New Reviews of Old Comics
Marvel Premiere sure seems like a good concept; a title devoted solely to introducing new characters and concepts. For readers we get to read occasionally off-beat ideas and Marvel gets a bit of market testing before committing resources to a full blown series (or even mini-series). As is the case any time you throw stuff out for testing en masse like that some ideas are good while others are not so good. This particular issue featured the origin of a new character called Woodgod. It would fall under the category of not so good.
Starting with the cover, if that wasn’t done by Jack Kirby someone did a damn fine impression of his signature style. The issue is all downhill after the good cover. “Birthday” was written by Bill Mantlo with art by Keith Giffen and Klaus Janson. This was done before Keith adopted the style he used with Ambush Bug, so it’s pretty standard 70s fare in the art department. The story opens with Woodgod, a centaur looking creature, running down the street of an abandoned town that looks like something straight out of a Gunsmoke episode, even though it’s modern times. After getting into a fight with someone and winning, Woodgod begins a flashback to his origin where we discover he is a clone graft of human and animal genes. At only a few days old he’s already the size of an adult, but with a child’s mentality. Plus he’s ripped like nobody’s business, complete with a six pack, as is typical for a comic book character. As part of his growing process Woodgod kills the family dog, which instantly puts him into the dislike column of my book. Eventually some local townsfolk march on the farm where Woodgod was created, rip the place apart, shoot Woodgod and pound the crap out of Woodgod’s “father,” David Pace. In their fervor the villagers open up a vat of nerve gas that Pace was working on because he’s also a government scientist. The nerve gas gets out and kills everyone except Woodgod. The government finds out about the melee and invades the Pace farm to set the scene straight, but Woodgod is there in full rage and wipes out all of the agents. That’s the end of the story, or is it, because the last panel finishes with “The End?” The question mark implying there is more to this story and it will continue.
I don’t know if Woodgod’s story continued elsewhere or not, but I won’t be looking for it. The character himself wasn’t very likable and the story was too disjointed for my taste. I guess Mantlo was shooting for Woodgod to be a sympathetic character; weird looking, childlike and all that, but it didn’t connect for me. I think they lost me when they said he was newly created clone and gave the impression he was just created in that superior physical shape. In my line of thinking, even a clone would have to start out in some sort of infant stage and mature, even if it’s at an accelerated rate. I sure do like that cover though.
Notable Ad: I have to admit even I was excited by this one at first. Nabisco had a full page ad offering a free ticket to your favorite pro sports team in every Sugar Daddy pop. At first I thought this is crazy, but who knows, maybe in 1976 it was plausible to give away a sports ticket with candy. I read a little further and saw it was only for a youth ticket, ages 13 and under with purchase of one adult ticket. OK, now that seems a little more reasonable. But wait, even in 1976 a ticket MUST have been much more expensive than the price of a Sugar Daddy, especially for football or baseball. Reading a little further we discover it’s only participating leagues. Ah, there’s the rub. American Basketball Association is the only nationally known league and they eventually folded into the NBA. The others are minor league hockey, professional lacrosse, track and volleyball. The hockey sounds good, but the others? Just enjoy your Sugar Daddy and forget about the rest. The ad also lists Nabisco’s address as 810 Main St, Cambridge, MA. Think Nabisco candy is still made in Cambridge? Possible, but I’d be surprised.