Saturday, March 19, 2016

Discuss: Team-Up Covers

Doug: I have two things to say about team-up books, and then you can run with it in whichever direction you please. First, the interiors were rarely as exciting as the potential of the covers. Second, most of these stories don't "hold up" to the scrutiny of a middle-aged reader. A 10-year old's eyes? You betcha. I loved DD and the Black Widow -- sort of an odd match to team them with the Thing, but still high ratings on my cool-o-meter. And the Marvel Team-Up cover? The Ani-Men are pretty dopey in every incarnation and appearance I've ever read... But that's a good-looking cover!

But all seen through the eyes of a man two generations removed? Not so much. Go.


Rip Jagger said...

Team-up comics had the wonderful virtue of being (most of the time anyway) continuity free.

Whatever Spidey was up to in his other titles in MTU he was always free to interact with the co-star of the month in an adventure which often put him in environments which were not especially conducive to web-slinging. Some of it worked and some of it didn't, but you could count on the fact that the next issue would be different again.

Marvel Two-In-One was a bit different, driven by the lovely character of Ben Grimm, this very public hero often had stories that continued but always felt of a piece and were able to run the gamut of the Marvel Universe.

On the DC side there was The Brave and the Bold, which for a very long time was my favorite Bat-comic. The reason was simple, Bob Haney's distinctive take on what passed for continuity in DCU worked on its own if nowhere else and made for some dandy adventures.

Team up books put heroes in new places and even times and forced them to interact. With Spidey it sometimes felt forced, but with the Thing hardly ever.

Rip Off

Redartz said...

Overall I agree with you, Doug- the covers were often the best part of the book, and the stories do lose a bit after all these years. Picked up a copy of Team-Up #20 at a flea market awhile back, fondly recalling it as an early purchase in my youth. Still a sharp cover, but the story was a bit lackluster (Stegron and dinosaurs on Broadway; youthful Redartz loved it but not so much now).

A couple of exceptions, though: Claremont's run on Marvel Team-Up, and Gerber's on 2-in-1. Now those were some Team-Ups...

Anonymous said...

For me one of the most memorable team-up covers was Marvel Two-In-One: The Thing And Warlock, dated May 1980, where Warlock's hand emerges, Carrie-like, from his grave. I remember the cover, I had the comic...but I don't recall a single thing about the story.

William said...

Personally, I'm a really big fan of the various Team-Up books. Yes, many of them were hit or miss, but overall they are some of my best memories of comics reading from the good old Bronze-Age. In fact, the first back issue I ever bought at a comic store was Marvel Team-Up #13 (Spider-Man and Captain America vs. Grey Gargoyle).

And one of my all-time favorite runs of any comic ever were the Claremont/Byrne Marvel Team-Ups. I still remember buying many of those issues off the rack at my local convenience store. And I still have all the original issues, plus the recent TPB.

And let us not forget the recently discussed MTU 4-parter with Spider-Man, Black Widow, Nick Fury, and Shang Chi going up against Viper, Boomerang, and the Silver Samurai. Oh man, it just doesn't get any better than that.

And then there's Marvel Two-In-One. Some great stories there as well, like "Project Pegasus", and Annual #2 which featured the second part of a story begun in Avengers Annual #7 where the Avengers battle Thanos, with some help from Spidey and Ben, (and a doomed Adam Warlock). Still one of the best comics ever written (and drawn), IMHO.

And another very memorable, (and favorite) comic of mine is the awesome Marvel Two-In-One #50 (written and drawn by John Byrne), in which The Thing goes back in time and fights his younger self in order to try and cure his "Thingness". That one is definitely on my Top 10 list of all-time great one-and-done issues.

So IMO, there is a ton of gold to mined in the many different team-up books that (to me) defined the Bronze-Age.

And don't even get me started on "The Brave and the Bold" and "DC Comics Presents". Whew! Maybe I'll post again later.

Doug said...

I agree with the loving sentiments above that the team-up books are a fond part of my Bronze Age memories. And yes -- there are many a'memorable story throughout the runs of the four major team-up titles (MTIO, MTU, B&B, and DCCPresents). But I'll stand by my posit that there are also many of these tales that, like Redartz said, don't look as appealing to the 50-year old eyeballs as they did when we were kids. Totally on board with few things being cooler than the prospects of one of our favorite heroes tangling or teaming with some great character from the Marvel or DC Universes. But man -- the execution could just be off.

I'm thinking of the Cotton Mather 4-parter we reran in January. And... Hercules pulling the island of Manhattan.

So, yes, thankfully we have Project Pegasus and the Claremont/Byrne run to smile about.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I always liked the team-up books too and, as mentioned, some of them hold up and some don't. Haney's Brave & Bold stuff can be a slog to get through for me these days. (Though he did have the odd gem, like the Creeper team-up and some of the Deadman stories; maybe the artists had a bigger hand in those stories?)

