Friday, March 14, 2014

Face-Off: Marvel Team-Up or Marvel Two-In-One?

Karen: Of Marvel's two premiere team-up titles, which would you argue was the better book? Would you point to a particular period of that title as your reason? Or do you favor Spidey or the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing? Let's discuss these titanic team-up titles!


Fred W. Hill said...

Both series had some very good stories, some pretty awful stories, and mostly so so. Overall, tho', I think ol' blue-eyed Benji had better stories. Sure, Spidey had the highlights of the Claremont/Byrne stories, but Ben had those early Gerber issues and the later Serpent Crown and Project Pegasus tales that I think were good enough to give Two-In-One the edge. Both were generally fun but rarely rose to real greatness -- MTIO Annual #2 was one of those times.

J.A. Morris said...

Spider-Man is my favorite character in comics, but I'd say MTIO wins by a nose.

When it comes to memorable multi-part arcs, I'll take 'Project Pegasus' and 'Serpent Crown Affair' over 'The Tomorrow War' any day. And as someone who blogs about Bronze Age reprints, I'll say I have 2 MTIO reprints books to 1 MTU reprint book.

Also, Ben was always my favorite member of the FF. During the Bronze Age, if I wanted to read a Spidey story, I could pick up ASM,reprints in Marvel Tales, MTU or Spectacular Spider-Man. If I wanted to read a "Thing" story, MTIO was the only way to do that.

William Preston said...

I agree that MTIO gets the edge. Ben was a more interesting character, a guy without a secret identity who just was what he was and who always told people what he was thinking. The stories did tend to be better. Also, I really liked Ron Wilson's pencils, and that was the only place you could find them most of the time.

William said...

Lot of votes so far for Two-In-One, but I've got to give it to Marvel Team-Up. Both books were great, and I loved them both, but there was something just a little extra special about Team-Up.

Spider-Man is not only my favorite character, but he's the perfect hero to star in a team-up book. Plus the Claremont/Byrne issues were some of the best comics ever, IMHO. Which I think gives MTU the edge overall. That said, my favorite single issue of either title was probably MTIO Annual #2, which starred both Spidey and Ben (and the Avengers).

There were a lot of good multi-part arcs in MTIO as well, (my favorite being Project Pegasus), and one of my favorite single issue comics ever is MTIO #50 which features the then present day Thing traveling back in time and fighting his past (lumpy) self in another ill-fated effort to cure his Thing-ness. A really great and fun story with awesome writing and art by John Byrne. However, there was never a point where a creative team made a real and lasting impact on the TIO like Claremont and Byrne did on Team-Up.

I personally think both titles embody the spirit of the Bronze Age more than any other book of the time. Together they touched on every corner of the Marvel Universe. Eventually just about every Marvel character of the day showed up in an issue at some point. From other popular heroes like Captain America and Daredevil, to cosmic characters like Adam Warlock and the Guardians of the Galaxy, to horror and monster characters like Frankenstein, The Werewolf, and Dracula. The books also served as a great showcase and a way to introduce readers to some lesser known B (and sometimes C) characters like Black Goliath, Quasar, Captain Britain, and Luke Cage, etc.

When both titles were eventually discontinued it signaled the end of an era, (a more fun and lighthearted era) and to me comics would never quite be the same.

Anonymous said...

Really they were as enjoyable as each other and it's impossible to say which is best - besides which if you were British you had to take whichever one you could find, beggars can't be choosers. And who on earth is Aquarian - "Marvel's Latest, Greatest Super-Star" - I don't think so.

Edo Bosnar said...

Really tough call for me. I loved both titles quite a bit.
However, as much as I loved so many of the stories in MTIO (the initial run penned by Gerber, the Project Pegasus, Her space opera and Serpent Crown sagas, and tons of great one-off issues, like the super-fun #51), I'll give MTU a slight edge. And not just because of the Claremont-Byrne stories; I liked the issues that immediately preceded their run, mainly written by Bill Mantlo, and quite a few of the ones that followed, i.e., the stories written mainly by Claremont but with other artists (like that Black Widow with amnesia story in issues #82-85).

