Saturday, November 13, 2010

What's Your Favorite Bronze Age Story Arc?

Doug: As we get set to begin our review of Steve Englehart's and George Perez's very fine story now known as "The Serpent Crown Affair" (Avengers #'s 141-144 and 147-149), I have been wondering which Bronze Age "long play" most resonates with our readers? Back in the days before all writing was done with the trade paperback in mind, creators often got into long tales that were very organic, yet when finished have become important stories from our youth.

Among some of those stories that we've reviewed either here or on the Two Girls... blog are the epic "Celestial Madonna" saga, "Project Pegasus" (which just finished a 6-week run yesterday on this blog), the 4-part Galactus/Silver Surfer story that ran in Fantastic Four #120-123, and the "Secret Empire" storyline from the pages of Captain America.

So here are your rules for discussion -- no less than four issues, any Marvel or DC title, and it must have been published between 1970-1980. I chose 1980 as the cut-off, because after that we saw the advent of the mini-series, which in a way was marketed toward the trade paperback. Let's keep this discussion to four-color newsprint fun.


Rip Jagger said...

If forced to pick just one, I'd have to say Englehart and Buscema's Return of the 50's Captain America four-parter is the one that has lingered longest. The blend of the Atlas continuity yet again with the then-modern stuff was fun and this story had both fun and serious aspects that really give it heft.

After that I'd pick Panther's Rage as a memorable one, as well as the late Silver Age/early Bronze Age Kree-Skrull War.

Rip Off

joe ackerman said...

Panther's Rage.

Capes on Film said...

Loved "The Korvac Saga" Avengers 167-177- and all those cameos of Marvel's greatest.

Anonymous said...

Englehart's "Nomad" story arc. Ending was a little disappointing, but overall my favorite. I know many disagree, but I even liked the Robbins' pencils.

david_b said...

Mine would HAVE to be..:

1) Avengers/Defenders War ('73)
2) Cap's Secret Empire/Nomad saga..
3) Reed and Sue's separation (although ending was disappointing..)

All had me on the edge of my seat waiting each month..

Fred W. Hill said...

I know when I first became an avid comics collector in 1973 the storyline that really got me was that initial Thanos epic in Captain Marvel, but then Starlin's next big epic, the Magus/Warlock conflict was even better.
Other great faves were the Celestial Madonna storyline in the Avengers, although at the time I could never find those Giant-Size issues so it wasn't until well over a decade later that I finally saw the Swordsman's death scene and how Iron Man & the Vision overcame apparently fatal injuries at the hands of the Legion of the Unliving.
Gerber's Headsmen/Nebulon story in Defenders was also great fun.
Art and storywise tho', I'd say the best was issues 41-50 of Master of Kung Fu by Moench and Gulacy, although I didn't read that tale until long after it came out. Fortunately it wasn't all that expensive to find all those great back issues which may never be republished in an any format unless Marvel bothers to get the rights to use the name Fu Manchu again.

J.A. Morris said...

I love all those Avengers & Captain America stories and Project Pegasus,but I'd have to say these are my sentimental favorites:

1.Defenders vs. Nebulon/Headmen;Fred Hill's right,I hope the Masterworks series gets to this story. My issues are so dogeared from multiple readings.
2.Amazing Spider-man 176-180;the last Green Goblin story for years.
3.Avengers 120-123;the Van Lunt/Zodiac saga,one of the stories I bought when I began seeking out back issues.
4.FF 211-214;they're rapidly aged by the Skrulls while they do battle with Galactus and his new herald Terrax.

I'm a bit ashamed to admit I hadn't read 'Panther's Rage' until the Masterworks collection came out recently. I'm in the middle of reading it,love it so far. I never heard of this story until I read an interview with McGregor in one of those Two Morrows magazines a few years back.

Edo Bosnar said...

I tried to restrict my choice to the story arcs I actually read and really enjoyed at the time as they were coming out (otherwise I would have just said "Panther's Rage" - but I read that after buying a stack of Jungle Action back issues in @ 1981; same with the Warlock saga), and for me it's a toss-up between that 10-issue Fantastic Four Skrull/Xander/Sphinx/Galactus story arc (FF 204-214) and the the Project Pegasus saga. Others that came into consideration are: the Dark Phoenix saga, obviously; the first story arc in the Micronauts (about the first ten issues); the amnesiac Black Widow story arc in Marvel Team-up 82-85; the Blood Money and Human Bondage story in Marvel's Tarzan (issues #15-24 I think). Your 4-issue restriction precluded consideration of any DC stories for me, since the only ones that stick in my mind from that time are a few of those annual JLA/JSA meetings which never lasted more than three issues.

teresa rollins said...

