Hello everyone, and welcome to a very special month of Marvel Madness posts. At the end of April we’re going to get to see the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe when Avengers: Infinity War comes barreling into theaters. The film is going to feature all the lovable heroes from the Marvel films going up against their greatest threat yet, the Mad Titan himself, Thanos. Now, I understand why they chose Thanos to be the crowning villain in this series, giving them a massive villain to fight and a series of magical MacGuffin’s to tie the films together with the Infinity Stones. But I’m not the biggest fan of Thanos. He’s a villain who has never really done it for me, which is unfortunate since Marvel loves to keep trotting him out ever couple of years to plot some new scheme against the entire universe. There’s been moments that I really enjoyed Thanos, and I do think that Infinity Gauntlet is a terrific Marvel event, but I also think that Thanos maybe never should have come back after Infinity Gauntlet. Everything he’s done since then has felt a little anticlimactic. So, in the hopes that they’ll find a way to make Thanos interesting later this month, I’ve decided to honor the Mad Titan this month by highlighting some of his more ridiculous stories. This of course led me to one of the more famously silly stories that Thanos ever appeared in, a tale known as “The Cat and the Cosmic Cube.” Now, I’ll say right now, this story is a little different from the ones that I normally feature here on Marvel Madness. Normally I look at stories that are completely insane, but that were meant to be taken more or less seriously. Not so much today. See, this story comes from a surprisingly long-running series Marvel had in the 70’s called Spider Super Stories. It was made in conjunction with the popular 70’s children’s show The Electric Company, and was built around short stories featuring Spider-Man hanging out with other Marvel heroes and villains all aimed at a much younger audience than most Marvel stories. So this was a story meant for kids. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s absolutely delightful.
The story begins by establishing what the Cosmic Cube is. And boy is it complicated. It’s a mystical artifact that was created by the scientist/terrorists known as AIM, which can grant the user wishes. It was the go-to MacGufin in the Marvel universe for years before all the Infinity Gems started showing up and usurped them, and Thanos was one of the many villains who devoted a substantial amount of his time trying to track the Cube down and use it for his evil purposes. With that established, we’re oddly thrown right into the middle of a fight scene which is never quite explained. All we know is that Thanos is trying to catch up to Patsy Walker, the Hellcat, who has taken the Cube from him. Oh, and Thanos is flying around in a little helicopter that has ‘THANOS’ written on it. Oh, and Hellcat is just referred to as the Cat in this issue, I guess because kids couldn’t read the word Hell? Anyway, Thanos and Hellcat have apparently been fighting over the Cube for a while now, and in the process Hellcat ends up dropping the Cube, and they both watch as it falls down into an alley.
Hellcat and Thanos then begin searching the streets of New York, trying to find where the Cube landed. But, as Hellcat goes racing into the alley where the Cube has fallen, she runs straight into a small boy who has been skating around on a skateboard. He goes flying off the board, and collapses in a heap in the alley, his dorky little hat landing atop the Cosmic Cube. Hellcat apologizes to the kid, but he doesn’t really seem to care, because it turns out that he’s a huge fan of hers, and takes the opportunity to start chatting with her. But, she has bigger fish to fry, and tells the kid that she’s on the lookout for the Cosmic Cube. She explains what the Cube is, and tells him to keep an eye open for it, since it’s so incredibly powerful.
The kid promises to let her know if he finds it, and Hellcat races out onto the streets again to continue her hunt. However, as soon as she’s gone the kid starts getting his belongings, and finds the Cube under his hat. He then immediately disregards his promise to let her know, and decides to start playing around with the Cube, seeing if it actually does have the magical abilities that it supposedly has. Which of course means he wishes himself an ice cream cone, instead of a new hat. Unfortunately for him, he’s not alone in the alley….
Meanwhile, Peter Parker is walking through Central Park with Mary Jane Watson, chatting about the exploits of the Hellcat, New York’s hottest new superhero. Mary Jane thinks that Hellcat is awesome, but Peter just complains that she’s a ripoff of Spider-Man, which doesn’t track at all. MJ just assumes that he doesn’t believe women can be superheroes, which is probably more of what Peter was thinking.
But their nice little stroll through the park is ruined when they come across the boy from earlier, being chased by Thanos, who is trying to steal the Cube from him. The boy loudly proclaims that the Cube belongs to the Cat, and that he refuses to give it to the Mad Titan, earning him some bullying from Thanos. He gets pushed down and consoled by Mary Jane, but Thanos ends up with the Cube. MJ scolds him to picking on a child, but Thanos doesn’t really care, because now he has the Cube and is free to use it to rewrite reality however he sees fit. But as Thanos begins making blustering threats of world domination, Hellcat arrives, ready to continue their fight from earlier.
Before the battle can begin though, Peter sneaks away and gets into his Spider-Man costume, figuring he can lend a hand to Hellcat. Because things immediately start going poorly for her. Thanos’ first move once gaining control of the Cube is to summon a massive angry dog and sics it on Hellcat, causing her to climb up into a tree for safety. She’s apparently pretty defenseless towards this dog, and it seems like Thanos has gained the upper-hand until Spider-Man comes swinging in and tackles the dog, causing it to run away in terror. Thanos is not pleased to see a second superhero arrive, and decides to end the battle before things get to dicey for him.
Thanos uses the Cube to summon a massive earthquake, hoping to distract Spider-Man and Hellcat so he an escape. Unfortunately, Thanos is apparently an idiot, and the earthquake that he summons affects him as well, causing him to fall down and drop the Cube. The cube bounces across the grass, causing the earthquake to cease. Thanos, Spider-Man, and Hellcat then scramble toward the Cube, trying to be the first to get their hands on it. But, they’re all beat by the little dorky kid from earlier. He swoop in, grabs the Cube, and uses its power to cause the grass to rapidly grow up and around Thanos, trapping him, and saving the day. Thanos is then arrested by some regular-ass cops, the kid gives the heroes the Cube, and Peter apparently gets over his sexism.
Okay, yes, this isn’t exactly the most serious story I’ve ever featured on this site. It’s pretty intentionally goofy. But it’s goofy in a wonderfully Marvel way that I can’t help but appreciate. I mean, Thanos flies around in a helicopter with his own name on it and harasses a child into giving him the Cosmic Cube, only to be stopped by said child, Spider-Man, and Hellcat. That’s so very Marvel Comics. And it oddly get into one of the things that I’ve always found the weirdest about Thanos. His bizarre inability to actually get what he wants. I know that I’ve read that apparently Thanos has some sort of inferiority complex, and purposefully puts himself in position that will cause him to fail, because he doesn’t actually want to succeed in destroying the universe, but I’m not sure if that’s just an explanation for why he’s always failing or legitimate motivation. Regardless, this is a story where Thanos gets his hands on the Cosmic Cube, an artifact that he’s used to bring the universe to its knees in more legitimate stories, and he ends up screwing himself over by not thinking about the fact that if he triggers an earthquake under himself he’ll also be affected. It’s ridiculous, but it’s not drastically more ridiculous than the normal stuff that Thanos is bested by. Because, despite being lauded as one of the most frightening and powerful figures in the Marvel Universe, Thanos sure does get beat a lot. So, see you later in the month to discuss another time that the Mad Titan was unceremoniously beaten by someone way beneath him!
“The Cat and the Cosmic Cube” was written by Nick Sullivan, Michael Siporin, and Jim Salicrup, penciled by Win Mortimer, and inked by Mike Esposito, 1979.
Categories: Marvel Madness