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 had a few particular weaknesses when I was a kid, and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7 hit a bunch of them. I got a geeky thrill from team-up titles, I felt like I was getting something big and important when I bought one of Marvel’s Annuals (double-sized editions of regular titles that typically arrived in the summer months, presumably when young fans both had more spending money and more time to kill), and I had an unyielding affection for Benjamin J. Grimm, better known as the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing. On top of it, the issue had an entirely ludicrous premise that drew together a bevy of terrifically strong superheroes. Years later, a friend of mine would jokingly complain about a stretch of Dave Sim’s Cerebus that there was “not enough fightin’.” I should have given him this juicy slab of comic.
The issue begins with Ben posing for his blind sculptress girlfriend, Alicia Masters. This task is interrupted by the sudden appearance of a previously-unseen extra-terrestrial, or as Ben puts is, “HOLY COW! SOME CRAZY ALIEN JUST POPPED UP OUTTA NOWHERE!” This spindly fellow gets right to the point, essentially introducing himself as the Don King of Marvel Universe.
He’s the advance man for a muscle-bound alien known as the Champion, who apparently spans the universe looking for potential pugilists to face off against him in the ring. Naturally, the Manhattan of Marvel, well-stocked with gargantuan heroes who can lift city buses without breaking a sweat, is a prime recruiting ground. After snapping up the Thing, the purple promoters continues on his round, eventually bringing a mighty squad to an interstellar boxing gym.
For the uninitiated, here’s the roster, left to right: Alpha Flight’s Sasquatch, Thor, Doc Samson, Wonder Man, the X-Men’s Colossus, the Hulk, our pal the Thing, and Namor the Sub-Mariner. Anyone with a few well-worn issues of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe knows these bruisers are about a strong as they come in the house of ideas that Stan and Jack built.
Following the trajectory of countless boxing movies, writer Tom DeFalco and artist Ron Wilson devote the next batch of pages to the mountainous Marvel musclemen going through their paces with their runty, space alien trainers.
Getting strong now. Won’t be long now.
The number of contenders gets somewhat pared down during this process, sometimes because they just don’t seem up to the challenge (poor Doc Samson gets knocked out by the first gym equipment he’s tested against) or because of attitude problems (Namor petulantly decrees he won’t stoop to participating in such a low endeavor).
Before long, fight day arrives, and the heroes are transported to Madison Square Garden, where they’ll put forth their pugilistic prowess before a sell-out crowd. They are decked out in the uniforms of the sport, but that doesn’t mean some other parts of their normal ensemble aren’t part of the overall look.
One by one, the heroes are bested by the Champion, though many of them lose because they’re apparently incapable of following basic rules (Thor tries to use his hammer, Hulk punches his gloves off to go with the bare-knuckle method, Wonder Man tears up the canvas of the ring for some perplexing reason). It finally comes down to the Thing.
Ben is literally rocky, and like the fictional boxer of the same name, his bout against the champion is destined to end in defeat. Sort of. Though the Champion clearly bests the Thing, our hero drags himself across the canvas to deliver his version of the Raging Bull “You never got me down, Ray” boast.
The Champion still claims his belt, but he acknowledges that Ben has a stout, unconquerable heart. After a few words of praise, he vanishes, leaving Ben and his cohorts to mill about the ring. There’s also the indication that the injuries sustained by the Thing won’t heal quickly, a circumstance that spills over into at least one issue of Marvel Two-in-One involving his fellow heroes trying to preserve a little peace and quiet as he recuperates in a hospital room.
Later, when I was more concerned with supposedly cool comics, this is one of those issues that I would roll my eyes over when I flipped past it in the collection. I was too busy convincing myself that I needed to only acknowledge those comics that had a veneer of higher artistry to them. The younger version of me understood that sometimes a big batch unlikely aliens and big-time fighting was what a comic really needed. That opinion seems more sensible with every ponderous, self-important superhero story I encounter.
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