Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I Need Some Back-Up Here !!

In many ways, Marvel has always done a good job of keeping its Silver Age alive through constant reprints. Whether through reprint titles such as Marvel Tales or Marvel Triple Action in the 70s, or through the Essentials and Masterworks line more recently, Marvel has shown that it is proud of of its past.

Sadly, one aspect of Marvel's past is in danger of falling off the radar screen. No, I am not talking about the Human Fly or Team America - I am talking about the science fiction back-up stories that continued to run during the early days of the Marvel Age. As you know, many superheroes such as Iron Man, Spider-Man and Thor debuted in titles that were previously dedicated to monster and science fiction stories.

Even after the debut of these superheroes, there was still some room left at the back of the comics, so the back-ups continued for a couple of years until replaced by additional suphero strips. Anyone who has ever read one of the 5-page mini-opuses is aware of how fun and charming these stories can be. Some of these were reprinted in scattershot fashion across many titles during the 70s, but many have not seen light of day in 40 years.

Granted, Marvel has indicated that it is willing to dig deep into their non-hero vaults, as evidenced by the Tales to Astonish Masterworks, but my guess is that they will simply focus on the pre-hero monster tales as a way of capturing the Jack Kirby fans. I am afraid that they will overlook these tales that ran concurrently with the superhero stories and are only available by purchasing the original comic - and who really wants to fork out the money for a Jounrney Into Mystery #83 to read a story about an intelligent lion?

I was recently re-reading Strange Tales #112, and was struck by the quality of the two back-up stories, featuring artwork by Steve Ditko and Larry Lieber, respectively. It occurred to me that Marvel should float a trial balloon, and package together an Essentials 'Tales' - featuring Tales of the Watcher, The Wasp Tells a Tales (luckily already cover in the Ant-Man volume), and back-up stories from Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, Strange Tales and Journey Into Mystery. In one package, we would get tons of great reading - with dymanic art by Kirby, Ditko, Lieber and Heck among others.

Is this a pipe dream? Sure - but a guy can still dream, can't he?


MarkAndrew said...

There have been some of 'em reprinted back in the seventies.

Still, I'd totally buy an "Essential Back-ups."

Ditko and Heck, especially, did much better work in the creepy-horror genre than in the superhero smack-em-up genre.

Scott M said...

Some of these were indeed reprinted here and there in the 70s, but it's tough to track them all down and many were never reprinted.

I like Heck and Ditko in both genres, but I'll certain agree that they did great sci-fi work. I recently picked up the 'Ditko's Space War' book with Charlton stories and it's pretty awesome.