Previously: Growing up with the X-Men
The Uncanny X-Men were my absolute favorites when I was young, but those were not the only comics I was into. I had a great love for the whole Marvel Universe, and like the mutant corner of the epic tessaract room, I too was introduced to Spider-Man and the Avengers and the Fantastic Four by living in a house full of 80s comics…
I was never a Spider-Man completist, but with SO MANY Spider-Man spinoffs out there, Marvel really milked the franchise and I read a lot. Amazing, Spectacular, Web of. At least X-Men were teams and had spinoffs, how did Spider-Man get so many titles? The classic character, of course, has among the greatest rogue’s gallery. Peter Parker was also a relatable guy, and for this reason the underdog of superheroes because the most popular flagship of a whole company.
Some say that Spider-Man lost it when he got married. I didn’t think so, I liked the continuity and growth in the character’s life. Marvel has since, as all comics readers know, retroactively rewritten Spidey’s history so he was no longer ever married. Talk about a harsh annulment!
Speaking of Spider-Man and X-Men and more, Secret Wars was the perfect story to tie together all the superheroes. Required reading in 84, it was on of the great original crossovers. Secret Wars took all the main heroes and villains and thanks to the mysterious Beyonder they were put a planet to fight a war. Nowadays crossovers are a comics cliche, but back then it was a big deal. Certainly a big deal for me to read.
I read it out of order, finding random back issues and more until I completed the story years later. The chapter introducing Spider-Man’s new costume was hard to get — expensive (the costume was precursor to Venom) — but eventually I bought the bullet and paid.
That’s how it was back then, piecing together the Marvel Universe.
The sequel Secret Wars II sucked by the way. Trying to be philosophical and shit, the omnipotent Beyonder went to Earth and took human form and became a lame 80s hipster. Really terrible stuff.
But Marvel could do better.
This was the era of the great writer-artists. Truly great reads.
John Byrne’s science fictional Fantastic Four, took them to the Skrull Galaxy and Eon the Living Planet and the Negative Zone antimatter dimension and the microverse. Let us not forget, the mighty Galactus.
Walter Simonson’s high fantasy Norse epic of Thor, as Thor’s world was fleshed out in Asgard joined by Balder the Brave. The actual mythologies were utilized as Ragnarok occurred, the end of the world, with Allfather Odin himself fighting the evil Surtur.
Later I caught up on all the tradepaperback reprints of Frank Miller’s seminal noir-eque Daredevil (note that Miller is famed for Sin City, but this was his previous mainstream work leading up to that). Groundbreaking at the time.
That covers all the main genres of adventure stories.
I had particularly spent untold hours reading the complete files of OHATMU, the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. This really made the whole universe thing real to me, and my mind was filling with infinite trivia. I loved reading these. You have no idea how time-consuming it was.
The handbook was an alphabetical listing of every Marvel character, encyclopedically-detailed history with pseudo-scientific explanation of powers, such as:
Those were my faves. Although, I have left out out so much, Gruenwald’s Captain America was notable. Some Iron Man stories in which Jim Rhodes took over from Tony Stark (before War Machine)… who wrote that, was it Micheline? There were many Avengers, but spread out with different creaters in different time periods. Can’t think of a major arch that stood out. Although Englehart’s West Coast Avengers headed by Hawkeye does come to mind, I read a lot of those. And random issues of Hulk by Mantlo et. al.
Oh, speaking of writer Mark Gruenwald I loved Squadron Supreme. A pastiche of DC’s Justice League as an alternate-reality of superheroes, whom occasionally fought the Avengers, Marvel’s Squadron Supreme 12-issue miniseries was brilliant. It fascinated me. As an “alternate Earth” story, it could take more risks; there was more at stake. Characters actually died and stayed dead, there was no status quo, as a real world of superhuman heroes would actually affect the planet not just be the same only with costumes. Squadron Supreme asked tough questions about authority and benevolent dictatorships and the nature of power. Heavy stuff for superheroes at that time. It was among the first great superhero deconstructions, even predating Alan Moore’s Watchmen. (Did it predate Moore’s Miracleman/Marvelman though? I’ll have to look that up…)
There, I think that covers a lot.
Again, my Marvel goodreads with a few 80s era in there: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=marvel
Meanwhile, as a kid coming up in the 90s comic boom, I read a lot of current issues as well. It wasn’t all just back issues, although the history did give me a solid foundation, I wasn’t just into retro. I was also into my own era. Over-the-top, self-indulgent, full of hype and glory and promises of an awesome future. It was the decade of 90s and it taught me much.
Next: Marvel Comics – 1990s