twomorrows publishing comics - marvel comics in the 1980s

of 16/16

Post on 07-Apr-2016




14 download

Embed Size (px)


This is a free sample of TwoMorrows Publishing Comics issue "Marvel Comics in the 1980s" Download full version from: Apple App Store: Google Play Store: Magazine Description: Since 1994, TwoMorrows Publishing has been producing an award-winning line of books and magazines about comic book artists and comics history. From the groundbreaking American Comic Book Chronicles hardcovers (documenting each decade of comic book history from the 1930s to the present) and the Modern Masters series (spotlighting the best artists working in comics today), to the acclaimed Companion volumes (focusing on the history of top characters such as Superman, Batman, and the Flash) and "ho... You can build your own iPad and Android app at


  • Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

    The Dark Ages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

    Creator Spotlights:Roy Thomas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

    Gene Colan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

    Stan Lee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48

    Mike Zeck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96

    Herb Trimpe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110

    John Buscema . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117

    Don Heck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .223

    Key Marvel Moments:The New Universe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169

    The Wedding of Spidey and Mary Jane . . . . . . . . . . . . .187

    The Dark Ages 3


  • The Dark Ages 5

    never planned to write a Marvel Comics in the 1980sbook. In fact, I never planned to write a MarvelComics in the 1970s book either. Originally, all four

    phases of Marvels history (the Early Years, Years ofConsolidation, Grandiose Years, and Twilight Years)were all supposed to be included in a single vol-ume, but due to the exigencies of the publishingworld, it was decided to split the book in two. Allwell and good...until the question from readersbegan to come in both to myself and my publisherasking if there was going to be a volume coveringthe 1980s (each decade, it seems, is someonesfavorite). When I replied to those queries that Idnot planned on writing such a book, the questionssoon became demands, forcing me to actually givethe idea serious thought.

    Right off, however, I knew that my approach to aMarvel Comics in the 1980s book would have to differsomewhat from the first two volumes. The problemwas twofold: the number of titles released by Marvelin the Eighties was enormous when compared to pastdecades and unfortunately, much of it wasnt verygood. I say that with much reluctance as I realize artis subjective: what might be one persons drosscould be anothers favorite. In these volumes, Imake no attempt to speak definitively for everyreader but only myself. In doing so, however, Ivetried to at least give what I hope are convincing argu-ments for my conclusions. That said, it was easy tobe less critical in the Early Years and through theGrandiose Years and Years of Consolidation whenalmost all the work discussed was written by ahandful of good writers and drawn by a few solidprofessionals under the direction of a single editor.It became less so in the 1970s when Marvel began toexpand its line of comics and hired many new butoften inexperienced writers and artists to pick up theslack. Luckily, many of those quickly developed intoexciting creators in their own right. Others, unfortu-nately, became stuck in second gear. My philosophy

    early on had been that if I couldnt say anything niceabout someone, I wouldnt say anything at all. Butas time went on and the project passed among differ-ent prospective publishers, I was asked to add to theentries to the Twilight Years in order to form a morecomplete picture of the era. As a result, I ended upincluding entries on books I didnt feel measured upand was forced to be more critical about them thanId preferred. In short, I ended by saying those notnice things that Id tried to avoid.

    Which brings us to the 1980s, that Ive attemptedto separate from the 1970s as the earlier and laterTwilight Years. When I began to write the earlierbooks, Id never intended to cover the 1980s as Ithought there just wouldnt be enough qualitymaterial there to fill up a book (at least not if Iwanted it to consist of issues from more than threeor four titles). But in proceeding to write the entries,I was pleased to rediscover that there was muchmore to like about Marvel in those years than Iremembered. However, the sheer amount of unin-teresting material was still enough to stagger areviewer with any idea of drawing a completepicture of the era. And so, in order to provide thatbalance, I arrived at the difficult decision to includefar more of the product that I felt just did not measureup to the level of quality and even greatness ofearlier years. That meant there would be morecritical commentary in this volume than in previousones and if some readers dont like that, so be it.There is always room for more books analyzingthe whys and wherefores of Marvel comics in everyera and every opinion is equally valuable. In short, ifyou disagree with the opinions expressed in this andprevious volumes, consider writing your own booksmaking the case for the comics I didnt care for. Illbe the first in line to buy a copy!

    Pierre V. ComtoisApril 2014

    Authors Note


  • Introduction 9

    Conan the Barbarian #114The Shadow of the Beast Roy Thomas (script);John Buscema (pencils); Ernie Chan (inks)Was it only coincidence that the year 1980 markedthe divide between the first and second halves of theTwilight Years? That was the year when Roy Thomas,longtime writer and former editor-in-chief of MarvelComics, finally called it quits with his longtimeemployer. By then, Stan Lee had ceased being a day-to-day presence in the bullpen, and Thomas himselfhad moved 3,000 miles away to California afterhaving given up the editor-in-chiefs chair to LenWein back in 1974. Since then, the position had beenpassed along to a number of people before ArchieGoodwin in 1978. But over the years, the position ofeditor-in-chief had become less distinct with a numberof former holders granted semi-independence anddesignated as writer/editors. Such was the casewith Thomas as the fateful year 1978 rolled around.One day late in 1977 it suddenly occurred to me thatArchie (Goodwin) had been editor-in-chief for a yearand a half, and I just felt he wasnt likely to stickaround much longer, recalled Thomas in an interviewwith Jim Amash. Since theyd always promoted thenext-in-line assistant editor to the editor-in-chief job,that meant Jim Shooter would be taking over. Foryears, Thomas had enjoyed near independence as hisown editor on books such as Conan the Barbarian. Andwhy not? After being the sole guide of the battlingCimmerians career since 1970, both in the color comicsand the black-and-white magazines, as well as being

