Comic collecting ideas
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Why you should collect...
Comics by Stan Lee|
We lost a legend in 2018, when Stan Lee passed away at age 95. An icon at Marvel, he co-created and wrote stories for some of the biggest names in the industry: Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, Black Panther, the Inhumans, Daredevil and the X-Men just to name a few. He was truly a writing dynamo.
There had already been plenty of superheroes around, when Stan Lee joined Marvel. But from 1961 to the early 1970s, Lee captured imaginations by bringing real human emotions and motivations to comics. And great stories, plots, dialogue and morality tales emerged. Lee turned cardboard superheroes into real people, with human flaws like jealousy, fear, insecurity and the like. Their shortcomings made them identifiable, relatable, timeless and unforgettable. Lee's "Marvel of Age" of comics in the 1960s saved the comic book industry from oblivion. Here are some of the greatest stories and series written by Stan Lee.
Spider-Man. If you have enough money to buy a yacht, consider purchasing Amazing Fantasy (1963 series) #15, the first appearance of Spider-Man. The story really is amazing. Science nerd Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider, and acquires arachnid superpowers.
And unlike DC's adult superheroes, Spidey (as Stan nicknamed him) was a teenager (the same demographic as most comic readers - smart Stan). And, he didn't live in any Metropolis or Gotham City. No, Spider-Man lived in Queens, New York. Weaving his stories in a real city and weaving real events and social problems into his stories was a Lee innovation, now an industry standard.
As soon as Parker realizes he has these incredible powers, does he choose to use them to help mankind? No way! Instead, he tries his hand at fighting pro wrestlers for money! Given an opportunity to stop a thief, he passes and the thief later murders his uncle Ben. The guilt and angst become bulwarks in the Spider-Man mythos.
This origin cries "with great power comes great responsibility". If you want to read the original story, you can get a reprint of it in Marvel Tales (1964 series) issue #1, and again in issue #137, in Spider-Man Classics #1, and Marvel Milestone Edition. Lee went on and wrote the first 100 issues (and nine annuals) of Spidey's own series, Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series). That series, is NewKadia's all-time top seller from over 15,000 different comic book series.
Fantastic Four. As big as Spider-Man is today, it was the Fantastic Four that was Lee's first big success in 1961. You can buy any of the first 102 issues of Fantastic Four (1961 series), which Lee wrote and Jack Kirby drew, and you're certain to find a great story. The Fantastic Four is not only a superhero team, but a bickering fighting family. They also get into trouble on a cosmic scale.
A personal favorite is issue #51, "This Man This Monster" which explores the Thing's longing to be human again. Issues #48-50 featured Stan and Jack's creation of the Silver Surfer, which led to the Lee-written series, Silver Surfer (1968 series).
Lee also introduced supporting characters that went on to star in their own series. Issue #52 featured the first appearance of the Black Panther. Issue #5, introduced Doctor Doom. Issue #45 introduced the Inhumans and on and on!
Lee and Kirby's run on the Fantastic Four is the longest, greatest collaboration in comic book history. This is not hyperbole. This is a fact! You can also get inexpensive reprints by grabbing Marvel's Greatest Comics as well. The original Fantastic Four series ranks #2 on the all-time NewKadia best seller list, right behind Spider-Man.
Avengers. Not content with just one superhero team, Stan Lee gathered Marvel's big-name heroes and plunked them into one book, Avengers (1963 series). In the first issue, Thor, Ant-Man, Wasp, Iron Man and Giant Man all work together to foil Loki. In issue #4, Lee defrosted Kirby's World War II creation, Captain America from a 16-year suspended animation sleep in an arctic iceberg, and he joined the Avengers. Lee wrote the first 35 issues, and introduced the world to supervillains Kang the Conqueror, Baron Zemo and Immortus. Avengers ranks #3 on our all-time best seller.
Ant-Man. Lee also creteate Ant-Man who first appeared in Tales to Astonishing #35. Henry Pym's motivation? Revenge for the death of his wife at the hands of the Hungarian secret police in Communist controlled Eastern Europe. Weaving current events and the world of today into comics was a Stan Lee innovation, now widely copied and taken for granted.
Iron Man. Stan Lee created the Invincible Iron Man in Tales of Suspense (1959 series) issue #39. Tony Stark had no super powers, but instead had a super armored suit, and of course, a life-threatening heart defect which provided the character's angst. After all, no hero of Stan's lacked an emotional Achilles heel.
Captain America. Starting with issue #59, Captain America stories also appeared in Tales of Suspense. Instead of an upbeat, patriotic hero, Stan Lee wrote Steve Rogers as a tortured soul, missing his sidekick Bucky and confused at being a man out of time (after all, he was suspended in a chunk of ice for 18 years). Stan wrote the first 40 issues. Under Lee's pen, the psychological underpinnings of Captain America working with S.H.I.E.L.D., his love interest with Agent 13 and his pining for the past make for a great read.
Starting in issue #80 of Tales of Suspense, Cap battles the Red Skull for control of the Cosmic Cube, one of the greatest storylines in Marvel history. How can Cap defeat a madman who can control the very nature of reality in his hand? Lee wrote virtually every issue of this amazing and often overlooked series. .
Tales of Suspense was renamed Captain America (1968 series) starting with issue #100 and at the same time Iron Man stories moved to Iron Man (1968) series..
This amazing creative output - some times as many as 14 comics written per month, always makes me wonder: When did he sleep? And at the same time he was editing all of Marvel's comics.
Incredible Hulk. Before the Hulk, there were lots of monster stories. What made the Hulk so special? Was it his origin story, tied to saving a young boy who wandered out into the atomic bomb test site? Was it Bruce Banner's love interest Betty Ross? And what an unfortunate coincidence. Betty's father was General Thunderbolt Ross, who had made it his life's mission to defeat and capture the Hulk! The first series. Incredible Hulk (1962 series) only lasted six issues, but Stan brought him back in Tales to Astonish (1959 series) #60. In #62, Hulk faces off against the Leader. As only Lee could, the Hulk's greatest enemy is not physically powerful, but a super genius-the Hulk's opposite number.
Daredevil. The idea was simple, but it works: take a blind lawyer and turn him into a superhero. He can't see with his eyes, but he can sense everything. How? In 1964, Lee created Daredevil (1964 series): Due to a radioactive explosion, Matt Murdock gained radar sense, allowing him to "feel" all around him. For example, his enhanced hearing permit him to determine approaching dangers by the increased volume of the sounds of their steps. Lee wrote most of the first 50 issues, establishing the world of Matt Murdock, his love interest Karen Page, and his best friend Foggy Nelson. Villains who don't know he's blind! .
Lee was years ahead of his time. His underlying message of the Daredevil character was that anyone, despite any disadvantage, or disability can achieve greatness. In 1964, this was not a mainstream idea. In fact it was 26 years before the United States passed the "Americans with Disability Act". It is yet another of Lee's lasting legacies.
Nick Fury. Lee's writing skill extended to genres other than superheroes. He created Nick Fury as a cigar-chomping U.S. Army non-com officer in a World War II combat series, Sgt. Fury. The character was so successful, that after he retired from the Army, he became the first Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. appearing in Strange Tales (1951 series) starting with issue #135. In that series, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s first battle with Hyrda ran from #135 to #140 and was an instant classic.
We can go on and on, but let's just agree that Lee was a never-ending fountain of stories and ideas. Lee created hundreds of characters and his effects and today's pop culture arena would be devoid of all of Lee's characters had he not made such an impact in the 1960s.
For a complete list of Stan Lee's stories and credits, click here
Weird War Tales
Combine two popular story genres, and you often create a popular hit. In film, make a big action movie and add fantasy and you've got The Lord of the Rings. Take the terror of Jaws and add science fiction and you've got Aliens.
In the 1970s, supernatural comics like Ghosts, Witching Hour (1969 series), Secrets of Haunted House, Supernatural Thrillers, Fear and Werewolf By Night (1972 series) were big sellers. And just 25 years after WWII, war comics still big sellers.
So, in 1971, DC Comics combined the supernatural and war comics in Weird War Tales (1971 series). With such a fertile landscape for original adventures, the series ran for 124 issues.
World War II stories predominate, but stories featuring the American Civil War, the French Revolution and even the future were mixed in. Because the stories spanned history, the stories feel timeless. There's something for every interest -- ghosts, supernatural forces, time travel, the undead, dinosaurs, and strange surprise endings that will leave you in shock.
Many superstar writers contributed stories, including Bill Finger (who co-created Batman), Marv Wolfman (longtime writer on Tomb of Dracula) and Sheldon Mayer (creator of Sugar & Spike). The all-time master of war comics, Joe Kubert, drew issues 1, 3, 4, 7 and 100 and over 50 covers, including the iconic first issue with the skeleton soldier.
Most issues contain standalone short stories, although a popular recurring feature, The Day After Doomsday started in #22. Two or three pages long, each followed the lives of individuals surviving an unnamed holocaust or end-of-the-world event or apocalyptic nightmare. The series was so popular it also sporadically ran in House of Secrets (1956 series) and Unexpected.
The series was resurrected three times - in the 4-issue mini-series
Weird War Tales (1997 series), and in 1-issue stand alones, Weird War Tales (2000 series) and Weird War Tales (2010 series). Their stories spanned from ancient times to the 21st century.
So, if you are looking for the familiarity of a war comic with monsters, ghosts, the supernatural and twist endings, check out Weird War Tales.
Superheroes versus Nazis. That's the hook for the Invaders. If you like the original Sgt. Fury series set in the 1940s fighting the Third Reich, or a fan of Captain America, these 49 issues are a must read.
In the 1970s, Marvel writer Roy Thomas went into Marvel's Golden Age archives and dug up some nearly-forgotten heroes, including the Original Human Torch and his sidekick Toro, Bucky and the 1940s version of Namor. Teaming with a young Captain America as the Invaders, they first appeared in Avengers (1963 series) #71 where Vision, Black Panther and Yellowjacket travel back to World-War-II era Paris, and meet the Invaders.
The WWII setting was a hit in fans and the Invaders returned Giant-Size Invaders (1975 series), followed by their own series, Invaders (1975 series).
The Human Torch in the Invaders is not Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four. He's Jim Hammond, an android who has the ability to burst into flame and fly, who first appeared in comics in 1939.
The series ran for 45 issues and the real scene stealers are the WWII villains -- Red Skull, Baron Blood and Golem. Many supporting Marvel characters show up as well. Issue #8 features the reintroduction of the Union Jack, #12 features Spitfire and #14 features the super team the Crusaders.
In 1976, Roy Thomas teamed the Invaders with the Fantastic Four (1961 series) in Annual #11. He wrote an awesome story where Doctor Doom's time machine sends the FF back to 1946, but in alternate history where Germany won World War II.
The Invaders resurfaced in the 4-issue miniseries, Invaders (1993 series) whose story lines picked up a few weeks after the last issue of the 1975 series. Again written by Roy Thomas, it featured the Invaders again fighting the Nazis and also the Battle Axis, a team of Nazi sympathizing super villains.
So, if you're a fan of WWII drama, or Captain America, these stories are for you. And, like other series published in the 1970s and 1990s, they're relatively inexpensive.
Comics by Ed McGuinness
If you love gigantic muscles and explosive power, look no further than Ed McGuinness. One of today's most popular artists, McGuinness has a dynamic style that transforms heroes and villains into huge behemoths. With comparisons made to John Byrne and even Jack Kirby, McGuinness' style is bold and dynamic. Everyone is oversized, and the heroes are always moving, punching, flying or grappling.
His first work was on Vampirella Strikes for Harris Publishing in 1995. But, he hit the big time Marvel with Deadpool (1997 series), helping make the Merc with a Mouth a cult favorite in heavy demand, with issues among the pricier of the 1990s.
With snappy writing by Joe Kelly, Deadpool went from a B-list extra to one of Marvel's hottest heroes. The original 1997 series is a modern-day classic and a consistent best seller. Fans love McGuinness' Deadpool, and he has returned over the years, penciling the first issues of Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth and Deadpool Corps.
McGuinnes started drawing one of his favorite characters, Superman, in Superman (1987 series) #154. The Man of Steel was the perfect fit for McGuinness. His muscle-bound, square-jawed Superman would often battle oversized monsters or gorilla-sized villains. He drew 20 issues in the early 2000s before moving to Superman/Batman in 2003. The two teamed with other DC legends like Supergirl, Hawkman, Captain Marvel and Nightwing. The series was a hit, but McGuinness' time with DC was cut short when Marvel lured him back with a new take on an old monster.
If you think you know the Incredible Hulk... think again! Hulk (2008 series) showed the world a red Hulk. Yes.. red! Who is this mysterious new Hulk? McGuinness drew the first six issues and came back for 10 more later. The series was praised for its fresh take on one of Marvel's longest-running superheroes. It was outrageous, violent, and cheeky. McGuinness' exaggerated style showed Red Hulk with veins popping and nostrils flaring. Never has Hulk looked scarier or more powerful.
More recently, McGuinness was working again with writer Joe Kelly on Deadpool on Spider-Man/Deadpool (2016 series)and Avengers (2018 series). They both launched with strong sales and great reviews. Joe Kelly discussed, on Marvel's website, his ongoing success collaborating with McGuinness, "Ed is ... so into what he's drawing, and that energy is infectious."
For a list of Ed McGuinness artwork, click here
In the late 1970s, publishers partnered with toy companies to cross-promote -- comics based on the action figures helped sell the toys and the toys helped sell the comics.
Transformers, G.I. Joe and He-Man action figures became multi-million dollar goliaths, each with its own comic. In contrast, Micronauts action figures sold by tiny Mego Toys sputtered, but surprisinigly their their comics flourished.
Micronaut comics based on the toys are worth a read if you like original, dark science fiction. They're NOT just an excuse to push action figures. In fact, the comics were way more successful than the toys.
Mego never created a story for its Micronaut "universe" so Bill Mantlo, a Marvel writer, had a blank slate to create whatever he wanted. And he created an ambitious world, spanning centuries and galaxies -- a mix of science fiction and fantasy. So whereas Star Wars comics are based on movies, Micronaut comics are totally original.
In 1979 Micronauts won an Eagle Award for favorite new comic for it's starkly original story telling. If you like Star Wars or the Guardians of the Galaxy, here's another group of rag-tag characters, banding together despite grim odds, in an epic galactic struggle against villainous bad guys. The story: Arcturus Rann emerges from 1,000 years of suspended animation and discovers his people are under attack from the evil Baron Karza. Mantlo created strong supporting characters, from Rann's love interest, Marionette, a member of the royal family in danger of being overthrown to Bug, an insect-like scoundrel.
The story telling was so good that it attracted top artists, including Steve Ditko, Howard Chaykin, Dave Cockrum and Gil Kane. Micronauts was not a B-list title. Marvel merged the "Microverse" into the larger Marvel universe in 1984's mini-series, X-Men and the Micronauts, written by Mantlo and long-time X-Men writer Chris Claremont.
Marvel rebooted the series in Micronauts (1984 series). With strong characters, epic space-spanning action and a serial plot that takes dark twists and turns, Micronauts is a better book than anyone was ever expecting, and the 79 issues (59 in the 1979 series and 20 in the 1984 series) kept publishing even after the toy line was scrubbed. And because the toys bombed, the demand for the comics is not has high as Star War comics, creating an affordable comic book series.
The Spider-Man Clone Sagas
Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Right? Well, not always. What happens when someone else gets his powers? It's happened a few times and these stories offer unique and clever twists and predicaments.
In Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #139, the first saga began when Peter's biology professor Miles Warren (whose secret identity was the Jackal) revealed that he had cloned the both the webslinger and Warren's secret love, Gwen Stacy before she died in issue #122.
The crazy thing was, the clone thought he was the original Peter Parker. And why not? After all he wore the same jeans, and had the same genes, as the original. Warren forced the two to battle and one died. But which one? The original or the clone? And how could the survivor of the two really know? It's a unique conundrum with a clever solution that continued through the end of the saga in issue #151.
Spoiler Alert: Well, of course, the original Peter Parker had to be the survivor, and as it turned out the clone didn't really die (oh, what a shock), and it returned 15 years later, in the 1990s, going by the name Ben Reilly. .
As a clone, Ben was again physically identical to Peter Parker, but in this second clone saga, their lives took different paths. Ben exiled himself from Peter's world in New York, and traveled the country, working odd jobs and forging his own identity while battling depression and trying to avoid living a hero's life. Years later, when he discovered Aunt May was dying, Reilly returned to New York and bargained a truce with Peter, ultimately embracing his long-hidden heroic nature to become the Scarlet Spider.
Reilly took the mantle of Spider-Man again in Scarlet Spider (1995 series) and then briefly in Sensational Spider-Man (1996 series). Reilly died in Spider-Man (1990 series) #75, but in comics, death is temporary and he returned yet again in Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider.
