Mike Gold: The Mighty Marvel Monster Society
Remember back in the good old days when comic books were fun to read? Before the never-ending cascade of deaths that are meaningless and temporary, multiple characters with the same name and pretty much the same abilities, and incessant earthshattering mega-events that bring together entire universes of superheroes just so we can see how much they hate each other?
For several years before the debut of the contemporary Marvel Universe, the House of Ideas published a lot of westerns, romance comics, teen humor, war titles – and some major tonnage of monster comics. I was probably in their prime target audience at the time, having just turned 11 when Fantastic Four #1 came out. That’s the first Fantastic Four #1. But for me, there was only one problem.
I never bought those monster titles. They just didn’t appeal to me. They looked kinda dumb.
Then Fantastic Four #1 came out, followed by Fantastic Four #2 and then the creation of the Marvel Universe as we know it today… more-or-less. And then Marvel decided to jump on the oversized annuals bandwagon, a cart already crowded by DC, Archie, Harvey and Dennis The Menace. They released their first two in the summer of 1962 – Millie The Model and Strange Tales. I was so surprised I immediately bought the latter and actually considered buying the former.
I bought it at Chicago’s Washington Avenue subway kiosk as I was about to climb down the stairs to go home. Yes, my mother let me go downtown alone: it was 1962 and we were a lot less paranoid back then. Anyway, I started with page one and got through all 76 pages before I hit Albany Park. And I had a blast.
Since then, Marvel has incorporated some of these monsters into their continuity, most famously Fin Fang Foom (my favorite, whether he’s wearing pants or not) and Groot. Editor/head writer Stan Lee later recycled some of the names for use as heroes and villains: The Hulk, Thorr, Magneto, Elektro, The Thing, Cyclops. Perhaps the spelling of the monster Thorr explains why the superhero Thor’s name was misspelled on the last panel of his debut story.
The Creature from Krogarr (the orange guy on the left) was recycled in a brief monster team-up in The Incredible Hulk. I guess he might have received greater exposure, had his name not been almost exactly the same as the mammoth supermarket chain.
So Marvel is doing a big ol’ event in January called Monsters Unleashed, recycling another Marvel name. As Captain Renault said with great insincerity, “I’m shocked.” But leading their effort is an oversized omnibus called “Monsters Vol. 1: The Marvel Monsterbus by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby.” It reprints Groot, Fin Fang Foom, Thorr the Unbelievable, the alien Hulk, the eight-foot-tall Magneto, and others. 872 pages in total. I don’t think I could carry that on the “L”, let alone finish it. The Marvel Monsterbus retails for a hundred bucks, or roughly the cost of a variant cover.
But I do not believe Krogarr is in the Monsterbus. At least, not volume one.
And I’ll bet volume two has a whole lotta Steve Ditko.