COVER STORIES for 01/07/2007
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #87
Welcome, faithful readers (and those of you joining us for the first time) to the 73rd installment of Cover Stories, the weekly column in which I, Jon B. Knutson, present a group of covers with a common theme (unless I'm doing an installment of one of the sub-series of Cover Stories)!
And speaking of the sub-series, it's time for...
Yes, it's 1-10 time again, and this time around, I'm looking at the first 10 issues of that mid-1970s Marvel title... Nova! Created by Marv Wolfman, with an origin that was somewhat derivative of Hal Jordan's, this was probably the very first comic book that I was able to buy issue #1 of off the newsstands, and so it's one that I've been fond of for a very long time.
I think Nova's one of those series that you either really, really like, or you just can't understand why anyone would be interested in it. If you're in the latter group, well, I hope you'll like next week's column! Then again, if you're in the former group, you probably either have all the original comics (like I've had several times over), or you have the Essential Nova Vol. 1 trade paperback (like I do)!
So, here we start off with Nova #1, cover and interior art by John Buscema, and written (as all issues were) by creator Marv Wolfman. In this issue, we're introduced by Richard Rider, our lead character, who is quite a bit like Peter Parker before the radioactive spider bit him... except that Rich isn't all that smart, really... then again, he does have a few friends (like the pretty Ginger Jaye, Jewish best pal Bernie - a regular jokester - and Roger "Caps" Cooper). Rich's personal Flash Thompson is Mike Burley, the ace athlete of Harry S. Truman High School, who seems to be as smart as he is athletic!
We're also introduced to the last of the Nova Centurions of Xandar (not that the planet is identified in this issue), who is pursuing Zorr, the conqueror of his homeworld to Earth. However, the Centurion is mortally wounded, and thus has to choose a successor to pass his powers on to... choosing Rich!
This infusion of power puts Richard into a semi-coma, putting Rich into the hospital until he awakens, blasting strange energy beams from his eyes (which never reappear in the series). During the coma, Rich was in mental contact with the Centurion, and after awakening, he wonders if it was a dream or what... when he suddenly is transformed into... Nova!
After a few pages of testing his powers off, Nova runs into Zorr, who is in downtown New York City, spends a few pages fruitlessly fighting Zorr, but in the end, it's the Centurion, using the last of his life, who destroys Zorr forever!
Starting with issue 2, writer Wolfman began introducing Nova's own personal Rogues Gallery, beginning with cover-featured Powerhouse and the Condor! By the way, issue #2 also featured John Buscema artwork. The book opens with Nova stopping a bank robbery, a brief recap of Nova's origin, and then we meet more of Rich's family (his parents appeared briefly in the first issue), younger brother Bobby, who's an inventor or sorts.
The Condor, whose wings are apparently a part of him, saw Nova take on the bank robbers before he winged his way back to the Condor's Roost, where is lackey, Powerhouse, waits for him. And speaking of "him," the Condor makes a few references to the mysterious "Him" that they plan to confront in the near future!
Later, Rich spots the Condor flying past his high school, and changes to Nova to pursue the villain. They battle briefly, but the Condor's just trying to put Nova into position so that Powerhouse, who is an energy-drainer, can leech away Nova's energy! Nova breaks free, but is too weak to pursue Powerhouse and the Condor! But he gets a second chance that night when the duo break into a museum. Nova's able to drive away the Condor, and captures Powerhouse!
Starting with issue #3, John's brother Sal took over the artwork. Issue 3 introduces Diamondhead, a man made of living diamond, amazingly strong and virtually indestructible! After a few pages introducing Diamondhead and getting some sub-plots going in Richard Rider's personal life, we see Diamondhead captured by the police, but he's only allowed himself to be arrested so he can steal a box that the police captured along with Powerhouse. As you can imagine, Nova encounters Diamondhead, and the two of them fight!
While this fight happens, remember "Caps" Cooper? He's confronted by a person who claims he's someone Caps murdered!
Back at the fight, it appears that Nova's defeated Diamondhead, but he can't find the villain's body... and we see the Condor show up to offer a partnership with Diamondhead (who's also after the "Him" the Condor mentioned in issue two... but now they're referring to him as "The Dreaded One").
Issue 4 is a bit of a different kind of a tale... after that Jack Kirby cover, we see the origin of the new villain, the Corruptor, who uses his power to make The Mighty Thor insane! Nova spots the maddened Thor flying around, but since he doesn't know what's happened with the Thunder God, he figures he'll be able to just go and say hi - and instead is smacked a good one! The two heroes battle, until Thor comes out of his Corruptor-inspired madness.
It turns out the madness faded because the Corruptor's power also faded... but it comes back, and Nova teams up with Thor to battle him, defeating the villain soundly!
