Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2

Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2

First Published: August 2006

Contents: Marvel Team-Up #25 (September 1974) to #51 (November 1976); and Marvel Two-in-One #17 (July 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Bill Mantlo, Jim Mooney, Sal Buscema, Ron Wilson, and others

Key First Appearances: Jean DeWolff, Wraith

Story Continues From: Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 3

Overview: As a New York City-based character, Spider-Man continues to be the center of attention in the Marvel Universe, and in the pages of Marvel Team-Up, as seen in this second Essential volume.

As with the first volume, Marvel Team-Up partners the various Marvel characters with their most recognizable hero in Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man. While most of these stories are one-and-done, we do see some multiple-issue story arcs. Spider-Man moves from one team-up to the next, all as part of the same story. For example, see the Defenders story in issues #33-#35; a multi-part story focusing on the Vision and the Scarlet Witch in issues #41-#44; and the Iron Man arc from issues #48-#51. This last story arc introduced NYPD Captain Jean DeWolff, one of the few officers that recognize Spider-Man as a hero working with the police, and Jean’s brother-turned-villain, the Wraith.

The Human Torch makes the last of his appearances as the lead feature in Marvel Team-Up #36 in this Essential. However, the Human Torch would still cross paths three more times with Spider-Man in this title over the run of the book.

What makes this Essential?: Is this really an Essential title? Absolutely not, when looking at the significant moments of the characters’ life stories. However, this title, as well as the other team-up books from Marvel and DC, is the perfect way to introduce a new reader to a world of characters. From this volume, a reader could go explore the adventures of Iron Man, Thor, The Fantastic Four, The Defenders, The Avengers, Doctor Strange, Killraven, and many others. So give this a read and see what interests you next!

Who’s Who / Reprinted Elsewhere:
Marvel Team-Up #25 – Spider-Man & Human Torch
Marvel Team-Up #26 – Human Torch & Thor
Marvel Team-Up #27 – Spider-Man & the Hulk
Marvel Team-Up #28 – Spider-Man & Hercules
Marvel Team-Up #29 – Human Torch & Iron Man
Marvel Team-Up #30 – Spider-Man & Falcon
Marvel Team-Up #31 – Spider-Man & Iron Fist
Marvel Team-Up #32 – Human Torch & the Son of Satan / Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1
Marvel Team-Up #33 – Spider-Man & Nighthawk / Essential Defenders Vol. 2
Marvel Team-Up #34 – Spider-Man & Valkyrie / Essential Defenders Vol. 2
Marvel Team-Up #35 – Human Torch & Doctor Strange / Essential Defenders Vol. 2
Marvel Team-Up #36 – Spider-Man & the Frankenstein Monster
Marvel Team-Up #37 – Spider-Man & Man-Wolf
Marvel Team-Up #38 – Spider-Man & the Beast
Marvel Team-Up #39 – Spider-Man & Human Torch
Marvel Team-Up #40 – Spider-Man & the Sons of the Tiger
Marvel Team-Up #41 – Spider-Man & Scarlet Witch
Marvel Team-Up #42 – Spider-Man & the Vision
Marvel Team-Up #43 – Spider-Man & Doctor Doom
Marvel Team-Up #44 – Spider-Man & Moondragon
Marvel Team-Up #45 – Spider-Man & Killraven / Essential Killraven Vol. 1
Marvel Team-Up #46 – Spider-Man & Deathlok
Marvel Two-In-One #17 – The Thing & Spider-Man / Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1
Marvel Team-Up #47 – Spider-Man & the Thing / Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1
Marvel Team-Up #48 – Spider-Man & Iron Man
Marvel Team-Up #49 – Spider-Man & Iron Man 
Marvel Team-Up #50 – Spider-Man & Doctor Strange
Marvel Team-Up #51 – Spider-Man & Iron Man

If you like this volume, try: the Ultimate Marvel Team-Up series from 2001 & 2002. The Ultimate universe was created by Marvel in the early 2000s as a way to tell stories featuring their most popular characters without the 40+ years of continuity weighing them down. The stories mirrored many of the original character stories but told to match the modern society. For example, teenage Peter Parker did get a job at the Daily Bugle, but he was helping out on the paper’s website.  For Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, the entire series (16 issues and one special) is written by Brian Michael Bendis, with art from a variety of artists. These issues serve as a way to introduce many Marvel characters into the Ultimate Universe, so the first appearances of Ultimate Hulk, Ultimate Iron Man, Ultimate Daredevil, etc. My personal favorite was issue #14, where Spider-Man crossed paths with the Ultimate version of Black Widow. The art is done by Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise) who was the perfect choice to show teenage awkwardness of Peter against the sleek beauty of Natasha. The entire series has been reprinted multiple times in multiple formats, so it should not be a challenge to track these issues down.

