.  Dracula was revived in Tomb of Dracula #14 by a disillusioned preacher.

Tomb of Dracula 19, Blade discovers he is immune from vampire bites

Tomb of Dracula reads like a 70 part max-series when you go back and re-read it.  Dracula takes revenge upon Blade in TOD #17 by forcing him down and drinking his blood.  By TOD #19, Quincy Harker has found Blade’s body and is prepared to put a stake through his heart.  Not so fast, Jack!  It turns out that Blade is immune to vampire bites, as a result of Deacon Frost’s attack at birth.

Tomb of Dracula 42, Blade and Doctor Sun

Just as I mentioned about the Falcon drawing me into Captain America, Blade—while not the single most important element—definitely helped make Tomb of Dracula one of my top favorite all-time Marvel comics.  He’s featured on a number of TOD covers, including this one (#42), the only original art cover that I own.

Blade pinup by Gene Colan Marvel Preview 3, 1975

This nifty pinup here, by Gene Colan, appeared in the black and white magazine Marvel Preview #3, Blade’s first solo adventure!  It looks like a rare piece that Colan inked himself.

I definitely think that Blade is one of the best creations that came out of Marvel during the 1970s.  Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan gave Marvel an incredible gift that resulted in the Wesley Snipes films.  It’s unfortunate that they do not share more of a financial royalty from Blade. 

This concludes Black Marvel Heroes from the 1970s week, hope you enjoyed revisiting Brother Voodoo, Black Panther apartheid, Panther’s Rage, Power Man, Power Man in the FF, the Falcon, and Storm!  As one commenter wrote, maybe there should be a super-team with all these dudes!  Nuff said.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Storm's Journey, From Goddess to Punk to Princess

I had to struggle to think for awhile about who was my favorite African-American Superheroine.  Misty Knight?  Photon/Captain Marvel?  There aren't that many major players in this category.  Then the answer hit me, so obvious: Storm (Ororo) from the X-Men!

Classic X-Men 3 Storm cover by Arthur Adams

I really like this cover to Classic X-Men #3 by Arthur Adams.  This was a month in which all Marvel Comics featured a character portrait on the cover.  Adams, who was always great at drawing Storm (more later), captures her nobility and innocence at the same time.

X-Men 109, 1978, Storm at the lake with Peter

In the early adventures of the new X-Men, Storm was a supporting character.  Sure, we knew she could fly, zap bad guys with lighting bolts and exclaim "Goddess!" when the shit hit the fan.  What I liked was Storm's inhibitions.  She would come home to the X-Mansion and immediately shed her clothes.  Hey, I was going through puberty, and scenes like this one in X-Men #109 with Peter at the lake helped out a lot.  You can tell what Peter is looking at and thinking about in this scene.  No wonder he has no words to describe his homeland, he's thinking about doing the nasty with Storm!

After reading this issue, I kept expecting Storm to have a romance with Colossus.  That never happened.  The X-Men thrived on romance triangles, and I was surprised that Claremont never put Storm in this situation.

X-Men 170 1983 Storm vs Callisto

Storm had a few weaknesses to overcome: mainly her naiveté with city-life and claustrophobia.  She could have been written off as simply eye-candy.

But Chris Claremont loves strong female characters, and had a bigger character arc in mind. 

Storm started to come into her own character after the death of Phoenix.  Scott Summers left the team and Ororo took over as leader.  I remember all the guys in my local comic shop hated this idea with all the intensity of Rush Limbaugh's dislike for Bill Clinton!  Yet this led to Storm's defining moment in X-Men #170 (1983) when the team was trapped in the lair of the underground Morlocks.

X-Men 170 Storm stabs Callisto

Callisto, the leader of the Morlocks, was holding Kitty Pryde hostage.  There ain't nothing more you can do to piss off Storm than to threaten Kitty.  Callisto challenges Storm to a knife fight, with Kitty as the prize.  This fight was well choreographed by artist Paul Smith.  Callisto, who looks like she learned knife fighting in Brazil, gets in a few slices on Ororo.  Then Storm displays a cold-blooded streak of intelligence when she stabs Callisto and calmly walks away, proclaiming herself the leader of the Morlocks!

