Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Greatest Achievement in the History of Man, or at least the greatest Thing team-up comics I've ever read (that may be the same thing)

So, here's some comics I have no snark for; Essential Marvel Two-In-One. I've only read about 1/25th or so of the fat stack of black and white reprints contained within this mighty tome, but if the rest of it holds up, then it's going to be my favorite Essential volume ever. Yeah, I like it more than any of the Claremont and friends X-Men, Lee-Kirby FF, Lee-Ditko Spider-Man or Dr. Strange, and maybe even the Gerber Howard the Duck.

See, I'm not sure, because Steve Gerber's writing is the reason I'm loving these stories so far. The man has a great absurdist/sarcastic sense of humor, which I love, but he can also pace a story like no one's business, and even provide some pathos and social commentary (as evidenced in the ending of his Thing-Man Thing team up in MTIO #1). He just knows how to write the kind of comics that make me love this medium. Well, he did in the '70s. I haven't read Hard Time yet, but I wager he still does. Anyway, his 70s Marvel work strikes the right balance for me in superhero comics, for me; not taking things too seriously, but not outright mocking the genre, either. Len Wein, who I've never been a fan of, really, shouldn't be overlooked either, as he provides some fun, rollicking scripts himself that strike that same balance. But Gerber's stuff has really knocked my socks off. So much so that I had to use that phrase for the first time in my life.

The art has also been stellar. Jim Starlin, another creator I've never had much time for, provides some nice pencils, but he's followed by a real show stealer, Gil Kane. Both guys do great rednitions of the ol' Benjy. I'm not sure if this was a mandate, but I really like how expressive they make his eyes. It adds to the humor of the stories. I'm sure that this is neither man's best work, but it is damn fine comic book storytelling that captures the bombast and dymanism of Marvel's finest quite well. Having Joe Sinnot on inks probably helps in that regard.

And hey, let's not forget who the star is. Probably my favorite Marvel character ever, the bashful, blue eyed idol o'millions himself. Gerber and Wein both nail his characterization perfectly. He's grouchy, occasionally petulant, and self pitying, but deep down he's got a big heart, and, y'know, he's really funny. He also play well in to the tone of the stories; he can recognize the absurdity of the situations he's in, but he still goes with it. I like that in a superhero. It's part of what made Spider-Man such a great character.

So, if you buy only one voluminous book of Bronze Age Marvel reprints, make it Essential Marvel Two In One. You'll be glad you did. Or it's clobberin' time. For you. Because you're a bad person. I think. I'll be lead to believe that if you don't like at least the Gerber stuff. You wouldn't want that, would you?


Blogger Richard said...

"He just knows how to write the kind of comics that make me love this medium. Well, he did in the '70s. I haven't read Hard Time yet, but I wager he still does."

You'd probably win that bet. So why haven't you read Hard Time yet?

You're right about Ben's personality, but my favorite discovery on rereading those MTIO stories is realizing just how well Gerber captured Ben's speech pattern. He doesn't just act right...he sounds right.

3/27/2006 1:25 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It was THE team-up comic of the '70s, although I do have a certain soft spot in my heart for the zany Bob Haney tales contained in the Brave & the Bold.

Talk about surreal.

3/27/2006 3:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The main thing about them is that they seemd less a marketing ply--and so had more freedom, than what Marvel team Up became--although there are some classic issues of that as well.

But still since I'm more a Spidey Guy--I'd prefer MTU overall.

Still I have the last issues of MTIO and some others that remain favorites (Sandman gives up being a villain in one issue--and Ben in the hospital was classic.)

3/28/2006 2:23 AM  

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