Essential Human Torch Vol. 1

Essential Human Torch Vol. 1

First Published: January 2004

Contents: Human Torch stories from Strange Tales #101 (October 1962) to #134 (July 1965), and Strange Tales Annual #2 (1963)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Larry Lieber, and Bob Powell

Key First Appearances: Wizard, Paste-Pot Pete, the Eel, Dorrie Evans, Plantman, the Beetle, the Fox

Overview: Welcome to the solo stories of Johnny Storm, the teenage member of the Fantastic Four. We are quite familiar by now how Johnny gained the fantastic ability to ignite himself on fire to become the Human Torch. Now we see how the youngest member of the FF deals with teenage issues, like finding a girlfriend or getting a car.

One of the key introductions in these stories is Dorrie Evans, who would become Johnny’s regular girlfriend for the early years, at least until she disappeared into limbo and was replaced by Crystal from the Inhumans. Many longtime FF villains started out as foes of Johnny, including the Wizard, the Eel, and Paste-Pot Pete. (It’s hard to strike fear in citizens with a name like Paste-Pot Pete, so he eventually changed his name over to the Trapster.)

In Strange Tales #120, the Human Torch teams up with Iceman from the X-Men, the first meeting between these two characters. This would lead to an ongoing argument within the comic community that has lasted for 50+ years as to who would win a fight between them. My feeling is they could each win in the right circumstances in a neutral setting. But generally, the edge always goes to the titular character.

Beginning with Strange Tales #123, the Thing comes on as the regular co-star of these stories with the Human Torch. This helps build the friendship between the two characters. The stories seem to repeat a lot of the friends and foes seen during Johnny’s solo stories, so we get second appearances by the Sub-Mariner, the X-Men, Paste-Pot Pete, the Wizard, and others.

What makes this Essential?: These stories could be considered as the first spin-off book from Marvel Comics. Even though the Human Torch is the title character for this run, these really are a secondary set of Fantastic Four stories. Reed, Sue, and Ben appear in nearly every story in this run. These stories start just 11 months after Fantastic Four #1 and served as a way to help get the characters more exposure, in particular, the teenage member of the foursome. A side benefit had to be increased sales on an anthology book that was quickly being surpassed by the popularity of the super-hero titles.

Hindsight being 20/20, maybe it would have been better to include these stories chronologically within the Essential Fantastic Four run. This Essential Human Torch came out nearly six years after the Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 1, during the early days of this collection line. With most of the stories in this volume done by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Dick Ayers, you could almost consider this volume to be Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 1.5. If you own the early Fantastic Four Essentials, then you should also own this one.

She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!: In Strange Tales #130, Stan Lee decided to team up the  Fantastic Four with the Fab Four. Dorrie Evans and Alicia Masters invite their boyfriends to attend a Beatles concert. When they arrive, the concert venue manager announces that they were just robbed, and would be unable to pay the Beatles. Johnny and Ben step up to recover the money. Even though these are just normal crooks, they lead the Human Torch and the Thing on a six-page chase before being captured. Johnny and Ben return the money to the box office, right as the concert ends.

The Human Torch and the Thing return the stolen box office receipts.

The Human Torch and the Thing return the stolen box office receipts.

This appears to be the first appearance of the Beatles in a Marvel comic, but not their first appearance in a comic. In 1964, Dell Comics released an oversized one-shot that was more magazine than comic.

Footnotes: Strange Tales was an anthology title that started back in 1951. When the Human Torch joined in issue #101, that began the “Marvel Universe” takeover of the title. Dr. Strange joined in issue #110. When the Human Torch (and the Thing) left the title, they were replaced by Nick Fury.

In 1974, Marvel launched an eight-issue Human Torch series. It featured reprints of Golden-Age Human Torch stories featuring Jim Hammond, as well as reprints of the early Strange Tales stories featuring Johnny Storm. Each issue had a new cover, done by the likes of John Romita, Sr., Marie Severin, and Gil Kane. It would have been nice if Marvel had included those covers in this book.

