Comic collecting ideas
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Why you should collect...
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. For a complete list of Walt Simonson's work, click here.
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. For a full list of his comics, click here.
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.
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".
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.
Comics by John Romita Jr.
Imagine the pressure when your dad is one of the greatest Spider-Man artists of all time. That was the hurdle that John Romita Jr, son of legendary artist Silver Age artist John Romita Sr, had to overcome.
But, John Romita Jr. (known as JRJR) hit it big at Marvel in the early 1980s. Starting with Iron Man (1968 series) #115, he teamed with the definitive Iron Man artist Bob Layton. The "Demon in a Bottle" storyline, featuring Tony Stark battling alcoholism, ran from #120-128 and won the 1980 Eagle Award for Favorite Comic Book Story. Romita Jr. contributed to over 40 Iron Man issues in the 1980s and 1990s.
During that time, JRJR was afforded another great opportunity. He pencilled the first ever Marvel limited series: Marvel Super Heroes Contest of Champions. This three-issue series showcased nearly every major Marvel hero and laid the groundwork for other limited series like Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars. Marvel executives saw JRJR's work across a broad spectrum, and they (and fans) liked what they saw.
Could John Romita Jr. follow in his father's footsteps on Spider-Man? You bet, and what a mark he has left. JRJR, along with his father and the great writer Roger Stern introduced one of Spidey's greatest enemies, the Hobgoblin in Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #238. The Hobgoblin fought Spider-Man numerous times in the next five years, with JRJR providing pencils for many of these classic 1980s issues. Rather than copying his father's style, JRJR's pencils are grittier and more stark.
Romita Jr. also worked on Uncanny X-Men (1981 series). He drew classic issues #175 (where Cyclops weds Madelyne Pryor), #200 (Magneto stands trial for crimes against humanity) and #300 (Legacy virus introduced). JRJR's depictions of the X-Men are iconic-check out the cover to #207 for a classic Wolverine from this era.
It's a testimony to his talent that he has remained one of the top artists for almost 40 years. One example is the 1993 miniseries Daredevil The Man Without Fear. Combined with Frank Miller's dark writing, Daredevil's origin was explored in detail, including a run-in with the Kingpin. JRJR's artwork is tough, bold and brimming with action-perfect for showcasing street fights set against the dark city.
Amazing Spider-Man (1999 series) got a jolt of creativity with #30, when writer J. Michael Straczynski teamed with JRJR. This run lasted through issue #500 (when Marvel returned to the original numbering).
In 2008, Mark Millar teamed with him to create one of the most unique and off-beat heroes: Kick-Ass. Extremely violent, funny and just plain weird, this dark comic became a successful movie franchise (starring Nicolas Cage) and has garnered a strong cult following. Kick-Ass 2 and Kick-Ass 3 followed. Each series is a great read and definitely not "regular" superhero storytelling.
From the extreme to the mainstream, JRJR is hot. When DC relaunched their line of books in 2011 with the New 52, JRJR came onboard with Superman (2011 series) #32. Teamed with writer Geoff Johns, Superman was taken in a new direction - he was given a new power known as a "Super Flare" in #38. This was the first new superpower for the Man of Steel in over 50 years. In a www.comicbookresources.com interview, JRJR explained the power. "When his heat vision is used, it is the power of the yellow sun that he is emitting. And it drains him completely of that power. The power is just a complete purging of his yellow sun power. And he goes 24 hours powerless afterwards... we were able to explore a couple of things with Superman like what happens to him without power for 24 hours and how it affects him."
For a full list of John Romita Jr. work, click here.
Comics by Todd McFarlane
Todd McFarlane, one of the most influential comic book creators of the 1980s and 1990s, is best known for his bold, bombastic and truly visionary style which redefined the world's most popular superhero, Spider-Man. Many think he is the most influential Spider-Man artist of all-time, second only to Steve Ditko, who created Spider-Man.
Under McFarlane, Peter Parker ditched the black alien suit and Spidey fans were thrilled to see the wall crawler return to his roots.
The black suit resurfaced as an angry symbiote known as Venom in Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #300, creating another popular villain for poor Web Head to deal with. Spider-Man even battled the Hulk in #328, completing McFarlane's incredible two-year run on ASM before Marvel created a brand new title just to showcase McFarlane's talents -- simply titled Spider-Man (1990 series).
McFarlane is also the poster boy for sheer perseverance. Before breaking out, he was repeatedly rejected by Marvel, DC, and every other comic book publisher. And not just once. He submitted hundreds of submissions over three years and received nothing but rejection. It sounds like a legend -- no one could possibly be rejected that many times, right? On his Facebook page, McFarlane writes "I got rejected 350 times! And I have the letters to prove it! I used them for motivation, not depression. I've been doing comics for nearly 30 years (having done Batman, Spawn, Hulk, etc). So don't get discouraged if you don't get what you want on your very first try. Sometimes it makes you stronger mentally to have to 'earn' your way to whatever goal you set for yourself."
McFarlane finally broke in with tiny Epic Comics on the series Coyote and worked short assignments for a few years before breaking big with the Incredible Hulk (1968 series) with issue #330. Teaming up with writer Peter David, the duo struck new life into the Hulk, advancing a storyline involving the Grey Hulk. Check out the now-classic cover to Incredible Hulk #340, featuring the Hulk's old enemy Wolverine for an example of McFarlane's clever and original artwork. Under McFarlane, the Hulk became bigger, scarier and even more dangerous.
