Monday, March 21, 2011

Superhero Comics

When I started collecting comics again it was to buy the back issues containing the work of several artist/writers who I admired. Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Carl Barks, and John Stanley. Except for the Amazing Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, I was going to try to stay clear of buying very many superhero books by Kirby and Ditko. Mainly, I was out to buy up the pre-hero science-fiction, fantasy, and horror comics that these two men produced for the nascent Marvel Comics. And I've covered that aspect of my collecting quest in this blog in the past.

As I've also covered, I find myself forced to buy some superhero titles that I had not originally intended to add to my collection. These books are the former weird story anthologies that Marvel was producing before they switched completely over to the superhero genre. For instance, Strange Tales soon became the domain of the Human Torch and Dr. Strange. Journey Into Mystery became the venue for the Mighty Thor. Tales of Suspense was given over to Iron Man. Tales to Astonish to Ant Man/Giant Man. And so on.

As I've also covered here, there was a backlog of genre stories that had been commissioned and illustrated for these titles. Not wishing to allow the material to just languish unpublished, the editors instead used these tales as backups in the newly superhero-dominated titles. So for a couple of years the hero books contains at least one, sometimes two weird tales. This went on until the backlog of produced work was exhausted, and thereafter Marvel Comics became essentially a publisher of superhero titles with merely a few holdover books in the form of romance, western, and war comics. Beyond that, Marvel was strictly superhero fare and soon the weird fiction was only a fond memory.

Here, then, are recent acquisitions to my collection, showing how the anthology books became superhero titles, but which often contain sf and horror stories that pretty much force me to add them to make the theme of my collection complete.

Kirby and Ditko may have created, illustrated, and plotted all of the stories, but one thing about the titles that pretty much can't be argued is that Stan Lee named most of the characters, from the monsters and villains down to minor supporting characters. He had a thing for total silliness, alliteration, and the use of common words turned slightly on their heads by altering a letter or two. He was also not averse to using names over and over again. Witness a monster called "Elektro", a name that would appear a few years later when Steve Ditko created the Spider-Man villain "Electro".

Here's a Kirby creation called "Metallo". DC Comics also had a character with essentially the same name, a Superman villain.

Lee had a penchant for slightly changing familiar words to make them into names for monsters and villains created by his stable of artist/writers. Here's a Kirby creation called "Bruttu".

And here I find myself forced to buy superhero books I hadn't originally intended to purchase. The early hero-altered books like Tales of Suspense may have been taken over by Iron Man, but they still published weird yarns by the likes of Kirby, Ditko, Reinman, and Heck. I've got to have them, but I don't look forward to shelling out for things like Tales of Suspense 39 (the first appearance of Iron Man).

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