Sunday 30 October 2016

The stories that SHOULD have been in Origins of Marvel Comics.

Origins of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee and others
As we all know, one of the great joys of life is trying to work out which songs should have been on the Beatles' White Album if it had been released as a single LP.

Admittedly, when I say, "Joys," I do, of course, mean, "Trials," as, no matter how you try to do it, the track listing never actually works in the real world.

Still, I'm not going to let that stop me tackling its comic book equivalent.

And that's trying to decide just which stories should have been included in that seminal 1970s tome Origins of Marvel Comics.

Famously, as well as the origins of our favourite heroes, the aforementioned book contains later examples of each strip, in order to give us a sense of how each title has progressed since its inception.

While this is clearly a good thing, it has to be said that people often complain that some of the choices seem quite arbitrary, if not downright perverse. So, here's where I select the stories that would have gone in it if it had been up to me.

For me, the first problem is the inclusion of Fantastic Four #55. While it's a perfectly good tale, the obvious failing is the Fantastic Four aren't in it.

Instead, we get the Thing vs the Silver Surfer.

Presumably, this tale was included in order that we get a fix of the Surfer as well as the FF, giving us twice as much Marvel goodness for our money but it's a frustrating selection, nonetheless.

Most of the FF's greatest tales from the Lee/Kirby era are multi-part stories, reducing the possibilities. So, I'll go for issue #64 and its introductory tale for the Sentry. It gives us all four heroes in action, a bit of Erich von Däniken and our first exposure to the Kree. What more could one want from a comic?

Fantastic Four #64, the Sentry

The Hulk vs Sub-Mariner tale is fine and gives us a chance to see Prince Namor in action but, personally, I'd go for the Captain Axis tale from Incredible Hulk #155 because, with its sub-Atomic setting, World War II references and the debut of The Shaper of Worlds, it's a much more interesting and offbeat tale.

Incredible Hulk #155, Captain Axis

The chosen Thor story has always baffled me, mostly because it's part of a longer epic, which means that, at its climax, we're suddenly lumbered with a cliffhanger and the dreaded words, "To Be Continued."

No one who's not a lunatic wants to see the first half of a multi-part story in a standalone book. Therefore I'd go for the Replicus tale from issue #141 which seems to me to be the best of the few single-issue Thor tales from Lee and Kirby's peak period.

Thor #141, Replicus

The Spider-Man vs Shocker story's okay but it's not one of the classics and it's atypical in having been drawn by John Buscema. Therefore, I'd go for the legendary issue #50 in which our hero decides to throw his costume in a convenient dustbin and give up being Spider-Man.

Amazing Spider-Man #50, Spider-Man quits, John Romita Cover

The third Dr Strange story, I'd dump altogether, as it's not in the slightest bit memorable and, using the space created, I would, between the Fantastic Four and Hulk tales, shoehorn in The Man in the Ant Hill, from Tales to Astonish #27, seeing as Origins of Marvel Comics currently completely ignores the existence of Ant-Man, despite him being one of Marvel's earliest and longest-serving Silver Age heroes.

Granted, this wouldn't be ideal, as the story doesn't feature Hank Pym in costume but I do feel it'd be a better use of the pages than the Dr Strange tale and, if extra pages can be added, we could include Ant-Man's first costumed appearance as well.

Tales to Astonish #27, The Man in the Ant Hil

Anyway, those are my picks. If you think other tales should have been chosen instead, the Comments Box is available for your suggestions.


dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

For good one and dones from the early days and with great artwork, I'd be looking at (i) for ASM, that Electro story somewhere around #82. There are not that many Romita one and dones but this was one of them. (ii) being a bit of a Kirby/Stone sucker (as opposed to Kirby/Coletta) I'd go for that Thor story from around JIM #104 where Surtur and a frost giant terrorise New York and are up against Thor, Balder and Odin.

I don't know enough about Hulk to comment. And with the FF not developing as characters in 60 years, I'm quite apathetic about them. You want the Kree Sentry? Yeah. Whatever.

Anonymous said...

While there are plenty of possibilities better than 55 for second FF story in the Origins book, what with the first appearances of the Inhumans, the Black Panther and so on, the choice as to which issue best complements the origin is actually a no-brainer - FF 51, This Man, This Monster.
A stone classic that ably shows off how the characters - and the creators' work - had progressed since the beginning. Plus, it has one of Kirby's greatest pages, that splash of Reed about to enter a photo montage negative zone.

My fave Thor would be 160 with Galactus, Ego and all that, but seeing as we're sticking with done in ones (aren't we?)... the direction Kirby took might be best represented with a Tales of Asgard short. The one with Ragnarok springs to mind.
Then, for a second Thor, I'd suggest Silver Surfer 4. Not so much for the story - strangely enough, Lee wasn't quite such a genius when Kirby or Ditko weren't around - but it looks amazing, thanks to some of John Buscema's best work.

As another key sixties Marvel artist, Gene Colan should be represented too - sacrilege I know, but forget Ditko on Dr. Strange; to go with that origin short, how about the one where they first introduced the blue face/ mask/ whatever version of Strange? Doc 177 I think... not the biggest fan of Roy Thomas' writing myself, but Colan and Palmer were phenomenal in that issue (talk about statements of the bleedin' obvious, eh?)

The Hulk? If we're going to have Herb Trimpe, then lets have him inked by John Severin, but otherwise any is fine with me.
Never been much into Spiderman, so I'm not bothered. At least he isn't Ant Man though.
Sorry if I went on a bit there, Steve, but you did ask...


Comicsfan said...

Ha ha--what's Reed planning to do with that rock? Does he think it will make more of a dent in the Sentry than the Thing could? :)

This is a fascinating topic. I think for the most part your choices are more sensible than those that ended up in the book.

Kid said...

The main draw of the book was the origin tales, the others were 'extra', provided merely to give a snapshot of how the stories and art had evolved over the years (as well as pad out the book). I actually liked seeing Thor #143 and FF #55, because I'd once owned them and it was great to read them again. The truly classic later tales were undoubtedly being held in reserve for future volumes. Stan obviously had the old adage "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" in mind.

Steve W. said...

Dangermash, Comicsfan, Sean and Kid, thanks for your comments. I hope you've all had a happy Halloween.

John Pitt said...

I had 3 out of 5 of these! Still got the TTA, as I couldn't bring myself to sell the oldest Marvel comic I ever had and it was indeed the true origin of Ant-Man!