The Human Torch story in Strange Tales #127 was reprinted with a new framing sequence in Fantastic Four #154, which was reprinted in Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 7.

If you like this volume, try: the Spider-Man/Human Torch miniseries from 2005. Written by Dan Slott and drawn by Ty Templeton, this five issue series spotlights moments shared between the two characters over their five decades in comics. This is a funny yet touching look at two friends who grew into adulthood fighting villains and aliens. This has been reprinted in the digest format and as a hardcover, but the individual issues can still be found in quarter bins. This is a must read for all ages!

Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1

Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1

First Published: April 2002

Contents: Marvel Team-Up #1 (March 1972) to #24 (August 1974)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Gil Kane, Ross Andru, Jim Mooney, and Sal Buscema

Key First Appearances: Misty Knight, Man-Killer, the Orb, Basilisk, Stegron

Story Continues In: Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2

Overview: The comic industry has proven time and time again that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If a character sells well for one company, an imitation of that same character should sell just as well for a second company, or a third. In the early 1970s, DC Comics had made The Brave and the Bold a Batman team-up book. By all accounts, it was doing well, or at least well enough for Marvel to take notice and create their own team-up book featuring their marquee character, Spider-Man.

Marvel Team-Up ran from 1972-1985, with 150 issues plus seven annuals. Spider-Man was the lead co-feature in all but nine issues, which were shared between the Human Torch and the Hulk. So this is generally considered a Spider-Man book. The title ran bi-monthly for the first year before adjusting to become a monthly book.

Outside of the initial story arc with Spider-Man and the Human Torch, these are one-and-done stories featuring Spider-Man teaming up with a variety of characters. Some of these are characters who have recently debuted in other books, such as the Cat, Werewolf, or Ghost Rider. Other times it was to just keep the characters active, such as the X-Men team-up in issue #4. (Hard to believe now, but there was a period in the early 1970s where Marvel was not publishing any new X-Men stories on a regular basis.)

What makes this Essential?: I really like the team-up books. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Marvel had two titles (Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-In-One), and DC had two titles (The Brave & the Bold and DC Comics Presents) that allowed for a wide variety of characters to meet up. This Essential volume features some incredible creative talents, with art by Gil Kane and Ross Andru. The stories are written by Gerry Conway and Len Wein, two of Marvel’s key writers of the 1970s. This is a gateway book — a good way to introduce a reader to the Marvel Universe. In the grand scheme of things, this is probably not truly an essential book to own, but it is a great book to bring someone into the world of comics.

Who’s Who / Reprinted Elsewhere:
#1 – Spider-Man & Human Torch
#2 – Spider-Man & Human Torch
#3 – Spider-Man & Human Torch
#4 – Spider-Man & the X-Men / Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 3
#5 – Spider-Man & the Vision
#6 – Spider-Man & the Thing
#7 – Spider-Man & Thor
#8 – Spider-Man & the Cat
#9 – Spider-Man & Iron Man
#10 – Spider-Man & Human Torch
#11 – Spider-Man & the Inhumans
#12 – Spider-Man & the Werewolf / Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 1
#13 – Spider-Man & Captain America
#14 – Spider-Man & the Sub-Mariner
#15 – Spider-Man & Ghost Rider
#16 – Spider-Man & Captain Marvel
#17 – Spider-Man & Mr. Fantastic
#18 – Human Torch & the Hulk
#19 – Spider-Man & Ka-Zar
#20 – Spider-Man & Black Panther
#21 – Spider-Man & Doctor Strange
#22 – Spider-Man & Hawkeye
#23 – Human Torch & Iceman
#24 – Spider-Man & Brother Voodoo / Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2

If you like this volume, try: the Fearless Defenders comic from 2013 by Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney. Of the handful of characters that made their debut in this Essential, Misty Knight is the most recognizable of the list. She has been a supporting character for 40 years, most often appearing alongside Power Man and Iron Fist in the Heroes for Hire books. In 2013, Misty Knight and Valkyrie were tasked to pull together the Valkyrior, an all-female team of heroes. A team is assembled that crosses all sections of the Marvel Universe. The book told good stories featuring strong female characters, while not taking itself too seriously. The covers by Mark Brooks were incredible, with homages to other sources from the world of pop culture. Sadly, low sales forced this title to be cancelled at issue #12. This title is available in trade paperback collections: Volume 1 came out in September 2013, and Volume 2 will be released at the end of February 2014.