A KC COLUMN by KC Carlson
The Marvel Universe is about to become Monsterized!
Starting one week from today (on January 18), Marvel’s latest mini-event Monsters Unleashed begins with the first of a five-issue limited series. It’s spread out over the next couple of months, wrapping up in late March. This series is written by Cullen Bunn (various Deadpool minis), and each of the five individual 30-page stories will be drawn by a different artist:
- #1: Steve McNiven (Civil War, Old Man Logan)
- #2: Greg Land (Uncanny X-Men, skillions of covers)
- #3: Leinil Francis Yu (Star Wars, Inhumans vs. X-Men)
- #4: Salvador Larroca (Invincible Iron Man, X-Men titles)
- and #5: Adam Kubert (All-New, All-Different Avengers and lots o’ stuff!)
Be prepared for plenty of two-page spreads and full-page splashes, for full monstrous effect! Plus, each of these all-star artists have designed a brand-new Monster to debut in their issues!
In addition, there will be eight Monster-packed stand-alone one-shots featuring Spider-Man/Deadpool, The Avengers, Doctor Strange, The Champions, Uncanny Inhumans, All-New X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, and, of course, The Totally Awesome Hulk. All of these will also be released over the next three months.
According to writer Cullen Bunn in Marvel Free Previews Monsters Unleashed #1, “On the surface, it’s a story about the heroes of the Marvel Universe [waking] up one morning and out of nowhere, giant Marvel Monsters start descending on the Earth and attacking in force.” So it kinda reminds me of when I was working at DC Comics, way back when… Y’know, some of those Marvel guys we played softball against were a bit monstrous, now that I think about it…
Variant cover collectors will have a field day with Monsters Unleashed, as many special “theme” variants will be produced, including a whole line of retro and pulp-inspired homages by the king of variant covers, Franceseco Francavilla. For the hipsters, special Gwen-ified Gwensters variants starring GooGwen, GwenGilla, GwenSteroso, and other Gwen-ified Monster concepts are being offered. I still don’t get the whole Gwen thing… but have fun, kids!
SO WHO ARE THESE MONSTERS, YOU MAY BE ASKING…
And that would be a very good question. But instead of just answering it (because since when have I ever done that?), here’s a look at two Marvel Monster collections — one ancient and one brand new — which should answer most of your questions.
THE ORIGINAL MARVEL MONSTER MASTERWORKS
Monster Masterworks was published in 1989 as one of Marvel’s earliest paperback collections. It brought together a gaggle of early creatures and monsters originally published in the pages of such early 1960s Marvel Comics titles as Tales to Astonish, Tales of Suspense, Amazing Adult Fantasy, Strange Tales, and Journey Into Mystery, and later reprinted in such 1970s titles as Where Creatures Roam, Where Monsters Dwell, and Uncanny Tales.
This early collection suffered some production problems. Specifically, instead of trying to locate the original film from the 1960s printings of the stories, the film used for printing this Monster Masterworks collection was from the 1970s reprints of the stories — giving these reprintings of the stories a murky, dark look. Much of the detail of the original black lines of the artwork also disappeared.
Stan Lee was credited with writing the bulk of the original Marvel Monsters stories, with his brother Larry Lieber occasionally assisting Stan and writing whole stories himself. The artists all became Marvel superstars with their later (and prior) superhero work, but at the time, guys like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Dick Ayers, and Bill Everett produced the bulk of the original monster stories. Ditko tended to drift more towards the more esoteric and science fiction-y stories (including the entire run of Amazing Adult Fantasy). So, almost by default, Jack Kirby became the artist most associated with the specific Monster stories. Or, in other words — King of the Monsters!
King Kirby let his mind run wild with the crazy designs of what seemed like hundreds of monsters during this period, inspiring Stan to come up with some of the wildest character names ever. Thus we got the likes of Glop, Moomba, Bruttu, Grottu – King of the Insects!, Orrgo – the Unconquerable!, Monstrom!, Vandoom (Hmmm… where have I heard that name before), The Blip, Zzutak (The Thing That Shouldn’t Exist!), Gigantus, Goom, Googam, Gorgilla (and Gorgolla), Taboo, The Creature From Krogarr, Kraa the Unhuman, X – The Thing That Lived, Spoor – The Thing That Could Not Die, Rommbu, Tim Boo Bah, Titan – The Amphibian from Atlantis!, and of course, the most fearsome of all — Fin Fang Foom! (Wearing those sexy boxer briefs!) Last but not least is Groot, who grew up to be a Guardian of the Galaxy decades after debuting as a KIrby Monster! (As well as becoming a Big Movie Star!) Oh, and I’m forgetting the most ferociously named Monster of all — The Green Thing. (Which is not what happens if you mash up Ben Grimm and Bruce Banner — who are both Monsters also, I guess…)
There are two special creator appearances in that first 1989 Monster Masterworks collection. At first glance, the cover artist for the book is fairly unrecognizable — because his now unmistakable style is not yet fully developed. But flip the book over and you’ll see his soon-to-be-instantly recognized signature cleverly hidden away in the foot of one of the Monsters! (I’ll not tell you now who it is, but I’ll subtly sneak his name in before the end of the column — in case you want to play along at home!)
The other special appearance is Jack Kirby himself — in an unexpected role for him. King Kirby wrote the introduction for this book! (Sadly, it’s been reported that it was the last thing that he produced for Marvel before he passed away in 1994 at the age of 76.) There aren’t really any new insights about his work from that era from the King, but it’s the kind of introduction you’d probably expect him to write at that age, prominently and proudly mentioning his 11-year-old grandson Jeremy… who probably loved his grandpa’s Monsters at that age!
Best of all, if you look around, you can still find copies of this now long-out-of-print book at very reasonable prices, especially if you only want a used reading copy. I should warn you though, the printing is especially monstrous.
2017 MONSTERS — STILL MONSTERS AFTER ALL THOSE YEARS!
The brand new (just released to comic shops last week) 2017 Monsters Unleashed Prelude collection is a much more modern affair. The paper stock is glossier (and extremely thinner, but durable) than the 1989 volume, and the older stories have been recolored for this edition. It’s specifically designed to spotlight the characters most prominent in the upcoming three-month Monsters Unleashed event.
The first 155 pages (out of 264) are all Kirby Monster reprints. The remainder of the book is modern material featuring both Monsters and Monster Hunters (like Elsa Bloodstone and Moon Girl), including Fearless Defenders #8, Marvel Zombies (2015) #1, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1, and Totally Awesome Hulk #2-3. Cover galleries for the modern comics (including variant covers) are also reprinted. Many of the characters and Monsters appearing here will also be appearing in the Monsters Unleashed “event” in comics released in January through March. Expect even more Monster collections following its conclusion.
If you discover that you really love the classic Kirby Monster era and want them all, Marvel is also producing 2 “Marvel Monsterbus” volumes later this year in May and August. Each volume is almost 900 pages each! That’s a lotta Monsters! (The first volume is listed for pre-order this month and features the original Groot on the cover!)
As Swingin’ Stan might say — “‘Nuff Said!”
As Fin Fang Foom might say — “I will destroy you!”
KORRGROGMU is now controlling the former KC Carlson into doing his bidding. Of course, the idiot took this literally and went to look for an auction house, leaving Korrgrogmu to write this monstrous piece instead. You puny humans better appreciate it.
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. That does not mean that KORRGROGMU is responsible either. Is Earth actually worth all of this?
KC CARLSON SAYS: Hey! I escaped! I hope Walter Simonson is reading this!
Classic covers from the Grand Comics Database.