Tag Archives: golden age

Sunday Review – Marvel Masterworks: The Human Torch Volumes 1-2

Let’s get this out of the way early, I liked the Fantastic Four movies. Yes, they were loaded with bad acting, but so are a lot of movies. But com’on we all went to the theater to see the Human Torch special effects. My son also enjoyed them (he is now 11 and we own them on DVD), and they are the types of live action superhero movies that we can watch together, unlike The Dark Knight, and he doesn’t have to follow some drawn out plot, like the X-Men movies. Speaking of Johnny Storm, he’s just plane cool. I fondly remember as a kid of the 70′s not wanting to be Spider-Man or Superman, but a guy who could fly and set things on fire at will (it was a rough childhood). As I grew older, my interests grew up with me, but Johnny stayed the same, he was even a nuisance and crybaby at times. I guess that’s his nature and the producers whole heartily incorporated his narcissism into the movies. Too bad really, because I think it’s time that Johnny grew up into the hero that he was born to be. Of course that may be a problem being that the Human Torch is “dead” now.

While Reed, Sue and Ben have seemingly moved on from Johnny’s demise to create the Future Foundation with Spider-Man (geez, how many team and solo books can he be in anyway?) this is a perfect time to get reacquainted with ‘ol Hot Head before his expected return in Fantastic Four #600 in 2012. And there’s no better place to learn about his roots then a visit, not to the early Fantastic Four comic books (which are great in of themselves), but to the Human Torch short story, solo adventures that ran in Strange Tales #101-134 and are collected in Marvel Masterworks: The Human Torch Volumes 1-2.

If you know your Marvel history then you know that the FF #1 predated the debut of Spider-Man (Amazing Fantasy #15) by about 10 months; November 1961 vs. August 1962. But let’s not forget that the FF appeared in Spider-Man #1 (Mach 1963), setting the stage for the friendly feud between Spidey and Torch, and interestingly enough there was no Fantastic Four book in that hot summer month; #6 was held off until September. But it’s October, 1963 when things really heat up.

Strange Tales was started in 1951, as part of Atlas Comics horror line. As that genre wained, thanks in part to Fredric Werthem, Stan Lee thought that a superhero should be added and since Spider-Man had his own title and the Fantastic Four was popular, there was no better character to take over, and add a bit of a rivalry, Johnny Storm, The Human Torch. Of course Johnny was the Silver Age and second Human Torch. The first being created by Carl Burgos in 1939 for Marvel Mystery Comics and ran from #1-98 and in Human Torch #1-35. Both comics were cancelled in 1949 and after a short resurrection (along with Captain America and the Sub-Mariner in the 1950′s), the Golden Age original faded into obscurity until Fantastic Four Annual #4 (November, 1966).

Johnny’s adventures in Strange Tales differed slightly from Fantastic Four as it was geared for a little younger audience. Here, Lee was more focused on action then science, more earth born street level thugs then cosmic fears from beyond. Johnny was more like his new rival Spider-Man, having to go to high school, have a girl-friend and having to fit in. I can only imagine kids in the early 60′s arguing on the playground who was the better hero (we adults do this now on our own playgrounds called forums). So just keep that in mind if and when you pick these books up.

As for the comics themselves, they are a lot of fun and full of nostalgia and loaded with some of the best talent one book has ever seen. Stan Lee and his brother Larry Lieber do the majority of the writing, but Jerry Siegel (Superman) comes by for #112-113. As for the artwork, that job is left up to Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers who at times turn it over to Steve Ditko, Wally Wood, Bob Powell and the aforementioned, Carl Burgos.

Let’s look at some of the more notable comics:

  • Issue #101 is a reintroduction to the origin of the Human Torch and the Fantastic Four.
  • Issue #106 brings the four of them together (boy, that was quick!), and Reed, Sue and Ben come back for #108-109 (and make other short appearances throughout the run).
  • Issue #107 is one of those books that can’t get reprinted enough; it’s Johnny vs. Namor, The Sub-Mariner in an epic battle that should not be missed! It’s also the fourth appearance of Namor in the Silver Age and his first outside of the FF title.
  • Sandwiched in between Siegel’s brilliant #112 and #113, there is Strange Tales Annual #2. This particular book has Stan writing and Steve Ditko inking Jack Kirby’s pencils and even features Spider-Man – you won’t find this comic in the Amazing Spider-Man Masterworks or The Steve Ditko Visionaries HC!
  • Issue #114 (November 1963) gets even better with the return of Captain America. As a reader of that time, it would have been awesome to witness his return (except his red shorts), but then be somewhat disappointed with the surprise ending. But fear not because Steve Rogers would be resurrected for good, a few months later in The Avengers #4 (March, 1964).
  • Skipping ahead, Johnny’s buddy, Ben Grim comes by and teams up for the run of #121-134. Reading the issues, I’m not sure this move was necessary. One the good side they battle Namor in #125, but this team-up concept without Reed and Sue, helped end the Human Torch in Strange Tales to make way for the super spy, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

As for the extras in these two Masterworks, Volume 1 only contains an introduction by Dick Ayers while Volume 2 has Bruce Canwell doing that duty. In the second volume there is cover art for the complete 8-issue reprint run (1974-75) of The Human Torch. This series collected the Silver Age, Atlas Age and Golden Age comics that featured The Human Torch. Both volume have creator biographies.

