Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Comics Movie: The Avengers are coming!

I'm about to enter a state of Nerdvana. The Avengers movie is coming out on Friday and I must admit that I'm SUPER hyped about it. It's been a while since I've been this excited about a superhero movie. The last must-see movies for me were The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt. 2, and even Twilight: Breaking Dawn pt. 1. Okay, sue me for liking movies based on good kid lit. Okay, maybe Twilight isn't all that "good," but it did make me want to see what happens next, which is frankly a lesson "mature" fiction would do well to learn.

As for must-see Superhero Movies, the last one I got excited about was Captain America. And I'm pleased to say that one paid off -- I loved it. I have high hopes for this movie, too. Watching the movie trailers on TV has found me pausing them to answer questions from my wife about who the heroes are. There's a decent chance she'll go see the movie with me the second time I go (I'm going Friday afternoon and she can't take off work, so we'll go together next week).

And it also got me thinking about my favorite Avengers comics and stories.

Avengers: Essential and Otherwise
I have no idea what my earliest Avengers comic might be; I have not yet cataloged those comics. I have entered 7 into the system, and the earliest of those is Avengers #51 from April 1968. I also have #55 and #56. These are all that I've entered so far... I'm pretty sure I've got another 3-5 years worth waiting to be entered into the database.

For me, these are the "classic" Avengers, back when the whole Marvel continuity seemed fresh and exciting (also, I should mention that I read these several years after they were published -- I was less than five years old when these issues came out).  I really didn't get into the Avengers until the latter part of the 1970s and then the 1980s.

These issues featured the Avengers at their bickering best: arguing with each other while saving the world from aliens, monsters, and more super-villains than you can shake a stick at (not that I think that would be an effective strategy, unless of course the stick was Daredevil's billy club). This material came out in the dark days before the Internet or massive omnibus reprints like the super-cool Marvel "Essential" series. In those dark days you had to find comics at used book stores (if you were lucky), or have a friend who had them (I didn't) or just ignore what you were missing and just move on as the story continued.

Fortunately, those days are gone and most of this classic material has been reprinted in b&w phone book sized collections of about 500 pages. I have Essential Avengers 1 and 2, which is to say I've got about 1,000 pages of reprinted material from the classic early era of the Avengers. I will probably hunt down vol. 2 so I can fill in the gaps from the early days where the team first came together to fight Loki and to where Hank Pym donned the rather snappy costume of Yellowjacket (that dude to the right).

I think the storyline I remember most is the Wundagore Mountain in which the Scarlet Witch searched for the identity of her parents. That storyline blew my mind because it tied into so many cool things that I really didn't know very much about at that time:

  • Wundagore Mountain and its ties to the Darkhold
  • The High Evolutionary (all I knew of him was that he was somehow involved in the origin of Jessica Drew, the Spider-Woman)
  • The Whizzer was Wanda and Pietro's father (I knew him from his appearances in the Liberty Legion) ?
  • The evil Cthon (which I later equated to Cthulhu -- how cool is that?)
All in all, the "Yesterday Quest" was incredible reading back in July 1979. For me, this whole era (which some people hate because the line-up was changed by government command to only seven members, including the Falcon, who just had no business in the team back then). I liked it. It was exciting and really showed how the series was tied into the very foundations of the Marvel universe.

Of course, all good things come to an end. Eventually I moved on from the Avengers, although I did pick up an issue to read every now and then. Frankly, I'm glad I wasn't there for "Avengers: Disassembled" or the later "House of M" stuff. To me, those "mega-events" really did more harm than good. They made the comics too twisted and confusing to follow for all but the most die-hard uber-fanboy. And that just ain't me. I prefer my comics a little simper, like they were in the 70s and 80s. Of course, that's just the bitter mumblings of an old guy who thinks comics were better when he was a kid.  

How predictable of me.

But you know what? Just as youth has its prerogatives, so does age: We each get to gripe about how the other just doesn't understand. Of course, we also get to enjoy the new stuff, like the super-coll AVENGERS MOVIE coming out on Friday! Way back in my comic reading days of 1979, there is no way I could have imagined a live-action movie based on Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and no way I could have imagined that film making technology could actually bring the comic page to life. 

And that is TOTALLY COOL.

See ya here for Netflix Friday and a visit from the Avengers!

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