    editor-in-chief himself, Thomas knew the character,as well as the rules of the game, better than anyone.But after colleagues, such as Marv Wolfman, who alsoenjoyed the status of writer/editor, were relieved oftheir privileges, Thomas became justifiably concernedabout his own. For his part, Shooter was determinedto bring every area of comics production under oneroof and that was the roof over the bullpen at MarvelsNew York City headquarters. For years, the companyhad been too loosely led, resulting in many misseddeadlines and haphazard production methods. As partof his mandate, Shooter felt he needed to consolidateall editorial responsibilities where he could properlyoversee them. Unfortunately, there was a failure tocommunicate, culminating with Thomas feeling thatShooter had not lived up to a verbal assurance that hecould continue as his own writer/editor; the upshotbeing that an angry Thomas immediately turnedto rival DC Comics, signing an exclusive three-yearcontract with them. And so, after an association withMarvel Comics of 15 years and being responsible forwriting any number of classic titles, inventing scoresof characters, and developing whole lines of newtitles, Thomas was gone. In some ways, however, hisdeparture may have been for the best. After 114 issuesof Conan the Barbarian and any number of issues ofSavage Sword of Conan, even the stellar team of Thomasand John Buscema were growing somewhat stale.Take Conan the Barbarian #114 (Sept. 1980) for instance.Although the art team of Buscema and Ernie Chan wasstill on the job (the latter had been inking Buscemaspower-packed pencils since issue #26 and in the processhelping to create some of the most beautiful sword-and-sorcery comics ever), their work was definitelybeginning to look tired. Buscemas panels could stillpack a wallop here and there, but as with most artistsas the end of their career approached, his powers werebeginning to wane. More was left to Chan to firm up,perhaps explaining the two mens co-credit thisissue as illustrators rather than penciler and inker.In many places, Buscemas figure work took all toofamiliar poses and details were dropped from back-grounds, with Chan picking up the slack. For his part,Thomas too seemed to be mailing it in as the script(though apparently based on a short story by Conancreator Robert E. Howard) was solid but overly familiarto longtime readers. After so many issues, therewere no new supernatural menaces with which tochallenge Conan, so that this time, readers are left withonly a big talking dog that walks on its hind legs likea man. As things turn out, the dogs body has beeninhabited by the spirit of an evil sorcerer (naturally!)who wants to keep Conan and his latest squeezearound for puppy chow. Naturally Conan handles the

    The literary works of Conan creator Robert E.Howard provided an alternative to super-heroesand had propelled Marvels successful forayinto outright fantasy through the 1970s. Theywould continue to do so, offering fertileground for writers in the 1980s.

  • 10 Marvel Comics in the 1980s

    situation after a little bit of running around and allswell that ends well. Yeah, it all looked and read well,but...there was nothing new here. Thomas final issuewould be #115, promised as a double-sized edition butby this time, neither his nor Buscemas hearts seemedto be in it. With Thomas departure, the Conan bookwould go on under other writers and other artists, butnever again would it electrify readers as did those firstfew issues, or so thoroughly entertain as it continued todo through its 100th issue. Thomas leave-taking markedthe end of an era, just as Stan Lees did in the previousdecade. With the loss of talent that had produced orgrown up reading Marvel comics of the Early toGrandiose Years, and who had produced their mostmemorable successors in the first half of the TwilightYears, there would be no institutional memory left inthe bullpen to advise and perhaps halt the slide intothe Dark Age to come. All of it formed an inauspiciousbeginning to Marvel Comics in the 1980s.

    Amazing Spider-Man Annual #14Denny ONeil (script); Frank Miller (pencils);Tom Palmer (inks)Now heres something you dont see every day: FrankMiller being inked by Tom Palmer! It was a once-in-a-lifetime pairing and if it had to happen, then what betterplace than Amazing Spider-Man Annual #14 (1980)?And what better artist to draw a 40-page blockbusterstory starring Spider-Man and Dr. Strange than FrankMiller? Actually, at the time this book came out, Miller

    wasnt such a strange choice to pencil it, as early inhis career, elements of his art style were noted for theirsimilarity in places to that of Steve Ditko, co-creatorof this issues two stars. In fact, even after Millersname had become synonymous with Daredevil later inthe decade, when it was announced at one point that hewould be taking over the art chores on the Dr. Strangestrip, fans sat up and took notice remembering the workhe did here as well as Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15.In that case, all Miller ended up doing was a full-pagead heralding his imminent arrival on the Dr. Strangefeature, something that didnt end up happening. Still,the reason for the initial excitement can be traced backto this issue where Miller unabashedly channels thespirit of Ditko in a story ripped from the pages of theBook of the Vishanti! In it, Dr. Doom, sometime dabblerin the mystic arts, and Dormammu, ruler of the DarkDimension, team-up to create the bend sinister, aninterface between science and sorcery. Using a haplessdupe as their tool, the two masters of menace createa robotic thing that attacks Strange in his sanctumsanctorum, leaving him only enough time to summonSpidey for help before being captured. Then thingsreally get weird as writer Denny ONeil and Miller adda rock n roll group into the mix whose music is used towhip the inhabitants of New York into a frenzy. All thatwas needed to complete the spell and create the bendsinister was for Dr. Strange to be sacrificed; somethingSpidey manages to avoid at the last minute of course.Looked at too closely, the plot turned out to be rather

    Roy ThomasWhen Roy Thomas left Marvel in 1981, he signed a three-yearcontract with DC Comics for whom he scripted many differenttitles from Wonder Woman to Legion of Super-Heroes. But his greatestclaim to fame, and the feature that was closest to his heart, wasAll-Star Squadron, where he was able to continue the adventures of theGolden Age characters he loved. Other strips he created for DC includedArak, Son of Thunder; Capt. Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew; and Infinity, Inc. At thesame time, Thomas made various attempts to break into screenwriting, collaboratingwith Gerry Conway on the script for Conan the Destroyer starring ArnoldSchwarzenegger. By the late 80s, Thomas returned to Marvel for a time beforedoing work for other, independent publishers. Finally, in 1999, he revived his oldfan magazine Alter Ego on a regular basis and has been editing it ever since. Asthe new century progressed, Thomas returned to regular comics from time to timepenning such features as Dracula and new adventures of Conan and Red Sonja.

