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Friday, 11 April 2014

What Comic Book Would I Recommend?

I think the cover might give it away. Any guesses?

It was 1969. I had walked into a newsagents in Ashley Road, Stokes Croft (Bristol obviously) where I used to spend my meagre pocket money on a packet of Plasticine and/or a comic(s). I was about 11 years old and I saw the cover and that title The Avengers" and in those days, apart from weekly UK reprints in black and white (and only a few pages of each story every issue), getting anything like a regular run of any American comic was near impossible.

I remember rushing home and then sitting there and in a wondrous but confused state. Issue 61 had art by John Buscema and inks by George Klein and story by...Roy Thomas. And what a title: "Some Say The World Will End In Fire...Some Say In Ice!"  Cracking. So WHY was I confused?

For a start the characters on the cover -who was the flying man in blue? Who the heck was the red faced man in green and yellow?? Who was that in the all covering blue outfit? And...wasn't that Hawkeye...and the Black Knight?? But they were villains!!  Well, imagine when I read the comic and found that the flying man in blue was Dr Strange wearing a face mask. Hawkeye and the Black Knight (not the original Black Knight who attacked the Avengers) were heroes now. Okay. The Black Panther...! And, boy, the Vision!!

I doubt that I will ever be able to capture that excitement and sense of wonder with a comic again (I'm too old and jaded now).

And volume 3 of this Essentials title contains that issue and the equally classic first appearance of the Man-Ape.  In fact, this book reproduces issues 47-68 and Annual 2 -"And Time The Rushing River" another classic story. Ignore the negative reviewers on Amazon (who are basically there because they have an audience for their griping views: the first part of this collection is not boring!

This was a dark period for the team. Its core members were Goliath and the wasp, often absent, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch and Captain America -another absentee a good deal of the time. The new guys were left to it with in-fighting and much more. As a kid I used to hope the in-fighting would not break up the team (it was good writing and I was young!).

But look at what happened in these issues:the new Black Knight and his origin were presented. Magneto threatens the UN Assembly General while Hercules faces off against Typhon.  Then Thor and Iron Man battle it out and the Avengers face The Collector...and Goliath is able to once more change size (long story).  Then the Grim Reaper 'kills' the Avengers and Panther is falsely accused..then its the Avengers taking on the X-Men (not the first time but one of the best as even the X-Men were going through a rough patch).  And then...the NEW Masters of Evil attack and capture the Avengers after being betrayed by Jarvis the butler!!!! And Ultron 5 plans on...

Then Captain America persuades the Avengers to use Dr Dooms time machine to go back to World War 2 and the point where Zemo kills Bucky....which leads into the annual and its "Avengers Alternative" time line where they have taken out all other super heroes for the Scarlet Centurion.

And then...Behold The Vision! Yes, Ultron 5s synthezoid assassin attacks the Avengers but then turns against Ultron and we discover....well, a lot. And there is that classic final page that still gets me today: "even an android can cry!"

Next issue and we see the introduction of Yellowjacket!  Followed by Yellowjacket marrying the Wasp!

Can anyone forget when Hawkeye used Goliaths growth formula to rescue the Black Widow? Even more wonderful art from Gene Colan and George Klein.   Then we are introduced to Hawkeye (Clint Barton) crook brother as they face Egg Head.  Then the Swordsman and his part in Hawkeyes origin is revealed!

"The Great Betrayal" sees the Vision controlled by Ultron as part of his masterplan -this three parter saw parts 1 and 2 drawn by Barry Smith and the final part by Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger. This was a three part epic that had me gripped and though I am very "so-so" with Barry Windsor Smiths artwork back then it looked sparkling!

Oh, and then there is the humorous "Avenjerks Assemble!" in which Rascally Roy Thomas travels around to catch up with various, er, "eccentric" Marvel artists.  I loved this back then and I still do.

This is THE period of Avengers history and though I have read through the Essentials series from volume 1-9 so many times this is the volume I keep returning to.

It is a collection I recommend to anyone. It's the classic period.


  1. That´s exactly what happened to me although I didn´t find my first copy of AVENGERS in a store but it was given to me - or better us, me and my brothers - by an uncle who was an G I together with a huge stack of CONAN and KING CONAN issues by John Buscema.

    And it wasn´t issue 61 but issue 81 which is collected in volume 4. It was where I first saw the Vision and after all those decades I still remembered the panels in the original color version with the Vision using his - to me at least at this point - unknown powers before finding the Scarlet Witch. Or the panel where she puts her hands together to summon her hex power - this issue was etched into my mind.

    Okay, so there were a few differences between my experience and yours. But I agree with anything you say about volume 3. I didn´t recognize it at first because I have the first printing but these stories are so epic. Everything that is Avengers begins here in these issues. Everything.

    And you just know that none of the hacks writing Avengers now have ever heard of these issues. At least they don´t remember them.

    But go out and buy ESSENTIAL AVENGERS 3. It´s the best read you can spend your money on. And if you like it get volume 4 which has the Kree Skrull War. Neal Adams on Avengers. It doesn´t get more epic than this !

    Thanks for bringing back those memories ( I´m flipping through my ESSENTIALS right now ) Terry, great post as always.

  2. It's like Stan Lee said in the original 2 part bumper Kree-Skrull war books: at that time to make the epic into a movie would "cost millions!" But today they can have aliens invade New York and it looks so realistic!
    Bit confused about "issue 81" from volume mean "When Dies A Legend" -just after the Red Wolf story? And...oh, these early stories were so much better and I do know I asked Joe Casey about the Vision's first appearance when he was at the Bristol Comic Con a few years back. His reply: "How can an android cry? That was an Avengers story?" To be fair I think he was hung over though he was generally being a "super star ass"!
    I think you can pick up any of these volumes and be wowed. That or we're just plain old!!

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