Marvel Novel Series #9: a Marvel Superheroes anthology

#9: Stan Lee Presents: the Marvel Superheroes edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman

This is the most unique paperback of the series for several reasons:

  1. It is the only anthology of the series.
  2. It contains the only story that was originally in a comic book before being novelized (the Hulk tale)
  3. It contains the only story that was later adapted to a comic book (the Avengers tale)
  4. It ties with #10 for the longest book (208 pages, but is second in actual text pages)
  5. It is the only book of the series with a story written by a woman.
  6. (more personally) it was the only book I owned of the series at the time they were originally published. It was also the first time I read about the X-Men (I would flip over to the cover while reading to guess which character was which), Daredevil, Man-Thing and Ultron.

It says something about the quality of this book that I still remember most of it 37 years later: Tony Stark‘s techno-fear (he shivers and the temperature in the lab is automatically raised – what if Ulton is in control?), the Wasp’s disgust at the shade of green in Moondragon’s costume, the other Avengers calling Vision “Vizh” – as a kid I was fascinated at this use of phonetic dialogue, etc. (I already had some stories under my belt), Man-Thing smothering the Hulk, Nightcrawler, when told to teleport into an unknown cylinder asking, “What if it is solid?”.

 

The book was published on August 1, 1979 and contains 208 pages; the first story beginning on page 9.

Delineation pages divide the stories – a blank page, a title page with an illustration of the protagonists (or some of them in the case of the Avengers and X-Men) and another blank page before the new story begins. This only leaves 188 pages of actual text, making it actually the second-longest book of the series.

The cover art is by the late Dave Cockrum, co-creator (at least) of Nightcrawler, Colossus and Storm. His work with the Legion of Superheroes and the X-Men has achieved cult status.

Co-edited and compiled by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans.  Len Wein is introduced in the section reviewing his Hulk story …

***

The Avengers, “This Evil Undying” by James Shooter.

Speaking of the Legion of Superheroes … “Big” Jim Shooter began writing professional stories of the Legion beginning at age 14. He created Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, the Fatal Five and the Parasite (the Superman foe). He was Marvel’s editor-in-chief for nine years beginning in 1978 during the publication of this book series.

Through a post-hypnotic suggestion during their last battle, Iron Man revives Ultron. Ultron was last destroyed by the Scarlet Witch’s hex powers.

Iron Man, suspecting he might be manipulated, left a tracer for the other Avengers to find him in case he is controlled again. Good thinking. Iron Man WAS controlled and kidnapped the Witch, taking her to Ultron’s new lair.

The remaining Avengers – Captain America, Thor, Vision and Hawkeye – gave chase. The Wasp also joins in the fight- following Iron Man and the Scarlet Witch in her own way.

The final battle with Ultron is joined!

An excellent and fun story – one of the best of this series! It was adapted in comic book form in Avengers 201-202.

But the story wasn’t perfect- Hawkeye’s juvenile dialogue was grating even when I read it in 1979 – and I was the perfect age at which this story was aimed. Given more pages, his character could have been fleshed out. The “I am the weakest member which explains my sophomoric bravado” shtick (used a lot during the “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” days of the Avengers) was only touched on. He redeemed himself, of course, and showed him to be as heroic as any of the other more powerful Avengers, but by then I was sick of the shtick…

Captain America barked some commands and threw his Mighty Shield, but little else. The book focused on the members of the Avengers who hadn’t gotten their own novel yet … with one exception …

I wish there would have been more Thor!

Talk about hands-on management: Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter could still kick out a wonderful and readable tale! This could have easily been made into a full-length story with more action added (going after Ultron’s mechanical robotic “army” – two, count ‘em – with more time spent on Hawkeye, Cap and Thor). Why wasn’t it?

***

Daredevil, “Blind Justice” by Kyle Christopher.

Christopher is the pen name for Martin Pasko, an Emmy-award winning writer known by us Bronze Age fans as a writer of Superman family of stories and the Swamp Thing revival. His origin reboot of Dr. Fate is still considered canon.  He also wrote Bronze Age Wonder Woman and the World’s Greatest Superheroes comic strip.