  • The Dark Ages 11

    simple with the attendant action filling out the majorityof the pages, but what pages! Again and again, Millercomes through with incredible shots and vistas morethan worthy of Ditko himself while not sacrificing hisown style in the process. From its splash page donein the style of a medieval woodcut, to opening pagespresaging Millers future work on DCs Ronin as well asold issues of Strange Tales, this issue serves up pure eyecandy for the comics connoisseur. Why, pages 8 and 9,panel 1 alone is worth the 75 price of admission! There,Miller perfectly captures the midnight moodiness ofthe early Ditko with a view from beneath a rain-soakedcornice looking over to Dr. Stranges Bleeker Streetresidence with its distinctive Ditko designed skylight.Fast forward to pages 14 and 15 where Miller breaks the

    pages down into nine-panel grids, a favorite of Ditko,and proceeds to give a tour of rain-swept cityscapes anda night-time rendezvous between Peter Parker and hisdate by way of angering Dean Jastrow. Cut to a double-page spread across pages 16 and 17 with a spectacularaction shot of Spider-Man in full-bore Ditkoesque stylelimned against a background of skyscrapers andlightning bolts! Whew! But theres no rest for thestunned reader as the POV shifts to a series of panelsat the bottom of the same two pages showing Spideyamong rooftops suddenly infested with creepinggargoyles. Pages 18 and 19 is action all the way withinker Tom Palmer not shy at all in spotting blacks andlaying down shadows that give weight to Millersfigures that sometimes came off as a little light. Thewhole sequence ends in a nice coda on page 20 as afinal panel shows Spider-Man catching his breath andposing with his hand, middle fingers bent inward inDitkos signature style. From there, Millers layoutsbecome more his own with lots and lots of the long,narrow panels that hed employ on much of his laterwork. The whole issue was a tour de force and aheck of a way to open the Twilight Years. It held thepromise of more of the same great stuff that readers had

    Amazing Spider-Man Annual #14, pages16-17: Miller does Ditko... and how! Art ondisplay in the spectacular upper panel almostmakes the rest of the story superfluous! Thisis why fans stood up and took notice whenMiller burst onto the scene as the 70s becamethe 80s.


    15 M


    l Cha


    rs, In


  • gotten used to over the previous decade with noindication that it represented just the opposite, the lasthurrah of the way traditional comics were producedand the opening act in the industrys loomingimplosion. Fun Fact: Did you know that the rockband featured in this issues story was for real? Itstrue! Apparently Shrapnel was a punk band of somekind. Their shtick circa early 1980s was to wear plastichelmets, dress in khaki uniforms, and combat boots laAmerican troops of the time and sing such questionabledirges as Combat Love! An advertisement whoseart was provided by Miller himself (Hey, he initialedit!) urged readers to send $3 to Salute Records fora copy of their song.

    X-Men #129God Spare the Child... Chris Claremont (script);John Byrne (pencils); Terry Austin (inks)By X-Men #129 (Jan. 1980), it was obvious that Marvelhad a hit on its hands. After being revived in 1975as part of a wave of new team books that also includedThe Champions, Defenders, and Invaders, the new X-bookhad a slow start as a bi-monthly under writer ChrisClaremont and artist Dave Cockrum. At the time, thetwo tried to balance the book between breaking newground with added members and Marvel Girl beingchanged to Phoenix, as well as bringing back oldcharacters from the original series such as Magneto, theSentinels, even the Eric the Red! No doubt someexcitement had been generated with Claremontscharacterizations and art by Cockrum that was some-what improved from earlier work at DC, but the realpotential of the strip had never really been tapped.Something was holding it back; something that provedto be a more acute awareness of the titles historyand how to reintegrate that with a modern artisticsensibility that Cockrums stodgy work could notcapture. Then lightning struck. The art chores on theX-Men suddenly opened up and John Byrne, whodbeen busy putting in his bona fides on a zillion otherbooks (including a team-up with Claremont on IronFist that served as a warm-up for the main course),jumped in. I had begun making it known that if everDave left the book, I would love to take over thepenciling, Byrne said in an interview. With plans toincrease the books frequency to monthly, it was foundthat Cockrum could not keep up with the new scheduleso initially, it was Byrnes speed that got him the jobrather than any skill or familiarity with the characters.That soon changed, however, as the artists love for theoriginal series came to the fore and invested his work.There was something about the X-Men that spoke tome from the first issue, said Byrne of his love affairwith the characters. I was already a die-hard

