Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hawkeye Limited Series House Ad (September 1983)

Marvel put on a full-court press to promote the Hawkeye Limited Series in 1983. This house ad by Mark Gruenwald and Brett Breeding, which looks like it might have been a rough draft of the final cover to Hawkeye #1, appeared in Marvel's titles published in September and October 1983.

Source: Kraalo Archives

Hawkeye #1 Cover Art (September 1983)

Hawkeye #1 features what is easily one of the most iconic and most memorable images of Marvel's beloved bowman ever to grace a cover.  Artist Mark Gruenwald really nailed everything from Hawkeye's pose to the background and composition of the cover with Mockingbid approaching across the rooftops. Gruenwald's fantastic art for the Hawkeye Limited Series is all the more remarkable because the creator is best known for his body of work as an editor and writer with this series representing one of his few turns as an artist at the House of Ideas.

Source: The Marvel Comics of the 1980s

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hawkeye Limited Series #1 (September 1983)

Cover: Mark Gruenwald, Brett Breeding
Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Pencils: Mark Gruenwald
Inks: Brett Breeding
Colors: Bob Sharen
Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Price: $0.60
Cover Date: September 1983
Release Date:  May 1983
Synopsis: In his time away from the Avengers, Hawkeye is employed as head of security at Cross Technological Enterprises, a technology conglomerate that competes with Stark International.  The issue opens with Hawkeye putting his security team through the paces of an assault drill while showing off his exceptional marksmanship, a dizzying array of trick arrows and his new flying rocket sled. The 11 year-old me loved every bit of this!

We meet Hawkeye’s new love interest, Shelia Danning, who is head of public relations at CTE.  Hawkeye reminisces about his past relationships with the Black Widow and Scarlet Witch and his lack of luck with love over the years, thinking that things are finally going his way.  While the couple settles in for a romantic evening in Clint Barton’s new apartment, Hawkeye shares his origin story with Shelia.   I’m not sure how much of this was already known, but it was definitely new to me at the time and a great synopsis of his back story.

After getting a security alert later that evening, Hawkeye heads back to CTE where he surprises an intruder in a vacant warehouse.  The intruder turns out to be Mockingbird, a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent turned hero, who was last seen in Marvel Team-Up #95 (July 1980).  As the two heroes spar, Mockingbird tries to convince Hawkeye that CTE is up to something sinister, but the CTE security crew shows up and takes Mockingbird into custody before they can talk any further.

Returning to his apartment, Hawkeye can’t shake the suspicion that Mockingbird may have been right, so against his better judgment and the temptation to spend the night with Shelia, Hawkeye returns to CTE to investigate.  No sooner does he start scouting around the warehouse than his security detail shows up and attacks the surprised bowman.  Hawkeye shoots out the lights in the warehouse and is confident that he can win the fight, but he surrenders when the security team reveal that they have Shelia as a hostage.

Hawkeye is tossed into a containment pit with Mockingbird. And, adding insult to injury, Shelia reveals her role in the plot and dishes out an absolutely scathing bit of character assassination.  “I could sooner love a dog than a cornball Romeo with delusions of adequacy like you.” Ouch! Initially incredulous, Hawkeye sinks to his knees in despair as the villains start to pump toxic sludge into the containment tank.  Mockingbird manages to roust Hawkeye from his self-pity and he summons his rocket sled to the rescue in the nick of time.

Hawkeye easily defeats the CTE security team and flies to Shelia’s apartment where he confronts her.  Shelia tells him that he’s fired and that CTE won’t rest until they get their revenge, but the hero can’t bring himself to harm his former lover.  The issue ends with Hawkeye and Mockingbird facing an uncertain future that feels all too real because it’s not just the hero/villain dynamic, it’s unemployment and heartbreak. To be continued next issue!

