If you're looking for a short (240 pages), relatively inexpensive series, this it. Nearly every Marvel super-hero is included in the 12 issues, including Spider-Man, the Avengers, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Thor. The ladies are represented too, by Spider-Woman and the She-Hulk.
This is the best selling Marvel mini-series of all-time. Marvel had previously featured lots of crossover appearances in its regular series, but this was the first time it brought together a whole gaggle of characters in a long series. Back in 1984 it's what made the series unique. The 12 issues gave writer Jim Shooter (Marvel's then editor-in-chief) room to create a large epic story.
The most valuable issue is #8, which featured the first appearance of Spider-Man in his black costume.
Two years earlier Marvel had experimented bringing together lots of heroes in the 3-issue Marvel Super Heroe Contest of Champions mini-series, but it was the financial success of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars that put company-wide character get-togethers a regular feature of comic book publishing.
The series was created to hype a series of action figures and toys. As a result, the series is a really good starter set. If a young reader is going to get interested in reading comics, then they'll definitely find one or more characters they really like in this series.
The series was so successful, that a sequel, Secret Wars II was published two years later.
Following the success of the first Batman movies, DC added this Batman title in 1992.
The series introduced many new villains and the most notable was serial killer Victor Zsasz, who made his first appearance in #1. His motive -- to "free" his victims from a dull, zombie-like existence. He's become a popular Batman villain and had a cameo in the 2005 film Batman Begins.
This series also added fresh layers to the Batman mythos. The first issue introduced Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, head of Arkham Asylum. Issue #45 explored Wayne's ancestors, and one is revealed to have been an abolitionist. For the first time that I can remember I knew a bit more about Bruce Wayne's ancestors beyond that his parents were murdered. Turns out that the Batcave was once part of the Underground Railroad which helped runaway slaves escape to the North.
The series is also known for writer Alan Grant's creativity and artist Brian Stelfreeze's painted covers. Grant, told stories in a truly original way. For example in issue #46, most of the story is framed as flashbacks with narration by serial killer Cornelius Stirk.
Painted covers, used through issue #82, (most by Stelfreeze) established the title's gritty, realistic style, rich in tone and definition. The phrase "art popping off the page" applies. In July 2014, Stelfreeze won the prestigious Inkpot Award.
The series shared storylines with other Batman titles. The biggest crossover was 1999's No Man's Land. With Gotham City devastated by an earthquake and cut off from the outside world, escaped criminals try to seize control - a theme that served as the key point in the 2012 film, The Dark Knight Rises. The storyline appeared in the final 12 issues (#83-94), Detective Comics (1939 series) #730-741, Batman (1940 series) #563-574, Robin (1993 series) #67-73, and Nightwing (1996 series) #35-39.
The series is a must for any big Batman collector, and with a low cost copies due to high supply, is a good way to start an affordable Batman collection.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Superman was by far the most popular comic book hero. And to capitalize on that reknown that DC created comics for two supporting characters -- Daily Planet reporters Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Incredibly, each series ran for over 100 issues. Why was the Lois Lane series so popular?
What is amazing about the early issues of the series, is the stereotypical way DC's all-male editorial staff depicted women. Their stories were
obsessed with Lois' romantic interest in Superman to maneuver him into marriage and Lois' attempts to learn Superman's secret identity. The stories gave the editors a monthly excuse to make Lois look like a weak woman needing to be continually rescued by Superman. If you were a fan of Terry Hatcher's performances in the TV show, "The Adventures of Lois and Clark" in the 1990s, you'll see Hatcher's ditzy take on the character was partly grounded in the persona created in this era.
The first 81 issues were drawn by artist Kurt Schaffenberger and for years his rendition of Lois Lane became the definitive version of the character.
It wasn't until 1968 that DC woke up and changed the focus to Lois' career challenges and social issues and underplayed her romantic pinings. For example, in Issue #106 published in 1970, Lois transforms herself into an African-American woman for 24 hours.
But the change in editorial perspective wasn't successful. Could it be that readers wanted to escape the social upheavels of the era and be entertained with silly fantasy stories? By 1974, the series was cancelled as sales dropped.
When John Byrne re-tooled the entire Superman story line in 1986's Man of Steel series, Lois evolved again, into a tough-as-nails reporter and independent woman who rarely needed rescuing. When Amy Adams played Lois in the 2013 Man of Steel movie, she channeled this version of Lois Lane.
So, if you're interested in any of these eras, or in the depiction of American women in pop culture over time, or looking for a gift for either type of woman, check out Lois Lane comics.
The Eisner Awards are the comic book industry's Oscars. The six-issue Umbrella Academy series, about a "dysfunctional superhero family" won the Eisner Award as the year's best limited series. The series is great, but don't take my word for it, take the word of the professional comic book artists and writers who pick the winners.
In the early 1990s, the hottest comics were not Marvel Comics nor DC Comics. No, the hottest comics were Valiant comics. They were "the only publisher to have ever seriously given Marvel and DC a run for their money,' according to comicbookbin.com. "If you read comic books, [in the early 1990s] chances were you read Valiant comic books … They were the books everyone collected and the ones everyone was excited about", according to IGN.
the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. Valiant was founded by Marvel editors Jim Shooter and Bob Layton and they recruited some of Marvel's best talent to jump to Valiant.
And in this Valiant galaxy, X-0 Manowar became its first breakout hits. Created by Shooter, Layton and Joe Quesada (who later became the chief creative officer of Marvel). X-O Manowar #0 sold over 800,000 copies making it the biggest selling non-Marvel and non-DC comic book of the decade and Diamond Comic Distributors awarded it its "Best Cover of the Year" Award.
If you're a fan of Iron Man and epic heroes like Hercules, or Conan, this series is a must. Its story: Aric Dacia, a fifth-century Visigoth, abducted by aliens, escapes and takes their powerful suit of armor. The armor had many capabilities. It could hack into computers, fire deadly blasts, provide air and protection to the wearer, and could be commanded by pure thought. Transported to modern-day Earth, this a true fish out of water tale, as Aric goes from a barbaric Medieval life to one of modern comforts.
Aric, a child of a barbaric age, would often take things to the extreme. For example, in issue #17 he lays waste to mob members. He leaves only one alive so he can send a message to the survivor's boss. The series also featured guest stars from the Valiant line. Issue #4 featured the first appearance of Jack Boniface, who became Shadowman. Also, Turok, Dinosaur Hunter guest-starred in #14 and would appear on and off throughout the rest of the series.
According to Comicbookbin.com, three of the 10 best comic books of the decade came from Valiant - Solar #0 (Alpha and Omega) was at position #8, Magnus Robot Fighter #1 (6th) Harbinger #1 in the top spot. But publishing is an expensive business, and when the entire comic book industry faltered in the mid-1990s, Valiant lost its funding and it mojo.
By 2000, the value of those $100 early Valiant issues had dropped back down to $5 or less. In 2012, the line was reinvigorated, with the new owners hoping to convert their cache of heroes into billion dollar movie franchises. With new issues of Valiant comics available, the values of the originals are increasing again.
What happens when one of Spider-Man's deadliest enemies, Dr. Octopus, gains control of Spider-Man's mind and body? That's the unique premise of Superior Spider-Man.
The series directly follows Amazing Spider-Man (2003 series), where a dying Doc Ock manages to transfer his consciousness into Spider-Man/Peter Parker's body (in issue #697) to get revenge against his greatest foe. In that series' final issue #700, Peter Parker "dies" in Doc Ock's deteriorating body, but his essence still co-exists with Dr. Octupus' mind.