McFarlane admits in an interview with The Comics Journal that the grind of working for a big comic book company was grating. "From the very beginning I was on Spider-Man there was a fight. 'God, Todd, why are you making the eyes so big? Todd, why are you making those spaghetti webbings?' Any company, I don't care if I'm working for IBM, if you don't do it their way, they instantly take it that you think their way is wrong. It wasn't that their way is wrong--and I'll never make them understand it--it's just that there's more than one way of doing something."
Ready to showcase his very own superhero, Todd McFarlane left Marvel and helped launch Image Comics, along with superstar artists Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee. When Spawn debuted, it was a commercial success. He combined dark visual elements of Batman (1940 series) and Spider-Man, to create Spawn, a former marine who died, wound up in hell and came back to Earth. Spawn battled the underworld using dark magic while trying to piece his life back together. Although McFarlane is no longer the primary artist for Spawn, he contributes covers and writing, helping make Spawn one of the longest-running independent comics of all time (over 265 issues and counting).
In the 1990's, seeing the poor quality of comic book action figures, he created the McFarlane Action Figure line which totally disrupted the industry by greatly improving the quality of the product. McFarlane is not as active as an artist and writer today, spending much of his time running the action figure business and Image Comics.
But, in 2009, Walking Dead (2003 series) writer Robert Kirkman teamed with him on the series Haunt McFarlane fans will enjoy this series about a murdered priest and his secret agent brother. Although they don't get along, the brothers team up to solve the priest's murder. Using gothic themes and visual styles similar to Spawn, the book sold well but reviews were mixed. Despite some snazzy McFarlane covers, the artwork and writing feels a bit derivative of Spawn.
Forever trying to help young talent, McFarlane has created some great YouTube videos teaching drawing techniques. It is a fascinating look at the inner workings of one of the great modern-day comic book artists. For a complete list of Todd McFarlane's work, click here.
Quick -- name the most popular comic book character created since 1990. For many, that question is a no-brainer. For them, the answer is Spawn.
Created by Todd McFarlane, who attained superstar comic book status writing and drawing Spider-Man in the 1980s, Spawn was his first creation when he left Marvel to form Image comics.
Spawn is Francis Simmons, a CIA officer who was transferred to the super-secret U.S. Security Group and becomes an assassin. After Simmons is murdered during an assignment and sent to hell, he makes a deal with the devil to serve Satan in return for being returned to Earth to see his wife one more time.
Spawn is certainly not your typical American teenager bitten by a spider origin. Geared to older readers, the title sacrificed a young boy audience in exchange for darker, more adult themes, which made it extremely popular with its more mature audience. You won't find Jimmy Olsen saying, "Jeepers, Mr. Kent" in this series.
So, if you're looking for darker, less childish story lines, this just might be the series for you.
Comics by Jack "King" Kirby
He is "The King". It's unanimous and here's why. Over a 40-year span, he created some of the most popular comic book characters ever and innovated drawing techniques widely imitated and highly revered today.
In the early 1940s, he co-created Captain America, one of the best-selling and politically and socially important comic book characters of the century. The saga of Captain America is still going strong, 75 years after his debut - a testament to the brilliance of Kirby's creation.
Twenty five years after creating Captain America, and still at the top of his creative-game, he co-created the Fantastic Four (1961 series), which launched the 1960s Marvel Age of comics. At the time it was Marvel's most popular super-hero team. And over the next decade, he created hit after superhero hit - Thor in Journey into Mystery comics, The Incredible Hulk in Tales to Astonish comics, the Silver Surfer, and the X-Men (1963 series). Movies based on his creations have grossed billions of dollars.
Kirby's ingenuity extended to villains too - Dr. Doom, Magneto and Galactus, were his creations also.
Kirby was also the first "free agent" comic book artist to jump from one publisher to another and get a big PR "bump" when he jumped. Frustrated at Marvel in the early 1970s, he jumped to DC. "Kirby's Here" splashed across the covers of DC books he created. His Fourth World books for DC -- the New Gods (1971 series), the Forever People (1971 series) and Mister Miracle (1971 series) -- were THE talked about series of the era. Some of its notable characters have become mainstays in the DC universe, such as Orion and the villain Darkseid.
When his multi-year DC contract expired, Marvel finally realized what they had lost and lured him back. It was the first time artists were treated with the respect they deserved -- as the creators of characters of lasting importance, and not just hired guns with a pen and ink. Because of his prominence, Kirby's estate fought for, and has received, "created by Jack Kirby" credits on his works. X-Men movies, Captain America movies, Avengers movies, Fantastic Four movies all include this credit. Such credits have since become an industry standard.
Raw Power. Staggering, cosmic raw power, bursting from every panel! When fans think of Jack Kirby, a true innovator of comic's Silver Age, they picture thunderous clashes of gods and incredible futuristic worlds. Kirby helped define the dynamic Marvel look, with big bold heroes like Thor smashing through an army of otherworldly monsters, or the Silver Surfer unleashing incredible energy blasts to defend a terrified crowd of mortals. Although Kirby rose to prominence at Marvel in the 1960s, his influence began earlier.
A young Kirby began professionally drawing during the Great depression in New York. He churned out page after page, often working 12 hours a day. As World War II loomed, a new American patriot graced the cover of Captain America (1941 series). The iconic cover featured Cap punching none other than Adolf Hitler in the face! Two decades later, Kirby and Stan Lee pulled Cap from the ice as he burst onto the scene with Avengers (1963 series) #4, joining and eventually leading the Avengers. Kirby remained tied to Captain America, penciling adventures in issues of
(1959 series) and Captain America (1968 series), when he returned to Marvel in the mid 1970s.
