Saturday, March 06, 2010

A Look Back at the Winter Olympics

I know it’s against the male stereotype, but I don’t really care much for sports. Oh, I have my favorite baseball teams (the Kansas City Royals and the Atlanta Braves), but my “like” for the teams has more to do with their geography than their performance. Unless someone’s in the playoffs, I don’t even keep track of their record. Don’t even ask me about football! When I was in school the Hokies weren’t even any good. I don’t know how often people have asked me about the latest game when they see me wearing a Tech shirt. Usually, I didn’t even know they were playing (Although, I did watch a few NFL games this year because my son was interested and at least I can follow it these days. To think my first real football education was a Monday Night Football game that vibrated the players with their tiny little rubber football). I do like college basketball, but only if I’m seeing a live game (I probably haven’t seen one in almost 20 years). However, there is ONE sporting event that I really, really enjoy and that is the Winter Olympics.

Boy, have I been enjoying the 2010 games in Vancouver (which will have ended last Sunday when this is posted). Everyday, when I got home from work, I would tune in for some of the LIVE coverage in the afternoon and then catch a couple of hours before bed. It’s just so interesting to watch…so different! Now, that doesn’t mean I like all the Winter Olympic sports. Surprisingly, snowboarding was boring, but cross-country skiing was exciting (some of those photo finishes were awesome). I’ll take Ice Dancing over any regular figure skating any day. Especially since those commentators RUIN it all the time. You see something neat and they tell you how bad it was (enough of the triple-lutzes/double-axles already). Seeing Bode Miller ski so well (having his head together this time around) was fun and I love the Downhill, Ski Cross, and Super Slalom.

Anyway, all this Olympic watching got me thinking about the games in Lake Placid, New York or at least it got me thinking about Marvel Treasury Edition #25: Spider-Man vs. The Hulk at the Winter Olympics from January 1980. I’m pretty sure I haven’t reread it since I got it on the stands thirty years ago (Yikes!). Well, I did read it again this past week (that’s why I still keep my old back issues) and it was…WAY over the top!

It’s primarily written by Bill Mantlo (Micronauts writer supreme) and illustrated by Herb Trimpe (one of my favorite artists and a really nice guy too!). So with that power pack combo, you’d think this would be a Marvel masterwork. Unfortunately, it’s not. The story is just ludicrous (I may have liked it more when I was 9), even so it still has some good points. However, it does fit nicely into early-80’s Marvel continuity.

Peter Parker is on a photo assignment from the Daily Globe (remember when he worked for them?) to cover the Lake Placid games. One of the skiers, Brad Rossi (totally fictitious character – I know I looked it up) used to go to school with Pete. Brad along with three other athletes (a Russian skater [Maria Karsov], a French bobsleder [Claude LeBron], and a Canadian? hockey player [Bobby Lyle]) are kidnapped by Kala, Queen of the Underworld. She rules Tyrannus’ old subterranean kingdom and the Lava Men (from the Avengers) serve her. She’s at war with the Mole Man and his little bug-eyed yellow guys, because she wants the Fountain of Youth that he controls. He won’t give it to her, because she spurned his love way back in Fantastic Four #127 (I don’t actually have that issue, but those of you who just got the new FF masterworks can tell me about it!). The Mole Man also has some outcasts on his side, which he picked up in FF Annual #13 (which I do have, but haven’t reread it yet). He has given four of them some bizarre superpowers (Boulder, Digger, Landslide, and Water-Witch). Spider-man gets involved with the Mole Man’s side (he threatens to destroy the Olympic Village, if Spidey doesn’t cooperate) and the Hulk gets involved with Kala’s side (she drugs his food so he’ll obey her). Basically, it all boils down to a contest between the two sides, with the winner getting the Fountain. Let the GAMES begin!

One of the problems I have with this story is the back-and-forth between the surface world and the subterranean world is so quick and effortless. Not to mention, when the Mole Man jacks up the entire Olympic Village on STILTS!!! (“Miraculously, no one is killed!”) It looks cool, but I just can’t suspend my disbelief THAT much anymore. The weapons that Kala gives to her Olympic athletes are laughable. Let’s see, we have Rocket Skis and Power Poles, Super-Skates, Bombsled (bobsled with flame cannons), and a “Super Stick that fires Power Pucks”. The athletes only agree to help Kala, because Brad’s girlfriend, Heather, is being held hostage. Kala aged Heather, so she’ll die, if they don’t win the contest. There is a funny scene where Brad presumptuously pledges that ALL the athletes will fight for Kala, but then the Frenchmen says, “Oui, Mes ami! Though you have not asked, you speak for all of us!” It’s also strange how the diamond prisons make someone immobile, but the prisoner can still speak (I guess there is an air pocket around their head).

There are some really impressive pages, especially in the larger tabloid format. I’ve included a few for you to enjoy. I like the two-page spread that has several Marvel characters in attendance at the games out of costume (they must have all gone home after the opening ceremony, since they don’t help out later). Herb’s Hulk is always a treat for me and we get to see Hulk in armor way before Planet Hulk. There is also a moving scene where the aged Heather escapes during the contest and seemingly falls to her death. I was worried until I realized she must have fell into the Fountain of Youth.

The contest ends with the Mole Man’s side winning despite Kala’s cheating. Kala’s youth-maintaining helmet is smashed and she ages quickly. In a touching turn of events, the Mole Man who can no longer grant her access to the Fountain as it was destroyed in the contest, agrees to take her to live with him.

“Kala, though you have mocked me and spurned my love, still would I that this thing had not happened! Rise! Old you are – and ugly – but there are many such in my kingdom!”

“You – would still have me then?”

“I desired a queen to rule beside me in darkness! It matters not the way she looks – for in subterranea there are no lights to see!”

Good for you Moley!

In case you are wondering how the Olympic Village got back on the ground. Well, the Hulk simply smashes it down. (How can he do that without everything falling apart?) So, it was a fun trip back in time for me, despite my issues with some of the plot points. Maybe, I’ll reread it again in four or twenty-eight years!

Finally, we’re left with a teaser of the next installment of the Marvel Heroes at the 1980 Summer Olympics. Since, President Carter boycotted those games (because Russia was in Afghanistan – isn’t THAT ironic) the issue was never published…at least, not in it’s original form. See the similarity to the first ever Marvel mini-series?


  1. Sometimes I wish they still made some of these hokey type of books, but I think kids today will not enjoy them like we did. We had less sophisticate taste when we were younger.

  2. Too bad kids don't really read comics anymore (unless their parents buy them). I was thinking of how much a value a video game is, especially when they are discounted. A PS3 Lego game for $20 or even $50 full price will give me six months of play time (hours and hours). Break that down into a monthly bill and comics just can't compete. Our experience with Amazon today and the e-mail you forwarded about comics being too expensive is so true. Still I hope we get our cheap omnis!

  3. Sophisticated? I have 8 and 11 year olds. Sophisticated is not how I'd describe them, nor the video games they play. If you watch the TV shows they like on Disney and Nick, you'll soon realize everything old is new again. It's just the same sort of dim plots and writing that were around from the early days of black and white TV to Happy Days or Full House.

    There are more entertainment options for kids to compete with comics, and fewer comics aimed at the younger kids, mostly. It's on the publishers for that failing. Book publishers have a huge segment aimed at kids, and make a good chunk of money at it, too. My son likes Transformers, so I get him one series at a time of those many comics, but nothing's grabbed my daughter's attention.