Tales from the box of interesting is the result of finding an old, old box of comics in my move from Kentucky to Tennessee. Most of these are some of my first comics. The comics in this feature all came from the old shrink wrapped 3 for $1 sets that were often sold after the comics had a run on the news stands. As a result they are a mix-match of oddities.
Back in the old days when comics were sold on news stands they were often removed and resold in shrink wrapped sets. The sets were a catch as catch can mix of whatever was left on the news stand. At the time the nearest news stand to me was over an hour away so most of my comics as a kid came to me in this way. Wendell's General Store was a 1/2 a mile from my house and often I went there after school with a few dollars and grabbed a glass bottle of some kind of soft drink and a pack of comics. You never really knew what you would find in the middle (as they were blocked off in the bag by the other two on the sides) and often that became a huge part of the fun. For whatever reason I hadn't placed these comics into my main collection and when I searched through them recently I was bombarded by memories, thus this column was born.
I hope to update this weekly as I read through some of the comics. The comics in question are simply a bizarre mix of superheroes, army, horror, cartoon and everything under the sun from that by-gone age of comic books. They average in date from 1974-1978 (although one or two extend to further into the 80's). I hope this article will informs and helps people realize my love for the earlier age of comics, when heroes and villains acted in character and the latest "shake up" wasn't the norm but yet comics were still loaded with killer stories (and some stories that were just plain weird).
So I have been asked more than a few times if I had to pick one single issue to be my favorite what issue would it be. If I was forced into a corner on this I would have to say Marvel Two-in-One #54. It's miles away from my first comic book but it was probably the one comic most responsible for me being the big superhero fan that I am. It didn't introduce me to superheroes, but it did cement the "Yes, this is what I love" idea in my brain and ultimately my soul.
This one came out in 1979, a touch later than most of the comics in the Box of Interesting but not at all the latest by a long shot. I very much remember seeing this comic for the first time on the stand. I was on vacation in Maine with my parents (in Kennebunkport to be exact) and we stopped at a store with a comic rack. I turned the rack around and saw this cover.
I had known the Thing from the various Fantastic Four cartoons as well as the less than stellar single cartoon (If you never saw it, the Thing cartoon had a teenage Ben Grimm using his Thing Ring to "do it's thing" and change into the Thing, yes horrible even by 1970's standards). The Thing was a favorite of mine though, he was tough and kind of like the Hulk but still retained his brain which made him a bit more likeable in some ways. This was the first time I had seen Thing in a comic without the Fantastic Four.
Of course this is part of the infamous Project Pegasus storyline. Many comic fans don't remember this story but it was one of the few times that comics in those days went for slightly longer term storylines. Often the stories were self contained or at best two issues but this was a whopping six part saga and in some corners of comic collecting is considered a legendary story. It was even odder that such a long story would be in what is considered a team-up book (as Marvel Two-in-One was to Thing what the original Marvel Team-Up series was to Spider-Man).
Add to that there was this name "Deathlok" and I was totally enamored. Despite what some parent groups try to say, you put death, dead, or bleed in the name and you get a kid's attention. On top of that I see this guy standing over Thing as if he had defeated him, he was like a robotic zombie for something (a joke Deadpool made later in X-Force). The caption "Blood and Bionics" also caught my attention as well. Then there is all the details on the cover (with the deeper green in order to contrast with the foreground figures of Thing and Deathlok) and I had to know what exactly was going on here. So I begged my mom and got the comic and that evening after dinner I went to read what was going on, and I wouldn't be disappointed in the least.
Anyone who has read about me talking about comics knows I love splash pages. This is one of the reasons why. I love how this picture is contrasting itself (with light and dark elements) and is cut nearly in half to show both Thing and Deathlok just before they fight. It creates a very adversarial tone right off the bat and wasn't lost to me even back when I was eight years old. Of course looking at the credits you can see John Byrne had a hand in the art here, and this was back when he was the hot guy in the comics world.
Sometimes splash pages like this are just set up for something later, but this issue jumps right into the action:
Of course this is expected but the next panels are not:
So we find out (in a big surprise right off the bat) that Thing can bleed. I really love that first panel with the shading over Deathlok, it just looks so sinister. The transition to Thing being surprized and to Thing looking at his bleeding arm are one of those sets of panels that really exemplifies a visual storytelling style to me.
From there things just get brutal. Deathlok gets his hand crushed but he's not done yet.
