I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.
Let me concede right up front that the term “youth” is indeed a misnomer in this instance. The series featuring the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing that was written by Dan Slott and featuring art, at least initially, by Andrea DiVito made its debut with an issue cover dated January 2006. Only the most generous or deluded would have seen me striding into a comic book store at the time and thought I was some sort of a kid. As I’ve documented previously, my childhood dalliance with comic books blossomed into a full-blown codependent relationship as I moved into adulthood. I continually convinced myself it was time to turn away from the colorful exploits of hand-drawn superheros only to find that there was some new title that I simply couldn’t resist.
I had recently made an impulse buy purchase of the collected mini-series centered on the lengthy friendship of Spider-Man and the Human Torch that was written by Dan Slott, and I was struck by the way his storytelling paid loving tribute to the exact comics I’d loved as a kid, capturing the quality of those old adventures in a manner that was nostalgic without taking on the tinge of fanboy pandering that was becoming all too commonplace. So when Slott was announced as a writer for a new solo series featuring the rocky Fantastic Four powerhouse who’d long been my personal favorite, I knew I was stuck plucking a new series off the rack again. From the brief appearances by the Thing in the mini-series, I had a sense that Slott found the character appealing for all the same reasons I did.
He understood the ways in the which the character was defined by his sense of otherness, and, most importantly, the way he confronted an existence largely defined by indignities by leavening his understandable self-pity and a barbed sense of humor. Within the reality the Marvel Universe, the Fantastic Four are arguably the most beloved heroes, the only ones who never need to deal with a blaring “Threat or Menace?” headline on the front page of The Daily Bugle. So the Thing is a celebrity, which he can occasionally have fun with, even if it comes with regular reminders of his freakish physical form.
If the series weren’t already bending towards my favor, Slott made the ideal selection for his first supervillain in order to render me helpless. Ridiculous as the character may be, Arcade was the bad guy in the first X-Men comic I ever bought, and I have an eternal soft spot for him. Nostalgia aside, the character’s very approach to his criminal endeavors–he’s an assassin who plops his targets in the middle of a specially constructed amusement park equipped with creative, deadly traps–invites the creator to indulge the wildest turns of the imagination.
Slott was also able to use the inherent looseness of the series to draw fully upon his sense of humor, especially his pitch-perfect predilection for spoofy inside jokes, such as naming a section of Arcade’s latest perilous attraction after the portion of the Universal theme park inspired by Marvel superheroes.
Like a lot of Slott’s work, the series exhibited a clear affection for a lot of Marvel’s twisty history. In many ways, it seemed to be patterned after the old Marvel Two-In-One series with different heroes finding ways to pitch in on Thing’s adventures. All it was missing was the guest stars logos bursting forward from the cover. And, as any devoted fan of bashful Benjamin J. Grimm knows, there absolutely has to be a point where the Yancy Street Gang makes an appearance.
A series this joyful was destined to have a short life in the mighty Marvel monstrosity at the time, which had already succumbed to the crassly manipulative “event” storylines that relied on the sort of absurdly destructive, logic-defying buffoonery that had previously been relegated to the harmless realms of the What If series. The Thing was cancelled with the eighth issue, which at least gave Slott the time to concoct an issue centered on the eponymous titan playing poker, something he surely has no time for in the ever-more dour Marvel Universe of today. It may not have been a series that I read as a kid, but it was one of the few in recent years that truly carried the spirit of the adventures that first enthralled me.
Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and John Buscema
Contest of Champions by Bill Mantlo and John Romita, Jr.
Daredevil by Frank Miller
Marvel Fanfare by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith
Marvel Two-in-One by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson
Fantaco’s “Chronicles” series
Fantastic Four #200 by Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard
The Incredible Hulk #142 by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe
Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum
Godzilla by Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe
Giant-Size Avengers #3 by Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas and Dave Cockrum
Alpha Flight by John Byrne
Hawkeye by Mark Gruenwald
Avengers by David Michelinie and George Perez
Justice League by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire