Power Man #28 (1975)

Few comic writers have written with the poetic feeling or style of Don McGregor, and few have been more effective at conveying the gritty reality of life in New York as McGregor. In Power Man #28, McGregor tells a story about a nasty little conspiracy to truck a poison gas through New York, while Luke Cage, Power Man, fights a vicious little creature called the Cockroach. McGregor was always great at portraying life in New York as it really was, full of nastiness and grime, with danger around every corner, but still possessing an odd sort of beauty.
 
I just love his prose. Check this out:
Manhattan at Broadway and Times Square. 2 a.m. The restless hour. When it seems there was anything called dawn. The junkies nod on the sidewalks, murmuring their "in" slang. The hustlers become a bit more desperate to make their hit for the night. The broken people, the dreamless dreamers, stagger about, their eyes the color of the neon signs they pass as they seek a subway stairwell for a night’s lodging. And the Winston sign still puffs its steam into the soot-gray sky, despite the fact that Luke Cage comes battering through it. For Cage, the night has just begun – but the man with the six-barreled shotgun is determined to end it – abruptly.
See, nobody writes like that! And on a book like Luke Cage, Power Man, to boot – maybe the least thoughtful and most desultory of all of Marvel’s ’70s series, a comic created as part of the blaxpoitation wave and passed around from writer to writer since it was such a chore to write. Suddenly McGregor took the comic over and the whole thing came to life. The stories had passion and energy, recurring humor and great cliffhangers, elevating this mediocre comic into something approaching greatness. He only wrote five or six issues, but they were as fine as any comics of that era, full of grit and energy and passion.
 
McGregor embraced the hidden greatness of this series. Power Man had always had a bizarre street-level feel to it; McGregor embraced the street and strove to make Cage a man of the street, a hero for the people. He added humor and pathos, adding scenes dripping with local color. He even took the second-rate villains of the series and did the amazing balancing act of embracing the villains’ cheeziness while giving them real pathos and interesting background.
 
Long before Moore took over Swamp Thing and Miller took over Daredevl, McGregor gave a textbook example of how to reinvent a series while being true to its roots. It’s a shame he only did about five issues, because this is magic stuff.
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2 Responses to “Power Man #28 (1975)”

  1. Ariel Says:

    I have a fond place in my heart for both Power Man and Iron Fist because when my dad used to buy me spidey comics when I was a kid, later on I discovered that Marvel had other heroes such as these which weren\’t as popular but just as fun to read.

  2. Henry R. Kujawa Says:

    I love the entire run of HERO FOR HIRE. When it changed to POWER MAN, it quickly devolved into chaotic 5th-rate junk. I was already a huge fan of Don McGregor’s BLACK PANTHER, so I was really looking forward to it.

    Then they went thru 4 artists in a 3-part story which was interrupted after part 1 by an inventory fill-in. And then they got Frank Robbins on the art. It was as if someone in “editorial” was TRYING to kill the book– or at least, Don McGregor’s career.

    And maybe they were. Don, after all, was the ONLY writer at Marvel who was NOT writing “Marvel Method”. He always wrote FULL SCRIPT with layouts– you know, just like Harvey Kurtzman. And some in power may have resented the hell out of that.

    Only last year I finally figured out WHY “Marvel Method” was so prevelent– and it had nothing whatsoever to do with being (allegedly) a “good” way to write comics. Because it ISN’T. I see the whole thing as a CON to make people think one particular writer was always doing comics that way– when he NEVER did.

    It’s really a shame George Tuska didn’t come back and do every issue of Don’s run. Apart from Billy Graham, Tuska was “the” Luke Cage artist.

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