Comic book scribe Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Flash) lists this story as one of “the five most underrated Daredevil stories you must read” (http://13thdimension.com/the-five-most-underrated-daredevil-stories-you-must-read-by-mark-waid/) and with good reason!

A man and woman are put in witness protection after finking on the local mafia. They are treated so improperly by the government they come out of hiding and hire Nelson and Murdock to sue. The mob, headed by the Owl, go after the couple (and Foggy) with lethal force. Daredevil discovers a mob informant within their circle of office staff and friends (that’s as close as I can get without spoiling). Daredevil’s origin is also recapped.

The story is secondary compared to the parts detailing Daredevil’s abilities. His ability to “see” even though blind is superbly explained throughout the short story. He can read emotions by hearing pulse rates and heart beats; he determines body language by sensing air currents. He can read newsprint due to the shape of the ink on the paper. Describing these details in prose is handled better than when tried in comic book form – at least when Pasko is writing it.

***

The X-Men, “Children of the Atom” by Mary Jo Duffy.

This would have been among Duffy’s first work in the industry. Her first Marvel stories were in 1979: the start of her long run on Power Man/Iron Fist, an excellent story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Old Republic in Star Wars #26 (a personal favorite) and issues of Defenders and Marvel Two-in-One.

She gives us an excellent story that serves as a great primer for the X-Men. Considering the complex weave of the franchise over the past few decades, it is tempting to call the story simplistic, but it is not. It is a wonderful short story.

For ten pages we are introduced to Salem Center and Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Professor X and six of his students: Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Banshee, Storm and Colossus.

American and Soviet missiles are straying from their projected paths during an international test. Professor X deduces they are affected by a magnetic anomaly barely traceable at the Arctic Circle.

Who could be behind it? (I know! I know! Ooo! Ooo! Mr. Kotter!)

The X-Men go to the magnetic anomaly and find the stronghold of the supervillain of the piece … a mutant named …

No, not the Toad!

***

The Incredible Hulk, “Museum Piece” by Len Wein.

Len Wein is the co-creator of Marvel’s Wolverine as well as being the one who joined him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men he also co-created DC’s Swamp Thing. Here he writes of the Hulk meeting Marvel’s version of the muck-encrusted mockery of a man. In a literary sense, Len Wein shows us his Man-Thing.

This is the only story in the Marvel Novel Series what was a comic book first – a prose story adapted from Incredible Hulk #s 197-198 (also written by Len Wein).

The Hulk battles local Florida police and ends up carried by a helicopter to the everglades. After battling alligators and snakes, the Hulk finally rests and changes back to Banner. Bruce finds a small, mute, grey-colored man and befriends him just as they are attacked by pirates. Yes, pirates.

Turning into the Hulk, he dispatches the pirates quickly but then confronts their master – the Collector! The Collector turns the grey man into the Golem and orders it to attack Hulk.

The Collector also has Man-Thing in his sway, and orders Man-Thing to attack Hulk, too.

Hulk and his two friends are locked in a pod and kept docile by ankle-bracelets. Turning back into Banner, he easily slips through the ankle-bracelets; Golem and Man-Thing then slip through their bracelets easily due to their powers.

Hulk befriends Scheherazade and eventually confronts the Collector and his minions: alien warriors, soldiers from history, etc. Man-Thing and the Golem join in.

It’s a Monster Mash and an incredibly fun story! It was a good comic book, too!

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.

Celebrating the 200th issue of … every comic book ever!

200 and counting!

My 200th blog. That may not be a big deal for writers who blog every day – they’d hit 200 by July of their first year of blogging. But it’s a big deal for me! That’s a lot of writing!

Ironically I am in the middle of a blog series commemorating the comic books released by DC comics during the US Bicentennial of July 1976. If you collected 25 of the 33 comics published with the Bicentennial banner cover and you will get a free Superman belt buckle.

A comic book reaching its 200th milestone is a big deal. Probably more so nowadays with the constant rebooting and relaunching of titles, it is not likely we’ll see many comics go all the way to number 200. It still happens, though: Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man released its 200th issue on June 2014.

