Thursday, March 24, 2016

If I Had a Buck... Marvel Limited Series

Martinex1: Back in the early to mid ‘80’s, Marvel Comics explored a short-run comic series format that pandered to the growing comic shop market and the eager fan base.   Following Contest of Champions, the Marvel Limited Series format skyrocketed and before you could shout, “Holy Hannah!” everybody but Rick Jones had their own short series.  

The quality of the books varied, but the exploration of second and third rate heroes continued in the hope that fringe favorites would become true headliners.  That was the case for characters like Wolverine and the Punisher.   And the idea of short 4 issue arcs and runs continues today.  One pitfall is that this trend also finalized the demise of classic titles like Marvel Premiere, Marvel Presents, and Marvel Spotlight. 
So the $1 Challenge today consists of some of those long ago titles from the age of big hair and parachute pants.   Share your thoughts on your picks and pans. Anything worth reading?  Or is it all for the recycle bin?

One final note:  In light of the escalating prices of this time, I am initiating the "Quarter Bin Rule."  All of these comics are four-for-a-dollar.   Don't pay more to explore!                                                                        


ColinBray said...

Early Marvel Limited Series were exotic catches in the UK, only available (in my area, at least) through specialty comic shops. That made them seem more important, somehow, a real changing of the guard.

I devoured and enjoyed West Coast Avengers, not realising the horror that was to come in the ongoing series. I enjoyed Vision and Scarlet Witch too, although on re-reading later I now think the characters were too rooted in The Avengers to work outside the team.

As for the other series, I have several in the 'to read' boxes. So for the Challenge I'll go for:

Fallen Angels - didn't know this existed before now

Cloak and Dagger - so 80s...

Contest of Champions - looks like a lot of fun)

Iceman - such a bright and breezy cover

One more note - Limited Series were often a chance to see creators trying out different characters. I mean, Barry Windsor-Smith on Machine Man?!?

Redartz said...

Martinex1- Fine choice for a "Had a Buck" post! Thanks for giving us the quarter bin option here; actually I've seen some of these in the discount boxes...
Also you make a good point about the fates of the tryout titles. Never really put 2 and 2 together on that, but yes, Marvel Premiere did finish up about the time these series started appearing. A shame; it was an interesting title that epitomized the Bronze age tendency to 'throw 'em all against the wall and see what sticks'. Legion of Monsters, anyone?

Ok, purchases: Hercules (heard many positive comments about this series, but have never read it).
Cloak and Dagger- a personal favorite; really enjoyed their appearances in Mantlo's Spectacular Spider-Man run.
Rawhide Kid- yeah, let's try something different...
Nightcrawler- another of my favorite characters in a series I've never read. Love these quarter boxes, a chance to risk a few cents on an unfamiliar read. Say, maybe I need to revisit those discount boxes for real...

dbutler16 said...

Yeah, everybody and his brother had a miniseries back in 1984. Even Iceman, who really at that point hadn't done much of anything in comics in a while. Of course, I bought his miniseries because he was an ex-X-Man!

I loved then, and still love, Contest of the Champions. I loved the Olympic theme, and I loved all of the international characters, some of whom I'd never seen before (and would never see again).
I thought the Hercules miniseries was a lot of fun (both of them, actually) as well as Nightcrawler, though Herc's series were better.
Hawkeye was excellent. One of the better minieries.
Wolverine was well written, but I'm on record as not being a fan of Frank Miller art, so, a mixed bag for me.
The Vision and the Scarlet Witch was OK. The first few issues were decent, then it fell apart for me.
The West Coast Avengers mini I thought was very good.
Both Iceman and Beauty and the Beast were meh, especially Iceman.
Majik was a bit dark for my taste. I have ambivalent feelings towards that one.
I'm a Machine Man fan, but did not care too much for that series. Something about its dystopian future (gee, that's never been done before) rubbed me the wrong way.

I'll also go on record as enjoying Secret Wars, though it was a harbinger of bad things to come for comics, in my ever so humble opinion.

Anonymous said...

