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The 100 Greatest Stan Lee Stories Ever Told: #60-51

57. "The Coming of...the Wonder Man!" Avengers #9 (1964)

As noted earlier, one of the key aspects of early Marvel Comics is how the villains weren't always, well, villains. A common theme is the humanity of ALL characters in the series, even the ostensible villains and in this story, Stan Lee, Don Heck and Dick Ayers takes a character that could have easily been a cardboard cutout of a typical villainous mole and made him extremely redeemable. Simon Williams was a disgraced businessman who was given a chance at a new lease on life by the Masters of Evil by gaining superpowers and infiltrating the membership of the Avengers. When he realizes how mistaken he has been, he is shocked to learn that the treatment that gives him his powers can also kill him if he ever turns on the Masters of Evil.

Tragically, though, Wonder Man can't go through with the plan in the end and he decides to choose an honorable death over a dishonorable life...

The impact of this story was felt for years when Wonder Man was later used as the brain pattern for the synthezoid known as the Vision. Years later, Wonder Man turned out to not be dead after all and returned to the Avengers (since he had now proven that he was a hero).

56. "The Gladiator, the Girl and the Glory" Tales of Suspense #75-76 (1966)

In this high-paced two-parter, we meet both Sharon Carter and Batroc for the first time, as the latter is trying to get his hands on a top secret device that the former is tasked with escorting. Captain America gets involved and it is awesome...

The fascinating thing about this story arc is how well Sharon Carter develops in just these two issues. When she is introduced, she seems like a typical damsel in distress, but by the end of the two-parter, we can see that she is a formidable ally willing to risk it all, even though she doesn't realize how much she has put herself at risk, which leads to Captain America and Batroc temporarily putting aside their differences to track her down to get the cylinder she is transporting for SHIELD before it kills her.

There are so many other twists and turns within the narrative of just these two issues, as we also get to see the other side of Batroc. The villain is a clear villain, of course, but he has always had that interesting twist where he is also a human being at the end of the day and that he is willing to look beyond just his own greed when it suits him, which leads to the villain actually being willing to team up with Captain America to stop the bigger bad guys from destroying New York City! Shockingly, though, Captain America turns down his offer (there is a good reason, of course, as Captain America knows the truth about the cylinder that Batroc missed out on).

55. "The Enslavers" Silver Surfer: The Enslavers (1990)

By the end of the 1980s, Stan Lee had finally given up the reins of Silver Surfer to Steve Englehart, with Englehart launching the first Silver Surfer ongoing series ever that did not have Lee directly involved in the project. However, even while Stan Lee was no longer the only writer to be handling the solo adventures of the Silver Surfer, he did continue to work on the hero that he had become most associated with since the late 1960s, with a new graphic novel with artist Keith Pollard. The concept was that a powerful alien race goes around enslaving planets, and they have already captured Zenn-La and have just now conquered the Earth, as well. The only being standing in the way of this alien race conquering the universe is, of course, the Silver Surfer...

This was some of the best work of Pollard's career, as it seems like he was really hyped to work with a legend like Stan Lee.

54. "The Sleeper Shall Awake!" Tales of Suspense #72-74 (1965)

It's kind of funny how this story sort of came about because fans were complaining about the then-current state of Cap's feature in Tales of Suspense, which was set during World War II. Fans wanted modern tales, so Jack Kirby and Stan Lee answered the call with this excellent three-part story (with George Tuska penciling and inking the story over Kirby layouts) where Captain America realizes that it has been twenty years since he last defeated the Red Skull, and at the time, the Skull mentioned something about sleepers that would go off in twenty years time. Eventually a series of three sleeper robots are introduced, until the come together in the final installment - to destroy the world!

The highlight of this arc, of course, was the sight of Captain America, "just one man," launching himself at this destructive robot, mankind's last hope, seemingly a puny David against a mighty Goliath, but all Captain America really does is know how to win no matter the odds...

What inspiring action-packed comic book adventures these were.

Page 3: See #53-51

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