Happy New Year from the Odinson,
Finally, we can bid adieu to 2016, a year that was not very kind to pop culture. The Odinson wishes to welcome in 2017 with a look at a list of creators who helped define and modernize the House of Ideas.
It is common knowledge that Stan Lee along with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko laid the foundation for what would become the Marvel Universe when they created the Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, Amazing Spider-Man, Mighty Thor, Daredevil, Invincible Iron Man, the Mighty Avengers, Doctor Strange, and finally the Uncanny X-Men. They also created their foes – Doctor Doom, Loki, Magneto, the Dread Dormammu – their supporting casts – Rick Jones, Mary Jane, Jane Foster, Edwin Jarvis – as well as the world these legendary heroes live in – the Baxter Building, the Daily Bugle, the Sanctum Sanctorum, and the Xavier School for the Gifted. And, from 1961 to 1970, alongside their partners John Romita, Sr., Gene Colan, and a few others, they ran the asylum.
Then, in the late 60s and throughout the 70s, the reins of power were handed over to capable partners and protégés like Roy Thomas, Len Wein, John Buscema, and Marv Wolfman, among others. These creators continued the classic traditions established in the vaunted Silver Age of Comics and marched along boldly through the Bronze Age with seminal and important chapters like Second Genesis, Even an Android Can Cry, and the Death of Gwen Stacy.
Then something extraordinary happened.
As the 1970s came to a close and the 1980s dawned, a new generation of writers and artists took the torch passed down to them by the forefathers of the House of Ideas, and this new crop of creators, this first generation of fans turned creators, ushered in the Modern Age of Comic Books.
The Odinson Takes a Look Back at the First Generation of Fans Turned Creators: Marvel Comics: Part 1 of 2
Fantastic Four by John Byrne – The Run: 5 Years – Fantastic Four #232-295 and Annuals 17 and 19. Contributions to the Mythology: Byrne put the FANTASTIC back into the Fantastic Four. He took the series back to basics and told amazing tales about a family of explorers who just so happened to be gifted, or cursed as the case may be, with extraordinary powers. Byrne and his longtime inking partner Terry Austin over the years have delivered some of the most beautiful and best sequential artwork in the history of the medium, and they continue that tradition on this incredible run. Byrne introduced a new Herald of Galactus – Nova – and he brought the She-Hulk into the fold making her almost synonymous with Marvel’s First Family. Highlights: For the Odinson, there is one story arc that really stands out in what is truly a stellar run in comics. The Trial of Reed Richards. The FF and the heroes of Earth have a chance to end the threat of Galactus once and for all, but they choose to preserve life rather than take it. In the aftermath of this decision, the World Devourer destroys the Skrull throneworld. Thus, Reed Richards is taken before a cosmic tribunal consisting of all the countless of alien races who have suffered at the hands of Galactus and made to stand trial for his decision to save the life of a being responsible for the deaths of countless billions. It’s an amazing sequence that features all the major players in the Marvel cosmic landscape including the Shi’ar, Skrulls, Kree, and even Odin the All-Father himself! This arc firmly establishes not just the cosmic role Galactus has in the universe but also that of the Fantastic Four.
Incredible Hulk by Bill Mantlo – The Run: 5 Years – Incredible Hulk #245-313 and Annuals 10-13. Contributions to the Mythology: Bill Mantlo and his prolific partner in crime Sal Buscema orchestrate, next to Peter David, the most character-defining run in Hulk’s history. They introduce the evil Fantastic Four, the U-Foes. They take the Green Goliath on a World Tour, a tale that flows organically, featuring the demise of one of the Hulk’s greatest adversaries, and introduces the readers to many different and interesting heroes and locales around the globe. Rocket Raccoon makes his 2nd ever appearance in comics. Plus, Mantlo arranges some of the most bone-shattering, earth-shaking tussles in Comics History as he pits the Jade Giant against such powerhouses as the Absorbing Man, Hulk-Hunters, Abomination, Wendigo, Dragon Man, Thor, the Silver Surfer, and the Avengers. NOTE: Peter David’s name could easily be in this spot, but for the Odinson, the Mantlo/Buscema run is my favorite one on the character. Highlights: It’s hard for the Odinson to narrow it down, but probably the best story arc has to be the Hulk’s rise and fall. In Amnesty, Bruce Banner has come under control of the unparalleled might of the Hulk and is granted a pardon by the U.S. government and finally embraced by the heroes of the Marvel U as one of their own. However, the good times were not meant to last as a series of stressful events that culminate with the Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars sees Banner’s control slowly slipping away. His decent into pure rage is chronicled in Regression which sees the situation coming to a head when Banner completely loses control and the Hulk goes berserk. This harrowing tale comes to a shocking end when Doctor Strange uses his magic to banish the Jade Giant to the strange and mysterious Crossroads, a mystical realm with countless pathways that lead to countless worlds, but none of them lead back home.