    Marvel fan, but reading X-Men #1, the book was not yetcalled Uncanny X-Men, I was turned into a permanentaddict. Byrnes affection for the characters was suchthat eventually, he couldnt help but begin putting histwo cents worth into the stories. Soon, his relationshipwith Claremont became more of a true partnershipwith the two often at odds over the direction the bookshould go. According to Byrne, because editor RogerStern sided with him more often, he won most of thosebattles. Such an outcome ought not to have been asurprise, as both he and Stern shared an interestin Marvel history and continuity as their subsequentwritings were to show. Likely then, stories duringByrnes tenure on the book that brought back Angeland Beast and starred the likes of Sauron and theSavage Land, Magneto and Mesmero, the Sentinels,Alpha Flight, or Mastermind as featured this issue,came about due to his influence. Need more proof?After Byrne left the book, the wheels came offClaremonts cart as the X-Men faced off against asuccession of inappropriate menaces including Alien-like monsters, space pirates, and an army of sewer-dwelling mutants while undergoing oddball trans-formations such as Storm turning into a punk rockprincess, Prof. X leaving Earth to become the consortof a space queen, and marrying off Cyclops to analternative/future timeline version of the presumed deadMarvel Girl. Ugh! If the X-franchise continued on itsupward trajectory after all those missteps, it was likelydue only to the huge boost given the X-Men by Byrnesnear classic turn on the characters. That began in issue#108 when he came on board having to finish one of

    Chugging along under writer Chris Claremont(left) and artist Dave Cockrum, it was onlyafter the latter was replaced by John Byrne(right) that the X-Men really took off goingfrom a successful relaunch to genuine pop culture phenomenon.

    12 Marvel Comics in the 1980s

  • Ditko. But at the time, no one could predict the depthsto which the movement would go, and so, Shooterslead (preceded somewhat by David Michelinie onIron Man) would be followed in later years by FrankMillers Born Again arc on Daredevil. But for now, nocharacter had ever been put through the kind ofwringer that Hank Pym was. Now, behind bars, hisfinal degradation awaits as newspaper reports filter intelling of former wife Jan/Wasps flirtation/affair withmillionaire Tony Stark. But what the frustrated Pymdoesnt know is that hes been further betrayed in thatStark is his former teammate Iron Man! Outsideprison, we see Tony and Jan conduct their affair in apublic way, even as Captain America realizes theirreparable harm that the affair could do if Hank andJan ever found out that their emotions were trifledwith by someone they thought they could trust. Withgrowing concern, he lectures Stark about the danger.Tony, Cap tells Iron Man. Shes...Hanks wife...Stark rationalizes his actions by reminding Cap thatthe two are divorced and that hes paying all the billsfor Pyms lawyers, psychiatrists, and detectives. Butits not more than a month, man! insists Cap. Howcan you do this to him...Wheres your sense ofresponsibility? This...affair...its just plain cruel to alongtime friend like Hank. Shamed into acting, whennext Stark meets Jan, he tells her that hes Iron Man andthe affair is ended. Oh, Tony, this isnt what I needed...not a member of the team. Not Hanks friend... Thefinal scene in the issue (that features barely a singlepanel of action) is a close-up of Pyms face behind barsas another prisoner taunts him from off panel: Lookslike Stark chewed up yer lady friend an spit er out, eh,Pym? Things did not bode well for the future both forPym and for comics, but it cant be denied that allthese developmentsYellowjackets breakdown andexpulsion and how it ends up affecting all the otherAvengersmade for extremely interesting, if ultimatelydisappointing, reading for long-time Ant-Man/Yellowjacket fans. Throughout, guest writer AlanZelenetz does a good job with the dialogue, spoiledonly by yet another lackluster penciling job, this timeby Mark Bright. With the vastly increased number oftitles that were being churned out by Marvel in the1980s, many more pencilers were needed to fill up allthose thousands of pages with art. Unfortunately, thatmeant hiring many that were not up to the standardsthat fans had grown to expect over the years. Each mayhave had different strengths, but many titles neverthe-less suffered as the quality of visuals failed to keep upwith the dramatic demands of stories (not that a lot of thestories were so hot either...the same problem of needingto fill pages plagued Marvels stable of writers too).Meanwhile, back in jail, Pym refuses an opportunity to

    bust out and prove his innocence. Im not going tomake any more mistakes, he declares; but how longcan he resist while his world continued to crumblearound him? Stay tuned!

    Marvel Graphic Novel #1The Death of Captain Marvel; Jim Starlin(script, pencils, inks)After a swift rise in popularity during the 1970s workingon such features as Warlock and Master of Kung Fu,Jim Starlin left Marvel, dissatisfied in dealings withthe latter and creative frustrations with the former.Moving over to DC, he picked up work here and there,most notably on a handful of Batman stories he wroteand a short string of tales for DC Comics Presents,teaming Superman up with various of the companysheroes. There, he continued to explore the samethemes he addressed in his Marvel work, peaking withissue #36 in which he repeated the successful formulaused for Captain Marvel, turning Starman, a minorspacefaring hero, into a cosmically aware being. Luredback to Marvel with promises of retaining control ofhis creations by way of Epic, the companys new creator-owned line of comics, Starlin came up with Dreadstar, aseries that he would continue to work on intermittentlyfor different publishers as the years went by. UnlikeDreadstar, however, which revisited the same tiredthemes Starlin had by now run into the ground, theartists concurrent project would prove far moreinteresting and immediate. Titled The Death ofCaptain Marvel and featured in Marvel Graphic

    64 Marvel Comics in the 1980s

    By the time Jim Starlin (left) capped his earlycareer at Marvel with its first graphic novel,hed already begun to moonlight at rival DCwriting and penciling a short run of memo-rable issues for DC Comics Presents beforebecoming a scripter only on a number of otherless memorable features.