In 1942, Kirby reworked the original Sandman for DC comics and created the blockbuster title (now largely forgotten) the Boy Commandos (1942 series), which sold over 1 million copies per month.
After the war, superhero and war comics declined in popularity, but Kirby's and Simon's workload did not. The duo pretty much created the concept of romance comics, which quickly became one of the best-selling comic genres. Kirby drew many issues of Young Romance and it was a huge seller, generally selling over 1 million issues a month. Like most of Kirby's work, it was widely imitated.
In the late 1950s when superheroes were starting to come back into vogue, Kirby created DC's Challengers of the Unknown, and drew Green Arrow stories in World's Finest Comics and Adventure Comics (1938 series).
And in the 1960s, Kirby, along with Stan Lee, changed the face of comics yet again. They created Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Girl, The Human Torch, and the orange rocky "Thing" in Fantastic Four (1961 series). In 102 issues, they created a cavalcade of top Marvel characters -- Dr. Doom, the Black Panther, the Inhumans, Skrull and many more. Their masterpiece was the introduction of Galactus and the Silver Surfer in issues 48-50. Kirby departed The Fantastic Four after 102 issues, leaving behind what is considered by many the greatest run by one creative team in silver-age history.
Kirby was such a fast penciller that he was also created Sgt. Fury and drew the first 11 issues of X-Men (1963 series). Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Beast and Marvel Girl, not to mention Professor Xavier, all have their distinctive look courtesy of Kirby.
No one could draw explosions, kinetic energy and fight scenes like Kirby. Whereas DC Comics were refined and reserved, Kirby blew the doors off of panels, regularly featuring exaggerated foreshortening, bold angles and mind-bending two-page spreads. Planets and stars would explode and heroes were contorted in dynamic poses, punching and blasting with such force that it felt as if they were literally leaping off the page.
He also worked on Thor in the 1960s and created the standard not only for the Norse god, but also many cosmic entities such as Galactus, Hera, Loki, Hercules and the powerful and mysterious Celestials. The covers of Thor (1966 series) issues #126-177 are stunning works of Kirby art.
By the 1980s (after a staggering 40-plus years in the industry), Kirby was no longer the driving force at either Marvel or DC Comics. Young artists like John Byrne and Frank Miller had changed the industry standard. However, Kirby continued producing distinctive artwork for Pacific Comics, creating in Silver Star (1983 series). While not a huge seller, fans of Kirby can enjoy the characters' muscular, dynamic style.
Kirby passed away in 1994 (at age 76), and his legacy is felt in today's comics and especially Marvel's movies like Captain America, Fantastic Four and The Avengers. The larger the threat to humanity, the more powerful and bombastic the villain -- the more Kirby we see in these modern-day heroes.
So prolific and important was his work that there's even a magazine devoted solely to his work, the Jack Kirby Collector.
We've only scratched the surface of Kirby's long and amazing career. For a comprehensive list of Kirby's work, click here.
Man of Steel
6 issue mini-series
If you were a Superman fan before 1986 you know that Superman left Smallville after his parents died, Krypto was his super dog and Lex Luthor was an evil scientist. Guess what? Everything you learned was wrong!
In 1986, DC revised the Superman mythology, junked his entire previous history and started from scratch. He never was Superboy (instead he only learned to control his powers and went public in Metropolis) and Luthor became an evil Donald Trump without hair, or hair-weave, or whatever is sitting on the Donald's head.
So, if you've been away from Superman, check out this inexpensive 6-issue series and see what Superman has been all about since 1986.
All-Star Superman won the 2007 Eisner Award (the Oscars of comic books) for the best continuing comic books series. Written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quitely. Morrison's aim was to write a "collection of timeless" Superman stories.
The 12 issues were published between 2006 and 2008, making it one of the first "classic" series of the 21st century.
All-Star Batman & Robin: The Boy Wonder
Written by Frank Miller (who also created the Dark Knight Returns mini-series), with artwork by Jim Lee, this was the first title in DC's "All-Star" line-up. The stories are self-contained story arcs existing outside of official DC Comics continuity. Translation: You don't need to know what's going on in other Batman comics to enjoy these. The series features Miller's non-traditional interpretation of Batman.
With only 10 issues (from 2005 to 2008), it's a relatively inexpensive series which re-tells most of the Batman saga.
Comics by Gene Colan
While artists like Jack Kirby and Neal Adams are mentioned as among the greatest of all time, one amazing penciller often goes unsung: Gene Colan. Much of his career was spent working on "B-list" books at Marvel and DC, but that doesn't diminish his astonishing skills and contributions to the Golden, Silver and Bronze Age of comics. No one was quite like Colan. His shadowy, moody artwork perfectly fits a career spent just out of the spotlight of the biggest-name books.
One such "second-tier" mag was Daredevil (1964 series). Starting with #20, Colan pencilled the blind superhero with a distinct style, using shadow and texture not often seen in comics of the time. Colan recalled in an interview with Adelaide Comics and Books, "An artist, as a rule, is not aware of a style; he just does it. You know when you write your name you don't think about how you're writing it but yet it can be spotted by everyone and they'll know that that's you."
Despite occasional pressure to mimic Kirby's Fantastic Four style or Steve Ditko's Amazing Spider-Man style, Colan stood his ground. "Stan [Lee] would say whatever book he thought was selling, he would have the rest of the staff try to copy the same style of work, but I wouldn't do it. I'd tell him if you want Stevie Ditko then you'll have to get Stevie Ditko. I can't do it, I have to be myself." Left alone, Colan formed an impressive run on Daredevil, working on most issues between #20 and #100.
