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.
When I committed to superhero comics, I was all in. I was even proud to put aside the childish comics that had previously commanded my attention, believing that my newfound preference for spandex-clad do-gooders represented a version of growing up. And yet I wasn’t fully able to turn my tiny back on the sort of loose-limbed high jinks that once enthralled me so. Sometimes I wanted something a little wacky, in the same way my current conviction in favor of challenging, serious art film fare can be upended by just the right goofball comedy, carrying me back to the days when my high school pals and I could fill entire conversations with little more than quotes from The Blues Brothers. So for quite some time, I coveted a certain back issue of my favorite title, Fantastic Four, which found them diverting from grand cosmic adventures long enough to become trapped in the Marvel Universe equivalent of a Looney Tunes cartoon.
Fantastic Four #176 happened to follow one of those start-spanning sagas which found the heroic quartet fighting against a couple of universe-threatening beings that stood as tall as skyscrapers. Presented almost as a giggly breather after the epic, the issue used the loopy old character the Impossible Man as an entryway to bouncy madness. After pitching in to thwart the destructive urges of the previous issue’s villains, the Impossible Man tagged along as the Fantastic Four returned to Earth.
The crux of the story relied on a strange conceit within the Marvel Universe. As established way back in Fantastic Four #10, the characters who toiled for justice in the Marvel Universe were also comic book stars within the fiction, many of them featured in officially licensed publications that dutifully dramatized their actual exploits. This led to unique complications when the Dreaded Deadline Doom was compounded by an inability to contact the heroes and get a journalistic report on their latest doings.
The giant-sized, autographed poster of the Vision is a nice design element in the Marvel offices.
After the Impossible Man gets a glimpse of the creative team in action, he pops into the midst of their crisis meeting and peruses the wares on the wall, coming to a natural conclusion.
Reinforcing my own steadfast certainty that Marvel Comics was beyond silly kids’ stuff, head honcho Stan Lee dismisses the very notion of an Impossible Man title, noting the publisher only opts for serious fare. This sets off the green-skinned alien’s temper, provoking him to use his boundless shape-shifting abilities to replicate the powers of the superheroes he saw on that wall of comics in laying waste to the colorful confines.
Ever the peacekeepers, the Fantastic Four intervene, softening the rage of the Impossible Man and using their clout to get Stan and his colleagues to agree to a compromise (which, as it turns out, Stan has no intention of keeping).
When I finally got my hands on the issue — probably after parting with too much money to get it, foolish boy that I was when it came to older comics I longed to have — it was everything I’d hoped it would be. It was filled with energy and exuberance and had the sort of meta-storytelling that was somewhat rare for the time. I think a major part of the reason I’m still a sucker for such boundary-busting techniques is because of the early influence of this particular comic. There was a more immediate impact back then. It reminded me that, much as I wanted to think of myself as a reader of serious comics literature, not-so-deep inside I was still a kid with a love of zippy comedy. That was okay, too.
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
Avengers by David Michelinie and George Perez
Justice League by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire
The Thing by Dan Slott and Andrea DiVito
Nexus by Mike Baron and Steve Rude
Marvel Premiere by David Kraft and George Perez
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars by Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck
Micronauts by Bill Mantlo and Butch Guice
Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland
What If? by Mike W. Barr, Herb Trimpe and Mike Esposito
Thor by Walt Simonson
Eightball by Dan Clowes
Cerebus: Jaka’s Story by Dave Sim and Gerhard
Iron Man #150 by by David Michelinie, John Romita, Jr. and Bob Layton
Bone by Jeff Smith
The Man of Steel by John Byrne
Fantastic Four by Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz
“Allien and How to Watch It” by John Severin
Fantastic Four Roast by Fred Hembeck and friends
The Amazing Spider-Man #25 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Marvel Two-in-One #7 by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema
The New Mutants by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod
Dark Horse Presents
Bizarre Adventures #27
Marvel Team-Up #48 by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema
Metal Men #20 by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru
The Avengers by Roy Thomas and John Buscema
Fantastic Four by Marv Wolfman and John Byrne
Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
American Flagg by Howard Chaykin
Marvel and DC Present by Chris Claremont and Walter Simonson
Batman by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
Marvel Two-in-One Annual #5 by Alan Kupperberg and Pablo Marcos
Web of Spider-Man by Louise Simonson and Greg LaRocque
Super-Villain Team-Up #12 by Bill Mantlo and Bob Hall
What If? #31 by Rich Margopoulos and Bob Budiansky
Fantastic Four by Scott Lobdell and Alan Davis
Magik by Chris Claremont and John Buscema, Sal Buscema, and Ron Frenz
Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7 by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters by Mike Grell
Avengers #202 by Jim Shooter, David Michelinie and George Pérez
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Jim Steranko
Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers by Jack Kirby
What If? #6 by Roy Thomas, Jim Craig, and Rick Hoberg
Iron Man #39 by Gerry Conway and Herb Trimpe
Stig’s Inferno by Ty Templeton
Avengers #221 by Jim Shooter, David Michelinie, and Bob Hall