And I totally agree with everything William said in his last two paragraphs, particularly the point about the cancellation of both titles truly marking the end of an era.

Pat Henry said...

Oddly, the Thing is a more versatile character for a team-up than Spider-Man, by definition a loner type. S-M’s got a lot of star appeal and many cool powers, and that makes it a bit more of a challenge to fade him into the background as sometimes needs to happen in a team-up. The Thing is just tough, but not so tough he can’t get knocked on his can even by a middleweight.

You can pretty much drop the Thing into any story—cosmic level to comic level, sublime to the ridiculous—and he works well. As we all know, S-M gets a little out of his depth in stories of cosmic awesome. His powers are much better suited for “street level” stories.

Finally, Thing, as a member of a team, could interface much more easily into the MU-spanning story arcs, knocking heads with whatever the FF, Avengers, Defenders, etc., were doing. Bringing Spidey into those stories always had a happenstance sort of feel to them. Benjy could just be running an investigation on behalf of some team as he knocks heads with his team partner. So, a bit easier to gracefully interface and build stories around.

I liked both team-up concepts. And S-M was my favorite character. But thinking back on it, Ben was Everyman for every occasion in a way Spidey was not.

mr. oyola said...

This is like Sophie's Choice for me!

But going on the fact that after all these years I have kept and even bought more MTIO issues and only kept one MTU issue (the last one), I will grudgingly go with MTIO.

I think part of that is I felt like there were a ton of Spidey titles, ASM, PPTSSM, MTU, Marvel Tales, but for the Thing, if you weren't reading FF (and FF in the Bronze Age kinda sucks until Byrne took over), then MTIO was the place to go for Thing stories.

I would love for folks to suggest some of their favorite MTU issues - so I might look for them. Is there a collection?

Anonymous said...

I have to go with Team-Up, mainly because Spidey was in it; nothing against Ben Grimm (he's definitely my favourite of the FF), but Spidey's always been number one with me. Plus, MTIO had a lot of guest stars I didn't care about (All Winners Squad, Phantom Eagle, Scarecrow, Rom, etc.)

Mike W.

Karen said...

A very tough one for me. The Claremont/Byrne MTU are among the very best of the Bronze Age, but the Project Pegasus and Serpent Crown issues of MTIO are outstanding too. There were also many good issues mixed throughout the runs of both titles.

I think William was right -these titles really epitomize the Bronze Age in a way that some of the big-name books couldn't. The parade of guest stars really show what was in and what was out (more monsters in the early 70s, that's for sure) and have a feel all their own.

Maybe I'm leaning a little more towards MTIO...just a little bit. It's probably the MTIO Annual 2 that pushes it over the top, even though that's an anomaly, and Ben isn't really the star! The early MTIOs were pretty solid too, which I don't think can be said about those early MTUs.

Anonymous said...

Man Karen, it's like asking if you would want pie or ice cream for dessert. Being first and foremost a Spidey fan, I read more MTUs than I did MTIOs. Both books allowed you to see many of the characters that didn't have their own books or would let readers pick up certain plot points from other characters. Hydro Base in MTIO Viper and Shield, Nick Fury, Agent Sitwell in MTU. The first time we see the Vision in MTU, he's in a hat and trench coat! If I had to pick, I would of course go with Marvel Team-Up. Probably because the book had more than just Spider-Man, I think it featured a few Human Torch team-ups. Although, my most enduring memory of both books is the Black Widow and Thing. She had a single shot laser gun in a special case on her back under her costume. Ben was going to have to peel it off. Poor Ben was trying to cover his eyes while she unzipped her top.

And has been mentioned, with the Death of Adam Warlock, you got a Marvel Two In One with Spider-man teaming up with the Thing. That would be like having ice cream and pie, TOGETHER!!!!

Mr Oyola, the Marvel Essentials line collects the Marvel Team-ups in their black and white versions. They're all there with the exceptions of the SNL issue and the Red Sonja issue.