Nova #5 is one of my favorite issues, and not just because of that Kirby cover! Caps Cooper is missing, but that's not the focus of this issue... instead, it's Tyrannus, who's created the Earth-Shaker, a machine that's supposed to bury the cities of the earth! But before Nova can meet up with Tyrannus, he must first visit Marvel Comics, who want to meet with him to see about featuring him in a comic book!
Yep, Marv Wolfman, Sal Buscema, John Verpoorten, Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, and Stan Lee himself all appear in this issue! It's while Nova's demonstrating his powers to Marv and Sal in Central Park when the Earth-Shaker breaks through the Earth's crust, and it's up to the Human Rocket to defeat him!
After all that, though, Nova discovers that Stan the Man has decided to go with Midas the Million Dollar Mouse for their next comic book character!
Issue six brings back the Condor, Diamondhead, and Powerhouse to fight Nova! But first, we learn that The Dreaded One is better known as... The Sphinx! We also check in on Caps, who's tied up in a sewer, and he was tied up by his uncle, who not only says Caps tried to kill him, but we also learn that he has no face!
Meanwhile... the Condor and Diamondhead release Powerhouse from jail, but they're spotted by Nova, who's stopped by a shot from the Condor's gas gun. Nova's captured and brought to the Condor's HQ, but Nova's freed and takes on the trio again! The Sphinx is aware of all this, of course.
Nova gets knocked out by the terrible trio, and the Condor uses his machines to brainwash our hero!
Issue 7 takes up where issue 6 left off, with the now-evil Nova deciding he's going to be the boss of this gang, and the Condor tells Nova what he knows about the Sphinx (who was the Pharaoh's wizard who was bested by Moses, and eventually found the Ka Stone, which gave him power and immortality). Eventually, Nova, Condor, Powerhouse and Diamondhead take off in the Condor's jet craft to go into Earth orbit, where the Nova ship is still in orbit. After they get there, the Sphinx activates security robots to attack the quartet. Soon after the robots are defeated, the brainwashing wears off, and Nova turns against the evil trio, but they lock Nova into the spaceship, set the controls to deep space, and abandon it!
Things really start to pick up with issue 8! Nova makes contact with the Nova ship's computer system, and learns about his predecessor. The computer also tells him what's happening with the Condor, Powerhouse and Diamondhead, his family, and Caps Cooper! The ship's computer returns the ship to Earth orbit, and Nova uses a shuttle to get to earth, just in time to save Caps from drowning!
Later, Caps tells Rich that his Uncle Nathan, thought dead in a camping accident, was instead brought to the future, where he was transformed by an alien creature into the powerful, faceless Mega-Man (as he later calls himself). Nathan returned to the present, seeking revenge on Caps. (Yes, this is very reminiscent of the Star Trek episode with Zephram Cochrane).
Rich doesn't believe Caps story, but later, when Nathan goes after Caps again, he ends up seeing Mega-Man himself! Changing to Nova, he starts to battle Mega-Man, but the villain grabs Caps and runs off, setting Nova's house on fire, leaving Nova to decide if he'll save his friend... or his family!
In issue 9, Nova rescues his family from the fire, taking them to the hospital. Meanwhile, Mega-Man sends Caps to talk to Nathan's wife, to tell her Nathan's still alive... but she doesn't care; she's already taken up with another man! Mega-Man shows up, and is enraged! Of course, Nova's been looking for Caps at this time, and soon confronts the villain out at Coney Island! The two of them battle through the fun house, and Nova soon gets the better of Mega-Man... but he says he's ready for the Human Rocket now! However, the energy being from the future appears, and takes Mega-Man back to her own time! (Yeah, you Star Trek fans saw that one coming, didn't you?)
Issue 10 is the biggest issue yet! Well, not in page count... but definitely in story! The Condor, Powerhouse and Diamondhead are attacking the Sphinx's pyramid headquarters, but they're no match for the Sphinx. Nova shows up (using the coordinates the Nova-ship's computer gave him) and starts to tackle all four of them, but he's captured in a plastic-like bubble from which there's no escape! He flies off to find a way out of the bag, and the Sphinx starts to put the beat-down on the terrible trio.
Nova escapes from the super-bag, and gets back to the battle, fighting Powerhouse as the Condor battles the Sphinx! However, the Sphinx's lackey, Kur, cowardly shoots the Condor in the back, and in his anger, the Sphinx turns the Condor into a real condor, and sends him away (if I recall correctly, one or two revivals of Nova later, he gets better). And then, with another gesture, he knocks out Powerhouse and Nova!
Wow, what a cliffhanger, eh? Will Nova ever get out of this? Well, yeah, you can pretty much figure out he did!
Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," in which I'll present some covers that revisit a previous topic, and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at http://waffyjon.blogspot.com for other musings and ramblings by me, or email me with comments about this column at !