Superior Spider-Man's concept is refreshingly original. "Spider-Man" becomes an anti-hero with Doc Ock in his body allowing for stories that couldn't have been told in a regular Spider-Man tale. For instance, in Superior Spider-Man #3, Doc Ock in Spidey's body inflicts serious injury on the Vulture, leaving the Vulture burned, bloodied, and blinded. This level of violence is something Peter Parker would never have committed.
It's also interesting seeing Doc Ock living Peter Parker's everyday life with interactions with Parker's friends leading to some humor. Because Doc Ock is so arrogant and conceited, he curses anyone he thinkis is trying to undermine him, such as Peter's boss at Horizon Labs, whom he derides as being small-minded for daring to order him around. And in issue #10, Doc Ock as Peter humiliates his professor, calling his mid-term exam "child's play".
Also compelling is Peter's struggle to regain control of his body. In issue #9 Doc Ock and Spidey engage in a memorable battle in Parker's head. With Parker's consciousness still lurking in his body, he attempts to turn Doc Ock on the straight and narrow path and to make the right decisions.
Adding to Ock's character evolution is Anna Maria Marconi (first appearing in issue #5), a tutor Ock falls for. Through her we see a tender side of Doc Ock we've never quite known before, which gives the character and the series more depth.
The series is also big for fans of Spider-Man 2099, who returned in issue #17. Spider-Man 2099 has always been a popular character since his debut in Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #365 (with a hologram cover). Spider-Man 2099's stint in Superior Spider-Man #17-19 is not only the first time Spider-Man 2099 meets the "new" Spidey but it helps lay the groundwork for Spider-Man 2099's new ongoing series, which debuted in July of 2014.
It's hard to fathom today, but the Silver Surfer's creation and first appearance was totally startling to readers.
Before he first appeared in the mid-1960s, the typical superhero was almost always a spandex-clad human - Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern. Their powers were generally the result of birth in a foreign world or environment (Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Thor) an accident (Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, Daredevil, Captain America), or mutation (X-Men). Most every one was a Caucasian American.
When Jack Kirby unveiled the Silver Surfer for the first time in Fantastic Four (1961 series) issues #48 to 50, he came as a seismic jolt to readers because he broke the mold of superhero stereotypes. He was an alien stranded on earth, but one who didn't desire to assimilate (like Superman). Instead, he was incredulous about the foibles of the human condition.
He began life as an alien from a distant planet, which was threatened by the world-eater Galactus, who needed the energy of other worlds to survive. When Galactus was about to consume his home world, he agreed to become Galactus' herald and search for other planets for Galactus to destroy and consume.
Eventually, he scouted Earth to prepare it for Galactus' destruction. But, moved by humanity's plea, he saved Earth. As punishment for this disloyalty to Galactus, Galactus created a barrier around Earth functional only to the Surfer, exiling him here, never to see his loved ones again.
In 1968, Marvel launched the Surfer in his own series, which followed the Surfer's attempts to escape Earth while saving people who mostly feared and despised him. He saved them because of his morality and to create goodwill with humans.
The series was a startling indictment of the violent nature in the human spirit. It offered insightful, thought-provoking dialogue. The Surfer spoke out against society's ills - like humankind's propensity for violence, fear and hate. Coming during the peak of the 1960s social revolution and the Vietnam war protests, the Surfer became one of the most popular contemporary fiction characters on college campuses.
Just as the TV show Star Trek disguised contemporary issues in a science-fiction context, the Silver Surfer did the same. No TV show or magazine in the 1960s would dare to deal with a real discussion of current issues - to avoid antagonizing its audience. With the United States divided down the middle on issues like the war in Vietnam and the civil rights movement, a discussion could only be had by disguising it within a science fiction setting. The success of this series was due in no small part to dealing with these hot button issues when no other media would.
To emphasize the importance of the message and the series, Marvel launched the series with 44 page stories compared to the typical 22 page comics of the era.
In a 2007 interview with Comic Book Resources, comic writer Simon Spurrier noted, "The Surfer is a perpetual idealist: he can spot the potential for great things in the people around him, but can't understand why, in spite of it all, they're so petty, small-minded and intent on self-destruction." In a 2010 Newsarama interview, comic writer Greg Pak noted, "The Silver Surfer may be the most original character in superhero comics."
The unique theme of the series created a cult following but never a mass audience, and the series was cancelled after just 18 issues. Decades later, the series remains a portal into the consciousness of the counter culture of the 1960s.
Twenty years after his introduction, and long after the counter culture movement of the 1960s had ended, Marvel changed the basic conflict of the character and in Silver Surfer (1987 series) he escaped Earth to travel the galaxy. In a post Star Wars environment of strange new alien worlds to explore and absent the basic ideology of the original series, the new series appealed to a wider audience and lasted 11 years and 146 issues.
Why a surfboard? Was it symbolic of the counter culture's free-wheeling vitality or anything like that? Uh, no. According to "The Ultimate Silver Surfer", Kirby put him on a surfboard because he was merely "tired of drawing spaceships."
The Uncanny X-Men comic book series is more than merely a continuation of X-Men (1963 series). Rather, it is important because of the influence of writer Chris Claremont, who wrote the series for 16 years.
The X-Men featured teenagers born with genetic mutations that gave them super powers. Different from most humans, they were viewed as outcasts. The X-Men stories explored themes of hate, prejudice and public fear and intolerance toward mutants. Although the concept was original, sales were mediocre. But Stan Lee, the co-creator of the series and Marvel's editor -in-chief salvaged the series. Rather than cancel it, he merely reprinted stories in issues #67 to #93.
The X-Men's popularity soared when Chris Claremont (writer) and John Byrne (artist) began as the creative team in issue #108 of X-Men (1963 series). The series was officially re-titled Uncanny X-Men with issue #142. That issue featured the second part of Claremont and Byrne's acclaimed Days of Future Past storyline which formed the basis of the 2014 X-Men movie.
Together, they created the greatest, most epic stories of our time, such as the riveting Dark Phoenix Saga (issues #129-137) in which Jean Grey fully turns to the dark side. That storyline introduced Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost (in issue #129). And Claremont and Byrne created the Canadian super-team Alpha Flight (#120), which also shed more light on the ever-popular Wolverine who was once affiliated with them.
In 2008, Comic Book Resources ranked Claremont and Byrne's work on Uncanny X-Men the second best creative team-up in comic book history. (Only Stan Lee and Jack Kirby topped them). In May 2014 Rolling Stone gushed, "Claremont combined soapy angst with cosmic scope, while hitting the prejudice theme harder than ever: Now the teenage outsiders who had begun to dominate comic-book readership saw the mutant struggle as their own."
Byrne left after issue #143, but Claremont continued for another 10 years - an incredible run. He created Rogue, who first appeared in Avengers (1963 series) Annual #10. Originally a villain and a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, she flipped sides and joined the X-Men in #171.
Claremont is credited with developing strong female characters and introducing complex literary themes with deep, emotional stories that went beyond the usual action-adventure fare in comics. Claremont also created Jubilee (#244), Gambit (#266), the time-traveling Bishop (#282) as well as dozens of other X-Men characters, including Sabretooth, Captain Britain, Rachel Summers, and Madeline Pryor.