After this event, we would no longer view Storm as a naive young woman.  We knew she would go to any lengths to protect the mutants on her team. 

Storm Loves the 80s

This was all happening during a great era for the X-Men.  Claremont and Smith were firing on all cylinders.  We were shocked when this led to Storm's transformation in X-Men #173 when she became a punk!  Again, most of the guys in my LCS hated this punk look, with the mohawk haircut, leather outfit, and studded collar.  I secretly thought it was totally kinky and hot.  I just love the 1980s and this was one of the highpoints of that decade.

Paul Smith mentioned this remake in an interview done for Marvel Spotlight Uncanny X-Men 500 issues celebration:  Oh my god, that was just a bad joke gone too far!  I knew they were gonna cut the hair, so I did a number of head sketches with varying short hair sytles and as a joke--as a joke--I put a Mr. T Mohawk on her.  Louise Simonson (the editor) looked at it and said, "You know we're gonna get hung no matter what we do, so let's commit the crime!"  So we went with the Mohawk.  I went ahead and switched to the Wendy O. Williams (of the Plasmatics) style instead, more free flowing.  But once you get into that, you had to get into the whole leather and stud thing.  So it was just a bad joke that got way out of hand.

X-Men Annual 9 1985 Arthur Adams Storm cover

Mohawk Storm was used to great affect in the Uncanny X-Men Annual #9 in 1985.  This was the second half of the great Asgardian two-part epic (that began in New Mutants Special #1) drawn by Arthur Adams.  The cover features Storm swinging an Asgardian hammer in a very Kirby-inspired Thor-like pose.  Notice how Storm's mohawk works so nicely in the middle of that winged helmet.

X-Men Annual 9 Storm as Thunder God

Storm is the object of Loki's master plan in this storyline, seducing her with power and brainwashing her to fight her fellow mutants.  Loki creates an Asgardian hammer for Storm, which she wields in this sequence, where Adams competes with another Asgardian artist--Walt Simonson.

There are many other adventures of Storm, but for me, these early ones really stand out in my memory.  There was a backup in Marvel Team-Up #100 (1980) featuring Storm meeting the Black Panther in her youth.  This was later used as the spark to get these two married.  Ororo's profile in the X-Men universe has diminished somewhat as a result, but it's interesting to see her working with the team again in Astonishing X-Men.  Nuff said.

Update: Comments from my old MT blog...


Awesome post!
you know your African-American superheroines - and Storm is definitely the first that comes to mind. She's one of my favorite characters.
Storm vs Cyclops fighting for leadership of the team in The Uncanny X-Men #201 wsa a great moment of the character, too!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Falcon: Keeping Captain America real in the 1970s

As a kid, I always thought Captain America was kind of a nut.  I never had any desire to pick up his comic, until I saw Captain America #137 in early 1971.  Why did I want to buy this issue?  Because it had Spider-Man on the cover!

Captain America 137, First time I encountered the Falcon

But it was not only my introduction to Captain America, it was my first experience reading about his African-American partner, the Falcon.  This was a jarring experience for me.  You see, up until that point, I had read about sidekicks like Robin.  Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson lived in a mansion during their off time.

Captain America 137, partners quarrel

Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson (the Falcon) lived in crummy apartments in Brooklyn and Harlem.  They rode around on a motorcycle instead of a Batmobile and had to hide it in an alleyway.  But even with all these handicaps, they were still able to battle the Red Skull!

Captain America 137, Falcon encounters Spider-Man

Cap and the Falcon had a great partnership, yet their relationship was tested over and over again by the issue of race relations.  The Falcon felt greatly overshadowed by Captain America’s towering presence and constantly strove to prove himself.  In the Spider-Man two-part story, he tracks down Peter Parker to the apartment that shares with Harry Osborne.  Thinking that Osborne is Spider-Man, the Falcon kidnaps him, only to have Peter show up and totally kick his ass.  That was one problem with the early adventures of the Falcon: he needed more powers or abilities!