Source: Kraalo Archives, Marvel Comics

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dakota North #5 (February 1987)

Title: Cats Among The Pigeons
Cover: Tony Salmons
Script: Martha Thomases
Art: Tony Salmons
Colors: Max Scheele
Letters: John Morelli
Editor: Larry Hama
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Price: $0.75
Cover Date: February 1987
Release Date: October 1986
Synopsis: Dakota North #5 opens with Dakota, Amos and Ricky bound to chairs in Sheik Ibn Bheik’s Grindelwald, Switzerland castle after being captured at the end of the last issue. The Sheik’s henchmen search the prisoners but are unable to find the pen containing the top secret nerve gas that they’ve been seeking.  After explaining the situation to her very confused brother, Dakota goads the Sheik into attacking her with his hunting falcon and she manages to break free of her bonds after breaking her chair while dodging the vicious bird.

Back in New York, SJ North bickers with Major Cooper at length about the situation in which he’s placed Dakota and Ricky.  Major Cooper is amusingly nonchalant about the whole thing, saying “But SJ! The boy can’t do much damage! There’s only enough gas in the pen to wipe out a few city blocks!”  SJ North is not amused.  SJ learns from Mad Dog that Cleo Vanderlip is involved with the mystery. “Cleo Vanderlip!? I thought she was dead! If shes’s involved in this affair, then heaven help us!”  Clearly there’s some history between the two.

Heading west on an airplane over the Atlantic, Daisy Kane stresses that Cleo is going to kill her when she find how badly she messed up her job since she was supposed to trap Ricky, not fall for him.  In New York, fashion designer Luke Jacobson unveils his latest designs for Cleo who reacts badly when she sees that they all look like Dakota North. Luke says that he can’t get the detective out of his mind and that she’s the woman of the 1990s. While this exchange occurs, SJ North sets up for Rycom’s headquarters, determined to confront Cleo.

In Grindelwald, Dakota frees her brother from Sheik Ibn Bheik while Amos manages to trip the villain who is electrocuted by a TV when he falls in a puddle of water.  As the three fight against the Sheik’s henchmen, Ricky plucks the missing pen from the pocket of one of the minions where he hid it while they were being searched.  The boy threatens to unleash the nerve gas and the thugs surrender, providing the opportunity for Dakota, Amos and Ricky to make their escape to the Sheik’s garage where they find a fleet of cars read and waiting.

Dakota tells Amos that it was sweet of him to help, but he replies “Dakota, I didn’t put my job in jeopardy and traipse halfway around the world for a peck on the cheek.”  Cue the80's make out music.  As the three prepare to make their escape in a yellow Ferrari, Ricky realizes that the pen is missing.  One of the Sheik’s henchmen picked his pocket and now finds himself in a position of power for the first time in his life.  “I have the pen, now I shall rule the world!” he declares. “Not while I live, small one.” replies the Sheik.  The nerve gas is released in the ensuing scuffle, leaving all the villains dead.

Dakota, Amos and Ricky fly back to New York where they brief Major Cooper and Mad Dog on their adventures and Ricky reminds Coop that he still owes him $500.  Dakota and Amos plan a romantic evening and Ricky is thrilled when Daisy shows up, asking for him to hide her.  The issue ends the following morning with SJ North and Cleo who have obviously spent the evening catching up on lost time.  Their history is never revealed and it’s unclear what Martha Thomases had in mind as the last panel of the issue shows Cleo holding a fun behind SJ’s head while saying “Oh, Sam. Promise me you won’t hurt me again.”

Where teaser for the next issue would be, it says “This is where we usually put the blurb for the next issue, if there was a next issue, but there isn’t.”  Not even the Fashion Statements letters page had any further explanation, but we now know in retrospect that Dakota North was canceled due to lackluster sales.  Despite its many flaws, Dakota North as a series is a great artifact of the 1980s and an interesting attempt by Marvel to expand into a new genre.

Dakota North as a character remains active in the Marvel Universe and has appeared many times over the years, most recently in the fantastic Daredevil run by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark where she played bodyguard and then love interest to Matt Murdock.  While the series ended after only five issues, colorist Gerry Turnbull had some fun with the Dakota North paper doll that appeared in Marvel Age Annual #2 (1986) and produced another three mock covers.  Michael Lark also did a number of great 80's inspired Dakota North commissions for me in in 2012.

