Thursday, May 26, 2016

If I Had A Buck... Not Ready For Prime Team Players

Martinex1: There is great fanfare for superhero teams around here and seemingly continuous conversation about the big guns from DC and Marvel.  The Avengers, X-Men, and the Justice League are certainly the leaders of the pack when it comes to four-color creations, film adaptations, and their corporations' profits.  And there are other top notch teams that certainly get a lot of respect from comic enthusiasts.  The Fantastic Four, Defenders, Teen Titans, and Legion of Superheroes have avid followers.  The Guardians of the Galaxy made their way to the big screen and are now an upper tier property.  But even defunct mags like the Invaders, Champions, Inhumans, and Doom Patrol have serious defenders; their characters are fondly remembered and eke their way into television plots and other titles.

This $1 Challenge is NOT about those teams.  This game of If I Had a Buck focuses on the many teams that have graced the spinner racks of the past but did not catch on quite as dramatically as the superstars.  These are the "Other Guys, the "C-Listers," the "Also-Rans." 

Now don't get me wrong, some of these teams had long running titles.  And some of these teams may be your all-time favorites.   Some of them had all-star creative teams.  Others had lots of marketing support from their companies.   And some even had tremendous success and popularity in spurts. But let's face it, they never really made it long term.   

Part of their appeal may be in their offbeat rosters.   The teams consist of characters that are probably not household names.  There are, however, great stories in their runs.   I tend to be enthusiastic about these types of team books, because when I pick one up I typically find something new in the approach, something weird in the plotting, a costume I really like, and a personality or conflict with a different nuance. 

So as always, take your dollar and spend it on four selections from our quarter bin.  Share your thoughts, your memories, your observations and suggestions.   I am curious (as I am sure others are as well) if there was gold to be mined from these offbeat teams and their titles.


Humanbelly said...

Fascinating, Captain MartyX--- (oops, still stuck on yesterday. . . )

You've pulled some GREAT choices out of relative obscurity, here. I'd forgotten SECRET SIX even existed. Some awfully good covers, too (again, SECRET SIX!).
I might be inclined to make a case that ALPHA FLIGHT, EXCALIBUR, and NEW MUTANTS aren't quite in the same realm as the others, since they did quite, quite well in their hey-day-- but they've certainly faded with the passage of time.

With ALPHA FLIGHT, in fact, I would pull Vol 1 and offer Vol 2 (I think it was), which had a much more isolated feel to it, and had set itself up with lots of interesting long-range threads. But it was an almost entirely new cast of heroes, and it was cancelled pretty quickly. Same happened with John Byrne's DOOM PATROL reboot in. . . the late 90's, was it? Quite an enjoyable outing that never seemed to catch fire with the prevailing guns n' pouches crowd-- and then it was gone. STRIKEFORCE:MORITURI-- man, what a tough-love endeavor that was. The art was at times extremely good, but IIRC it ran in "real" time (or tried to) with the "real" world, since the powered characters all had a very specific shortened life-span, and the "hook" was that they really did die when their time was up. Yeesh-- that sounds dark even by today's standards. It also was not part of the shared Marvel Universe, so it didn't have that automatic continuity boost.

So, eliminating issues I do have already-- what to pick?

Infinity, Inc ('cause I love their ties to the JSA and have liked the couple of other issues I have from that run--- although color-separation experiments do mar it just a bit).

Metal Men (Never pass on Metal Men, nope)

Outsiders (I don't have that issue, and that book was always like a spirited but still-awkward adolescent-- very endearing--)

Secret Six (What the heck was this book/group about, even?)


dbutler16 said...

My first two choices are easy - All-Star Squadron is one of my all time favorites. Roy Thomas at the top of his game, and even though there was a bit of a revolving door with the artists, the art was almost always excellent. I felt like I was getting two history lessons while reading this, one in WWII, and the other in Golden Age comics.

My second choice is Alpha Flight. The Byrne run is another one of my all time favorites. He left after #28 (luckily #26 is pictured above) and the series really collapses after that, both the writing and the art.

