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mygif

I love some essentials as well, but no Fantastic Four love? Come on, you can get the complete Lee/Kirby run that way.

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mygif

Yeah, but there’s really no single volume that I would recommend. Every Lee/Kirby FF Essential has a mix of unbelievably awesome comics, and that one where they buy a house and it turns out the Mole Man built it and some realtor just found it and put it on the market. :)

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mygif

Just cause somethin’ is classic don’t make it better. The only one out of all of these that doesn’t make me cringe is Silver Surfer vol 2. It has aged remarkably well.

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Dave O'Neill said on April 16th, 2010 at 10:47 am

Quote
“But Roger Stern still shows everyone How It Is Freaking Done”

Not at the moment he’s not – the issue with Juggernaut and Captain Universe was wretched

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mygif

I only manage to pick these up when I luck into one used. Which is why I’ve only got 2 Essentials (Iron Fist & Godzilla) and 1 Showcase (War That Time Forgot). Of course I’ve got a giant pile of robots, dinosaurs and kung fu from just those three…

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mygif

Massive kudos to you, good sir, for giving the Lee/Ditko era Spidey comics their due; you echoed my feelings on them perfectly (I own the Marvel Masterworks editions myself, though).

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mygif

I see to recall having seen somewhere that the reason why Claremont kept having the X folk remind themselves of who they are and what they could do was to make it more accessible for new readers to get on board. Don’t know if this was his thinking or an editorial mandate, but very helpful on a large cast book. Not very noticeable on a monthly basis, but a bit more painful when read back to back to back to back…

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mygif

Please do one for the ‘Showcase Presents’ as well! I’m always tempted at the store, but fear I’m shooting blind on a lot of the older material.

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Tim O'Neil said on April 16th, 2010 at 11:52 am

1) The recent Roger Stern issue with the Juggernaut and Captain Universe was actually pretty good from where I’m sitting.

2) No Howard the Duck? He’s in my top three, at least.

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mygif

No Kirby-era FF or THOR? Sir, your judgement is SERIOUSLY in question.ESSENTIAL FF #1 is a magical thing; it’s the birth of the Marvel Universe right before your eyes…

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mygif

I, too, enjoy enjoy the Essentials, but to be honest, I still prefer having them in colour, if possible.

Also, like PMMDJ, I also want a similar list for Showcases!

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Brad Reed said on April 16th, 2010 at 12:28 pm

A fine list. I have a big stack of “Essential” volumes, and it’s rare that they aren’t worth the money. (A few are indeed awful, but hey.)

Because this post invites the “this is what I’d change” comment, this is what I’d change:

–Defenders v3 really does belong. The Gerber run should be read in its entirety. It ties together into a surprisingly neat bundle, except for the Elf With a Gun, and it’s gloriously insane.

–FF v2 and v3. The first volume is uneven, as they find their feet, and I feel that the book lost steam and got kinda repetitive by the time you hit v4. Volumes 2 and 3 are super-cool, though; the Kirby/Lee collaboration at its finest. And that’s saying a lot. Just to see how Kirby developed in those volumes is worth way more than the cover price.

–Howard the Duck. The most personal comic Marvel ever produced. So much a product of its time that it’s both a time capsule and weirdly timeless. Uneven as hell, but that’s part of the fun.

The Spectacular Spider-Man Volume One is a sentimental favorite. Not only does it have such classic period lunacy as the Hypno Hustler and the CB/trucker-themed hero Razorback, it also contains the first comics I ever read. So for me, the Spidey in SSMv1 is the Platonic Spider-Man: a good guy perpetually down on his luck, a guy way more tied into regular peoples’ lives than the super-community, a guy who makes a lot of bonehead moves. I can’t defend it critically, I just love the damn thing.

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mygif

I’m not the biggest fan of the character, but Punisher vol. 1 is completely awesome. It contains all his pre-series guest appearences, and it’s really fun to see the character take shape in the hands of different writers (the Frank Miller Daredevil stuff is really good with all the impressionistic operatic superheroing on display). The package ends with Circle of Blood, which is another series I think it better in black and white. In my mind Mike Zeck is always the ultimate Punisher artist, since he manages to perfectly walk the line between the pulp and comic origins of the Punisher.