Captain America 143, Sam Wilson and Leila

Sam Wilson was a Social Worker when he wasn’t saving the world.  Stan Lee and Gary Friedrich complicated Sam’s life by making a certain segment of Harlem view him as a sellout to the white establishment.  One of these was Leila, a member of the revolutionary Black Militia group in Captain America #143.  She calls Sam an “Uncle Tom” and does this several times over her story arc.

Captain America 143, Sam puts the moves on Layla

John Romita illustrated several issues of Captain America during this period.  And before he drew superheroes, Romita was very good at illustrating romance comics.  This story essentially becomes about the romance between Sam and Leila.  They are total opposites, yet they are incredibly attracted to each other.  Romita really draws this aspect of the story with great emotion.  It’s a bit of a soap opera, sure, but you get the sense that Sam and Leila are really hot for each other.  Dig it?

Captain America 143, Sam Wilson and Leila kiss

Captain America #143 was a super-sized 25 cent comic, and the story involved the Black Militia whipping up Harlem into a violent frenzy.  In the last chapter we learn the leader of the Black Militia is really the Red Skull. A cop out or not?  At the end of the story, after the Skull is defeated, the violence is abated but the issues in Harlem are still alive. Sam and Leila finally admit that they can’t keep their hands off each other.  Cap mourns the loss of another partner—kind of hokey, but wait until next issue!

Captain America 144, the Falcon's new costume

Captain America #144 proclaimed that this was the issue where “Cap and the Falcon Split Up!”  What’s important about this one is the Falcon’s brand-new red and white costume on the cover!  Goodbye to that drab old green and brown number, this one made him look more fierce and Falcon-like.  This was a big step in improving the Falcon’s profile.  Still, there was something missing.  Sam was still getting around the city by swinging on that tiny wire or driving a motorcycle!  Hmm, what to do, how to fix this?

Captain America 170, the Falcon's new wings

Finally, Steve Englehart figured out the answer in Captain America #169-171.  Let’s just call the Black Panther and ask him to give Sam a little extra oomph in the costumed powers department!  That made sense to me.  Marvel heroes should help each other out!  Sam and Leila were flown to Wakanda where the Panther modified the Falcon’s costume with “super-strong glider wings, jet powered from their tips by wafer-thin integrated circuits feeding off a sunlight charged power pack!”  Whatever!  HE CAN FLY NOW!

Captain America 171, Black Panther gives the gift of flight

It took four years (from 1969 until this issue in 1973) for Marvel to realize that a character named the Falcon should be able to fly.  When I saw this great John Romita cover, featuring Cap, the Falcon, and the Black Panther, all in one issue, I simply could not wait.  I was really into the Black Panther’s solo adventures in Jungle Action.  There were some very interesting discussions between the Panther and Leila, although Leila isn’t very happy when the Falcon takes off to show Cap his new toy.

Captain America v5 25, Falcon remembers after Steve's death

The Falcon hasn’t had a whole lotta love since this highpoint in the 1970s.  He was in the Avengers for five seconds and he had a mini-series written by Jim Owsley (aka Christopher Priest) in the 1980s.  I’ve really loved seeing the Falcon in the modern Captain America series by Ed Brubaker.  This little sequence in Captain America #25 (vol 5) evokes the memories of the Falcon’s tenure with Steve Rogers.

While Spider-Man initially drew me into Captain America’s world, I think it was the Falcon who kept me coming back month after month.

And this where I am going to get on my bully pulpit and say this is why Marvel was always better than DC Comics.

Marvel took a series called Captain America and turned it sideways by setting in a semi-realistic New York City and giving him an African American partner.  This series portrayed a partnership where the characters argued, encountered racism, poverty, politics, and romance.  Marvel didn’t play it safe with Captain America and they probably should have, but in doing so they allowed a series of stories to be created that I’ll never forget.  Nuff said.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Luke Cage PowerMan: Hired by the Fantastic Four!

Fantastic Four had a great run during the mid-1970s, when Roy Thomas wrote the series and was joined by artists like Rich Buckler and George Perez.  During one of these stories, the Thing lost his powers and reverted back to Ben Grimm.  Who replaced him in the FF?