For my last two choices, Freedom Fighters, The Eternals, Infinity Inc., and perhaps even the Outsiders, Omega Men, New Mutants, Liberty Legion, Excalibur, and Metal Men, are ones that I've enjoyed, though those two X-titles there (Excalibur and New Mutants) deteriorated quickly, IMHO,

So, I'll give myself a little more Roy Thomas with Infinity, Inc. (hey, where's Young Justice?) for my third choice.

It comes down to a tossup between Freedom Fighters and The Eternals for my fourth and final choice. I only have one issue of Freedom Fighters, but I enjoyed it quite a bit, while I have most of The Eternals. I guess I'll go with the cosmic scope of The Eternals from the King rather then the exploits of Doll Man and company. Tough call for me, though, actually.

Garett said...

Alpha Flight is my first choice. At the time I only read about 7 issues, but recently I read through the first 3 TPBs (first 30 issues or so) and found them very enjoyable. The characters are interesting, and Byrne's art and writing are very good.

Defenders of the Earth! I've never heard of this comic, but I see it has Flash Gordon, the Phantom, and Mandrake, so I'm curious to see the story with these 3. A new company has been publishing stories with these old characters, and Darwyn Cooke drew some nice covers:

Forever People and Eternals are not my favorite Kirby, so I'll pass. I was excited about All Star Squadron at the time, but trying to get into it again I found it on the dull side.

For my last 2 choices, I'll go with Secret Six, as I know nothing about it and that's a striking cover, and The Outsiders as it has Aparo art and I've heard good things about the stories. The Outsiders Annual #1 is one issue I do have, with excellent art by Kevin Nowlan.

I remember reading an issue or two of almost all these titles-- fun topic, Martinex!

Anonymous said...

My 4 choices would be Defenders of the Earth, New Mutants, Alpha Flight and the Eternals.

- Mike 'good to see some obscure choices here' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Martinex1 said...

Hi all,

HB, the Secret Six was a short lived series about covert operators on special missions led by the mysterious and never identified "Mockingbird". I have to say that the relatively recent version (c. 2005) by Gail Simone from the "Villains United" era, was quite enjoyable. The group of bad guys led by Catman was really quite fun and exciting.

I was torn on including Alpha Flight, Excalibur, New Mutants etc in this list. I concluded that a) without their core creator ( i.e. Byrne) involved they tanked fast and b) they don't really have many i(if any) stand-alone iconic heroes. The closest would be Captain Britain out of the whole set of rosters; I think other than CB no character had their own ongoing. I personally thought Alpha Flight was a great read, but what an odd team and perhaps really a non-team even moreso than the Defenders. I believe in their first year there were ten issues wherein the team didn't even appear together; it was really a series of team member solo stories. And then (SPOILER ALERT) they killed their probably most recognizable team member and leader, the Guardian.

Garett, I know nothing about Defenders of Earth also. I remember it on the racks and I flipped through it but never purchased it, but like you I am intrigued by Phantom Flash Gordon, and Mandrake. I think that little cartoony character on the cover in the lower left corner turned me off.

For me, I never read much of the Freedom Fighters. Uncle Sam is such a bizarre and also goofy looking character (even amongst costumed characters), but I'd like to read that. Also, Infinity Inc interests me for the JSA connection as well; and I like the Obsidian character (from this era at least). I'm also curious about Archie's line of heroes with the Crusaders, so those along with Outsiders are my choices.

Doug said...

I would get All-Star Squadron for many of the reasons listed above - ditto Infinity, Inc. The Freedom Fighters always caught my eye as a kid, but never enough to pick it up. I'd get that. I had the Marvel Premiere with the Liberty Legion, so could leave that lay there. For my fourth book? Probably give Doom Patrol or Secret Six a whirl.


Edo Bosnar said...

Easy choice: I'd just get four from the series I'd never read, but have always been curious and/or heard good things about: Red Circle's Mighty Crusaders, Strikeforce: Morituri, Suicide Squad and Secret Six.

Pat Henry said...

