Doug: You know the drill...
Martinex1: It’s yet again time for “If I Had A Buck”, the spending game we play here on the Bronze Age Babies site. If you, with a small amount of money in your pocket, enter an imaginary comic store that has only nine comics on the rack, what would you buy and why? Feel free to talk about the specific comics, the covers, the series, the writers, the artists, the characters, the motif, or anything else that catches your fancy.
The theme this time around is Marvel comics based on licensed properties. Marvel has had a long, varied, and complex history of producing comics based on other companies’ trend setting and creative assets. Over the course of decades, it is surprising just how many licensing ventures Marvel has embarked on. Novels and television shows and toys and movies and celebrities have all been represented in four color grandeur under the Marvel banner. The list includes but is not limited to: Conan, Gullivar Jones, Elric, John Carter, Tarzan, Soloman Kane, The Man From Atlantis, The Wizard of Oz, Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Logan’s Run, Star Wars, KISS, Star Trek, Alf, Battlestar Galactica, Indiana Jones, James Bond, G.I. Joe, Barbie, Muppets, Robocop, and countless others.
Today the shop has comics with characters that were licensed that also tied directly into the Marvel Universe. To my knowledge, series like Star Wars existed in their own universe; Luke Skywalker never fought Kang or teamed up with the Starjammers. Likewise, the Mandrill, Red Ghost, and the Gibbon never ended up on The Planet of the Apes. And perhaps surprisingly Captain America, S.H.I.E.L.D, and the Black Widow (nor any other Marvel character) showed up in G.I. Joe. But many other licensed characters interacted freely and openly with the Marvel superheroes to the point of being part of a shared universe. That caused some headaches for the publisher later, particularly for reprints starring a character for which the license was no longer held. But back in the late 70’s and early 80’s it was common to see the spandex crew interacting with lifesize toys, movie creatures, and logo baring entities. The comics and covers below demonstrate that interaction very clearly.
Here are the comics to consider with some of the details around the specific titles and issues. Have fun, share your thoughts, and pray for the day that Iron Man takes his armor war to Boba Fett and the Stormtroopers!
MICRONAUTS #20 Guest Starring Ant-Man. Aug 1980. $0.40. Cover (one of my favorites of all time) by Michael Golden. Written by Bill Mantlo. Interior art by Pat Broderick and Armando Gill. The warriors from Innerspace find themselves battling mutated bugs and a mutated Bug in a suburban grocery store. Scott Lang makes an early appearance and puts his spring boots to use. Silver age in its feel; far ranging in its appeal! Fits all sizes!
The Micronauts, based on the Mego toyline, would go on to meet many Marvel characters in their career including starring alongside the X Men in a 4 issue limited series. The characters that were based on the action figures such as Acroyear, Baron Karza, and Biotron went on to appear in Image and Devil’s Due comics when those companies held the licenses. Meanwhile, Commander Arcturus Rann, Marionette, and Bug continued on in the Marvel Universe as the Microns.
TEAM AMERICA #9 Guest Starring Iron Man. Feb 1983. $0.60. Cover by Dave Simons. Written by Bill Mantlo (you will see a lot of him in this post). Interior art by Mark Bright and Vince Colletta. The motorcycle team and the mysterious Marauder face Iron Man In what is surely some great misunderstanding! Putting pedal to the metal!
The Team America toyline created by Ideal was a revamp of Evel Knievel’s cycles and figures following some legal trouble. The rather bland and archetypal color coded team would later meet Ghost Rider and Captain America. Most astonishingly they were revealed to be mutants (on an off day for Cerebro I assume). And later Honcho, Reddy, Wulf, Wrench, and Cowboy teamed with the Thing (yes, Ben Grimm) as the Thunderiders, but Ben quit before it was well known. Phew!
ROM #18 Guest Starring the X-Men. May 1981. $0.50. Cover by Frank Miller and Terry Austin. Written by Bill Mantlo. Interior art by Sal Buscema and Al Milgrom. Creep fest galore as Hybrid, an offspring of a Dire Wraith and a human, wreaks havoc on a Virginia farm community. The all new all different crew show up because a new mutant was detected (there is a lot of that going around). The spacefaring toaster has his hands full and his neutralizer charged. Galactic!
ROM was a lowly reviewed toy in Time Magazine for its inarticulation and limited LED attributes. But under Mantlo’s and Buscema’s guidance, the Marvel series lasted a whopping 75 issues and featured some horror and suspense styling as the Galadorian finished a long standing battle with his evil shape shifting enemies. The Spaceknight teamed up with the likes of Jack of Hearts, Power Man and Iron Fist, Torpedo, Nova, and the ever side kicking Rick Jones over the course of his career.
SHOGUN WARRIORS #20 Guest Starring the Fantastic Four. Sept 1980. $0.50. Cover by Herb Trimpe. Written by Doug Moench with interior art by Trimpe. The giant robots reach the finale of their series. Karen and Doug had reviewed their penultimate chapter previously on the BAB site, and this story continues the tale. If a giant robot falls in the city, can you hear the recyclers stripping the copper parts? Electric!
