Over the past two years I’ve had the bizarre pleasure to share a couple of very strange stories with you, taking place in the seemingly random location of Rutland, Vermont. In the past I’ve given some explanation for why Marvel comics in the 1970’s continued to travel to a random town in Vermont, but I feel like it bears repeating. See, Rutland had a resident named Tom Fagan who was a massive comic book fan, and who was in charge of a massive parade held in the town every year for Halloween. People were encouraged to dress up like superheroes in this parade, and the folks at Marvel eventually caught wind of it, and were really impressed. So, the writers started crafting stories set in Rutland, during the parade, where the writers and editors themselves were frequently in attendance. And, to add to the incredible weirdness of these stories, they were almost exclusively released far away from Halloween. Which brings us to January of 1973, when the short-lived Amazing Adventures comic took the third trip to Rutland, Vermont, with none other than my personal favorite X-Man, Hank McCoy the Beast! Oh, and as some added spice, we also get one of the patron saints of these Marvel Madness posts, the Juggernaut! So, buckle up and dust off your knowledge of the editorial staff of Marvel comics circa 1973, because we’re heading back to Rutland, Vermont!
But, before we get to the real meat and potatoes of this story, we need to lay down some backstory, because this issue is actually the end of an ongoing narrative in Amazing Adventures about the Beast. See, this was when Hank McCoy’s mutation changed, and he went from being a normal looking guy with really big hands and feet to the blue fur-covered mutant we know and love today. Once he got all furry he started working at the Brand Corporation, a genetics firm. And, to do this, he constructs a weird human suit and mask so that people don’t realize that they’re working with a blue wolf-man. He had many trials and tribulations getting used to his new form and the weird mysteries of the Brand Corporation, but things took a turn when he was approached by a former girlfriend, Vera Cantor, asking for his help. She needs Hank’s expertise in genetics to solve some massive problem in Canada. So, they two start heading North, which is when the Beast almost gets hit by a car while scouting for a ride. He flees into the woods, terrifying the people inside the car. And, who are those people?
Well, in case you are intimately familiar with the people who made the comics from this era, I’ll run it down for you. The guy in the green is the late Len Wein, with his wife Glynis. The guy in he orange shirt is Gerry Conway, and the guy in the short-sleeved shirt is Steve Englehart. They’re heading towards Rutland, Vermont to participate in the Rutland Halloween Parade. But, theyre more than a little alarmed by spotting a strange blue-haired monster running past their car. Especially since Rutland has recently seen an attack from an angry Asgardian feminist and a group of cultists trying to open a portal to the Dark Dimension. It almost raises the question of why these people would continue to come to an obviously cursed town. But, that’s neither here nor there.
I’m not sure why Hank was running around in his hairy glory in the middle of the night when he was supposed to be flagging down a car, other than to give a nice splash-page for the opening of the book. And, after almost getting run over, he decides to stop doing whatever he was doing, slips into his human costume, and goes to find Vera waiting in the woods. He tells her that he just happened to spot a car on the road, and figures that if they hustle they could get to it and ask to bum a ride. So, Hank and Vera run over to the car and meet the Marvel folks. And, being a bunch of charming hippies, they’re perfectly fine if Hank and Vera squeeze in and go at least as far as Rutland. The merry little band leave the scene, right as something odd happens.
Okay, time for more backstory. As you might know, the Juggernaut gets his power from a magical stone known as the Crimson Gem of Cytorak. And Cytorak is also the name of a powerful demon, whose power Doctor Strange occasionally borrows. This eventually led to the two men meeting in another dimension, while Strange was exploring and Juggernaut was looking for a way to expand his power. And, things didn’t end up well of old Juggernaut. Doctor Strange was able to best him in a battle, and in the process Juggernaut ended up insulting the cosmic being Eternity to the point that he was entrapped in another dimension, seemingly never to be freed. Until now! Because for reasons that aren’t really explained, the Juggernaut just randomly pops out of a portal, landing in the woods outside Rutland, Vermont.
Unfortunately, right as the Juggernaut starts celebrating his early release by shouting out all the names of the people he wants to beat up, the portal opens up again and sucks him back into the evil dimension he’s been trapped in. He’s baffled by this strange event, as is the reader. But, luckily for all of us, the comic decides to explain things. Apparently the dimension that Eternity threw Juggernaut into he was given powers related to his boundless hate. And, since Doctor Strange was in Rutland last Halloween the dimension has sent him there, hoping that he can use his newly found hate-fueled powers to destroy the Beast, another of his foes. Which, makes sense, I guess? Oh, and he’s going to keep popping between the Earth and his dimension as midnight draws closer.
Meanwhile the car loaded up with Marvel writers and the characters they write have finally arrive in Rutland. The Marvel folks drop Hank and Vera off at a motel where they unfortunately have to say goodbye, since they’re heading off to Tom Fagan’s house for a party after the parade, and it’s invitation only. But, that’s okay by Vera, since she’s convinced that the mysterious problem she needs Hank to help her with in Canada is incredibly pressing. But, they also don’t have a ride, so they’re forced to just wander around Rutland, checking out the sights and looking at the parade.
And, as they’re checking out the parade they come back in contact with the Marvel folks, who have some good news. They managed to get some invites to the Fagan party for Hank and Vera, and are here to bring them to the party. Which kind of puts into question why they even put this weird plot point in the comic and didn’t just have them go to the party to begin with. Whatever, the important thing is that before they can go to the party they notice something odd happening in the parade behind them.