He worked for short but important time on Captain America (1968 series), helping create the Falcon in issue #117. Sam Wilson was the first African-American superhero in the Marvel pantheon (the Black Panther was from Africa, but the Falcon was an American). While Colan's work on Iron Man (1968 series) consists mostly of the first issue and a few annuals, the cover to issue #1 is among the most iconic of the Silver Age. Colan also had a hand in creating Captain Marvel in the pages of Marvel Super-Heroes (1967 series) issue #12. The next issue, Colan introduced Carol Danvers to the world, later featured in Ms. Marvel (1977 series).
Moving from one mid-level title to another, Colan worked on Doctor Strange (1968 series) and Doctor Strange (1974 series), where his shadows and textures were a perfect fit.
Colan's most impressive run came when the Comics Code Authority relaxed their rules surrounding zombies, vampires and the undead. Tomb of Dracula (1972 series) is one Marvel's Bronze age triumphs and Colan drew all 70 issues, creating a cohesive look and feel to the series. Teamed with writer Marv Wolfman, the duo created Blade, the popular vampire hunter portrayed by Wesley Snipes in the movies. More than 40 years later, Tomb of Dracula remains the gold standard of what a great horror comic should be: beautiful artwork, scary stories and a pervasive sense of foreboding.
Colan also drew one of the most off-beat books of the decade: Howard the Duck (1976 series), which starred a smoking, satirical duck living in a world of humans.
Moving to DC, Colan put his stamp on two of their most prestigious titles: Batman (1940 series) and Detective Comics (1937 series). Batman #340-350 and Detective #510-567 feature many Gene Colan issues, and featured the introduction of some fantastic villains, like Doctor Death and Killer Croc. Colan teamed again with Marv Wolfman on the supernatural fighting team Night Force (1982 series). These issues are inexpensive and remain a great hidden gem in his huge pantheon of work.
Colan remained a popular draw at conventions until his death in 2011. A legend, he was voted into the Will Eisner Comic Hall of Fame in 2005. For the full list of Gene Colan's work, click here
Comics by Gil Kane
Only a few comic book legends make a huge impact in both the DC and Marvel universes, but Gil Kane is one such legend. Kane was at the forefront of the Silver Age of comics when he introduced the revamped Green Lantern at DC in Showcase #22. Gone was the blonde, magical-ring wielding Golden-Age Green Lantern, replaced by fearless test pilot Hal Jordan. Kane worked on Green Lantern (1960 series), pencilling the first 59 issues. The Silver-Age Green Lantern was the perfect hero for the atomic age, complete with power ring fueled by alien technology. Whereas Superman was thick and chiseled, Gil Kane's Green Lantern was sleek and smooth.
In addition, Kane's style was perfect for Atom (1962 series) which featured scientist Ray Palmer shrinking to microscopic size and zipping through phone lines. This quirky series featured a hero that was not super strong or muscular-the Atom was a "regular guy" who just happened to be really smart, and really small.
Kane's artwork lives in in virtually every major DC comic title from the 1960s and 1970s, including Superman (1939 series), Batman (1940 series) and Flash (1959 series).
One of the few high-profile artists to move to Marvel Comics, Kane made his mark again in Marvel's flagship series Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series). He teamed with Stan Lee on issues 96-98, which were controversial for showing drug use (and not approved by the Comics Code Authority). He also pencilled the landmark 100th issue, and created Morbius, the Living Vampire in #101.
His drew perhaps the most infamous storyline of all: the death of Spidey's girlfriend Gwen Stacey, falling from a bridge at the hands of the Green Goblin and later, the goblin's own glider impales the supervillain, changing Spider-Man's life forever in issues #121 and #122. These issues are widely considered the greatest Spider-Man issues of all time. Kane's covers from this era also include the first appearance of both the Punisher (issue #129) and Peter Parker's clone (issue #149).
In an interview at www.comic-art.com, Kane recalled, "Yeah. [Morbius] was my character. I based him on Jack Palance. And I did Iron Fist, we did Captain Marvel. Those were all brand-new things we were generating at the time, so it was a lot of fun there during that period."
Kane helped evolve the little-known Marvel crime fighter "The Cat" into the more popular Tigra, and pencilled the cover to Amazing Adventures #11, featuring the first appearance of the Beast in a furry, mutated form.
Kane returned to DC in the 1980s to work alongside legendary artist Curt Swan on Superman (1940 series). Kane was instrumental in revamping two legendary super villains in Action Comics #544: Brainiac from his green-skinned alien form into the modern-day robotic shell, and Lex Luthor from his purple scientist garb into his green power suit. Both villains would dominate the 1980s in those updated forms, in the comics, action figures and Saturday morning cartoon shows.
Kane returned to his roots in 1983, pencilling the Atom again in the Sword of the Atom mini-series. It featured Ray Palmer leaving his wife and embarking on a quest in the jungles of South America. It mixed superhero, science-fiction and adventure -- an example of how DC actively pushed the envelope during this era to experiment with new formats and storylines.
In 1997, Gil Kane was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame, and passed away in 2000. For a full list of Gil Kane comics, click here
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.
Lots of movies have been adapted to comic books, but it's only fitting that one of the greatest movie series of all times spawned one of the greatest comic book franchises of all times. The original Star Wars comic book series was issued in July of 1977 and ran for a decade, with 107 issues and three annuals. Return of the Jedi was printed in a separate mini-series.
