Markley Fevered Brain: Monsters

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

At one time, Marvel published almost everything other than superheroes. Yep, there were a few stragglers from the Golden Age, but the majority of their titles were genre titles, such as humor, romance, western, horror and, of course, monsters. Titles included such classics (which would later become superhero titles) as Tale to Astonish, Tales of Suspense, Amazing Fantasy and many others. Before Spider-Man, Iron Man, Ant Man and the Hulk, these titles were filled with monster stories. Who knew there were so many monsters that wanted to take over, escape from, enslave, or outright terrorize humanity? Almost all of the these stories were written by Stan Lee and drawn mostly by Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Dick Ayers, Don Heck and a few others. They were either two part stories that went a whopping 13 pages, or a single 8-10 page story. A lot of these monsters were later re-used by Stan Lee, well their names were, as some of these early monsters included Thorr, Hulk, Groot (originally not a cute good guy) and one of my favorites, Fin Fang Foom. I should also note that some of the other titles such as Strange Tales, while predominantly horror stories, would occasionally have a monster pop up. In the early 1970s, Marvel reprinted these stories at random in such titles as Where the Monsters Dwell, Fear, and Monsters on the Prowl. In 1990, they released a trade called Monster Masterworks which reprinted a number of classic stories from the ‘50s. Over the last twenty years there have been masterworks collections of Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish reprinting these classic comics in their original form. (Alas they still have not reprinted all of the Strange Tales and a handful of other Atlas titles. Or any of the romance titles, such as Millie the Model. And there is still a ton of Sgt. Fury that could be issued in Masterwork format. Hint, Hint). They also did a miniseries in 2006 called Marvel Monsters, featuring all new stories of some of the best known beasts, which is now available in a nice hardcover collection. But with the Monsters Unleashed miniseries last year and the subsequent series, Marvel has issued a number of great collections reprinting a wide variety of these monster stories lately, in both trade, HC and omnibus formats. The only negative is at times the same story appears a number of times. Still these are fun, fun, and fun.

Monsters: The Marvel Monsterbus Vol. 1

Monsters: The Marvel Monsterbus Vol. 1


Marvel has released two full color, and truly monstrous (each coming in at over 800 pages each), omnibuses reprinting every Jack Kirby monster story. They are called Monsters: The Marvel Monsterbus Vol. One and Two. A lot of these stories have been reprinted in the various Masterworks over the years, in collections such as the Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, and Strange Tales Masterworks. But, there are a number of stories here that Marvel has not gotten around to releasing in the Masterworks series yet. (I hope that they will do so at some point). Almost all of these stories are written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers. All of these stories are from the early 1950s through the early 1960s period of Marvel. While I can see the argument for not getting these collections as they are pricey ($100.00 each), they also offer you hours of fun reading with great, if not wacky, art by Kirby. What I also find fascinating about these stories are you see the beginnings of what Stan would later do with the Marvel superhero universe. In these stories you see a number of plots and story devices that would later show up in the Fantastic Four, Avengers, Thor etc. Stan also used the monsters in other genre titles at the time. Rawhide Kid and the other western books have a number of cowboys vs. monsters stories in the same format as the monster stories, ether short or longer two part stories. These are great books to sit down with on a rainy afternoon and just get lost in the adventure and silliness of them. They are not as majestic as Kirby’s later work on the FF or Thor or his Forth World series, but you do see his art style slowly transitioning from his ‘40s style (as seen in the recent Newsboy Legion Collection Vol. 2 from DC) to the more dynamic style he would use later.