Here's a checklist of issues with Spider-Man's clone:
- Web of Spider-Man (1985 series) #117-129, Super Special 1
- Web of Scarlet Spider #1-4
- Sensational Spider-Man #0-11
- Amazing Spider-Man #139-151, 391-406, 407-418, 435, Annual 1996, Super Special 1
- Amazing Scarlet Spider #1-2
- Spider-Man (1990 series) #46-63, 64-75, Super Special 1, Holiday Special 1
- Scarlet Spider 1-2
- Spectacular Spider-Man (1976 series) #25-31, 142-143, 149, 162-163, Annual 8, 215-229 230-241, Super Special 1
- Spectacular Scarlet Spider #1-2
- Spider-Man Unlimited (1993 series) #7-10 11-14
- Scarlet Spider Unlimited 1
- Venom Super Special #1
- Giant-Size Spider-Man #5
- New Warriors (1990 series) #61-62, #65-67
- Spider-Man Team-Up #1-5
- Green Goblin #1, 3, 10, 13
- Daredevil (1964 series) #354
- Backlash/Spider-Man #1-2
Star Wars Comics
All Complete sets
When Star Wars premiered in 1976 (later renamed Episode IV: A New Hope), it started a revolution in movie special effects and created the most popular science fiction universe the world as ever seen. And the universe is growing faster since Disney's purchase of Star Wars from creator George Lucas in 2012.
And comics based on this universe, like the movies, have been a fan favorite for over 40 years, and these comics are booming in popularity again.
I hate using cliches, and strive to avoid them at NewKadia, but this one fits Star Wars comics perfectly: "There's a Star Wars comic for any comic reader from age 6 to 77".
The comic book Star Wars boom started when Marvel launched the very first Star Wars comics in Star Wars (1977 series). It is regarded as the most successful comic adaptation of a Hollywood feature film series. The first six issues adapt the first movie produced, Star Wars: (later renamed Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope.
Original stories ran then from #7 until #38 when Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back, the second Star Wars movie, was adapted in issues #39 to #44. Original stories then followed through issue #107 in 1986.
The third movie was adapted in its own title, the first Star Wars mini-series, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Since then, there have been over 100 Star Wars comic book series. You can see the complete list here.
In 1988, Dark Horse created their own ongoing series Star Wars (1998 series). This is a great series for several reason. First, they had the right to use the faces of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, which created a stronger connection to the movies. And, the series features new characters, along with featuring minor characters from the movies., such as Ki-Adi-Mundi, a Jedi knight featured as a member of the Jedi council.
It was renamed Star Wars: Republic starting with issue #46 and in its 83 issues (and over 1,600 pages), these series provides more details than 6 hours of movies can. Many stories are multiple issue epics.
Dark Horse also created dozens of mini-series. Among the notables:
C3PO and R2-D2 had way more adventures than what the movies show and they were featured in both Star Wars: Droids (1994 series) and
Star Wars Droids (1995 series).
Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, and Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, and Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith adapt the next three films.
Top Guns meets the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron Just how crazy are the X-Wing fighter pilots? Featuring Wedge Antilles (a minor character in the original movies, but popular with hardcore fans), this series has intrigue, danger and lots of great fight scenes.
Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic is set a VERY long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, far, far, far way -- about 4,000 years before the movies! The main character is Padawan Zayne Carrick, a youngster who shows marginal abilities but eventually works his way into the Jedi Academy. He's framed for murder and the real drama begins. This is a great jumping on point for new fans hungering for completely new characters. It ran for 50 issues and features some familiar concepts (like Jedis and the Force) but because it is so far in the past, you won't need to have any knowledge of the films' stories.
Star Wars: Dark Times feature a time when the Jedi have been all but wiped out, and only a few survivors remain. They are hunted. How far will they go to protect themselves? This is a unique read with some great plot twists, true suspense and storylines that will leave the reader questioning their own ethics.
After Disney purchased Marvel and Star Wars, Marvel took back the right to publish an ongoing Star Wars series, Star Wars (2015 series). It opened to rave reviews and strong sales. And issue #1 is still moderately priced. If you want more Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo, this is it. The series is set after first Star Wars movie (episode IV) and before The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V). Familiar faces like Darth Vader and the bounty hunters return.
The only knock is that you know that Skywalker, Solo, and Leia will survive every tortuous attack because they're alive in Episode V. But, great artwork, writing and inclusion of popular characters like Yoda more than make up for that one suspense-breaker.
There are more, and they're all listed here.
Or, go here for series with every issue in stock.
Comics by Robert Kirkman
Robert Kirkman's comic book writing career was going nowhere. Then, he created The Walking Dead which changed everything.
Now a global pop-culture phenomenon, the Walking Dead (2003 series) was a long shot -- printed in black and white, by Image, not Marvel nor DC, in a genre that had never had a series last more than a few years.
But, Kirkman's writing philosophy is unique: Never repeat yourself. "I had years of [different] story lines planned when the first issue came out," Kirkman told Rolling Stone magazine. "I did a lot of research on World War II and the Holocaust, because that was the most modern equivalent of what it would be like to survive in an apocalyptic setting ... to get a sense of what it's like when people are pushed to their limits."
As a result, Kirkman created characters driven by primal emotions: greed, love, anger and revenge. If you got interested by watching the TV show, the comic is still for your because the TV version is similar to it, but not identical.
One reason for Kirkman's popularity is that changes he makes, stay changed. People who die, stay dead, a refreshing change from nearly every other series which kills characters only to return them to life. Says Kirkman, "Characters die, and never come back ... no matter how popular they are."
Kirkman's credits also include Invincible, a comic which ran for 144 issues over 15 years. It's geared towards fans of super-powered heroes. But, how is his superhero comic different? Well, its NOT about a superhero! Rather, the star is the SON of the world's greatest superhero. With a such a famous dad, how can he possibly live up to his father's (and the world's) expectations?
There seems to be a Kirkman book for virtually every genre. He teamed with Todd McFarlane, Greg Capullo and Ryan Ottley (the artist from Invincible) to launch Haunt. This supernatural book features a priest who comes back from beyond the grave to search for his killer.
And, Kirkman doesn't repeat himself. How about demonic possession? Kirkman teamed with artist Paul Azaceta in Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta which features Kyle Barnes, a loner with a troubled past. Kyle searches to uncover the truth about the evil lurking in his hometown.
To avoid recurring storylines, Kirkman's begins with a conclusion already in mind. Thief of Thieves debuted in 2012, and featured a world-class art thief with family problems. Kirkman shone a light on the main character's troubles, with twists, turns and a great alternative for those looking for something other than superheroes.
Kirkman also wrote Astounding Wolf-Man, which featured a murdered wife, an evil curse, and an unlikely hero, a CEO who is attacked and bitten by a werewolf, who uses his evil cursed state to become one of the most unlikely superheroes ever. The series has a unique combination of bright illustration (almost like animation) combined with gory violence.
Kirkman has also written for Marvel. Marvel Zombies (2006 series) and Marvel Zombies 2 were miniseries where Marvel's superheroes turned into flesh-eating monsters. Both were big sellers.
Comics by Ed Brubaker
Meryl Streep has been nominated for more Oscars than any other actor. And Ed Brubaker is the Meryl Streep of comics, nominated for the industry's Eisner Award 13 times, and winning seven, for his innovative, creative writing that spans superhero, crime and fantasy genres.
His wins as "Best Writer" in 2007, 2008 and 2010, came for his work on the now-famous "Winter Solider" storyline in Captain America (2005 series), his gritty detective comic, Criminal, and for Incognito, whose innovative twist was that its superheroes and villains had been around for over two centuries.
Brubaker's Captain America is a haunted figure with heavy responsibilities. "That's the early Stan Lee kind of Shakespearean take on him from when he and Kirby brought him back [in 1963]," Brubaker said in an interview with Comics Alliance. "[Captain America] was a tragic guy... lost in time, haunted by his dead friend, weighed down by going from being soldier to superhero, not sure of his place in the modern world."
Brubaker wrote all 50 issues of the series, featuring the return of Bucky Barnes and Captain's supposed death, with Bucky assuming the role of Captain America. The series continued, renumbered, as Captain America (2009 series) and Brubaker wrote #600-619, and won the Eisner Award for Best Single Issue Writing for #601, "Red, White and Blue-Blood."
In Criminal (2006 series) voted Best New Series of the year, he created hard-boiled detective stories. The gritty,R-rated realism requires no leaps of faith from the reader. Brubaker conjured a crooked, crime-ridden world with plenty of noir undertones.
Brubaker won again for the 12-issue limited series, Fade Out, about Hollywood's lurid past, featuring murder, sexual abuse, communists and studio cover-ups.
He also wrote the award-winning 24-issue limited series, Fatale (2012 series) starring Jo, an immortal femme fatale who is blessed (or cursed) with hypnotic powers over men.
Brubaker tackled Batman (1940 series) in issues #582-586 and #591-607, with the great storylines "Fearless" and "Death-Wish". Brubaker merged his love for crime and detective writing with the Batman universe in Gotham Central where tales of supervillains and crime are told from the point of view of Gotham's Police Force.
Brubaker's greatness was confirmed by Marvel in 2006 when they selected him to replace Chris Claremont, who had written nearly every X-Men issue over the previous 30 years. Where could Brubaker take the X-Men? Less than a decade after 9/11, Brubaker worked in themes of religion, extremism and terror in Uncanny X-Men #475 to #503.
Once you try his stories, you'll be hooked.
One of the reasons I enjoy comic book series that began in the 1960s is that you can chart society's changes by the way the comic book stories reflect the changing moral fiber of the country. Marvel had proven a few years earlier that putting real world issues into their stories made the fantasy of comic books far more interesting. DC was slow to follow, but the Teen Titans finally made the transition to a more politically aware
The original Teen Titan series teamed up the teenage sidekicks of Batman, the Flash Wonder Woman and Aquaman -- Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Aqualad. Their first appearance in Brave and the Bold (1955 series) #60, led to their ongoing series.
At first, the stories dealt with the group helping other teens, ignoring the politics of the day. But, as the 1960s moved to a conclusion, the stories explored some of the real issues of the day -- racial tension, the Vietnam War.
The series is a bit under appreciated and as a result, the books are priced lower than they probably should be. With only 60 issues, its one of the more affordable superhero titles of the 1960s and 1970s.
Weird War Tales
If you enjoy horror, science fiction or war stories, you should check out this under-rated series because it combines all three genres. Each issue is hosted by "Death", depicted in a different military uniform each issue. Stories included undead characters, paranormal characters and robot soldiers. It's like the Walking Dead meeting Patton meeting the Twilight Zone.
Since it's not a "superhero" comic, and since the series ran for 124 issues from 1971 to 1983, the prices are not in the stratosphere.
The "Hush" storyline in Batman #608-619
When writer Jeph Loeb teamed with superstar artist Jim Lee in 2002 on the original Batman series (Batman 1940 series), fan expectations were high. Their 12-part storyline, titled Hush, was heralded by fans, both for the artwork and the twisting plot. It stands as a modern classic.
There is a mystery and enough surprises to keep hardcore fans interested, and it has become a perfect jumping-on point for a new reader. Complex.com ranked Hush among the greatest Batman stories ever told. Hush features everything a Batman fan could want: multiple high-profile criminals, a romance with Catwoman, and the Man of Steel causing all sorts of problems.
An overview, without spoilers:
Killer Croc and Poison Ivy are creating havoc for Batman. But they are executing terror so complicated that Batman is convinced a secret mastermind is pulling the strings.
So, Batman lets Killer Croc escape from prison, a dangerous move, hoping it leads to the mystery man. The trail leads to Metropolis, where Batman finds a mind-controlled Superman (under the spell of Poison Ivy). The big question gets more important: Who is this new enemy known only as Hush, who claims to know Batman's darkest secrets. And why is he starting a war with the Dark Knight?
Jim Lee's Batman is phenomenal, drawing comparisons to the best Batman artwork of Frank Miller and Neal Adams. Many fans consider Jim Lee's Batman the best depiction of the Dark Knight in decades. Lee's Batman is a high-tech weapon. His suit is Kevlar. He's got gadgets -- tracking devices, infrared sensors, and oxygen breathing devices.
Everything in Hush is filled with fantastic detail -- Gotham's dark, grimy streets, nostalgic Bruce Wayne flashbacks with his father, and Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn looking sleek, sexy and powerful.
Writer Jeph Loeb, who wrote for the TV shows Lost and Smallville haGs Batman fighting an endless parade of villains. Almost every major Batman bad guy shows up, including the Joker, Scarecrow, Riddler and more. Lee's Killer Croc, with gnashing teeth, scaly and hulking is the scariest fans have ever seen.
For a loner, Batman is surrounded by a surprisingly large cast of friends. Barbara Gordon, now paralyzed from her assault by the Joker, works as the Oracle behind the scenes. Nightwing appears, bringing with him the past complicated mentor relationship as Dick Grayson (the original Robin). And, the Huntress shows up too.
Batman even teams with Catwoman and their complicated romance is explored. Is she the Dark Knight's one true weakness?
With all the mystery, battles and romance, no wonder the story took 12 issues to tell! If you haven't read it, get it. You won't be disappointed.
Backup stories in Action Comics
For most of its 904 issues, Superman was the featured story in Action Comics (1938 series), with other heroes starring in their own stories in the back of each issue. Collecting every issue of Action Comics is a monumental task, but collecting only issues featuring a secondary, backup hero is much easier.
The most well known of these is Supergirl. She burst onto the scene in Action Comics #252 in 1959, and appeared in every issue for 10 years, through #376, and sporadically thereafter.
Supergirl was an orphan, and early stories were set in an orphanage where she took the name Linda Lee. As a teenage girl, her stories had a totally different tone than Superman stories. She had crushes on celebrities and movie stars, and DC even added a pet cat, Streaky, who during Supergirl's attempt to find an antidote for Kryptonite, got temporary super powers. When she landed on Earth, Superman kept her presence a secret while she learned to use her powers. After staying hidden from the public for three years, Supergirl was finally introduced to the world in issue #285.
Other Kryptonians also showed up. Evil scientist Lesla-Lar (a dead ringer for Supergirl) escaped from the bottle city of Kandor and tried to steal Supergirl's identity. Most stories, with simple story lines and early 1960s sensibilities, make for fun reading. No one's getting blown up; there are no dark clouds; only happy endings.
Supergirl eventually got her own Bronze ages series -- Supergirl (1972 series) and the Daring New Adventures of Supergirl, and later appeared in numerous other Supergirl comic series and in her own movie and TV show.
The secondary series often reflected popular consumer tastes of their eras. One such was the 1940s and 1950s Congo Bill, today largely forgotten. Capitalizing on the popularity of Tarzan's jungle adventures, back when Africa was a mysterious, and isolated locale, Congo Bill starred as a big-game hunter. Stories in issues #37 to #247 featured him and his jungle child, Janu protecting jungle natives from poachers, outsiders stealing resources and bad guys taking advantage of the locals.
He was a cross between Indiana Jones and Luke Cage and became so popular that he starred in a movie serial in 1948 and had his own short-lived comic, Congo Bill (1954 series).
In #248, using a magic ring, Congo Bill swapped bodies with a golden gorilla and became Congorilla! Later, when Congo Bill's body died, Congorilla's ape body permanently housed his human mind. The big ape, with the human brain, battled wrongdoing in the jungle in issues #248-261 and 270-83. Congo Bill was updated in the 1990s in both Congorilla and Congo Bill (1999 series). He lives on today as a guest in other books.
By the 1950s, science-fiction story -- aliens, robots and space travel - were a staple in comics. To capitalize on the trend, Action Comics created Tommy Tomorrow, a police officer of the future, in issues #127-196 and 199-251, Guarding the solar system from aliens and intergalactic threats, it had everything appealing to readers of the era -- ray guns, spaceships and aliens -- transporting readers to a distant future. Tommy also starred in five issues of Showcase -- #41, 42, 44, 46 and 47.
In the 1970s, Human Target stories appeared in # 419-420, 422-423, 425-426, 429 and 432. Green Arrow, Black Canary, Human Target and Atom rotated in issues 421-458. Stories featuring Mr. Mxyzptlk, Krypto the Superdog, The Sporting Life of Steve Lombard (the sportscaster on the TV station where Clark Kent worked), Lori Lemaris and Morgan Edge rotated in #460-477. If you enjoy Superman's supporting characters, you can also check out Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen and Superman Family, where Superman was merely a supporting character.
Comics by J. Scott Campbell
Is this cover featuring the bare midriff of 15 year old Riri Williams, the star of the Invincible Iron Man (2017 series), too sensual? That's the controversy that enveloped artist J. Scott Campbell.
Campbell's style which often shows attractive women in sexy poses and costumes is instantly recognizable. He's a fan favorite, but Campbell has his critics -- his depiction of women has been characterized as overly-sexual and anti-feminist. In 2016, Marvel cancelled this variant cover of issue #1, before it was even printed.
Way too young to be so sensual, Marvel said. This led to an industry-wide debate about how artists (mostly men) were drawing an ever increasingly diverse group of superheroes (including minorities, women and young teens). Brian Michael Bendis, the writer of the series, said he was "very glad they are not going forward with the cover".
Campbell called Marvel's decision "unfortunate". He said that he had drawn "a sassy, coming-of-age young woman ... I gave her a sassy 'attitude' ... 'sexualizing' was not intended."
Cambell is a comic industry lifer. At 19, Jim Lee hired him and he started working at WildStorm where he teamed teamed with Lee on Gen 13 (1994 series) -- a team of teenagers with superpowers imprisoned as part of a government project. The book, also overtly sexual at times was a huge success and the characters were eventually purchased by DC Comics.
