I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.
I was a Marvel devotee from the very beginning of my deeply codependent relationship with superhero comics. I immediately committed to the series of adventures that all began with the announcement “Stan Lee presents” on their opening pages, fervently following every tale I could reasonably get my hands on. My devotion was dictated by two things: how many quarters I had in my pocket and which titles were most plentiful on the stands. By the latter, I don’t mean which heroes were the focus of the most separate series. As opposed to the ludicrous shotgun blast approach the publisher now takes to deployment of its characters with the most popular spread across multiple titles, the Marvel of the early nineteen-eighties largely was more judicious in the exposure of its creations. The plentiful aspect of my collecting was based on which series seemed to linger on the stands the longest, meaning I could always get a few months worth of stories in one purchasing trip. This is a long way of noting that there always seemed to be a lot of issues of Avengers in the comics section of the various stores I frequented.
Now, the Avengers are the sturdy spine of Marvel’s line, but they were still sort of the afterthought heroes back then. Though the membership roster usually including Captain America, Iron Man and Thor, a trio that also held down their own monthly titles, much of the Avengers was populated by characters who didn’t really seem strong enough to stand on their own anywhere, such as Vision, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye. There were also those handful that had already proven their inability to do so, as was the case with Ms. Marvel. Even though they met and hung out in a 5th Avenue mansion, they always seemed like a fairly ragtag group. Then again, maybe I thought that because one of the earliest stories I read with them started with a couple of the superheroes walking around the city all hammered on brandy and muscatel.
The pickled pair in question was Wonder Man and the Beast, whose drunken wanderings got them doubting their very eyes when they spy Red Ronin emerging from the harbor.
Red Ronin was a gigantic robot built to bedevil none other than Godilla, king of the monsters, back when the green giant had his own mighty Marvel mag. The Avengers had some firsthand experience dealing with Godzilla, but their background didn’t necessarily make besting the powerful piece of machinery any easier. Or at least that was the case until the fancifully furry, fun-lovin’ Beast decided to take care of the robot in much the same way one might combat a digital alarm clock that won’t stop blaring.
While this was going on, there was also an important subplot percolating on the pages that included a panel with a caption reading “Meanwhile…” Carol Danvers, the blonde brawler who donned a mask to fight crime as Ms. Marvel, discovered that she was pregnant, a situation that she deemed impossible.
That’s a pretty fetching headband that Wanda Maximoff, the scintillating Scarlet Witch, is wearing as she offers support to her friend. She’d have her own issues with suspicious offspring a few years later, but Wanda was the model of calm assurance at this point. Such levelheadedness would be needed, especially once Ms. Marvel went into labor, causing Dr. Donald Blake, who I don’t believe was actually an obstetrician, to kind of lose it.
Now that’s the way to get the faithful fired up about an anniversary issue, right down to artist George Perez calling upon a favorite visual trick of Jack Kirby, the King himself, with that hand jutting forward. And the promise of a “SENSES-SHATTERIN’ CONCLUSION!” being offered up? Now that was a comic I knew I had to have!
Sure enough, that next issue was truly jam-packed, beginning with a simple but dynamic cover that was an early favorite of mine. In essence, Donald Blake was fairly true to his word about the delivery not being performed by a human, given that he’s actually the thunder god Thor in a human guise and the procedure was assisted by Jocasta, a feminine robot that the Avengers happened to have hanging around the headquarters.
Seeing as how this is a monumental anniversary issue, it couldn’t just be a normal tale of mother and son. Instead, Ms. Marvel’s apparent offspring ages rapidly, turning into a full-grown man within a few days. He also starts building a piece of strange machinery, which seems to produce strange manifestations across the globe, including out on the Avengers front lawn.
I was all of ten-years-old when I bought this comic, so Iron Man fighting a dinosaur was exactly what I wanted to see. The Avengers all take on a multitude of similar issues as a handful of them try to get to the bottom of this newborn-turned-man that’s causing all the problems. It leads to a hopelessly convoluted history–something Avengers comics were always happy to employ–that I’m still not sure I have a handle on.
I liked a lot of other comics that David Michelinie wrote, but this is fairly tough material to plow through. I didn’t necessarily connect with all the head-swimming (or, rather, senses-shatterin’) metaphysics of the story, but the story had enough two-fisted action to keep me returning to it over and over again. I think I just wound up glossing over the last few pages most times I reread it. Avengers may have recently turned into the flagship team of the Marvel line, but the few recent stories I read have nothing on these.
Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and John Buscema
Contest of Champions by Bill Mantlo and John Romita, Jr.
Daredevil by Frank Miller
Marvel Fanfare by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith
Marvel Two-in-One by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson
Fantaco’s “Chronicles” series
Fantastic Four #200 by Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard
The Incredible Hulk #142 by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe
Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum
Godzilla by Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe
Giant-Size Avengers #3 by Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas and Dave Cockrum
Alpha Flight by John Byrne
Hawkeye by Mark Gruenwald