Today’s post features the Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag, the second Marvel Treasury I ever bought. Billed as a Marvel Treasury Special, I got this one in Glasgow in 1974.
It was rare for Xmas comic purchases to be in synch with the festive season but I can recall Christmas tree lights in evening windows. The newsagent was somewhere in Tollcross or Shettleston, where on rare occasions, my dad would buy feed for his racing pigeons. I got the Treasury at the same time as this beauty:
A morbid tale of the death of the rather bland but long-serving Invisible Kid, this was also the first full-length Mike Grell LSH story and I was hooked by his sexy, attenuated figure work.
I had read half the contents of the Treasury before but as the first of an annual series and the only one I actually associate with the holiday season, it has a special resonance.
Have Yourself a Sandman Little Christmas: the first issue of Marvel Team-Up, which was Marvel’s answer to Brave and the Bold. The first couple of years featured team-ups for Spidey and the Human Torch and here, Petey and Johnny pursue the granular villain Sandman. This member of the Frightful Four had also been a semi-regular opponent in Thomas’ Hulk stories. Here, Roy the Boy reveals Flint Marko’s real name during a Xmas visit to his invalid mother.
Was Thomas going through divorce at this time? His Johnny Storm is spurned and moody. Ross Andru’s characters however are quirky but appealing. This is also the first appearance of Misty Knight, the bionic ex-cop from Iron Fist- although she is unnamed in this story. It’s interesting that this 1972 story was so quickly reprinted; I assume MTU was in great demand.
In Mortal Combat with Sub-Mariner: a gorgeous 1965 Stan Lee/Wally Wood tale. It opens in the fairytale aquatic world of Atlantis, which is then cleverly contrasted with Namor’s brushes with the NYC legal system. Matt Murdock is hired to represent the Sub-Mariner in court, which, of course, leads to an epic battle between Daredevil and Namor. A surprisingly complex and well-written adventure , this is also the first appearance of DD’s iconic red costume.
…And to All a Good Night: a 1970 Black Widow story from her solo series in Amazing Adventures. It’s a moody Thomas/Colan vignette in which Natasha discovers the criminal activities of the Astrologer . A suicidal teenage drifter sacrifices himself to save her. This downbeat tale seems designed to establish the Widow’s Curse: the theme that the men in Madame Natasha’s life are somehow destroyed by her. This is a melodramatic angle that has largely been forgotten. This strip is more mature in tone than the other stories in the Treasury, as suggested by the stunning Widow’s shower scene.
The Hulk vs. The Thing: I confess I was originally underwhelmed by this 1964 Lee/Kirby two-parter when I first read it in Mighty World of Marvel. Nowadays, of course, I’m delighted to see Jack pencilling the original Avengers line-up. I really want to see Joss Whedon put Hank and Jan on the Big Screen.
Infamously, Stan’s memory had faltered for this story and there are many references to Bob Banner as the Hulk goes on the rampage when he learns Cap has taken his place with the Assemblers. The pace increases as Reed succumbs dramatically to a virus and Ben takes on the Hulk solo . As an eleven year old, I remember being in fits of laughter when Ben refers to ol’ Greenskin as “Little Mary Sunshine”. You couldn’t picture such irreverence from the JLA!
The Avengers Take Over: the second half of the story does indeed see the Avengers dominate the story. Not only does it promote the Assemblers’ own book, it shows them to be a more interesting, conflicted unit than the JLA; they literally fall over each other trying to thwart the Hulk’s abduction of Rick Jones. There are echoes of King Kong as the story climaxes in the skeletal girders of a skyscraper. The FF are courageous but are ultimately overshadowed in their own book by their guest-stars. On the other hand, the cohesion of the burgeoning Marvel Universe is at its most effective.
A satisfying read (although only a quarter of the material has a festive theme) .
Next: Marvel’s 1975 Yuletide Gift to you
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