Greetings from the Odinson,
In the early 1960s, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko launched the Marvel Age with the Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, Amazing Spider-Man, Mighty Thor, Daredevil, Invincible Iron Man, the Mighty Avengers, Doctor Strange, and the Uncanny X-Men. Then, in the late 60s and throughout the 70s, the Marvel Universe was bored on the backs of such legendary writers and artists as Roy Thomas, Len Wein, John Buscema, and Marv Wolfman, among others, but then something amazing happened. The children of the 60s who grew up reading these comics came of age and became the first generation of Marvel fans to take the reins of creativity over at the House of Ideas.
These are the creators that ushered in the Modern Age of Comics and carried the torch for Marvel’s main stable of heroes. Last week, we met the talent that proliferated the legends of the Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, Amazing Spider-Man, Mighty Thor, and Daredevil. Who’s next?
The Odinson Takes a Look Back at the First Generation of Fans Turned Creators: Marvel Comics: Part 2 of 2
Invincible Iron Man by David Michelinie and Bob Layton – The Run: 6 Years – Iron Man #116-157, 216-250, Annuals 9-10, Bad Blood, Legacy of Doom, and The End. Contributions to the Mythology: This dynamic duo introduced the character of James Rhodes, one of, if not the, most important supporting cast members in the Iron Man legend. In the time-traveling adventure DoomQuest, they established an Iron Man/Doctor Doom rivalry that has only grown and is still relevant to this very day. And, with Armor Wars, they orchestrated one of the best and pound-for-pound most impactful Iron Man tales of the modern era. Highlight: Demon in a Bottle is the most character-defining moment in Tony Stark’s life. Tony’s struggle with alcoholism nearly destroys his career as Iron Man and his corporation. Later, This issue would come back to haunt Tony Stark as he is forced to give up the mantle of Iron Man to his friend James Rhodes and lose his business empire to one of his most hated enemies, Obadiah Stane. It’s a tale that just keeps on giving.
Mighty Avengers by Roger Stern – The Run: 9 Years – Avengers #189-191, 201, 227-279, 281-288, Annuals 13-14, West Coast Avengers #1-4, Forever, Infinity, and Beast and Wonder. Contributions to the Mythology: Hands down, this is one the Odinson’s All-Time favorite Avengers runs. It begins with the Trial of Hank Pym, which sees the Avengers co-founder single-handedly (OK, with a little help from Hawkeye) take down the Masters of Evil and end the threat of his most hated enemy Egghead. Also at this time we see one of the best Spider-Man/Avengers team ups ever as it is Peter Parker’s brain, not his spidey-powers, that saves the day. We learn the secrets of Starfox’s heritage and what it has to do with the immortal Eternals. We see the Avengers crossover with two major, epic battles, each spearheaded by ROM and the Mighty Thor respectfully. In Absolute Vision, the super android attempts to force peace on the world by taking over. Once and Future Kang sees the Avengers drawn into a conflict with Kang the Conqueror and his bid to rule the multiverse. Plus, in Assault on Olympus, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes go to war against the immortal might of the Olympian Gods! Highlight: This run was so rich with fantastic stories, mind-blowing action, and high adventure. It featured one of my All-Time favorite Avengers rosters – Captain America, Wasp, Black Knight, Captain Marvel II, Starfox, the Sub-Mariner, and Hercules. And, it featured easily a Top 3 Avengers storyline in the form of Under Siege. Baron Zemo has assembled a small army of the Marvel U’s deadliest super villains for his new and most powerful Masters of Evil and orchestrates one of the Avengers biggest defeats and ultimately one of their greatest triumphs.
Doctor Strange by Peter Gillis – The Run: 4 Years – Doctor Strange #74, 76-81 and Doctor Strange Sorcerer Supreme #1-4, and material from Strange Tales #1-19. Contributions to the Mythology: The 1980s were a roller coaster ride of ups and downs for the Master of the Mystic Arts. His Ongoing series was cancelled, but then he guest-starred in an anthology alongside super teens Cloak and Dagger, and then the decade ended with him getting a brand new solo series. Through it all one writer was right there with him every step of the way, Peter Gillis. Highlight: For the Odinson, the all too short lived Strange Tales was my highlight. Sure I had read the good Doctor’s adventures in the pages of the Defenders and witnessed his epic showdowns with Count Dracula, but this is the series that really captured my imagination as a kid when it came to the Sorcerer Supreme.