Marvel Masterworks: The Human Torch Volume 1 HC (Variant Volume 66)
Written by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jerry Siegel, Robert Bernstein and Ernie Hart
Art by Dick Ayers, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko
$50.00 ($55.00), 272 pages, Marvel Comics
Collects: Human Torch stories from Strange Tales #101-117 and Strange Tales Annual #2

Marvel Masterworks: The Human Torch Volume 2 HC (Variant Volume 114)
Written by Stan Lee and Larry Ivie
Art by Dick Ayers, Bob Powell, Carl Burgos and Jack Kirby
$50.00 ($55.00), 256 pages, Marvel Comics
Collects: Human Torch stories from Strange Tales #118-134

Also recommended:
Marvel Masterworks: The Golden Age Human Torch HC Volumes 1-3
Marvel Masterworks: The Atlas Era Heroes featuring Marvel Boy, Human Torch, Captain America and Sub-Mariner HC Volumes 1-3

Sunday Review – The Simon and Kirby Superheroes

As the reprint industry continues to grow, quality of the reproduction and completeness of the work by artists and writers is at an all time high. Every week scores of brand new books come out from no less then a dozen publishers. Some of these books are massive undertakings with editors sifting through forgotten heroes of yesteryear and restoring the old beat-up originals so a new generation can relive and, in some cases, revive great characters from the Golden and Silver Ages.

That’s the case with Steve Saffel who continues his reprint series on Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Titan Books recently released a follow-up to 2009’s The Best of Simon and Kirby with Simon and Kirby Superheroes. This book collects everything just as it says it does and in a wonderful full color fashion. Saffel took his time in constructing the 480 page hardcover pouring his love into every page he edited. The well crafted book shows that he cares for the preservation of the material and is not out to get a quick buck from releasing cheap and easy reprints and where getting the book to market is more important then the quality of the work. Some restoration had to be done to a few of the comics but rest assured it was done with the hands of Harry Mendyk, who worked with Saffel on the first book.

Any fan of either comic book legend will want to buy this and add it to their shelf that would undoubtedly include work from major publishers like DC and Marvel. The Simon and Kirby Superheroes also contains an insightful introduction by Neil Gaiman that gives us an account of just how and why he optioned to do his own revival of Sandman. Gaiman also reminds us that not only has there never been another Jack Kirby, but there has “never been another Joe Simon, as well”. Another person to take us our journey through time and art is Jim Simon, Joe Simon’s son. He recounts the 1940’s and 1950’s and offers us an uncommon family viewpoint of these two great men and there process.

Sadly, a few of the series are short lived so as fast as you get acquainted with a hero, he quickly goes away. Below is a listing of how the book is broken down by character and the issues collected:

  • The Black Owl, Prize Comics #7-9, 1940-41
  • Stuntman, Stuntman #1-3, 1946
  • The Vagabond Prince, Black Cat Comics #7-8, 1946
  • Captain 3-D, Captain 3-D #1, 1953
  • Fighting American, Fighting American (Volume 1) #1-7, 1954-55, and (Volume 2) #1-2, (1966
  • Private (Lancelot) Strong, The Double Life Of Private Strong #1-2, 1959 and Adventures Of The Fly #2, 1959
  • The Fly, Adventures Of The Fly #1-2, 1959 and The Double Life Of Private Strong #1, 1959

Some of these stories have never been published and also included are rare and unseen artwork. As good as this book is, I do have two issues to take to task:

  1. The dimensions of The Simon and Kirby Superheroes is 11.2 x 7.9 while The Best of Simon and Kirby is 12.2 x 9.1, therefore the two are different when lined up on my bookshelf. For a reprint  series of this importance, I’m surprised that they do not have coherent uniformity.
  2. Besides Simon and Kirby’s names there is no listing of other Artist or Writer credits. The only way I knew that Steve Ditko was involved on Captain 3-D was to read the text provided by Neil Gaiman and Jim Simon. I’m curious as to who else worked on these comics and the only way to do that is to hunt each individual comic down on the comics.org database.

Those two things won’t be a hindrance for me with future Simon and Kirby projects from Steve Saffel and Titan books. In fact here is a rundown of future volumes:

  • Joe Simon: The Man Behind The Comics
  • The Simon and Kirby Library: The Birth Of Romance
  • The Simon and Kirby Library: Crime Drama
  • The Simon and Kirby Library: Oh! The Horror

The Simon and Kirby Superheroes
Titan Books, 2010
480 pages, $49.95
A copy of this book was supplied to me by Titan Books

For more information on The Best Of Simon and Kirby, please listen to Collected Comics Library Podcast #233 – Interview with Steve Saffel, August 26, 2009

Adopt a Character for 2011

It’s that time of year again; time to pick a character or creator, to immerse yourself in for 2011.

I started this for my own personal reason back in 2007, when I wanted to learn more about Thor. I remember growing up with the reruns of the The Marvel Super Heroes mini-cartoons and getting more familiar with him in The Avengers and Secret Wars comics of the 1980′s. But it wasn’t until he was seemingly killed off in the Disassembled storyline that I wanted to know more about him, Odin and Asgard. I reread the Masterworks and picked up inexpensive but essential comics from back issue bins.

In 2008, I chose to focus on Luke Cage and Iron Fist, reading all the Essentials that were published up to that point. In 2009, I went ahead with the daunting task of reading all 27 Volumes of The Spirit Archives. That works out to be one book every two weeks. Couple that with all the other reading I do for this blog not to mention spending time with my family and non-comics book activities and that’s a whole lot of reading to get done in one calendar year. Not only did I have a much better understanding for The Spirit, but also for his creator Will Eisner. That impacted me on my decision to switch things up in 2010 and instead of a superhero, I chose Steve Ditko. Not only did I reread everything I owned by him including my Spider-Man and Dr. Strange Masterworks (Marvel), but I bought Strange Suspense The Steve Ditko Archives (Fantagraphics), Strange & Stranger World Of Steve Ditko (Fantagraphics), The Creeper By Steve Ditko (DC), The Art Of Steve Ditko (IDW), his Atlas-Era Marvel comics and current independent work with Robin Snyder. I even recorded a five-part podcast series covering his entire body of work.

Now it’s 2011 and I’m going back to where it all began – The Golden Age Superman. In general GA comics are not the easiest comics to read. Most of the time super heroes fought petty criminals and mad scientists. You almost had to wonder why a God among men would bother with such lowlifes. But that’s the charm. It is a simpler time with simple writing and a country trying to get by while the men were away fighting WWI. I’m fortunate to own all the Archives: Superman in Action Comics Vols. 1-5, Superman Vols. 1-8, and Superman: World’s Finest Comics Vols. 1-2. I also have The Complete Diamond Anniversary Edition Superman Collection (Bosko edition) that wonderfully collects all of the 1941-1943 Superman cartoons from Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios. There are a few different DVDs of these cartoons, but from all accounts the Bosko disc is still the one to buy.

I hope you, too, pick a character(s) or creator(s) to learn more about and to let me know who it is.

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CCL Podcast #277 – You’re A Wonder, Wonder Woman!

Collected Comics Library Podcast #277
27,727Kb; 23m 04s

Wonder Woman #600 came out last week and the comic community, the internet and even ABC News is all a buzz about her new costume change. I think it’s a good move not only for the character, but to get people talking about comics in general. I’m sure the debate will go right into Comic Con. I do have a feeling that Diana Price will return to her original one piece outfit someday because we have seen it before back in 1968 when Diana and all of the Amazons lost their magic and became for the most part – mortal. Diana wore a Mod-type outfit and learned Kung-Fu in the process. It actually made her a stronger and more interesting character. But that only lasted 30 odd issues before she went back to the red, blue and gold bustier that we all know her for. I’m sure that’s what DC is doing again – rehashing what came before – new outfit, new attitude and old numbering system.

Today’s show is no different. I covered the Wonder Woman Archives way back for Podcast #4. You can listen to it if you want but I warn you that the audio is suspect. In this updated installment I talk about not only the Archives but also, the Showcase Presents volumes, the aforementioned Diana Prince trade paperbacks and two books that you may not be aware of The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes Volume 2: Wonder Woman by Michael L. Fleisher (MacMillan, 1976) and Wonder Woman (Bonanza, 1972) which is a Greatest Golden Age Wonder Woman collected edition of sorts and it even has an introduction by Gloria Steinem. The contents of that book can be found at The Wonder Woman Pages.

Also on the show I go over Dave McKean’s new printing of Cages (Dark Horse, September 2010), Siegel and Shuster’s Funnyman: The First Jewish Superhero, from the Creators of Superman, The Linked Photographers’ Guide to Online Marketing and Social Media by Rosh Sillars and The Last Airbender movie which Patrick and I saw this past Sunday. and the New Releases of the Week.

Chris

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Collected Edition Blog browsing on Wednesday afternoon

Just doing some catching up. Here are some linky-links for you – with comments.