The Prowler (could have been a team-up star but doesn't play well with others).

Edo Bosnar said...

Osvaldo, on the topic of favorite MTU issues, everyone's mentioning the Claremont/Byrne material, which is indeed good - it includes probably my single favorite issue of the series, #79 (the team-up with Red Sonja).
Another personal favorite of mine is #38 (featuring the Beast), mainly for nostalgic reasions, as it's the first issue of MTU I bought off the spinner racks. However, that issue marked the beginning of the Mantlo/Sal Buscema run, which lasted a few issues after #50, and includes the whopping 6-issue time travel story (#s 41-46) that is generally a lot of fun, if I recall correctly.
Claremont also wrote some good stories in the series without Byrne on pencils: I mentioned #s 82-85 above, and there's also the Dr. Strange/Satana 2-parter just before it (#s 80-81) was pretty good as I recall, and a few other issues I'm too lazy to look up right now.

Like the Prowler noted, the Essentials volumes collect almost the first 100 issues. However, not much of this has been collected in color, except for the Marvel Team-up tpb that contains the Claremont/Byrne issues.

Anonymous said...

Please believe me when I state that I do respect everyone's opinion and believe those to be valid for everyone who has bothered to state them here.

That said, I thought that both of these titles were absolutely dreadful. Yes, there were runs when the creative teams really pulled things together and delivered. But while we remember those, let us not forget the times when Hercules towed the Island of Manhattan or every time Reed sent Ben into an incredibly dangerous situation with no backup beyond what he happened to stumble across while there.

And those issues, in my opinion, far out number the others.


Gary said...

The Thing is one of my favorites so Marvel Two-in-One hands down. I was sold on the Project Pegasus and Serpent Crown sagas as a kid. Plus Annuals 2 and 7.

mr. oyola said...

Yeah, B&W won't do it for me for certain titles - I like it for stuff like Tomb of Dracula - but wouldn't like it for MTU or MTIO.

david_b said...

Yeah, for most this would be a tough question, but not for me.

MTU. Easily.

Why..? As MOST of you regulars will know by now, my opinions are really really subjective. I tend to favor really great Silver memories and creativity, but when it comes to Bronze, I'm pretty pigeon-holed into early Bronze. I wasn't into Bronze much by the time the prices hit 40 cents, so since MTIO came later, I caught the first dozen or so issues, and that was about it. Since MTU started earlier and my love for Kane/Romita Spiderman hit it 'just right', my vote's more for MTU.

That being said, I've still got rationale besides subjective favorites. I liked the Kane/Buscema art of the first 24 issues much more than the MTIO art. It's easy to be slightly off on drawing Spidey (Sal on Spidey was alright depending on the inking..). By comparison, Ben's typically a LOT harder to have drawn right. That early Benjy/Doc Strange issue was drawn pretty terribly (issue 6 with Tuska/Esposito, I recall..)

Seriously..? Tuska drawing Ben Grimm..??

As folks here have correctly viewed comics as more a visual medium, if the main characters aren't drawn well, especially the fight scenes or facial features with the Thing, my interest isn't there.

As for personalities, you had more with Spidey than Ben. Spidey could give more the snarky, perhaps ignorant-but-funny dialogue; Ben by comparison pretty much stayed the same, and to me depended more on good art plus good chemistry with the guest star to really register. At times, the issue would be fine, but I'd always sort of wish 'Gee, it would have been even better if Reed or Johnny were around'. If Ben was there, I'd wish the rest of the FF was involved, the chemistry was SO good. I liked the early MTIO because it always had some Baxter Building scenes there somewhere.

Suffice to say, both eventually lost my interest with the distribution issues, price increases, girls, you name it.

But MTU was just more my style than MTIO.

Redartz said...

pfgavigan- I understand your less-than-enthusiastic view of the team-up books. Frequently, I viewed them as the second-tier backups to the 'real' books; Amazing and Fantastic Four. Of course, there were many stories in both titles that brought an eager smile to this face: obviously, MTIO annual 2. Also, of course, many of the stories mentioned above. Loved the Saturday Night Live! issue, and the Gerber Two-in -Ones.

