I once thought I'd found the single greatest comic book ever written. Now, I'm not so confident. A new contender to be the King of Great Comics has found its way to me:
Luke Cage, Power Man #29
Cover-dated February 1973
It features the first appearance and origin of "The Most Frightful Villain Ever," Mr. Fish!
The story starts with a note that due to "DREADED DEADLINE DOOM," the cliffhanger from the last issue will not be resolved until the next issue. That's right: this story was sitting in a file somewhere, quietly saving its dynamic art and captivating story for just the right moment. It certainly wasn't a crappy filler story.
Luke Cage has been hired to protect some trucks. He does really well for the first page or two. He doesn't do so well on page three.
Sweet Jumping Christmas, indeed. Luke sees someone running away. Luke chases him and gets hit in the head with a stick. Then he jumps over a fence and falls in a hole. Finally, he catches up to the guy he's been chasing at a construction site, and we get our first look at Mr. Fish and his gang.
A few things. First: the cover promised the line "NOBODY laughs at Mr. Fish," not "NO ONE laughs at Mr. Fish." Second: how could you not laugh at this guy? He's like a cross between a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Aquaman, and The Incredible Mr. Limpet . What happend between the cover and here?
Mr. Fish on the cover:
Scary, white-eyed freak
Mr. Fish in the story:
Third: How 'bout that fine and not-at-all-offensive art and text? What's with the creepy midget dude-who-might-be-a-lady? "Can't yo' tell, Mistah Cage?" So very classy. And what kind of henchman hangs on his bosses' leg?
Cage fights the gang. The creepy little guy jumps on Cage, but he moves too fast for Cage to grab him. Let me repeat that: Luke Cage has trouble fighting a midget with no special powers escept that he can move quickly- not Quicksilver/Flash quickly, but Domino's-guy-trying-for-better-tips funny.
Eventually, Mister Fish shoots Cage with a special zap gun and Cage is knocked out. Mr. Fish could just zap him again until he dies, but they have a better idea. They drag Cage to the top of the semi-constructed building, and then Mr. Fish tells his "Incredible Secret Origin." Even Cage knows this guy is lame, and doesn't care how he ended up a walking tuna.
(By the way- even though Cage has skin like steel, he still cries like a baby when you slap him.)
He tries to steal some radioactive isotope, then he falls in the ocean. As everyone knows, radioactive isotopes in comic books= super powers related to your surroundings. Comics sure do love their radioactive isotope. I'm surprised Thor didn't get his powers from a radioactive frost giant. Here's Mr. Not-Yet-Fish robbing the truck:
What? No bunny on the cover? WHAT KIND OF PLAYBOY IS THIS?????
Highly radioactive isotopes are always shielded by a minimum of one-eighth of an inch of high-quality cardboard.
Cage and Mr. Fish fight, and Cage pulls out his secret fighting trick: MOVING.
I love Luke Cage's pose in the second panel- it's like he's dancing and waving goodbye. Also: in the first panel, Mr. Fish's head has now changed into a blowfish with a Fu Manchu moustache. And is he wearing Aquaman Underoos?
What will happen next to Mr. Fish? Here's a clue:
I know what you're saying: "No comic could be that awesome- he must have made it up." I WILL PROVE YOU WRONG. You can download and read the entire comic for yourself: Power Man 28. It's not the American version- I think it's the UK version- but the pages are the same.
Other Mr. Fish pages:
I am not alone in my appreciation of this story.
Mr. Fish's Wikipedia entry
Seanbaby's discussion of Mr. Fish (and others)
Scott Shaw!'s Oddball Comics page
Mr. Fish's Unofficial Handbook of the Marvel Universe entry
RIOT Comic's article
Nobody Laughs at Mister Fish (a weblog)