Issues #1-6 are an adaptation of the original movie (since renamed: Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope), and Issues #39-#44 adapted the Empire Strikes Back. All the others are original stories starring Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and other characters from the original trilogy.
The stories are a great read, and for the collector on a budget, these issues won't cost that much. It seems that comic books, even good ones like these, which contain basic story lines adapted from another medium (in this case, the movies), never seem to cost quite as much as comics where the characters got their birth directly in the comics.
By the way, I couldn't resist sharing the a video of the original movie trailer for the first Star Wars movie. Compared to trailers today, it moves at a snail's pace but it's VERY 1977 in style.
So, if you're a fan of space science fiction, this is the series for you. Or, if you're looking for a gift for the Star Wars fanatic, this is it. In fact, the first issues of this series will be OLDER than any Star Wars fanatic under the age of 33.
The first six issues were reprinted as Classic Star Wars: A New Hope.
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".
For a full list of Carmine Infantino's work, click here.
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.
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
And, for a comprehensive list of Liefeld's work, click here.
starting with the Letter "S"
starting with the Letter "A"
There are hundreds of mini-series featuring Spider-Man.
What is great about them is that each has a complete storyline. And, since mini-series are recent in origin (late 1970's to today) and since there are only 4 to 12 issues of each series, they're quite inexpensive.
If you're a Spider-Man fan, or if you're looking for a gift for a Spider-Man fan, this is a good place to start -- the reader isn't burdened by a long back-story, since most everything they need to know to get "into" the story is contained in the series itself.
And, if the gift recipient enjoys the series (about 22 pages per issue), then you've got the potential for great ongoing gift ideas -- for the holidays, birthdays, whatever.
We have lots of mini-series in stock and we have every issue of plenty of them.
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 primarily for his breathtaking painted comic book 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). For a complete list of Alex Ross' work, click here.
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.
For the full story, Click here
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. For a list of Joe Kubert's work, click click here.
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.
For a complete list of Steve Ditko's work, click here.
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.
For a comprehensive list of John Byrne's work, including runs on many famous DC and Marvel titles click here
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.
Readers in the 1950s had many comic book choices -- romance, funny books, superheroes, and one the most popular genres -- war comics. In the aftermath of the Allies' victory in WWII, and when the superhero genre was in decline, DC published five popular war comics - Our Army at War, Our Fighting Forces, All-American Men of War, Star Spangled War Stories and G.I. Combat (1957 series).
Quality Comics published 43 issues of G.I. Combat from 1952 to 1956, when DC took over the title. DC's first issue was #44.
Rather than focusing on the same soldiers every issue, G.I. Combat featured multiple short stories with different regiments and soldiers. Unlike Sgt. Rock and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1982 series), whose stars avoided capture, death or serious injury by the enemy for decades, G.I. Combat stories generally featured "regular" soldiers fighting in World War II.
The series also featured some great recurring features such as "The Haunted Tank" (which began in issue #87), in which the ghost of an American Civil War Confederate General roamed the battlefield, watching over an American tank and it's crew. If you enjoy Twilight Zone or Outer Limits, with weird plot twists and the occasional supernatural element, you'll enjoy issues that feature the Haunted Tank.
When the Vietnam War divided the USA in the late 1960s, the tone of G.I. Combat changed-gone were the days of glorified soldiers gallantly marching towards the Nazis; instead, fatigue, depression and anger often were the main driving forces in stories featuring scared and confused soldiers, forced to do things that they weren't even sure were noble or even justified. Issues from this era often showcased other warriors like guerillas or mercenaries for hire.
The greatest artist for war comics was the legendary Joe Kubert, who drew many issues of G.I. Combat during the 1960s. They don't get any better than Kubert, with dynamic battle scenes and riveting human emotions. Kubert also penciled many issues of Sgt. Rock and Star Spangled War Comics.
For years the letters column featured military trivia and quotes from famous leaders. Did you know that Costa Rica has no standing army? Or the U.S. in the early 1980s investigated ways to replace a soldier's dog tag with an implanted digital microchip? Sure, some of the trivia and news stories are outdated but they make for interesting reading.
As World War II veterans aged, war comics became less popular and G.I. Combat ended its long run with issue #288 in 1987. Although not as popular a genre today, fans of Joe Kubert and dramatic writing enjoy these books. Most copies, especially later ones, are inexpensive.
Even though Wolverine wasn't one of the original X-Men, he is the most popular.
He first appeared in Incredible Hulk (1968 series) #181 in November of 1974. He is clearly the most popular comic book character created in that decade and Marvel has reacted to the demand for his stories by featuring him in the main X-Men series -- X-Men (1963 series) and Uncanny X-Men -- as well as giving him the starring role in his own series.
In May of 2008, Wolverine was ranked #1 by Wizard Magazine as the Top Comic Book Character of All Time. And this Wolverine series, with 189 issues, is the longest series starring Wolverine.
The first Wolverine series, Wolverine (1982 series) was a 4-issue series, but it is this ongoing series that more deeply developed his award-winning character.
Wolverine was typical of the anti-authority antihero that emerged in American culture after the Vietnam War.
Wolverine was also featured as the starring character in most issues of Marvel Comics Presents (1988 series).
The first few issues of Wolverine (1988 series) are a bit pricey, but you can get the great majority of issues for under $5 each. With a new X-Men movie hitting movie theaters every few years, interest in Wolverine has never been higher and prices will probably continue to increase in the years to come.
When a new Three Stooges movie was released in 2012, it renewed interest in their comics.