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mygif

I personally find that Lee-Kirby Essential FF volumes are reverse Star Trek movies, in that the odd-numbered ones are better (or is it just me?). Also, if anyone ever asks you what an inker actually contributes to a book, you show them the FF Essentials, because the differences in Kirby’s art under Chic Stone, George Roussos (Geo. Bell), Joe Sinnott et al really really make it clear. Oddly, it’s only when Sinnott comes on board that I really miss the color.

Didn’t know they had a Supervillain Team-Up Essentials, so I’ll have to check that out.

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Lister Sage said on April 16th, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I’ve been seriously thinking about picking up the Tomb of Dracula stuff at my comic book store. I really don’t like to read comics in black and white as that wasn’t the way they were meant to be read. With Tomb though it would be more like seeing the Universal horror movies which I think would be easier to handle. I’ve only got one Essential myself and only because it was free, Godzilla, but I was so impressed with it I’ve been considering finding the originals next time I see them just to see what they were like in color.

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mygif

I`m glad to see that Spider-Man volume at the top of the list. I remember reading that book and being surprised at how contemporary the dialogue seemed. When reading a lot of these volumes of older comics you make allowances for them being written in a different time, but with that one I had plenty of spots where I laughed out loud at the humour. Also, after the first few issues, Peter Parker had more of a sarcastic edge than I was expecting too.

I`ll agree that for some of these comics you need to read them in colour to get the full effect (the best reprinting of Kirby`s work is the Fourth World Omnibuses – in colour and on that flat paper), but from an art perspective, getting to see the unadorned line work is a treat. I loved seeing Arthur Adams in black and white in the later X-Men volumes.

I like the discussion that this list has opened up , about which volumes should`ve been included (I vote for FF volume 3), and I`m eager to read the Showcase list, as I haven`t read any of those at all.

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mygif

For the most part, the Doctor Strange volumes suffer from a lack of color. A lot of the art from the period when Bill Everett and Marie Severin were doing the penciling, however, looks incredible.

Partway through Vol. 2, you need to suffer through the part where Strange dresses like a luchador.

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mygif

Howard the Duck was in the mix for a while, but the Defenders got his spot–I think you can see them both as vehicles for Gerber’s very personal writing style, but Defenders is a bit more accessible.

Punisher almost made it too; Volume One does have some very nice, hard-edged stories from before the character became a franchise. But I wanted to give some love to stuff people might not pick up on their own. :)

And Lee/Kirby Thor? Great stuff, but the eternal question with top tens is, “What do I drop for it?” Consider them an honorable mention. (Actually, you can consider just about everything, including Essential Dazzler, an honorable mention. At fifteen bucks for twenty issues, even the bad stuff is worth reading just for the comedy value.)

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biffboff said on April 16th, 2010 at 7:32 pm

I’m curious…Which character who got the smack-down are you talking about in Captain America?

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mygif

I haven’t picked up any of the Essentials line yet, though I have looked at some of them at the library and been impressed overall. The couple of Showcase volumes I’ve bought have been great, Haunted Tank and Doom Patrol, both comics I read in digest form as a kid, and both holding up pretty well reading them as an adult.

I have a preorder in for the first volume of Suicide Squad, out in June, which I’m greatly looking forward to. (although honestly I think my main reason for focusing by buying on DC stuff is to throw money at them in the hope of a Rex the MFWD collection…)

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Mary Warner said on April 16th, 2010 at 8:58 pm

The local library has a few Essentials, and those are the only ones I’ve read. That first Spider-Man volume has got to be the greatest run of original villains in history. (You left out Sandman and Mysterio, by the way.) The Enforcers and the Tinkerer were a bit weak, and there was that stupid story with the robot, but other than that, it was just one great new bad guy after another. I think it’s universally acknowledged that Spidey’s Rogue Gallery is rivalled only by Bat-Man’s, but it took several years for all of the Bat’s villains to debut, and a few decades for their characters to really gel. What’s amazing about the Spider-villains is that their personalities are already recognisable from the very beginning. (Well, maybe not the Chameleon.)

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mygif

Essential Iron Man Vol. 1 doesn’t deserve to be on here by any stretch, but I’ve enjoyed it. Tony Stark’s plan to equip the troops with transistorized roller skates so we can win the Vietnam War has brought me endless hours of joy.