Probably not technically a mini-series so much as a cynical marketing exercise, I would also like to put in a word for the Secret Wars. Given the only point was, as Kirby said, to teach kids to play with the toys, and was created by Jim Shooter purely as a marketing tool, had his horrible panel size edict all over it, had to take place in a landscape which would enable Mattel to sell expensive playset castles & vehicles and lumped every super hero together for the sake of it, it should have been absolutely awful. It even had the words ‘secret’ and ‘wars’ in the title purely because that tested well with younger readers. But I was still excited to see everyone in the same story, and it was pretty much the last thing I read before I quit for 20 years, so I have perversely fond memories.

I liked that the Wolverine series fleshed out his Japanese backstory.

I seem to remember enjoying the X men / Alpha Flight mini-series. Was that any good? I remember thinking Paul Smith’s smooth pencils recalled Byrne nicely.

For the challenge, I will read Magik. I always wanted to know what happened to Illyana when she fell down that hole. It seemed an amazing stroke of writing that 10 years of her life just disappeared, but it has now actually taken me 3 times as long to get round to reading it, so maybe 10 years doesn’t seem so much now.

Happy Easter holidays to all the BABsters.


Humanbelly said...


(Wait, sorry--- I left my Bendis-izing Dialogatron on Auto-Configure. . . )

I have every single one of these issues.

(Daggone it. *thwaptk* There. There was a chocolate chip lodged under the De-Pretention key. Should be fine now.)

Man, and you've really got a fine, full gamut represented here-- from the miserable (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and, sorry, CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS) to the sublime (HAWKEYE; HERCULES), and managed to do it without playing the Wolverine card. Nicely done, sir.

You know what, though? While I can go right down the list and go "loved it; hated it; enh-?" with a high degree of confidence, for the most part I can't remember much about them at all. Just vague impressions of characters and art-- maybe a broad idea of a few of the plots. These truly were comic-book fast-food, weren't they?
I remember that both MACHINE MAN and THE FALCON were quite good. . . but can't recall anything beyond that.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was simply horrible-- a stupid, forced, rushed concept and relationship manufactured simply for the sake of using the title on a whim. Was this relationship ever acknowldged beyond its life in this mini?
ICEMAN was painfully dull, bless his heart.
CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS was, of course, a fine hoot of an idea that then got unforgivably hi-jacked by-- who? The marketing department?-- as an excuse to introduce BRAND NEW "International" superheroes who had all the depth and cultural sensitivity of a Speedy Gonzalez, say -- yeesh. (Shamrock? The Arabian Knight??)
VISION/SCARLET WITCH, IIRC, wasn't bad at all in this incarnation. CLOAK&DAGGER, though, for all its hype and "hotness", struck me as an awfully forced effort to make the Next Big Thing-- and it didn't work. Like B&theBeast, it came off like a book created to satisfy the initial idea for the title alone.
But my dollar is gonna go to: HAWKEYE; HERCULES; WEST COAST AVENGERS; and. . . (surprise!) RAWHIDE KID! Yep. This was a neat, forgotten, admittedly imperfect mini (switched artists too often even in its short life, there, if memory serves) that gave us a very aged Rawhide Kid at the tail end of the Wild West era. A sweet valentine to a genre which was long-gone even back then. My sentimental choice.


Anonymous said...

Never saw any of these and Colin Bray explained why - there were no specialty comic shops near fact, I didn't know comic shops even existed (wow, shops that sell only comics...seriously ??). So I'll pick The Falcon, Hercules, Hawkeye and either Iceman or Rawhide Kid just for the covers. HB, a new Rawhide Kid came out (literally) in 2003 - this Rawhide Kid was gay and was part of Marvel's more adult-oriented MAX line. I bought Rawhide Kid #1 and Shang-Chi #6 (also MAX) which were the first Marvel comics I'd bought for 20 years.

William said...

Four for a dollar?! What a bargain!

I'll take:

West Coast Avengers
Contest Of Champions
and The Falcon

I actually got all 4 of those when they came out. (Also had Fallen Angels and Jack Of Hears). Don't recall reading any of the others. I wasn't really too keen on mini-series. Mainly because (with the rare exception) they usually featured sub-standard art and writing. At least that's the way I saw it.

Doug said...

Of those pictured, the only one I bought off the spinner rack was Fallen Angels. I have the two Hercules minis in a hardcover, but have not read them. I should, because I've never heard a bad thing about them. Fallen Angels was bad.

Not as bad, however, as the second, 12-issue (yup - a whole friggin' year) Vision and the Scarlet Witch mini-series that completist me felt compelled to finish. Finish, whilst I felt like punching myself in the face. Lordy, it was baaaaaaaaad. But I kept buying it.

You'd have thought I was 10, not 20. How about a little consumer discretion, man? Too much to ask from college-aged Doug?

Like many have said, mini-series were generally forgettable. There were a few hits, but more often misses.


googum said...

I read some of these straight out of the racks: Nightcrawler is one of my favorite books ever, full stop. It's breezy and charming and absolutely recommended. Hercules is also a ton of fun, although weirdly not in regular Marvel continuity. I still have a lot of love for the West Coast Avengers mini--it's way better than the regular series usually was. (And I only had the last issue of Contest of Champions!)

Barry Windsor-Smith's art on Machine Man makes it a must. It's been reprinted a few times just on the strength of that!

Falcon and Hawkeye I got years later: they're alright. There's Reagan and Electro in the former, Mockingbird in the latter, so if you see 'em cheap, heck yeah.

Beauty and the Beast is a surprising failure. It just doesn't come together at all. Skip!

Doug said...

googum --

I do believe this is your first comment -- no offense meant if it's not.



J.A. Morris said...

Contest Of Champions gets my "buck," it was a favorite when it was new. I still enjoy it even if the ending was a big No-Prize. The Falcon series was a mixed bag. I enjoyed the issue where Falcon battled a Sentinel, but the story where Electro captured Ronald Reagan was a bit silly.

I re-read the Hawkeye and West Coast Avengers miniseries when I reviewed the reprint books. I thought they were both pretty good even if they weren't exactly "essential" stories.

JJ said...

I was so excited by these Limited Series when they first appeared. Wolverine was my favorite by far but I had a wonderful time with Layton's Hercules. Funny stuff. I can't believe I missed Cockrum's Nightcrawler series. Major oversight considering how much I adore his artwork. So, I'd pick that one up, followed by Hawkeye, then Cloak and Dagger, and finally Contest of Champions for old times' sake. The only Limited Series I have left now is Wolverine. I'd love to have a few more in the collection. Such a fun idea.

By the way, Secret Wars was the end of my steady collecting back in the day. One of the main reasons was that I'd already read (and enjoyed) Contest of Champions. My teenaged self thought Secret Wars was such a retread. So tacky. I checked out not long after.

Edo Bosnar said...

I really liked the mini-series being put out at that time by both Marvel and DC, but I'd agree that they were hit and miss.

Of the ones pictured, I had and quite enjoyed:
Contest of Champions - which I really enjoyed at the time, and remember fondly, even though HB's criticisms are probably warranted
Hawkeye - a solid outing, and an interesting factoid is that Mark Gruenwald both wrote and drew it
Hercules - a bombastic Greek god in a space opera setting, this is the definition of fun comics

I also had, in whole or in part, but liked less, in a descending scale:
Vision and Scarlet Witch - not bad, I suppose, but I was never the biggest fan of them as a couple, and didn't really like that they were being domesticated even more, i.e. moving to the suburbs
Machine Man - I have the tpb and only read this for the first time about 2 years ago, and I have to admit, I found it rather disappointing; the art, however, by Herb Trimpe and inked by Barry Windsor Smith (he did the compete are in the last issue) is quite lovely
Magik - had the first issue and then called it quits (I remember just seeing the house ads for Beauty and the Best and thinking, "Not even...")

All of my picks, though, are books I never read but would like to:
Nightcrawler (especially)
Jack of Hearts
Falcon (I have the Falcon tpb from a few years back, scored a cheap, $8, copy from Better World books early this year, but have read it yet).

JJ said...

Oh! I forgot about Jack of Hearts. I had that one and really enjoyed it. That costume must have been a bear to draw. At the time I thought he was a really unique character. Such a cool look. I wonder how it holds up?

Garett said...

I agree with William that most of these seemed sub-standard. Nightcrawler written and drawn by Cockrum is one I haven't seen though, and it looks like fun.