  • battle with Thanos after Marvel loses consciousness for the final time.There, he struggles against the inevitable until finally, accepting death, heand Thanos together walk into eternity. At that point, Starlin the iconoclast,seems to soften his position regarding faith and presents the possibility ofthere being something more. ...this is not the end, Thanos tells Marvel,

    Novel #1 (1982), the project involvedStarlins return to his fan-preferredroots working with the character thathad first gained him recognition.According to Starlin, he was askedto end the good captains careerbecause plans were afoot to intro-duce a new female version withthe same name. Be that as it may,exciting fans even further aboutthe project was the new format inwhich the 63-page story wouldbe presented, what Marveldubbed a graphic novel. Pricedat $5.95 when regular comics werestill only 60, the book was square-bound and oversized, and featuredhigh-quality, glossy paper thataccentuated thefour-color medium.Whats more, unlikemany later graphicnovels, Starlins storywas worthy of theformat! In it, CaptainMarvel, through hiscosmic senses,discovers that heis dying of cancercontracted fromexposure to nerve gas followingan encounter with Nitro in thefinal issue Starlin produced in thecharacters regular series. In thegraphic novel, a somber tone ofinevitability pervades the storyeven as every effort to find a cure ismade by the likes of Reed Richardsand Dr. Strange. Interludes inwhich Marvel meets with long-timefriends and associates in effect to saygoodbye effectively convey a senseof loss and failed opportunitieseven as his health begins to sink.Finally, with Earths heroes gatheredat his bedside, the sickened Marvel,just like any other mortal, dies. Sowell-crafted is the story that thereader is genuinely moved, findinghimself actually caring for thisfictional character that spent muchof his career in red and blue tights.To be sure, the book has its quota ofaction, including a representational

    The Dark Ages 65


    15 M


    l Cha


    rs, In


    Marvel Graphic Novel #1, page 59: Writer/artist Jim Starlindoes what he does best: giving readers a slam-bang fight sequencethats actually representational of the heros inner turmoil! Starlinenjoyed putting his characters through their philosophical/self-discovery/internal angst/what have you paces, a trick he would useoften through the 1980s and beyond.

  • Hobgoblin was born, and even better, Stern managed to restore the airof mystery that surrounded the original villain by keeping his identityfrom readers. From that point on, the Hobgoblins identity became apopular pastime with readers even to this issues letters page where fanswere still trying to guess who he was. And although this issue ends thecareer of the Hobgoblin for a while, it still keeps his identity under

    wraps. But writer Tom DeFalco doesmanage to throw readers a boneby eliminating at least one of thesuspects: Flash Thompson! Now,admittedly Thompson was a long-shot candidate for the role butDeFalco does a neat job herehaving the Hobgoblin frame himfor the role, fooling everyoneincluding Spidey himself whonow must deal with the fact thathis oldest friend has apparentlybeen trying to kill him for months!The rest of the issue is padded outwith vignettes such as Spidey badguy the Human Fly being bumpedoff by Scourge (a mysterious villain

    who wandered theMarvel Universe inthose days killingoff minor super-powered characters),Spidey kept fromgetting into hisapartment bywomen hangingaround his rooftop,Flash Thompsonbeing on the outs

    with girlfriend Sha Shan (theyveapparently been living togetherwith the blessing of the ComicsCode), and Spidey switchingfrom his new black costume to hisclassic red and blue duds midwaythrough the story with no explana-tion. The art is ably handled byRon Frenz but with a noticeablelack of the ole Ditko pizazz that heput in his work in earlier issuesresulting in visuals that werenothing to write home about.As for the real identity of theHobgoblin, it would seem thatreaders were eventually given achoice, they could either acceptNed Leeds as the villain (revealedin later issues of the regularcontinuity) or Roderick Kingsley(as originator Roger Stern had itin a special 1997 mini-series,which postulated that as withFlash, the Hobgoblin had alsoframed Leeds). Hoo boy!

    154 Marvel Comics in the 1980s

    2015 Marvel C


    rs, Inc.

    Amazing Spider-Man #276, page 21: In a scene somewhat remi-niscent of the classic Amazing Spider-Man #40, Spidey is seenamid smoke filled rubble following a battle with the GreenGoblin inspired Hobgoblin. But is the threat of the Hobgoblinended? If youll recall, issue 40 didnt end up being the last wordon the Green Goblin either!

  • Daredevil #230Born Again Frank Miller (script); David Mazzucchelli (pencils/inks)The action heats up in Daredevil #230 (May 1986) as the various plotthreads begin to come together beginning with a new wrinkle that has aninjured Matt Murdock picked off the street by a nun and taken to a clinic(Miller hints that the nun may or may not be Murdocks mother!) Next,Karen Page, after selling her body for protection and safe passage fromMexico, gets closer to delivering her warning to Murdock that his secret

    ID has been blown. The Kingpin,once so confident that hed finallydestroyed Daredevil, is plaguedby growing doubts after losingtrack of him. Foggy Nelson andMurdocks former girlfriend GloriOBreen continue to move towardbecoming an item. And finally,reporter Ben Urich, after having hisfingers broken by a nurse the sizeof your average truck as a warningto lay off his search for Murdock,recuperates at home, forcing himself

    to not even THINKthe name of...youknow who! But farfrom marking timeuntil next issuesshattering climax,Miller continues totwist the screws onhis characters asUrich is lecturedby J. Jonah Jamesonabout what it means

    to be a reporter: There are thingsyou just dont let happen in thisracket, Jameson says. Number oneis you never get scared away froma story. Not while youve got themost powerful weapon in the worldon your side. This is five millionreaders worth of power. It candepose mayors, it can destroypresidents. And its been due toget aimed at the Kingpin for yearsnow. But it needs you to do it.But Urich is thoroughly frightened.He refuses to live up to Jamesonsstirring words. Then, leaving theoffice, hes addressed by the janitorwho congratulates him on nothaving more of his fingers broken.Meanwhile, Karen is being beatup by her john who threatens tokill her if she deserts him. Back toUrich on the phone, talking toLt. Manolis (in traction after thesame nurse who attacked Urich gotthrough with him, except shes notfinished yet...) and listens as thebed-ridden man is murdered bythe nurse. (My employer wouldlike you to hear this, Mr. Urich.)

