GETTING MORE TALE #850: Truly A Marvel
You can blame my dad! He doesn’t remember getting me into Marvel comics, but he started it.
My neighborhood friends did have something to do with it initially. Marvel’s Secret Wars was turning into the comic event of the year. Neighbors like Bob Schipper and George Balasz introduced me to some of the characters – The Vision, Scarlet Witch, Rogue, Storm, and Bob’s favourite Hawkeye. Bob liked collecting “limited series” and 1984’s The Last Starfighter (based on the movie) was the first he completed. Marvel also had the comic rights to Star Wars and Indiana Jones, so it was natural for me to gravitate to them rather than DC. Even Kiss had a Marvel comic.
I remember Marvel four-packs at convenience stores. You would get four Marvel comics from four different titles in one bag. My dad would buy these for us on the way to the cottage to give us something to do. Just one bag of four books would keep us occupied on those long drives. Iceman, Iron Man, ROM the Spaceknight and the X-Men entered our lives this way. I didn’t want DC comics; I wanted the characters that I knew. We were not comic fiends the way some kids were, but Marvel was there for me with astounding tales of science fiction and fantasy.
My father has no memory of buying those old books. He looks at these Marvel movies today completely dumbfounded.
“Who’s that guy?” he’ll ask.
“That’s Tony Stark! Iron Man! You bought my first Iron Man comics when I was a kid!”
Although he always responds with “I don’t remember that,” I sure do.
It’s all true. He bought my first Iron Man. When I started reading them, James Rhodes was actually Iron Man. Tony was just about to reclaim the helmet for himself when I jumped in.
Of the heroes, ROM was my favourite. His adventures crossed over with Ant Man, Alpha Flight and others, exposing me to more Marvel characters. A ROM annual (#3) with the X-Men hooked me on the Spaceknight. At this time, my grandfather was dying of cancer. When we went to visit the hospital, I wasn’t allowed to see him anymore. He was too sick and they didn’t want me to remember him that way. I can remember sitting in the waiting room reading ROM #62. The battle to save Earth from the Dire Wraiths was a good distraction from the hospital sounds and smells.
As a little kid, I couldn’t buy everything. It was hard just getting to the stores to catch every issue. So my mom got out her cheque book and bought me subscriptions to my three favourite books. Now there was no way I would be missing the latest issues of ROM, GI Joe, and The Transformers.
DC Comics had the big movies – Superman, Batman – but Marvel didn’t seem to translate well to live action. We had the TV show The Incredible Hulk starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferigno, but it was only loosely based on the comic. (The TV producers didn’t want the Hulk to be green but fortunately Stan Lee insisted upon it.) Marvel finally came out with a great film in 2000’s X-Men, directed by Brian Singer. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan were fantastic, but it was Hugh Jackman as Wolverine that was the real breakthrough. Unfortunately the X-Men films declined in quality too quickly. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man debuted in 2002, but suffered the same fate by the third film.
Whether it was Blade, Fantastic 4 or Ghost Rider, Marvel rarely made me gasp in awe at the silver screen. Not until Iron Man flew around the world in 2008. That Jon Favreau film was a game changer. Especially when Samuel L. Jackson showed up in a surprise cameo as Nick Fury to discuss the “Avenger Initiative”. Suddenly the idea of Marvel heroes interacting with other Marvel heroes seemed possible.
None of us could have imagined the marvel-ous tapestry that they would weave over the next 22 movies. Finally seeing my heroes like Captain America, Thor and Ant Man in movie form made me remember what I loved about my old comics. They tried to stay reasonably close to the original stories. The costumes might have been updated and less colourful, but there was no mistaking the Mighty Thor for anyone else.
And now all these decades later, I’m going back, buying graphic novels and catching up on my old friends in the Marvel Universe. Reprints of The Infinity Gauntlet, Secret Wars, and the very first adventures of the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the X-Men are all in my library any time I need some nostalgia therapy. Thank you Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and all the rest. Jim Shooter, Larry Hama, Bob Budiansky and Simon Furman, I will always be grateful for bringing me childhood heroes month after month!