When the marvelous mavens at Marvel meant to magnify the merits of their magnificent mags, there were no better place than the Mighty Marvel Checklist, typically taking up one crazy column in the monthly Bullpen Bulletins page. Starting with sterling Stan Lee, the scattered scribes had a special skill for pumping every periodical as the pure pinnacle. The awesome Avengers #97 was no exception. The blurb boasted: “At last! The cataclysmic conclusion of the Kree-Skrull War! Plus a zillion Marvel-ous guest stars!” Now there’s not a lot of hyperbole in that summary, but there’s one odd assertion. A “zillion” guest stars. Well, that we can count.
Let’s be generous with this scintillating sage written by Roy Thomas and penciled by John Buscema. While the most recent preceding cover that provided some sense of the status of the roster with the tiny heads in the corner included the likes of Scarlet Witch and Goliath, issue #97 has the Vision in the corner and only the big three blazed across the banner:
So let’s say every other major figure is a guest star and count from there. Let’s begin in the nefarious Negative Zone.
We can count Rick Jones as a guest star. Annihilus is more of a villain, but tally him as a guest star. That gets us to two.
Quicksilver makes it three.
Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel get us to five.
I’m a little more skeptical of this one, but let’s call the Intelligence Supreme number six. Then Rick Jones is challenged to conjure up the colorful character he spied in an old comic book, which greatly gooses the guest star tally.
That’s a different Captain America, so he counts. And then Golden Age figures the Sub-Mariner, the old Vision (also known as Aarkus), the Fin, the Human Torch, Angel, the Patriot and the Blazing Skull. Just like that, we’re up to fourteen. That’s a lot of guest stars, sure, but there’s still a long way to go. Anyone else?
Nick Fury makes it fifteen. A colossal counting challenge certainly, but significantly short of zillions. The Marvel maestros needed to muster up mightier math mastery.
— Captain America #136
— Thor #186
— The Incredible Hulk #138
— The Amazing Spider-Man #91
— Fantastic Four #104
— Thor #183
— Avengers #44
— The Amazing Spider-Man #53
—Captain America #131
—Captain America #132
—Fantastic Four #132