Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Classic Comics - The Defenders #30

Usually this space every Wednesday is devoted to one of the great comics I've read in the past (almost) 50 years.

But there are also lots of comics that are classically bad, so I figured, why not give one its moment in the sun?

I'm not sure this is actually the worst comic I've ever read, but when I bought this issue of The Defenders (it's cover dated December 1975), I do remember thinking, "That's the worst comic I ever read." (I've read lots of bad comics since then, too.)

I don't mean to cast any aspersions on the creative team involved - everyone has an "off" day, and this was obviously a fill-in issue created to head off the Dreaded Deadline Doom - but this was definitely a low point for writer Bill Mantlo, artist Sam Grainger and inker Jack Abel.

The story is titled "Gold Diggers of Fear" and it pits some of the Earth's mightiest heroes (Dr. Strange, the Hulk, the Valkyrie) against... an aging star of movie musicals named Tapping Tommy.


Tommy kidnaps Nighthawk (Kyle Richmond) and tries to ransom him, but (thanks to some comically inept criminals) Kyle manages to alert Dr. Strange, who brings the Defenders to the rescue - but they're all overcome by gas and awaken to find themselves in an odd predicament.

(I am not making this up.) They find themselves chained and under attack by robots wearing top hats and ties, reenacting a scene from a Busby Berkeley-style musical - singing, dancing and striking the heroes with their canes.

Of course, they escape and... no, I don't have the strength to continue with the recap. The last two panels are like something out of a bad sitcom, and mercifully this issue ended.

And I haven't even talked about the art, which seems flat, rushed and (with the exception of a few panels) very uninspired. I suspect it was drawn with great haste, but that's just a guess.

Perhaps the story stands out because it's sandwiched between a terrific run on the series by writer Steve Gerber, who redefined "comic book strangeness" with his classic run.

All the members of the creative team produced some great work in their career. Mantlo is beloved for his work on Micronauts and ROM, and Grainger and Able had long careers as outstanding comic book craftsmen.

So we can forgive them for this issue - and thankfully (as far as I know), Tapping Tommy never returned, or if he did, I missed it, thank goodness - I doubt Alan Moore could have made that character worth reading.

Grade: F


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