Scott's Classic Comics Corner: Let's Peer at Marvel Premiere (Pt. 1)

I took at look at some of the highs and lows of DC Special a while back, so I thought that it was only fair to do the same for a Marvel series. If Marvel Premiere this was started as a try out title, they certainly gave their initial characters pretty long auditions. Granted, Adam Warlock only had two issues before moving on but Doctor Strange and Iron First were given 12 and 11 issues, respectively.

I'm not here to talk about any of those runs as those characters are very well known and have been spotlighted a million times. I'm here to talk about the more obscure one, two and three-shots that popped up over the final 30 or so issues of the title. I don't have room to comment on every issue or characters (in fact, there so much good stuff that I've spread it over two installment) - so my apologies if I've missed one of your favorites.

Let's start with the Liberty Legion, a two-parter linked into the Invaders series. Now, I love the Invaders stuff, but these two issues were truly the first signs that Roy Thomas' obsession with Golden Age heroes was possibly an illness. Nobody needed these heroes to return and the Heroes vs. Heroes angle was so cliched by the mid-70s. You've got a couple of decent Kirby covers, but Don Heck's pencils and flattened terribly by Vinnie Colletta's razor-thin inks.

Woodgod has become somewhat of a cult favorite over the years, and the cover simply screams 70s camp. The thing is, it's a pretty decent concept - basically a mash up of Shelley's Frankenstein and Stevenson's Dr. Moreau. Bill Mantlo provides evidence of his fertile imagination and the Giffen/Jansen artwork is quite nice. Sure, there are lots of great Woodgod jokes out there, but this is a pretty decent issue and it would be nice if her were more than a footnote in the Marvel Universe.

Next we have Monark Starstalker, one of Howard Chaykin's many anti-heroes. I actually really dig this book - Chaykin shows that he has his own vision and creates a very believable future. His layouts can get a little confusing and it's a bit talky at times, but there's a lot to like. Bounty hunters make excellent characters if you can get them unwillingly entangled in some righteous cause (see Han Solo). Chaykin was getting there with Starstalker and it's too bad this wasn't given more than a single issue. As the years pass by, I'm more and more impressed with Chaykin as auteur. There's also a lot of great Gil Kane influence in the artwork.

We've got more Chaykin with issues #33 & #34, The Mark of Kane, as Roy Thomas does what he does best: adapt Robert E. Howard stories. The first issue is a real treat, introducing us to Solomon Kane and his rather intriguing adversary; Le Loup. I'm a suck for adventure stories set in the past so they've got me hook, line and sinker. More Kane influence here; and Chaykin really shines. The second issue is much weaker, but I've got a thorn in my side about stories that take place in 'savage Africa' - too much voodoo hoodoo. These two are worth picking, especially since Thomas does a nice one page overview of Solomon Kane's pulp history.

Do I have to talk about 3-D Man? I do? Oh well, I guess it's a fun read if you are in the mood for comics that represent the nadir of Marvel in the 70s. Once again, Roy Thomas tries to convince readers that the past is better than the present with very lackluster results. The problem is that it's takes itself too serious be enjoyed as just silly fun. Thomas' earnestness as a writer can be his Achilles' hell at time. I've met Jim Craig a couple of times and he seems like a nice guy, but his artwork has really never done much for me. A few years ago, I audited a very awkward exchange between Thomas and Craig at a convention. Craig was suggesting to Thomas that they should work on a 3-D Man re-launch. Thomas' response indicated that he thought it was a character whose best years were behind him. I'm not sure he ever had any 'best years'.

The history of Moench & Ploog's Weirdworld is actually quite 'weird'. This series started in the one-shot black and white mag, Marvel Super Action (the super expensive one with Frank Castle on the cover), a single issue here at Marvel Premiere, 3 issues in the color mag Marvel Super Special and then onto Marvel Fanfare (I think). I'm not exactly the biggest fan of all things elvish, but this is pretty decent stuff as it really doesn't take too much from Tolkien (but that's some smooth marketing). I'd actually suggest that you track down the Marvel Super Special issues (that's a mag I'll be profiling at some pointed), as the artwork is very interesting (an airbrushing over John Buscema pencils). Marvel probably should collect all of these stories just to appease the handful of fans knocking themselves out trying to put together a collection.

Stayed tuned for Part 2 as well get a dose of Daleks, Pinkertons and the KKK!

For more fun talk about all thing 'classic comics', drop by my blog: Seduction of the Indifferent

Please send along any comments to Scottshouldbegood at yahoo.ca

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