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.
I believe I’ve used this space before to expound of my youthful susceptibility to Marvel Annuals, the double-sized bonus issues of the publisher’s most popular titles that arrived every summer. In addition, I was easily enticed by a cover that offered a series of seemingly unrelated incidents that offered a preview of what was inside, effectively promising that the events of the issue in question couldn’t be contained within a single image, as was and is the prevailing convention. Sure, the cover communicates Kitty Pryde joins the X-Men this issue, but Colossus and Angel will also fight a robot, and Wolverine and Nightcrawler will be attacked by a bear, and Storm will get tangled up in some mechanical arms, and, well, it will just be more than your little heart can bear.
These particular dual weaknesses convergence when my probing eyes landed on the cover to Avengers Annual #10. Exclamation points abounded. “See: Captain America Totally Defeated!” “Witness: The Invincible Iron Man Knocked Out of Action!” “Observe: Spider-Woman’s Daring Midnight Rescue!” “Behold: The Deadly New Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!” “Plus: A Shocking Mystery Guest!” “All That and a Cameo Appearance by the Uncanny X-Men!” Even the notation that this was a “King-Sized Annual” was punctuated with an exuberant broken tower. How on Kirby’s green earth could I not buy that issue? For all those pronouncements of greatness on the pages inside, the cover makes no mention of the element that accounts for the issue’s long-ranging importance in the Marvel Universe: the introduction of Rogue.
There was no real way that writer Chris Claremont could have known he’d cooked up an enduring character (though with his stewardship of full-on sensation Uncanny X-Men uncontested, he had the perfect launching pad to send her into the comics stratosphere), but there was usually no reticence from Marvel in preemptively declaring a newcomer “the character find” of any given year. In the context of the issue, Rogue was just another villain with tricky enough powers to give Earth’s mightiest heroes a tough time when they assembled.
Michael Golden provided the art on the issue, and it was unlike anything I’d seen up until that point. With only about a year of Marvel reading under my teeny belt, I already felt a level of certainty about how these characters we’re supposed to look. Everyone was on-model, but Golden brought an entirely different boldness to them. There was a sinewy intensity to the drawings that fascinated me, especially when the bruising fights took place.
My primary purpose in reading the issue may have been witnessing some good ol’ superhero fightin’, but Claremont had a very different agenda in writing it. He had some clean up to do.
The scribe was known for taking advantage of Marvel’s wide-ranging continuity, notably the sense that the publisher was engaged in one massive story spread across countless comic books, to tie up storylines he’d been forced to leave unfinished in cancelled series. He was also highly protective of characters that he felt an affinity for or, to be perhaps less sympathetic, those that stirred in him some sense of ownership. Claremont wrote most of the run of the Ms. Marvel series in the nineteen-seventies. He also fancied himself a particular skilled creator when it came to strong female characters (in the context of the era, he probably was one of the better writers of comic book women). His protective instincts were stirred by a storyline in the previous year’s Avengers #200, in which Carol Danvers, the alter ego of Ms. Marvel, is coerced into a sex resulting in pregnancy, a description which only barely gets into the crazy complications of the story. It seems Claremont didn’t care for that.
Carol Danvers is the shocking mystery guest promised on the cover, and she arrives with enough animosity for her former teammates that she will even strike a god.
This is a bold reversal of a major story point that was still fairly recent at the time. Making it even more striking, the issue Claremont was criticizing had Marvel’s editor-in-chief co-credited as a writer (though he’d later downplay his involvement and disavow the issue entirely). This wasn’t some distant embarrassment Claremont was retconning into a more palatable piece of the greater Marvel saga. It was about as quick and forceful of a counter that the publishing schedule would allow. As with the earlier story, I was young enough to be somewhat oblivious to the resounding ickiness that was going on, but I could already recognize potent melodrama, another Claremont specialty. Everything was bigger in an Annual, even the emotions. There was no question I got my extra money’s worth.
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
The Thing by Dan Slott and Andrea DiVito
Nexus by Mike Baron and Steve Rude
Marvel Premiere by David Kraft and George Perez
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars by Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck
Micronauts by Bill Mantlo and Butch Guice
Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland
What If? by Mike W. Barr, Herb Trimpe and Mike Esposito
Thor by Walt Simonson
Eightball by Dan Clowes
Cerebus: Jaka’s Story by Dave Sim and Gerhard
Iron Man #150 by by David Michelinie, John Romita, Jr. and Bob Layton
Bone by Jeff Smith
The Man of Steel by John Byrne
Fantastic Four by Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz
“Allien and How to Watch It” by John Severin
Fantastic Four Roast by Fred Hembeck and friends
The Amazing Spider-Man #25 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Marvel Two-in-One #7 by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema
The New Mutants by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod
Dark Horse Presents
Bizarre Adventures #27
Marvel Team-Up #48 by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema
Metal Men #20 by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru
The Avengers by Roy Thomas and John Buscema
Fantastic Four by Marv Wolfman and John Byrne
Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
American Flagg by Howard Chaykin
Marvel and DC Present by Chris Claremont and Walter Simonson
Batman by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
Marvel Two-in-One Annual #5 by Alan Kupperberg and Pablo Marcos
Web of Spider-Man by Louise Simonson and Greg LaRocque
Super-Villain Team-Up #12 by Bill Mantlo and Bob Hall
What If? #31 by Rich Margopoulos and Bob Budiansky
Fantastic Four by Scott Lobdell and Alan Davis
Magik by Chris Claremont and John Buscema, Sal Buscema, and Ron Frenz
Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7 by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters by Mike Grell
Avengers #202 by Jim Shooter, David Michelinie and George Pérez
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Jim Steranko
Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers by Jack Kirby
What If? #6 by Roy Thomas, Jim Craig, and Rick Hoberg
Iron Man #39 by Gerry Conway and Herb Trimpe
Stig’s Inferno by Ty Templeton
Avengers #221 by Jim Shooter, David Michelinie, and Bob Hall
Fantastic Four #176 by Roy Thomas and George Pérez
Fray by Joss Whedon and Karl Moline
Legends by John Ostrander, Len Wein, and John Byrne
Uncanny X-Men #153 by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum
Marvel Team-Up #100 by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller
Sensational She-Hulk by John Byrne