For example, in issue #303 Colossus' little sister, Illyana, dies from a fatal virus. A heartbroken Jubilee rages over the loss. Jean Grey comforts her, and in poignant writing rarely seen in comic books says, "We come into this world alone and we leave the same way. The time we spend in between time spent alive, sharing, learning together is all that makes life worth living."
With the oldest issue published in 1981 and the last (#544) in 2011, the series in quite affordable. The 403 total issues make the series relatively easy to collect since there are plenty of copies of most every issue in most every condition.
All Star Comics began as a superhero anthology back in 1940. But, when the Justice Society of America debuted in issue #3, the superhero group, widely considered the first superhero team, proved so popular that it became the lead story for the rest of the series' run.
The group included DC's original Hawkman, Flash, Green Lantern, the Spectre, and Dr. Fate. Wonder Woman made her first ever appearance in issue #8, but in the male chauvenistic world of 1940s America, she became the group's secretary.
Originally, each issue featured individual stories about each hero. But eventually the format morphed, putting all the heroes into the same story, a format continued when DC created the Justice League of America.
When the superhero popularity waned in 1951, DC ditched the Justice Society and the series after issue #57. Years later, DC resurrected the characters, creating new back-stories and new secret identities for the Flash, Hawkman and Green Lantern. To avoid a world with two different Flashes, Hawkmen and Green Lanterns.
When All Star Comics was revived in 1976, starting with #58, it was set on Earth Two (an alternate world) where the original versions of the heroes existed, separate from Earth One, where the newer versions, created in the 1960s, lived.
Issue #58 featured the debut of Power Girl, the Earth Two Supergirl. Clad in a white costume with a red cape, she has become a popular character to cosplay at comic conventions. (Translation: Lots of ladies dress up as Power Girl at comic book conventions). The revived series also featured Robin, the Star-Spangled Kid, and original JSA members. The Huntress, the daughter of the Earth Two Batman and Catwoman, debuted in #69. Issues #58 to #74 are a great way to read Golden Age style stories without paying astronomical Golden Age prices.
Journey into Mystery had three distinct formats spanning 125 issues. From its first publication in 1952 through #22, it featured a horror anthology format.
When the Comics Code Authority began censoring gore and extreme violenc from comic books, the title switched to science fiction and fantasy stories for issues #23 to #82. Stories in this era often featured prototypes of future Marvel heroes. For example, issue #43 contained a story about an invisible woman, which predated the Fantastic Four's Invisible Woman by four years. Issue #66 featured a monster called "The Hulk" - no relation to the Hulk we know today.
And, one year before the first appearance of Spider-Man, issue #73 featured a story about a spider exposed to radiation who gains human powers, a backwards spin to Spider-Man.
However, the series is best known for its third era which began with issue #83 with the first appearance of Thor. In the book "Excelsior!: The Amazing Life of Stan Lee", Lee explained, "I thought it would be fun to invent someone even more powerful than the Hulk. But how do you make someone stronger than the strongest human? It finally came to me; don't make him human, make him a god."
Based on the Norse mythology, in Marvel's version Thor was sent to Earth by his father Odin so he could learn humility. He entered the body of Dr. Donald Blake, and whenever he struck his walking stick on the ground he'd transform into Thor, although the movies have ignored his dual identity. Issue #85 featured the first appearance of his evil adopted brother Loki and #118 introduced Destroyer, both of whom appeared in the 2011 Thor movie.
For any fan of Thor or the Avengers, this series is essential, because #83 to #125 feature the first 43 Thor stories. Most were written by Stan Lee with art by Jack Kirby. As a result, these issues are far more valuable than the first issues of Thor (1966 series), whose numbering begins when Marvel re-titled the series, starting with issue #126.
Hellblazer stars John Constantine, an occult detective who battles demons, spirits, cults, and serial killers. It takes a tough guy to fight these battles and Constantine even commented in his first appearance in Swamp Thing (1982 series) #37, "I'm a nasty piece of work".
The series is Vertigo's longest-running title ever, lasting 300 issues over 25 years. Empire Magazine ranked Constantine #3 in their list of the 50 Greatest Comic Book Characters.
Constantine often operates in morally gray areas, like pulling a con to thwart a catastrophe or sacrificing a friend. As a reminder their ghosts often haunt him.
With scripts by greats like Neil Gaiman and Garth Ennis, the series featured engaging storylines, especially in 'Dangerous Habits' (issues 41-46) where Constantine is faced with his own mortality after he's diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. This arc showcases Constantine at his witty, deceitful best as devises a cure.
The series offers plenty of realism -- no superhero appearances, indicating its world was a separate, more real-life universe. And, unlike most comic characters, Constantine aged throughout the series. Most stories take place near London and the settings offer a gritty atmosphere, perfect for the macabre storytelling.
The series spawned the mediocre 2005 film Constantine starring Keanu Reeves, which deviated alot from the comics. A new Constantine TV show premieres in October of 2014.
For me, this Metal Men comic book series is the most under-rated comic book of all time. The Metal Men were robots, not people. created 25 years before Star Trek created the android named Data. The six Metal Men were Gold, Iron, Lead, Mercury, Platinum (or Tina), and Tin.
Each member's powers were based on the characteristics of their respective metals. Iron was strong and powerful, Mercury could change into a liquid, Lead could protect against harmful radiation and weak, pliable Tin, was the shy weakling of the bunch. Unlike other robots like the Transformers, the Metal Men had a wide range of emotions. They got angry, excited, sad, and even shed tears. A generation before Star Trek's Data brooded over his lack of an emotion chip, the Metal Men's only 'female' member, Tina, had to deal with having a crush on the team's creator, Dr. William Magnus.
The Metal Men first appeared in Showcase #37-#40, DC's tryout comic where characters debuted to test if they were popular enough to support their own title.
Fun and humor made the series endearing to readers - in issue #12 the Beatles even made a brief cameo. And in issue #21, after being criticized for only fighting other robots, the team goes searching for humans to battle, only to find the Flash, Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman already dealing with these non-robot threats.
Ross Andru, a popular DC artist, whose work included Wonder Woman, drew the first 29 issues and Robert Kanigher wrote the series, which gave the series great continuity.
The title grew more serious in issues #33-37, when the Metal Men became hunted after the public believes them to be a menace. They adopt human identities in #37 to stop the police from pursuing them. Issues #42 through #44 are reprints and are less expensive than the rest.
In 1993 the team returned in a four-issue series, which generally costs around $10 for the entire series. The current DC editorial crew believes in this group. And they made their New 52 debut with Justice League (2011 series) #28.
With the advances in special effects, a Metal Men movie is finally possible. Executed well, it could drive the Metal Men way up from its current "C" list status. There's great potential here.
In 1966 Marvel created Fantasy Masterpieces (1966 series), which reprinted Golden Age Marvel stories. After 11 issues, it was reformatted and renamed Marvel Super-Heroes.
Issues #12-#20 featured one new story and Golden Age reprints of Captain America, Sub-Mariner, the Black Knight, and the Original Human Torch (not Johnny Storm).
Two of the more sought issues are #12 and #18. Number 12 features the first appearance of the Silver Age Captain Marvel and #18 features the debut of The Guardians of the Galaxy. Although the originals aren't the current roster, this comic is in high demand.
Other characters were spotlighted, like Medusa (#15), Ka-Zar (#19), and even Dr. Doom (#20). Starting with #21, the series featured only Silver Age reprints -- Iron Man and Daredevil (#28-#31), the Incredible Hulk and Sub-Mariner (#32-#55), and the Hulk (#56-#105)
If you're a Hulk fan looking for his original stories at an affordable price, start here.