Source: Kraalo Archives, Marvel Comics

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from The Marvel Project! Christmas is almost upon us and we're feeling the warm embrace of the holiday season while looking forward to the New Year. Many thanks to Chris Giarrusso who did an amazing job on this year’s holiday card with a full complement of Mini Marvel characters caroling while the devious Dr. Doom tries to interfere with a snowball assault!  Click below to view a larger version of the card.  Excelsior!


Monday, November 25, 2013

Dakota North #4 (December 1986)

Title: Busman’s Holiday!
Cover: Tony Salmons
Script: Martha Thomases
Art: Tony Salmons
Colors: Christie Scheele
Letters: John Morelli
Editor: Larry Hama
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Price: $0.75
Cover Date: December 1986
Release Date: August 1986
Synopsis:  Dakota runs franticly through the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris, desperately trying to get the attention of her younger brother Ricky before the Orient Express leaves the station. Onboard the train, Ricky sees Dakota, but can’t believe it’s her since he thinks his sister is still in New York.  In any case, he’s much more interested in his new friend Daisy and excited to ride the legendary Orient Express with her.  Daisy introduces Ricky to her fabulous friends and then takes him to the private car where they’ll staying.

Although she is an agent of Cleo Vanderlip and ostensibly supposed to be luring Ricky and his golden pen with the secret cache of nerve gas to the headquarters of their evil organization, Daisy is clearly falling for Ricky and reluctant to put him in harm’s way.  As she takes Ricky to their private car, which we learn is owned by Cleo’s friend Sheik Ibn Bheik, Daisy warns him about the new butler Pettishford and suggests that he keep his golden pen hidden. While the young couple settles in for chocolate malts aboard the Orient Express, Dakota phones back to the office to share what she’s learned about Cleo’s involvement in the plot.

Determined to win Dakota’s heart, Amos Culhane decides to fly to Europe to help her find Ricky and solve this mystery.  Oddly, when Amos goes home to pack, Cleo knocks on his door and volunteers to take care of his cat while he’s gone.  It’s a total non-sequitor, but far from the worst of the holes in the plot.  While Amos in en route to Europe, Dakota manages to beat the Orient Express to the station in Venice only to find that the train is missing ones of its cars.  What Dakota could not see from the station is that the car had retractable wheels and separated from the train in order to take the overland route to Grindelwald, Switzerland.

Amos arrives in Venice where tracks down a very grateful Dakota and he quickly puts his detective skills to work finding the missing boy. On board the land yacht, Daisy once again warns Ricky not to give the golden pen to anyone, igniting the fury of the butler, who is an agent of Sheik Ibn Bheik.  “You little tramp! You are going tell him everything!”  A scuffle ensues and the vehicle crashes while Pettishford is away from the wheel.  Ricky takes the opportunity to escape while Daisy stays behind.  Conveniently, the crash makes the papers the next day, so Dakota and Amos to head Grindelwald to find Ricky.

Daisy and Petishford are brought before Sheik Ibn Bheik, a sinister villain right out of central casting with a trained falcon that he unleashes on the poor butter as punishment for his failure.  The sheik decides to return Daisy to Cleo for punishment and sets his sights on tracking down Ricky and the lost pen with the nerve gas.  Setting out with a hunting party, he spots Ricky just as the boy is reunited with Dakota and Amos in the hills on the outskirts of Grindelwald.  Dakota manages to lure Sheik Ibn Bheik away so that Amos and Ricky and try to escape, but it’s all for naught as the three are all captured by the villain.

The issue ends with Dakota, Ricky and Amos tied up in chairs in Sheik Ibn Bheik’s castle in a scene that is remarkably similar to the one in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) in which Indy and his father are captured in Castle Brunwald.  It’s a fun cliff-hanger in what would turn out to be the penultimate issue of the Dakota North series. This issue includes the first letters page of the series entitled Fashion Statements.  To be concluded in Dakota North #5.