Campbell's next big project defined him as the definitive "bad girl" artist. Danger Girl (1998 series) was "Charlie's Angels" crossed with James Bond -- highly-skilled (and attractive) secret agents, complete with guns, wetsuits and all sorts of trouble.
After 10 years and stints drawing Wildsiderz (2005 series) and other stories, Campbell cut back on penciling stories and became a cover artist extraordinaire. The Amazing Spider-Man (1999 series) #30-35 and 50-52 show the wall crawler in awesome detail. His cover for #50, shown here, is already considered a classic. Campbell's style has been favorably compared to Spidey greats Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen. Amazing Spider-Man (2003 series) issues #601, 606 and 608 are all top-notch notable copies.
In 2005, Zenescope, criticized by some for their own sexist portrayal of women, hired Campbell and he created covers for Grimm Fairy Tales, # 41 and #75 and their other titles including Grimm Fairy Tales: Escape From Wonderland and Grimm Fairy Tales Myths & Legends.
Campbell is sought after for his covers and commissions, and is a huge draw at comic conventions. He also designs statues and prints for Sideshow collectables featuring characters from Star Wars and Disney animated films.
Comics by Greg Capullo
One of the most popular contemporary artists, Greg Capullo has worked on top titles for Marvel, DC and Image. His books are cool and his muscular, dynamic drawing style has made him a fan favorite.
Capullo's first major work was on the struggling Marvel title Quasar. Launched in 1989, the story about an "everyman" cosmic superhero never really caught on, but Capullo contributed on issue 18 and had a steady run through issue 38.
Marvel loved his art and moved him up to X-Force (1991 series), one of their best-selling titles. Created by Rob Liefeld, it was was a huge seller. Greg Capullo took over with issue 14 and during his tenure he drew Deadpool, Wolverine, Cable, Cannonball, Shatterstar, Domino, Feral, Boomer and Warpath.
Capullo's dark, ghostly style caught the eye of superstar artist Todd McFarlane, the founder of Image comics, who stole him to work on McFarlane's new Image superhero, Spawn. Capullo and writer Grant Morrison came on board as artist and writer with issue #16. Capullo worked in a detailed style similar to McFarlane and sales continued to soar. Capullo worked on 71 of the first 100 issues, and drew most of the covers through #200. It's his look and feel, as much as McFarlane's, that has helped define Image's biggest superhero.
One of Capulo's creations was Angela. She became so popular that she garnered her own mini-series, Angela, written by co-creator Neil Gaiman. Marvel purchased the character years later and retrofit her as the daughter of Odin and sister or the Mighty Thor.
When Todd McFarlane teamed with The Walking Dead's creator Robert Kirkman on the 2009 series Haunt, Capullo was called on for the art. Haunt is a supernatural tale with a look and feel similar to Spawn.
In 2011, Capullo broke from McFarlane and ventured to DC Comics. Teamed with writer Scott Snyder, the duo launched the critically-acclaimed Batman (2011 series) . The five-year collaboration was a huge seller and is much sought after by fans.
Greg Capullo very popular at comic conventions, giving time to explain his craft and talk shop. Check out an awesome tutorial he and McFarlane gave on drawing by clicking here. They make it look so easy!
Comics by Jim Aparo
When you think of the great Batman artists, names like Bob Kane, Frank Miller, Jim Lee and Neal Adams come to mind. But, I'm suggesting you add Jim Aparo to the list.
Aparo's Batman is sleek and lithe. He moves with the grace and confidence of a master martial artist. While today's Batman often appears with tons of gadgets, Kevlar vests and mechanized armor, the 1970s Aparo Batman was a shadowy sleuth hunting criminals using only a rope, a few small tools and his superior intelligence.
Highly underrated, Jim Aparo drew Batman for over 30 years. He produced hundreds of issues and was the backbone of the Batman creative team for most of the 1970s and 1980s, churning out consistently dynamic product.
Aparo's greatest achievements appear in Batman (1940 series). He introduced the popular villain KGBeast in isues #417-420. The famous "Death in the Family" storyline (#426-429) shocked readers when Jason Todd was viciously murdered by the Joker. John Byrne teamed with Aparo on the innovative story "Many Deaths of the Batman" (#433-435). The first chapter, completely silent, perfectly showcased Aparo's fluid motion, backgrounds and emotive characters.
Batman #440 began "A Lonely Place of Dying," which featured the new Robin, Tim Drake. And Aparo drew the biggest Batman storyline of the 1990s: Knightfall. His depiction of Bane breaking Batman's back on the cover of #497 is widely regarded as one of the most iconic images in Batman comic history.
He broke into Batman in Brave and the Bold (1955 series), which teamed Batman with a different character each issue. "[In issue #98]. they were going to have The Phantom Stranger in the book, so they said, 'Let's get the guy who's drawing Phantom Stranger.' That's when I started doing Batman," Aparo told Tomorrows Publishing. Aparo drew almost every one of the next 102 issues, ending with the final 200th issue.
The artwork on this series is detailed and photo-realistic, and often draws comparison to Neal Adams (a very high compliment). When Brave and Bold ended, it was replaced with Batman and the Outsiders (1983 series), which featured Batman teaming with a team of misfits --Black Lightning, Metamorpho, and new superheroes Katana and Geo-Force. Aparo penciled most of the first 20 issues and continued to draw the Outsiders (1985 series) after Batman left the series.
Aparo also worked on Batman in Detective Comics for years. DC honored him by having him contribute to Detective's historic 500th issue alongside legends Joe Kubert, Carmine Infantino and Walter Simonson.
Aparo started at Charlton comics, working on The Phantom (1962 series). When editor Dick Giordano moved to DC, Aparo, added DC's Aquaman (1962 series) to his workload.
At DC, he also penciled the supernatural adventure series Phantom Stranger (1969 series) starting with issue #7. This is a great read for those who like a mix of superheroes with the macabre, featuring dark, shadowy art. It remains a fan favorite even today.
Aparo is also loved by fans for his work in Adventure Comics (1938 series). His shadowy, creepy Spectre covers don most issues from #431-440. He switched gears with bright, action-oriented Aquaman covers for most issues up to #469. Whether it is the shadowy Spectre or the powerful Aquaman, Aparo showed his versatility in both genres.
One word used to describe Aparo's take on heroes is "cool". The clothes, cars, backgrounds and small details (like paintings on walls, hairstyles and glamorous backgrounds) made his comics stylish and sleek.
Solid, consistent and underrated. But great, nevertheless. Jim Aparo passed away in 2005.
DC and Marvel Annuals
In the early days of comics, comics were disposable. Once published, they were gone. There were no reprints in trade paperbacks or collected editions. That changed in the 1960s when DC created "annuals".
Instead of paying 10¢ for 24 pages of story, DC began reprinting their greatest stories in 80 page annuals for 25¢. Even as a 10-year old, I saw the bargain. So did DC. Recycling old stories was cost effective - nothing more to pay artists or writers for stories DC already owned.
Suddenly, long-forgotten classics from the vaults of Superman, Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane, Flash and Superboy lived again. The 80-page Secret Origins reprinted the origin story of every major DC superhero.
The first DC annual was Superman Annual #1 published in October of 1960. After that, DC's annuals often had a theme, such as Superman Annual #2, featuring the Man of Steel's all-time greatest villains, or Batman Annual #5, featuring "Batman and Robin's Most Fantastic Foes"
Stan Lee, Marvel's editor-in-chief, saw DC's success, but ever the innovator, he wanted to go one step further. Instead of just reprints, Marvel's Annuals (sometimes called Specials) represented a bonus 13th issue each year, usually with a blockbuster storyline. Marvel printed annuals for most every Silver Age Marvel title, including Amazing Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Journey into Mystery, the Incredible Hulk and the X-Men
As if producing a best-selling monthly comic wasn't hard enough, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby produced some historic issues such as (my personal favorite) Fantastic Four Special #6, which featured the birth of Franklin Richards!
Marvel had a knack for having huge knock-down, drag-em-out stories with tons of guest appearances in the early years. Spider-Man Annual #5 featured the first appearance of Peter Parker's parents. Annual #10 featured the first appearance of the Fly Annual #16 featured the all-new female Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau).
The most popular Spider-Man annual ever is #21, featuring the wedding of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson.
In the 1980s, annuals became less of a "stand alone" story and instead became more intertwined with the regular series, especially when Marvel launched annual crossover events. The Evolutionary War was the first huge, multi-book crossover that appeared only in Marvel's 1988 annuals. Each annual was a chapter in the saga which featured the High Evolutionary teaming or fighting against X-Factor, the Silver Surfer, Spider-Man and the West Coast Avengers. The annuals allowed Marvel to tell a complicated story with multiple story arcs and characters, and encouraged readers to purchase titles that they might not otherwise have bought.
In 1989, Marvel presented Atlantis Attacks, featuring underwater villains Llyra and Ghaur spearheading a global plot to dominate the Earth. It spanned 14 books, including the annuals for Fantastic Four (1961 series) , Spectacular Spider-Man (1976 series) , New Mutants and many more.
Not every year featured massive crossovers. In 1990, Marvel went with a smaller story called Days of Future Present. It crossed over the Fantastic Four, X-Men, New Mutants and X-Factor. Written by Chris Claremont, Louise and Walter Simonson, the storyline featured young Franklin Richards, time travel, alternate versions of superheroes and lots of time travel. It's a great, short read by a powerhouse team of writers.
DC went huge in 1992, featuring an annual event called Eclipso. This story spanned 18 annuals and a few one-shot books. The story starred Eclipso, trapped on the Moon, who uses his superpowers to possess others when they become angry. Superman, Batman, Hawkman and the Justice League fight together against this powerful threat.
There have been countless other crossovers at Marvel and DC, such as Marvel's System Bytes in (Punisher, Daredevil, Wonder Man and Guardians of the Galaxy, DC's Armageddon 2001 in Hawk & Dove and Superman and Batman and Marvel's Citizen Kang in Captain America, Thor, Fantastic Four, Avengers.
Crossovers have gone out of fashion in recent years with stand alone stories coming back in popularity.
At NewKadia, annuals can be found at the top of the main page of every title by clicking the link that says, "Annuals" or "Specials".
When Image Comics launched in early 1990s, it was an unproven company featuring superstar artists... and not much else. Many of Image's new books fizzled.
However, Savage Dragon (1993 series) has lasted over 25 years. Incredibly, the entire run has been written and drawn entirely by Erik Larsen. Along with Todd McFarlane's Spawn and Jim Lee's WildC.A.T.S., Savage Dragon is one of the few Image characters that has spanned the entire history of Image Comics.
The plot: A muscular, green-skinnd man with a fin on his head is found in a burning field, with amnesia. Blessed with super strength and a quick healing superpower Savage Dragon debuted as a 3-issue limited miniseries, Savage Dragon (1992 series). There, he encountered other Image superheroes, such as Superpatriot and Badrock.
The ongoing series started in 1993. Larsen's fans love the look and feel of his cartoony, outrageous pencils. His faces, hair, costumes are all totally unique. His rambunctious fight layouts are full of action and energy and have often drawn comparisons to Jack Kirby. A high compliment indeed! .
And Larsen is an accomplished writer as well. His writing drives the action, suspense and conflict, with interesting villains like Fiend (a creepy-looking devil) and Overlord (a cloaked and masked super villain who totally and utterly defeats Savage Dragon early on).
Unlike others, Larsen is not afraid to kill off main characters and keep them dead -- heightening the danger factor. No one is safe! Another great feature is that the characters age. As a result plots remain fresh, rather than rehashing old plotlines over and over.
Savage Dragon is definitely worth a look. Most issues are plentiful and inexpensive. The entire 1992 mini-series is usually available for less than $5. It's a great jumping on point for an entire new universe of superheroes.
Comics by Mark Bagley
In the mid-1980s, Mark Bagley was an illustrator for Lockheed Martin, the global aerospace company, drawing technical diagrams of state-of-the-art weapons systems. But, he wanted more. So, when Marvel created a contest, looking for a young, new talented artist, he entereed. Sort of like "American Idol" or "The Voice", but for comic book artists. And he won!
Bagley was flown to New York to meet Marvel editors, including Mike Higgins who was editing the New Universe, which winding down. In an interview with CBR.com, Begley remembered, "He was desperate for people to work on it, and I was desperate for work. I did 4 or 5 jobs for him. After about a year and a half, I quit my regular job to do comics full time. And, I've never looked back."
After drawing some Marvel annuals, Strikeforce Morituri and Visionaries, and a brief stint on Captain America (1968 series), Bagley took over New Warriors (1990 series). The book was a hit, with young heroes Nova, Marvel Boy and Speedball creating a "junior team" for the Avengers. Bagley penciled the first 25 issues, and here fans first saw Bagley's real strength as an artist. His technical drawings at Lockheed Martin, made Bagley a reliable draftsman who could create a detailed page on time. Marvel brass liked what they saw, and his big break followed.
When superstar artists Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen left Marvel to form Image comics, Marvel assigned him to draw Marvel's best-selling comic, Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series). "I got it at the absolute best time. It was right at the start of the real boom times. The guys from Image had all taken off and made more money for everybody else," Bagley said to CBR. Starting with issue #345, he worked on most issues through #415. Over that six-year period, Bagley had Spidey battling Venom multiple times, helped co-create the symbiote Carnage in issue #363, and celebrated the web-slinger's 30th anniversary in landmark issue #375 (which also featured the first appearance of Spider-Man 2099). Bagley also drew the first few issues (and the covers) to the popular Venom: Lethal Protector miniseries.
Following in the long shadow of legend Todd McFarlane was tough, but Bagley made Spidey his own. While keeping McFarlane's spaghetti webbing and huge eyes, Spider-Man became lighter and skinnier under Bagley's pencil. When Spider-Man fought Venom, the web crawler looked overpowered. The light, fast and nimble Spidey was a hit with fans and sales of Amazing Spider-Man in the 1990s stayed strong. Bagley later returned to Spider-Man in a unique way, but first he helped create a popular superhero team with a twist.
Along with veteran writer Kurt Busiek, he created Thunderbolts (1997 series) whose heroes were actually supervillains the Beetle, Fixer, Goliath and Moonstone. Yes, Masters of Evil disguised as a superhero team! The series was popular and ran for over 150 issues. Bagley helped create the look and feel of the new characters and worked on most of the first 50 issues before returning to Spider-Man... sort of.
Spider-Man was relaunched in 2000 with the innovative offshoot series Ultimate Spider-Man (2000 series). Set in an alternate universe, the "Ultimate" universe was a critical success, creating a new jumping-on point for old and new readers alike. Bagley drew the first 111 issues-a staggering run that gave the series a consistent look and feel. Under Bagley's watchful eye, Spider-Man was reinvented as a skinny teenager who is lithe, fast and fluid.
DC finally got a hold of Bagley with Trinity (2008 series), exploring the relationship of DC's big three heroes Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. It's awesome to see major DC heroes drawn in Bagley style. He drew all 52 issues of this interesting read.
Bagley returned to Marvel with Thunderbolts (2016 series) and All-New X-Men (2016 series). His long runs means fans can see multiple-issue story arcs and characters evolve under a singular vision.
Comics by Denny O'Neil
Comics are often appreciated mostly as a visual medium. However, the most notable comics feature both great art and truly great writing.
Denny O'Neil's writing brought a combination of social relevance, mystery and suspense to comics that has cemented his place as one of the all-time great story tellers and innovators. Very simply, he is a comic book writing legend.
O'Neil is best known for teaming with superstar artist Neal Adams for their legendary run on Green Lantern (1960 series) starting with issue #63. Before that issue, plots in DC comics had childish "silver age" plots.-- Green Lantern spent most of his days travelling to distant solar systems, battling aliens and fighting intergalactic foes. The stories were simple, for kids. However, O'Neil broke the mold and advanced comic book writing into a new era with issue #76, teaming Green Lantern with Green Arrow and beginning a critically-acclaimed run, "Hard Travelling Heroes".
"Hard Travelling Heroes" is a must read for any fan interested in "real life" stories. It marked a turning point in comics, the first time the medium developed stories touching on contemporary issues and topics and written for more mature, adult readers. Instead of imaginary space travel, most of O'Neil's revamped Green Lantern stories focused on down-to-earth issues like poverty, racism and cultural differences. It was cataclysmically groundbreaking. So much so, it marks the start of the Bronze Age of comics.
At the time, Denny O'Neil recalls that he thought of it just as disposable, temporary entertainment. "Even people who worked in the field did not use the words 'art form'." O'Neil told 13th Dimension about his amazing run. "I knew we were pushing an envelope. I thought, 'so maybe this will last a year.' If you had told me that 40 years later it would come out in a hardcover, slip-covered edition, I'd have said, 'you're nuts! It's not that important.'"
But it was important. Issues 85 and 86 showed "the shocking truth about drugs" with Green Arrow's ward Speedy depicted as a drug addict. It won the 1971 Shazam Award for best individual story. Boundaries were pushed again in issue 87, introducing a black Green Lantern (John Stewart). He became so popular that he starred in a cartoon series and his own comic series, Green Lantern: Mosaic. These socially-relevant stories have remained relevant and are appreciated now more than ever.
O'Neil broke into comics in the late 1960s, scripting Strange Tales (1951 series) off of plots by Steve Ditko and Bill Everett, under the editing of Stan Lee. O'Neil also wrote Kid Colt Outlaw and Two-Gun Kid before a short stint at Charlton Comics.
