Sunday, March 25, 2012

Book review: Marvel Visionaries Roy Thomas

The Marvel Visionaries hardcover series features numerous volumes dedicated to the creators that made Marvel Comics into what it has become today. Or at least created what used to be good about Marvel Comics as a whole.

Roy Thomas was one of the first fan-turned-pro comic creators. I think Jim Shooter, who started writing for the Legion of Super-Heroes feature in DC's Adventure Comics when he was 13-years-old was the only real precursor. Roy has always been different in that besides being a talented writer, he also had a genuine reverence for the comics that he loved in the forties. I doubt there's any comic book writer out there who has re-started as many golden age characters as Roy did; He quite literally rewrote the book at both Marvel and DC to create cohesive histories featuring all their characters, along with the characters of other publishers that they purchased along the way (such as Captain Marvel/Shazam, and Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters) in the pages of All-Star Squadron.   At Marvel, he put the much-weaker golden age stable to good use in creating the Invaders and the Liberty Legion. Roy's versatility had him creating great comics in every genre: Super-heroes to horror to war to teen-oriented stories to sword and sorcery.

Roy was the first Editor-in-Chief at Marvel Comics after Stan Lee took the post of publisher. He created the silver age version of the android Vision (which a lot of folks probably didn't realize was a golden age character) in the pages of the Avengers, where he had a lengthy run with John Buscema handling the art. He was also crucial in the creation of Ghost Rider, Iron Fist, Brother Voodoo and was the original writer on Conan the Barbarian. He had an award-winning run on X-Men, which saved the book from outright cancellation (becoming a reprint title instead), and he helped Marvel get the rights to do a Star Wars comic.

This volume features a good variety of his work. It begins pretty nonchalantly with a story from an issue of Millie the Model, which was one of Roy's first published full-length stories. There's also an Iron Man tale from Tales of Suspense. His work on the Avengers is showcased by the two-part story that introduced both the Vision and Ultron, along with his first story for the title in issue #35. That one also features one of the biggest mistakes in a Marvel story: Captain America's indestructible shield is destroyed by a trap set by the Living Laser; but suddenly reappears with no explanation later on in the story. That one made the Marvel No-Prize Book back in the eighties. Avengers #100 is also reprinted in this collection, with art by Barry-Windsor Smith.

There are also excellent tales from the pages of X- Men, Sub-Mariner, Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange, Amazing Adventures, Captain Marvel and Incredible Hulk. It reprints the entire story from Giant-Size Invaders #1, which featured the first retroactive meeting of Captain America, Sub-Mariner and the original Human Torch. There is also a short reprint from Dracula Lives!, one of Marvel's black-and-white magazines, and a very Conan-like tale from Chamber of Darkness. There's even a Not Brand Ecch story included, with some very fandom-esque filksongs in it.

This hardcover collection features some great reproductions of the work of some excellent artists. The work of John Severin, Frank Robbins, Marie Severin, Neal Adams, John Buscema and Windsor-Smith literally jumps of the pages at you. There's a variety here you won't get with a lot of the other Visionaries volumes; since Roy is a writer, you get a plethora of pencillers and inkers to embellish his prose.

Marvel Visionaries Roy Thomas would be an great addition to any Marvel fan's collection. There's a lot of history in this book and a lot of good comic books. Roy Thomas is another professional and pioneer that doesn't get nearly the respect he deserves from today's creators and fan base. This book is a good introduction to why he helped create the comics you enjoy reading today.


by Rich Meyer

If you name a comic book character from the last 70 years, you'll probably find a question about them - from Thor and the X-Men, to Superman and Batman, to Little Lulu and the Pink Panther. There are questions about almost every genre of comic book - superhero, funny animal, teen, horror, war, humor. 

This quiz book has 1,001 questions (and answers) for the most neophyte of fans and questions that will probably stump a few of the experts!

About the Author

Rich Meyer collects old-time radio programs, comic books, classic TV shows, Doc Savage novels, likes strange cinema and enjoys collecting bits of random trivia. 
He also plays in many real-life trivia contests, including Trivia Turmoil, KVSC St. Cloud and WWSP 90FM's World's Largest Trivia Contest. He has been a member of several Top 10 teams in the World's Largest Trivia Contest.
Rich is also a fan of the music of Frank Zappa, Blue Öyster Cult, Badfinger, the Tubes and progressive rock in general.

Rich resides in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. He lives with his wife Mona and his furry children Emiko, Montagoon, Pippin, Luli, Maxwell and Liam-Loki. 

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