Monday, June 14, 2010
Giant-Size June! G-S Super-Heroes #1
Giant-Size Super-Heroes #1 (June 1974)
"Man-Wolf at Midnight!"
artists: Gil Kane/Mike Esposito
Karen: We're back with more Giant-Size goodness! This time we'll be yakking about Giant-Size Super-Heroes Featuring Spider-Man. Whew, that's a mouthful. There's some interesting history provided in the pages of this book about the Giant-Size titles and their creation. But to really understand the whole giant-size genesis, we have to take a quick look at the first title in the line, Giant-Size Super-Stars #1 (May 1974). This book featured the Fantastic Four versus the Hulk, and was intended to rotate characters through a monthly 52 page book. So the next issue of Super-Stars would feature Spider-Man, and the third would star that bulging barbarian, Conan - the idea was to mimic the popular format of the NBC Mystery Movie, which (for you youngsters) alternated each week between three different detective shows: Colombo, McCloud, and MacMillan and Wife. At least, that was the plan.
Doug: Ha! Throw in Love American Style, the $6 Million Dollar Man, and All in the Family from the other networks, and you've really taken me back to my formative years with television!
Karen: No kidding, my Mom loved Colombo! However, the next month did not see the arrival of Giant-Size Super-Stars #2, but instead Giant-Size Super-Heroes #1. Even weirder, it contained the Spidey story with Morbius and Man-Wolf which had supposed to have been the next issue of GSSS. So what happened? Editor Roy Thomas explains in a text feature in this book that, in order to keep each of the 52 page books on the racks as long as possible, it made more sense to split them into three quarterly titles.
Karen: Then things get really confusing, as Roy says that Marvel will be producing 100 page titles called Super-Giant Conan, Super-Giant Avengers, and Super-Giant Spider-Man! These would all be 60 cent books (unlike the 52 page GS titles, which were 35 cents - hard to believe). Now we all know that eventually we'd get GS versions of all these titles but I'm at a loss when it comes to "super-giants". Another really interesting fact is that apparently the planned third title in the GS line was supposed to be Giant-Size Super-Teams featuring the Defenders! No, this title never actually appeared, although there's a house ad for it right below Roy's commentary. I'm assuming this became GS Defenders #1.
Doug: It's interesting that DC would continue to experiment with the different sized formats, including the 100-Page Giants and the Dollar Comics on through the end of the decade. Marvel would switch back to Annuals after about a year and a half of these Giant-Size books.
Karen: Of course, eventually it would appear that just about everyone in the Marvel U got their own GS book (GS Man-Thing, anyone?). But I find it amusing that the initial concept, which seemed quite novel, was reworked primarily for economic reasons.
Karen: I guess that's enough background, let's get to the actual story. It can be summed up pretty easily: Morbius and Man-Wolf versus Spider-Man! OK, maybe it's not that easy. Besides the all out, code-approved monster action, there's a couple of funky sub-plots thrown in for good measure: in one, Peter begins to question why he fights crime after a thug basically accuses him of being a thrill-seeker. In the second, Peter is nominated for photographer of the year.
Doug: Not a lot of pay-off to either of those subplots. I guess they were just tossed in as a Peter's-always-got-problems sort of thing. The one thing I did get a sense of was that this story was supposed to dovetail with the rest of the Spider mags and was never intended to be any kind of standalone or jumping on point.
Karen: Doug, as we discussed in some previous posts, these "monsters" were about as scary as Count Chocula and Fruit Brute! (Doug: Fruit Brute -- the forgotten cereal monster! That's awesome!!) To me these two were just like our usual super-villains -not especially frightening at all. John Jameson -aka the Man-Wolf -is like so many other tragic Marvel characters, a victim of a terrible transformation. Morbius as shown here is less sympathetic; in fact he's killed several people by draining them of blood. Still, Morbius wants to be free of his vampirism, and so he manages to gain some control over Man-Wolf. Morbius' plan seems to be to use Man-Wolf to engage Spider-Man, while he seeks out a blood doctor that might be able to cure him. Now how he knew that Spider-Man would be coming after him, I have no idea! Maybe he has a vampire-sense?! Then again, I guess the extra help couldn't hurt.
Doug: The story set-up was a bit too neat, and felt rushed. I like a story with some foreshadowing, and this one just sort of blew up out of nowhere. It was good to see these monster-guys team-up, but I guess it could have been better.
Karen: Unfortunately for Morbius, Wolfy is sadly inadequate when it comes to taking on Spidey - he gets caught in web rather quickly. Spidey heads to the blood doctor's lab and sure enough, Morbius shows up! He tricks Morbius into thinking that their fight has destroyed the doctor's equipment, and that he can no longer cure him. Although....wouldn't it be a good idea to cure him? I mean, he is going around sucking people's blood! OK, another thing I won't think too deeply about.
Doug: I agree with you -- Man-Wolf was a real pushover. There wasn't the tension that we saw in his first appearance, in Amazing Spider-Man #124-125. The same goes for Morbius. Again, you're right -- hasn't Reed Richards spent years trying to cure Ben Grimm and Bruce Banner? Why wouldn't Peter Parker have been more altruistic?
Karen: So Morbius takes off and all is right with the world. Oh, those two sub-plots? Well, Spidey realized that the reason he fights bad guys is because certain bad guys are too tough for the cops. And sadly, Peter did not win the photographer of the year award. I heard it went to some kid named Olsen.
Doug: Gee whiz, Superman!
Karen: Enjoyable enough but a bit light storywise. The Kane art here is adequate but certainly not his best.
Doug: Yeah, I don't know if Kane rushed it or if Esposito's inks were subpar, but something was off a bit. I'll say one thing for the art, though -- I'm glad I read this from the original comic and not from a reprint. For Gil Kane's art in particular, the new coloring processes and slick paper don't do it any favors. Kane's at his best on muddy newsprint. And it was a fun little diversion, but probably better the very first time I read it, some 36 years ago.