Denny O'Neil wrote the six-issue series Beware the Creeper (1968 series), teaming with both Gil Kane and Steve Ditko. This is an underappreciated gem. Another great series is Bat Lash (1968 series), featuring a reluctant old west pacifist who seems to attract trouble wherever he goes.
O'Neil's work on Batman (1940 series) and Detective Comics (1937 series) cemented his reputation as a master storyteller. Batman emerged from the 1960s as a global but lighthearted TV phenomenon alongside a wisecracking Robin (holy campiness, Batman!). O'Neil's Batman returned Batman to his darker roots, working at night, often alone.
"We gave the book psychological underpinnings," O'Neil recalled in an interview with MrMedia. "They were always implied, but we brought them to the foreground." O'Neal also wrote backup stories in Detective Comics (1937 series) that featured Batgirl and Robin. There is a real element of mystery and danger to these backup stories because Batgirl and Robin are not super-sleuths, don't possess world-class martial arts skills and often get bested by criminals.. He also helped create one of the Dark Knight's most memorable adversaries: Ra's al Ghul.
Much of Batman's popularity in the 1980s is attributed to Frank Miller, but O'Neil should share the acclaim because he was the editor of Batman books from 1986 to 2000, writing an occasional story as well. O'Neil edited the hugely popular "Knightfall" storyline where Bane defeats Batman and where a new, darker and more violent vigilante take on the mantle of the Dark Knight began.
"We'd been wondering for a long, long time if our hero was outmoded, with his stricture against killing and his Boy Scout morality," O'Neil told MrMedia. "So instead of continuing to avoid the question, we decided to confront it and put out there a Batman who was as genuinely nuts as our Batman was sometimes accused of being." The series was a huge success. Readers were able to read a storyline with true morality.
O'Neil also made a mark in the 1980s on Iron Man (1968 series). Starting with issue #158, O'Neil shook up Shellhead's world over 50 issues. O'Neil elevated James Rhodes from a supporting character to a main hero. A great super-villain emerged in issue #163: Obadiah Stane. As Tony Stark's alcoholism got worse, Rhodes took up the mantle of Iron Man in issue #170. Ultimately Stark regained control and fought Stane in cataclysmic issue #200, featuring Stane wearing the "Iron Monger" power suit and battling a new-look Iron Man. This story was so popular it formed the basis of the first Iron Man movie.
O'Neil was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Industry Hall of Fame in 2014.
Spidey Super Stories
For a student disinterested in reading, how cool would it be to have Spider-Man teach English? Although the wall crawler won't come to your home personally, the Spidey Super Stories comic book series is the next best thing. It's probably the best comic ever published to encourage youngsters to read.
Marvel launched it in 1974 in a partnership with the popular kids' TV show The Electric Company, which was produced by the same company that produced Sesame Street.
Both the comic and the Spider-Man segments of the TV show were specifically designed to help young readers! The target audience is young children (6-10 years old) so the comics are easy to read and have a positive message. You won't see any hard-core violence or complicated stories about relationships.
One of the best parts of Spidey Super Stories are the John Romita covers. Whether it is his work on
Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) or Spidey Super Stories, Romita is near the top of the list of greatest all-time Spider-Man artists. Mike Esposito, another top-notch artist, also worked on these books.
There are several short stories in each issue, and each issue is self-contained - no continuing stories, so you don't need to worry about getting multiple issues.
The TV show, with catchy songs and bright colors, had kids learning spelling and grammar while immersed in Spidey's adventures. Spidey Super Stories has the same charm and excitement as the TV show. You can check out a clip of the TV show in all its 1970s glory by clicking here.
Marvel continued publishing books aimed at younger readers in the 1980s in Heathcliff (1985 series) and Star Wars' lovable robots R2-D2 and C-3PO in Droids. A spoof on Spidey himself, Peter Porker: The Spectacular Spider-Ham, was also popular with youngsters. All are great, easily affordable titles for young readers to help them learn and practice to read for enjoyment.
Comics by Sal Buscema
For over 50 years Sal Buscema was one of Marvel's most prodigious artists. His depictions of the Hulk, Captain America, Spider-Man, and the Avengers are the images readers carry in their heads to this day.
One his first jobs at Marvel was the cover for Silver Surfer (1968 series) #4, featuring Thor battling the Surfer. It is considered one of the greatest covers in the history of comics. What a start to an amazing career that has spanned over 5 decades!
Sal worked on classic issues of Avengers (1963 series), penciling most issues between #68-#92. He took over the art for Incredible Hulk (1968 series) for 10 years drawing almost every issue from issue #194 through #309. With the popularity of the 1970s Incredible Hulk TV show, an entire generation of fans picked up the comic and it is his version of the Hulk they remember.
During his run on Hulk, Sal Buscema simulaneouslyl took over the art for Captain America (1968 series) from issues #146 to #188.. Sal's exciting style was a perfect fit for Cap, which featured the Falcon, and Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. He helped create the alternate-identity Nomad in issue #180.
Buscema switched gears and worked on the quirky title Defenders (1972 series), which featured the unlikely team of Hulk, Doctor Strange and Sub Mariner. Add to that the Silver Surfer, and you get a fan favorite series that is widely considered a gem of the Bronze Age. The early issues (#1-41) were almost all Sal Buscema.
Marvel's dominance grew in the 1970s as they acquired licensed properties, among which included a toy robot. The toy is long forgotten, but ROM (1979 series) is an underappreciated science fiction series that showcases the Sal's versatility.
Sal Buscema also had a mammoth run on Spectacular Spider-Man (1976 series). He penciled almost all of the first 20 issues, and then returned with issue #134 for an unparalleled eight-year run of over 100 issues. During that time Buscema took fans on the crazy "Clone Saga" and also drew the dramatic death of Harry Osborn in issue #200.
Although primarily a penciller, Sal Buscema's first love is inking. "Pencilling is ... a lot of very hard work. It requires a lot of thought, effort and energy and comparatively, inking is a blast. I could do it in my sleep... because to me it's really not work."
One of Sal's favorite artists to work with is Ron Frenz, and Buscema inked Frenz's artwork on Amazing Spider-Girl (2006 series). Set in an alternate universe, Spider-Girl is the daughter of Peter Parker. The artwork is a throwback to the 1980s. The duo teamed again on Spider-Girl (1998 series) issues #50 to #100. These are fun, action-packed issues with some twists and turns as familiar Marvel heroes and villains are slightly different in this parallel universe.
How did Sal get his start in comics? Well, he's the brother of legendary artist "Big" John Buscema and in an interview with WTV, Sal said "I worked with John on comics before I got into them myself. He was working for Dell Publishing and occasionally when he got into deadline problems I would work with him doing backgrounds, inking them and that kind of thing in order to help him out."
Sal Buscema's career is among the most prolific in the history of comics, rivaled perhaps only by Jack Kirby and Curt Swan. He received the Hero Initiative Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
Comics by Mike Zeck>
Mike Zeck's artwork attracted huge interest from readers in the 1980s. Unique, detailed and downright cool, his Batman, Punisher, Captain America and Spider-Man work still resonate with fans 40 years later. Combining grit and realism with a polish, they achieved massive commercial success.
Starting at Charlton Comics, Zeck eventually received the regular assignment on Scary Tales. He finally broke in with Marvel on Master of Kung Fu (1974 series), becoming a regular with issue #71. With Doug Moenich providing great scripts, Zeck's art was a hit, featuring detailed fight scenes and strangely poetic, introspective moments.
Moving from a low-profile title to one of Marvel's flagship heroes proved no problem. In 1978, Captain America (1968 series) was struggling to find a direction. With rotating artists, Cap was ready for some new life. Zeck took over the title with issue #258. His three-year run helped define Captain America's look for the remainder of the 80s.
Along with writer J.M. DeMatteis, and inker John Beatty, Zeck produced some great books including run-ins with Baron Zemo and the appearance of Cap's new sidekick, Nomad. And who can forget Cap's iconic showdown with Wolverine in Annual #8? "Once DeMatteis, Beatty and I gelled as a team, I thought there were many more ups than 'downs," Zeck told Slushfactory in an interview. "We all had a genuine 'like' for [Cap]."
Zeck achieved gigantic commercial success in the 1980s with two best-selling miniseries. His work on Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars was well received-check out that amazing cover to issue #1. And his introduction of Spider-Man's alien black suit in issue #8 remains one of Marvel's most exciting moments of the era. (The suit would morph into the villain known as Venom years later.) The miniseries features almost every A-list Marvel hero and villain, helped launch a hugely-successful action figure line and cemented Zeck as a legend to a generation of fans.
In addition, Zeck penciled the five-issue Punisher (1986 series) mini-series. After Punisher's first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #129, the Punisher was used sporadically in guest spots over the next decade. Zeck's miniseries picturing Frank Castle's war against crime was violent, stunning and catapulted Punisher into the top echelons and became one of Marvel's hottest characters.
Zeck's successful mini-series led to the ongoing Punisher (1987 series) and the Punisher War Journal (1990 series) and Punisher: War Zone spin-offs. The 1980s were defined by gritty, dark antiheroes and Zeck's Punisher was at the forefront (along with Wolverine, Daredevil and Frank Miller's Batman).
In 1987, DeMatteis and Zeck hit another home run with Marvel's most popular character: Spider-Man. One of Spidey's longest-running foes, Kraven the Hunter battled the web slinger in a six-part series that ran through Web of Spider-Man (1985 series) #31-32, Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #293-294 and Spectacular Spider-Man (1976 series) #131-132. DeMatteis himself described the relationship at his website: "I can think of a handful of super-hero artists as good as Zeck, but I can't think of a single one who's better. Mike's drawing is fluid, energetic, deeply emotional...and he tells a story with such apparent effortlessness that scripting from his pages feels equally effortless." Grim and dramatic, the beautifully-drawn, dramatic conclusion of the "Kraven's Last Hunt" storyline shocked the comic book world and remains essential Spider-Man reading decades later.
Zeck worked briefly at DC, completing some stellar covers for Batman (1940 series) #417-420 (the "Ten Nights of the Beast" storyline, which introduced the villain KGBeast). He's also inked hundreds of books over his career.
Always popular at conventions, Zeck has worked less recently, mostly doing covers. Damned (1997 series) was a four-part Image series. A departure from superheroes, this gritty crime drama is an overlooked gem in Zeck's huge portfolio.
Comics and Stories
Walt Disney's Comics and Stories is the longest running continuously published comic book in history.
The first issue was published in October 1940 and fresh issues are still coming off the presses today. This is a truly amazing achievement. No radio or television show has had anywhere near that longevity. No other magazine featuring fictional stories has had a longer run either.
It's a tribute to Walt Disney's brand of wholesome family entertainment.
There are many ways to collect the series. Some people collect only the earliest issues, while others collect issues starting with those published in the year that they were born. Still others only buy the most recent issues which are the least expensive.
One of our customers only buys issues which end in a zero -- 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, so she can enjoy seeing how the art styles and the story themes have evolved over the past 70 years.
One customer only collects issues with Donald Duck on the cover, another only collects issues featuring Minnie Mouse.
Another customer collects this series and other Walt Disney comics, such as Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck (1940 series) and Mickey Mouse. For a list of every Disney title, in alphabetical order, go to Disney comic books.
And although the oldest issues can get expensive, they're not nearly as expensive as the earliest issues of most superhero comics.
With its movies grossing over a billion dollars, the Avengers are among the hottest properties on the planet. It wasn't always that way. When the original Avengers assembled in Avengers (1963 series), the Marvel Age of Comics was only two years old. DC dominated the comic book industry and Fantastic Four (1961 series), the most popular Marvel series, was just starting to get attention.
But were the Avengers even necessary? Stan Lee noticed the success of rival DC Comics' superhero team-up book, Justice League of America (1960 series). Could Marvel compete with its own team of superheros culled from other titles? You bet.
The original series is a masterpiece, created by legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Thor, who had just debuted a year before in Journey Into Mystery (1952 series), and Iron Man had leapt from the pages of Tales of Suspense (1959 series) six months before.
The Avengers also initially included the Hulk, Ant-Man, and the Wasp.
Hulk left in issue #2 but Captain America emerged from an iceberg in issue #4, joining the Avengers and becoming the leader shortly thereafter. Issue #8 featured the first appearance of Kang the Conqueror, one of Marvel's best time-travelling cosmic villains. The stories in the early issues are spectacular and defined the look of Marvel for the next 60 years.
Unlike the Fantastic Four, who as a family, pretty much had to stick together, the Avengers lineup was in a constant state of flux. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch joined in issue #16, as did expert marksman Hawkeye. The Avengers had countless lineup changes, as heavyweights like Hercules, Black Panther, The Vision, Black Knight and the Beast would join. Even quirky B-list heroes like Tigra, the Falcon and Moondragon joined. The roster became so big that Marvel spun off Iron Man and Hawkeye to form a new branch in theWest Coast Avengers (1984 series) mini-series which led to the ongoing West Coast Avengers (1985 series). These series, 20 years younger than the original Avengers series, have the advantage of being more reasonably priced.
Long runs by established artists helped the Avengers achieve popular acclaim. Kirby penciled the first 16 issues. Don Heck took over for 30 issues and then legendary John Buscema drew most issues from #41 to #100. The first 200 issues have ground-breaking, monumental moments, such as the first appearance of Ultron #55, and the introduction of a reanimated android who becomes the Vision in #57.
Essential storylines include issues #93-96, featuring the Kree-Skrull War. All-time great Neal Adams provides beautiful pencils showcasing the interstellar battle between these two powerful warring races. Issue #167 begins the most ambitious storyline of the 1970s: The Korvac Saga. The Avengers team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy over 10 issues to stop Korvac, a computer technician who stumbles across Galactus' ship and obtains the Power Cosmic. This series has star power with Jim Shooter and Roger Stern crafting a long, detailed odyssey and George Perez and Terry Austin handling the art. It was cosmic in scope, concluding in dramatic fashion with issue #177. David Michelinie and John Byrne contributed "Nights of Wundagore" in issues #181-187, featuring the mysterious High Evolutionary and introducing an intriguing backstory for Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. No surprise here--the Byrne artwork is incredible.
In the 1980s, the Avengers received a huge shakeup in the "Inferno" storyline (#298-300). Reed and Sue Richards team up with Gilgamesh and The Captain (formerly Captain America) and form a new team. Long-time Marvel writer Mark Waid discussed the benefits of a varied team in an interview with Marvel in 2015. "A mix of veterans and rookies is number one on the list of things that make a good Avengers team," Waid said. "Another is making sure the characters themselves contrast nicely with one another, not only in powers but in personalities and backstories... how are they better together than apart?"
The original Avengers series ran for 402 issues plus 23 annuals, so there is plenty to keep a fan busy. There have been countless spinoffs and miniseries, but a few stand out. Avengers Forever, a 12-issue series features Avengers from different eras fighting the combined threats of Kang and Immortus. Avengers Academy features newcomers trying to learn the ropes. There have been many reimaginings and reboots, and Ultimates (2002 series) is a great, low-priced jumping on point for the 21st century, giving new readers a fresh look on the world's mightiest avensuperteam.
Overall, the original Avengers series has it all--amazing artwork from the industry's best (Kirby, Buscema, Adams, Byrne), cosmic storylines where the fate of the universe hangs in the balance, and an ever-evolving cast of characters that keeps stories fresh. It's a must read for anyone creating a basic collection of Marvel comics.
Comics by Walt Simonson
Few artists have been able to take an established hero and redefine his look and feel so completely. But Walt Simonson did exactly that with Thor, taking over complete control of Thor's universe. As a result, for a few years in the 1980s under Simsonson's creative leadership, Thor became one of Marvel's hottest properties. A true legend, Simonson is a master at drawing, layouts, writing and inking, and has influenced artists like Todd McFarlane and Arthur Adams.
Simonson started at DC in 1973 with a backup feature, The Manhunter, in Detective Comics (1937 series)with issue #437. The Manhunter was the revived golden-age vigilante, Paul Kirk, a former big-game hunter who travelled the world, used weapons and wore a flashy outfit. The series won Shazam Awards in 1973 and 1974. The storylines by Archie Goodwin, with Walt Simonson's artwork, and the decision to actually kill the hero in their last issue, is widely considered a highlight of DC Comics in the 1970s.
Walt Simonson's transition from DC to Marvel is perfectly encapsulated by the crossover comic Marvel and DC Present featuring the Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans. Teamed with the writing of X-Men writer Chris Claremont and inker Terry Austin, the 1-shot features the two superteams joining forces against Darkseid, who has revived Dark Phoenix to try to turn Earth into another Apokolips. It's one of the first (and best) crossovers between DC and Marvel).
Walt Simonson began work on Thor (1966 series) with issues #260-271, with writer Len Wein and providing the breakdowns for legends John Buscema, Ernie Chan and Joe Sinnott. Simonson would return a few years later with issue #337, which included the first appearance of Beta Ray Bill. scripted, penciled and inked by Simonson. The hugely popular alien known as has been a fan favorite for over 30 years.
Simonson's run on Thor included dynamic artwork, a reinvention of the Norse God and a three-issue storyline that even turned Thor into a frog. It remains one of the most popular runs in Thor's history. Simonson remained the primary writer and cover artist for another year until Thor's 300th issue (which is issue #382).
