Who Of The What?

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Like many right-thinking people, I’ve enjoyed Marvel’s modern take on the Guardians Of The Galaxy. But as an unabashed fan of the old Steve Gerber comics, I have to admit this Skottie Young variant cover for an upcoming Guardians’ spin-off title warmed my heart.

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Agent Of STERANKO

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Jim Steranko’s transformation of Twitter from a mere social network into a personal narrative that may well shake Western civilization to its very foundations – I mean geez, the guy b!+ch-slapped Bob Kane for criminies’ sake – inspired me to step outside this blog’s comfort zone and post one of my favorite stories by the great writer and artist.

I should probably derail this already tenuous narrative, though, to say this blog (and its predecessor, the sadly deleted Fortress Of Fortitude) owes a great debt to Steranko. When I was 10 years old, I stumbled upon the artist’s two-volume history of comics that told compelling, in-depth stories about some of the greatest creators, characters and story-lines of the Golden Age.

I was immediately intrigued by Steranko’s narrative, which was accompanied by black & white reproductions of classic Golden Age covers. I also spent many hours staring at the finely detailed covers Steranko provided for the two books, which literally brought scores of famous and obscure super-heroes to life.

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Suffice to say, I was hooked and became a rabid – if rather frustrated – fan of Golden Age comics who eagerly grabbed any original or reprint I could find. It wasn’t until the advent of the Internet and such sites as Comic Book Plus and the Digital Comic Museum that I actually had a chance to read much of the stories that Steranko had mentioned. It was such an exciting experience that … well, I couldn’t help but share the whole shebang with others.

Steranko’s history also included examples of his own comic-book work, which set me off on the far easier task of collecting old issues of Nick Fury, Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Although he wrote and drew less stories than I expected, each issue of Steranko’s Fury blew my mind in a manner that wouldn’t be matched until I encountered Jack Kirby’s New Gods, Steve Ditko’s Dr. Strange and Jim Starlin’s Warlock.

Pretty heady company!

This particular story, which appeared in Strange Tales directly before Fury graduated to his own title, pretty much sums up the unique experience of a Steranko production in about 10 pages or so. So with a humble tip of the hat to Mr. Steranko – and a nervous glance toward the Disney conglomerate – here’s “Today The Earth Died!” from Strange Tales #168 (Marvel, May 1968).

The story and pencils are by Jim Steranko; inks are by the great Joe Sinnott.

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They Broke Spider-Man!

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From Amazing Spider-Man #100 (Marvel, Sept. 1971)

Script by Stan Lee, Art by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

The first time I read this comic, I thought this particular scene was the stupidest thing I had ever seen in a comic book. Believe me, if Spidey survived growing four arms, the ’90s Clone Saga, whatever the heck “The Other” was supposed to be and a satanic divorce, he’ll survive the current “Superior” incarnation.

Insects, Nazis and Sivana! Oh My!!

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John Byrne once produced a comic where Batman and Captain America teamed up to fight some insane scheme or other concocted by The Joker and Red Skull. At one point, it looked bad for the heroes until the Clown Prince of Crime discovered the Skull’s true motivations …

See, Nazis are such scumbags that even a homicidal maniac like The Joker can’t stand the rotters.

Thaddeus Bodog Sivana has a similar epiphany in the following Captain Marvel Jr. adventure, but in keeping with the mad scientist’s evil nature his main gripe with the Germans is that they’re interfering with his own plans to conquer America.

Throw in an army of monstrous insects and you have another Otto Binder classic!

“Captain Marvel Jr. Battles The Insect Giants” originally appeared in Captain Marvel Junior #12 (Fawcett, October 1943). Although Binder is credited with the story, I couldn’t find any information about the artist.

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With Great Chutzpah …

In the midst of the imbroglio over Alan Moore and Before Watchmen, Rob Steibel’s Kirby Dynamics blog reminds us that Marvel’s record of caring for creators isn’t any better.

In a new documentary about Stan Lee, “The Man” takes sole credit for creating the Black Panther when history indicates that some guy by the name of Jack Kirby had just as much – if not more – involvement in conceiving the character.

Lee also claims credit for The Falcon, when the idea – as originally revealed in the forward to a Marvel Masterworks Captain America volume – apparently originated from the mind of Gene Colan.

Guess those constant cameos in every single Marvel film, cartoon and video game weren’t enough to stroke Stan’s ego…