Mike Wilson

Edo Bosnar said...

I'm definitely with William and Rip on this one: I loved the various team-up books and some of my fondest comics-reading memories involved stories from team-up titles. Sure, there some duds in there (but then again, that's true of almost any ongoing title), but when they were good they were often firing-on-all-cylinders awesome.
I've also found that most of those stories I liked so much did not lose their luster when I re-read them as a middle-aged guy. William mentioned quite a few of my favorites, and since Colin brought up that non-team-up with Warlock in Marvel 2-in-1, I'll just add that that was the last chapter in a thoroughly enjoyable 3-parter that was followed by an equally awesome 3-parter revolving around the Serpent Crown.
And I'll pick up where he left off with Brave & the Bold and DC Comics Presents: for the former, there's the single best issue of the series and one of the best Batman stories ever, in #197 (Earth 2 Batman marries Catwoman), and the great team-ups with Earth 2 Robin and later Huntress and so many other fun stories, usually with art by the amazing Jim Aparo.
In DC Comics Presents, there were quite a few really good issues - a few of my favorites:
#s 1-2, with the Flash
#3, with Adam Strange
#16, with Black Lightning
#24, with Deadman
#s 27-29, space opera with Martian Manhunter, Supergirl and the Spectre
#36, with Starman (Prince Gavyn)
#59, with the Legion of Substitute Heroes and Ambush Bug (obviously, a rather comical story)
#61, with Omac (awesome art by Perez as well)
Annuals #1 and 2, with Earth 2 Superman and Superwoman respectively.
I'm sure there's some more, but that's all I can think of now.

Anonymous said...

Marvel Two-In One #1, with the Thing squaring off against the Man-thing.
If you saw that on the spinner-rack, how would you even dare not to buy it? How would you even dare thinking about not buying it?!
It's twenty-five cents, man!

Doug said...

It's interesting, because in tomorrow's review of Secret Society of Super-Villains #8 I remark that the book held up great due mostly to my expectations of it. I anticipated a "Bronze Age DC" and I got it -- and loved it. The memories I had of the book as a kid stayed strong and I read it again fondly.

So does this belie a prejudice toward Bronze Age Marvels and DCs on my part? Do I accept and appreciate a Bob Haney B&B comic for "what it is", while feeling a Bill Mantlo (for example) team-up at Marvel now seems quaint or even a bit silly? Because I'm thinking if it was Superman towing Manhattan I wouldn't think anything of it; Hercules, uhhhhh...

Maybe I need to go lie on someone's couch and expound on these emotions.


Doug said...

Not tomorrow's review. Duh. Today is Saturday. It will run Monday.

Tomorrow we'll have another post on the upcoming Tarzan flick.

M.P. and others -- don't get me wrong here. Yes, I would have snatched up MTIO #1 and probably most others through the first 30 issues or so. Same thing with MTU. But I've re-read several of each over the adult years, and they are just as not as good to me now as say, an Avengers from the 1970s or a Claremont/Byrne/Austin X-Men mag. So yeah -- I loved these when I was 10-12 years old. And to be honest it's not like I'm happy about this now.


Anonymous said...

I was just horsing around, Doug. :)

Doug said...

Oh, no big deal M.P. I didn't take it any other way. You're right, and that's sort of my point: the covers were beacons drawing me straight to the spinner rack like a tractor beam. And again, when I got home I had a blast. I just wish I still felt that way about some of these books (like MTU #20 that Redartz referenced above).


Redartz said...

I know what you mean,Doug. Maybe enjoying certain books like these is kind of a gestalt thing. It's admiring a nice cover, leafing through the story lightly. Smiling at the ads - Hostess ads and house ads. Feeling the paper, smelling the newsprint (I presume; never knew as I have no sense of smell). Letting the whole experience take you back, briefly, to those long gone days of youth and leisure time...

And yes, M.P., I'd grab that 2-in-1 in a second!

Doug said...

So in the interest of putting my money where my mouth is, tonight I grabbed a couple of Essentials from my shelves: Marvel Two-In-One and the Defenders, vol. 2. Having previously read MTIO #s 2, 4-5 for this blog, I decided to read #s 1, 3 (the cover is on the main page of this post), and 7 (we did a "This Cover Made Me Buy This Book" awhile ago on this one) -- the epilogue to #7 was in Defenders #20. All stories were written by Steve Gerber.