    The Dark Ages 155

    2015 Marvel C


    rs, Inc.

    Daredevil #230, page 10: Ben Urich is ripped a new one byJ. Jonah Jameson in this atmospheric scene. Frank Miller andDavid Mazzuchelli expand on a mostly unseen side of the DailyBugle publisher first hinted at in Amazing Spider-Man Annual#15, which, not coincidentally, also involved Miller.

  • Then, even as the nun who rescued him prays forMurdocks recovery, Urich finds new courage andspeaks the name...Matt Murdock! The level of violence,tension, degradation, and redemption in thisissue alone was like nothing ever seen in comicsbefore as Miller expertly blends all the elements ofcinematic film noir into a brew so potent that nothingin comics since has ever been able to come close to it,not even the writers own later work on Batman.Something about the character of Matt Murdochmanaged to touch Miller in ways no other could,drawing out not only his artistic influences butinfluences of his own Catholic upbringing that mostother writers might find embarrassing or feeluncomfortable in putting on display. By makingMurdocks religious faith explicit (though its not clearif he is a practicing Catholic), Miller is clearly walkingin the footsteps of Stan Lee, who broke similar religiousbarriers in comics back in the Grandiose Years when hehad Captain America refer to Jesus and the Watcherto God in general. Unfortunately, his example was notone that was generally pursued by comics writersafter him who preferred to follow Millers lead onviolence instead with results that left their storiessignificantly less informed of meaning and sub-text.

    Avengers #267Time...And Time Again! Roger Stern (script);John Buscema (breakdowns); Tom Palmer (finished art)

    After the last few issues that seemed to mark timebetween major story arcs, the Stern/Buscema/Palmerteam must have figured that readers had had theopportunity to catch their breaths because now it wastime to launch the second major storyline of the run.And what a follow-up to the Skrull Civil War it was!While that earlier story began in fits and starts andthen seemed to chug along with its own ups anddowns, culminating in both Avengers and FF annuals,this new arc would be shorter and more concise butstrike with more impact, focused as it was on a singlevillain that Stern managed to rehabilitate in a singlestroke! We speak of Kang the Conqueror of course,the Avengers archenemy (yes, surpassing even Ultron,whose animosity after all was primarily driven byhatred of Henry Pym rather than the Avengers inparticular). After a strong start in Avengers #8 underStan Lee and Jack Kirby, Kangs story expanded in issue#s 23 and 24 but stumbled a bit with the introductionof a lost love in the form of the lady Ravonna. It wasthe same set-up that Lee would later use for the SilverSurfer, whose own Shalla-Bal managed to soften thecharacters harder edges. So too with Kang. However,following those two issues, Kang appeared only in issue#s 69-71 before being revisited well into the TwilightYears where he was not as well served. And so, by thetime of Avengers #267 (May 1986), the villain was readyfor a rehabilitation and scripter Roger Stern suppliedthat in spades with this issues story! Here, we discoverthat over the years, Kangs time traveling has creatednumberless alternative timelines, each occupied withinferior versions of himself. Insulted at their recklessstupidity, the real Kang becomes a member of atriumvirate called the Council of Cross-Time Kangs,made up of three other Kangs from different timelines.Their goal is to eliminate all the inferior Kangs until onlythey remain. But one member, acting independently,kills off his colleagues. Is he the original Kang? Whoknows? Its an element of mystery that only adds to thearcs twists and turns. But Stern isnt through! Adding tothe brain twisting goings on, he sends the Avengers intolimbo where they encounter versions of the originalAvengers as they appeared in issue #2! It seems thattime has no meaning in limbo, and so the team hasarrived concurrently with events in that previousstory and readers are treated with renditions of Giant-Man, Iron Man (still in his original robotic lookingarmor), and the Hulk (still in the tight-fitting purpleshorts he wore through the original six issue run of hisown book way back in 1962)! In a plan to maneuver theAvengers into killing off his one remaining rival, thisissue ends with Kang explaining to Ravonna thatif all goes accordingly, hell finally become thecontinuums one and only Kang the Conqueror!

    Writer/artist Frank Miller often touched upon Catholic imagery and themes in his work(particularly on Daredevil) while avoiding getting into specifics. Despite his influence onthe genre, however, many comics creators havechosen to emulate the violence in his workrather than his infusion of religion into hischaracters lives.

    156 Marvel Comics in the 1980s

  • Star Brand #1The Star Brand Jim Shooter (script); John Romita, Jr.(pencils); Al Williamson (inks)Intentional or not, Ken Connells origin story isuncomfortably close to that of the Silver Age GreenLantern (a dying alien on the run from unspecifiedenemies, escapes to Earth and, finding Connell worthy,bestows on him an object that grants him greatpowers), scenes from which open Star Brand #1 (Oct.1986) and at the same time launches Marvels NewUniverse. The brainchild of editor-in-chief Jim Shooter(aided and abetted by editors Archie Goodwin, TomDeFalco, and Mark Gruenwald among others), theNew Universe was conceived as the start of a line ofcomics completely separate from the establishedMarvel Universe, arriving full-blown at local news-stands and comic shops. The conceit behind thembeing that they would take the idea first popularizedby Stan Lee in Marvels Early Years of super-heroesliving in the real world and taking it to the next level.In the New Universe, events would take place in realtime and most heroes would not have any superpowers. They would face everyday issues arisingfrom their heroic careers in a realistic fashion, and forthe most part, never encounter aliens, magic, superscience, or living myths. The obvious exception to therule was Star Brand, Shooters own creation and theone he would script himself, setting the pace for therest of the new line which included Mark Hazzard:Merc, Kickers, Inc., and Nightmask among others.But beyond the comics themselves, the New Universewas emblematic of Shooters sometimes controversial