#200 anniversary issues were usually a larger-than-normal-sized comic (with a larger price tag of course) and a special story or the rip-roaring conclusion of a story arc. But that was usually in the bronze age and beyond. Earlier comics (before 1970) usually didn’t care about their 200th issue.

Some of these comics didn’t even mention their 200th anniversary issue other than their standard numbering:

Action_Comics_200

Action Comics: January 1955

Adventure_Comics_200

Adventure Comics: May 1954

Detective_Comics_200

Detective Comics: October 1953

House_of_Mystery_v.1_200

House of Mystery: May 1972. Great cover by Neal Adams here.

Strange_Adventures_200

Strange Adventures: May 1967

300px-Star-Spangled_War_Stories_Vol_1_200

Star Spangled War Stories: July 1976.

This in particular was a real shame at a missed opportunity. Dated July 1976, the 200th anniversary of the USA and this landmark was not even mentioned in a cover blurb. Compare that to Captain America #200 with an August 1976 cover date:

 Captain_America_Vol_1_200

Others included:

Blackhawk_Vol_1_200

Blackhawk: September 1964

Millie_the_Model_Vol_1_200

Millie the Model: February 1973

and Superman: October 1967 and Wonder Woman: June 1972 (reprinted below)

Older Archie comics were not known for celebrating their 200th issues:

Archie: June 1970

Betty & Veronic

Archie’s Girls Betty & Veronica: August 1972

Laugh Archie

Laugh: November 1967

Pep

Pep: December 1966

Jughead

Jughead: January 1972

Life with Archie

Life with Archie: December 1978

betty-and-me

Betty & Me: August 1992

               Again, this could be a Bronze Age or later thing … in fact, only Betty & Me from 1992 gives the anniversary even a cover blurb.

Harvey comics? I didn’t want to troll the internet looking for the hundreds of titles they published to see how many made it to 200. The main characters Richie Rich and Casper each had dozens of titles between them. I only checked their eponymous comics – both of those reached 200.

Richie RichCasper

But other Harvey comics? Wendy the Good Little Witch made it to the 50s in number of issues, Little Dot over 100, but Richie Rich and Casper were the only ones I found that made it to #200. Keep in mind I didn’t look very hard…

The big two – Marvel & DC – being mostly in the superhero vein, were the ones who celebrated 200th anniversaries the most. Three characters – Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash – had two eponymous comics hit #200.  Wonder_Woman_Vol_1_200Wonder_Woman_Vol_2_200

Superman 200Superman_v.2_200

Flash_v.1_200Flash_v.2_200

 

Other DC comics that hit #200:

Batman_200

Batman: March 1968 (note this early celebration, but this was at the end of the Batman TV show craze …)

Green_Lantern_Vol_2_200

Green Lantern: May 1986

Our_Army_at_War_Vol_1_200

Our Army At War: December 1968

Superboy_Vol_1_200

Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes 200: February 1974. Featuring the marriage of Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel and starring all members, the Substitutes, the Wanderers and others!

GI_Combat_Vol_1_200

GI Combat: March 1977

Hellblazer_Vol_1_200

Hellblazer: November 2004

Superman_Family_Vol_1_200

Superman Family: April 1980

 Unexpected_200

Unexpected: July 1980

World's_Finest_Comics_200

World’s Finest: February 1971

Young_Romance_Vol_1_200

Young Romance: August 1974

(note these last two also had no real focus on their 200th issue)

***

 Marvel comics had their share of 200th anniversaries, too; aside from Captain America in August 1976:

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_200

Amazing Spider-Man: January 1980

Avengers_Vol_1_200

Avengers: October 1980

Fantastic_Four_Vol_1_200

Fantastic Four: November 1978. This issue featured the “final” battle between Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom. Doom was killed at the end of this issue, true, but came back (as nearly all comics villains do) some issues later.