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Mary Warner said on April 16th, 2010 at 9:23 pm

I really should thank you for including Englehart’s Silver Surfer on here. It really is tragically underrated. I’d never had any interest in the Surfer until I flipped through #6. I was so blown away, I bought every issue I could find for the next two years. (Alas, I did miss a couple of them.) I did read a few of the Stralin issues later, but it just wasn’t the same.

I don’t understand your apparent criticism of Mantis, though. She is clearly one of the most fascinating characters ever invented, at least when Englehart was writing her. And the Silver Surfer was where I really got to know her. I only wish she were still around. I did flip through a Guardians Of The Galaxy once, because I heard Mantis was in it, but the girl I saw in there bore no resemblance whatsoever to the Mantis I remember. She kept referring to herself as ‘I’!! What’s up with that?
I don’t see how she could be described as ‘bad-ass’ in this series. Sure, she’s a good hand-to-hand fighter, but so is Spider-Man, and nobody ever calls him bad-ass.

Thank you for pointing out that the Surfer and Namor were only briefly part of the Defenders. I don’t understand why people have tried to recreate the Defenders as the original Strange-Namor-Hulk-Surfer team, when that was such a brief line-up, and probably the most boring one they had. Really, of those four, Strange is the only one who works as part of a team. They kept the Hulk in the series for a very long time, but I didn’t think he ever seemed to belong.
Admittedly, though, I’ve only read a handfull of issues before #50, and I’ve missed most of the Gerber ones that everyone raves about.
When I think of the Defenders, I think of the DeMatteis and Gillis versions, from around #94 until the end.

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badficwriter said on April 16th, 2010 at 10:48 pm

@Lister, I posted excerpts from Marvel’s Godzilla 1 on Scans_Daily. Just google it.

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mygif

My complaint about Mantis is that when you look at Englehart’s work as a whole, it feels like the book he’s writing (and the characters he’s writing) serve merely to further the story he’s telling about Mantis. It always feels like once Mantis shows up, the ostensible main character fades into the background so Englehart can suck on the day-player crack-pipe.

Oh, and to answer biffboff’s question: The character in question was the Tumbler, a supervillain who’d trained his whole life in acrobatics and martial arts. He fought the Super-Adaptoid (actually just the Adaptoid back then) while the Adaptoid was disguised as Cap, and beat him.

Then the real Cap woke up, and casually handed him one of the most awesome humiliating defeats ever. :)

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mygif

So he was Batroc without the awesome French accent?

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mygif

I’ll second the inclusion of Defenders vol 3 on the list, and even go so far as to say you can trade out vol 1 for it. The book is at its best during the Gerber run, and the stuff that follows Gerber in vol 3 is better reading (and weirder reading, which is definitely a draw for anyone buying a Defenders book) than what you get in the first volume.

Its a good list. Id probably throw the Xmen stuff higher up, I don’t find Claremont’s tics anywhere near as annoying on the original material as I do in his more recent work. And the FF really need to be in there somewhere too. But regardless this is an awful lot of really great comics.

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mygif

The Tumbler was actually quite interesting–the idea of a loser hood inspired by Captain America (if an ordinary guy like Cap could lead the Avengers, why couldn’t an ordinary guy become king of the underworld) is kind of clever. But the Englehart run is a high-point–the media manipulation and political storylines still hold up well, even though they’ve been done many times since.
Howard the Duck’s satire isn’t as good as I remember it (of course, at the time, that much satire in a Marvel/DC comic was a novelty), but the book still works thanks to its general bizarre looniness.
Dr. Strange: No, no, I have the b&w but then I got the color for the early Ditko issues. You lose too much of the weirdness without the color. I did find it interesting to read post-Ditko–I think Dr. Strange suffered without him much more than Spidey did.
These and the Showcases have contributed a lot to the drop in my current comics purchases, since there’s so much more story per dollar. i use them as a mix of filling gaps in my collection (for a lot of the DC stuff) or stuff I never got around to buying as a kid (mostly Marvel).

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mygif

Chiming in that Howard the Duck should have totally been on here, but props for putting the Tomb of Draculas up so high. Those things are pure awesomesauce.