The annuals actually stood out for me; Team up annual 4 with Spidey,Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist was one of those. Frank Miller had some fun with Killgrave, the Purple Man. Nice cover as well, the Trimpe artwork left a little to be desired; though...

All things considered, they were a unique and fondly-remembered element of the Bronze Age!

Doug said...

Lots of great comments today.

Edo, that Beast issue of MTU was a ton of fun, as well as the long time travel arc. Ditto to all on the Claremont/Byrne issues.

My first MTIO was the one with the Valkyrie and Executioner on the cover. Classic stuff.

I agree with comments that the art was pretty scattershot in both books, but with some real high points here and there.

To sort of support pfgavigan, if the interiors were as cool as the covers often were (well, I'll excuse the MTIO with Ben, Morbius, and the Living Eraser), both books would have been "can't miss".

And concerning MTIO Annual #2 -- I actually liked the lead-in (Avengers Annual #7) better. As others have remarked, and as Karen and I noted in our review, that book should have been a MTU Annual due to Spider-Man's role being much larger than Ben's.


Humanbelly said...

I have the whole flippin' run of MTU (well, missing issue #1, actually) and read through it about a year and a half ago. . . and I'm bound to confess that it's a seriously bumpy ride. Even the letters pages could be brutally frank about how dreadful it could sometimes be-- even early in the run. I certainly enjoyed it when it came out-- but when you read it at a stretch the glaring and dramatic shifts in editorial (and all-to-obvious marketing) direction become a distraction all their own. I've often wondered if MTIO were indeed a better title and have been tempted to pursue it. . .


Doug said...

Going back to yesterday's Bob Haney post, one of the things that could be clunky about either title was continued stories. It sometimes made no sense how or why the next guest star came aboard, nor why the previous months co-star left. I think that's why some of the continued tales like the aforementioned Project Pegasus and time travel storyline are fondly remembered - they grew somewhat organically and didn't seem to be forced (like the Tomorrow War seemed).

All that being said, the done-in-ones could be awfully formulaic...


Anonymous said...

Spidey's my favourite character but MTIO wins by a rocky orange nose!

- Mike 'there's no I in team' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Brown Bag Comics said...

I spent every month waiting with anxiety for the new Marvel Two-In-One and loving the guest stars plus Ben's constantly being abused by his fellow team members! Plus, the stories were soooooo much better - even re-reading them now is better!

Anonymous said...

There is an I in Spider-Man and Thing and ice cream and pie and Kat Dennings.

The Prowler (would not mind being the "I" in Kat Dennings).

Dan Toland said...

MTU was always higher-profile, but MTIO ranks up there as one of my all time favorite books. Ben works incredibly well with just about anyone, and Spidey could come off as pretty bland for some reason in MTU. Also, just as a personal note, MTIO #68 is the very first comic I ever bought with my own money. I was six.

Sean Budde said...

I remember, the ever lovin' blue eyed Thing had the personality, so MTIO gets the edge in my book. What's a real shame, is how writers in more recent years have so neglected to properly write that rich personality. But the latest Fantastic Four writer seems to try to be at least a little faithful to the characterization that we all know and remember so well. I've only seen the few preview pages of the first issue of the "red costume" run of issues, so i'm not in the know very much, but it seemed to be better than the death of the human torch issue, for example. I didn't even know it was the Thing in that issue, since he was in human form. Talked nothing like the Ben Grimm we grew up with in the 70's and 80's Marvel comics. And don't get me started on how Thor and Hercules talk now. Sheesh! Wotta revoltin' development! :o)

Michelle said...

Like many of you, I find this a tough choice. Two of my very favorite characters in two of my very favorite titles. Ultimately it comes down to the point that J.A. Morris made: there were lots of places you could get a Spidey story but only one where the Thing was the focus. Therefore, I vote for MTIO.

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