Marvel treated Web of Spider-Man as an equal to the other titles, In fact, some story lines crossed over into all three. For example, issue #31 began the famous Kraven's Last Hunt storyline. In a 2012 poll conducted by Comic Book Resources, it was voted the best Spider-Man story of all-time. After starting in #31, it continued in Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #293, Spectacular Spider-Man (1976 series) #131, Web of Spider-Man #32, Amazing Spider-Man #294, and Spectacular Spider-Man #132.
There are no major differences in the three series, but the Overstreet Price Guide has a bias against anything other than a hero's primary title. For example, Overstreet values Amazing Spider-Man issues of Kraven's Last Stand at $15 in NM- condition, while the value of the Web of Spider-Man's issues are 33% less. Same story line, same time frame -- it makes no sense.
Take advantage of it -- Web of Spider-Man is a bargain and it's a relatively inexpensive 129-issue series of Spider-Man comics.
Babe Ruth lent his name to Babe Ruth Sports, but there was no connection to him other than his name in the title.
In 1973, DC experimented with four issues of Strange Sports Stories (plus appearances in Brave and the Bold #45-#49), and three issues of Champion Sports. When I spoke with Carmine Infantino in 2004, the Hall of Fame artist and DC's publisher in 1973, he said he was proud of Strange Sports Stories for its creative and unique supernatural take on sports but that this innovative mixture of genres "just didn't sell".
Marvel tried sports in 1986 with Kickers, Inc., a 12-issue series starring a football team as crime fighters, whose super strength was created by a combination of radiation exposure and an experimental muscle-enhancing device. NFL SuperPro was another Marvel attempt, with Phil Grayfield getting doused with chemicals which turned him into a near-invincible superhero.
More recently, NASCAR Adventures and Legends of NASCAR have featured bios of drivers. But neither DC or Marvel, the two big fish in comics have published any sports title in years.
But, if you're a sports fan, or if you know a sports fan, these comics are a great way to start a comic collection. Unlike superheroes, there are only a few issues, which will limit your cost. And, since the issues are a bit rarer, you'll get a great sense of satisfaction when you find all the copies to complete any set. And, unlike superhero comics which are in high demand, the lower demand has kept prices for sports comics lower.
In the 1950s, at the infancy of the space program, DC comics (along with other media) had a big interest in stories featuring alien.
The mysteries of space were generally unsolved and writers and artists had a field day imagining strange creatures and alien worlds.
According to David Clarke, co-author of "Out of the Shadows", the widespread believe in UFOs that began in the 1950s was a social phenomenon spearheadeded by the start of the Cold War, when the threat of atomic war hung over the world. "It was just simple to want to believe in something up there in the sky that could come and rescue us," he wrote.
Altough space stories existed before 1950 (think Buck Rogers and H.G. Wells), the 1950s was the genre's peak. Decades later moviemakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg paid homage to the era in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and Robert Zemekis mocked a UFO crazed world in "Back to the Future". The comic that best captures the space-crazy fanatacism was Strange Adventures, DC's first science fiction anthology from 1950, followed a year later by
Mystery in Space (1951 series).
Most early issues of Strange Adventures are a who's who of alien creatures. Although conceived as an anthology, Captain Comet, introduced in issue #9 proved so popular that he appeared in issues #9-44, 46 and 49. He was one of the few superheroes introduced in the early 1950s. Captain Comet was one of three stories in each issue. The others continued the anthology theme.
His origin fits with the series' sci-fi theme. During birth, radiation from a comet affected his genes, giving him telekinesis, super strength, and psychic abilities. These mutations make him possibly the first mutant superhero predating the X-Men by a decade.
The UFO craze wasn't confined to DC's anthology titles. The genre spilled over into nearly every DC title, including
Batman and Superman. Other comics also featured outer space stories, including
When astronauts actually reached space in the 1960s, the UFO/alien fad faded and Strange Adventures returned to Earth, but retained plots propelled by science from other worlds. Animal Man first appeared in Strange Adventures. Caught in the explosion of an alien spacecraft, he could temporarily mimic the abilities of any nearby animal such as a tiger's leaping ability of a tiger or a gorilla's strength.
Deadman made his first appearance in #205. A circus performer murdered during a performance, he came back from the dead to hunt his killer. Interestingly, the story was the first time the Comics Code Authority permitted a reference to illegal drugs -- four years BEFORE Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #96-98, the famous set of stories featuring drugs that Marvel published without CCA approval. The Deadman run is also noteworthy for showcasing some of the earliest work of famed artist Neal Adams. His cover for issue #207, shown here, received an Alley Award for Best Cover of 1967.
In 1961, at the dawn of the Marvel Age of Comics, Marvel retitled and reformatted Amazing Adventures (1961 series) as Amazing Adult Fantasy. Each issue featured about five stories, sporting aliens, monsters, magic, people with special abilities and bizarre events. Billed as the magazine that respects your intelligence each story contained a shocking, twist ending (think The Sixth Sense). The stories bring to mind a sci-fi TV shows like The
Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.
With most stories written by Stan Lee, collecting the series is a great way to see early versions of future Marvel characters. For example, in #14, a teenager exhibits telepathic abilities similar to the X-Men's Professor X. And since this story was published two years before the X-Men debuted, you could argue he's Marvel's first mutant. Add into the mix that he resembles Peter Parker (as drawn by Spider-Man's original artist, Steve Ditko), and you begin to
see the development of the Marvel Age. There are only eight issues (numbered #7 to #14). After #14, it dropped the "Adult" from its title and was renamed Amazing Fantasy and the first issue of that series, #15 featured the debut of Spider-Man.
After U.S. Congressional hearings in 1954, which included testimony from psychologists about the negative influence of horror comics on youngsters, the industry created the Comics Code Authority to censor violent material. As result, horror-themed comics featuring werewolves and vampires were banned. It took 20 years for the Authority to lift the ban on supernatural creatures like vampires and werewolves.
In response, Marvel created Tomb of Dracula and Werewolf by Night. The werewolf's alter ego was Jack Russell, who suffered from an ancient family curse. The series offered a unique take on werewolf mythology -- Jack didn't become a werewolf after getting bitten by one, but simply inherits the curse at age 18. And, he didn't only turn into a werewolf on the night of a full moon, but also on the nights before and after. I guess you could say he got 3 bites of the apple each month. He battled those who wanted to use the werewolf for their own evil purposes, power or sport. Other times he enlisted the werewolf to protect his loved ones from threats.
He first appeared in Marvel Spotlight (1971 series) #2-#4 before getting his own series. He battled hunters, vigilantes, other werewolves, and even Dracula in issue #15 in a crossover with Tomb of Dracula (1972 series). Iron Man guest-starred in issues #42 and 43. The superhero Moon Knight made his first appearance in #32. Originally an adversary to the Werewolf by Night, the popular Moon Knight went from a supporting adversary to a solo star in Marvel Spotlight #28 and #29 before landing his own series.
The series ran for 43 issues and sparked Marvel's resurgence into horror and paved the way for other supernatural Marvel characters like Ghost Rider.
The original Tarzan series ran for 206 issues (Jan. 1948 to Feb. 1972). This series adapted most of Edgar Rice Burroughs' 24 Tarzan novels.
Tarzan was the orphaned son of English aristocrats marooned in Africa in the late 1890s. He is adoped and raised by a band of apes. So, if you're looking for adaptations of Burroughs' classic novels, you'll enjoy the early issues of the series.