Hercules rocks! Both the first and second series by Bob Layton are great. Fun witty adventures! There was a third part, a graphic novel that came out in '88, that picks up the story many years later. It's not as delightful as the first two, but worth a read if you need more Hercules. Layton also wrote a fourth part in 2010 that was drawn by Ron Lim, which I haven't read.

Doug said...

Edo brought up DC, and without stealing any thunder from Martinex for a future post, have you seen that the Legends mini has been given the trade treatment? I do have fond memories of that, but wonder how it would play without some of the periphery stuff (like the Cosmic Boy mini) attached? Those were exciting times at the Distinguished Competition.

"Millennium"? Not so much...


Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, the Legends trade has been around for quite some time, hasn't it? In fact, it may even be out of print at this point. But yes, that was a pretty solid mini - I read it in single issues as it was coming out.
Otherwise, though, I refrained from mentioning any specific DC titles because I also figure Martinex is planning another, similar post...

Doug said...

Agreed, Edo -- I am pretty sure what I've seen advertised is a new edition. Not THE New Edition, because that would make "Candy Girl" go through your head, and we don't want that!


Anonymous said...

I had a couple of these back in the 80s and I've read a couple more since then. I had Jack of Hearts but I remember being disappointed with it. I also bought the first issue of Hercules, but lost interest when I found out it was set in the future (which is why I never had any interest in Machine Man, since it was set in the impossibly distant future of 2020...or 2025, something like that).

So, I'd go for West Coast Avengers, Contest of Champs...and maybe Falcon and Rawhide Kid since I've never read those two.

Mike Wilson

Anonymous said...

I recall the first Wolverine mini-series - a little disappointing after the hype, as Claremont simply wasn't as good a writer as Miller - but otherwise... of the pictured limited series, I only read Machine Man, largely because it marked the return of Barry Windsor-Smith to comics (even if it did begin with him inking Herb Trimpe!). But it wasn't a particularly good read.

I have to say, a lot of the Marvel stuff at this point just seemed like so much product; and I was more interested in the (then) new independent publishers anyway, more up for a book like American Flagg than, say, an X-Men spin-off.
And I have to agree with Doug about these being exciting times at DC. Nathaniel Dusk springs to mind (despite the awful colour!)

The only Marvel limited series I enjoyed came out under the Epic imprint, my favourites being Marshall Law and Stray Toasters (although they were slightly later).
So... I'd probably hang on to the dollar, Martinex, see what else is on sale.


Rip Jagger said...

I bought them all and still do for the most part.

If I only had a dollar and faced with those choices I'd go with Hawkeye (waited for years for him to get a series), The West Coast Avengers (see previous answer), Vision and Scarlet Witch (loved their saga as it weaved into Marvel history) and finally Rawhide Kid just because.

They are all tasty though. Tough choices.

Rip Off

Anonymous said...

PS Quick correction - maybe it would be fairer to say Claremont was more of a traditional comic book writer than Miller...? Wolverine was pretty good for what it was, just not up to expectations after what Miller had been doing in Daredevil.


Martinex1 said...

Thanks for all of the comments today everybody. I myself will have to read some of these. I skipped Fallen Angels and Magik.

Richard, the X-Men/ Alpha Flight book is good from what I recall; the art was definitely the stronger point.

Like most here I really enjoyed Hercules. I haven't read it in many years, but remember thinking at the time that the humor was a nice change of pace from the darker stories of that era and that it deserved a series. I liked Falcon and also enjoyed that battle against the Sentinel; some of the covers were sharp. i liked Rawhide Kid, but that particular Byrne cover on the first issue was not my favorite

Colin Bray mentioned that the iceman cover was light and breezy;the whole series felt that way. Even the coloring, pastels, pinks, and yellows made it feel very much that way. I was very surprised that book made the cut at the time, when at that point Cyclops, Angel, Colossus and others hadn't warranted a book. But then again, iceman made the Saturday morning animated rotation with the Amazing Friends.

Beauty and the Beast was indeed a mess.

I don't know much about DC Limited Series, but perhaps some version of that list will show up here someday. Cheers!

J.A. Morris said...

To be honest, I never knew that Rawhide Kid series existed until today.

Logan Marcum said...