Deathlok keeps fighting even though Thing is tossing him around. Now if we get technical the listings for Deathlok's strength in comparison to Thing it would be conceivable that Deathlok's hit wouldn't effect Thing in the slightest. However, that would be rather dull too so I won't get nitpicky about it. Besides there is an explanation that might let that slight mistake slide.
Deathlok escapes leaving Thing on the ground. Keeping in mind we are just three pages in and we've had a ton of action. Deathlok takes off and begins to accoplish his own mission by setting up some strange device. Afterwards he is caught by Quasar.
Quasar had been in the previous issue and this was also my first introduction to him. Some kind of laugh at Quasar but he did rather well this issue against Deathlok (who had just given the Thing a run for his money). The fight culminates into a panel I always found striking.
While I suppose it could be argued there is really nothing much to this panel I still kind of like it. The contrast of the energies and the negative space behind Quasar are just sort of visually interesting to me. It's a simple panel that tells a lot. Quasar is outmatched but is holding his own. In the fight Deathlok pulls out several odd bits to help his fight so once again we are getting a knock down drag out battle.
Quasar is rescued by the Thing who has just had his arm put in a sling after his last fight with Deathlok. Thing disarms him both figuratively and literally. Once again just a brutal fight. Deathlok seems to be out of commission but then:
Like I said this fight is brutal. I mean do you maybe see why I love this comic. At this point things cannot end well for Deathlok and of course it just turns worse.
And he's not done yet.
He sets up his self destruct but before he can use it:
Quasar, yes Quasar gets in the killing blow. Yeah, I bet you never thought you would hear that.
As you can see Deathlok didn't come to a good end. But how can this be, we've seen him since this appearance. Turns out he was actually a robot duplicate of Deathlok, but we don't know that at the end of this issue. Still it was a tough fight and really got to show some of Deathlok's potential. Ultimately, he became my favorite Marvel character. When you think about it his story kind of sounds a lot like Terminator (just switch around the cyborg being the good guy) even though he predates Terminators by a few years. Harlen Ellison shouldn't have sued James Cameron, Marvel probably should have :-).
We then switch gears to a wrestling ring and the introduction of Thundra (an often forgotten character). She wrestles some loser guy down.
For some reason when this guy screamed "My Ribs" I wanted to add "and Scallops." Call it a young man's weird humor.
This leads us to one of the big things that this issue is also famous for. As Thundra continues to fight the promoter calls out a bunch of girls to take her down:
Now you probably didn't catch it, I know I didn't for a while, but the girl he calls "Mimi" is actually Screaming Mimi.
For those who still don't get it, Mimi eventually becomes a semi-popular character later:
Yep, this issue is also the first appearance of Songbird of the Thunderbolts. She's changed a lot from her first appearance (almost looking like a reject for Harley Quinn).
Anyway Thundra clears these girls out pretty easily of course:
As if all of this wasn't enough there is also a brief appearance from the late Bill Foster (who partners with Thing in the next issue):
AKA Black Goliath AKA Goliath.
So all we are missing is a cool hook to grab the reader for next time:
Yes, for whatever reason when I was a kid Nuklo up there totally creeped me out. But after all was said and done with this book I was hooked on comics hardcore and have never looked back.
There really wasn't a chance for me to add in the advertisements in the synopsis up there, but I want to make sure to highlight a few:
First up is the Micronaughts, and regular readers to my photo-webcomic Scale Wars will catch Antron up there (who is often my main villain). I remember this ad fondly just because I was really fascinated by these guys. Guns for hands and glow in the dark brains, how could I not dig it. I never actually found Membros in the stores at the time, but I also have passed up chances to get him later as well. I keep saying I will find those parts for my older version of Antron, but I keep neglecting to. Same with Repto (but I do have one of the Palisades re paints as well).
Next up is an oddity:
I don't know about you but I keep reading this ad and thinking it says "craptastic" rather than "Krypotonastic." Still it is odd to see something Superman related (who is published by DC Comics) advertised in a Marvel Comic. Then again this was soon after the first Superman movie.
But this happens not once but twice:
I have to admit I kind of love how the ad says Lois Lane is "so snoopy." It just makes me laugh.
The cool part is I still have a few of those Corgi cars like the News Van and the Superman Van (which is actually silver and reads "Supervan" LOL).
So there it is, another cool comic down and dozen's upon dozen's to go.