Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Classics - Tales of Suspense #79, 80 and Tales to Astonish #82

   Last week we talked about the classic Marvel "split" comics, which offered two separate adventures in a single comic, each running 10 or 12 pages long.

   It made me think about this story, what I believe to be the first-ever story crossover in the Silver Age. 

   One of Marvel's hallmarks from the beginning of its resurgence in the 1960s was the guest star (or guest appearance) - so it wasn't unusual to see Thor fly by Spider-Man, or the X-Men's Angel to appear in an early issue of Iron Man.

   As a reader, it was exciting and it helped cement the "reality" of the growing Marvel universe, and it was a heck of a lot of fun. 

   But those guest appearances were limited to cameos (something Stan Lee has further mastered in his film career, come to think of it). Sometimes it meant a brief team-up - the Human Torch and Daredevil sometimes worked with Spidey, Dr. Strange provided his expertise to the Fantastic Four - that sort of thing.

   But each story stood alone, until this story. It started in Tales of Suspense #79 (printed in 1966), as Iron Man found himself under attack by the Sub-Mariner's foe, Warlord Krang, who had kidnapped the Lady Dorma (Namor's love interest).    

   Iron Man survives the attack and his armor is badly damaged - and then he's confronted by Namor, who's furious that Iron Man interfered in his attempt to rescue Dorma. 

   That led into the next issue - ToS #80, and a battle between the two heroes (continued stories were nothing new by this point). The battle raged through the issue - and then continued into Tales to Astonish #82!

   I may be wrong (and I admit I haven't done exhaustive research here, so feel free to correct me), but I believe that's the first time a story started in one title and continued in another title altogether - something that is way too common today.

   I suspect it wasn't exactly intentional. Gene Colan was drawing both Iron Man and the Sub-Mariner's stories at the time, but he only drew two pages of Astonish. The credits say he came down with the flu, and the rest of the issue was drawn by Jack Kirby! Also, the issue was plotted by Stan Lee and scripted by Roy Thomas, so you get the sense that there was a serious deadline problem that may have forced Marvel to juggle things around.

   For whatever reason, it's a bit of a landmark - and a heck of a fun issue, as Kirby kicks out the stops for a teeth-rattling, earth-shaking battle royal between the two powerhouses. The ending is a bit convenient, but it's a heck of a lot of fun.

   Crossovers are at the other end of the spectrum today as they're used more as a sales took than a storytelling device (or so it seems to me) - but that's an argument for another day.

Grade: A


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