Amazing Spider-Man by Todd McFarlane – The Run: 3 Years – Amazing Spider-Man #298-323, 325, 328 and Spider-Man #1-14 and 16. Contributions to the Mythology: With all due respect to greats like Roger Stern, John Romita, Jr., Tom DeFalco, and Ron Frenz, who gave us classic Spidey standards like Hobgoblin and the Symbiote Saga, and even more so than the writer on his run, David Michelinie, whose prolific run on Spidey spawned Carnage and the Wedding of Peter Parker and Mary Jane, nobody in the history of comics since Lee, Ditko, and Romita, Sr. has affected the Spider-Man legend the way McFarlane did. Not only did McFarlane co-create Venom, arguably the most important Spider-Man villain since Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin, but his contributions to the visual presentation of the wall-crawler can never be overstated. Was Todd McFarlane the greatest visual storyteller ever? No, but his expressive eyes, SPIDER-posture, contorted web-swinging, and signature “spaghetti-webbing” are still being emulated and aped to this day. Need more proof this guy is a rock star? When McFarlane was given his very own Spidey title, Spider-Man #1 sold over 2.5 million copies making it one of the bestselling single issues in Comics History, only surpassed by X-Men #1. Highlights: This is a guilty pleasure I will admit, but nothing tops when worlds collided as the two Marvel Icons that McFarlane put his stamp on during his tenure at the House of Ideas, Spider-Man and the Hulk, come face-to-face and Spidey flat out punches the Hulk into orbit! NOTE: With a little help from the Uni-Power.
Mighty Thor by Walt Simonson – The Run: 5 Years – Mighty Thor #260-271, 337-355, 357-382, Annual #7 and Balder the Brave. Contributions to the Mythology: This is one of the most important comic book runs of my lifetime. I am the Odinson because of Walt Simonson. He put the MIGHTY in Mighty Thor. His page layouts are so dynamic and his action sequences are so raw and powerful. When he renders Thor whirling his invincible hammer, he is not just contempt with the mandatory swoosh lines. No, my boy, Walt Simonson, renders a panel so mind-blowingly powerful that the very air surrounding Thor’s whirling hammer crackles with energy, the landscape trembles in anticipation, the skies overhead rumble with thunder, and the reader knows, without a doubt, that some evil doer is about to get the smack laid down on them hard. During Simonson’s run we saw the triumphant debut of Beta Ray Bill, one of the greatest additions to the Marvel Pantheon of heroes. We witnessed the final stand of Skurge the Executioner. We saw Thor CURSED by Hela and forced to wear a suit of protective armor. We saw the mighty thunder god transformed into a FROG by black magic. And, we witnessed the ultimate battle between the forces of good and evil with the fate of the cosmos hanging in the balance when Surtur stormed the gates of Asgard. Highlights: Of all the wonderful and amazing sights and grand adventures Walt Simonson bestowed unto me, the most astonishing of them all is, hands down, Mjolnir’s Song, a tour de force single issue that allows us mere mortals to witness the earth-shattering last duel between the god of thunder and the legendary Midgard Serpent. For a single comic book issue to contain a battle of this magnitude, every single page is a splash page, and not a single page is wasted. These two mythological giants tear into and pound each other with blows that would shatter mountains. And, it is all narrated by the ancient poem which dictates the actual events of Ragnarok. For those of you that do not know the legend, in the final battle, the Twilight of the Gods, Thor and the Midgard Serpent are destined to slay each other in an epic final showdown. The way Walt Simonson handles this detail, a seed the writer/artist planted nearly two years prior, shows that not only is he a great storyteller, but a clever one as well.
Daredevil by Frank Miller – The Run: 5 Years – Daredevil #158-161, 163-191, 219, 226-233, Love and War, The Man without Fear, and Elektra Assassin. Contributions to the Mythology: With all due respect to all the creators that came before and after, Frank Miller defined the Man without Fear. He introduced the world to Elektra, one of the most enduring additions to the Marvel Universe since the launch of the Marvel Age. Miller made Bullseye the most dangerous man alive and backed it up with actions, not just words. He took the Kingpin and turned him into one of the most complex and diabolical villains in Comics History. He so transformed the mob boss that these days, Wilson Fisk is more associated with ole Hornhead rather than Spider-Man whose comics he debuted in. And, from his supporting cast to Catholicism to breaking the man behind the mask down to nothing only to build him back up stronger and better than ever, Miller saved Daredevil from the brink of becoming a B or C-List character and forged a legend that made him an A-List force to be reckoned with for life. We have that amazing Netflix DD show because of the tales Frank Miller told. Highlights: Two words: Born Again. This seminal piece of fiction is not just the highlight of Frank Miller’s amazing run on the character, it is arguably one of the best super hero dramas in Marvel’s illustrious history. When Matt Murdock is betrayed by the last person he expects, his secret identity falls into the possession of his worst enemy. The Kingpin uses this information to systematically destroy Daredevil, Matt Murdock, and everything around him. Born Again is the very definition of the Hero’s Journey motif. Plus, we are introduced to Nuke. What if Steve Rogers was a drug-addicted, deranged lunatic? That’s Nuke. And finally, the cherry on top of this comic book Sunday, the reader gets to hear what it is like for a blind man with super human senses describe what it is like to be in the presence of Captain America and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
There you go, folks, the first half of my list of 1st Generation Fans-to-Creators that helped shape the Marvel Universe for the Modern Age of Comics. Tune in next week when the Odinson finishes this list with the Fans-to-Creators who were past the torch for the Golden Avenger, the Sentinel of Liberty, the Master of the Mystic Arts, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and the Children of the Atom
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell