Friday, January 6, 2017

Fantasy Masterpieces: Stan Lee Aimed to Please

Stan Lee listened, True Believer!
Determined to make Marvel an interactive comic book company, with readers as stakeholders, Lee paid close attention to readers’ requests and fulfilled them whenever possible.
A battle between the Hulk and the Thing? A crossover between Iceman and the Human Torch? An Avengers lineup revamped to provide more realistic continuity? Wedding bells for Sue and Reed?
Readers had but to name them to get them.
One other thing readers wanted were Golden Age reprints, and those too, Lee provided — in marked contrast to DC Comics, which seemed extremely reluctant to reprint the earliest adventures of their super-heroes.
Superman editor Mort Weisinger claimed that was because the art was too crude, but I suspected that the infamous conniver just didn’t want to spotlight the best work of the editors who preceded him.
In 1966, two years after Captain America’s revival, we readers began seeing his early 1940s adventures in the Fantasy Masterpieces reprint giant, and could really begin to understand where these characters we loved came from.
Cap had puzzled me a little. Why did he have a super-hero origin, the super-soldier serum, but no apparent super powers? He seemed to be just a costumed acrobat, like Daredevil, but without the super senses.
Now, his initial appeal was apparent to me. The menaces, though often derivative, were wild and engaging — a Hound of the Baskervilles villain, a Hunchback of Hollywood, Ivan the Terrible, a gigantic sea serpent, a criminal disguised as a butterfly and those love-to-hate-‘em fascists, including the Red Skull. The Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime fought Captain America before taking on the Rawhide Kid and the Hulk in slightly altered form. The Black Toad was determined to destroy baseball itself! How un-American!
The feature’s earliest art had Jack Kirby’s raw dynamism, but none of his later polish. Given the super-patriot angle and the bursting-through-the-panels action, I could see why this character had been so immensely popular from the start.

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