Monsters Unleashed Prelude

Monsters Unleashed Prelude


Monsters Unleashed Prelude is an odd collection that mixes the classic monster stories from Strange Tales, Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish and reprints such classic monster stories as Gorgilla! Blip! Monster of Midnight Mountain! Groot! And many more. Plus, this book reprints the more modern takes on Marvel’s monsters, such as Moongirl and Devil Dinosaur #1 (one of my favorite Marvel books), Marvel Zombie #1 (the 2015 version) and issues of the Totally Awesome Hulk numbers two and three. Plus an issue of the Fearless Defenders that features modern appearances of the classic monsters. This is a smaller trade, coming in at just over 250 pages, but it is full color and it gives you a great feel for the different sensibilities of the Marvel monsters from the 1950s through some modern takes on the characters. It should be noted as comic fans became creators over the years (Roy Thomas’ forward) these writers would bring back various monsters from the ‘50s as modern (for the ‘70s and ‘80s at least) villains, most frequently in the pages of the Incredible Hulk.

The A-Z of Marvel Monsters

The A-Z of Marvel Monsters


The A-Z of Marvel Monsters is a full color hardcover that is a really an excuse to collect and reprint all of the Kirby Monster variants covers from the Monsters Unleashed miniseries. There is one page devoted to each letter of the alphabet, a-z, with one page describing the monster and on the opposite page the variant cover featuring that monster. Artists include Arthur Adams, Mike Allred, John Cassaday, Walt Simonson and many more. What I found particularly interesting is over a third of the monsters features in the A-Z listings are not from the traditional monster titles but are from the pages of the Fantastic Four, Thor and Avengers. The last third of the book is fleshed out reprinting old Kirby monster stories such as Blip, Elektro, Kraa and Thorr. I thought this book was worth the money just to have all of the great variants covers of modern artists paying homage to Jack Kirby in such a nice format.

Monsters Unleashed #6

Monsters Unleashed #6


As I mentioned earlier, Marvel did a miniseries last year called Monsters Unleashed and there is currently an ongoing book called Monsters Unleashed, but these titles have very to do with the classic Marvel monsters, although some of them do appear in the end of the miniseries and Elsa Bloodstone is a central character in the mini-series and the ongoing series.

Bloodstone and the Legion of Monsters

Bloodstone and the Legion of Monsters


Bloodstone and the Legion of Monsters is a trade collection of almost all of Elsa Bloodstone and her father’s comic appearances reprinted together in one book. The book will not be out till September but it is filled with tales of the Bloodstone monster hunting family. There are not a lot of these stories that tie into the traditional monsters from the ‘50s, but if you are a fan of these stories you may want to keep an eye for this collection.

Ditko's Monsters: Konga!

Ditko’s Monsters: Konga!


Not to be left out, IDW released two hardcover volumes of Steve Ditko’s monster series that he did for Charlton Comics in 1961 (prior to his return to Marvel and Spider-Man and Dr. Strange). Both of these volumes came out back in 2015 and are full color with each being over 200 pages of Ditko monster action. Unlike the Marvel stories, these are full length stories and the two monsters are less the monster of the week that Stan was doing and are more homages (or knock offs) of more popular monsters, Godzilla and King Kong. Both of these characters, Konga and Gorgo are based on two British films from 1961. (Again trying to capitalize on the Godzilla/Kong popularity). Vol. 1-Gorgo is about a giant lizard monster that looks very similar to Godzilla, with a touch of Fin Fang Foom. Joe Gill wrote these scripts that had Gorgo going around the world destroying city after city until the puny humans are able to drive him away. Vol. 2 is called Konga and it is about a giant ape. This collection is over 300 pages of a giant ape fighting everything from mole men to dinosaurs to the army and much more. Once again Joe Gill wrote all of these tales. Both of these books have all the reason you love (or dislike) Ditko, from his page layouts to his storytelling. These are not as good as the Marvel material and I do not think the longer length of the stories helps in a monster story, but they are a great deal of fun.

This wraps it up for this time. As you can probably guess by now I am a big fan of these monster stories, even though they all follow a very simple and repetitive formula. Have you ever red any of these collections? What did you think? Which one of the brutes were your favorites? Who would you like to see return? I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. Of course everything I have written here is my words and do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. Till next time…

Thank you.

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