Marvel Feature #2
Strange things are happening on Bald Mountain. The locals speak in whispers about the mysterious red glow that has occasionally illuminated it’s peak since that first night back in 1937. They tell of the two farm families that disappeared from their homes, dinners uneaten on the table, sometime around 1890. Then there was the revolutionary war deserter who died there, whose ghost is said to still be hiding somewhere on its slopes. Even the Iroquois avoided Bald Mountain long before the white men came, calling it “a place of uneasy spirits.” A cloak of fear has settled about its summit, and one man has come to the town of Rutland, Vermont to pierce the veil of mystery…
Okay, he’s actually there for the halloween party. Back in the days before continuity-obsessed fans and the notion of a “Marvel Universe”, it was generally accepted that these funny book stories were set in our own world. As such, it occasionally happened that the writers and artists chronicling the adventures of the characters would appear in the stories themselves. My personal favorite is the time Lee and Kirby were taken hostage by Doctor Doom as bait to trap Reed Richards; In the pages of Iron Fist and the X-Men, Byrne was beset by street gangs and caught in the crossfire between warring mutants; Gerber and Claremont each saved the universe in different issues of Man-Thing, and the latter was even briefly transformed into the swamp creature.
So it is that Rascally Roy wanders into the second appearance of the Defenders to provide some exposition by way of soaking up the spooky ghost stories passed around by the residents of the sleepy hamlet nestled in the shadow of Bald Mountain. Given the loose “non-team” structure of the group I believe this earns him honorary status as a member, though I doubt he’s listed in that category on Wikipedia. The roster this time is limited to Marvel’s surliest trio, Dr. Strange, Hulk, and Namor, three characters who could only function in a group like this. For me, it’s not a Defenders story without Nighthawk and Valkyrie, but those characters hadn’t enlisted with the group this early in the game.
Ross Andru provides the pictures, still a couple years away from the run on Amazing Spider-Man for which I revere him. His style doesn’t convey the spooky haunted forest setting as well as the urban landscape of New York, but it’s still always nice to se him in action. The story is a straightforward Doc Strange vs. Dormammu tale, with the sorcerer supreme having to call in some muscle for backup when he gets in a jam. An odd moment of drama arrives when in a moment of crisis Bruce Banner has trouble transforming into the Hulk because he has been taking Quaaludes to suppress his alter ego. In a code approved book, even!
Doc whips Dormammu while the Hulk and Namor get the task of beating up on some robed henchmen, a serious waste of their talents. The comic is basically a standard Doc Strange story made worth seeing for having Roy wander through the panels. Extra credit for any reader who can point me to the Batman story featuring Jim Aparo– I’ve been trying to locate that one with no success.