The Three Stooges were famous for their slapstick movies, each about 20 minutes in length. That's back in the day when you went to the movies you saw a feature film and a 20 minute "bonus" short film. The Stooges churned out 190 of these one-reelers. In the 50's the movies became the stock in trade for afternoon kids' TV.
I've found that most people either love the Stooges, or hate them. So, if you're thinking of giving them as gifts, make sure the person you're getting them for laughs when he hears the immortal words, "Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk".
Here's the movie's trailer:
Animal Man is one of DC's most under-appreciated heroes. Buddy Baker is Animal Man, who can, based on some exploding spaceship mumbo-jumbo pseudo-science, "borrow" the ability of any nearby animal. The result is an endless supply of novel and unique story lines.
He's also an example of a superhero that DC couldn't figure out how to properly utilize. His first appearance was in Strange Adventures #180 in 1965 and 10 more appearances in various DC comics followed over the next 20 years.
Then, in 1988, when DC re-launched Swamp Thing by Alan Moore, and Sandman by Neil Gaiman, DC also re-launched Animal Man with Grant Morrison writing the first 26 issues.
Intended as a four issue series, sales were so good, it lasted 89 issues. The series championed animal rights (which means it also championed vegetarianism -- since the best way to advance animal rights is not to EAT the animals).
In 2011, when DC re-launched all of its comics, one of the titles was Animal Man (2011 series).
I like the series because it's such an original premise, you never quite know where a story will lead. The possibilities are endless, stories rarely predictable. As with most comics from this era, the supply of copies in great condition is large and their cost is low -- most copies in Near Mint- condition cost less than $3.
Grimm Fairy Tales
How do independent comic book publishers stay competitive with giants like Marvel and DC? Simple, develop a unique concept, like taking classic fairy tales and adding dark, modern twists.
Zenescope's Grimm Fairy Tales debuted in 2005 and quickly made impressive inroads among fans of fantasy and horror comics. Modifying classic fairy tales for use in movies, television or comic books is not new. Disney's early works in the 1940s often offered new spins on classic fairy tales like Snow White and Cinderella.
Zenescope's flagship title Grimm Fairy Tales takes the same concept but gives it a darker, more adult twist. The stories adapt fairy tales but include mature themes, horror, and sinister turns. You can recognize most Grimm Fairy Tales comic book covers from the buxom heroines in distress -- definitely not a comic book for young children or Disney fans!
Early issues featured classics such as Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel. Many people aren't aware that the Brothers Grimm stories from the early 19th century are quite scary and violent, and Zenescope has done a good job staying true to the original darkness of the stories while merging some 'Twilight Zone' elements as well.
Grimm Fairy Tales is written by Joe Tyler and Ralph Tedesco (who is also one of the founders of the company), and over time Zenescope has become one of the few successful independent comic book publishers capable of delivering a high-quality product on time. Rather than competing directly with powerhouses Marvel and DC, Zenescope serves a niche market of horror and fantasy books with loyal followers.
Horror comics were extremely popular in the 1950s, most notably EC Comics Tales from the Crypt (1950 series) and Shock SuspensStories (1952 series). While often gory and violent, these stories had a certain morality to them (often warning the reader that if they didn't change their ways, they too could end up like the unfortunate hero of the story). EC Comics ceased publication with the advent of the Comics Code Authority in the mid 1950s, and a half century later Grimm Fairy Tales rekindled interest in scary fantasy comics.
With over 100 issues having already been published, Grimm Fairy Tales is one of the most popular titles from an independent publisher. Zenescope has branched out. In addition to Grimm Fairy Tales, there are dozens of spinoff titles including Grimm Fairy Tales presents Robyn Hood (2014 series), Grimm Fairy Tales present Helsing and
many other titles. For those looking for a change from superheroes, Zenescope offers a fresh, modern look on a classic horror genre.
Be sure not to confuse this series with Grimm's Ghost Stories, which was published by Gold Key Comics in the 1970s.
Comics featuring a Hero's debut
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Before speculating buying and selling comic books, buy some stock in Apple, Inc.
If you bought 1 share of Apple in 2000 for $20, it would be worth about $630 today. That's a 31-fold profit -- a better return than most comic books.
But, if you buy comics to speculate, then you're probably better off buying a comic which features the first appearance of a hero, over any other type of comic.
If the past is an indicator of the future, then these books stand the best chance of beating inflation. It's easy to spot the first appearance of a hero -- the issue is usually numbered #1.
But, there are exceptions. Superman's first appeared in Action Comics (1938 series) #1. Batman first appeared in Detective Comics (1940 series) #27. Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15.
Many Silver Age DC heroes first appeared in Brave and the Bold (1955 series) or Showcase. So, you can find the first Justice League of America story in Brave and the Bold #28 and not in Justice League #1. The first Green Lantern story is Showcase #22, not Green Lantern #1.
It's not surprising that when actor Nicolas Cage began investing in comics, he bought Action #1.
If you're on a budget, enjoy the window shopping. But, if you just won the Mega Millions Lottery, start shopping for real.
When the X-Men were created in 1963, the team consisted of Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Jean Grey, a great mix. But as the comic series progressed, various writers ran out of ideas for them and the metamorphosis of the team began. By issue #94 of the original X-Men series, an entirely new group of mutants had taken their place.
By 1986, the originals were relegated to other Marvel titles, but not the original X-Men comics series. But the original characters were still great fuel for storytelling.
Enter the X-Factor team. Its members were the original X-Men but with a really interesting twist. Professor X had placed their old enemy, Magneto, in charge of the new team. The five set up a business which they advertised as mutant-hunters for hire.