Forever linked to Thor, Simonson also wrote Balder the Brave (1985 series) with the talented Sal Buscema providing the pencils. Asgardian comrade Balder joins Thor on a quest into the netherworld in this underrated mini-series.
The newly-launched X-Factor (1986 series) received a shot in the arm from Simonson when the villain Apocalypse arrived for the "Fall of the Mutants" storyline. Teamed with his wife Louise Simonson, X-Factor #10 featured the first stylized and unique Walt Simonson artwork. The long-time X-Man Angel morphed into the villain Archangel in issue #24, and the blue, mechanical member of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse was a page-turner, making the Fall of the Mutants one of the best crossover events of the 1980s.
In 1989, the Walt Simonson era of Fantastic Four (1961 series) began with issue #334. In typical Simonson style, the stories are quirky, cosmic in scope and sometimes just plain weird. (And that's a good thing.) Iron Man and Thor made their way into the books, as did returning the FF to their cosmic roots, complete with time travel, other dimensions, weird technological gadgets and awesome, powerful villains such as Kang the Conqueror. Never afraid to change the status quo, Simonson briefly replaced the FF with the unlikely combination of Spider-Man, Hulk, Ghost Rider and Wolverine.
Thirty years after Jack Kirby's acclaimed "Fourth World" universe, which originally consisted of Mister Miracle (1971 series), New Gods (1971 series) and Forever People (1971 series), Simonson returned to DC with Orion (2000 series), an expansion of Kirby's saga. Continuing the same spirit of cosmic adventure, Orion finds out that he is not the son of Darkseid, and travels to Earth to confront him. The series ran for 25 issues and is a great example of how a single vision can create a high-quality run.
A true icon, Simonson received the 2010 Hero Initiative Lifetime Achievement Award.
Comics by George Perez
George Perez set a standard that has influenced a generation of modern-day artists and writers. No one could engineer group action shots of superheroes better than Perez, whether it was Robin with the Teen Titans, the Mighty Avengers or virtually every DC hero from multiple Earths.
Originally working at Marvel, after he worked on Fantastic Four (1961 series) from issues #164-192, Perez quickly found a home pencilling "team" books. "I like interaction between the characters. I've always felt the strong social urges," Perez said in an interview on the online site Titans Tower.
After modest success, the original Teen Titans (1966 series) was relaunched with the New Teen Titans (1980 series). Young adults Robin, Kid Flash and Wonder Girl were joined by new recruits Cyborg, Starfire and Changeling. The book was a huge success with the team of Marv Wolfman and George Perez. "One thing I wanted to do with the Titans," Perez said in the Titans Tower interview, "is that even without the masks, and even if I were to remove the hairlines, you can tell that they're seven individual faces," Perez says. "Cyborg's the easiest person to worry about-he's the only black member of the group. But I didn't want him to look like just a white man dipped in caramel-I wanted him to look like a black man. I developed the fact that all of them had to have individualized faces."
But Perez's greatest triumph is what many consider the greatest mini-series of all time, Crisis on Infinite Earths. Featuring every major DC superhero as well as multiple Earth counterparts, the series was a smash hit and remains one of the most important series in DC history. The artwork is spectacular and the storyline features key relationships between iconic heroes like Superman, the Flash, and even the death of Supergirl in issue #7. While the universe was crashing to an end in Crisis, Perez was also working on the beautifully-illustrated Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe. This series of reference books is a great way for fans to learn about famous (and obscure) DC heroes and villains.
Much like Curt Swan and Neal Adams, George Perez values getting all the details right-not just the splashy action scenes, but anatomy, backgrounds and proper layouts. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, Perez updatied Wonder Woman's "look" -check out the intricate detailed covers on issues #1-60 of Wonder Woman (1987 series) for examples of a dedicated artist who doesn't cut corners.
Perez returned to Marvel and worked on one of the 1990s most popular mini-series Infinity Gauntlet (1991 series). Since then, Perez has battled diabetes and high blood pressure, and in 2013 underwent eye surgery. Despite these troubles, Perez's famous positive attitude and work ethic enabled him to release George Perez's Sirens in 2014. The six female leads are all based on real-life women he knows, forcing Perez to draw detailed, realistic people in an intergalactic setting. "I will never regret any of my time working for DC and Marvel, especially [since] I have been earning royalties that allows me the option of not drawing comics at all if I were crazy enough to consider that," Perez said in Comic Book Resources. Perez has pencilled, inked and written thousands of books over his career.
If you started reading comics before 1993, forget what you know about Superboy! Today's Superboy is not the Clark Kent as a youth who appeared for 35 years in Superboy (1949 series) and the New Adventures of Superboy (1980 series). The current Superboy is a totally different character with the same name.
After Superman 'died' in Superman (1987 series) #75, no less than four characters showed up, each claiming to be Superman. The four included a teenager, the spitting image of a young Superman, then called the Metropolis Kid, whose first appearance was in Adventures of Superman (1987 series) #501.
This new Superboy was not really Superman, but rather a clone of the Man of Steel, but without his powers. Instead, he had telekinesis which allowed him to appear to have some of the Man of Steel's abilities (such as flight and lifting heavy objects).
This new Superboy was written by longtime DC writer Karl Kessel, whose love for the Superman mythos and knack for writing fun stories, made for great reading. Sporting a leather jacket, sunglasses and a belt, Superboy never took himself too seriously, hitting on girls and pulling pranks while actually enjoying being a super hero. Kessel relocated Superboy to Hawaii, and created a new supporting cast of friends and family, including the popular bad girl Knockout.
Tom Grummet and Doug Hazlewood drew most of the series. Grummet, who also drew another series about a young superhero, Robin (1993 series), provided exciting fight scenes and penciled half of the series' 100-issue run. The book had a consistent, high-quality look.
Superboy's quirky storylines continued when Joe Kelly took over as writer for issues #83-93. Joe Kelly is well known for his Deadpool (1997 series) stories, and his take on Superboy was just as screwball. For example, in #92, Superboy goes on a journey to Wonderland (complete with Mad Hatters, weird animals and even skewed versions of DC heroes). There is an element of comedy to Superboy that other titles just don't have, and it struck a chord with fans.
With DC's reboots since 1994, Superboy has been killed, brought back, and changed just about every way imaginable. However, the 1994 Superboy series remains a great series that showcases great writing, cool villains, a sense of humor and just plain-old fun.
The Black Panther is yet another creation of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, and as usual, they created an uniquely original hero.
Unlike DC characters of the 1960s, Marvel's characters had complex, multi-dimensional motivations and none more so than the Black Panther.
As king of the African country of Wakanda, he invites the Fantastic Four to Wakanda. There, he attacks and defeats each one. Why? To conquer the world? Nope. For revenge? Nope. For money and riches? Nope.
The Black Panther (T'Challa) was the ruler of a spiritually-based warrior cult -- and Wakanda was the most technologically advanced nation on Earth. As a 19-year old (in issues #52 and #53 of Fantastic Four (1961 series) he battled the Fantastic Four to test his own powers and to test the Fantastic Four to see if they would be an effective ally to help him protect his kingdom and people from their mortal enemy Klaw.
This was the beauty of Kirby and Lee. They actually created motivations for their heroes, other than the cliched irrationality seen in DC comics -- "I want to rule world, for no apparent reason, other than, why not?"
After his first appearance in Fantastic Four, he starred in Jungle Action #5-24 and then in his own series. The Black Panther was Marvel's first black superhero (a novelty in the 1960s) and beyond that, the series is recognized as the first successful series using multi-issue story arcs. The first arc, "The Panther's Rage" ran for 13 issues in Jungle Action.
Acclaimed writer Dwayne McDuffie raved: "This overlooked and underrated classic is arguably the most tightly written multi-part superhero epic ever. If you can get your hands on it ... sit down and read the whole thing. It's damn-near flawless, every issue, every scene, a functional, necessary part of the whole. Okay, now go back and read any individual issue. You'll find seamlessly integrated words and pictures; clearly introduced characters and situations; a concise (sometimes even transparent) recap; beautifully developed character relationships; at least one cool new villain; a stunning action set piece to test our hero's skills and resolve; and a story that is always moving forward towards a definite and satisfying conclusion."
Legends of the Dark Knight
This is a great series to collect because it attracted great writers and artists including Dennis O'Neil, Grant Morrison, Mike Mignola, Bill Willingham, Matt Wagern and Doug Moench.
The idea was to create a graphic novel, but split it into 5 issues. So, if you buy issues #1-5 you get a full story. Same with #6-10, #11-15 and #16-20. After that the size of the stories changed.
Here's a complete rundown (each group contains the full storline):
#1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-23; 24-26, 27, 28-30, 31, 32-34, 35-36, 37, 38, 39-40, 41, 42-43, 44-45, 46-49, 50, 51, 52-53, 54, 55-57, 58, 59-61, 62-63, 64, 65-68, 69-70, 71-73, 74-75, 76-78, 79, 80-82, 83-84, 85, 86-88, 89-90, 91-93, 94, 95-97, 98-99, 100, 101, 102-104, 105-106, 107-108, 109-111, 112-113, 114, 115, 116-126, 127-131, 132-136, 137-141, 142-145, 146-148, 149-153, 154-155, 156-158, 159-161, 162-163, 164-167, 168, 169-171, 172-176, 177-178, 179, 180-181, 182-184, 185-189, 190-191, 192-16, 197-199, 200, 201-203, 204-206, 207-211, 212, 213, 214.
So, even if we don't have the entire series in stock, there's a great chance that we'll have ALL the issues of most of the storylines. Keep a copy of the above list handy and you'll never finish one issue and be left hanging.
In the early 1970s, Marvel created Man-Thing -- a scientist who turned into a green monster made of vegetative matter. He first appeared in Savage Tales (1971) #1, then Fear #10-19, and then Man-Thing (1974 series). Around the same time, DC launched their own green monster, Swamp Thing (1972 series).
The two creatures appeared suspiciously similar- both were green, lived in a swamp, and were composed of vegetative matter. Both Man-Thing and Swamp Thing were victims of science experiments gone wrong. One of the writers of an early Man-Thing story (Len Wein) even helped create Swamp Thing. Was all this just a coincidence?
Both monsters were derivative of the Heap, who premiered way back in 1952. The Heap was a World-War-I flying ace shot down over Poland. He slowly decomposed into vegetative matter but didn't actually die. The Heap was all but forgotten by the 1970s.
Of the two monsters, Swamp Thing achieved more success. The Swamp Thing (1972 series) only ran 24 issues. However, DC brought the character back in Swamp Thing (1982 series) and this second series catapulted the slimy green monster to stardom. With issue #20, Alan Moore took over the writing duties and critical acclaim soon followed. Originally, Swamp Thing was a scientist who was altered through a chemical accident. However, Alan Moore reinvented Swamp Thing as a living, sentient plant who thought he was a dead human. This realization pushed boundaries for readers, ignited new storylines and themes. Along with the mature series Watchmen, it helped cement Alan Moore's reputation as a writing genius.
Branded "Sophisticated Suspense", Alan Moore's Swamp Thing was the first mainstream title to completely shed the Comics Code Authority's seal of approval. "The investigation of human evil is something that fascinates me," Moore said in the magazine Comics Interview. "To pretend it's something that only happens to monsters and super-villains is evading the issue."
One notable spin-off from Alan Moore's Swamp Thing is issue #37, which introduced John Constantine who would star in his own long-running book, Hellblazer (1988 series).
Was Marvel's Man-Thing the same idea? At first glance, it might appear so. Despite the similar beginnings, Man-Thing was different-for example, Man-Thing didn't know who he was. Swamp Thing could clearly think and act, but Man-Thing lumbered on instinct, sensing emotions (especially fear). Steve Gerber's run on the original Man-Thing series is sporadic and often brilliant. However, the stories veer off at times, pulling Man-Thing into weird and improbable battles, even travelling to alternate dimensions. Swamp Thing on the other hand was rooted in the "real world", with true horror-themed stories. In fact, the 1980s Swamp Thing series eventually became a "mature" title, branded under the Vertigo imprint starting with issue #129.
Both Man-Thing and Swamp thing starred in their own live-action movies. Wes Craven directed Swamp Thing in 1982, followed by Return of the Swamp Thing in 1989. The movie Man-Thing was released in 2005. A three issue series Man-Thing (2004 series) was a prequel to that movie.
For fans, both Man-Thing and Swamp Thing offer something unique-especially when the monsters run into other super characters. DC's Swamp Thing occasionally teamed up with Deadman, Batman and of course Hellblazer. Marvel's Man-Thing has appeared in Marvel Team Up (1972 series) with Spider-Man and even made an appearance in Micronauts (1984 series).
Man-Thing has never really caught on, remaining a "B" list character at best. Swamp Thing is definitely recommended (especially Alan Moore's run, which is followed by many more stellar writers such as Grant Morrison, Mark Millar and many more. Swamp Thing won the 1985 and 1986 Jack Kirby Awards for "Best Writer", and the 1985, 1986, and 1987 Jack Kirby Awards for "Best Continuing Series".
This is our biggest selling comic book from the Bronze Age (1970-1983), by far. It's also the most cost-effective way to get a full run of a Spider-Man series.
Whereas the original Spider-Man series (Amazing Spider-Man 1963 series) is pretty pricey, this series is an affordable way to get a long running series (263 issues). The first 10 issues of Amazing Spider-Man in Very Good condition will run you $7,346, but the first 10 issues of Spectacular Spider-Man in Very Good condition only cost $62. That's less than 1% of the cost of Amazing Spider-Man's first 10 issues.
The price disparity makes little sense because stories in Spectacular Spider-Man are all new (no reprints) and the same length as those in Amazing Spider-Man. But this series' prices are much lower. For example, look at the issues published in September 1977 -- Spectacular Spider-Man #10 and Amazing Spider-Man #172. Amazing Spider-Man #172 in NM- condition is $30 and Spectacular Spider-Man #10 in NM- condition is $14 -- less than half the cost.
We've been tracking the biggest selling comics at NewKadia for 18 years -- 216 months, and incredible as it may seem, Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) has been the best selling comic here for 212 of the 216 months.
So, the natural question is: "Why?"
Well, my friends, the answer is pretty easy. It's because the stories and plots of the original series are among the best ever written and drawn.
Starting with the story of the high-school aged Peter Parker, boy-nerd, turning into a super-hero, the basic themes of the character have touched two generations of readers. The early issues, drawn by Steve Ditko, captured the skinny little Parker character just perfectly. This super-hero was so different, in so many ways, the creative blast was overwhelming to readers then, and remains strong even now.
The movie "Spider-Man 2" captured Parker's angst nearly perfectly (and that's why Roger Ebert called it "the best super-hero movie ever filmed"). Even if you took the big action scenes out of the film, the remaining emotional story line -- Parker's inability to relate to girls -- perfectly captured the spirit of the comic book series and the reality of young adulthood.
If you haven't jumped on board the bandwagon, you should. It is groundbreaking, and often imitated. Whenever a super-hero has had self doubts, or a befuddled state of mind, it's a rip off of this series.
Strip away the super-hero theatrics and the series has great love stories (Peter and the ill-fated Gwen Stacy; Peter and Mary Jane), and the never-ending tale of Peter's blaming himself for his uncle's death.
This original series ran for 441 issues, when they re-started the numbering with Amazing Spider-Man (1999 series) #1. Fifty-eight issues later Marvel came back to its senses, and starting with issue #500 re-adopted the original numbering system.
So there you have it. if there ever was an "Academy Award" or "Nobel Prize" for the best ongoing series of the past 50 years, this is the winner if the voters are the customers who have spoken with their wallets.
If you're looking to collect a series, and you're on a budget, then the original Iron Man series should be one of your first stops for several reasons.
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Issues #76-86 of
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.
Justice League of America
It seems simple: take the world's most popular DC superheroes -- Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Green Lantern and stick them in one comic.
But in 1960, when the Justice League of America debuted in Brave and the Bold (1955 series) #28, the Silver-Age Flash and Green Lantern weren't household names and there was little track record in trying to juggle multiple heroes in a single story. In fact, superhero comics were just marginly successful, only slowly replacing western and romance comics in popularity. DC thought it was such a risk, that they didn't give them their own title. Instead, they experimented with the Justice League in their tryout book, the Brave and the Bold.
The idea of a superhero team dates to World War II when DC's Justice Society of America fought in the pages of All-Star Comics (1940 series). The Golden-Age Hawkman, Wonder Woman, the original Flash and a red-suited, Green Lantern battled crime for 50 issues before reader interest in superheroes crumbled. When the Silver Age dawned, it seemed natural to try again to stick a new generation of heroes together in one team. It was a brilliant success.
Without the Justice League of America, there probably would not have been a Fantastic Four, X-Men or Avengers. As chronicled in the Justice League Companion by Michael Eury, a 1960 golf game between DC publisher Jack Liebowitz and Marvel publisher Martin Goodman set the stage for the Marvel universe. Liebowitz revealed to Goodman that the Justice League was an upcoming book. As a result, Goodman suggested to a young Stan Lee to create a Marvel super-team and Lee created Fantastic Four (1961 series) #1, whose success led to the Avengers (1963 series) and X-Men 1963 series).
