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Stan Lee Leaves the Avengers As the Living Laser Arrives!

This is "From a Different Point of View," a feature where I discuss a comic book series with another writer. In this case, it is CBR's own Eileen Gonzalez who will be going over the history of the Avengers with me, story by story!

We continue with Avengers #34, "The Living Laser!" by Don Heck and Stan Lee

Brian Cronin: Otherwise known as "The LAST Stan Lee-scripted issue of Avengers!"

Brian Cronin: Duh duh duhhhhhhhhhh

Eileen Gonzalez: And what a, uh, "bright" issue to go out on.

Brian Cronin: Yeah, just the splash page alone is quite a sight.

Brian Cronin: First, the odd "See Spot Run" caption introducing the villain.

Brian Cronin: "See the man in the strange costume! He is a bad man!"

Brian Cronin: I nearly expected Stan to let us know that the Laser was stealing 40 cakes.

Brian Cronin: That's four tens!

Brian Cronin: And that's terrible.

Eileen Gonzalez: Ha! Yeah, the children's book approach was odd, but I suppose I can't knock Lee for trying something different.

Brian Cronin: Then you get the bit on the bottom where they apologize for not getting to the development that they promised in the letter pages of last issue, as they decided to move it to the SECOND part of this story.

Brian Cronin: Which, of course, Lee won't even be writing!

Brian Cronin: Lee once explained why he began to do more and more multiple-part stories as the 1960s progressed. His logic was that this way, less plots would need to be originated.

Brian Cronin: The biggest problem that Lee had with the Marvel Method was coming up with plots.

Brian Cronin: There are a number of "behind the scenes" comics from around this era that teased the way that Stan collaborated with the non-Kirby/Ditko artists.

Brian Cronin: Where there was this sort of like constant battle to get a plot for the stories.

Brian Cronin: The artists, who were not traditional plotters, would try to get Lee to give them a plot.

Brian Cronin: While Lee, who was scripting (and nominally co-plotting) so many books, would keep trying to get them to come up with the plot themselves.

Brian Cronin: Or give them as bare bones of a plot as possible.

Brian Cronin: Like, say, "A new villain shows up - go from there!"

Brian Cronin: And so if you then made those stories take up TWO issues, then that single plot could now kill two issues' worth of plot!

Eileen Gonzalez: That sounds great in theory, and I'm sure it works for some people who like/are able to come up with longer stories. But for less experienced artists who are less sure of what they're doing, I get the feeling this will just lead to a lot of padding and fragmented storytelling.

Eileen Gonzalez: The Marvel Method is one way of being creative and cranking out stories, but as we've seen, it does have its pitfalls.

Brian Cronin: Like building two-part stories around the Living freakin' Laser.

Eileen Gonzalez: I miss Kang the Conqueror.

Eileen Gonzalez: Or the Sons of the Serpent, even.

Brian Cronin: His costume is fascinating, as Heck throws in some interesting flourishes

Brian Cronin: But in general, what a hideous costume

Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, it's like he's wearing a green bag.

Brian Cronin: "Let's see. His name is the Laser. Hmmm...green and orange poncho sounds about right, right?"

Eileen Gonzalez: Meanwhile, I'm concerned for that cop in the bottom panel on the next page. Is it just me or does his wrist look wrong?

Eileen Gonzalez: It looks like it's bent weird.

Brian Cronin: I think Heck is going for a 3-D effect

Brian Cronin: And failing miserably.

Eileen Gonzalez: I guess that would explain all the fancy decorations on the bank's interior.

Brian Cronin: This whole issue totally comes down to either Stan or Heck reading an article about lasers, right?

Brian Cronin: I thought transistors could do it all, but now I know that LASERS can TRULY do it all

Eileen Gonzalez: It sure looks that way! The first thing it made me think of was the early Iron Man comics glorifying transistors as the new miracle technology. I guess transistors are passe now.

Eileen Gonzalez: Though now I want an Iron Man vs. Living Laser battle where they both just brag at each other about their cool hi-tech suits.

Brian Cronin: He later became an Iron Man villain mostly.

Brian Cronin: Probably for that very reason!

Brian Cronin: Actually, as we will see in the future, the Living Laser is probably the number one example of how a villain becomes weaker once he joins a supervillain team.

Brian Cronin: He goes from being able to fight the Avengers by himself to being "just a guy" in the future.

Eileen Gonzalez: But how can that be? His lasers are deadly!

Eileen Gonzalez: Even though he never kills anyone with them.

Brian Cronin: It's shocking, I know!

Brian Cronin: We see another interesting Marvel Method bit where Heck draws Goliath as the leader

Brian Cronin: While Stan had made a point in the script a while back that just because he was back, it didn't make him the leader.

Brian Cronin: But Heck's been drawing him as such the last couple of issues.

Brian Cronin: So Stan just goes with it.

Eileen Gonzalez: Maybe he's on a trial run, since he says he's "acting chairman."

Eileen Gonzalez: "If you can go two issues without complaining about your height, we'll let you be leader again."

Brian Cronin: Look how happy Hawkeye is!

Eileen Gonzalez: They're all so happy! Until they find out they have to investigate a stupid piddling bank robbery.

Eileen Gonzalez: The Avengers are too good for bank robberies.

Brian Cronin: Hawkeye's all, "Ice Cube had it right!"

Brian Cronin: Heck's romance comics background kicks in again.

Brian Cronin: In the creepiest way possible.

Brian Cronin: When the Laser sees the Wasp and falls madly in love with her at first sight.

Brian Cronin: While he was stalking his ex-girlfriend, Lucy Barton.

Brian Cronin: I'd love to know how Lucy Barton and Arthur Parks got together in the first place.

Brian Cronin: I need a prequel explaining how this weirdo ever got a hot, rich girlfriend like Lucy Barton!

Brian Cronin: And I also need her to somehow be related to Hawkeye.

Brian Cronin: Come on, Marvel, these stories are just sitting there, waiting to be turned into award-winning maxiseries!

Eileen Gonzalez: Imagine Hawkeye trying to get a loan from the bank that Lucy's father-in-law owns and then finding Distant Cousin Lucy there.

Brian Cronin: After he probably awkwardly hit on her first.

Brian Cronin: "Hey, anything but direct siblings is okay with us carny folks!"

Brian Cronin: "Even there, a bottle of wine might change my tune."

Eileen Gonzalez: Poor Lucy will never get away from the weirdos.

Eileen Gonzalez: But now it's Jan who has to deal with Parks once he gets done monologuing to his money.

Brian Cronin: While smoking a cigarette. Heck got MOODY with those panels, right?

Brian Cronin: I love Stan's weird little "mind-tapping" joke.

Brian Cronin: It's so dumb.

Eileen Gonzalez: Between this and the kid's book stuff at the start, Stan Lee's narration has been all over the place. Maybe he knows he's on the way out and was like "screw it, I'm gonna do what I want."

Eileen Gonzalez: Back with the Avengers, Cap and Hawkeye are actually bantering nicely for once.

Eileen Gonzalez: They do love each other after all!

Brian Cronin: It's so freakin' adorable.

Brian Cronin: Hawkeye's development has been the real highlight of Stan's run, I think.,

Brian Cronin: He went from being a pain in the ass to a guy you would actively root for

Brian Cronin: And he continues with his odd pop culture references with a reference to Grandma Moses. Grandma Moses was obviously someone people were familiar with at the time, but it's still an odd reference for a guy like Hawkeye.

Brian Cronin: I love the Laser propelling himself with a laser beam

Brian Cronin: Because, you know, why not?

Eileen Gonzalez: I'm sure that's how lasers work. He is a laser expert, after all.

Brian Cronin: Good point.

Brian Cronin: I am chagrined, Laser!

Eileen Gonzalez: I'm glad they brought back Bill Foster to wrap up his subplot from the last two issues

Brian Cronin: Yeah, but the dialogue is a bit off, right?

Brian Cronin: Hank has been "looking all over for him."

Brian Cronin: It's not like Bill has been in hiding, right?

Brian Cronin: He just didn't come into work.

Brian Cronin: Until now.

Brian Cronin: "I've been looking all over for you...if 'all over' is defined as just coming to my lab and hoping you're here."

Brian Cronin: Thank goodness Bill was there, because if Jan had to be Hank's assistant again, we were going to see some crazy domestic dispute

Brian Cronin: By the way, it's interesting that Jan isn't thinking of engagement after learning of Lucy's engagement.

Brian Cronin: The way Stan writes her, wouldn't she be someone bugging Hank all the time to get married?

Eileen Gonzalez: I guess Stan had the option of having Jan pester him into marriage or having her obsessed with shopping and getting her hair done. He went with the latter.

Brian Cronin: "Stereotypical female character Bingo"

Brian Cronin: I like Stan's little bit explaining away the fact that Heck hasn't been drawing Hank as moping the last couple of issues

Brian Cronin: "I was so confident that I was going to cure myself, that I haven't been as upset recently."

Eileen Gonzalez: I mean to be fair he has been busy railing against racism lately. But yeah, nice save there.

Brian Cronin: "I can't mope while I'm busy shaking snake-shaped sticks at racists!"

Brian Cronin: I'll give them this much, it really DOES seem hard to see how someone like Goliath can stop a dude with laser powers

Eileen Gonzalez: Goliath does make a handy target.

Brian Cronin: And the dude burns through metal and walls like it is nothing!

Brian Cronin: The panel where Goliath breaks through the wall...

Brian Cronin: Isn't that pretty much the same panel as him breaking through a wall in that inane Keeper of the Flame story?

Eileen Gonzalez: He does love smashing through walls! That's been his go-to attack ever since getting stuck at 10 feet (or 12--I think they contradicted themselves on that).

Eileen Gonzalez: Even when he just wanted to blow off steam last issue, he started tearing their headquarters apart for no reason.

Eileen Gonzalez: And how does Goliath defeat Living Laser? By grabbing him by the cape and throwing him from a tree. Classic.

Brian Cronin: Was Goliath trying to KILL him?

Brian Cronin: What if that tree branch had connected?

Brian Cronin: But yeah, it can't be a Heck Avengers fight if their cape didn't somehow play a factor into the fight!

Brian Cronin: We haven't had a "Oh man, Tony Stark is great" for a while, but this issue is all over it.

Eileen Gonzalez: They looove Tony today. They mention him at least four times!

Brian Cronin: Way too much of this issue is just the Laser talking about how awesome he is, right?

Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, he's very full of himself, even for a comic book villain. Though in fairness, the Avengers were dumb enough to let him keep his lasers after they captured him, which allow him to escape. Maybe he IS that great.

Brian Cronin: "What could he do with his powerful lasers?"

Brian Cronin: "I'm sure we're fine"

Brian Cronin: His path of destruction throughout New York was well depicted.

Brian Cronin: Cap's new sky scooter is pretty swanky.

Eileen Gonzalez: Tony Stark probably built it.

Eileen Gonzalez: I do like Living Laser destroying everything, but he isn't aiming high enough in my opinion. Heck, the first thing he does is destroy a building that was coming down anyway. He just saved the developer millions, probably.

Eileen Gonzalez: Not that I'm trying to tell a supervillain how to do his job or anything.

Brian Cronin: Well, he's doing this to impress Jan, right?

Brian Cronin: So he attacks only planes scheduled for scrap anyways

Brian Cronin: On Lee's FINAL PAGE of the Avengers.

Brian Cronin: He manages to work in one final "ooph" piece of dialogue for the Wasp.

Brian Cronin: "If only I understood things..like a man."

Brian Cronin: Oooph.

Eileen Gonzalez: Uggghhh

Brian Cronin: You have to work HARD to come up with a line that bad.

Eileen Gonzalez: We've seen some doozies, but yeah, that's... that's something.

Eileen Gonzalez: I like how the Living Laser just hears a bug and assumes it's Jan.

Brian Cronin: And how he has a special "Wasp-catching" machine.

Brian Cronin: Parks is also an example of dumbing down a character, as he's never shown to be as smart again as he is in this first story.

Eileen Gonzalez: That's what normal guys do, right? Create a machine specifically to imprison the woman they love?

Brian Cronin: No one even knows he is a villain yet, so why not just approach her AS Arthur Parks?

Brian Cronin: Instead of going straight to kidnapping and destroying things to impress her

Eileen Gonzalez: Maybe he figures if Arthur Parks isn't good enough for Lucy Barton, who dumped him, he's certainly not good enough for Janet van Dyne, so he has to impress/trap her in his supervillain identity?

Eileen Gonzalez: But this is just part one of the Living Laser's debut. I'm sure he'll come up with something extra special to impress the Wasp next time!

Brian Cronin: The laser beam cliffhanger WAS handled well, at least.

Brian Cronin: So this is it for Stan. It'll be interesting to see how quickly the style of the book changes with incoming writer, Roy Thmas.

Eileen Gonzalez: First Jack Kirby, the original artist, left a while ago, and now the original writer is leaving too. It'll be a whole new book now.

Brian Cronin: Now, when Heck leaves, then it REALLY changes

Eileen Gonzalez: We'll just have to find out if that change is for the better!

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