Later issues featured photos of Ron Ely on the cover, who starred in the short-lived 1960's Tarzan TV show.
In 1972, DC obtained the rights to Tarzan and their series picked up the numbering with issue #207. This series also featured adaptations of Burroughs' original novels as well as original stories.
Joe Kubert's distinctive artwork was hailed by many as the best comic book depiction of Tarzan. These issues are as good as the 1948 series, but because they are not as old, they are generally less expensive.
Twenty years after the successful launch of the X-Men, Marvel writers had aged the original X-Men from teenagers to young adults.
So, what could Marvel do to attract the teenage reader again? Simple, they took the long-time writer of the X-Men, Chris Claremont, and had him create the New Mutants, a teenage team of X-Men in training.
After being launched in Marvel Graphic Novel #4, the group moved to this title that lasted 100 issues.
The New Mutants highlighted interpersonal and group conflict as well as action and adventure, and featured a large ensemble cast. When the series ended in April of 1991, the characters were relaunched as X-Force (1991 series) and that series ran for another 129 issues until 2002.
Like most series from the 1980's, there are plenty of issues in great condition still floating around and at pretty low prices. For example, as I'm writing this the price of the first 50 issues is as low as $60.80 (or $1.22 each - of course our prices change daily). The low cost reflects the large quantity available. The only issue that is not easy to find is #98, which features the first appearance of Deadpool.
So, if you're looking for a well-written superhero series where you can pretty much get the entire series easily, and a very low price, this is the one.
In 1981, Marvel changed the name of its 'X-Men' comic to 'The Uncanny X-Men". Then, 10 years later, it created this new 'X-Men series'. The hype for this new series was so great that issue #1 sold more than 8 million copies, making it the best selling comic book of all time.
In hyping issue #1, Marvel hit upon a novel idea -- they printed issue #1 with five different covers. It was the same story, only the cover was different. One cover was the "deluxe cover", printed on heavy-duty paper. The other four covers each featured one of the X-Men, and when placed adjacent to each other, formed a mural-like larger picture.
Initially, what made the series so desired was the teaming of writer Chris Claremont and artist Jim Lee, two creative super-stars. By 1991, the original team of X-Men, Cyclops, the Beast and Iceman had all drifted away from the X-Men story line. The 1991 series brought them back.
Since its first issue is 'recent' by comic book standards, every issue is relatively inexpensive. The deluxe version of Issue #1, is usually available at NewKadia for less than $2.50. So, if you're looking for an "A-list" title, that is affordable and broad in scope, or if you're looking for a gift for an X-Men fan, this is the one.
Lots of movies have been adapted to comic books, but it's only fitting that one of the greatest movie series of all times spawned one of the greatest comic book franchises of all times. The original Star Wars comic book series was issued in July of 1977 and ran for a decade, with 107 issues and three annuals. Return of the Jedi was printed in a separate mini-series.
Issues #1-6 are an adaptation of the original movie (since renamed: Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope), and Issues #39-#44 adapted the Empire Strikes Back. All the others are original stories starring Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and other characters from the original trilogy.
The stories are a great read, and for the collector on a budget, these issues won't cost that much. It seems that comic books, even good ones like these, which contain basic story lines adapted from another medium (in this case, the movies), never seem to cost quite as much as comics where the characters got their birth directly in the comics.
By the way, I couldn't resist sharing the video below with you. It's the original movie trailer for the first Star Wars movie. Compared to trailers today, it moves at a snail's pace but it's VERY 1977 in style.
So, if you're a fan of space science fiction, this is the series for you. Or, if you're looking for a gift for the Star Wars fanatic, this is it. In fact, the first issues of this series will be OLDER than any Star Wars fanatic under the age of 33.
The first six issues were reprinted as Classic Star Wars: A New Hope.
Believe it or not, back in the 1940's and 1950's, heroes were heroes and bad guys were bad guys. The heroes wore white hats and bad guys wore black hats. It wasn't until the 1960's that "gray hats" emerged -- a hero with faults or a bad guy with some good virtues.
And, there is no better example of "good vs. evil" in superhero comic books than the original Superboy series, which was geared to younger readers.
The series started in 1949, told stories of Clark Kent/Superman as a boy growing up in the small town of Smallville in the years before he left the Kent family farm and moved to the big city.
I enjoy the series because reading the stories is the closest you'll ever get to going into a time machine and landing in 1950s rural America. Whereas only 2% of Americans live on farm today, back in the 1950s, 50% of all Americans lived on farms. That's incredible. And the stories of Superboy in Smallville really capture the spirit of the times and the virtues of mid-20th century rural Americana.
There's no gray area anywhere. It's Superboy versus the bad guys. Period. Teenage angst? Sure. Is Clark Kent anxious that Lana Lang will discover his secret identity? Of course! Does Lana Lang have a sexually transmitted disease? Hey, just kidding, you'd never find that in Superboy comics.
So, if you want to return to the days when young adults helped the elderly cross the street, when lying was a sin, and respect for elders and policemen was at its zenith, this is the series to collect.
The series is also notable as the only example of DC being able to launch a successful superhero series between WWII and 1956. Once the 1960s hit, though, the simple good vs. evil self-contained stories lost alot of their appeal and the Legion of superheroes was elevated to the lead story, until finally in issue #222, the title of the series was changed to Legion of superheroes (1980 series).
When DC re-wrote the Superman continuity in 1986, they discarded Superboy. Instead, Clark Kent became a superhero only as an adult in Metropolis. Poof... the entire story of Superboy was wiped out.
So, be aware that the current Superboy in DC comics is a different character. The current Superboy is a clone of Superman and Lex Luthor, whose secret identity is Clark Kent's cousin, Conner Kent. Gosh, you need a degree in genetic biology to follow superhero family trees these days.
This is my favorite Aquaman series. Peter David gave Aquaman an entirely new look in this series, forsaking his former clean-cut appearance. Following his discoveries reading the Atlantis Chronicles during the Time and Tide series, Aquaman withdraws from the world. Garth finds him weeks later, with his hair and beard grown long, brooding in his cave.
In issue #2, Aquaman loses his left hand when the madman Charybdis steals Aquaman's ability to communicate with sea life and sticks Aquaman's hand into a piranha infested pool. Man, not even Spider-Man ever had it this bad.
Delving deep into the hero's emotions, author David gives Aquaman prophetic dreams, and then, in need of a "symbol", attaches a harpoon spearhead to his left arm in place of his missing hand.
But the dark and strange side of this new Aquaman doesn't end there. His classic orange shirt is shredded in a battle with Lobo in issue #4, and rather than going to "Superhero Uniforms Unlimited" for a replacement, he goes topless for a while before donning a gladiatorial manica. Oh, it gets much worse. His harpoon hand is destroyed...well, it's just not an easy time for Aquaman.
And that's why I like this series. It's never very predictable. If ever DC wanted to shed its image from the 1960s as a predictable good-guy with no neuroses comic book company, this series certainly accomplished that.
My only gripe (and it's tiny) is that if you spent your entire day swimming, you'd shave your head like Michael Jordan, rather than keep it as long as Jon Bon Jovi.
After DC successfully reintroduced its Golden Age heroes, the Flash (in 1956) and Green Lantern (in 1960), DC revitalized Hawkman in 1964.
