Thing tagged posts

Marvel Two-in-One (1974) 98

As if video gamers needed an excuse to play games all day, here is another. While not a legitimate holiday, National Video Game Day does make the list of odd observances.

National Video Game Day is recognized on Sept. 12. This is not to be confused with the previous Video Game Day celebrated July 8.

For those ready to play, we’ll observe today with Marvel Two-in-One issue 98 from April of 1983. For those old enough to remember, that year was a high-water mark for the video game industry. In 1981 video games consumed more money than concerts, theater tickets and record sales. And, it only kept growing over the next few years.

Marvel Two-in-One (1974) 98

Marvel Two-in-One (1974) 98

David Micheleinie commemorated the video game movement with “Vid Wars!” Ron Wilson penciled the project and Frank Giacoia inked the tale that co-stared Franklin Richards.

For those who may not remember, Marvel Two-in-One was a vanity vehicle for Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing.  Aunt Petuna’s favorite nephew would team with a fellow Marvel U resident each month. At least for 100 issues and seven annuals.

In this team up Ben is tired of his nephew thumping him in the arcades. As luck – and Michelinie – would have it Dr. Niles Given is seeking an audience with Reed Richards at the Baxter Building when the two return home. The good doctor has created a video game and he wants the endorsement of Dr. Richards. The story takes a darker turn when all involved are transported into a real game of life and death.

Much like Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Two-in-One was ended to allow the Thing a solo series. It only lasted 36 issues while Spider-Man’s off-shoot following his team up book, Web of Spider-Man, proved much more popular lasting to issue 129.

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Marvel Treasury Special (1974)

DC beat Marvel to the holiday punch with the first of the Christmas specials beginning in 1974.

The Marvel Treasury Special was released Nov. 26 of that year on the heels of DC’s Limited Collector’s Edition (C-34) that hit newsstands Nov. 7.

Whereas DC had decades of material to draw from, Marvel had a little over 10-years worth of stories to plumb.

Naturally “Have Yourself a Sandman Little Christmas!” led the list.

It was a reprint from Marvel Team-Up issue one starring Spider-Man and the Human Torch battling Sandman. A sappy story that brought out the season in both heroes who allowed Sandman to visit his mother on Christmas Eve.  The good deed does not go unpunished leading both heroes to a continuation of the story in issue two.

The remainder of the book is what the title promised:  a grab-bag.

Marvel Treasury Special (1974)

Marvel Treasury Special (1974)

In “Mortal Combat with…Sub-Mariner” is reprinted from Daredevil issue seven. Namor makes land fall to seek out Matt Murdock to serve as his lawyer. The sea prince wishes to sue the surface world for its exploitation of the other three quarters of the Earth.  Murdock’s alter ego is called upon when he refuses to take the case.

Black Widow stars in the next story taken from Amazing Adventures (1970) issue five. An unremarkable story. Maybe the most noteworthy of the book is Neal Adam’s assumption of penciling chores on the Inhuman’s story.

Fantastic Four issues 25 and 26, a two-part tale, finish out the book. The Thing and Hulk go toe-to-toe in issue 25 with the Avengers guest starring in the second part.

Far from the holiday specials to come in the 1990s, but at least setting a precedence for the company.

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Marvel Treasury Edition 13

As America packed away its bicentennial banners and fervor, Marvel began packaging its third, and final, Holiday Grab-Bag. And, that’s what it was, a holiday-less hodge podge of reprints pulled from Avengers (1963) issue 58, Daredevil (1964) number 86, Marvel Team-Up 6 and Tales to Astonish (1959) 93.

Roger Stern was a lowly assistant editor in charge of choosing reprint material for Marvel’s stable of twice-told-tale books. He was tasked to fill the last of the holiday specials with suitable material. Having already used what little was available the previous two years, Stern was faced with a daunting task.

Marvel Treasury Edition 13

Marvel Treasury Edition 13

As Stern told Back Issue magazine, issue 85, Christmas in the Bronze Age, from 2015; he pulled the most tear jerking stories he could find to fill the book. Choices made, he found the book was still 10 pages short. Stern approached Editor Archie Goodwin who freed money for what Stern termed a “framing sequence” for the stories.