Source: Kraalo Archives, Marvel Comics

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dakota North #3 (October 1986)

Title: Active Tense
Cover: Tony Salmons
Script: Martha Thomases
Art: Tony Salmons
Colors: Christie Scheele
Letters: John Morelli
Editor: Larry Hama
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Price: $0.75
Cover Date: October 1986
Release Date: June 1986
Synopsis: Ricky and Daisy are enjoying their time together in Paris. At least Ricky is enjoying himself and Daisy is playing along as she carries out the mission that Cleo Vanderlip has given her to deliver Ricky and his golden pen containing hidden nerve gas to their secret headquarters. Back in New York, with her brother having gone missing at the end of issue #2, Dakota is furious with her father and for putting the boy in danger and storms off to cool herself down. Ricky and Daisy visit an old friend of S.J. North to borrow money, so he calls back to New York to check in and let Ricky’s father know that the boy is in Paris.

Dakota heads to JFK to take the next available flight to Paris while Cleo Vanderlip dispatches a hired assassin to prevent the detective from rescuing her brother and thwarting her sinister plans. While Dakota embarks on her flight to Paris, Ricky and Daisy go to the bank with Monsieur Beaumontain where the young North “borrows” money from his father’s safe deposit box after cleverly forging his signature. They then head out to a cafĂ© for lunch where Beaumontain regales them with tales of fighting alongside S.J. North in the French Resistance movement during World War II.

While in-flight on the Concorde across the Atlantic, Cleo Vanderlip’s assassin ambushes Dakota. “I’m being strangled by a total stranger in an airplane lavatory! At least I know I’m not crazy.” The detective manages to fight off her assailant and kills him with a plastic knife that she had concealed in her boot.  Upon landing at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, Dakota is met by her assistant Yvon in an apparent homage to Tintin and Snowy while one of Cleo Vanderlip’s agents inquires about the now dead assassin in an nod to the very similar scene in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1985 Commando.

Ricky and Daisy ditch Monsieur Beaumontain at the restaurant, running off together just before Dakota arrives to meet them. Dakota learns from Beaumontain that Daisy knows about Ricky’s gold pen and realizes that she must be part of the plot. The next day, Daisy surprises Ricky with an envelope of money, a Walkman and train tickets on the Orient Express. She tell him that she has a modeling job that afternoon and that he should visit the Pompidou Museum while she’s gone and then meet her at the Gare De Lyon to take the train. “Oh, Ricky it’ll be so much fun to go together!”

We then learn that Daisy has sent Ricky on a direct path past Dakota’s apartment in an attempt to lure her out so that another assassin can make his move. The plan works almost perfectly as Dakota spots Ricky on the street and chases after him to the museum. The scenes that follow are comical as Dakota tried to get Ricky’s attention, but he can’t hear her because he’s wearing headphones. Meanwhile, the assassin keeps trying to get just the right vantage point from which to shoot Dakota without being spotted by witnesses. “Now, Ms. North, if you would be so kind as to sand in front of a red Pollack…Spatter on spatter, non?”

The assassin shoots and misses, alerting Dakota to his presence so she spring into action. Their fight moves from the museum floor the tunnel system on the outside of the Pompidou Museum where Dakota gets the best of her attacker. In a brief exchange before the assassin plummets to his death, Dakota learns that Cleo Vanderlip is behind the attack and that Daisy is one of her operatives who has lured Ricky onto the Orient Express. Dakota rushes to Gare De Lyon to find Ricky, but she arrives just too late. “Gee, that woman out there looks like my sister.”

Will Dakota catch Ricky in time? Will Ricky get the hang of iambic pentameter? Check out next issue, when Detective Amos Culhane takes A – “Busman’s Holiday!”

Source: Kraalo Archives, Marvel Comics
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