You know what? At least what I read was pretty good and "held up". But what I was really struck with was the existence of the Steve Gerberverse. I mean, his Man-Thing stuff served as the backbone for MTIO #1, which would eventually lead into an Iron Man Annual that Karen and I reviewed a few years ago. That IM book featured the Man-Thing and the Molecule Man, just as MTIO #1 did.

MTIO #3 was just a way for Gerber to work DD into a team-up with the Thing, but really using plot points from the DD regular book which he was writing concurrently. The Thing was more or less just a vehicle to allow DD to fight the baddies (mainly Nekra) he was fighting over in his own book.

I skipped #s 4 and 5, but let's face it - if Gerber didn't know he was going to do the Guardians of the Galaxy feature in Marvel Presents, then MTIO #5 must have been his audition.

MTIO #7 was really a Defenders story, as Dr. Strange was a holdover guest-star from MTIO #6 (I skipped this one because I wasn't feeling the George Tuska art) and Valkyrie was the featured guest against the Enchantress and the Executioner. This issue was all about Val's origin, and segued right back to Gerber's Defenders mag -- where the Thing guested in the 20th issue.

So this particular batch of stories was pretty good, and as I've said all neatly tied together. But I thumbed through the rest of the MTIO Essentials, and one thing I noticed was how uneven the art was. And most of the time it's due to the inkers.

I will continue my explorations later, as I have the first MTU Essential, too.


Anonymous said...

That's an interesting point, Doug, about the Steve Gerberverse. Anything could happen there, up to and including talking ducks.
Apparently an area in the Florida everglades was THE NEXUS OF ALL REALITIES, and the universe in it's own imponderable way appointed a mindless swamp-monster as it's guardian.
Great comics ensued. The Man-thing and Molecule Man, as well as Ben Grimm, seemed to have an interwoven destiny. Maybe the Man-thing was put there by cosmic forces to keep the Molecule Man under control. And Ben Grimm was there because, well, Man-thing was pretty dumb and they needed somebody there to start a fight.
As to how the talking duck fits in, I have no idea.

david_b said...

Doug, agreed on the early MTIO.. I did like ish 4 and 5 with Cap and ol' Benjie, but it was more due to Sal Buscema's Cap art than anything..

My fav cover will always be the one mentioned earlier by William, also one of my first ones..,

MTU 13 with Spidey and Cap. Great Kane art, and one of the most dynamic Bronze team-up covers ever done. Love Cap's intensity.

I liked the team-up books when they remembered to keep an on-going storyline wholly-in-the-title, like the midshoreman guy in ish 13.., it would have brought a nice added happenstance identity to the team-up genre if they had a continuing character for those books, somehow getting into a panel or two on a regular basis.

I kept with MTU up through ish 23/24 due to the great art and stories, but MTIO didn't hold my attention as much, primarily due to both what Doug mentioned on uneven art, and how badly some guys drew Ben Grimm. It's not a very easy task at all, but if it starts to appear rushed and you start noticing a trend towards disappointing art each issue, my quarter frankly went elsewhere (Hello, '80s WCA..).

As for MTIO 3, I was quite into the Geberverse and the DD/BW book with the entire Black Spectre arc; back in the day I recall enjoying the cross-over aspect of it. Looking at it now, I didn't find it really adding much nor furthering any plotline other than perhaps Gerber broadening the appeal of Mandrill and Nekra from their initial Shanna origins which he started.

Martinex1 said...

Regarding team ups in general, I have to say that as a kid there was a completely emotional reaction when they finally showed up on my local drugstore's comic rack. They weren't there from the beginning, and I was just enthralled by the idea. I always was mesmerized simply by who's heads would show up in the corner box and what their logos looked like, particularly if they did not have a title of their own.

I've read some MTIO recently and I feel the early chapters and much of the middle of the series holds up very well. I think often Ben was written really well, and at the time it was fair that he would interact with so many of Marvel's best, not to mention that it made sense that the Baxter Building would be a place to meet. That foundation helped the series. But in general the writing was pretty solid and it seemed really like a Ben solo book in the sense that they developed his character, created a supporting cast, etc. Spidey didn't have that luxury in MTU. MTIO was for me a companion solo book to FF in the same way Captain America was to Avengers. The last 20 or so issues of the series however went downhill fast, and I also was not a fan of the following Thing series.

Gerber, out of all of the early 70s writers, really took advantage of the freedom they gave wiiters at the time. From MTIO to Defenders, to Howard to Omega, he really created worlds that has a consistently strange sensibility. I did not always like its meandering mysterious nature, but I give him a ton of credit now for pushing the boundaries. It will be interesting if the Nexus of Realities ever shows up in Marvel films, perhaps Dr. Strange somewhere down the line.

dbutler16 said...

I have to say, I still love team-up books. Especially Marvel Two-in-One, but to me, there's no such thing as a bad team-up book...almost

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