    career at Marvel, which on a professional level wasquite successful in getting the editorially troubledcompany back on its feet and the trains to run on time.In doing so, he made the company more profitablethan ever before, but to do it, he had to step on sometoes incurring the enmity of creators. Outside editorial,he also knocked heads with upper management to effectsuch policy changes as granting royalty payments forcreators on best-selling books, allowing creators toretain ownership of characters and concepts underthe Epic Comics imprint, and the return of originalartwork. Along the way, he just happened to writeSecret Wars, the best-selling comics series of the 1980s,a success that enabled him to persuade managementto back his plan to create the New Universe. Timed tocoincide with Marvels 25th anniversary, the new lineof books was to have boasted top creators but whenmanagement got cold feet, the budget was cut, forcingShooter to make do with lesser lights. As a result,when it finally debuted, the line as a whole was agood deal less than impressive with the sole exceptionbeing Star Brand. There, Shooter showed how a well-written comic book should be done (something heconstantly tried to drum into his writers during histenure as editor-in-chief and one of the things thatveteran scripters resented him for) as it became farand away the best-produced entry of the line.Penciled by John Romita, Jr. fresh off assignmentson the X-Men and Daredevil where his style hadcontinued to improve, and inked by comics great AlWilliamson, the book immediately established itselfnot only as the best in the New Universe lineup but

    The Dark Ages 169

    The New UniverseIt was supposed to depict what super-heroes would be like in thereal world but creator Jim Shooter forgot that the real world holdsdangers undreamed of even by super-heroes. In the case of the NewUniverse, which was supposed to have been part of a celebration ofMarvels 25th anniversary, those dangers came in the form of thepowers that were at Marvel who lost interest in the project anddecided to focus the companys efforts elsewhere. With promisedfunding cut, Shooters ambitious plans for the line were short-circuited and the New Universe stumbled out of the gate. Not longafter, it suffered its first casualties when half the line was canceled andthe Shooter-scripted Star Brand was demoted to bi-monthly status. Radical surgeryfailed to save what was left and the New U experiment ended in 1989.

  • balloons, an important tool soon to be abandoned by the industry. Nicelittle touches thrown into the story that subtly bolster the New Universepremise that the stories take place in a real-world environment is the scenewhere Connell rolls his motorbike through the sliding doors of hisapartment and standing it up on some pieces of cardboard on the livingroom floor. Others include Connells taking down the alien menace in a

    one of the best comics beingproduced by the whole industry.Moving past the familiar origin,the book diverges quickly fromits source material and immediatelyestablishes Shooters criteria forthis new environment: how KenConnell deals with his newfoundpowers. At first unsure of what todo, he confides in a psychiatristfriend named Myron and togetherthey decide to keep his power asecret for the time being. Just then,one of the aliens that had beenchasing the Old Man who gavehim his powers (in the form of aStar Brand imprinted in the palmof Connells hand) attacks and indefeating him, our hero begins torealize just how powerful he is.The incident prompts thoughts onthe responsibility of the properuse of such power, a theme that willdominate the first few issues ofthe title. In the meantime, readersare introduced tosuch supportingcharacters as would-be girlfriend Debbiethe Duck (the twohave a charmingand down-to-Earthrelationship charac-terized by a shtickin which they endevery other commentto each other with aquack); girlfriend of the moment,single mother Barbara Petrovic;and John, a fellow worker at theauto reconditioning joint Connellis employed at. Throughout,Romita provides clean but forcefulimagery quietly confined in atraditional panel-to-panel layoutthat never intrudes on Shootersstorytelling. For his part, Shooterdisplays his mastery of naturalsounding dialogue as he movesConnell from one supporting castmember to another while at thesame time showing how characterdevelopment can be accomplishedwith the artful use of thought

    170 Marvel Comics in the 1980s

    2015 Marvel C


    rs, Inc.

    This unused cover for Star Brand #1 amply demonstratesthe eclecticism of artist John Romita, Jr.s evolving style. Why itwas rejected in favor of the image chosen is a mystery... well,except for those feet!

  • Avengers #297Futures Imperfect! Walter Simonson (script); John Buscema(breakdowns); Tom Palmer (finished art)Although Simonson had been a distinct letdown following Roger Sternslong and successful run on the title, the writer/artist did manage an

    interesting extension of the Nebula/Kang storylines of earlier issuesthat culminate here in Avengers#297 (Nov 1988) (with a title thatominously predicts the comingDark Ages). Further confusing theidentity of the real Kang, Simonsonproceeds with a tale of cosmicproportions (while littering his scriptwith such evocative phrases asexistential probabilities stabilizing,alternate probability nodes,and variable locus generator)as Nebula takes control of theAvengers and forces them to helpher steal a weapon that will sup-posedly make her mistress of theuniverse! Meanwhile, as theAvengers pierce a time bubble inspace and observe alternative ver-sions of themselves all racing to thesame goal, Buscema and Palmer pro-vide their last great joint effort on theart front, interpreting the space/time action in appropriate yetawe-inspiring visuals (doing theirown version of the Kirby Krackleeffect!). Our tale ends with a shatteredteam of Avengers, including Dr.Druid who disappears into the timeflux; the Black Knight laboring underthe curse of his ebony blade; She-Hulk, unable to bear havingrevealed what she really thought ofher teammates, choosing to leave(good riddance!); and Thor decidingthat he has better things to do inAsgard. Inadvertently perhaps, itturned out to be as good a place tocall it quits as any. From this pointon, the Avengers title would continueits long slide into ultimate obscurity,just as every other book in theMarvel stable would do as theeffects of entropy became more andmore obvious as the years rolled on.Nothing lasts forever after all. Forthe Avengers in particular, the endwould be somewhat protracted atfirst thanks to a succession of less-er artists than Buscema/Palmer andlesser writers than Roger Stern (evena brief stint by John Byrne as writerand Tom Palmers continued inking