The series is pretty good for a collector because there are plenty of issues in great condition and most all are $4 or less in Near Mint minus condition. But don't believe me, believe comic book fans -- X-Factor is consistantly among NewKadia's best-selling comic books.
This one is easy. The 2011 Green Lantern movie moved this title way up the charts. DC is still behind Marvel when it comes to creating great movies, but the Green Lantern movie did well at the box office.
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In the 1950's and early 1960's, just a few years removed from the Allied victory in World War II, some of the best-selling comic books were DC's war comics, G.I. Combat and Our Fighting Forces. They appealed both to the adults who fought in the war, and to young baby boomers whose fathers served in the military.
When Marvel achieved incredible success with its superheroes starting in 1961, Stan Lee took aim at war comics. Bringing Marvel's unique creative approach to the genre, Marvel created Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos -- the first Marvel war title in years, and the only one that achieved success in the Silver Age.
The series ran for 167 issues, although new stories alternated with reprints from #80 to #120, and only reprints ran from #121 to #160.
What is so interesting is that the title's popularity peaked during the Viet Nam War when anti-war sentiment was at an all-time high in the United States. The success of the title was due, in part, to writers being able to incorporate anti-war sentiment within stories set in WWII -- which had little of the moral ambiguity of Viet Nam.
Sgt. Fury commanded the Howling Commandos, an elite special unit stationed in England during WWII.
This is our best selling mini-series. We constantly get more copies and they consistently fly off the shelves. That's what happens to a series that some consider the most important DC mini-series of all time.
Published in 1985, the series was designed to simplify the then 50-year old DC universe. The problem originated when DC re-booted their superheroes starting in 1956 with a re-introduction of a new Flash. To reconcile the new Flash with the Golden Age Flash, DC said that the two superheroes existed on "alternate" earths. In fact, DC threw all of their Golden Age heroes (including a duplicate Superman with gray hair) into that alternate
universe, named Earth-Two. That opened up a Pandora's box of alternate worlds, like Earth-Three (where heroes were villains and vice versa) and Earth Prime.
By 1985, it was pretty hard for readers, and DC's writers, to keep track of all the different worlds. Crisis on Infinite Earths tackled the problem by combining all the worlds into one universe in this 12-issue mega event. In the process, DC consolidated everyone into one universe and killed off about 30 characters.
The series was very successful in sparking renewed interest in comics and popularizing "crossover" events, where one story line spans every title of a publisher's line of comics, which is now an annual event for both DC and Marvel.
Four Color Comics
One of the most-respected comic books, Four Color Comics offers an amazing glimpse into the past - early appearances of now-famous licensed characters, beautiful artwork and a fascinating view into 20th-century pop culture. The series' name, Four Color Comics was devised to set the colorful series apart from the only alternative for readers in the 1940s- dreary black and white comic strips published in daily newspapers.
First published in 1939 - one year after Superman's debut in Action Comics, Four Color Comics showcased characters still popular today (like Bugs Bunny) and icons of the last century, now mostly forgotten (like Bozo the Clown, Jungle Jim, Spin & Marty and Spike & Tyke.
Most collectors don't collect the entire series, but rather hunt down issues that feature their favorite characters. High-grade issues often fetch hundreds if not thousands of dollars because in many cases, the first comic featuring a character, like Bugs Bunny, appeared in Four Color Comics. Enjoy Rocky and Bullwinkle? Frosty the Snowman? Tom & Jerry? Western heroes? Action movies or TV series of the 1950s? You name it, chances are any character of the mid 20th century, animated or live action movie or TV show, was showcased. That's why they're a popular buy for people looking for a gift for people born before 1960 because the characters featured were a part of their childhood.
Multiple issues appeared each month, and Dell produced 1,354 issues in 25 years - the longest run of any comic book ever.
The series featured characters hugely popular in the 20th century, many now all but forgotten like the Hardy Boys, Huckleberry Hound, Jim Bowie, Johnny Mack Brown, or now politically incorrect, like Marge's Tubby. Characters that first appeared in syndicated newspaper comic strips, like hardboiled detective Dick Tracy made many appearances in Four Color Comics, as did the popular action-adventure series Terry and the Pirates. Many 1950s and 1960s TV shows were featured, like Twilight Zone, Leave It to Beaver and 77 Sunset Strip.
Arguably the most popular characters from Four Color Comics are Disney properties such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and one of Disney's original characters, Oswald the Rabbit. Legendary artist Carl Barks drew Donald for the first time in Four Color Comics in 1942 (issue #9) and later created Uncle Scrooge.
Scanning the endless covers is fun as well! For those interested in the stories but not needing the originals, Gladstone published many beautifully-illustrated Carl Barks Donald Duck stories in Walt Disney's Donald Duck Adventures (1987 series) and Walt Disney's Donald Duck Adventures (1990 series).
Good luck hunting for your piece of 20th century nostalgia.
Warmongering aliens! Maniacs trying to take over the world! Destructive Monsters! A superhero's work is never done. But, giving super villains their own title? In 1975, Marvel published two Giant-Size Super-Villain Team-Up books, featuring Dr. Doom and Namor, the Sub-Mariner (either battling it out or teaming up) and they proved popular enough to warrant an ongoing series.
Super-Villain Team-Up was born. It boasts some cool covers and solid artwork by workhorses John Buscema and Gil Kane. Don't confuse this Marvel series with DC Comics' Secret Society of Super-Villains (1976 series) which featured Flash adversaries like Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd and Captain Boomerang.