Incredible_Hulk_Vol_1_200

Incredible Hulk: June 1976

Kid_Colt_Outlaw_Vol_1_200

Kid Colt Outlaw: November 1975

Thor_Vol_1_200

Thor: June 1972

ConantheBarbarian200

Conan the Barbarian: November 1987

Daredevil_Vol_1_200

Daredevil November 1983

Iron_Man_Vol_1_200

Iron Man: November 1985

Marvel_Tales_Vol_2_200

Marvel Tales: June 1987

SavageSword200

Savage Sword of Conan: August 1992

The_Spectacular_Spider-Man_Vol_1_200

Spectacular Spider-Man: May 1993

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_200

Uncanny X-Men: December 1985

What_If-_Vol_1_200

What If: February 2011

X-Factor_Vol_1_200

X-Factor: February 2010

X-Men_Vol_2_200

X-Men: August 2007

Other publishers: Looney Tunes: September 2011

 Looney_Tunes_Vol_1_200

And let us not forget one of the longest running comics of all time…

 Adventures of the Big Boy

In my internet searching on this comic I’ve not been able to find a cover date.

And finally …

cerebus_200

 

 

My personal favorites?

 JLA_v.1_200

Justice League of America: March 1982. This comic featured all members of the JLA – the original team members were hypnotized into assembling pieces of a mcguffin that will bring one of their original villains back to full power. The subsequent members try to fight off the originals. Each battle is its own chapter with a different artist. In beautiful art by Joe Kubert, for example, Hawkman fights Superman. The Phantom Stranger/Aquaman/Red Tornado battle is the only artwork by Jim Aparo in Justice League of America. Lots of great art throughout.

 Brave_and_the_bold_200

Brave & Bold: July 1983. The final issue of my favorite comic of all time. Let me cheat and use the review from my free ebook: The Brave & the Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, a Guide to the DC Comic Book.  Available here.

Batman & Batman (Earth Two), Smell of Brimstone, Stench of Death” Writer: Mike W. Barr, Art: Dave Gibbons.  …

               Earth-Two, 1955 (the year B&B began): After a series of robberies, Batman and Robin finally defeat Brimstone. Earth-Two 1983: Hate is all that has kept Brimstone alive. His hatred of Batman is so great; when he hears of Batman’s death, his mind passes into his Earth-One counterpart where another hated Batman still lives! Earth-One 1983: Brimstone causes riots in Gotham and eventually traps Batman in the same lava “hell pit” Batman escaped 28 years before! Can Batman escape – er – again – in time to save Gotham, catch Brimstone and find out who the heck Brimstone is? Well of course he can, but he never figures out Brimstone’s Earth-Two secret. And he never will.

               “Batman and the Outsiders”, Writer: Mike W. Barr, Art: Jim Aparo. Batman and the Outsiders protect Mikos from his own terrorist subordinates – who vow to kill Mikos (under his own orders) for the glory of the cause!

               Oft-requested Batmite finally appears in Brave & Bold in a one page comic.

               For the first time since Nemesis, new characters were introduced – Halo, Geo-Force and Katana.  They are the first new B&B superheroes since Metamorpho, who is also a member of the new Outsiders.

               One last team-up and one last try-out.  The try-out was a success: the Outsiders going on to their own series (replacing Brave & Bold on DC’s roster along with New Talent Showcase) and lasting for several years afterward. Later incarnations link the Outsiders (still featuring the resurrected Metamorpho) as a splinter group of the Teen Titans.  Appropriately, both groups began in Brave & Bold. The third incarnation harks back to the Batman-formed play-by-their-own-rules meta group.

               It was trendy at DC for a while to introduce new groups by mixing new characters and old. At times it worked brilliantly (the Teen Titans); at times it was an utter failure (the Justice League of America). The Outsiders were another success.

 ***

Have I missed any? Most assuredly: Dell 4-Color, other Looney Tunes comics, etc.  I hope I didn’t leave out your favorite! But Happy 200 everyone!

 ***

Excerpt from The Brave & the Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, a Guide to the DC Comic Book copyright 2014 and reprinted here with the author’s permission.

Otherwise, original material copyright 2015 by Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.