In the summer of 1978, from the issues of #241 to #245, Paul Levitz wrote "The Earthwar Saga".

So many surprises, twists and turns!

I was 9 years and was already an avid LSH fangirl. Most likely because of the numerous, distinct, strong female characters.
This "Earthwar Saga" was a turning point for the LSH (and me too).
An epic story about a suddenly grim and grown-up LSH trying to fight off (with no chance of success) a planetary wide invasion. That was one realistic parts of the story that really stuck with me. The armies of invaders were too numerous to fight off. A group of Super Heroes, a Legion even, is a drop in the bucket compared to an interstellar army of thousands of armed spaceships and millions of soldiers. That was made clear in the story.

"The Earthwar Saga" still holds up well today. The story has many adult moments of desperate, no win situations that as a 9yrs old girl I couldn't fully appreciate. A couple of decades later I read it again and found new perspectives. That's good writing.

The ending is a classic LSH ending.

Karen said...

So many good stories here, but I'm very glad that Teresa mentioned the Earthwar story from Legion, because that was a favorite of mine too! I think it has been overlooked in later years, with much more attention paid to the Great Darkness Saga, but Levitz and Jim Sherman did a great job on Earthwar.

My personal list would mostly echo other choices as well: from the beginnings of the Bronze Age, the Kree-Skrull War; The Secret Empire story from Cap; Thanos/Cosmic Cube story from Capt. Marvel; the Magus story from Warlock; Claremont/Cockrum Sentinels story and Claremont/Byrne Dark Phoenix saga from X-Men; the Celestials/Eternals storyline from Thor (although way too long!); Project:Pegasus; the Roger Stern Dr. Strange vs Dracula arc; Serpent Crown story from Avengers; Who is Scorpio? in the Defenders. There's just too many!

Doug said...

No love at all for the Bride of Ultron? Sheesh...

I, too, haven't read Panther's Rage, so I thank those who nominated it -- it will be on my to-do list.

The Legion story was during the time I was not reading new comics, so that, too, will be something to seek out.

David B, we reviewed that FF story with Reed/Sue/Namor on our earlier blog. Those were some tense times. I recall being really upset at that storyline when I was a wee lad.

I also loved the FF/Sphinx/Galactus story -- one of the last FF stories I bought before my hiatus because comics weren't "cool".

Thanks for all of the feedback -- after this being somewhat of a quiet place off and on these past couple of weeks, you all have it fired up again!


Fred W. Hill said...

The Bride of Ultron was a good one, as was the Elektra storyline, another not mentioned yet. Also deserving of mention is the Dracula transformed into a human again that closed out the Tomb of Dracula series, one of comicdom's best finales, and one of the very few in the Bronze Age to come to a satisfying close rather than being abrubtly cancelled in the middle of a story.

The Groovy Agent said...

Everything mentioned so far is definitely worth mentioning, and I'd be hard-pressed to whittle my own list down to a very small list. I'm glad someone mentioned the Defenders/Zodiac arc--that was so awesome! Omega the Unknown and Deathlok deserve some love here, too.

Someone mentioned how hard it was to come up with DC arcs. For them I would definitely suggest adding the Englehart/Rogers Batman (including the first two Simonson-drawn issues), Mike Grell's Warlord-and-Shakira-finding-their-way-back-to-Skartaris epic (ran through the 20s or so of that title), Goodwin and Simonson's Manhunter, and of course Kirby's New Gods.

joe ackerman said...

actually, yeah, Groove has a pretty good point there that I hadn't really thought of before, because I tend not to think of them as one single story arc, as they were spaced out over three seperate titles, but Jack Kirby's "Fourth World" is a pretty strong contender for the title.

& while we're with DC, what about the whole Ra's Al Ghul/Demon's Head saga by Denny O'Neil and Len Wein? or Sergio Aragones and Nick Cardy's Bat Lash, which ended without tying up, but which was definately writtem as one contiual storyline?

also, and I'm not sure if this qualifies as Bronze Age or not - I get confused over the dates - but there was that terrific little Bill Mantlo/Sal Buscema run of Marvel Team-Ups where Spidey gets transported back to the Salem witch hunts, and then has to find his way back through time to the present using Dr Doom's time machine ( can't remember the issue numbers, but the team-ups were: Scarlet Witch, the Vision, Dr. Doom, Moondragon, Killraven, and Deathlok ).

&, lastly, does Steve Gerber's 27 issue run on Howard the Duck qualify as a single arc? I'd certainly argue that it does.

