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In 1975, I was an 8 year old immigrant child. I had older siblings, one of whom was a comic book fan. We didn’t have a lot of money, though, so the opportunity to acquire and read new comics was rare indeed.
My brother was a great lover of Spider-Man, thus I was able to read the few cast-offs he was able to acquire. But the first so-called “graphic novel” I got my hands on was my brother’s copy of Avengers 147.
Here’s the official summary:
“The Avengers and the Squadron Supreme have been transported to the Squadron’s Earth after a battle at the Brant Corporation in their own reality attracted the attention of the police, leading Roxxon Oil owner Hugh Jones to transport the two warring super-groups there. There the battle resumes in earnest. The Squadron makes the opening salvo and easily defeats the Avengers just as the military and the President of the United States arrives.”
This was my first entry into the world of comic books. I didn’t know who any of the characters were. I didn’t know what the back story was. I didn’t know any of the cultural references.
The first panel opens with trademark Marvel elan:
“Here are the latest boxscores, ladies and gentlemen! Four Avengers, one hairy applicant, and Patsy Walker, who three issues back found the discarded duds of the Cat!…”
And so on.
Now, as an immigrant boy from a foreign culture, with no previous exposure to comics books, this was all quite a mystery. What were “boxscores”? What is a “hairy applicant”? (I would much later learn that this referred to the Beast, who was applying for a job as an Avenger.) And what were “duds”?
That was just the beginning of my confusion.
I re-read that book probably a hundred times. It became my obsession. You need to understand: there was no Internet. I had no reference material. I also had no one in my life I could ask about these mysteries. I had to figure it all out myself.
I would later do a school project on comic book origins, based entirely on what I could glean from this particular book. (Which was not a lot.)
Here’s a summary of what this issue was about. The Avengers were stuck on a parallel Earth. They were being stalked by the Squadron Supreme (the bad guys). The Scarlet Witch had in her possession “the serpent crown”, which was messing with her brain. Her husband was the android, The Vision, who had serious bad-ass powers.
This parallel Earth had as its President of the USA Nelson Rockefeller. As a child, I had no idea who that was, but even I knew the Rockefeller name. It was mightily intriguing and confusing.
The issues ends with The Vision rescuing the Scarlet Witch from a gang attack by the Squadron Supreme, trailing with the poetic words,
“Come, Wanda, let me carry this damnable ikon. I doubt that it can attack my computer mind. And if I’m mistaken, then I, too, shall be saved by love.”
It was a beautiful ending that even this idiot 8 year old could appreciate and celebrate. But despite having cogitated on this story, its fascinating characters and complicated images, I never knew how the story started or how it ended.
Almost 40 years later, I bought a copy of the full collection of The Serpent Crown, collecting issues 141 to 149. I finally got closure, after so many decades of wondering.
And? Well, it’s fine. But the context, origins and conclusions that my 8 year old imagination managed to formulate were far more entertaining.