Captain America by Mark Gruenwald – The Run: 10 Years – Captain America #307-422 and 424-443 and The Legend. Contributions to the Mythology: If you ever want to know why Captain America is on my Mount Rushmore of heroes then read this extraordinary run. Writer Mark Gruenwald loved Captain America and his passion for the character and what he stands for is infectious to the reader. Gruenwald’s take on the character is what makes the Odinson feel like there is not anything Captain America cannot do, no foe or obstacle he cannot overcome. If the cover alone for Captain America #317 doesn’t make you want to read this series then nothing ever will. Gruenwald brought so many great storylines and enduring elements to the Cap legend. The murderous Scourge of the Underworld mystery was resolved. The seeds of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark’s discord take root in Cap’s chapter of the Armor Wars. Storylines like The Bloodstone Hunt and Streets of Poison took the Sentinel of Liberty to places he had never been before. Gruenwald really tested Cap in an unusual way with Steve Rogers’ romantic relationship with Cap’s erstwhile enemy Diamondback. It was also during this run that Gruenwald introduced the world to one of Cap’s most dangerous adversaries to date – Crossbones, and one of his most enduring rivals – John Walker (a.k.a. USAgent). And, he gave us Cap-Wolf! Highlight: Speaking of John Walker. Hands down, the most powerful chapter in this magnificent run has to be Captain America No More. When he refuses to become a government stooge, to be told who and when he can help others, Steve Rogers is stripped of his shield and mantle as the Sentinel of Liberty. He is replaced by his rival John Walker. This is a very important tale in Marvel History because it shows how another man can crumble under the pressure of being the country’s greatest hero. It illustrates perfectly why Steve Rogers is not replaceable and why he is the world’s greatest champion for justice.
Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont – The Run: 20+ Years – *deep breath* Giant-Size X-Men #1 and 4, Uncanny X-Men #94-279, 381-389, 444-473, Annuals 3-12 and 14, Uncanny X-Men/New Teen Titans, Phoenix: The Untold Story, New Mutants #1-54, 63, 81 and Annuals #1-3, Wolverine #1-4, Marvel Team-Up #69, 89-90, God Loves, Man Kills, X-Men and the Micronauts #1-4, Magik #1-4, X-Men and Alpha Flight #1-2, Heroes for Hope, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #1-6, Excalibur #1-19, 21-25, 27, 32-34 and Mojo Mayhem, X-Men Classics Vignettes, Wolverine #1-8, 10, 125-128, X-Men #1-3, 100-109, 165, X-Men Forever, X-Men Forever 2, New Exiles, New Excalibur #1-8 and 16-24, X-Treme X-Men, and X-Men: The End Vol. 1-3 and material from Alpha Flight #17, Marvel Fanfare #1-5, 33, 40 and Marvel Comics Presents #1-10. *And, I probably still forgot a few.* Contributions to the Mythology: With all due respect to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, they may have given birth to the Children of the Atom, but make no mistake, it was Chris Claremont who defined them. By time Giant Size X-Men #1 hit the spinner racks in 1975 and launched a new era for mutant heroes, the X-Men was an all but canceled title putting out reprints instead of original material. Chris Claremont was assigned the title with Uncanny X-Men #94 and he forged the X-Men franchise into one of the most powerful and successful franchises in Comics History. Claremont also had the great privilege of working with some of the most legendary artists and visual storytellers in Comics History – Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, Paul Smith, Bill Sienkiewicz, Frank Miller, John Romita, Jr., Rick Leonardi, Marc Silvestri, and Jim Lee. From the M’Krann Crystal Saga to the Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past to the Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants to X-Tinction Agenda, and all stops in-between, Claremont took Marvel’s Merry Mutants to heights undreamed of. From new heroes to new villains to mind-blowing adventures and concepts, Claremont’s uncanny run is the reason why cartoons, movies, and toys were made, and the reason why the X-Men are so many fans’ favorite super heroes. Highlight: This spot could so easily be taken by the Dark Phoenix Saga. After all, it was a seminal storyline and a Top 10 Marvel Tale of All-Time. This spot could also be taken by the extreme character arc and growth of Magneto. Claremont saved the Master of Magnetism from becoming a villain of the month and turned him into one of the most complex and interesting characters in the history of the medium (see The Amazing Character Arc of Magneto). However, my Highlight for Mr. Chris Claremont’s amazing run goes to the tale that is commonly known as The Japan Adventure.
This was the moment when Wolverine ceased to be just that cool character over in the pages of X-Men and became a bona fide Rock Star! This story was the basis for the second solo Wolverine movie, which did a terrible job adapting the story. This tale features amazing sequential artwork by industry legend Frank Miller and is to this day one of the best Logan adventures ever. This was the moment when Logan advanced to the head of the class and became an A-List character in the Mighty Marvel Pantheon. Thirty-Five years later and Wolverine is still easily one of the most popular characters in comics. The Japan Adventure was the story that put him over.
NOTE: Here is an interesting bonus. When Chris Claremont very first took over the X-Men series he absolutely hated the Wolverine character. That’s probably why Logan is a bit unlikable in the beginning. He was constantly looking for a way to write the character out of the series or kill him off. However, artist John Byrne loved having a fellow Canadian in comics and refused to let the character go. So, he went out of his way to make the character look really super cool and over time, of course, Claremont not only warmed up to the character, but he fleshed him out and turned Wolverine into one of the most interesting and popular characters in Comics History.
So, there you have it, folks, the first generation of comic fans who became creators and ushered the House of Ideas into the Modern Age of Comics. This 2-part list contains a wealth of great stories, character-defining runs, and writers and artists that will be remembered until the stars above burn out.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell