Avengers Vol. 1 No. 6

AVENGERS Vol. 1 No. 6
July, 1964
"Meet the 'Masters of Evil!'"
Written by the inspired typewriter of Stan Lee
Drawn by the enchanted pencil of Jack Kirby
Inked by the gifted brush of Chic Stone
Lettered by the scratchy pen of S. Rosen

En route back to New York after last issue's adventure, the Avengers
stop in Chicago to refuel their helicopter. Captain America
demonstrates to the others how he can control his shield via the
magnets in his glove. The shield also opens up to show that it is full
of electronic equipment, including a communications device (This
concept was quickly dropped, in favor of having Cap rely on pure
skill. Perhaps they felt that having him so reliant on gadgets made
him too similar to Iron Man?). But Cap's mood turns melancholy, as he
thinks about his deceased partner, Bucky. He is determined to one day
find the man responsible for killing his young sidekick.

The scene shifts to South America, where a small plane is delivering
supplies to a remote valley. The natives there are ruled by a
mysterious masked figure named Zemo. As the pilot arrives, Zemo goes
to greet him, literally walking across the backs of his prostrated
subjects. In addition to supplies, the pilot has also brought the
latest scientific journals and newspapers. When Zemo sees photos of
the returned Captain America, he flies into a rage.

We learn that Zemo was a scientist who worked for Adolf Hitler. Zemo
was so hated by the public that he had to wear a mask to hide his
identity. While he was working on a new super-glue called "Adhesive
X", Captain America burst into Zemo's lab, determined to foil the
experiment. During the battle, Cap hurled his shield at the vat of
Adhesive X, causing it to spill on Zemo. This caused his mask to
become permanently stuck to his face. Zemo has been unable to find
anything that could remove it. Zemo thought he had gotten his revenge
by killing Captain America and Bucky, but now he knows that Cap still
lives. But not for long, if Zemo has anything to say about it.

Some time later in New York, the ham radio buffs in the Teen Brigade
are desperately trying to contact the Avengers to warn them of an
emergency. Giant-Man's old foe the Black Knight is flying his winged
steed all over the city, spraying an adhesive foam that traps
everything from people to cars to ships. Meanwhile, two other villains
are terrorizing the city: Iron Man's enemy the Melter (who's beam now
melts any metal, thanks to improvements by Zemo), and Thor's sparring
partner Radioactive Man.

The Avengers arrive on the scene. Radioactive Man's force field
protects him from Thor's hammer, and he fires his Adhesive X gun,
missing Thor but pinning Captain America and Giant-Man to the ground.
Cap immediately recognizes Zemo's adhesive, but before he can ponder
the implications, the Melter arrives. Iron Man knocks him for a loop
with his magnetic repeller, and the Wasp keeps him busy while Iron Man
tries to blast his allies free of the adhesive. Unable to break the
glue itself, Iron Man cuts out the chunk of ground the two Avengers
are standing on. Iron Man attaches chains to a nearby truck and pulls
the chunk of ground behind him, with Cap and Giant-Man hanging on like
a couple of water-skiers. But even this isn't enough to break the
bonds of the adhesive.

The Black Knight joins the fray, racing towards the truck. Thor spots
him and takes to the air to intercept. The Knight tries to tie up Thor
with bolas fired from his lance, but the thunder god knocks the lance
away with ease. The Avengers elect to retreat, so they can find a way
to free Cap and Giant-Man from the Adhesive X. Once they're gone, Zemo
arrives on the scene, and his super-villain lackeys apologize for
letting the heroes escape. Zemo wonders if the heroes will actually
manage to find a way to dissolve the adhesive; if so, he must steal it
for himself. He begins to formulate a plan.

Back at the Avengers' headquarters, they are having no luck removing
the adhesive. Then the Wasp remembers a villain named Paste-Pot Pete,
an expert in pastes and adhesives who recently fought the Human Torch.
She contacts him in prison, and in return for a reduced sentence, he
agrees to help them. He tells them where he had hidden a barrel full
of a super-dissolver; Iron Man goes to retrieve it, and sure enough,
it melts away the Adhesive X. Like his opposite number Zemo, Captain
America takes charge and begins to plan their strategy. Step one is to
contact the Teen Brigade.

Meanwhile, Zemo is refilling his lackey's tanks of Adhesive X from the
main supply in his Heli-Hovercraft. Soon they will terrorize the city
again, drawing out the Avengers to their doom. What they don't know is
that the Teen Brigade has snuck into their headquarters and switched
the tanks of Adhesive X for tanks of the super-dissolver.

As the Black Knight flies over the city (in a gorgeous 2/3 splash page
by Kirby and Stone), he is shocked to see that the foam he is spraying
is actually freeing people instead of trapping them. Just then, he is
attacked by Thor. The Knight fires projectiles from his lance, but
Thor deflects them with his whirling hammer and closes in for
hand-to-hand combat. The Knight zaps him with his stun-ray, but it
only slows Thor down for a few seconds. His patience at an end, Thor
renews his attack.

Elsewhere, Giant-Man is confronting the Radioactive Man. By repeatedly
shrinking and growing, he confuses his foe and manuvers him into
position. When the Radioactive Man fires an energy-blast, Giant-Man
shrinks out of the way, letting the bolt hit a device held by Iron
Man. The transistorized ejector springs to life, shooting out a spool
of lead foil that wraps up Radioactive Man like a mummy. Then a
balloon mechanism inflates, lifting the trapped villain into the air
to dangle helplessly.

The Melter appears, and uses his ray to melt a lamp-post so that it
wraps around Iron Man. Shellhead manages to fly out of the way, but
the Melter blocks his escape by melting the masonry of a condemned
building. Much like Giant-Man did with Radioactive Man, Iron Man draws
his enemy's fire, and then ducks out of the way. The beam hits a fire
hydrant, and a stream of high-pressure water knocks the Melter out.

Nearby, the shrunken Giant-Man has recovered from the strain of doing
so much size-changing, and he and the Wasp decide to go see how
Captain America is doing.

Back at Zemo's ship, the master villain has spotted the boys of the
Teen Brigade and subdues them with his Hypno-Ray. But then Captain
America arrives and lays into his old foe. Zemo surprises Cap with his
fighting skill; since last they met, he has studied and mastered the
art of karate. But Cap is by far the better and more experienced
fighter, and he mops the floor with Zemo, angrily reminding the
villain how he once sneered at freedom and democracy, claiming the
Americans and their allies were too timid to fight. But Cap is living
proof that compassion doesn't equal cowardice.

But just then, Zemo's pilot strikes from the shadows, firing his
pistol at Captain America. The bullet only grazes him, but it's enough
to take him out long enough for Zemo and the pilot to make it back to
the ship. The pilot tries to shoot Cap again, but the Wasp shoves a
nail into the barrel of his gun, deflecting the bullet so that it goes
wide of the mark. The pilot tries to flee, but Giant-Man takes to the
rooftops and quickly intercepts him.

As the police take the pilot into custody, Giant-Man sees the Black
Knight's horse heading their way. But it's actually Thor in the
saddle, carrying the unconscious knight. Suddenly, they see Zemo's
craft taking off. It looks like he's escaped, but Cap assures them
that he has not. Cap knew that Zemo would try to make off with the
super-dissolver, so he had the Teen Brigade carry a decoy can -- one
that was filled with tear gas. And sure enough, they see Zemo's ship
coming to an awkward landing nearby, where the police will be able to
pick him up.

So it looks like victory for the Avengers, but the closing caption
assures us that we haven't heard the last of Zemo and his Masters of

Stan Lee's patented cornball patter is in full force on the cover: One
blurb begs "Please don't frustrate us... you've got to read it!!",
while another promises "More super-heroes, more super-villains, and
more super-bonehead mistakes than ever". It continues on the splash
page, where readers are advised "Don't tear this magazine or wrinkle
the pages or get food stains on it! We have a hunch you'll want to
save it...". Stan's hype somehow managed to be self-deprecating and
self-aggrandizing at the same time. The combination of a serious plot
with self-aware mockery is fairly commonplace today (cf. "Buffy the
Vampire Slayer"), but at the time it was a big departure from the
traditional straightlaced superhero yarn.

The inter-title continuity seen in previous issues is kicked up
another notch here; not only do we see old villains from the Avengers'
solo series, but the cameo by Paste-Pot Pete reinforces their ties to
the Fantastic Four as well. Even Zemo (as the letters page points out)
had previously appeared in an issue of Sgt. Fury. There could have
been any number of ways for the Avengers to solve their Adhesive X
dilemma, but bringing in a previously-established "glue expert" helps
sell the idea of a shared universe. And of course, it encourages the
reader to buy all of Marvel's titles, since you never knew where a
familiar face might show up.

Chic Stone's inks are very distinctive; his lines tend to be bolder
and cleaner than Paul Reinman's. The heavy contour line he puts around
each character sometimes makes them look like cardboard cut-outs or
animation cels, but overall the art has a very sharp look.

Wasp Watch: We now consistently see a few stray locks of hair slipping
out from the Wasp's cowl (something seen once or twice in previous
issues). Her costume is slightly modified: Before, her red vest had a
v-neck, showing the black leotard underneath with a blue "W" logo on
it. Now the vest is closed up, with a black "W" on the vest itself.
This may just be down to Stone interpreting Kirby's pencils
differently, rather than being a concscious change. She's still
something of a second-class member here, but she does get a couple of
moments to shine, holding off the Melter and later saving Cap's life.

The letters page announces that THE AVENGERS is now a monthly title.
One of the letters is by Buddy Saunders of Arlington, Texas; Saunders
went on to become a fanzine publisher (as one of the "Texas Trio"),
and later a comics retailer with his "Lone Star" chain of stores. In
the blurb for next issue, Stan promises not only more of Zemo and the
Masters of Evil, but the return of the Hulk as well (which only turns
out to be half true...).