The original JLA included Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and Aquaman. Like most early 1960s comics, the artwork was simple and the storylines were a product of the times -- most bad guys were aliens, robots or giant monsters. The outlandish stories are a reason that fans love the early JLA -- where else can you see Wonder Woman traveling through time or Aquaman flying a spaceship?
As Silver-Age superheroes grew in popularity, the JLA expanded. Green Arrow joined in issue #4, the pint-sized Atom joined in #14 and Hawkman became a member in #31.
As the 1970s dawned, the JLA became a truly great book, with stories by Gardner Fox and occasionally Dennis O'Neil (famous for his runs on Green Lantern and Batman). Many legendary artists like Neal Adams, Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson pencilled during the 1970s. The 1970s also saw the JLA teaming up with the original Justice Society of America. These are great issues and feature multiple Earths, different versions of Superman and Green Lantern, and great plot twists.
There are 261 issues in the series and the last 80 issues are still a bargain at about $5 in Near Mint minus condition. The first 50 issues are pricey, but a collector can still put together a collection of copies in Fine condition of issues 51 to the end without breaking the bank.
Eventually, a new generation was introduced to the JLA in the 1970s by a Saturday JLAmorning TV cartoon, the Super Friends. The comic adaption Super Friends (1976 series) was a more juvenile version of the JLA and had some new characters from the TV show, like Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog.
In the 1980s, a similar comic called Super Powers (1984 series) debuted, based on popular DC action figures and pencilled by the great Jack Kirby. Since then, multiple versions of the Justice League have surfaced, with different team members, such as Justice League (1987 series), Justice League Europe, JLA (1997 series), Justice League of America (2006 series) and Justice League of America (2015 series).
With a big-budget Hollywood film in 2017, the Justice League is destined to remain an important part of the DC Universe.
Adventures of Superman
He is THE original superhero. If not for Superman, there probably would never have been a Batman, Spider-Man, or any other superhero. In fact, we take for granted the existence of superheroes as a fictional genre, but before Superman comics, most people did not. (unless you studied ancient mythology).
So, while fantasizing about swinging through the streets of New York like Spider-Man, or donning the caped crusader's outfit may now be commonplace, readers in 1938 had no such frame of reference.
That's how amazing Superman was. He was totally original, sparking an entire industry. For those old enough to remember the first Star Wars movie, you can appreciate the spectacular breakthrough that film was for cinema. The same can be said for Superman with regard to the breakthrough his creation caused for magazines and fiction writing.
For those who can remember the first time they saw an iPod, or a computer, and that amazing awe that permeated your soul, well...that's what the debut of Superman did, too.
And the 1939 series is Superman's original series. Although he first appeared in Action Comics (where he was one of several features), DC quickly gave him his own title, where he starred in every story.
In a very real way, the stories chronicle America from 1939 to today, and as a result, should be required reading for any superhero fan or social anthropologist. In fact, the number of Ph.D. dissertations dedicated to the real meaning of Superman number is in the hundreds.
There are many ways to collect this series. As the oldest comic book superhero, the oldest copies are very expensive. One customer wrote me that he only collects issues #200 and higher. Another told me he collects every 50th issue... #50, #100, #150, etc, to chart how the creative teams changed and evolved all the characters in the series.
The first series ran for 423 issues and then DC changed the name of the series to the Adventures of Superman for issues #424 to #649. From issue #650 to #714, the name changed back to Superman (2006 series). After that, DC re-booted the Superman character in Superman (2011 series).
Although Hollywood still can't get the Incredible Hulk right, he remains one of the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe. The first Hulk series in 1962 lasted only six issues. And, like most comics from the early days of the Marvel revolution, the price for each of those six comics is quite high.
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Comics by Carmine Infantino
After WWII, superhero comics nearly died, replaced in popularity by westerns, crime and romance comics. Only Superman, Batman and a handful of other heroes remained.
It took until 1956 for DC, under Infantino's direction, to revive the superhero genre with the reintroduction of The Flash in Showcase #4. This is where the Silver Age began and Infantino was the artist. He created the iconic red suit and perfected the "fast motion" lines that gave the Flash the illusion of super speed. With Infantino's artwork, along with bizarre villains like Captain Boomerang and the Mirror Master, Flash (1959 series) became, and still is, a must read for any serious Silver Age collector.
One of the highlights of Infantino's run on the Flash was #123, "Flash of Two Worlds." The iconic cover features not one but two different Flashes speeding to help someone in distress. In this landmark issue, Infantino crafted Earth-2, which housed the original Golden Age Flash (Jay Garrick) and other Golden Age superheroes, existing in a parallel universe separate from our Earth, the home of the Silver Age universe. For the next 30 years the heroes of Earth 2 teamed up ith their Silver Age counterparts climaxing with the historic 12-issue mini-series Crisis on Infinite Earths, which consolidated the various Earths.
In addition to the Flash, Infantino excelled on Mystery in Space (1951 series) when science-fiction hero Adam Strange began his run in #53. Plucked from an archaeological dig in Peru, Strange winds up a hero of the planet Rann, making regular trips via teleportation to the far-away planet to defend them against powerful threats. These books perfectly encapsulate the late 1950s "Atom Age" of comics complete with interstellar space travel, alien technology and evil robots.
Carmine Infantino was constantly innovating at DC. He helped create Deadman, The Elongated Man, Batgirl and The Human Target and had a hand in the 1960s rebirth of Batman.
Today's gritty Batman is a far cry from what he looked like in 1964. And you have Infantino to thank. Infantino moved Detective Comics (1937 series) and Batman (1940 series) back to Gotham, and removed the hokey 1950s space-age elements like time travel, Ace the Bathound and the magical, interdemensional imp Bat-Mite.
Infantino took an iconic character with slagging sales and redesigned a "new look" Batman. Infantino also helped create Batgirl in Detective Comics #359, which coincided with Batgirl's debut on the massively successful Batman TV show. The villains were a highlight during this time, with the Joker, Riddler and many lesser-known (but interesting) villains such as Weather Wizard and the Hooded Hangman giving Batman and Robin troubles.
Infantino created another unique superhero - Deadman -- in Strange Adventures (1950 series) #205. When a circus trapeze artist is murdered, his ghost seeks answers and vengeance. The artwork for Deadman was quickly taken over by Neal Adams and has since become one of Adams' most-identified heroes. Generations later, Deadman remains a popular, unique superhero.
DC promoted Infantino to publisher in 1971, and in a major coup, he got the great Jack Kirby to jump from Marvel to DC. After Infantino left DC in the late 1970's, he worked as a freelancer, pencilling for Marvel's hugely-popular Star Wars (1977 series) and Spider-Woman (1978 series) books. Infantino came full circle in the mid-1980s, drawing the final issues of Flash (1959 series). The Flash standing trial for murdering his arch enemy, and the final fate of his wife Iris, was beautifully brought to the finish line by the skilled artwork of his originator. Infantino passed away in 2013. One of DC's true geniuses and visionaries, he was named one of the "Fifty Who Made DC Great".
If you are a fan of Harry Potter, then you should give Dr. Strange a try. Or, if you know someone who is a big Harry Potter fan, this is a series you should turn them on to.
He's a master magician, the "Sorcerer Supreme" of the cosmos. He can achieve most any effect -- telepathy, energy blasts, and teleportation. Originally billed as the "Master of Black Magic", potions, spells and strange, often bizarre settings fill his stories.
The series showcased surrealistic mystical landscapes and readers often analyzed the stories for their relationship to ancient myths. The series delved into very abstract realms. Dr. Strange's adventures take place in bizarre worlds and twisting dimensions that resembled Salvador Dali paintings.
Dr. Strange has always had a niche following among readers seeking a challenging alternative to more conventional superheroes. That's the reason that Dr. Strange has never made it in the movies, although Marvel comics constantly tries to figure out exactly how to move the character to the big screen. A Dr. Strange movie has "been in the works" for what seems like a decade. On the heels of the phenomenal success of Harry Potter, it would seem that Marvel's Dr.
Strange could find a home in Hollywood, too.
Dr. Strange first appeared in Strange Tales #110 (sharing each issue with the Human Torch and then Nick Fury through issue #168). Then, due to his popularity, Strange Tales was re-titled Doctor Strange (1968 series) with issue #169. After issue #183 Marvel re-started the series as Doctor Strange (1974 series) #1.
starting under $3
One of the most frustrating things for a comic book reader is enjoying one issue of a mini-series and then being unable to find the other issues. We've solved that problem. We have over 1,000 complete sets in stock and many sell for under $3 for the entire set (that's $3 for the set, not for each issue).
You might ask, "How good can a series be if it costs under $3?" Well, the answer is surprising -- it can be very good. Here's why.
First, the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide has a bias for pricing continuing series much higher than limited mini-series. And conversly, they have the bias towards pricing limited series much lower. As a result, the prices of limited series complete sets seem arbitrarily low.
Second, because the mini-series is a recent phenomenon (most less than 30 years old) most of their prices have stayed pretty low. Third, you can order the entire series with 1-click. You'll get the entire story and won't be left hanging.
You can search for complete sets three ways. The most popular way is to search for Complete Sets for Under $3.
You can also search alphabetically by title. And when you get to that page, you can narrow your search by character (so you can find complete sets starring Spider-Man, for example).
You can also search for complete sets of our most popular comics.
There have been several different Captain Marvels published by Marvel comics, but this is my favorite, by far.
An alien, Captian Mar-Vell of the Kree Imperial Militia is sent to spy on Earth. Tired of his commander's malicious intent, he allies himself with the Earth. The Kree brand him a traitor.
We've seen this plot device before. Think of all the movies you've seen where some government agent turns against his former government agency. Well, same plot device here but it's exceptionally well-developed in this series.
This Captain Marvel was created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan. His first appearance was in Marvel Super-Heroes (1967 series) #12.
The first 16 Captain Marvel issues are the best. After that, other creators monkeyed around with the character, changed story lines, and even his costume, and for me the series was never as good.
Don't confuse this Captain Marvel with the original Captain Marvel from the 1940s. That's the Billy Batson guy who said "Shazam" and became a superhero. DC comics sued the original publisher of that series claiming copyright infringement on its Superman character. DC won the case and the rights to that character. But Marvel won a different lawsuit winning the right to use the name "Captain Marvel", but not the character. You gotta love
those lawyers?! So, Marvel created a new character. And he's a very under-rated part of the Marvel universe.
Looney Tunes and
Merrie Melodies Comics
If you are young at heart (and after all, you are a comic book collector so there's a greater liklihood that you are) then this is a great series for you. Before there was Sponge Bob Square Pants, or Bart Simpson, there were Looney Tunes -- Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd... now come on, these guys WERE the essence of childhood back in the 40s, 50s and 60s.
Anyone born from 1925 to 1965 is a big fan of these characters and Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Comics capture these nutty guys at the peak of their popularity.
Going head-to-head with Disney, Warner Bros. studios created this group as a more irreverent gaggle of characters than the Disney characters. Any sharp bite that Mickey Mouse had was pretty much gone by the 50s. Really, can you tell me any character trait of Mickey other than a "nice guy". Now compare that with Bugs Bunny and the crew -- they had spirit, they had foibles, they were... well crazy! Gosh, I can still hear Mel Blanc's voice
any day of the week for any of these great characters. And, I do mean CHARACTERS.
If you're looking for a gift for anyone over 50, this will do the trick and bring a giant smile to their face. After all, I've never seen an adult see a picture of Daffy or Bugs, or Elmer Fudd or Porky Pig and not smile. I'm not sure why, but I think I once read that cartoon characters with over-sized heads remind lots of people of infants (whose heads are proportionately larger than those of adults) and as a result, it brings a smile to lots
of people's faces.
By the way, and younger readers might not believe this, but it's true, from 1930 to 1969, when you went to the movies, not only did you get coming attractions and a movie, but you usually also got an original Looney Tunes cartoon. A full seven minutes of crazy, wacky behavior. The library of these old films later became a staple of kids' TV in the 50's, 60's and 70's.
In any event, if you're a collector this is a great series because there are loads of copies out there, so getting the full set is possible. And, without the Disney hype and the hordes attracted to Disney memorabilia, the prices are much less than comparable Disney titles (like "Walt Disney's Comics and Stories").
So give this title a try. From first glance, you'll start asking everyone around you, "What's Up, Doc?
As a result of his successful movie, most comic fans have heard of Marvel's Ant-Man, but DC's The Atom was another superhero from the Silver Age who could shrink to microscopic size and he remains an underappreciated little gem worth exploring. DC premiered The Atom in Showcase #34 in 1961-just a few months before Ant-Man premiered in Marvel's Tales to Astonish (1959 series) #27.
The Atom is physicist Ray Palmer, who became a superhero when he successfully experimented on a way to shrink not only his size, but his mass as well. Manipulating his molecular density, he could leap at a foe and increase his mass, or shrink to an atomic level or ride at the speed of light through a telephone wire. Atom's own comic premiered in 1962.
With artwork by the great Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson, the Atom was part of the rebirth of Silver-Age DC heroes alongside Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and the Flash. Whereas Superman and Green Lantern fought aliens and global threats, the Atom's scope of justice was much smaller. Anything could be a threat-getting poured down a drain, fighting a wild animal or getting run over by a car - all could be a big deal when you are only an inch tall. The Atom explored the wonder of science and was especially popular with younger readers who were living in the age of the newly developed hydrogen bomb, satellites in orbit and the space race with the Soviet Union.
The Atom's greatest foe was Chronos, who appeared in Atom #3. Chronos was a "time-based" criminal, using gimmicks and technology centered around time. Chronos eventually became a significant DC supervillain, battling heavyweights like Green Lantern and Wonder Woman as well.
The Atom joined the Justice League of America (1960 series) in issue #14. He filled in as an occasional player throughout the 1970s. He also appeared sporadically in the popular TV show Saturday morning cartoon Superfriends, alongside Batman and Superman.
Compared to Superman and Batman, The Atom's sales were tiny and by 1968 the title was renamed Atom & Hawkman when he was teamed up with Hawkman to bolster sales. The dynamic of the muscular, winged Katar Hol and the tiny earthling made for some interesting adventures, but that series folded a year later.
Most recently, The Atom has found a home on the TV series Arrow.
So, if you are looking for a pure Silver-Age comic that is fun, innocent and (at times) a little goofy, the Atom is a great read. He embodies everything that was great about the Silver Age: flamboyant costumes, the merging of superpowers and scientific technology, and the rebirth of the superhero. And, with only 38 issues in the series, plus 8 more in the Atom & Hawkman series, it's a relatively inexpensive Silver Age superhero series to collect.
Comics by Rob Liefeld
Few artists over the past 30 years have attracted as much acclaim and criticism as Rob Liefeld. The self-taught artist made a huge splash at Marvel at the start of the 1990s, bringing to life both Cable and Deadpool within the space of two years.
With the Uncanny X-Men (1981 series) massively popular, Marvel expanded their top-selling mutant line to include the New Mutants (1987 series). But that series never quite caught on as did X-Factor (1986 series) and Wolverine (1988 series). So, Rob Liefeld and writer Louise Simonson were brought in to revamp the New Mutants. With issue #87, the mysterious character Cable was introduced. A year later New Mutants #98 introduced one of Marvel's most popular characters: Deadpool. The combination of new characters and Liefeld's massive muscular heroes breathed new life into the series. With issue #100, the New Mutants were replaced with one of the biggest new books of the year: X-Force (1991 series).
"The biggest touchdown for me was that X-Force was fueled by a character only 18 months in existence," Liefeld wrote on his Facebook page. "When Wolverine or Spider-Man aren't available to you, you need to create your own vehicle. Enter: CABLE!! It's no secret that the New Mutants was hovering near cancellation prior to my joining and I was fortunate to have an editor that let me run wild with enthusiasm and imagination."
After the huge success of X-Force, Liefeld left Marvel along with superstar artists Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen, Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri to found Image Comics in 1992. Image fueled an explosion of new comic book titles and characters. At the forefront was Liefeld's Youngblood (1992 series). Although critically panned, the comic set the record for the highest-selling independent comic book of all time. While the artwork was spectacular, the writing was spotty and many Image books often shipped late, angering retailers and fans.
Fans of Liefeld love his dynamic action, dramatic poses and raw power from his characters. The "Liefeld style" of huge muscles, tons of oversized guns, inexplicable pouches and grimacing faces helped define comics in the nineties. However, critics have spent two decades picking apart Liefeld's occasional lack of perspective and anatomical accuracy. (For an example click here). Either way, Liefeld's artwork is instantly recognizable and his books have been consistent best sellers, regardless of the character, title or publishing company.
Liefeld later moved to Maximum Press, launching Avengelyne (1995 series), about an angel who battles evil demons. Similar to Vampirella, this supernatural book never achieved the same massive sales of X-Force or Youngblood, but fans of this genre have appreciated someone of Liefeld's stature having a stab at a new character.
Liefeld came back to Marvel on Captain America (1996 series). Teamed with writer Jeph Loeb, the "Heroes Reborn" series was Marvel's relaunch to make heroes more like their Image counterparts-larger layouts, dramatic spreads and superstar artists. Reviews were mixed but many fans enjoyed seeing Marvel heroes and villains drawn in the distinctive, muscular Liefeld style.
More recently, Liefeld worked for DC's 2011 launch of Hawk and Dove (2011 series). Lately, Liefeld has not been tied to any one project, instead opting to do the occasional Deadpool cover or book for Marvel.