Fantastic Four 168, Power Man joins the FF

You got it baby: Luke Cage, PowerMan!  Hired at a really good hourly rate by Reed Richards to fill out the team’s roster.  You’d think Ben Grimm would have been happy about getting a break and being able to schwing with his girlfriend, Alicia Masters.  Oh no!

Fantastic Four 168, Do not punch Power Man!

Ben’s feeling left out and jealous when the FF goes off to fight the Wrecker.  It’s kind of ironic, in this 1975 story, Luke Cage fights the Wrecker for the second time (the first was in Defenders #17-19 in 1974).  In New Avengers #7-8 he helps defeat the Wrecker once again, but steals his Asgardian forged crowbar, which he uses to escape the Dark Avengers in New Avengers #49.

Fantastic Four 170, PowerMan fights the Thing

Luke Cage only stays with the FF for three issues.  By issue 170, Cage is under the thrall of the Puppet Master and fighting Ben Grimm, who is inside a robot suit that resembles his former rocky self.
There’s gotta be great What If or Exiles material in here somewhere.  What If Cage stayed with the FF and Reed Richards was killed and Cage married Sue Storm?  What If Cage stole Alicia Masters from Ben Grimm?  What If Cage Became the Herald of Galactus?  Sweet Christmas, it’s time to get off this planet!  Nuff said.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hero for Hire no more: Luke Cage, Powerman!

When Luke Cage first appeared in 1971, it was such a big event that Stan Lee highlighted the character in his Bullpen Bulletins Soapbox column:

Hero for Hire in Stan Soapbox

When I think of Luke Cage, I also remember Richard Roundtree and Isaac Hayes.  Shaft.  The one movie I wanted to see, because it looked so damn cool in those movie posters, but I couldn't get in because it was rated R.  Then there was Shaft's Big Score, Shaft Goes to Africa, and eventually Shaft came to CBS in a series of TV movies.  But I digress. 

Shaft had taken off, and Marvel wanted a character who could claim some of that glory.  Hero for Hire #1 premiered.  Despite some great stories by Archie Goodwin and Steve Englehart, the sales must have not been as great as Marvel hoped.

In 1973, we saw this ad in Marvel Magazines...

Luke Cage Powerman house ad

I think the fact checkers at Marvel were out to lunch when this ad was being pasted together.  The "first and still greatest black superhero of all"?  We all know that the Black Panther appeared in 1966, making him Marvel's first black superhero.

Perhaps Marvel thought that "Hero for Hire" was way too mercenary sounding.  Luke Cage needed to be seen as more of a superhero.  His title was renamed "Luke Cage, POWERMAN!" with issue #17.

Luke Cage Powerman debut issue 17

This bombastic cover by Gil Kane really shows off Cage's invulnerable steel-hard skin.  To make it even more of a re-launch, this issue featured Cage fighting Iron Man.  Steel-hard skin against Iron-clad armor!  Of course, they kissed and made up by the end.

There is a funny story behind this name change. 

Stan Lee had a gentleman's agreement with DC Comics never to infringe on copyrights by making an opposite-sex version of a character.  Wonder Man, who seems like a male version of Wonder Woman from the sound of it, appeared in Avengers #9.  He was killed off by the end and Stan Lee assured DC he would never come back.

Power Girl first appeared in 1976 in All Star Comics #58.  It was not a one-time appearance, this was an ongoing character!  Stan was mad, the gentleman's agreement was off, and Wonder Man came back to life in Avengers #152.

Power Girl joke

Mark Gruenwald did this gag in What If #34 as an in-joke to this controversy, with a female version of Power Man--Marvel's Power Girl!  I kind of think she looks better in that outfit than Cage!

I have been surprised and pleased by Brian Bendis' love for Luke Cage, highlighting the character in Alias, the Pulse, and in New Avengers.  Bendis has given the character a great arc, from relative obscurity to a leader of superheroes..  And there is no need for tiaras or silly code names.  You can't have a name cooler than Luke Cage!  Nuff said.