Category Archives: Avenging the Fantastic

Avenging the Fantastic, Part 3: Captain America Returns!

Continuing the read-through of as many Avengers and Fantastic Four–related Marvel comics as possible!

Books Read

Tales of Suspense (starring Iron Man) #45-49; Tales to Astonish (starring Ant-Man) #47-51; Strange Tales (starring the Human Torch) #113-119; Fantastic Four #19-24; Journey Into Mystery (starring Thor) #97-104; Avengers #2-4; years spanned: 1963-4.

TOS 45Fantastic Firsts

Iron Man finally gets a supporting cast in Tales of Suspense #45, where we meet Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan (Gwyneth Paltrow and Jon Favreau in the movies). He ditches his clunky original armor for a more recognizable design in TOS #48.

Ant-Man becomes Giant-Man in Tales to Astonish #49.

The X-Men were introduced in their own series, which we’re not covering here, but they make their first guest appearance when they meet Iron Man in TOS #49.

Though he first appeared in the World War II–era Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, Nick Fury makes his first modern-day appearance in Fantastic Four #21, where we learn he now works for the CIA.

The Lady Sif first appears in a flashback story of Thor’s youth in Journey Into Mystery #102, although she’s nothing more than a damsel in distress with zero lines of dialogue. Sif the warrior, like we see in the movies, is yet to come.

The Invisible Girl gains a more useful power—invisible force fields—in FF #22, and unless I missed it earlier, the Thing first utters his famous catchphrase, “It’s clobberin’ time!” in FF #23. The intended target of clobberin’ is Dr. Doom, and the Thing, still relatively inexperienced at clobberin’, swings and misses.

ST 114Captain America joins the modern world in Avengers #4. However, earlier, the character had a “tryout” in Strange Tales #114, though that was a villain in disguise messing with the Human Torch (an gauging reader interest in the dormant World War II character).

Notable new villains include Rama Tut in FF #19, the Crimson Dynamo in TOS #46, the Molecule Man in FF #20, the Human Top (later Whirlwind) in TTA #50, Mr. Hyde (who Kyle Maclachlan plays in Agents of SHIELD) in JIM  #99, and the Enchantress, the first recurring female villain, in JIM #103.

RIP For Now

In Avengers #4, we learn that Bucky Barnes, Captain America’s teen sidekick, apparently did not survive World War II.

How Captain America grieves: He notices that Rick Jones, former sidekick of the Hulk, looks almost exactly like Bucky. “I was wasting time—mourning him—but you’ve suddenly made me realize that life goes on! In a way, Bucky can still live again!”

No pressure, Rick. Continue reading

Avenging the Fantastic, Part 2: Avengers Assemble!

Continuing the read-through of as many Avengers and Fantastic Four–related Marvel comics as possible!

Books Read

Tales to Astonish (starring Ant-Man) #42-46; Tales of Suspense (starring Iron Man) #40-44; Journey Into Mystery (starring Thor) #92-96; Fantastic Four #14-18, Annual #1; Strange Tales (starring the Human Torch) #109-112, Annual #2; Avengers #1; year: 1963.

tales-to-astonish-44Fantastic Firsts

We meet Janet Van Dyne, a.k.a. the Wasp, who becomes Ant-Man’s sidekick in TTA #44. This brings us up to two female superheroes in the Marvel Comics Universe—one who turns invisible and one who shrinks.

Unless I missed someone, we also get the first non-white, non-extraterrestrial super-villain who would recur, the Radioactive Man, in JIM #93 (though back then they hyphenated it as “Radio-Active”). He comes from Red China, of course.

The Fantastic Four battle the Mad Thinker and his Awesome Android for the first time in FF #15, and in the next issue they take the first trip to the Microverse. In #18, the shape-shifting alien Skrulls introduce their Super-Skrull.

The Human Torch endures his first team-up with Spider-Man in Strange Tales Annual #2 (though they first met in the first issue of Spider-Man’s series, which we’re not covering here).

And the Avengers assemble in their own first issue, with the initial line-up of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man, and the Wasp.

The Status Is Not Quo

–So, back in the day, Ant-Man had a somewhat reckless method of travel.

At the size of an insect, he catapults himself out his window and across the city. While he’s being a projectile, ants converge at the landing spot he calculated, and they act as a cushion for him to fall on. He gives the Wasp wings so she can fly, but Ant-Man, the little reckless daredevil, keeps catapulting himself and never thinks to give himself wings. Though in TTA #46, he does start riding flying ants “like a Pegasus.” The man travels in style.

–Iron Man’s armor is powered by “transistors,” not “ark reactor” technology as seen in the movies and modern comics. And as Tony Stark, he doesn’t just have the glowing circle in his chest—he has to wear an entire armored chestplate under his clothes at all times. To recharge, he literally plugs the armor into everyday electrical sockets, the same ones you would use to plug in a toaster, and he sits there and waits. Tales of suspense, indeed.

Tony is seen dating different women in several issues, but none of these relationships last, presumably on account of his inability to take his shirt off without having some explaining to do. Though how these women never notice the peculiar hardness of his chest and stomach remains a mystery, unless Tony Stark dances like a middle school kid. Continue reading

Avenging the Fantastic, Part 1: The Marvel Comics Universe Begins!

FF1Also posted at Smash Cut Culture!

The Avengers have been around since long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe became a mainstream pop culture juggernaut. In this new series, I’ll be reading the Avengers-related titles of the original Marvel Comics Universe from the 1960s through the present over the course of many, many months, and I’ll chart my observations here every two or three weeks.

I’ll include the Fantastic Four in this, since not only is their first (hopefully) good movie coming up this summer, but they’re also a major part of the traditionally super-heroic corner of the comics universe—as opposed to the feared-and-hated characters like the X-Men and Spider-Man or vigilantes like Daredevil, though Hulk gets included on account of being a founding Avenger. (If I included those other franchises, I’d never finish.) Between the Marvel Unlimited digital library and my own collection, we’ll be able to cover most (but not all) of the books starring Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the like. Special thanks to The Complete Marvel Reading Order for sparing me the hard work of keeping track of what to read next.

So face front, True Believers, as we begin our long-term tour of the evolution of Marvel with this extra-sized first issue!

Tales_to_Astonish_Vol_1_27Books Read

Fantastic Four #1-13, Tales to Astonish (starring Ant-Man) #27, 35-41, Incredible Hulk #1-6, Journey Into Mystery (starring Thor) #93-89, 91, Strange Tales (starring the Human Torch) #101-108, and Tales of Suspense (starring Iron Man) #39;  years spanned: 1961-3.

Fantastic Firsts

We’re at the ground floor here, so pretty much everything is new.

Though Marvel Comics had been around in some or another since the late 1930s, Marvel continuity officially begins with the introduction of Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Girl, the Human Torch, and the Thing in Fantastic Four #1.

The next character we meet is Hank Pym (who will be played by Michael Douglas in this summer’s Ant-Man movie) in Tales to Astonish #27, which is more a sci-fi short story about a scientist being almost done in by his own invention rather than a superhero tale. Pym becomes Ant-Man in TTA #35. Continue reading