Unlike the original Hawkman who was Carter Hall, an archaeologist and a reincarnated Egyptian prince, the new Silver Age Hawkman, Katar Hol, was an alien police officer from the planet Thanagar.
First introduced in Brave and the Bold (1955 series) #34, Hawkman came to Earth to capture a criminal from his home world and stayed to get his master's degree in "Earth police methods". After appearing in six issues of Brave and the Bold, and four issues of Mystery in Space (1951 series), DC gave him this title.
What made Hawkman unique among DC superheroes was that he was married. Shayera Thal aka Hawkgirl, had the same super-powers. The series also introduced magical spell-caster Zatanna to the DC universe.
So for old fashioned action stories that provide great escapism, this series is worth trying. It's a great read for young readers since you don't have to worry about anything too unsettling. No blood and guts here.
And finally, a nod to the art by Murphy Anderson, a comic book Hall of Famer, who drew most of the artwork. His Hawkman is very stylistic and intense. You would think a man dressed in wings and a hawk mask would look corny, but Anderson made it work!
Batman Family focused on Batman's supporting cast -- Batgirl, Robin, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Man-Bat and others. It introduced Joker's daughter (issue #6) and revived Batwoman (#10).
With only 20 issues, it's easy to collect and is an essential part of any Bronze Age Batman collection. Every issue was giant-sized and the fill-in stories at the back included reprints of key stories from the Golden and Silver Age.
When Stan Lee created the Fantastic Four in 1961 and launched the "Marvel Age of Comics", he did so by giving his heroes real emotions, real foibles and real stress by confronting real-world problems. Spider-Man had to repair his tattered costume, The Thing went snow skiing and Harry Osborne (Peter Parker's pal), fell into drug addiction.
By 1970, Marvel had surpassed DC in relevant storytelling, but when DC finally got the message in Green Lantern in #76, they made up for lost time.
Teaming writer Dennis O'Neil with artist Neal Adams, the two created the most memorable story lines of the era in Green Lantern comics. The two pitted Hal Jordan (Green Lantern), an inter-galactic 'law and order' cop against Oliver Queen (as Green Arrow), an outspoken liberal.
The series took on most of the big social issues of the day -- racism, the environment, sexism and heroin addiction. For the first time, DC characters shed their "goody two shoes" images.
The series changed comics forever. Two generations of comic book creators have now adopted their outlook and melded what is really world events into the fictional universe of superheroes. The landmark issue #76 is often cited as the start of the "Bronze Age" of comics.
Only in the world of comics can there be two characters with the same name, published by different companies. But, that's the case with "Captain Marvel".
The original Captain Marvel appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures published by Fawcett and this "Shazam" series features his adventures as brought back by DC in 1972.
The story is a long and tortured legal tale, but in a nutshell, DC owns the rights to the character, but only Marvel can use the character's name -- "Captain Marvel" -- in a comic book title. Marvel's Captain Marvel is a totally different character.
The original Captain Marvel character, as featured in Shazam comics features 12-year old Billy Batson. Whenever Billy speaks the name Shazam, he is struck by a magic lightning bolt that transforms him into a superhero.
Billy Batson's Captain Marvel Adventures was the top selling comic book during WW II. But, once DC comics sued Fawcett, claiming the character infringed the copyright of Superman, his popularity waned, until Fawcett went out of business.
The series is popular with collectors, becausde the original Captain Marvel comics are incredibly expensive. DC's Shazam series recaptures the feel of the 1940's and 1950's stories, but at a fraction of their cost. The new series featured both new stories and reprints form the 1940s and 50s. In most cases, the stories were set on "Earth S", a separate universe from where Superman and other DC characters existed.
First appearing in Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #129, the Punisher quickly became a breakout sensation, in large part due to his tough, no-nonsense attitude and his gripping origin story: Vietnam vet Frank Castle becomes a vigilante after his wife and two children are gunned down by the mob.
What separates the Punisher is that he's willing to kill bad guys, having lost faith in a flawed justice system which allows some bad guys to walk free. I mean, how many times has Batman captured the Joker and had him imprisoned, only for him to escape and wreak havock yet again?
Typical was issue #10 where he and Daredevil were both pursuing the same criminal. The two heroes square off against each other because Daredevil wants the criminal alive to stand trial, and the Punisher wants him dead.
This series is the first ongoing Punisher series. It followed the successful five-issue mini-series, Punisher (1986 series).
Most stories have a gritty, real-life feel, that makes us believe the Punisher's world could really exist. Generally, he battled everyday criminals like drug dealers, terrorists, gangs, assassins, and the mob rather than steroid-enhanced super-powered aliens wanting to take over the planet.
The series also introduced the Microchip, who provided the Punisher with weapons and advanced technology, and later became a solid, recurring villain in other Marvel titles.
Before the current glut of Marvel superhero movies, a Punisher movie bombed. But not even a Hollywood dud could diminish interest in the Punisher and Marvel has pretty much kept publishing Punisher comics for most of the 25+ years since this series began.
"Sgt. Rock" in February of 1977 starting with issue #302. Sgt. Rock ran until issue #422 in July of 1988. The run of 342 issues is the longest for any WWII comic book character.
Created by Joe Kubert and Robert Kanigher, Rock was a tough-as-nails master sergeant in the U.S. Army in the European Theatre of Operations during WWII. His tough character, along with realistic story lines created enough interest among readers that his exploits continued for 43 years after the end of WWII. This alone, is amazing.
It means that three generations of readers picked up on his stories over the years. The original market for his exploits included veterans who had fought in WWII. By the end, many of their grandchildren were reading the stories.
This is the series for you if you want to start with a clean slate and not be burdened with 40 years of X-Men background.
With the first X-Men film as his only reference, Mark Millar completely reinvented the X-Men. As a result, if you've seen that movie (and if not, go rent it), you have all the background you need. I love that. After all, who can remember everything that has happened in 500+ issues of Uncanny X-Men.
This alone is a great reason to collect this series, and as a result, it's easy reading. You are not burdened with heaps of X-Men lore from past issues.
Millar's Ultimate X-Men consisted of telepath Professor X, Cyclops, whose eyes shoot concussive beams, telepathic and telekinetic Jean Grey, weather-manipulating Storm, simian genius Beast, metal-skinned Colossus, and cryokinetic Iceman.
In this series, the X-Men have no secret identities, and as mutants, they are mistrusted and hunted. Millar's work is edgy, featuring quick action-driven plots and fewer morality plays. For instance, Wolverine tries to kill Cyclops in "Return of the King" because he is envious of Jean Gray's love.
Millar shaped Ultimate X-Men into a commercial hit, consistently outselling other X-Men titles such as X-Treme X-Men and the original Uncanny X-Men. After Millar's run, writer Brian Michael Bendis took over. Bendis' run was marked by the death of the Beast.
Brian K. Vaughan, best known at the time for his work on Y: The Last Man, followed Bendis. He re-imagined second-string characters he felt were underused. He introduced Mr. Sinister as a mutant-killing scientist with hypnosis and stealth powers as well as Mojo and Longshot as a corrupt TV producer and a mutant felon.
Ultimate X-Men established itself as a hit, lauded by critics and popular with the fans. And the series is relatively easy to complete since there are only 100 issues, and lots of copies in great condition are easily found.
The Marvels won the Eisner Award for best mini-series of 1994. It told the story of the Marvel Universe from the perspective of news photographer Phil Sheldon, portraying ordinary life in a world full of costumed superheroes. The series helped launch the careers of writer Kurt Busiek and artist Alex Ross, whose cover art is spectacular.
