Friday, January 15, 2016

Giant-Size Back Issue!


Back Issue #86 has been an issue I've hankered to get my greasy mitts on since I first saw it advertised at the Twomorrows website. A companion issue to their extra-large look at DC's magnificent 100-Page Spectaculars, this particular issue shines the light on Marvel's attempts to market its old stories from the warehouse and to up-size its product in various ways during the Bronze Age.


One of my pet theories is that from the very earliest days Marvel was reprinting its stories, making them available to its new fans as they added themselves to the loyal ranks. By the time I arrived on the Marvel scene in late 1967 Steve Ditko was gone, having sequestered himself at Charlton and was dabbling in Randian philosphy at DC. His magnificent Spidey and Doc Strange stories were always only yarns I could get hold of in reprint form.


Thanks to issues of Marvel Tales and Marvel Collectors' Item Classics and suchlike I could get those stories (some of them at least) as well as early tales of Kirby's Thor and early FF, Ayer's Human Torch, and so many more. Today they keep old story lines available in trade, then it was more catch-as-catch-can, but still doable.


Since Marvel was swiftly becoming a saga which expanded beyond any single title, it helped sell the concept that all those stories, each and every one was part of the greater whole, and any true-blue Marvelite should make every effort to snatch them up. With DC it was impossible, their history was too vast. But with Marvel, then, it was just barely possible to have it all. In a world before comic shops and the internet, reprints made that possible or so it seemed.

(Source for the delightful Back Issue cover by John Romita)
Then Marvel had the masterstroke to begin their Giant-Size line, first thirty-five cents then fifty, giving us extra stories, akin to its wonderful annuals, but available every few months. Some were forgettable, but some like the stories Englehart told in the Avengers became essential parts of the regular title. In the Conan book Roy and Gil Kane adapted Howard's one Conan novel. Here for real and true was more of the comics I already loved. I snapped them up, as much as my meager budget would allow.

And then it ended, rather with a whimper. It was indeed a heyday.


This installment of Back Issue  also looks back at the Fireside reprints, the later days of Marvel's special deluxe reprints and more. This one is highly recommended.


As is its mate.

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7 comments:

  1. Well, whaddya know - I have every comic and book on show here, apart from Back Issue #86. I'll be remedying that as soon as I can. Thanks, Rip.

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    1. Glad to be of service. Not all Back Issues are worth the effort, but this one is above average.

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  2. Well remembered Ripster. I have fond memories of first stumbling across Marvel Tales #14 at the drugstore as a 7 year old: ‘Wow, older stories of Spidey, Thor and the Torch without the rest of the Fantastic Four…and who’s this Marvel Boy character?’ All for 25 cents…

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  3. Sort of (sadly) related: I see the “Shang Chi: Master of Kung Fu Omnibus Vol. 1” (projected release date June 14, 2016) – is commanding a price of: $112.50 . . . (This whole Capitalism thing is way over rated.)

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    1. Those vintage Marvel 25 centers were neat packages, giving great value. My first one was issue 11 which had a yellow and red Daredevil mix it up with Spidey. Prime Ditko.

      On the Shang-Chi front, I'm glad to see these available at last. I don't get Omnibus books, partly because of the price, but I'm too weak to hold them up.

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  4. It was virtually unheard of for DC back then to have a continued story, let alone an ongoing saga such as Marvel was developing. It was so rare for Superman to even have a book-length story that when they did it was called a special "three part novel" (complete in one issue}. An interesting distinction is that Marvel Tales blurb which called its stories not novels but "movie-length epics". It's a small difference, but a telling one.

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    1. DC missed out on what was happening all around them. Jim Shooter wrote a beautiful essay for an early issue of Valiant Comics which suggested DC was asleep at the switch while Marvel stole up behind them and eventually overtook them. His suggestion at the time in 1992 or thereabouts was that Marvel was then doing the same. I think there's truth there.

      Though it's a book for comic nerds only, Marvel Saga really appealed to this fanboy.

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