Liefeld is recognized as a massive creative force in comics. Readers in the 1990s grew up reading Liefeld. He perfectly tapped into the zeitgeist of that generation, giving the fans exactly what they wanted. Liefeld's massive sales figures and Cable and Deadpool have stood the test of time. Despite criticism, he remains a huge draw at comic book conventions. Liefeld wrote a great blog about the creation of X-Force and Deadpool. You can read it by
Looking for a new title to add to your collection featuring famous superheroes, at a great price? Then, look no further than X-Force (1991 series).
It's a spin-off from the X-Men, one of Marvel's top lines (and the subject of 5 recent movies). X-Force was a re-invention of the 1980s 'New Mutants' team. Led by Cable, X-Force was a bit more aggressive than the X-Men.
Rob Liefield's great artwork propelled the series through its first 9 issues. Throughout its 129-issue run, the series was one of Marvel's best sellers. The series was so popular that Toy Biz launched a line of action figures based on the series.
Because the series was one of Marvel's best sellers, and because the earliest issues are still only 20 years old, there are lots of copies available at a low cost. The average cost for the first 25 issues is only about $1.60 each.
If you have a youngster who is interested in collecting comics, or if you want to encourage one, this is a great starter series, since no issue is expensive, every issue is easily available somewhere and the stories are really good.
We don't generally highlight cowboy comics but Jonah Hex is a worthwhile exception. IGN, a great comic book website, voted him the best western comic book character of all time.
Don't let Hollywood's lousy movie adaptation fool you. The comic book series is very good. Hex was the only DC western character to flourish in the 1970s and 1980s. Despite being blind in the right eye, he's an incredibly fast and accurate marksman, an excellent tracker, with a reputation as a ruthless killer, making him a ferociously successful bounty hunter in the Old West.
It's partially set during the American Civil War and the only successful comic book character I can think of who fought for the losing South in the war.
This is the first series named for him and it lasted 92 issues. His earlier adventures appeared in Weird Western Tales (1972 series) (#12 to #38) and before that in All-Star Western (#10 and #11).
In the late 1980's, the character was revived and transported to the 20th century in Hex, which was well received in Great Britain, Italy, Spain and Japan, but mostly ignored in the United States.
So, if you're seeking to broaden your horizons beyond superheroes and willing to try something different, check out Jonah Hex.
In the 1970s, Marvel launched Marvel Feature and Marvel Premiere to showcase new heroes. If successful, Marvel would spin-off the character into his own series.
Marvel Feature debuted with the Defenders, a new superhero team. Today, no collection of Defenders comics is complete without their first three appearances in Marvel Feature.
Issues #4 to 10 featured an existing hero, Ant-Man, who had appeared years earlier in Tales to Astonish.
Marvel re-launched Marvel Feature in 1975 with Red Sonja. Marvel spun her off into her own Red Sonja series in 1977.
Some collectors go after the entire 12-issue series, but most go after issues of the characters they primarily collect.
Marvel Premiere also featured new character tryouts. Warlock's first appeared in issues #1 and 2, and Iron Fist first appeared in #15 to #25. Today, no collection of the original Warlock or Iron Fist series is complete without those issues.
If you're a fan of either, get them.
The series ran for 61 issues with runs of Doctor Strange (#3 to 14), and an eclectic mix of heroes and monsters, including Hercules, Satana - the Devil's Daughter, the Legion of Monsters, the Liberty Legion, Woodgod, Monark Starstalker, the Mark of Kane, 3-D Man, Weird World, Torpedo, Seeker 3000, Tigra, Palladin, Jack of Hearts, Man-Wolf, Ant-Man, the Falcon, the Black Panther, Caleb Hammer, Dominic Fortune, Dr. Who, Star-Lord, and even rock star Alice Cooper.
If you're a fan of Star Trek, this is the series you should be collecting because it gives you a sense of place since it interweaves the Star Trek movies into its timeline.
The series starts right after the events of the second Star Trek Movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. Then, starting with issue #9, the series moves to events after Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
The series also integrated some characters from Star Trek: The Animated Series. If you're not a fan of Star Trek, stay away.
If you're looking for the original stories of Marvel's greatest heroes, like Spider-Man, X-Men and the Fantastic Four, but don't want to spend a fortune on the original issues, you can get the same stories for a fraction of the cost by buying these reprints of the original issues. Spider-Man's earliest stories were reprinted in Marvel Tales. The early issues reprinted early Spider-Man stories and early stories of other heroes, but as the series progressed, Marvel cut it back to just Spider-Man.
Issue #137 reprints Spider-Man's first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 and the next 50 issues, reprint the first 50 issues of Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series).
Same drill here. Classic X-Men reprints early X-Men issues. After issue #45, the title changed to X-Men Classic. So, here's another way to read the originals and not break the bank.
Marvel Collectors' Item Classics and
Marvel's Greatest Comics
Hey, Marvel did it again. Realizing that they didn't have to pay a writer or artist if they merely reprinted their original stories, the Fantastic Four got the same treatment... great reprints at a fraction of the cost of the originals. The FF reprints started in Marvel Collectors' Item Classics and continued in Marvel's Greatest Comics.
Comics by Alex Ross
Comic book artist Alex Ross is known for his breathtaking painted covers. His artwork has made him a household name with comic fans and possible the most recognizable comic book artist working today.
Alex Ross first made waves with the 1994 miniseries Marvels. The beautiful acetate covers are reason enough to pick up these books, but the interior artwork and story are amazing as well. Marvels' writer Kurt Busiek crafted a fantastic story revolving around an "everyday" citizen who happens to witness some of the greatest moments of Marvel Comic's history: the creation of the original Human Torch, the day that the Silver Surfer revolted against the mighty Galactus, and even the death of Gwen Stacy as Spider-Man battles the Green Goblin. These iconic Marvel events revisited through Ross' artwork won the Eisner Award in 1994 for best series and is a great read for fans of both the Silver and Modern Age.
Alex Ross' photorealistic style is amazing. He often uses real-life models for his work and painstakingly crafts poses and faces into spectacular comic book covers. In 1995, Ross teamed up with Busiek again with Kurt Busiek's Astro City. Set in a fictional city and featuring original characters, this series was published by Image Comics, known for giving more creative control to artists and writers. Although the characters were new, readers can easily pick out homages to Superman, Batman and some of the more gimmicky villains (like the Joker and Riddler) over the past 50 years. Kurt Busiek's Astro City explores the myths and motivations behind these caped vigilantes. Again, the storytelling and artwork are fantastic and like nothing else.
Ross jumped over to DC Comics and in 1996 helped create Kingdom Come along with writer Mark Waid under the "Elseworlds" brand. Set in the future, Kingdom Come is a darker, more ominous read. DC heroes are aging, grey-haired icons. The story's conflict is between traditional veterans like Superman and Wonder Woman as they butt heads with more modern-age "anti-heroes", who fight with questionable morals. It's Silver-Age mentality versus Modern-Age mentality, depending on how the reader wants to interpret it. Being part of the "Elseworlds" banner, this series was able to flow without the constraints of current DC mythology. Ross shortly thereafter ventured into a darker 2-issue miniseries for DC Comics called Uncle Sam, which explored the roots of American history through the eyes of a troubled homeless man.
Alex Ross' artwork is clearly influenced by Norman Rockwell. The exquisite detail in facial expressions and realistic lighting and backgrounds make his painted work remarkable. Reverend McKay, the main narrator in Kingdom Come, was actually based on Alex Ross' real-life father. Seeing Superman or Spider-Man as a "real" person make Alex Ross covers instantly recognizable and collectable by fans. "Hopefully by painting the work, you gain a sense of life and believability that will draw the reader in a little more," Ross writes on his website, www.alexrossart.com, "You can use color and light and shadow and live models to give the work a certain realism."
Great artists innovate, and the critical acclaim and commercial success of Alex Ross' painted works have helped open doors in the industry for more painters and alternative-media artists. Recently Ross is back at Marvel, creating painted covers for the most popular superhero in the world: Amazing Spider-Man (2015 series).
With the exception of Superman, Batman is the longest running title in comic book history. Issue #1 was published in 1940 and here we are over 75 years later and he's still going strong.
That's longer than any radio character or television character has been around. Just simply, an incredible run.
What makes the original Batman series so interesting is you can see its transformation through the years and choose which era is right for you.
The original stories in the 1940s featured a dark, brooding hero. By the 1950's, with the addition of Robin, many stories had a science fiction theme and focused on the dynamic duo's exploits with extra-terrestial beings.
In June of 1964, once the famous TV show starring Adam West hit the screens, the series changed yet again, with Batman's "New Look" and it swung back to its original roots.
I've heard so many stories from so many people on how they collect the series. One fellow only collects issues from the year he was born, 1965 to the present. Another only collects from #1 to the year he was born. And yet another guy only collects issues with can be divided by the number 25. He goes after issue #25, #50, #75, #100, #125, #150, #20 etc. In that way, he can see the changes over the years and not break his bank.
One other guy only collects issues with The Joker and the Riddler, while another only collects issues with Catwoman or Batwoman on the cover. Yet another customer told me he only collects issues where the word "death" or "dies" appears on the cover. I wonder if he's an undertaker?
But my favorite was the guy who said he was going to find every issue where Batman was tied up. (I didn't ask why).
In addition, collecting Batman can fit pretty much any budget. Of course the original Batman series is the most expensive to collect, but other Batman series, more recent in vintage, can be collected within most any budget. There are tons of good titles available, including
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight
Batman: Shadow of the Bat
Batman and the Outsiders
Batman: Gotham Knights
You can find the complete list of titles at
All Batman comic books
Lots of customers ask what comics will go up in value. I can't answer that specifically because no one has a crystal ball. But, I have observed that prices of old comics are based in the continued interest in that character by today's audience.
So, if that's an indication of future value, Batman might be one of the safer bets. If he can survive and prosper for over 75 years, then I'd say there must be something in the character and story line that has appealed to three generations. It might be a good bet that the universal themes and story lines of Batman comics will be of continuing interest in the future.
Comics by Joe Kubert
Joe Kubert, more than any other artist in history, defined the style that of DC's war comics in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. His iconic covers for Our Army At War (1952 series) show his amazing grit, realism, layout and pencilling skills. Kubert also contributed to G.I. Combat (1957 series) and he became the definitive artist for Sgt. Rock. He created another war legend -- the Unknown Soldier (1977 series). He also helped create the popular character Enemy Ace. Innovative and thoughtful, Enemy Ace was a German pilot in World War II. Seeing the war through the eyes of the Axis was innovative and bold.
Emerging from the Great Depression, Joe Kubert began as an apprentice in New York at age 11 at the very birth of the comic book business. Learning from greats like Irv Novack and Archie creator Bob Montana, Kubert learned every facet of comic book creation before he was 18.
In an interview with the Comic Book Journal, Kubert described the less-than-glamorous comic book industry of the 1940s: "It was a way to make some money, that's all: pure and simple. Nobody considered it an art form. Nobody was proud of being a comic-book artist. Matter of fact, it was a couple of steps below digging ditches. Comic books were considered for many, many years to be a shameful occupation. Most of the guys in the business, if you asked them what they did, would never admit that they were comic-book artists. They'd say, 'I do commercial artwork,' or 'I just draw for a living.'"
In 1944, he landed at DC Comics, pencilling stories in early issues of Action Comics (1938 series) and All-Star Comics (1940 series). Shortly after Hawkman was created by Gardner Fox, Kubert pencilled the winged superhero in Flash Comics (1940 series).
With the decline of superhero comics in the 1950s, Kubert found a home working on Our Army at War. "I wasn't doing war books for the purpose of glorifying," Kubert said in The Comics Journal interview. "I just wanted to describe situations that people find themselves in during wartime. I tried to do this as dramatically as I could." In addition to pencilling countless war titles, Kubert also was an accomplished inker, writer and even did colors and lettering on occasion.
He moved into an editor role at DC but continued to contribute through the 1970s as well, most notably pencilling Tarzan (1972 series) when DC took over the long-running series. Check out his wild jungle animals to see the artistic ability of a long-time master.
On top of his artistic talents, he served as a mentor to hundreds of other artists, creating the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, whose graduates over the past 40 years have become gainfully employed as graphic artists, video game designers and animators. Neal Adams, one of the greats of the next generation of artists told 13thdimension.com, "Joe was-and in my mind, is-the kind of creative talent that we need in our industry. Not just a talented person but also a good businessman and a great father."
Joe Kubert's legacy continues with his two sons, Andy Kubert and Adam Kubert, both of whom have impressive portfolios of their own. Granddaughter Katie Kubert is an editor who has overseen Batman and X-Men titles.
Joe Kubert passed away in 2012, but not before being inducted into the Harvey Awards' Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.
Comics by Steve Ditko
Stan Lee often gets credit as the creator of Spider-man, but he's the first to acknowledge that artist Steve Ditko was his co-creator and vital to Spider-Man's success. And many fans believe Ditko's artwork, which gave Spider-Man a distinctive lanky, almost fragile appearance, did more to establish his character than any other factor.
Ditko's style fit perfectly with the persona of Peter Parker's weak, skinny teenager. Whereas DC's Superman and Batman and Jack Kirby's Marvel heroes were square-jawed and full of muscles, Spider-Man was fully-masked, gangly, and quite frankly, a little frail-looking-just like many teenagers, who have not yet fully developed. The disparity between this skinny superhero and his incredible feats of supernatural strength was truly innovative.
Ditko did more than merely draw Lee's stories. The "Marvel Method" was a true collaboration between artist and writer. While Stan Lee set the big-picture starting point for stories, the artist played a central role. The introduction of entirely new supporting characters, the look and feel of the book and pacing of the stories were many times the work of the artist, not Stan Lee.
Marvel Comics in the 1960s is often called "the house that Kirby built", although this is not entirely true. There were two distinct artistic styles: the bold, bombastic artwork of Jack Kirby (as seen in the Fantastic Four and the X-Men), and the more muted, thoughtful and poetic style of Steve Ditko. Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) was a top-seller from the start. It was Ditko's greatest triumph.
The rogues gallery of weird villains like Dr. Octopus, the Green Goblin, the Sandman and the Vulture-some of the most recognizable and popular villains of all time-were the handiwork of both Ditko and Lee. The duo defined the look and feel of Peter Parker, J. Jonah Jameson, Aunt May and the whole world of Spider-Man through the first 38 issues-a look that has remained nearly unchanged for over 50 years. The Ditko run on Amazing Spider-Man is highly sought after by collectors.
Another big hit at Marvel was the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange, who Ditko showcased in the pages of Strange Tales (1951 series). Ditko instilled in Doctor Strange a sleek, almost poetic look. Fans loved the creepy, hallucinogenic artwork which perfectly matched the otherworldly, supernatural odysseys in the comic book.
Ditko left during Marvel's heyday in the 1960s, moving to Charlton comics-a company where the artist's pay rate was lower, but creators were allowed even greater artistic freedom. At Charlton, Ditko worked on Blue Beetle, the Question and Captain Atom. Warren Publishing also sought out Ditko, and his lean, creepy style was a perfect fit for its horror magazines Creepy (1964 series) and Eerie .
Ditko made a move to DC Comics in 1968 and created the off-beat anti-hero the Creeper (1968 series). Again, this seemed like a perfect fit-the agile and super-strong Creeper did not look particularly heroic; instead, he was designed to look scary and weird, and Ditko did a masterful job of introducing a character that has resurfaced over the decades at DC.
Ditko returned to Marvel in the late 1970s and worked sporadically on titles like ROM, Micronauts (1979 series) and Machine Man (1978 series). Ditko never publicly expressed why he left Marvel in the first place, and it is frustrating for fans to wonder what "might have been" if Ditko's Spider-Man or Dr. Strange runs had lasted longer.
Of course, the reasons for Ditko's decisions to leave Marvel, or any of his inner thoughts is mostly speculation-Ditko is notoriously reclusive and hasn't given an interview since the late 1960s. Nor does appear at a comic book conventions. He has stated that his personality is not what is on display; he wants his artwork do his talking.
Comics by John Byrne
John Byrne is a comic book creator who has repeatedly injected new life into superheroes, turned around fledgling titles, and been given the freedom by major publishers to re-boot old characters, on occasion even destroying years of history as origins were rewritten. He was a major influence during the Bronze age of comics.
In 1975, interest in the X-Men was waning and the X-Men (1963 series) was only reprinting old X-Men stories. In one final attempt to save the title, John Byrne helped redefined these now-iconic characters-with the "All-New, All-Different" X-Men -- a fresh-faced team of mutants. No one had heard of Storm, Colossus or Nightcrawler, and the gruff Canadian Wolverine had made all but a couple of appearances in Incredible Hulk (1968 series). Over the next few years John Byrne, alongside writer Chris Claremont, helped propel the X-Men into Marvel's most popular comic.
Byrne's work stretched from issue #108 through #143. During that time, both the "Dark Phoenix Saga" and "Days of Future Past" storylines were massive hits with fans (the plots of the hugely-successful films X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Days of Future Past are all based in part on stories during John Byrne's run).