    The Dark Ages 207

    2015 Marvel C


    rs, Inc.

    Professionals to the end, penciler John Buscema and inker TomPalmer maintained the same level of quality to their work afterStern and Macchio left the Avengers strip as they did before.While Buscema would soon drop out, Palmer soldiered on, lendingcontinuity to the art as other pencilers took over.

  • would fail to slow the descent). For his part, JohnBuscema would remain on the title for a few moreissues as a reconstituted Avengers become involved inyet another convoluted inter-company crossover event(Inferno), something that would become increasingly,and tediously, prevalent as the Dark Ages progresseduntil any semblance of continuity, one of the key elementsthat enabled Marvels sudden rise in popularity duringthe Early Years, was completely abandoned. So letthis issue be a symbolic end point, a last outrider ofthe House of Ideas that Stan and Jack and Steve andDon built nearly 27 years before. Marvel Comics: RIP.

    The Punisher #14Social Studies Mike Baron (script); Whilce Portacio(pencils); Scott Williams (inks)The Punisher #14 (Dec. 1988) finds writer Mike Baronstill on the job but now teamed with rising star artistWhilce Portacio. While Baron himself turned out passablescripts for such independent fare as Nexus and Badgerand disappointed with his first major assignment on aretooled Flash for DC, he found his mojo after takingon The Punisher. And although his work this issue wasa bit disjointed, that may have been more the fault ofthe strips new artist who, as yet, was still somewhatwet behind the ears. Destined to enjoy a short butextremely hot period of fan interest a few years downthe line, at this point, the self-taught Portacio had hada career mostly as an inker before being assigned to thePunisher with issue #8. Portacio was one of severalyounger artists just starting out at Marvel, including

    Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, and Erik Larsonwhose work was influenced more by the dynamism ofJapanese manga and the attention to meticulous detailin the work of colleague Art Adams than by JackKirby as an earlier generation had been. To be sure,Kirbys power-packed penciling still echoed ghostlikein the halls of Marvel, but his real genius was in layout,the ability to tell a story that progressed from onepanel to the next in a logical sequence thereby buildinga story that was at once exciting and understandable.Unfortunately, Portacio and his peers were luredaway from basic storytelling by the adulation of anincreasingly avid fanbase whose excitement levelseemed directly related to their favorite artists abilityto deliver big, poster-sized splash pages and colorful,larger-than-life (sometimes literally!) characters whostood around striking poses calculated to be asdramatic as possible. Having whipped their fans intoa frenzy with their visual pyrotechnics (and propelledunit sales of the books they worked on into thestratosphere), the young artists began to think that theroyalties they were earning were not enough, that itwas their art, more than the characters or the writersthey worked with, that was actually driving the salesengine. And so, when their demands for a bigger pieceof the pie were not met by Marvels management,they walked away and formed their own company.Overnight, the new enterprise, called Image, becamea major player on the comics scene with sales in themillions, matching even those of Marvel and DC.So overwhelming was its popularity and influence(every aspiring comic book artist began to ape thecompanys splashy, confusing art style, makingfor empty, vacuous and flat-out ugly comics) thatit marked a true sea change for the industry, one thathadnt been felt at least since Lee and Kirby launchedthe Marvel age of comics in the early 1960s. But rightthere, in 1992 when Image was founded, there was aliteral feeding frenzy among fans and investors thatdrove the new companys sales into the millions ofunits for every title it released no matter how vapidor derivative (most seemed to be simple copies ofvarious X-Men teams the young artists had beenworking on at Marvel before jumping ship, except thatthe names had changed). Soon, however, the Imagecreators felt the sting of criticism when some dared toquestion the quality of their scripting (or lack of it) andbegan to invite writers to join them. The sums theycould pay were so astronomical that few could resistanswering the call, even such luminaries as Alan Moorewho had vocally refused to do any more writing formainstream comics. To compete, Marvel and DC hadto adapt and soon they too were hiring artists whocould draw in the Image style and cranked out books

    208 Marvel Comics in the 1980s

    Artist Whilce Portacio was a key factor inkeeping the regular Punisher title in the pluscolumn but without scripter Mike Baron, hispencils would not be enough to keep his slow-out-of-the-starting-gate Wetworks effort fromshooting blanks.


    The third volume in Pierre Comtois heralded series covers Marvels final historical phase, whenthe movement begun by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, andSteve Ditko moved into a darker 1980s era that hasyet to run its course. Covers comics such as theChris Claremont/John Byrne X-Men, Frank Miller'sDaredevil, the New Universe, Roger Stern'sAvengers and Spider-Man, dark heroes like Wolver-ine and the Punisher, and more are all covered, inthe analytic detailand often irreverent mannerreaders have come to expect from the previous1960s and 1970s volumes.

    (224-page trade paperback) $27.95(Digital Edition) $10.95ISBN: 97816054900595