Comics : Marvel Team-Up #16

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This story is part of an Arc: "Beware the Basilisk My Son!"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 2002.

Background...

The "real" Captain Marvel is the 1940s Fawcett Character, of course; teenager Billy Batson, who turns into the powerful Captain Marvel when he says the magic word, "Shazam!" Before there was Supergirl, Superboy and Krypto the Superdog, Captain Marvel known as "The Big Red Cheese", was joined by Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., Uncle Marvel and Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. At one time, if you can believe the covers of the Fawcett magazines, Captain Marvel was the best-selling comic book in the country. National Comics (DC) had no answer for him... except litigation.

Claiming that Captain Marvel was a rip-off of Superman, DC took Fawcett to court, and won. Captain Marvel ceased to exist and Fawcett failed soon after. Ironically, DC itself eventually assumed the rights to the character and began publishing Captain Marvel again, but had to do so under the title "Shazam!" Why? Because in the years between the demise of the Captain and his revival by DC, the name became availab! le for use by others. M.F. Enterprises jumped on it in 1966. Their Captain Marvel was created by Carl Burgos (creator of the Golden Age Human Torch) and was an android that could separate his body into independent, flying parts when he yelled the magic word, "Split!"

Needless to say, he didn't last very long. Marvel Comics jumped on it in 1967. Marvel owner Martin Goodman saw it as a natural for the company. He ordered Stan Lee to create a new Captain Marvel. Stan was unenthused about the idea so he passed it along to Roy Thomas. What emerged was a captain of the alien Kree race named Mar-Vell and a series that couldn't sit still. In the beginning, Mar-Vell wore green and white, was in love with fellow Kree Una, and made an enemy of his commanding officer Yon-Rog. In various attempts to keep the character alive, CM was given god-like power by a creature named Zo (along with a new red and blue costume) and Una was killed off. Later, Zo was revealed to be a fraud and Yon-Rog was destroyed.

In a clever homage to the body swapping of young Billy Batson with the original Cap, Mar-Vell ends up tied to former Hulk and Captain America protégé Rick Jones via the "nega-bands"; golden bracelets worn by the Kree hero. When the nega-bands are slammed together, Rick and Mar-Vell switch places. One of them is on earth while the other floats in the Negative Zone. It isn't long after this that writer/artist Jim Starlin comes on the scene, bringing Thanos with him and things get very interesting. But first, there's this Marvel Team-Up story from Len Wein and Gil Kane, which brings Spidey and Captain Marvel together to battle the Basilisk.

In Detail...

"Beware the Basilisk My Son!"
Marvel Team-Up #16
Dec 1973 : SM Title
Summary: Spider-Man & Captain Marvel (vs. the Basilisk)
Arc: Part 1 of "Beware the Basilisk My Son!"
Editor:  Roy Thomas
Writer:  Len Wein
Pencils:  Gil Kane
Inker:  Jim Mooney
Cover Art:  Gil Kane
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 Reprinted In: Essential Marvel Team-Up #1
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Pocket Book #2
Articles: The Basilisk

Rick Jones is in a hurry. From the Negative Zone, Captain Marvel is mentally nudging him, instructing him to "make a left turn at the next corner" because his "Kree-born senses" have detected a threat. Rick reminds Mar-Vell about the menace he sensed in San Francisco and wonders if they should be on their way to the west coast. But no, the Captain assures Rick that the bigger threat of the two is right here in New York. (And what is the threat to San Francisco? I've browsed through a number of the Captain Marvel comics of the time and can't find any reference to it. Can anybody out there offer any help?) When Rick asks for more details, Cap tells him to "concentrate and allow my thoughts to swell within you". In his mind's eye, Rick sees what "looks like the world's biggest emerald". Captain Marvel calls it... the Alpha-Stone!