Out of the bunch of those, I liked the retro-WWII and Earth-2 teams. And the Metal Men. I could never quite figure out why MM never caught fire. It was IMO easily the best DC comic of its era. Dorky characterizations, but that was kind of de rigeuer at DC. Iron was definitely a Superman knockoff; Gold a bit of the analytical Batman; Mercury was an early Guy Gardner. To my knowledge they never tried to make MM "hip," which made many a DC comic of that era groan-worthy.

Edo Bosnar said...

Pat, re: Metal Men. Yep, I used to have that whole run of issues from the revived Metal Men in the 1970s, and enjoyed them very much. The stories were really solid and fun, and the art, first by Simonson and then Staton, was top notch.

Redartz said...

Fun topic, Martinex1! Always enjoy talking about some of the lesser- knowns. And some of these today are alien to me: Defenders of the Earth ( although I recognize the participants), and Strikeforce:Morituri.

For my picks: Mighty Crusaders ( I like to give the Archie group a shot)
Alpha Flight ( only bought the first few, but recall them fondly)
Metal Men ( a great, generally lighter- tone title)
All-Star Squadron ( have never read it, but have heard so much).

As 'extra credit'- how about the Inferior Five? Another book I read occasionally, as it appealed to my twisted and insatiable appetite for humor...

Martinex1 said...

I read Metal Men sporadically when I was very young. And I don't recall all that much beyond their general and broad characterizations. As robotic creations, did their personalities evolve in a way that the stories became character driven? Were they comparable to the likes of Vision and Red Tornado? In your opinions what was of interest? Was their book mystery or suspense based? Was it adventure or super hero centric? I'm honestly curious.

And Redartz, I thought about the Inferior Five and then just dropped the ball on including them.

J.A. Morris said...

Busy day today, but I had to chime in since Strikeforce:Morituri was mentioned.

Director-actor-writer-comic fan Kevin Smith spoke in my town recently. He talked about how he and his friends thought that series was the worst comic they'd ever read. Smith said that "Morituri" became code for something that was extremely bad. As in "That movie sucked, it was Morituri-bad."

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I kinda consider some of these to be "A-list" titles! I'd go for:

All-Star Squadron (great book, though Crisis really killed it);

Infinity Inc. (which is almost an All-Star Squadron spin-off, but still a great book in its own right);

Outsiders (I know a lot of people don't like it, and Barr's villains can be kinda goofy, but I like the way he does the character interactions);

and Suicide Squad (I haven't read the whole run, but the first ten or so were really good, plus I like Ostrander's stuff in general)

What, no Marvel?! The only Marvels that caught my interest were New Mutants (which is OK, but it's no X-Men),Excalibur (which I generally like, though it got a bit too "zany" sometimes), and Alpha Flight (and I already have that issue).

Mike Wilson

Unknown said...

Intriguing selections.

I first two I would choose immediately:

1. Forever People
2. Eternals

As for the final two, it would be a hard toss-up between: All-Star Squadron, Liberty Legion, Freedom Fighters, and Secret Six (the last for some Silver Age flavor).

Incidentally, I recently picked up All-Star Squadron #1 (dated Sept. 1981), and I wasn't expecting too much, but it's far better than I thought it would be. Good title.

Pat Henry said...

Martinex1, What made the Metal Men fun was the molecular chemistry that was at the center of each issue.

The MM were not robots. per se, but solid metals given life by their Responsometer brains, and so their powers focused on their capabilities as specific metals. Tin was kinda worthless, but made a good team mascot, lots of heart even though he was typically destroyed by the end of each issue. Gold was about as close to Reed Richards in powers and intellect as DC ever got. Mercury was a hot head and rather prideful of his powers and disdainful of those of others. Platinum was annoying, but no more so than any other female depiction of the era.

