Sunday, February 2, 2014

Discuss: "Must Have" Marvel Collected Editions and Graphic Novels

Doug: Yesterday we asked our readers to respond with their choices for "essential" collected editions and/or graphic novels published by DC Comics. Today's query asks you to do the same drill, but from the House of Ideas. What are books you could recommend to a reader that would define your vision of Marvel Comics? What are those "essential" books - and please take the term seriously -- those books that are must-haves to understand and appreciate Marvel history and culture?


Anonymous said...

I'd say most of the early Marvel stuff is essential: the first hundred or so issues of FF, Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, Tales of Suspense/Captain America, Journey into Mystery/Thor. I'd probably add Miller's DD (and maybe O'Neill's run as well), Michelinie's Iron Man, the early Doc Strange stuff from Strange Tales, and the first 100 Conans for people who like sword and sorcery stuff.

And for a complete (if somewhat limited) overview of early Marvel stories, Marvel Saga did a pretty good job of pulling everything together, although it stopped too soon as far as I'm concerned.

Mike W.

Doc Savage said...

I'd say the first 5-6 Essential Spider-Man volumes are quintessential Marvel comics of the '60s and '70s. If someone doesn't like that,Marvel is probably not his cup of tea. Since Spider-Man meets the FF, DD, Avengers, Hulk, and pretty much everyone else, you also get an idea of the larger Marvel world to explore if you dig the Mighty Marvel Manner.

Fred W. Hill said...

I don't have that many of Marvel's various collections myself, although I do have that FF MMW #5, which certainly rates as a must have for any Marvel devotee (or at least one who doesn't have the originals!). The next two FF MMW would include the rest of Kirby's prime FF work. I already have all of Ditko's & Romita's runs on Spider-Man in various reprints & a few originals, but I think MMW's with issues from 21 through 60 contain much of the best Spidey by both of them, with several classic stories. Otherwise, I'd recommend Essential Thor volumes 2 & 3 & Dr. Strange volume 1 (or the equivalent but in color and naturally more expensive MMWs) for more of Kirby's & Ditko's greatest work. I only got one of the Conan collections but want to complete those with Barry Smith's work -- Roy Thomas' commentary is an excellent bonus. Another "must have" in my collection is Steranko's S.H.I.E.L.D., collecting his entire run on Strange Tales, but not those in the solo series.

Fred W. Hill said...

For prime Bronze Age (or late Silver Age), some of my picks would be collections with Adams' X-Men, along with Claremont's run with Cockrum & Byrne from #94 - 140. Then the Kree-Skrull War; the Avenger/Defenders clash; Captain America & The Falcon vs. the Secret Empire; The Life and Death of Captain Marvel; Warlock vs. Magus/Thanos; McGregor's Panther's Rage; Gerber's Man-Thing, Howard the Duck & Defenders; much of Wolfman & Colan's Tomb of Dracula; Miller's Daredevil; Michelenie, Romita, Jr., & Layton's Iron Man; Englehart & Perez's Serpent Crown saga in Avengers, just to name a few that I know are collected in some form or another. The best series, IMO, that I know has not been collected is Moench & Gulacy's run on Master of Kung Fu (and Moench's collaborations with Zeck & Day on the title were great too). Really some of the best comics storytelling and artwork of any age but due to legal reasons involving the use of characters owned by the estate of Sax Rohmer, you can only obtain them in the original floppies.

Humanbelly said...

Although it's rather heavy-handed and maybe hasn't aged as well as some stories, I feel like THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL's historical significance as the first mainstream Marvel GN should probably put it on the list of must-haves. And I do still return to it every once in awhile, as it's a reminder of an era when the death of a non-villain character was still considered inviolate.

Avengers MMW #1 is a big personal favorite.

As are the first three Essential Spiderman(s) (Uh. . . Spider-Men??)

Y'know, a particular GN that's just an enjoyable hoot is REVENGE OF THE LIVING MONOLITH-- which doesn't carry the usual gravity or relevance that was at first the hallmark of Marvel's Graphic Novel fare-- but it's just such a fun, thoroughly "MARVEL" outing that it earns a spot on my list.