Fanboys were given the Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag Nov. 16, 1976, complete with a Gil Kane/Joe Sinnott cover featuring the Marvel mainstays. Stern penned the opening story, “Tis the Season,” showcasing the super heroes playing in the snow. Reprints included “…As Those Who Will Not See!” with Spider-Man and the Thing, “Even an Android Can Cry” featuring the Avengers, Hulk and Silver Surfer shared “He Who Strikes the Silver Surfer” and “Once Upon a Time – The Ox!” showcasing Daredevil and Black Widow.

This was the final Marvel holiday special until the 1990s. By then the House of Ideas would have a better catalog to choose from, even tossing in original material.

For me, nothing will ever beat the original specials from the 1970s. They were the perfect size to lie stomach down on the floor and marvel – pun intended – at the craftsmanship of those earlier Marvel Age stories.

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Marvel Holiday Special 2011

Marvel Holiday Special 2011

Marvel Holiday Special 2011

Marvel dusted off previously released material offered through Comixology in digital format for the 2011 Christmas Special offering a mixed bag of holiday cheer.

Spider-Man stars in “Cold Hearted Christmas.” Family is missed the most when gone from the holidays. Justice and compassion do work in unison, though.

“Logan’s Lost Lesson” is pretty much what the title suggests. Wolverine doffs his work clothes to teach hockey and a lesson to the naughty at Xavier’s School for Gifted Students.

“Ol’ Saint Nick” is Nick Fury handing out a Christmas pummeling to the agents of Hydra while on an important mission to show a man his future.

“Chinese Food for Christmas” has a meeting of the non-Gentiles of the Marvel Universe. Together they prove there’s more than one way to celebrate Christmas.

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Happy Holidays

Marvel’s holiday card, circa 2010.

Marvel 2010 card

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Covering All The Bases

Artwork by Michael Cho.

Happy Everything

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Happy Hanukkah

Clearly the intention of Jack “The King” Kirby – as evidenced by this 1976 Hanukkah card sketch and reportedly confirmed by Kirby during the 90s – Ben Grimm’s Jewish heritage was finally formalized as comics canon with 2002’s Fantastic Four (1998) #56.

Happy Hanukkah, everyone.

Happy Hanukkah

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Fantastic Four (1961) 361

Ben Grimm is the star of this Christmas tale as he takes leave of Marvel’s first family for a holiday outing to haunt his former neighborhood to help an old friend.

Dr. Doom appears long enough to justify his spot on the cover and Stan Lee dusts off an old soap box and trims it in Christmas colors as 1991 passes to history.

Fantastic Four (1961) 361

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Fantastic Four 240

Not really a Christmas issue beyond the opening pages showing Ben Grimm attempting to hide presents for his nephew Franklin.

An argument could be made that the story does involve miracles such as the Inhumans launching Attailan to the moon where they take up residence and Quicksliver and Crystal’s child being born a human as their mutant and Attailan blood cancel the other out.

But, those are normal events in the Marvel Universe.

Fantastic Four 240

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Marvel Two-In-One 8 and 74

Marvel Two-In-One 8

Marvel Two-In-One 8

Marvel Two-In-One is a great title.

This is the second Marvel team up book, featuring the other ol’ blue eyes, Ben Grimm the ever lovin’ Thing. Each month Ben was teamed with a flavor of the month, normally one of Marvel’s lesser-known characters from Brother Voodoo to the Impossible Man to Quasar.

As I said, Marvel Two-In-One was a great title; just not it’s two holiday offerings.

The first homage to the happiest of holidays came early on in issue eight guest starring Ghost Rider.

This recreation of immaculate-conception for power purposes is best bought for the cover.

Marvel Two-In-One 74

Marvel Two-In-One 74

Issue 74 offers a promising beginning as the FF and Ben’s longtime girlfriend, Alicia Masters, finish their holiday shopping and ready for the annual Christmas party at the Baxter Building with friends. If the story had just been about the party, it would’ve been more interesting. This could’ve been a very touching Christmas story with Marvel’s first family and friends, but in the mid-1970s readers wanted action.

Again, buy this one for the cover and first few pages.

If you wanna read a good Marvel Two-In-One story, try issues 46, 60, 96 or annual seven. They may not be Christmas stories, but they pack more clobber.

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