Across town, a hand in a purple glove caresses the glass case that holds the Alpha-Stone. The place is a museum and the hand belongs to a balding, mustached thief named Basil Elks... derisively called "Basilisk" by other cons "in the pen" after "the legendary beast whose glance could turn men into stone 'cause it was so fearsome while I was such a shlump". (Don't you hate characters that just happen to get powers that allow them to take on a "super-power" name that sounds very much like their actual name? Don't you hate characters that just happen to get powers that allow them to take on a "super-power" name that was previously their derisive nickname? Good old Basil Elks is both!) Basil raps on the glass with his flashlight, cracks open the case, pulls the stone out, and stands there staring at it. He thinks he is stealing the "gran'daddy of all emeralds" but he notices that it is "glowing, throbbing, pulsating like it had a life of its own". Then he hears a v! oice from behind, ordering him to "Hold it!"

Basil turns to see the museum guard who is holding a flashlight in his left hand and a gun in his right. At first, Basil can't understand why the guard is there already. After all, he's not scheduled to be in this part of the building for another five minutes. But then Basil realizes that those five minutes passed while he stood gloating over the stone. He knows that an arrest here will probably lead to a permanent stay behind bars... "back to the jeers, the ridicule". So, throwing caution to the wind, he reaches for his own gun in his coat pocket.

The guard warns him to hold still but Basil has nothing to lose and doesn't hesitate. With no other choice, the guard shoots at Basil, but he is a bad shot and the bullet hits the Alpha-Stone instead. The stone shatters with a "sprackt!" and explodes with enough force to throw the guard off his feet. The explosion engulfs Basil. Surprisingly, when the dust clears, Basil is still standing but his clothes are in tatters, he has lost all his hair, his skin has turned green, and his eyes have gotten large and red, with diamond-shaped yellow pupils. In the heat of the moment, neither man seems to notice these changes. The guard picks up his gun and aims it at Basil. Basil has lost his own gun so, in a panic, he begs the guard to "freeze where you are". In answer to his plea, a red ray blast shoots out from Basil's eyes. The ray hits the guard and freezes him, as requested; turning the guard to solid ice.

It occurs to Basil that red rays from his eyes are not normal. He notices his reflection in an antique mirror and comes to understand that the gem turned him into something more than human. He need only think of something and the rays fire from his eyes to accommodate him. So, he shoots at an "ancient suit of armor" and converts it into a green and yellow costume with three white spikes on the back. (Too bad the Alpha-Stone couldn't have given him a fashion-sense.) Now, he proudly assumes the name that was used to ridicule him in prison. Now he is... the Basilisk!

"A half-block north", Peter Parker is hurrying to get to a movie. He's looking forward to it. He hasn't been to a movie in so long, he wonders if he can "tell Clint Eastwood from Linda Lovelace". (What kind of films is Peter seeing, anyway?) But Pete is destined to keep Clint and Linda confused for a little longer yet. There is no movie in his immediate future (Ha! Little joke there.) because he just happens to be passing by when a museum wall busts outward. He sees the Basilisk emerge, talking to himself, referring to himself in the third person (as in "The Basilisk will rule supreme!"), explaining that he senses the power of another gemstone in the city just like the one he absorbed, a gem that will add to his power if he can find it. Pete immediately goes into action. He leaps the fence into Central Park and returns moments later in the costume of the Amazing Spider-Man.

In seconds, the web-slinger has caught up to the Basilisk. The villain turns and fires his eye-blasts at the wall-crawler. Spidey leaps out of the way (the blasts striking a lamppost), then swings down and administers his patented two-footed kick right into the Basilisk's noggin. Basil rises to his hands and knees and commands Spidey to "Look closely" but the webhead can see how the eye-rays have set fire to the lamppost and he doesn't plan for the same thing to happen to him. Quickly, he fires some webbing and covers the Basilisk's eyes. This tactic gets him nowhere as Basilisk fries the webbing right off with his rays. Spidey is forced to dodge the blast once again. While he is still off-balance, the Basilisk gets physical by leaping at his foe and thrusting his head right into Spidey's chest. Basil follows up with a left-handed punch that flattens the wall-crawler. He grits his teeth ferociously and declares that "the Basilisk will begin his career by destroying t! he famous Spider-Man!"

But since this is a Marvel Team-Up story, we know the cavalry will arrive. (How many times would Spidey have bought the farm in Team-Up if the guest-star hadn't shown up in the nick of time, anyway?) Sure enough, just as the Basilisk is about to fry the defeated Spider-Man, Rick Jones rounds the corner and takes the scene in. From the Neg Zone, (or perhaps the "Nag Zone" as my spellchecker suggests) Captain Marvel orders him to slam the nega-bands on his wrists together. Rick does so, and Captain Marvel appears on Earth once again!

Even as the ray-blasts leave the Basilisk's eyes, Mar-Vell springs into action. He tackles the Basilisk, pulling him away from the webster, and then punches Basil in the snoot with a right-handed blow. The Basilisk refers to Cap as "another costumed cretin" to which Mar-Vell takes offense. But Basil isn't concerned about that. Instead, he realizes that he never knew the word "cretin" before. This must mean that the Alpha-Stone has also increased his intelligence. (How do you like that? You increase someone's intelligence and they learn new words without ever hearing them before!) This makes him more anxious than ever to find the second gem. So, Basil shoots his eye-beams at CM's feet and the sidewalk gets turned into a quicksand that starts sucking Mar-Vell "down into the street". (Well, it should be "down into the sidewalk" but what the heck.) Cap counters by focusing his "internal energies on levitation". It is a great strain but it slowly works. He rises into ! the air, above the quicksand, goes after the Basilisk, and blasts the bad guy in the chest with a bolt from his nega-band. Basil realizes that "destroying [CM] and Spider-Man could take the whole night" so he decides to bail and look for the second gemstone. He shoots his eye-beams down at the sidewalk and thrusts himself up into the air "as if they were rocket engines". (Do NOT try this at home!) Of course, Captain Marvel (who can fly) pursues which seems to surprise the Basilisk for some reason. In retaliation, he turns his optic blasts on Cap, solidifying the air around him. Mar-Vell realizes that "caught like this, I cannot sustain my flight and from this height a fall could kill me".

But before we look into the consequences of this, let's take a moment to think about what has just happened. Basil uses his eye beams like rockets to thrust up into the air. Well and good. Then, he manages to fly away from the scene, parallel to the ground except... shouldn't he just keep going straight up like a rocket? What thrust is he using to push himself along? And even if he was somehow still using his eye beams, shouldn't he fall to earth the instant he turns those rays onto Captain Marvel and solidifies the air? Just wondering.

Anyway, Marv is now trapped in solid air, which makes him look like he is imprisoned in a big transparent gem. (And this is called foreshadowing.) The weight of the "gem" pulls him to earth and certain death. But then his descent is halted by a net made of webbing which is strung between buildings. Spider-Man has recovered and saved the Kree captain's life. (Which makes them even, as Spidey points out soon after.) The problem is Cap is still trapped in the "gem" and he is suffocating. Now, however, he has time to collect himself, tense his muscles, and break out of the solid air. He joins the web-slinger down on the sidewalk. Spidey asks if he knows "what this Basilisk mess is about" and CM says that he does. And he tells the webhead a little story.

It seems that there was a spaceship back in the Kree sector of space charged with the transport of two gems. "Their names would be unpronounable", Cap tells Spidey, but let's just call them the Alpha-Stone and the Omega-Stone. The spaceship's mission was to drop the stones into "the heart of a distant sun" to destroy them. (Why not the heart of a nearby sun? Would have been easier.) Unfortunately, a member of the crew decides to steal the gems, "escape the Kree-ship in a small life-craft, sell the gems on some far-flung world and live in luxury for the rest of his days". He guns down a couple of his fellows, takes the stones, leaves in the life-craft and blows up real good. Why? Because "power such as they [the gems] bestow is more than even a Kree can handle with impunity". Or something like that. The spaceship thinks the gems are destroyed and leaves the scene. But instead, the stones drifted through space and "by the greatest coincidence" eventually landed on E! arth. (It's just like red and green Kryptonite, gang!) CM concludes the story by telling Spidey about his detection of the Alpha-Stone earlier in the evening. He deduces that the Basilisk is in pursuit of the Omega-Stone. Luckily, the same senses that registered the presence of the Alpha-Stone can still register its power within the Basilisk. Captain Marvel takes to the air, "attuned to the Basilisk". Spider-Man web-slings just behind.

Downtown in the financial district, a night watchman at a construction site pours himself a cup of his wife's awful coffee. He hears a sound like "somebody on the lot". Looking to his right, over by the crane, he sees a strange green man crouching down in the dirt. The Basilisk is certain that the Omega-Stone is in the ground just below him. First, though, he must deal with the watchman who has drawn his gun and orders him to "move along quietly". He doesn't have much trouble. He uses his eye-beams to melt the gun, then, with the guard cowering in terror, he simply punches his lights out. (Or so we assume. The actual moment of violence isn't shown, according to Len, "to avoid offending your sensibilities".)

With Captain Marvel and Spider-Man drawing nearer, the Basilisk starts excavating by training his eye-beams on the ground, dreaming of ruling of world as he does so. He has only dug down a foot or so when the two heroes arrive. Spidey stupidly announces their arrival ("Heads up, Basil-boy, you've got yourself some company!"), giving Basilisk the opportunity to look up and aim his optic blasts at his enemies. Spidey, using a crane as an anchor for his web-slinging, thinks the Basilisk has missed him by a mile when the eye beams strike the crane instead but it's all according to Basil's plan. The rays turn the crane's neck to rubber. Spidey's weight bends the crane down until it slingshots back up. The wall-crawler goes flying away from the action.

Captain Marvel seizes the advantage by flying down and punching the Basilisk with a hard left hand. With Basil dazed from the blow, Cap reaches down into the hole and tries to scratch away the last bit of dirt to get to the Omega-Stone. He can sense it there, "inches below the soil", and he gets so distracted by his search that he doesn't notice the Basilisk recover from the punch and power up his eye beams for a killing strike. Fortunately, Spider-Man has returned from his little journey. He kicks Basil in the face (again), knocking him into the vicinity of a pile of steel girders awaiting their use in the upcoming construction. Cap yells at Spidey to keep Basil busy while he recovers the stone. So Spidey evades an eye blast, then shoots his webbing at the pile of girders and pulls them down. Basil, who apparently gained "lightning-swift agility" from the Alpha-Stone along with his eye blasts, manages to leap away.

Back at the hole, Captain Marvel pushes away enough dirt to actually see the stone. It is "pulsating, glowing" and he finds it "strangely beautiful". Mar-Vell picks it up and the stone starts to grow! Somehow it has reacted to CM's touch ("feeding on my Kree-energies to increase its size"). Before he knows it, the stone has grabbed hold of his leg. In seconds, the stone has grown big enough to swallow the Captain entirely. Spidey and Basil pause long enough in their battle to notice what is happening. In front of their eyes, the gem starts to shimmer and glow. Then, in a burst of white light, it disappears, taking Captain Marvel with it. The thwarted Basilisk takes his leave by doing that eye-beams-thrusting-like-a-rocket thing once again. Spider-Man doesn't bother to follow him. After all, the stone is gone, Captain Marvel is gone, and Spider-Man doesn't have a clue as to what is going on. He wants to help Mar-Vell but he doesn't know what he can do about it. He! wonders, "What can I do about anything?"

What indeed? Read on in Marvel Team-Up #17.