Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Titanic Three! Oh, And Hawkeye, Too.

I have been hip-deep in Steve Englehart-penned tales in my ongoing reading of The Avengers, and this seems as good a time as any to discuss a particular issue I have long wanted to spotlight. That would be The Avengers #130, which among other things, included the debut of a super group called the Titanic Three.

I have always felt that the Titanic Three as a concept is something that was completely wasted after it was established. For one thing, an alliance of Titanium Man, Crimson Dynamo, and Radioactive Man is already a potent combination, and then to "reform" them makes it even more intriguing. It wasn't as if plenty of super-villains didn't become heroes at Marvel! I think the notion of that trio being uneasy champions of justice in Vietnam could have been material for some fascinating stories, or perhaps even one or two issues in a book like Marvel Premiere

It was, alas, not to be. The group made a cameo in one more Englehart Avengers tale, then was summarily written out entirely in the pages of Iron Man less than a year later. Ironically, the writer who got rid of the Titanic Three as heroes was none other than Mike Friedrich, whose work on Justice League of America came up last month.

Another thing which occurred to me during my reading of Steve's main portion of the run was why he booted Hawkeye from the ranks when he did. It makes perfect sense when you realize that the Swordsman is essentially the exact same character with a few variations. Heck, both of them even have purple costumes! So it would have been unwieldy to keep both Hawkeye and the Swordsman on the roster simultaneously, even setting aside their past history in the continuity.

Trouble is, I have the suspicion that it was Englehart's run on the book that devalued Hawkeye's stock in the eyes of many for years to come. Sure, he had had the inferiority complex over being just the guy with a bow and arrows before, and that led to the brief fling with him assuming the identity of Goliath. However, he had been the team mainstay since joining in #16. He was probably the quintessential Avengers character, and I suspect he was one of the most popular members for quite some time. I daresay he WAS the most popular for at least a couple of years.

Englehart's run was the first time in ages that The Avengers functioned without Hawkeye, and I wonder if that example led some writers to decide they could do without him. After all, he didn't have powers, so it did make it hard to give him something meaningful to do in a battle that might include the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, the Vision, and the Scarlet Witch.

Hawkeye gets no respect. I have all seven "remastered" volumes of Essential Avengers, and here are the characters afforded headshots on the spines of each:

1) Captain America
2) Scarlet Witch
3) Vision
4) Black Panther (with Vision & Quicksilver)
5) Hercules
6) Thor
7) Iron Man

Notice who is conspicuous by their absence from that list?

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