Couple of nitpicks, though – I really have to give it to Silver Surfer Volume One over Volume Two – I know you’ve already explained your position on these the the Surfer’s Storytelling Engine, but I always felt Stan Lee’s passion for the character made up for what the book lacked (i.e., a satisfying conclusion. It should be noted I feel the same way about Stephen King novels.) Same thing with volumes 2-4 of Thor and the first five volumes of Fantastic Four – Lee and Kirby were at the top of their game, and I would argue that there’s not a single criminally bad issue in the bunch.

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mygif

Totally agree on Supervillain Team-Up. I regularly recommend that trade to anyone in earshot. I remember reading it and thinking that the Namor/Doom stuff would never truly payoff and that the ending would feel cheap. When they finally laid their story to rest, it felt perfect. So much that I felt completely jazzed about the ending to Namor’s recent miniseries.

I’m still waiting for Marvel to bring back Andro/Doomsman. We need more of Doom’s Mummy Android Jesus Clone.

Also agree on how you only put Cage’s first volume in there. The second one is ultimately worth reading, but there’s a big stretch of it that’s hard to get through. It’s when Don McGregor takes over and turns it into an overly wordy, overly depressing comic where Luke Cage is the biggest wimp.

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mygif

If you disagree with any of this, just remember that Seavey is really Just Another Guy Into Comics, just like you, regardless of how he may tend to pose as some kind of higher authority.

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mygif

You mean I’m not really empowered by Lord Darkseid to smite those who fail to understand the brilliance of my mighty comics opinions?

Well, that would explain why that bank teller I glared at this morning didn’t wind up hurtled back to prehistoric times…

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mygif

I can understand omitting Howard the Duck (mostly because I remember how annoyed I was to discover the Essential ends mid-story). You’re really better off with the Omnibus even if the Frank Brunner art looks even better in black and white.

The lack of Man-Thing and Lee/Kirby F4 seems kind of glaring though. I haven’t read Defenders so maybe it’s better than Man-Thing, Howard, and Omega combined but the Gerber portions of MT were such page-turners that I doubt it. Granted one of MT’s biggest strengths (and weaknesses) is that it stands so well on its own that it rarely affects the larger Marvel Universe so it might not be essential reading for people that define themselves as fans of Marvel’s bigger franchises. The opposite is true of F4. Those first 100+ issues laid the groundwork for just everything that has impacted the overall MU in the last several decades.

Also I have to give you props for listing Power Man. That books belongs here if only for the Dr Doom story.

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Mike Loughlin said on April 25th, 2010 at 7:01 pm

With the exception of the lack of Howard the Duck

(which I like more than anything else Gerber did, and maybe anything else anyone without the last names Moore or Hernandez ever wrote)

(and I do remember it’s all opinion)

cool list. I’ve only read 1/2 the books you mention, so thanks for pointing me in the direction of the ones I should try next. Of those, I’ve heard that Supervillain Team-Up & Luke Cage were worth getting, but I haven’t seen anyone else mention the Spectacular Spider-Man Essentials. They’re on the list.

Out of curiosity, was Essential Conan elligible for your list? It’s out of print (perhaps… FOREVER!!), but it’s one of my favorites.

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stealthwise said on April 25th, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Coincidentally, I just found the first 8 volumes of Essential X-Men for $10 a piece at a comic store while on vacation. Claremont’s writing is really… well, you get used to it, but those faults you mention are pretty glaring, and they for some reason seem to get even worse as the stories go along, but I was surprised at how good the series stayed, even well past the Dark Phoenix Saga, which was considered the high-water mark by many.

But Amazing Spider-Man volume one and no Fantastic Four at all? AMS had some absolutely ridiculous plotlines along the same lines as Fantastic Four.

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kisskissbangbang said on April 26th, 2010 at 1:41 am

Good to see the love for the Doom/Namor plotline in Super-Villain Team-Up (another one of Steve Englehart’s most underrated stories). But since some of you guys have the Essential and my original issues are inaccessible, I was wondering if someone could answer a couple of questions for me. Was there a Bill Mantlo SVTU story in which Magneto threatens Doom, who isn’t worried because he’s pumping a will-destroying drug into the atmosphere & actually already rules the world, though he never uses the power this brings him because there’s no challenge to it; or did I dream this? And if there was, is it as idiotic as I remember it being?