The first issues of Super-Villain Team-Up featured Doom and Namor battling Attuma, the Atlantean warlord bent on usurping Namor as the ruler of the underwater kingdom. The novelty of villains as protagonists, rather than just getting thwarted and slinking off into the night, makes the series a worthwhile read.
Doom and the Sub-Mariner go their separate ways after issue #10, and the evil Red Skull and Magneto swap team-up duties with Doom. The final issue features the Red Skull and a rare appearance by the Hate-Monger.
History has been kind to Super-Villain Team-Up. Many fans appreciate the solid artwork and "A-list" villains. To meet publishing deadlines, some issues, like #15, reprint earlier silver-age classics from Astonishing Tales. There are some key moments in the series as well: the death of Betty Dean, Sub-Mariner's long-time romantic interest (issue #2) and the first appearance of The Shroud (issue #5).
What do you do when you're a major corporation with a character so popular and making so much money for you in his current persona that you cannot kill, grow or alter him in any meaningful way? This is always the dilemna in any medium, and it was Marvel's problem in the early 1990s.
Spider-Man was spectacularly successful, appearing in multiple titles -- Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series), Spectacular Spider-Man (1976 series), Web of Spider-Man (1985 series), Spider-Man (1990 series), and Marvel Tales (1964 series) -- and writers were struggling to come up with fresh and storylines but were restrained from making any severe changes to his character or storyline. After all, "Don't kill the golden goose".
So, in 1992, with Marvel running into this same problem with other characters, it created a new line of comics including Doom 2099, Punisher 2099 (1993 series), X-Men 2099 and Hulk 2099. This permitted writers and artists to use an already familiar brand (mainly the name of the hero) while creating completely new situations in a dystopian future, with fresh supporting characters and villains. Less than a decade later, Marvel did it again, creating the "Ultimate" line of comics, re-imagining its top characters in an alternative universe.
For Spidey is was Spider-Man 2099, first introduced as a 5-page story in Amazing Spider-Man #365.
Set a century in the future, the hero of Spider-Man 2099 was Miguel O'Hara, a Latino who works for Alchemax, a drug company with corrupt board members. O'Hara winds up the guinea pig in a risky genetic experiment and gets his DNA spliced with the genes of a Spider. Now infused with superpowers, he dons a costume based on the "Day of the Dead" Mexican holiday. More than just another guy in a spider costume, O'Hara's DNA has been genetically altered -- he has venom glands and sharp fangs.
During the run, Spider-man 2099 fought evil corporations and fought for the downtrodden. Of course, there are some team-ups as well, with Spider-Man 2099 eventually joining forces with the futuristic counterparts of the Punisher and the X-Men.
While Spider-Man 2099 was well received by fans, at the time Marvel was struggling both financially and creatively. One casualty of seemingly endless staff firings, artistic change-ups and corporate restructurings was the Marvel 2099 line -- the series' editor was let go in 1996, and almost all of the writers on the 2099 line left as well. As a result, Spider-Man 2099 ends rather abruptly after 46 issues.
Miguel O'Hara surfaced over the years in various cameos and one shots, and eventually travelled through time to the current day in Superior Spider-Man (issues #17-21).
There is a dedicated group of Spider-Man 2099 fans, and Spider-Man 2099 (2014 series) was launched with writer Peter David at the helm. Miguel O'Hara is back- but this time he is a Spider-Man stuck in present day! Whether you want to enjoy the original 1990s series or the new, ongoing book, both series offer solid writing from David, as well as a cool costume and a fresh take on the future. Spider-Man 2099 offers fans a new way to look at a familiar web-slinger.
Who would have figured that the rocky, cigar-chomping monster known as "The Thing" would be the most popular member of the Fantastic Four? By the early 1970s, Fantastic Four (1961 series) was not only one of the best-selling comics in the world, but the team of radioactive superheroes even had a Saturday-morning cartoon show.
To appeal to the popularity of The Thing, a stand alone comic featuring him was first tried in Marvel Feature (1971 series) #11. Marvel used this as a showcase to see if the Thing could financially support his own comic. He could and Marvel gave The Thing his own series -- Marvel Two-In-One.
This series features Ben Grimm, forever trapped as a superhuman orange behemoth teaming up with big-name Marvel superheroes like Captain America, Iron Man and Daredevil, and lesser-knowns like Spider-Woman, Nova and Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu.
Early issues feature great artwork by Sal Buscema and Gil Kane, with dynamic action and large, bold layouts. Eclectic writer Steve Gerber (creator of Man-Thing and Howard The Duck) set a slightly strange tone early on, injecting symbolism about the United States, dystopian futures and all sorts of weirdness that a "team up" book normally would not have.
Because Ben Grimm teams with a different character each issue, the storylines usually stretch for only one or two books, which is great if you are a fan of the guest star. Some of the more bizarre teammates are the Scarecrow (#18) and Skull the Slayer (#35). Many of the villains are just as strange. For example, Grimm battles the Impossible Man in #86 while teaming up with long-time foe the Sandman.
Marvel Two-In-One ran for 100 issues over a decade before being replaced by Thing (1983 series). The familiarity of having the Thing in every issue, as well as the novelty of seeing him without his Fantastic Four teammates and battling alongside a different Marvel hero every issue kept this series fresh and interesting through most of the 1970s.
If you're a fan of the Fantastic Four, you should be collecting Marvel Two-in-One. As a spinoff of Fantastic Four (1961 series), the issues are reasonably priced.
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