A post from my old Marvel blog concerning early Marvel titles that I purchased which didn’t hook me as a reader.
Continuing our week-long survey of Marvel issues I purchased as a young child which put me off of the company and its characters for many years.
MARVEL TEAM-UP #16 may very well be the first Marvel comic I ever bought. I know I got it while on a visit to my grandparents’ house, and that it was bought for me by my Aunt Clem, from a local store that only carried Marvel books. (The distribution in the ’70s, particularly the early part of the decade, was so hit-or-miss that this sort of thing would often happen.)
I couldn’t tell you why I might have selected this book out of among whatever else was on the stands that day. I expect part of it was that I must have been familiar with Spider-Man from the original cartoon series, which continued to run (and would continue to run for the rest of the decade and beyond) in syndication.
It’s a nice enough story, with some rough Mike Esposito inking over Gil Kane pencils (possibly even breakdowns), giving the look of the artwork a rough, “harsh” feel–that’s a term I’d use to describe a lot of the Marvel art of the period, including that Frank Robbins CAPTAIN AMERICA job from a few days ago. And the story was engaging enough, although not a great Spider-Man entry, really, in that there’s really no great Peter Parker component to it. Still, Len Wein’s story was pretty straightforward and simple, without a lot of political allegory or pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue, so I was able to connect with it a lot easier.
My big frustration at the time was the fact that the issue ends in a cliffhanger, with Captain Marvel trapped in a giant diamond being pulled underground to the center of the Earth. Continued stories were something of a bane at the time, because beyond the distribution woes, there was no guarantee that I’d be able to get to an outlet that sold comics when the next issue came out, or that I’d have the money to purchase it.
As it turned out, I did get the follow-up, MARVEL TEAM-UP #17, probably from the same store by my grandmother’s house–having no choice is the only reason I can think of why I would have bought a Marvel book rather than something safe from DC. Again, it was an all right issue, with Spidey teaming up with Mister Fantastic to invade the subterranean world of the Mole Man in order to rescue Captain Marvel. As I think about it, I’m not sure whether it confused me or not that both Marvel and DC had a Captain Marvel at this time–the characters shared enough of a surface similarity that I may have even thought they were the same guy. I distinctly remember a moment in the story in which, in order to free himself from the giant diamond, Mar-Vell slams his Nega-Bands together to change places with Rick Jones, and the energy discharge frees him. That was close enough to Billy Batson saying Shazam and being struck by magic lightning for me to equate.
MARVEL TEAM-UP #16 & 17 weren’t terrible comics, and they didn’t really do any damage as far as becoming interested in the characters. But neither did they really do any good–they didn’t hook me well enough to make me a regular reader, or to overcome the deficits I’d find in other Marvel titles along the way.
One other note: The Marvel titles of this period had some of the most unappealing, cluttered covers ever. In an attempt to evoke the appealing hucksterism of Stan Lee, the Marvel staff of the period went too far, cramming tons of often-repetitive balloons and copy onto their covers in an attempt to grab the reader. I’ll admit that I remember assorted bits and pieces of this copy even years later, but the overall effect was very unappealing.