Laugh at me if you like, but I still love the Rawhide Kid LS. I would buy it 4 times. That is all I need.

And the Hercules. That and Rawhide Kid. Ali I need...but the second Herc was also excellent. So those three are it. All I need.

And West Coast Avengers. But that's it.

And Falcon...and this lamp...

Humanbelly said...

Ha-- good one, Logan!
It's neat to see all the interest and love for that Rawhide Kid mini! Talk about yer non-commercial, forgotten properties!

Oh, and Colin, the MAX Rawhide Kid series(es)(Serieses??)-- were just about perfect, as far as I'm concerned. Such incredibly tricky ground to tread, with making the humor as gay-campy as a terrific drag show, and yet maintaining an obvious fondness for the old genre, and NEVER resorting to being crude or derogatory or insulting or (especially) judgmental. The Kid is, if anything, even more ridiculously unbeatable in this incarnation, and at the same time has a depth that even he seems to be unaware of. The juggling act, for me, was flawless. Ohhhhhh man, and the John Severin ART! The book truly struck the funny bone of that small Venn-Diagram segment of my theater pals who were gay AND read comics.

Heh-- "Them jeans look like they was PAINTED on. . . !" Even HBWife uses that catch-phrase, and she's never read the book!


Anonymous said...

OK, I'll go with Hercules (I still have the issue where he meets Galactus!), Nightcrawler, Iceman and Contest of Champions!

- Mike 'limited attention span' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Dr. Oyola said...

When I was a kid I had a lot of issues from these series, but very few (if any) complete ones. Nowadays I have gone back and acquired them to fill in the gaps. Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men have also been responsible for my hunting some down b/c they covered them on their podcast and convinced me of their value (not monetary value, of course).

So I have Beauty & the Beast (yes, Humanbelly, Beast showed up in Dazzler's own book and they had an on and off relationship in the 80s - I also own a complete run of her book, one of my favorite characters, and a comic I'd actually like to write)

I have Fallen Angels (which I still haven't read). When I was a kid I got the first issue, was so disappointed that Sunspot had not actually accidentally killed Cannonball, as the ads had made it seem, that I didn't get the rest until 2015!

I have Machine Man (nowadays called "Machine Man 2020" - and while I love the art and the character (he is characterized very differently in contemporary comics), the story is terribly paced and the conclusion makes no sense. As someone who loved the idea of MM and Jocasta (from Avengers) being in love (something that was introduced in a MTIO two-parter), I wanted something more from this dark future reunion.

I have Magick (another one that I only had two issues of til recently. #1 and #3) and speaking of incomplete, I am still one issue short of having all the Jack of Hearts issues. He's a character I had a unreasonable obsession with as a kid, after chancing on his Marvel Premiere issue and then seeing him in a Marvel Team-Up and in ROM.

So, if I were to spend my buck now, I'd probably get the four issues of the Falcon book, or maybe Nightcrawler's.

lordjim6 said...

I adore the Gargoyle Mini by J. M. Dematteis (who had just created that character a few years previously in the pages of Defenders). I recently read an interview with J. M. online were he listed that mini as one of his personal favorites. It cemented the Gargoyle in my mind as one of those "truly different super heroes". That's a term that's been applied to just about everybody ever published by the big two, but rarely fits. Seeing the descriptions of Rawhide Kid's mini here has really interested me in a character I've never given a second thought before. I've read the issues of Vision/Scarlet Witch that had them fighting Toad (was that the second mini?). I remember thinking it was one of the better renditions of that often dismissed villain. I'd also be interested in reading the issues were the Whizzer dies. I've recently read the Iceman mini. I'm honestly shocked that everyone here describes it as "breezy". My impressions were the opposite! Heck, the villain was named Oblivion, and stood for the emptiness and alienation that Bobby Drake was going through after ditching the X-men, Champions, and Defenders all in a row!

lordjim6 said...

Is 1987 too far down the line? If not, then I should mention that there were aspects of X-men versus the Fantastic Four that really impressed me. The idea that Mr. Fantastic planned for Cosmic Rays to give them super powers, lied about it, and had his cover blown years later is actually my personal favorite interpretation of the Fantastic Four's origin.... Dark, but mind blowing...

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