For fans of Conan the Barbarian, this series is a must. Printed in an over-sized magazine format, the magazine was not subject to the Comics Code Authority. The CCA was formed in the 1950's to monitor the comic book content to eliminate salacious or overly violent comic books.
As a result, the Savage Sword of Conan could present Robert E. Howard's Conan without the Marvel's self-censorship in its 1970 Conan the Barbarian comic book series.
The series was created for an adult audience. The battles are gorier, the ladies sexier and scantily dressed, and the language rougher than its comic book counterpart.
The series is considered a cult classic. With 235 issues, it's one of the longest running magazine-sized comics. The covers are in color, but the interiors are black and white. The size of each page is about 40% larger than a comic book, and frankly, I love the larger format.
If you like Spider-Man comics from the 1970s, then Marvel Team-Up, one of the most under-appreciated comics in Marvel's line-up, should interest you. It teams Spider-Man with a different 'guest star' each issue. As a result, the stories are always original, never get stale, because the guest star appears and is gone. Also, you can read most every issue as a standalone story, without the need to have read the previous issues to understand what's
The series ran for 150 issues over 13 years, a testament to the quality of the series. If the stories had not been compelling, the series would never have lasted that long.
And along the way, Spidey met everyone. And I mean EVERYONE. Guest appearances included the typical Marvel superhero galaxy -- Wolverine (#117) or Iron Man (#48, 49, 110), or Thor (#7, #26), as well as Marvel characters who weren't fighting crime and evil, like Frankenstein (#36) or Werewolf by Night (#12), or even the cast of Saturday Night Live (#74).
In short, the series is entertaining, different, and never slips into tedium.
More importantly, since it wasn't Spider-Man's primary title (Amazing Spider-Man), the people at the Overstreet Price Guide don't value it highly. That's a shame if you're selling it, but it means a big bargain if you're buying it. Most issues after #19 are less than $10 in Very Fine condition, and most of the later issues after #70 are less than $5 in Near Mint- condition.
And of course, like most Spider-Man titles other than the Amazing Spider-Man, issues in great condition remain plentiful and affordable.
Here's a very good, but often overlooked, comic book series. It's overlooked because it was based on a TV show and comic book adaptations of TV shows generally don't generate as much excitement as stories that first appeared in comic book form.
The series was based on the British ITV series, The Sandbaggers, which ran from 1978 to 1980. The series follows Tara Chance, a member of the Special Operations Section of the British military. What makes the series stand out is that it deals realistically, not only with the dangerous missions, but also with the bureaucracy and politics agents have to contend with.
It won the 2002 Eisner Award as best new comic book series. It ran for 32 issues and was published by Oni. I wonder how much longer it might have run had it been published by Marvel or DC, both of whom could have given the series a much stronger marketing push. In any event, industry professionals thought it was the best new series of the year -- and I agree, it's a good read.
I was leafing through an old World Book Encyclopedia and couldn't find any mention of Uncle Scrooge. So, I surfed over to Wikipedia.org and lo and behold I found a 5,000 word doctoral thesis-like biography of Donald Duck's uncle. It's scholarly in tone, serious in nature, and delves into Uncle Scrooge's motivations, psychology and morals and the reading public's fascination with him.
Wait a second, he's just a funny duck!
I thought he was popular because the stories were light and funny. But, no! To read the Wikipedia treatise, go to Scrooge McDuck
But, you don't need to be concerned that you never considered all the social implications of good old Uncle Scrooge and some overblown psychoanalysis of him. Just pick up a copy and enjoy this wacky old uncle.
If you're a fan of Indiana Jones or Jack Kirby, then check out Challengers of the Unknown, one of DC's secondary titles Kirby created a few years before he joined Marvel and co-created the Fantastic Four.
Reading the series is like traveling back to the golden age of 1950's action-adventure science fiction. The inspirations for the series were the action movies that attracted teenage audiences of the era -- stories about adventurers -- test pilots, mountain climbers, skin divers.
The names of the four team members -- Ace Morgan, Professor Haley, Rocky Davis and Red Ryan -- are the rugged, stereotypical adventurer names of the era.
The four did not have super powers, just super enthusiasm for adventure -- just four rugged individuals -- sort of a cross between Indiana Jones and Mission Impossible.
The series debuted in Showcase #6, with additional stories in #7, 11 and 12. From there, DC put the group in their title. Kirby drew the first dozen adventures, and many consider his work on this series among his best work of the 1950s. He then moved on to create the Fantastic Four.
So, if you enjoy adventures in exotic locales, check out this under-appreciated title. And, since it is unfairly under-appreciated, the prices are less than the headliner hero comics (like Superman and Batman) of the era.
Before there was a 'Persons with Disability' law in the United States, before the blind were called "vision impaired" and in a time when such persons were sometimes ostracized and shunned, Stan Lee created Daredevil. Coming off his successes with the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Avengers and the X-Men, Lee really hit a homerun with his newest superhero.
The story is a basic theme of literature throughout the ages - someome overcoming great odds to achieve and succeed. In Matt Murdock's case, an accident blinds him, but enhances all his other senses, smell, hearing, etc. So, rather than bemoan his sightless state, he rises above the adversity to achieve incredible success.
Now, I have no idea whether Daredevil had any sort of impact on sightless individuals, but many people have some sort of disability, whether it's a physical, psychological or emotional. I have to believe that Daredevil's ongoing popularity (despite a horrible movie starring Ben Affleck) results from readers relating to a person who has to overcome obstacles every day. Think about every book you've read
or movie you've seen. In most every one, the protagonist has to overcome incredible odds.
So, the genius of Stan Lee is that he created a character where overcoming incredible odds is the norm, day in and day out. And after that, there are the super-villains to contend with.
The series is a good one to collect, because in addition to the great stories, the artwork is superior, especially the artwork by Gene Colan.
And, since the first issue came after Fantastic Four #1, X-Men #1 and Spider-Man #1, the cost of the series is generally less than that of those series. With only 380 issues (as opposed to 441 for Spider-Man), the series is also easier to collect.
World's Finest featured Superman and Batman from 1941 to 1986, back in the days when superheroes were always the best of pals. Seems like Batman and Superman went about 30 years without one argument or disagreement. Contrast that with Superman/Batman, where each has an edge and deep psychological scars that often clash with other. Superman/Batman has the interesting feature of "dual-narrators" which presents Superman's and Batman's
opposing takes of each other.
Superman/Batman was immensely popular, often one of the 10 best selling comics each month when first released. The series featured many long novel-length story arcs. Here is a list of the story arcs:
#1-6: Public Enemies #7: Protege #8-13: The Supergirl from Krypton #14-18: Absolute Power #19: Pilot issue for the new Supergirl series.