The giant 24-inch Shogun Warrior toys by Mattel were fairly short lived on the market. It didn’t help that there was controversy around children getting hurt by toy projectiles and small parts. The Warriors launched their spring loaded hands and fists to take out enemies.
HUMAN FLY #2 Guest Starring Ghost Rider. Oct 1977. $0.35. Cover by Carmen Infantino and Al Milgrom. Written by Bill Mantlo. Interior art by Infantino and Dan Green. In a rigged motorcycle race across the desert, Johnny Blaze and the mysterious Human Fly have to outwit and outlast a scheming promoter. Flaming skulls and amazing stunts the Marvel way!
The Human Fly was a fictional embellishment of real life stuntman Rick Rojatt, who once appeared at the Marvel offices in full costume. And that costume sure was fantastic and one of the better designs of the era with its striking red and white contrast. Rojatt was known for jumping 27 buses on a super charged Harley, besting an Evel Knievel record. The comic character was an aerialist who had a large amount of his skeleton replaced with steel bones following a car accident; this allowed him to perform great feats and fight for the underprivileged while being pursued by an investigator intent on knowing his identity.
GODZILLA #23 Guest Starring the Avengers. June 1979. $0.40. Cover by Herb Trimpe and Dan Green. Written by Doug Moench. Interior art by Trimpe and Green. The king of the monsters is back to full size and is running amok in New York City. Can the combined might of the FF and Avengers stop the behemoth in his own book? Can Thor withstand the creature’s atomic breath? Can Dum Dum Dugan keep his hat on? Answers to all that and more, true believers!
The Marvel version of the great movie monster had some quirky storylines and plot beats in its run, including the creature being reduced to the size of a canary and then growing back to its towering self over the course of many issues. One of the most hilarious scenes ever in comic book history is when Godzilla at human size is disguised in a trenchcoat and fedora. I kid you not! The series played on a fugitive theme with a sympathetic Dum Dum Dugan doggedly pursuing the creature.The art was actually quite good throughout from my recollection. But it is rumored Toho increased the licensing fee so Marvel ended the series, but not before Godzilla battled the Champions, Fantastic Four, S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Avengers while Spidey snapped some pictures for the Bugle.
NFL SUPERPRO #1 Guest Starring Spider Man. Oct 1991. $1.00. Cover by Ron Frenz and Joe Sinnott. Written by Fabian Nicieza. Interior art by Jose Delbo and Mike DeCarlo. The hard hitting 1st Issue of NFL Superpro! Nuff Said!
Okay… it is not enough said. The hero of the story is a football player who suffers a knee injury, but gains super powers as the result of exposure to rare NFL memorabilia and chemicals burning in a fire. That combined with a supersuit designed to protect running backs and we may have the most convoluted and bizarre introduction of a character ever. And believe me that I am not even getting into the nuances of his origin story which include a genius scientist NFL fan, a child saved from a fall, and a band of thieves determined to cash in on sports collectibles (but who inexplicably set them all on fire). Hard to believe this debacle lasted 12 issues with a guest appearance by Captain America along the way. Buy the first issue for the unintended humor value as the NFL superhero teams up with a Marvel icon, but be aware that there is a risk of concussion.
MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #21 With Doc Savage. Nov 1976. $0.30. Cover by Ron Wilson and Joe Sinnott. Written by Bill Mantlo. Interior art by Wilson and Pablo Marcos. The Man of Bronze teams with the Thing in a battle across eras with Blacksun, the living black hole! They will pound you to a pulp!
The adventurous hero from the 30’s had his own eight issue series with Marvel in the early 70’s and this was his first crossover; he also appeared in Marvel magazines. The art in this issue is solid and the split page approach to the different timelines is clever. Clark Savage Jr’s character and intellect are fairly well on display here in the Marvel mold. The villain’s name may be a nice nod to the pulp baddy John Sunlight; and Blacksun (Thomas Lightner) would go on to play a pivotal role in the Project Pegasus Saga as the Nth Man. Unfortunately, Doc has had a spotty comic history with additional stints at Gold Key, DC, Millenium, Dark Horse, and Dynamite.
TRANSFORMERS #3 Guest Starring Spider Man. Jan 1985. $0.75. Cover by Mike Zeck. Written by Jim Salicrup. Interior art by Frank Springer and Kim De Mulder. Optimus Prime! Autobots! Peter Parker in a new disguise! Until the Skrulls and Decepticons team up to make a BJ and the Bear movie, make mine Marvel!
This 4-issue limited series based on the Hasbro line of toys was so popular that it became an ongoing that lasted 80 issues. And from what I understand the weekly Marvel UK series ran more than 300 issues. As far as I can tell, this Spider-Man one shot may be the robot’s only direct link to the Marvel Universe and hit newsstands about eight months after Spidey’s black costume debut. I found it interesting that some of the ideas and names, including the human character’s surname Witwicky, made it into the Transformers feature film.