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mygif

Great post. Much appreciated. The Essentials line has been like crack to me. They’re one of the few things being published today that make me feel the same way comics did when I was little kid. Perfect for hot tub reading, camping trips, etc. If only I still had a club house.

Cheers,
Andrew
ComicsBronzeAge.com

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littlechilibean said on January 2nd, 2011 at 8:41 am

Well, well if it isn’t ThatNickGuy from Scott Keith’s old website! I found this little tidbit of yours on another blog and I’d thought I’d respond to it here just in case you are still on here.

“Here’s why Spec. Spidey is better:
1) Best handling of Green Goblin SINCE Lee/Ditko, including bringing back the mystery of who exactly is Goblin.”

Wrong! They screwed up! They should have taken a shocking twist and make it Norman’s wife instead or just stick with the original plan of Harry being the Goblin! Norman can put on the Goblin suit in a later season.

“2) It’s a mix of every Spidey medium, including the movies, Ult. Spidey (Kong; Eddie as an old time friend), the old 90s cartoon (Venom’s origin), etc.”

Which is stupid. The fact that this version’s origin story is EXACTLY THE SAME as the movie version tells me that the writers have no brain cells!

“3) Ongoing story with actual care to continuity (episode following Rhino shows the Daily Bugle office still trashed, the Goblin mystery)”

Family Guy has better continuity than Spectacular Spider-Man!

“4) Actual Spider-Man humour, which so many people seem to fail at (even the movies).”

The humor on Spectacular Spider-Man isn’t funny. 24 is probably funnier than Spectacular and yet 24 is a dead serious show 99% of the time!

“5) Catchiest theme song since the old 60s cartoon.”

You must really enjoy the Jonas Brothers, Lady Gaga, Kevin Federline and William Hong if you think that pile of garbage theme song is any good!

“6) The whole thing is headed up by Greg “creator of Gargoyles” Weisman.”

Weisman is a hack and you know it! The fact that the Disney higher ups had to step in and change the later seasons of Gargoyles tells me that Weisman was doing a poor job with the show! Oh and Weisman left the show because of this. Way to show your “professionalism” there Greg! Don Imus and even Victoria FREAKIN Jackson can come up with better material than Weisman! Let alone Howard Stern, Seth MacFarlane and the great John Semper Jr.! Heck this guy over on this blog

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=23951952&postID=114222285521530961

has come up with better ideas then Weisman, even though he’s obviously been watching too much of The New Scooby-Doo Movies!

“7) Every villain he encounters, he doesn’t just beat them with his fists. He out thinks them or uses science. That’s a big thing that a LOT of writers forget.”

Newsflash, Spider-Man did EXACTLY THE SAME THING in the 1990′s and so does Thundarr the Barbarian, the Bionic Six, the Centurions, M.A.S.K., Galaxy Rangers, Cowboy Bebop, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Justice League, Swat Kats and even Karate Kat plus dozen of others have also done those things you mentioned above.
So I’d say that a lot of writers HAVE NOT forgotten that stuff while you continue to make up excuses for Spectacular Spider-Man!

“I had other reasons that I listed over at No Scans Daily, but I can’t remember them all, off the top of my head.”

Don’t bother, people like you and Meka3000 really need to get out more and enjoy nature and stop worrying over a cartoon that won’t be back now that Disney’s calling the shots and are going to start over again from scratch WITHOUT Weisman since they still hold a grudge against him (and rightfully so) for walking out on them. Personally, I’m excited to see what Disney has in store for Spider-Man! Those post Weisman Gargoyles were awesome and I expect the same thing for Spider-Man! The future can’t come soon enough!

PS-If I got to do a Spectacular Spider-Man crossover, I’d have He-Man and the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE guest star with Skeletor and company causing havoc but instead of stopping him, He-Man and his posse goes after Spider-Man (jealousy issues) and his loved ones.

Results:

The death of some of Spider-Man’s supporting cast including He-Man killing Aunt May in a brutal bloody fashion and Orko killing Gwen Stacy the same way the Green Goblin did it in the comics (at the George Washington Bridge too)!

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