Wednesday, July 6, 2011
These days it may be hard to believe there was ever a time when comic stores didn't exist, and there wasn't a place to walk into to find hot and cold running reprint editions, repackagings of every kind for the various types of comic book fan.
No, for people wanting to read the early issues of Marvel characters we had limited options. Among them were these paperback editions, which I own a few of. I remember borrowing some from friends as a kid. There was always a sense of awe while reading them as if I was finally getting to explore the early, primordial times of characters I'd come to know well from comics of the late seventies and early eighties. It was a feeling akin to learning the most cosmic secrets of the universe.
However, at the time I did not own any, and I'm not sure where they were sold, whether they were available at book stores or if they were sold in 7 Eleven next to the regular comics, though if they were I don't remember.
The ones that I own now I bought at conventions in the years since, some in the nineties, or more recently.
In the case of this Captain America one,
...I've actually bought it twice. I bought it once in the nineties and then it disappeared, I believe a roommate might have absconded with it. But I came upon it again at a mini-convention in May for a few bucks, and was overjoyed. Well, maybe not overjoyed, but joyed. It starts off a reprint of Avengers #4 and the epic return of Cap after years of being a human popsicle worshipped by Eskimoes. Then it goes into some early sixties solo adventures from various sources, one tale of a rescue in Vietnam before going into some freshly created WWII era stories, I mean freshly created in the sixties. I wonder how many other Vietnam rescue stories of Cap there were? Lee and Kirby maybe had trouble fitting in the ultimate patriot character with the morally ambiguous times, but that was what I imagine made him right for Marvel at that time, the fact that he was a man out of his era trying to fit in. Anyway, it's been great to have this book for boning up in anticipation of the film.
This Hulk one is a nice thing to have,
...because, as it says, it contains Hulk's first six issues from his earliest series. I believe in the first issue he has been recoloured green from gray, I suppose for the sake of consistency. But of course in these earlier appearances Hulk's personality is much more like what would eventually be the "Gray Hulk", he's shrewd, aggressive, and swaggering, not the more well known "Hulk Smash" style. I enjoy both depictions but anyway these first six issues are a great read, even teeny tiny as they are. This is the same material that is contained in the first volume of Hulk's Masterworks series.
And speaking of which, I now own the first Marvel Masterworks volume for Fantastic Four, but still hold onto this -
...because it was the first format in which I read the first six issues of the World's Greatest Comic Magazine.
I also have fond memories of these -
...which were many early adventures of the good doctor from Strange Tales. I recall the bizarre Ditko multi-dimenstional imagery blowing my young mind when a friend lent me his copy in grade six. It was a definitely a case of me feeling like I was actually being shown what goes on behind the thin veneer of what we mortals call reality. I've never read these stories in any other form, to read them any other way would just feel...strange.
Wait, now that I think of it that's actually not true, I have a Marvel Treasury with some of those in it, in fact it uses the same cover. I imagine the two books were published in conjunction. So some of the stories I have read tiny, and supersized. No middle ground.
For stories from other books that I did eventually read in other formats, it actually was a bit odd to suddenly see them so large, or regular sized. It was a bit like taking a movie you're used to watching on TV and then suddenly seeing it on a regular sized movie screen.
I believe there were more in this series, I saw a Spider-man one at that mini-con, but since I own his original stories in both Masterworks and Essentials formats, I let it go. It would be tough to go from having read something regular sized to readng it tiny, and I sometimes have to put my completist urges on the backburner in order to have the money to indulge other completist urges. Priorities!
I have some other Marvel paperbacks, pictured below, but these were more general as far as material goes, and used a cut up technique so that almost normal-sized panels are made to fit, usually about two per page. The Daredevil one reprints, in black and white, a couple early stories with art by the great Wally Wood, although I must confess, while the art is great by most standards, I don't feel that he brought his a-game, for whatever reason.
It contains two stories, the first one with the Fellowship of Fear from Daredevil #6, which was also the last story with DD's original yellow and red costume. The second is the first Stiltman story from #8.
This X-Men one is also black and white and is simply the seminal story from Giant Size X-Men #1, which shocked the world with its introduction of the second team of X-Men, one of the most successful revamps in human history; as well as the story "Psi War" from Uncanny X-Men #117.
And lastly, this Hulk one, which also uses the cut-up technique, though it's actually in colour, and features the Jarella story "The Brute that Shouted Love at the Heart of the Atom", from Incredible Hulk #140, and "They Shoot Hulks, Don't They?" from Incredible Hulk #142.