Last week, we featured Steve Englehart’s attempt to make Cap relevant and interesting to a 1970’s audience more interested in the Watergate scandal than WWII patriotic propaganda. As a parting gift before he left the series, Englehart decided to retcon (i.e. fuck with) the Falcon’s origin, revealing that he had not been a social worker with a heart of gold before shipping off to Exile Island, but had been a drug-dealing pimp in L.A. named “Snap” Wilson.
This little revelation was left as a parting gift to the new creative team, almost as classy a move as removing all the W’s from the computer keyboards in the White House. So in issue #191, cover dated November 1975, plotter Tony Isabella, scripter Bill Mantlo (who wrote short runs or fill-ins for virtually every book Marvel published in the 70’s–he was to writing at Marvel in the 70’s what Sal Buscema was to pencilling), and artists Frank Robbins and D. Bruce Berry had to deal with the fallout from Englehart’s revelation in “The Trial of the Falcon.”
The story opens with the Falcon being confronted with the evidence of his past by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Cochran. Cap argues that Falcon needs to go to court to clear his name, but Falcon says, “Screw this,” and tries to run.
Robbins’s art is pretty wonky and not conducive to exciting storytelling. He had done a daily newspaper strip titled Johnny Hazard, a Steve Canyon style adventure that looked pretty good, but superheroes were not his thing. The goofy postures and bulging eyes kind of get to you after a while.
Anyway, as Cap is trying to get Falcon to calm down, Nick Fury shows up and yells at everybody for being idiots. Falcon is convinced to let the justice system do its work, especially when Fury lets his foxy girlfriend Leila go free. Ladies love the bad boy…
So is it good that a 1975 comic book is trying to tell a story about a black good guy, or bad that it seems to draw most of its inspiration from 70’s blaxpoitation flicks like Superfly and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song and Cleopatra Jones?
Anyway, as the trial of the Falcon proceeds, some of his former associates are pretty desperate that their names not enter the public record. So they decide to hire a hit man to take out the Falcon. And who do they hire?
Why, that most lame of Marvel supervillains, the amazing Stilt-Man. Yeah, he wears an armored suit with hydraulic legs that let him become really tall, like seven stories tall, and that’s about it, really. He first appeared as a Daredevil villain back before Frank Miller took Daredevil, that lamest of all Marvel superheroes, and briefly turned him cool.
But Isabella and Mantlo are determined to somehow make Stilt-Man actually cool. How do they plan to accomplish this? By beefing up his powers with gadgets stolen from another Marvel villain. Unfortunately, the guy they chose was the Trapster (last seen being flung into the air by his anti-gravity disks in Ghost Rider #13, August 1975).
The Trapster was a dude who started his Marvel supervillain career under the name Paste Pot Pete, so named because his principal weapon was a gun that fired super-glue. In a bid to rescue him from the dubious distinction of being the lamest Marvel villain of all time, a later writer expanded the range of his gadgets and renamed him the Trapster, although it seemed like every time he appeared, someone would remind him of his original name, so it wasn’t like he was able to shed it completely.
So the lamest villain in the Marvel universe combines powers with the second-lamest villain in the Marvel universe. How do you think that worked out for him?
You know what? Who cares? Let’s just watch the Incredible Hulk eat a Hostess Fruit Pie.
So, yeah, Cap was at a low point. But in the letters column of this issue, in which one letter writer named Frank Robbins as a greater menace to Cap’s survival than the Red Skull, the Marvel Bullpen was proud to announce that as of issue 193, Cap would be returning to the hands of his creator, Jack ‘King ‘ Kirby. That’s right, returning to Marvel after his triumph over at DC creating the New Gods, Mister Miracle, and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth, Kirby would be taking over the character he created almost 35 years previously.
At last, Cap would be able to return to his former greatness. Right?