In 1981 Byrne, Marvel picked Byrne to revitalize the Fantastic Four (1961 series). He brought the flagship book back to the cosmic spirit of Stan Lee's and Jack Kirby's glory days. His run from issues #232-293 features great artwork and a multi-issue storyline where Reed Richards saves Galactus' life... and then has to stand trial against an intergalactic tribunal. Silver Surfer and Dr. Doom also make some notable appearances during this fan-favorite run, which featured the Thing quitting the group and She-Hulk taking his place.
In 1983, Byrne returned to his Canadian roots and created the Alpha Flight (1983 series), which featured some quirky but popular Canadian superheroes such as Northstar, Sasquatch and the tiny, acrobatic Puck. Byrne left this series after 28 issues. On his website, Byrne says "Alpha Flight (the team) were never really meant to be anything more than a bunch of superheroes who could survive a fight with the X-Men." Although Byrne claims they had no real depth, the first issue sold more than 500,000 copies. The series featured occasional cameos by Wolverine and the X-Men, original villains and some great storytelling (such as the death of Weapon Alpha/Guardian). Bryne also created the Sensational She-Hulk, updating the sassy green cousin of The Incredible Hulk. Fans of Deadpool will note that She-Hulk often breaks a fourth wall and talks directly to her comic-book fans, similar to today's Merc With A Mouth.
By 1986, Byrne's reputation was so great, that when DC decided to re-launch their most valuable asset, Superman, it selected Byrne to do the new retelling. Byrne pencilled Clark Kent ripping open his shirt to reveal his famous "S" logo on the cover of Time Magazine back when appearing on its cover was a big deal. Byrne re-wrote the history of Superman in the phenomenally successful miniseries the Man of Steel and then spearheaded the relaunch of Superman in the Superman (1987 series). While some criticized Byrne for wiping out decades of Curt Swan history (and bringing back Ma and Pa Kent from the dead), it was a popular starting point for new fans of Superman.
In the 1990s, with the rise of independent comic-book titles, Byrne launched the John Byrne's Next Men (1992 series), part science fiction and part superhero book. Popular with a small but dedicated following, the Next Men resurfaced from IDW in 2010 with the John Byrne's Next Men (2011 series).
One of Byrne's last projects for Marvel was X-Men: Hidden Years, which looked at the early days of the X-Men and expanded on the early Lee/Kirby storylines. Disagreements at both Marvel and DC has ultimately meant fewer projects in mainstream comics, but Byrne's work is so prolific, new fans can enjoy years of inventive artwork and storytelling.
A female version of Spider-Man, Marvel's most popular hero seems like a no-brainer. After all, Supergirl followed Superman, the Incredible Hulk's cousin became She-Hulk and Batwoman and later Batgirl followed Batman. But, how do you create an alternate sex derivative and make her story line enticing? That was the challenge for Marvel writers Tom Defalco and Ron Frenz who created Spidergirl in Spider-Girl (1998 series).
The twist they came up with was that she was the teenage daughter of Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson set in MC2-an alternate universe. The goal was that this new universe would entice readers to a new world without decades of old storylines to be concerned about. Other MC2 titles included the short-lived Fantastic Five (1999 series), Wild Thing (the daughter of Wolverine and Elektra) and A-Next, an alternate team of Avengers. Out of these, Spider-Girl lasted, with 100 issues over eight years. Why did Spider-Girl succeed when so many female knock-offs don't?
Superior writing is the key. Tom Defalco was a hugely influential Spider-Man writer. He introduced Spidey's black suit in the 1980s and contributed the controversial "Spider-Clone" saga in the 1990s. He brought his fertile imagination to Spider-Girl. In Spider-Girl, an injured Spider-Man is forced to retire and when his teenage daughter May "Mayday" Parker starts exhibiting strange new powers, she finds a Spider-Man costume and continues the family legacy.
Foes such as Hobgoblin, Venom and Carnage make appearances. However, they do not have the same identities as in the mainstream Marvel universe, making Spider-Girl a romp into a "similar but different" universe. In addition, completely unique characters such as April Parker (a clone) and Felicity Hardy (the daughter of Felicia Hardy and Flash Thompson) create a unique universe with a vaguely familiar feel.
Despite the similarities to Spider-Man, or maybe because of them, Spider-Girl (1998 series) is a great way for new fans to jump on board and enjoy a self-contained storyline. This is a smart series that is worth the read.
Years later, Marvel took a different direction in Spider-Girl (2011 series). There, Anya Corazon adopts a "Spider-Girl" identity and wears a costume similar to Spider-Man's original 1980s black suit. Instead of creating a brand-new character, Marvel merely labeled this new character Spidergirl. Such is life at Marvel, where using an existing brand is a safe way to establish a fan base to introduce a new character.
Brave and the Bold
During the early 1950s, a concern that comic books were a negative influence on adolescents caused hundreds of comic books featuring bloodshed and gore to cease publication and the comic book industry nearly died. By 1955, DC comics was looking for a way to introduce new characters with minimum financial risk. To minimize the number of new publications, DC featured new characters in Brave and the Bold (1955 series) and
If the "tryout" was successful as measured by the number of copies sold, DC would spin off the character into their own comic book.
The method worked. Showcase #4, for example, starred a revamped Flash (modernized from the 1940s hero), and it was so successful, DC gave the Flash his own comic book. Showcase #4 is widely viewed as the first comic of the "Silver Age" since led to DC's revamping of many of its then-defunct Golden Age superheroes.
Similarly, Showcase #22 through #24 launched the new Green Lantern and other superheroes followed: Aquaman (#30-33), the Atom (#34-36), Metal Men (#37-40), The Spectre (#60-61), The Phantom Stranger (#80). All had strong enough sales to launch their own series. Other good series, almost totally forgotten today, also got their start in Showcase, such as Rip Hunter, Time Master (#25-26), Sea Devil (#27-29), and the Inferior Five
(#62-63 and 65).
The Brave and the Bold featured the same "tryout" format from issue #1 to #60. The Suicide Squad (#25-26, 37-39), the Justice League of America (#28-30), Hawkman (#34-36), Strange Sports Stories (#45-49), the Teen Titans (#54 and 60), and Metamorpho (#57-58) all earned their own books from the success of their Brave and the Bold tryouts.
The format changed starting with issue #61 when DC changed the format to superhero "team-ups" -- two DC superheroes working together in one story.
Then, with the Batman TV show creating incredible interest in the Caped Crusader, DC changed the format again and issues #67 to # 200 starred Batman in most every issue, along with a different superhero each issue.
Some people collect the entire series, while others collect only those which feature a hero they're interested in. So, for example, most collectors would agree that a Justice League of America collection is not complete without Brave and the Bold #28 through #30.
But beware! Because both titles featured so many first appearances of characters, these issues are generally more expensive than issue #1 of their own series, which were published after the tryouts.
Hero for Hire
After Marvel's massive success in the mid and late 1960s, they expanded their line of titles in the 1970s. By then, on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, it was noticeable that Marvel's top-tier superheroes, The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Daredevil, the Avengers and the X-Men, were all white.
Marvel had a few black heroes, but all were supporting players. The Black Panther debuted in Fantastic Four (1961 series) #52 in 1966. A few years later, the Falcon debuted in Captain America (1968 series) #117 in 1969. But he was Cap's sidekick, not the star. Could Marvel effectively launch a minority superhero who could carry an entire series?
Stan Lee, Marvel's then editor-in-chief selected Luke Cage in "Hero for Hire" as Marvel's first minority leading man.
The timing for was perfect. In 1972, Blaxploitation films such as Shaft and Superfly were box office hits. Lee's challenge was to create a Black comic book hero that was heroic on his own, to appeal to all audiences and not exploit the African-American market.
Hero for Hire was set in crime-ridden Harlem, at the time a de facto minority ghetto in New York City. Luke Cage crosses a crime boss, who then plants heroin in Cage's apartment, and tips the police. The result is prison, complete with racist prison guards. The tone was heavy and dark, with petty crime, drugs and race playing heavily into Luke Cage's origin. This was definitely a departure, even for the innovative writers at Marvel. Cage volunteers for a cellular regeneration experiment which goes awry, and when his prison sentence ends, Cage emerges as a near-invulnerable, super-strong man on a mission. He becomes a mercenary-literally a "Hero for Hire", willing to help anyone -- for a price.
This book was pivotal for many reasons: (1) He's the first black superhero starring in his own book, (2) He's motivated by cash, rather than an altruistic need to "do good", and (3) He was a precursor for darker, grittier antiheroes of the 1980's, such as Wolverine and Punisher, and today's Deadpool. However, make no mistake: Luke Cage had a strong moral code and ethics, and the book and the hero morphed into a great showpiece for a powerful citizen helping those less fortunate.
The artwork is spectacular, with the underappreciated George Tuska, a veteran of Iron Man, pencilling and Billy Graham inking. The pair displayed the 1970s in all its glory-huge lapels, hot rod cars, afros and a gritty, dangerous New York. The legendary John Romita drew the first few covers. The early issues are highly sought after by collectors.
Readers be warned: some of the dialog is dated and at the time, was even a bit hokey. The 1970s Luke Cage has a tendency to drop lines like "where's my money, honey?" and "jive turkey" -- a bit over the top, cliched, and even showing a bit of racial insensitivity. But, that's what happens when all-white Marvel writers, despite good intentions, had to create dialog for an alien (to them) inner-city hero.
Regardless, the comic is a great example of Marvel innovating and pushing boundaries. Marvel didn't create a superhero who just happened to be Black. They created a black superhero - a product of his environment.
Issues #8 and 9 are a highlight. Luke seeks out the Fantastic Four to collect a debt. He's coming for his money sucka! Cage travels to Latveria to try to collect from none other than Doctor Doom! Now, that's balls.
With lagging sales, starting with #17, the book was rebranded "Power Man". In issue #48, Luke Cage teamed up with a hero popular from another genre of 1970s movie: kung fu. Iron Fist joined, the two became buddies and the series was renamed "Power Man and Iron Fist".
With the Netflix TV series Luke Cage, fan interest is growing. Iron Fist is set to get his own Netflix show as well, and Marvel had relaunched a Power Man and Iron First (2016 series) comic book title.
Hero for Hire led the way in opening the doors for minority heroes in comic books in the Bronze age (1970-83) and beyond. Shortly after, DC Comics had John Stewart teaming up with Hal Jordan in Green Lantern (1960 series) #87, masterfully drawn by Neal Adams. Stewart has become a fan favorite and is recognized as one of the greatest of all the Green Lanterns. Marvel gave the Black Panther his own book in Jungle Action (1972 series) with issue #5. DC also premiered Black Lightning (1977 series) while Marvel showcased Black Panther (1977 series), drawn by Jack Kirby.
And the economic risk that Marvel took with Hero for Hire over 40 years ago opened the floodgates for diversity in comics. Today's Thor is a woman, the Ultimate Spider-Man is Hispanic, Wonder Woman has gotten the lead in her own movie. Comic book characters more than ever reflect the population of the real world: heroes both male and female, of all races and sexual orientations. It all started with Luke Cage, Hero for Hire.
A Space Odyssey
When the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey hit theatres in 1968, the epic story of prehistoric cavemen, astronauts and a computer named HAL instantly created a new generation of fans hungry for grown-up science fiction. Yet the movie was so startling inventive it took Marvel Comics 10 years to find the right artist and writer to adapt the movie. With a cosmic story featuring mysterious alien monoliths, the legendary Jack Kirby who co-created the Silver Surfer and Galactus, was tasked with writing and drawing the book. Kirby of course was one of the greatest illustrators in comic book history, helping create the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Captain America, Thor, and dozens more.
2001: A Space Odyssey was one of many high-profile licensed Marvel comic books based on prior works which included Conan The Barbarian (1970 series), Planet of the Apes (1974 series) and Star Wars (1977 series). Marvel published an oversized "Treasury" edition of 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1976, and followed up with this series.
The series is better appreciated today than when it was first published -- it was cancelled after only 10 issues . However, this short run makes collecting all issues a relatively easy quest. The first few issues retell the plot of the Stanley Kubrick film. Whereas the film is quiet, suspenseful and full of intricate subtleties, Jack Kirby's writing and drawing is bombastic, loud and full of bold cosmic power. Later issues branched out from the film, and it is here that the series really finds a voice. Issue #8 is the most sought after, containing the first appearance of Machine Man, a "living robot" that was so popular that Machine Man (1978 series) was spun off.
Fans of Jack Kirby and of the movie will enjoy the series for what it is: an epic, far-reaching comic with one of the all-time greats at the helm.
Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane were so popular in the 1960s that both starred in their own series -- Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen and Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane. Both series featured outlandish Silver Age stories -- Jimmy's time travel and interstellar capers and Lois Lane's attempts at trying to determine Superman's secret identity and plotting for him to propose marriage. When interested finally waned in the 1970s, DC merged the titles into Superman Family.
Superman Family replaced these types of stories with more mature writing, featuring street crime, and urban settings and revamped these supporting characters as heroes. Jimmy was now an investigative reporter hitting the streets as "Mr. Action" without Superman showing up to save the day. Lois uses her detective skills to battle bad guys by herself.
The series included Supergirl's solo adventures, too. However, some reprints are sprinkled in these issues, so there are some space-age adventures to go along with the more down-to-earth 1970s stories.
Other "super" friends are featured, such as Superman's dog Krypto teaming up with detective Ed Lacy, Perry White, Superboy and even Superbaby. Superman's cousin Van-Zee makes frequent appearances (along with his assistant Ak-Var) as the team of Nightwing and Flamebird, occasionally giving the book a "Kryptonian Batman" feel.
Some of the best writing is in the long-running feature "The Private Life of Clark Kent", where Superman (as Kent) is forced to solve a mystery or thwart the criminals. However, circumstances won't let him change into his powerful alter ego. This is an interesting twist on the detective genre. We know that no harm will come to Clark Kent, but he must juggle his secret identity in addition to solving the crime.
Each giant issue (early issues were 100 pages) contains up to six different stories, and issues are relatively inexpensive. This series is a good choice if you are looking for variety combined with solid detective and adventure writing. Similar to Superman Family, DC published Batman Family (1975 series), featuring adventures of Robin and Batgirl, along with shorter stories with supporting characters such as Alfred the butler, Vicki Vale and the Huntress.
When you think of a superhero team, the Hulk, Dr. Strange and the Sub-Mariner - the Defenders -- don't usually come to mind.
This strange super group debuted in Marvel Feature (1971 series), a comic designed to showcase new heroes, with the hope that more popular one would graduate to their own comic. This method was used with great success by DC Comics with Showcase and Brave and the Bold (1955 series).
Why would these three team up? Long-time Marvel writer Roy Thomas crafted the Defenders out of a storyline from Dr. Strange (1968 series), where the Sorcerer Supreme teamed with the Hulk. Thomas rejuvenated the team in Marvel Feature, adding the Sub-Mariner. With their combined might, enemies had to be either cosmically powerful (like invading aliens) or mystical in nature. After three issues of Marvel Feature, the Defenders struck out in their own monthly title.
At times the team up feels forced, but Thomas does his best to take three loners and weave storylines where they combine to overcome some ominous threat. Silver Surfer, another brooding solitary hero, joined the Defenders in the second issue, and from there things got really strange -- Asgardian warrior Valkyrie joined, and then Hawkeye from the Avengers showed up and stuck around. In addition to these outcasts, Black Knight, Luke Cage, Son of Satan, Daredevil, Man-Thing, Professor X, Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight and even Spider-Man all became occasional members.
Despite the strange beginnings, the artwork in the early issues feature some of Sal Buscema's best work-his portrayal of the Hulk was so vibrant he eventually became the primary artist for Incredible Hulk (1968 series) in the 1970s and 1980s.
This title is definitely an acquired taste. At times the stories feels like an excuse to just get a bunch of random heroes on the same page. The series ran for 152 issues, eventually adopting the name "The New Defenders" before ending in 1986.
All the issues, except the first few are easily affordable, but this may change if the 2016 Netflix TV series is a success.
The formula is straightforward: Take a teenage hero, add some cool galactic superpowers, and throw in some Spider-Man angst and you get Nova.
Created by writer Marv Wolfman, who crafted a Tomb of Dracula (1972 series) and enjoyed an acclaimed run on Daredevil (1964 series), Nova is secretly teenager Richard Rider, selected by a powerful galactic police force known as the Nova Corps. Nova can fly, has super strength and can absorb and redistribute energy, but like Spider-Man is not sure how to use his powers. When Nova #1 premiered, the banner even read "In the Marvelous Tradition of Spider-Man!"
While not ground breaking, the stories are fun and action-packed. Imaginative bad guys like The Condor, Diamondhead and Megaman all pop up early on and allow readers to see the awesome power of Nova. Spider-Man himself shows up in issue #12 for the obligatory fight-then-team-up (a Marvel storytelling staple).
Although Wolfman wrote the entire 25-issue series, a few artists drew the series. The artwork by John Buscema in the early issues makes it a good read. After John's departure, Nova was drawn by brother Sal Buscema, and then long-time Batman artist Carmine Infantino.
Loose ends were tied up in Fantastic Four (1961 series) #206-210. Nova resurfaced in New Warriors (1990 series) and Nova (1994 series). The Nova Corp has played an increasingly-important role in the Marvel universe as seen in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, where John C. Reilly played a Nova corpsman.
If you enjoy aliens and cosmic powers (similar to Green Lantern or Silver Surfer), then you'll probably like Nova.
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