Oh! How 'bout the DEATH OF GROO GN? The rare, sweet happy(ish) ending for everyone's favorite wanderer.


Doc Savage said...

Love Groo but he's not really Marvel since he's creator-owned and thus changed publishers.

Edo Bosnar said...

Man, until I read Fred's second comment, I thought I'd mistakenly come to the Silver Age Babies blog. Although Matt makes a really good point about Spider-man - I'd also recommend the Essentials or Masterworks or any omnibuses that collect Spidey's Lee/Ditko/Romita years in particular.

Otherwise, I think Fred covered most of the most essential material. Sticking to the '70s and '80s, I would add:
Essential Defenders 1-3 - collecting all of their best stories in my opinion. Unfortunately, I think those are out of print, and the Masterworks are taking forever to come out - it would be really cool if this new Epic line started republishing Defenders from the start.

To the above Avengers suggestions I would add: Celestial Madonna, Korvac Saga, Nights of Wundagore and Under Siege.

Other collected editions I think are absolutely essential:
Project Pegasus

Captain America: War & Remembrance (nothing beats the Stern/Byrne run in my opinion)

The tree Hulk books, Pardoned, Regression and Crossroads (which I would really like to get), that collect the last part of Mantlo's run on the title. Now all Marvel has to do is collect the initial part of his run (with all that excellent Sal Buscema art).

Thor - the omnibus or 5 visionaries/legends volumes that collect Simonson's run (I prefer the latter, didn't like the computerized recoloring in the omnibus)

Fantastic Four - same thing as above: the omnibus or visionaries books that collect Byrne's run. Although I would say the first two Byrne FF visionaries volumes really collect the absolute best of his run.

Dr. Strange - Essentials 3 & 4, which collects a big sweep of the Englehart and Stern runs, even though the latter run is still waiting for that fifth volume (or something better, preferably in color).

And Matt's right about Groo, not really Marvel.

Garett said...

Along with all the Kirby superhero stuff from the '60s-- FF, Thor, Captain America, Avengers, X-Men-- I'd add Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos, just out in color softcover.

Iron Man by Micheline/Layton/Romita Jr. My favorite work by Romita Jr, helped along by Layton's fine inks. Very good writing. Thanks to the BAB review for getting me back into this series!

Hercules! Prince of Power (HC) has the miniseries from '82 and '84, and Full Circle is the '89 follow-up. Humour and lusty adventure from Bob Layton.

Dreadstar by Starlin. I've seen some lousy reprints of Dreadstar, but this one is great, first 12 issues.

Criminal by Brubaker/Phillips. The earlier Sleeper and later Incognito and Fatale are ok, but they hit the right blend with Criminal.

It'd be interesting to put X-Men by Byrne and Cassaday side-by-side to see the differences between Bronze age and modern age comics.

Hey Doug and Karen, how about a third day of "must haves", for the non-DC/Marvel companies?

Edo Bosnar said...

By the way, since you posted an image of that Clone Genesis book, I think a much better choice would be the Original Clone Saga - not that I think the clone saga as such is vitally important, but that newer book has twice the page count, with a big chunk of ASM and probably the best arc in Mantlo's run on Spectacular SM, i.e., the Carrion story.

Ray Tomczak said...

The Essential books really are just what they say on the label. Some may lament the lack of color, but where else are you going to be able to buy the entire Lee/Kirby FF run for under a hundred bucks. In addition to the ones already mentioned, I heartily recommend Essential Howard the Duck, featuring great stories by Steve Gerber and art mostly by Gene Colan. Colan's art looks really great in black and white, by the way.

Humanbelly said...

Ah, you're right, Matt. I guess Groo could at best be considered "Marvel at That Time". I'm glad they saw fit to keep his title going for so long, though-- and to give him a shot at a graphic novel.

Boy, we're starting to cast an impossibly wide net w/ this thread, though. It's kind of becoming an every-good-run of every title collection might be considered a must-have. Do we have any chance of something more like a concensus?

(Hmm-- did anyone mention the Essential All-New X-Men?)


Anonymous said...

