Sunday, October 6, 2013

Marvel Firsts: The 1960s



A problem with myself that I've noticed is that, when I start something, I want to do ALL THE THINGS that are related to it. When I got back into board games, I wanted ALL the board games. (I don't know if you've looked at board game prices lately, but they're not cheap. Especially the more interesting, involved ones.) When I went to Disneyland for the first time last spring, I wanted ALL THE PINS. (No, Disney employee, I don't want to trade you. I want all the ones I have, AND all the ones you have. And then all the rest of them, as well.)

So now my problem is that I want to read all the comic books. Now, I don't want to say that's impossible. But also, that's impossible. I had no idea where to start, especially if I wanted to read the classics - Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Iron Man. All the men, apparently.

I thought this might be a good place to start. Marvel Firsts: The 1960s. I know that I like Marvel (who doesn't love Stan Lee?) and thought this would include a lot of "first appearance" issues. Which it did. And also included a lot of Marvel stars that I never would have encountered, or thought to read about, anywhere other than this book. It was super interesting. For example, the very first story is about the Rawhide Kid. Who? you ask. Fair question. I didn't know him either. But he starts his renegade nature after his Uncle Ben is killed. Sound familiar?

That being said, and as much as I really enjoyed most of it, oh man was it written in the 60s. Misogyny, potential racism, good times.

For example, the character of Dr. Droom, which the info in the book tells us was the "first 1960s attempt at an ongoing character with more-than-human powers." The issue included is the original story of Dr. Droom, who is a white doctor who goes to the "Orient" in order to take care of a dying lama. The lama bestows the doctor with his powers, and then the doctor takes on the features of the lama. Here's a picture of the panel where this is happening:




Obviously no worries about being P.C. in the 1960s. Or even not-racist. (The term "Oriental" is also used several times in this five page issue...)

Some other thoughts on various stories:

  • Having only seen the movie of the Fantastic Four, and never having read any of the comics, especially the origin issue, you might think that Reed and Ben were friends. Oh no. Not so, especially in the first issue. Ben blames Reed a lot for what happened to them (for good reason, since he's the one who advised against going into space in that way in the first place). He even attacks Reed, and basically tells Susan that Reed is a pussy, and she should obviously be in love with him (Ben).
  • Reed named himself Mister Fantastic. What a humble guy.
  • Reading about Ant-Man, all I could think was about Honey, I Shrunk the Kids! and Antie.
  • The colors of old comics, if they were true to history in this book, were...quite something. Like The Hulk wearing a super purple suit.
  • The first issues of The Hulk at least had him speaking in complete, full sentences. There was none of the "Hulk, SMASH!" He was completely coherent. When did that devolve?
  • Also, in the beginning of the Hulk, Bruce turned into the Hulk when it was nighttime, not because he was angry.
  • I loved that heroes were often tested out in other comics first. Kind of like a guest star or secondary character on a TV show who gets a spinoff.
  • In the beginning of Thor, he's just a regular guy who becomes Thor by holding the cane, which is actually the hammer. I thought maybe it was that the guy was Thor all along, and he only realizes when he holds the hammer, but no. Very interesting.
  • Johnny Storm, aka The Human Torch, lives in an asbestos room. Healthy.
  • There were several encounters with Native Americans, and apparently in the 60s, it was still okay to call them "reds."
  • July 1963 was the first Avengers, which was the "first 1960s team of pre-existing characters."
  • Lady heroes were pretty daft. For example, Ant-Man and the Wasp are about to go off on a mission and he says to her, "I can't see why you have to stop and powder your nose every time we have a mission!" Wow.
  • Also, in that same issue, Wasp says to Ant-Man, "Henry! Did you see that gorgeous Thor?! How can I ever make him notice me?" Really? That's how she reacted, and wasn't really focused on the mission. Ant-Man replies, "Stop acting like a love-sick female and slip behind this lens with me! I'd adjust it so it'll project our images on the wall!" Ugh.
  • What happened to the phrase, "In a trice..." We do not use that enough anymore.
  • What they thought was going to be the reality in the year 2000 is hilarious.
  • The lady in the Sub-Mariner might rival them all, who thinks that betrayal of the man she loves (the Sub-Mariner) will get him to love her. Smart, lady. I hate all the women in these 60s issues.
  • The dialogue of a Native American is another one of the most offensive things I've ever encountered. Did we really still think that Native Americans spoke in that stereotypical way in the 60s ?
  • Also, one of the native Americans has a swastika on his headband. What?!
  • There are yetis in the first issue with the Silver Surfer! Yetis!
  • It seems like a lot of these older comics had A LOT of words. Even for origin stories, the speech bubbles would often take up half the panel.

Overall, a very fascinating look at some of Marvel's most well-known characters. Sometimes offensive, but mostly just interesting.

Hatter M: The Looking Glass Wars Volume I—Frank Beddor & Liz Cavalier, Art by Ben Templesmith

I found this while browsing the shelves of the graphic novels at the public library. I hadn't even known it existed, but had fairly recently read the first book in The Looking Glass Wars and was interested to see what this graphic novel would add to the world.

Of all the fairy tale type stories, two stand out as my favourites: Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. So I'm always interested in stories that relate to either of those.

This particular graphic novel is a companion to the aforementioned The Looking Glass Wars, and chronicles the beginning of Hatter's search for Alyss in what could be called our world. She gets sent here, and while he was traveling via the same method at the same time as her, they get separated, which means he has to try and track her down, since he's sworn to protect her.

I will say, the first thing that stood out to me was the cover art. Very interesting. And I'm a sucker for page quality, in all books, and the pages of the book are just beautiful: thick, glossy. Love them.

The artwork was phenomenal, although there were some panels that were super dark and hard to discern what was actually happening in them. I can only imagine that was intentional, but sometimes took me out of the world, because I was trying so hard to decipher what was happening. I did think it was very cool that, at one point, a girl who has imagination that Hatter runs across has her speech bubbles rainbow-colored. Something I've never seen in comic books. (Not that I've read an exhaustive number of them...)

This graphic novel was really interesting and well though out, and a great companion to the book. (Also excited that finding this reminded me that I wanted to go back and read the sequels to the book.) There was also a whole section at the end with answers to questions from fans, some original concept art, etc. Very cool.

I'm excited to go back and read the sequels to The Looking Glass Wars, and any other volumes of the graphic novels that might exist.