#20-25: With a Vengeance #26: Sam Loeb tribute issue #27: Never Mind #28-#33: The Enemies Among Us #34-36: A.I. (the Metal Men) #37-42: Torment #43: Darklight. #44-49: "K" (mission to rid Earth of all Kryptonite) #50: The Fathers (Superman & Batman's dads met) #51-52: "Lil Leaguers" (tiny versions of the JLA) #53-56: Super/Bat- Superman's powers go to Batman
#57-59: Nanopolis (featuring the Prankster). #60-61: Mash-up. #62: Sidekicked. Supergirl and Robin (Tim Drake) #63: Night and Day. (will Gorilla Grodd) #64: Prelude to the Big Noise #65: Sweet Dreams (Halloween issue with Luthor) #66-67: Night of the Cure #68-71: "the Big Noise" #72-74: Worship. #79-80: "World's Finest" #81-84: Sorcerer Kings #85-87: The Secret
We're big Jack Kirby fans and the Demon is one of his creations from his days at DC comics. It was his first new comic after his now-legendary 4th world epic trilogy of The New Gods, Forever People, and Mister Miracle were cancelled. (By the way, if you haven't read those books, you should. After you do read them, you won't think that George Lucas' Star Wars series is quite as original as you always
In the Demon, the title character, named Etrigan, is a demon from hell who, despite his violent tendencies, usually finds himself allied to the forces of good, mainly because of the alliance between him and
Jason Blood, a human to whom Etrigan is bound. And this is why I love this series. The conflicts between good and evil, and the motivations behind the behavior of Blood/Etrigran are one of the great delights of this series.
As is typical with Kirby creations, Etrigan is physically unique -- a squat, muscular humanoid creature with orange (or yellow) skin, horns, red eyes, and ears resembling bat wings. In contrast, Jason Blood is a tall, thin, suave man with dark red hair and a lined face.
According to Kirby, Etrigan was inspired by a comic strip of Prince Valiant in which the title character dressed as a demon. Kirby gave his creation the same appearance as Valiant's mask.
Etrigan's origin is a vividly creative tale. He is bonded with Jason Blood, a knight in King Arthur's court. The bonding renders Jason immortal. And eventually he winds up in Batman's Gotham City, as a prominent demonologist. (Are there any demonologists who aren't prominent?)
Centuries later, Jason is called to the crypt of Merlin and discovers a poem that when recited, changes him into Etrigan. And yet, even as a demon, the series ongoing conflict is between good and evil. Etrigan both clashes with and occasionally aids Earth's heroes, guided by his own whims and Jason's attempts to turn his power to good use.
Finally, with only 16 issues to collect, you won't spend a decade tracking down every copy.
Before there was a Saturday Night Live, The Onion, or The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, there was Mad Magazine.
For two generations of adolescent boys, this was the irreverent, satirical hot spot in the American cultural world.
In a population of 180 million in the 1950's, Mad's circulation topped 1 million copies per month, with a readership of over 3 million.
Its success was widely imitated, but never surpassed in its first 25 years. Sick magazine, Plop!, and Cracked magazine all tried, without success, to come close to the biting satirical wit of Mad. If you ever want to study American culture in the 1950's, 1960's, 1970's or 1980's, back issues of Mad is the place to go for the counter-culture's take on then current events.
Founded in 1952, early issues featured the writing of top comics and comedians from all media. Ernie Kovacs, an early of star of TV, and Bob & Ray, the great radio comedy team, all wrote for Mad, as did Charles Schulz who created 'Peanuts', Jules Feiffer, Wil Eisner, Danny Kay, Stan Freberg, and Sid Caesar. For many years it was THE place to be seen by the elite comedy superstars.
Mad had a near-monopoly stranglehold on political and social satire in the 50's through 70's. In fact, in 2009 The New York Times wrote, "Mad once defined American satire". If you want to understand the roots of American comedy today, Mad really is required reading.
If it was a social issue in America, Mad dissected it with more depth and bite than Saturday Night Live or the Daily Show combined.
For teenagers growing up from 1952 to 1975, it was clearly the most important reading in your life if you were a skeptic, politically or socially aware, or if you wanted a career in comedy.
Looking at any back issue today reminds me of my rebellious teenage years, which many people will say were the best years of their lives. So, if you're looking for a gift for someone who has "everything", transport them back to their youth. I'm telling you, an old Mad Magazine from the time they were 10 to 14 years old, can't be beat.
Or if you're looking for a full perspective of American society from 1952 to today, Mad Magazine is the place to start.
I frequently get asked, asked, "What's your favorite story line of all time?" So, I sat back and thought about it. It's Strange Tales #135 to #140, which featured the first battle of Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD vs. Hydra.
It was Jack Kirby at his gizmo-creating best, with a super-surprise ending that revealed the identity of the head of Hydra that still astounds me, 50 years later.
These issues appeared in the mid-60s when James Bond first burst onto the big screen and The Man from UNCLE came to TV. So there was lots of competition for the secret agent entertainment dollar. Had today's movie special effects existed back then, this would have been THE hot movie series. But there was no way 1960's special effects could have done justice to Kirby's spectacular vision of high tech weaponry.
Strange Tales started off as a Marvel mystery comic and featured The Thing from the Fantastic Four for a while. Dr. Strange ran from #169 to #183, but it is the Nick Fury series that I always thought was THE star of the book, and issues #135 to #140 were the MVP of the series.
This is the comic book that saved the comic book industry.
The year was 1961 and DC had a virtual monopoly on superhero comics, which have always been the bumper crop for publishers. Superman, Batman, and re-launches of The Flash and Green Lantern, along with Wonder Woman and several second-tier heros. But, all their characters were good guys, and none of their characters had any, well, character. They were good. Through and through.
And then, along came Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's brilliant collaboration, the Fantastic Four. The four squabbled like real people, had villains with good sides and heroes with dark sides. Their characters did things that real people did -- went to the barber shop, went on vacation, nearly went bankrupt. It was a family story in a superhero context.
Yes, the Fantastic Four totally re-energized comics, and was the first title in the "Marvel Age of Comics". This series' success led to everything else in the Marvel family. Without a successful Fantastic Four, there would never have been a Spider-Man, or Iron Man or Captain America or Thor.
The series was the definition of innovative. The characters had no secret identities, they actually lived in New York City, (no "Metropolis" for them), and they fought like siblings...in fact, Sue Storm (the Invisible Girl) and Johnny Storm (the Human Torch), WERE siblings. And they squabbled, just like you did with your siblings.
And bad guys had a good side. In one sequence, which has stayed with me for 40 years, the evil Dr. Doom and Reed Richards are about to blow each other's brains out and the collateral damage would be the destruction of a valuable painting by an old master. Neither Richards or the detestable Doom could bare to see that happen. The result? An agreement to end the fight to save the painting. Great Caesar's Ghost.... there were no characters like
that in DC comics!!!
And, Johnny Storm, a leading star, was a teenager. In DC-land, the teenagers were the sidekicks, Robin to Batman, Speedy to Green Arrow, and Kid Flash to... well, you know.
But here, a teenager was a star. His success bred the other great Marvel teenage star....Spider-Man. If the readers of comics in the 1960s were kids and teenagers, well, why not discuss their problems... like being bullied in school, or an upcoming Chemistry test. Meanwhile, Superman was concerned with how best to camouflage this giant key to his Fortress of Solitude.
And, the Fantastic Four lived in a real city, New York, and Reed Richards was wondering how he could kiss Sue Storm.
The 'reality' of the series was how it intermingled real people reacting to ordinary situations with the bad guys trying to take over the world. Bad guy coming after me? Well, hold on, while I pay the rent. Today, most every superhero comic has taken this enduring quality from Fantastic Four's original series.
The continuity was staggering. In a day when an artist will sign to draw 12 issues of a series, Kirby and Lee teamed for 102 straight issues. The characters they created, from the Silver Surfer and Galactus to the Inhumans and zillions more populate the Marvel universe to this day.
So, if you're looking for a title with great stories, great art (Kirby and Lee at their pinnacle), the Fantastic Four is the place to do.