From an adventure standpoint, they were a lot like Challengers of the Unknown or FF, getting in to trouble due more to whatever craziness their creator was up to at the moment more than being a "team" committed to fighting crime, advancing justice, or whatever. When they did bump into opponents they were like Chemo or Metamorpho or Eclipso or Metallo (I see a pattern there), with focus on the science of their powers, which the Metal Men's ductility or conductivity or lead shielding or whatever would attempt overcome. The MM got destroyed quite frequently, almost every issue, and were back again in full spirit. Quite creative, and generally pretty fun.

Walt Simonson's art was never better or more iconic, and that was also a plus.

Martinex1 said...

Thanks to the info Pat. That sounds kind of cool.

Humanbelly said...

Doug, Doug, Doug--- ya picked DOOM PATROL when they weren't one of MX1's choices!! Just 'cause yer the king doesn't mean ya get to make yer own rules!! (Ha!)

Now, what was the reasoning that they and the CHAMPIONS didn't make the cut, MX1? I'm muddy on that. . .

Oh! And it wouldn't have been off-base to see DP7 offered, now that I think of it. They remained my favorite remnant of the New Universe by a wide margin-- stayed with 'em til the very end, I believe.


Doug said...

HB --

Metal Men, Doom Patrol... what's the difference?

Tongue in cheek, friends.


Martinex1 said...

Ha, I knew this would come up. HB, I suppose the Champions and Doom Patrol could have definitely made the cut. The rules to these games are a bit vague I admit. My reasoning, as flawed as it may be is as follows: The Champions despite having a short lived series are often discussed here, and I was trying to look at groups that haven't been debated here as much. Also, in my mind the team consists of one A-Lister (Black Widow) and 4 B-Listers including two X-Men. And almost all have had their own book or mini-series.

Regarding the Doom Patrol- that may even be more of my bias in that I've always liked them and consider them a notch above the other DC groups listed here. Despite a "no-star" lineup, they have had a number of series and reboots. And in a selfish vein, they are part of a future challenge I have in mind and I try not to overlap too much on topics. So I will leave that as a teaser for a Summer challenge!

But please make your case for any others if you see fit; that's the fun of it.. Mike Wilson mentioned that he considered some of the offerings today as A Listers, I enjoy hearing that. The different perspectives are fun - aren't they? DP-7 by the way would have been a great offering. I'm sure there are many others. Cheers!

William said...

I'll take the following:

Alpha Flight - Written and drawn by John Byrne, nuff said.

The Freedom Fighters - One of my favorite comics when I was a kid. Don't know why, I just really liked it. They were kind of like DC's X-Men in a way.

Justice Machine - A great book. I think I had every issue at one point. One of my first forays into a non-Marvel or DC comic on a regular basis.

The Outsiders - I especially liked this title when it was "Batman and The Outsiders". This book is worth reading for the Jim Aparo art alone.

Edo Bosnar said...

William, wow, you had every issue of Justice Machine? Tres cool. Back in the day, I had only one, no. 4 I think, of the first run of 5 issues (which was a flip book with another story featuring a character called Cobalt Blue on the other side). I made that purchase not long after I discovered comic book shops, and even then I recall issues of that series were hard to come by (and now it's virtually impossible to find back issues). But yeah, that was a pretty cool series...

William said...

Yeah Edo, I remember when the title started it was in a magazine sized format, then they reduced it to a more traditional comic book size. I very much remember the Cobalt Blue (great name) stories on the reverse side of the book as well. And I definitely remember getting that Annual with the THUNDER Agents crossover. Now that I think about it, I may even still have those books somewhere. I'll take a look and get back tomorrow.

This was a time when there seemed to be a lot of indy-comic super teams cropping up in the comic stores. A couple of others that I really enjoyed reading were The Elementals (by Bill Willingham) and The DNAgents. There was even a Teen Titans / DNAgents crossover back in the day.

Eric said...

1. Metal Men
2. Infinity Inc
3. Alpha Flight
4. All Star Squadron

It could never happen anymore, but I had a fondness for The Champions from Marvel. The Black Widow with Hercules, two former X-Men and Darkstar. An odd mix but fascinating.

Michael S. Alford said...

Infinity Inc had that early Todd McFarlane art going for it.

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