I would start with Spider-Man, see how they liked that and then go from there to the Fantastic Four and The Avengers. Then Daredevil, Thor and Iron Man, mix in some Captain America.....oh, wait, that was how I started in comics.

Experience says if something worked once, it will work again. But that's how I would introduce someone to Marvel.

Quick Essentials question. I have Marvel Comics The Essential Avengers Vol 1, about an inch thick. I also purchased the first six Marvel's Essentials Avengers Vol 1-6. That volume one collects the same issues as my first one yet the second one is almost twice as thick as the first. Did they change something?

The Prowler (OMAHA! OMAHA! OMA-oh why bother........)

Doc Savage said...

I know they rejiggered the contents of some Essentials volumes but don't know specifics. The later editions tend to be thicker and more likely to include issues of othe titles the Essential character showed up in.

Teresa said...

I went on a Marvel Essentials binge. Here is what I read:

1-5 FF Essentials and found it to be a bit of a slog. Some of it was so crazy. The Sub Mariner is a Hollywood guy. Wowzer.

1-3 Marvel Two in One is a better representation of the FF. I'm not trying to be snarky. I think Ben Grimm's perspective lends some sanity to the FF.

1-6 Avengers Essentials are a better representation than FF of the Marvel Universe. The early stories are crude, but they have heart. The group really feels like a family by #6.

Defenders Essentials 1-5 is a great follow up to Avengers. It shows that maturation of the MU. All the universe sharing really shines in the Defenders.
The Defenders vs. Avengers is still one of the better fight/team ups.

William said...

This is a tough one. If I started listing Marvel collected editions that I think are "Must Haves", it would be like a 100 books or more.

The first 5-10 volumes of most Marvel Masterworks, followed by dozens of TPBs and various HC editions. It's just too much to list.

Doug said...

I agree that the net got cast pretty wide on this post, as well as on Saturday's.

Edo, I put the Clone Genesis cover up because that's the copy that I have. The book you reference sounds better to me, as I did enjoy those Peter Parker issues. I am still hoping that someday we'll get a color version of "Peter Parker Classic" as we have with other Bronze Age series.

Concerning the Essentials, and I've made this comment before, for me the volumes where a Silver Age series really hit its groove seem to be the Third. Look it up -- ASM, FF, Avengers, Hulk, X-Men... any of those books (again, for my money) "feel" like my best memories once the FF went cosmic, the Avengers were under Thomas and Buscema/Palmer, Spidey's cast rounded out under Romita, etc. I'm not at all denigrating the formative years, but many will admit that those early stories - for any character - can be a bit clunky. The polish comes about two year in, it seems.

So, if I just wanted to use the Marvel Masterworks as a reference point, I'd ask someone to read the volumes that include the first Surfer/Galactus story, followed by the intro. of the Black Panther. I'd suggest the Avengers volume that would reprint the Masters of Evil storyline that leads into #'s 57-58, which leads into the YJ/Wedding story. Over at ASM, if there's a volume that includes ASM #'s 39-40 and then on up to around #50, that would be good stuff.

Bronze Age? Some have already mentioned the Celestial Madonna, the Avengers/Defenders War, the Kree/Skrull War, the Death of the Stacys tpb, etc. I'd say the three volumes of the Marvel Firsts: the 1970s would definitely be essential reading if one wanted to get their feet wet in Bronze Marvel.

Fun topic -- I'd hoped there would be more conversation, but I agree that once this got into huge spanning suggestions the potential for finite conversation seemed lost.

This isn't easy, you know!



Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, just as I would love it if Marvel restarted the Defenders in a color Epic line, I would similarly love an Epic line that reprinted Peter Parker from the start.

Interesting point about Essentials or Masterworks, i.e., not reading them in order but immediately jumping to the "good stuff." I would agree that's the best way to go with the FF and Avengers, etc., but not Spider-man. I'm not dissing the Romita years, as those are outstanding stories, but I think those first roughly 40 issues that Ditko worked on are no less worthy in terms of their importance and overall quality.
On a related note, I'd say the same applies to Dr. Strange - you should read the initial run with Ditko's art and then just skip ahead to the early '70s and the Englehart run.

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