Whoops! The Juggernaut has popped out of his portal right in the middle of the parade, ready to wreck everything in sight. And only Hank McCoy is available to stop him. However, before Hank can figure out how to slip away and get his human costume off so he can attack his old villain, the portal opens up once again and pulls Juggernaut back into his evil dimension, leaving a whole bunch of ruined parade floats in his wake. And, because the Juggernaut isn’t exactly the brightest bulb in the bunch, he loudly exclaims to the world that he’s going to be returning occasionally until midnight, giving people the time to plan for his next arrival instead of appearing at random.
Everyone is obviously terrified by this strange event, and Hank takes the opportunity to do some investigation. He tells Vera to return to the hotel with the rest of the Marvel folks and hide from the Juggernaut, giving himself time to slip away and take off his human costume. And, since he now blends in with everyone wearing their costumes, he’s able to just strut around Rutland, trying to figure out what’s going on. He looks all over the entire town, looking for a sign of the Juggernaut, but he has no luck. He doesn’t give up though, and his search eventually takes him back into the woods outside the town, around the same area that a bunch of cultists tried to sacrifice Doctor Strange the previous year. And, while poking around up there, another portal opens up and the Juggernaut comes falling out. And he’s not happy.
The Beast has had a lot of experience fighting the Juggernaut though, so he gets to work trying to take off his helmet, since at this point in the character’s history if you took off his helmet he’d lose his powers. Unfortunately, Juggernaut has gotten used to this tactic, and does everything he can to keep away from Beast, attacking him with trees and throwing stuff at him so that the can keep some distance between the two of them. And, with his plan not really working, the Beast decides to change up his tactic and flee. He comes across a hydroelectric dam nearby, and starts trying to use the dam to slow the Juggernaut down. But, this doesn’t work well. He’s able to run straight through a power junction, and is even able to swim through the dammed up lake, chasing after Beast the whole time.
However, as Beast starts to scramble up the rocky cliff-side by the lake, the Juggernaut ends up losing his footing and plummets back down to the water, right when another portal opens up and swallows him again. There’s really nothing that Beast can do about that though, so he decides to put his Hank costume back on and head to Tom Fagan’s house so he can go to the party and meet back up with Vera. So, Hank heads into the party, meets Tom Fagan, and starts wandering around the party, looking for Vera. But, before he can find her, that pesky Juggernaut shows back up, punching a whole in the wall, screaming about Beast’s emanations.
Hank realizes at this point that Juggernaut is able to find him, regardless of his disguise, and decides that he needs to do the heroic thing and get away from Juggernaut so that innocent people won’t get hurt because of him. So, Hank runs through the house, until he’s able to find the attic, getting a safe space to take off his Hank costume and get ready for battle. But, as he’s doing that, Juggernaut comes stomping through the house, cornering him in the attic. And, finding one opportunity to gain the upper hand, he dramatically rips his Hank face off his head, freaking the hell out of the Juggernaut. And, Hank uses that momentary fear to leap onto his shoulders, and pry the helmet off.
Juggernaut then flips out, since his power is now rapidly fleeing his body, and he starts running out of the house, terrified by the Beast. Beast chases after the Juggernaut, passing all the Marvel writers who are standing there stunned by the insane events that have unfolded in this party. And they watch as the Juggernaut ends up bursting from the house before trying to steal Gerry Conway’s car. Beast is able to leap into the car too though, and pulls Juggernaut from the car, which is when he starts to see something odd. The Juggernaut’s strength is clearly fading, but so is his youth. He’s turning older with each passing moment, until Beast finds himself facing down an elderly man in a Juggernaut costume. Apparently this was a side-effect of being in the evil dimension, and the only thing that was holding it back was Juggernaut’s hate. However, when Beast freaked him out he replaced that hate with fear, destroying his powers. The Juggernaut is thus beaten, and Rutland, Vermont is safe for another year.
The continued existence of these Rutland comics baffle me, but delight me in equal measures. The idea that some prominent writers are both Marvel and DC became friends with a local oddball, and thus decided to keep putting him and his small town in their comics is so wonderfully strange, and something that could only have happened in the Silver Age, a period when the comics were finally being created by fans, but before they were a big enough business that someone would complain about all the weird inside baseball being put into them. And, as with the other two Rutland stories I’ve discussed on this site, this story is a hoot. I love the Beast, I love the Juggernaut, and seeing the two of them running around a small town during Halloween with a bunch of real life comics creators is a whole lot of fun. I’m not quite sure what happens to the Juggernaut after this story, since it ends with him becoming a little old man, but whatever, it’s comics, I’m sure that there’s an absurd explanation.
However, before we end this year’s trip to Rutland, Vermont, there’s one fun little thing that I want to mention to you. Because, this wasn’t the only comic from 1973 that took a trip to Rutland. See, though Len Wein was in this issue, he was currently writing at DC. So, working with Steve Englehart, the two devised something of an accidental cross-over. Englehart wrote the story that we’ve been talking about today, and Wein wrote an issue of Justice League of America where the Phantom Stranger told the Justice League to come to Rutland, Vermont and stop Felix Faust from taking it over. Once there the League ends up encountering Tom Fagan, and the same quartet of creators that gave Hank and Vera a ride. And, after fighting a bunch of hypnotized parade-goers who are dressed like popular Marvel characters, the League watches as Felix Faust steals Gerry Conway’s car, and drives off into the night, doing what the Juggernaut couldn’t. It’s a weird little element to the story, and that issue is honestly as crazy as the Marvel one. But, the point of these articles are to talk about Marvel, not DC. All that matters is that a bunch of comics creators in the early seventies were really bored and managed to slip an accidental inter-company crossover into their books, presumably without anyone in editorial knowing. It’s a Halloween miracle!
Amazing Adventures #16 was written by Steven Englehart, penciled by Marie Severin, inked by Frank McLaughlin, colored by Glynnis Wein, and lettered by Charlotte Jetter, 1973.
Categories: Marvel Madness