Friday, September 12, 2008

Famous First Fridays: The Man Called...Nova!

It was the last day of school in 1976. Summer break was starting. Young Groove was soon to become Teen Groove. But, comicbook creature that I was, the only thing I had on my mind was how to get to town to see if the first issue of that new Marvel comic, Nova, was out. We hadda be out of something. Bread, pop, paper towels...something that would get me to Mitchell's Market (the only place in town that sold comics). I don't remember exactly how it happened, maybe my aunt or great-grandmother needed to go to town (going to town back in those days, if you haven't already guessed, was a Really Big Deal), so off we went.

Why was I so hyped for this comic? Let me explain. Back in those ancient days before The Pulse and Comic Book Resources, before Previews or (ugh!) Wizard, all we had for news on upcoming Marvel comics were the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page and F.O.O.M. magazine's Department of InFOOMation. Both the Bulletins page and InFOOMation had been building up this new comic by Marv Wolfman, John Buscema, and Joe Sinnott as the next big thing in superheroes. A superhero that was fun (yeah, comics were a bit darker in the Groovy Age as compared to the Silver Age--but so was everything else!) and not linked to any fads or trends (like Master of Kung Fu, Iron Fist, Deathlok, and so many others had been). A straight-out, smash-em-up superhero strip in the tradition of Spider-Man (it says so on the cover!). Aw, why am I rappin' when I can just show ya the Bullpen Bulletin:
So, as you can no doubt guess, my excitement for this comic had built to a fever-pitch. This was the week Nova #1 was supposed to come out, and by the Bristling Beard of Odin, Young Groove was gonna get that comic! (Cue Carly Simon singing "Anticipation"!) So we got to Mitchell's Market, I jumped out of the car, ran inside, and headed straight for the spinner rack. And there it was! I flipped through it, savoring the magnificence of the Buscema/Sinnott art, waiting for the shopping to be finished so I could get back home and read this magnificent mag!

I wasn't the least bit disappointed. The story of Harry S. Truman High's uber-nerd Rich Rider getting powers from a dying alien (Rhomann Dey, Nova-Centurion of the Xandarian Nova Corps, son of Sonny and Holly Dey, btw--KIDDING!) so he could battle Zorr, an intergalactic super-criminal, sounded a bit familiar (had a bit of a ring to it, in fact, a green ring...), but added to the cooky cast of teens Rider hung out with (Caps, Bernie, Ginger, and the rest--kind of a mix between Spidey's supporting cast and the Archie Comics gang) and that awesome blue and gold costume, man, it punched all the right buttons!

Wolfman wrote the comic in a neo-Silver Age Marvel style, using chapter titles, large doses of teen angst, and some well-placed humor to create a fun, exciting atmosphere for his new superhero. Buscema and Sinnot pulled out all the stops as well, with dramatic, explosive (literally!) panels that just oozed superhero fun from the pages.

Once Rider received his Nova powers and instructions from the dying Nova-Centurion, the action kicked into high gear. Over the course of just a few pages, Nova discovered some of his powers (flight, super-strength, invulnerability), had to overcome his natural fear of having to battle a scary-looking alien thug like Zorr, and had to learn how to come up with snappy patter like his hero (natch) Spider-Man. By the time Nova (with deus ex machina aid from Nova-Prime) defeated Zorr, I was cheering! Nova was far-freakin'-out! He would, no doubt, become the next big thing, the next Spidey.

The mag lasted 25 issues.

But Nova was too cool to croak, so he kept popping up (in the Fantastic Four, Rom, the Defenders, and the Avengers just to name a few places) throughout the post-Groovy Age era, until he became a member of the New Warriors, which lasted on and off throughout the 90s.


Today, Nova's back in his own (very good) mag, more cosmic than super-heroic, but still very, very cool.

3 comments:

  1. Nova was an awesome series when it first came out. unfortunately, i thought it went downhill REALLY quickly. they just didn't seem to be able to keep up that momentum. and, very very quickly, i learned to hate the character. such a shame. kinda like Rom, really, which, i think, came out pretty much at the same time. great idea, terrific first few issues, then PLOP! ah, well.

    cool blog, by the way. i'll most definately be popping back in. . .

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the comments and compliments, Joe!

    I stuck with Nova, hoping it would get better. I didn't get to the point of hating it, but it never recovered from the loss of Sal Buscema's art,imo.

    Pop back all ya want! That's what I live for!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey Groovy, thanks for the cool Nova write-up(as well as a very cool blog that I'm still exploring). I never tired of Nova and actually became more engrossed as the series went on.

    Once Infantino took over the art chores I was blown away. Crimebuster, Power House, the Condor, Diamondhead, etc. all just plain worked for me and Nova has been one of the most bitter-sweet characters for me.

    He is my favorite character. When the original series was cancelled it was terrible for me. The subsequent thirst for Nova to show up and literal treasures that Rom, Marvel Two-In-One, FF and even cover shots like the Defenders were enough to at least keep the hope alive of Nova some day returning.

    Then there was the Super-Nova storline in Avengers after a long absence of anything to do with the character and the acceptance was once again turned to hope.

    Then later he came back in New Warriors! Yay...okay, not so "yay" once I realized it was Kid-Nova and he was in red for some reason with a new costume but it was Rich Rider.

    His New Warriors adventures somehow turned him from a lovable loser, giving it his best to an angst ridden a-hole but it was still Nova.

    A very poor re-launch followed that I wasn't sad to see go and then a re-re-launch by Larsen and fantastic art by Bennett that I was very sad to see quickly whither and die.

    The new series has Rich back and changed once again but at least he is as popular as he's been in a long while and the series is being treated with respect if not the way that I would like it to go.

    Thanks again for the cool site.

    ReplyDelete

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