Anonymous said...

Damn, this is a great thread !! The Avengers have got to win this on sheer volume alone:
Kree/Skrull war
Celestial Madonna / Origin of the Vision
Serpent Crown ( leading into Brand Corp / Hellcat)
Avengers / Defenders war
Bride of Ultron is kind of a slow burner, but if you count the whole thing ( Ant Man beating the Avengers in #161, Ultron attacking in 162, then a hiatus into the beginning of the Korvac saga and then 170 & 171) it’s a corker.
#98-100 are ruled out by your four issue minimum, but...come on...what a ride and all pencilled by BWS.
I know it came later, but I also loved the way the Wungadore story explained all the inconsistencies in Wanda & Pietro’s back story, but still left the door open for Magneto.
Champions – I loved this mag. The plotline with Darkstar, the Crimson Dynamo and the Titanium Man. Featured some early John Byrne art as well.
I don’t really remember if it was any good or not, but I thought the War of the Super Villains in Iron Man 71-77 or so was a really cool idea.
Captain Marvel vs Thanos (I particularly liked the way this was pre-saged in issues of Iron Man, the Avengers, Marvel Presents and other places. Starlin always had Thanos lurking. It kind of unfolded in several places, more like real life).
Defenders Badoon story
Shang Chi – I’m not sure how many issues it ran, might only have been 3, but.... Bretnor is remember the one? Superb art & script. Anyone who thinks Gulacy is just Steranko Lite can see me outside.
Galactus vs. the Sphinx – was that still in the Bronze Age?
Pegasus and Dark Phoenix, well, I think we should have disqualified the latter on the grounds of sheer bloody unbeatableness at the start. Project Pegasus was excellent in that it happened in a comic book which inherently lent itself to one-off stories. Whoever wrote that actually turned the need for a new guest star every issue into a positive advantage.
Elektra was 80’s.
Groovy, I’m glad you mentioned Omega. I wouldn’t put it on the list because Gerber was stabbed in the back and the finale was ruined by Steven Grant, but it could have been a corker. Also, it is just me or is the plot of the Terminator nicked from there?
I seem to remember a great little run of FF’s where the High Evolutionary fought Galactus, but haven’t read them since 1975 so you’ll have to tell me if they’re really any good.
Nick Fury vs. Hydra and then AIM.
My personal favourite, just because it was so unexpectedly nasty....the first four or five issues of Doc Strange...I mean the post-Marvel Premiere ones.....where Silver Dagger killed him and he went into that world of madness inside the Orb of Agamotto. I think Gene Colan is unassailable as the best Doc Strange artist, but Frank Brunner certainly gave him a run for his money with these issues.

dbutler16 said...

There are three that stand out for me. In no particular order:
Great Darkness Saga
Korvac Saga
Dark Phoenix Saga

OK, those are all run of the mill choices, but that's because they're great. If I think harder, maybe I'll come up with some hidden gems. For instance, I may be one of the few that really liked the Celestial Madonna arc.

Redartz said...

Quite a few great storylines here! My favorites:
Avengers/Kang/Celestial Madonna
Marshall Rogers' Detective stories; especially the "Joker Fish"
Avengers/Defenders clash

Horace said...

My favorite Bronze Age story arc is Uncanny X-Men #129-137. Today, it's referred to as "The Dark Phoenix Saga." Back then, it was just a story told over 9 issues.

One of the many things that still resonates for me are the amazing cliffhangers. A pissed-off Wolverine rising from the sewer at the end of #132. The X-Men aghast at the first sight of Dark Phoenix at the end #134. As a young reader, I was so eager for the next issue.

Horace said...

Someone posted that "The Bride of Ultron" is a slow burner. Wow. I have a complete opposite reaction.

The story starts with a memorable, surprise attack by Ant-Man on the Avengers in Avengers Mansion. Talk about slam bang!

Greg said...

My favorite is probably the Nefaria story from Avengers 164-166. Bride of Ultron is up there too. Other faves: the Defenders/ Scorpio story, Thor/ Eternals culminating in Thor #300, and Project Pegasus.

I liked the Iron Man arc with Madame Masque in the 115 or around there, and the Conan/ Belit/ Asgalun saga from around Conan 72-93 or thereabouts. Good stuff.

Regarding that Thor/ Eternals story, I don't know how well its aged, I don't actually have that arc anymore and I think the TPB's are OOP, may have to look into that sometime. I know Roy padded that thing out with some, um, extraneous material.

Fond memories of Celestial Madonna and the Avengers/ Super villain Team Up/ Namor story from Ave 154-156.

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