Showcase Presents Booster Gold Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Booster Gold Vol. 1

First Published: March 2008

Contents: Booster Gold #1 (February 1986) to #25 (February 1988); Action Comics #594 (November 1987); and the Booster Gold origin story from Secret Origins #35 (December 1988)

Key Creator Credits: Dan Jurgens, Mike DeCarlo, Ty Templeton, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: Michael Jon Carter/Booster Gold, Skeets, Blackguard, the 1000, Trixie Collins/Goldstar, Dirk Davis, Michelle Carter, Chiller

Overview: In the 25th century, down-on-his-luck Michael Jon Carter is working at the Space Museum as a night watchman. As a promising football star nicknamed “Booster”, he was banned from the sport when it was revealed he took money to throw a game. Deciding to take advantage of his knowledge of the past, Carter steals a Legion flight ring and force-field belt and uses a time bubble to travel to the 20th century. There he sets himself up as a new superhero, Goldstar, in Metropolis, the hometown of Superman. He sets up a corporation for himself, to handle commercials and endorsements. During his first debut as a hero, he bumbles his own name, and the President introduces our hero to the world as Booster Gold!

Stuck with the botched code name, Booster Gold is the toast of the town, and in the targets of many people. New villains sprout up, such as Blackguard and Chiller, working for a criminal organization known as the 1000. Booster sister Michelle follows her brother back to the 20th century, where she becomes the hero Goldstar. Life is going well for Booster, right?

Unfortunately, life goes wrong for Booster – again! Booster’s sister is killed in battle. His wealth is taken away by his agent, who is secretly a Manhunter. Booster Gold realizes that he can still be a hero without the fame and money that motivated him in the past.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I was ready to dismiss this volume, having lived through it’s run 28 years ago. But on the re-read of this title, I have to reconsider my position on this. First, Booster Gold was one of the first NEW heroes to debut in the new post-Crisis universe. While there have been times when he has been nothing more than comedy relief, he has been an active character in DC Comics for nearly 30 years now.

These stories also represent the changing view of heroes in the mid-1980s. Following works like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, heroes were no longer goody-two-shoes. At the start of this title, Booster Gold is not a likable person. He stole a Legion ring and a force field belt and traveled into the past with the intent of using his knowledge of history for monetary gain. His actions are based on what the reward is for him, and not for the betterment of others. It’s only after Booster Gold’s life bottoms out that he realizes the mistakes he has made along the way, and now must overcome his legacy of the corporate hero in order to become a true hero.

Footnotes:  The cover to Action Comics #594 is a direct homage to the cover of Booster Gold #7.

If you like this volume, try: reading Justice League International from the mid-1980s. Known as the “Bwah-Ha-Ha-Ha!” era, this book was put together by the creative talents of J.M DeMatteis, Keith Giffen, and Kevin Maquire. Following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Justice League of America as we knew it broke up, and the title itself came to an end. In the Legends mini-series that soon followed, many heroes made their first appearance in the post-Crisis universe, including the new Justice League. This was a team of the 1980s, organized by business mogul Maxwell Lord. More emphasis was put on recruiting new heroes, with very few ties to the old League. Taking a page from the Marvel style, this Justice League fought with each other (“One punch!”), told jokes, and did not take themselves all too seriously. Booster Gold joins the team in Justice League #3 and becomes a core member for the next 10 years. DC has recently started collecting these issues in new hardcover and trade paperback editions, so it should be easy to track them down!

Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 2

Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 2

Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 2

First Published: June 2007

Contents: Silver Surfer story from Epic Illustrated #1 (Spring 1980); Silver Surfer #1 (June 1982); Silver Surfer #1 (July 1987) to #18 (December 1988); Silver Surfer Annual #1 (1988); and Silver Surfer story from Marvel Fanfare #51 (June 1990)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, John Buscema, John Byrne, Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, Joe Staton, Ron Lim, and others

Key First Appearances: Contemplator, Nenora, Captain Reptyl, Clumsy Foulup. S’Byll

Story Continues From: Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 1

Overview: Free at last, free at last! The Silver Surfer is free of Earth, and spanning the galaxy in Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 2. Sit back and enjoy the ride, as our cosmic-powered hero finally goes cosmic.

Back when the Silver Surfer first appeared, he was a herald of Galactus, but rebelled against his master to protect Earth. As a result, he was punished to live out his days on Earth, inside an invisible barrier Galactus erected surrounding the planet. But leave it to the genius of Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four to figure out a loop hole, which releases the Silver Surfer from his confinement.

Once again free to roam the stars, the Silver Surfer travels back to his home planet of Zenn-La and his beloved Shalla Bal. He finds his home world caught up in the ongoing conflict between the Krees and the Skrulls. The warring races, and the political intrigue taking place behind the scenes, would provide the direction for the series. With the entire Marvel Universe at his disposal, writer Steve Englehart allows the Silver Surfer to encounter many of the cosmic beings – from Galactus and Nova to the Eternals and Mantis.

This volume also collects some assorted solo stories of the Silver Surfer that appeared in this era. Two tales written by Stan Lee, with art by John Buscema and John Byrne, start off this collection. And an unused story from Silver Surfer #1 finally sees print in 1990 in the pages of Marvel Fanfare (see Footnotes below).

What makes this Essential?: This book highlights an interesting change in the direction of the Silver Surfer character. The first Silver Surfer series from the 1960s, collected in Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 1, dealt with ethics, morality, race and other topics. The Silver Surfer was the voice of Stan Lee in the pages of the comic books, giving him a chance to wax poetic on whatever interested Lee at the time. I would contend that the Silver Surfer of this era was more of a philosopher and not a super-hero.

Now over the 1970s and early 1980s, we did see Silver Surfer used, primarily in the pages of the Defenders, but he was never the focus of that title. It’s not until the 1987 series launch, collected in this volume, where we see the Silver Surfer go back into space and become a cosmic super-hero. This Silver Surfer is more likely to dive into action versus sit on his board and think about the petals on a flower. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Bottom line, if you want an action hero, you will enjoy this volume. If you prefer the Silver Surfer seen in the first Essential volume, you may not like this edition.

Footnotes: The cover to Marvel Age #52 is included in this volume. In that issue, there was an article on the then pending release of the new Silver Surfer series, which starts in this Essential. The article is reprinted in this volume.

The Silver Surfer story from Marvel Fanfare #51 was originally intended to be the first issue of the 1987 series. Before it could be published, Marvel editorial agreed to allow the Silver Surfer to be released from his imprisonment on Earth, once again allowing him to span the galaxy. The original issue was shelved, and a new #1 was quickly put together. Not willing to let paid work go unused, Marvel later dug out the finished issue and included it in Marvel Fanfare.

If you like this volume, try: the 2014 Silver Surfer series from Dan Slott, Mike Allred, and Laura Allred. Free from Earth once again, Silver Surfer encounters an Earth woman, Dawn Greenwood, who becomes a new companion for Norrin Radd on his travels. I use the word ‘companion’ on purpose, as this title has a strong ‘Doctor Who’ feel to it, in terms of it’s timey-wimey elusiveness. This is some of Slott’s most creative writing to date, and the Allreds work feels like it is a direct descendent of Jack Kirby. The first trade paperback collection just came out in October, so rush back to your LCS to pick up a copy.

Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 1

First Published: October 2005

Contents: Marvel Spotlight #5 (August 1972) to #12 (October 1973); Ghost Rider #1 (September 1973) to #20 (October 1976); and Daredevil #138 (October 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Mike Ploog, Tom Sutton, Tony Isabella, Jim Mooney, George Tuska, Frank Robbins, Marv Wolfman, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider, Roxanne Simpson/Katy Milner, Crash Simpson, Daimon Hellstrom/Son of Satan 

Story Continues In: Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 2

Overview:  Johnny Blaze is a motorcycle daredevil with a traveling road show. When the owner of the show, Crash Simpson, announces he is dying from cancer, Blaze seeks out and strikes a deal with Devil for his soul in an attempt to save Crash. The Devil accepts, but like any deal with Satan, the deal works against Blaze. Crash is saved from cancer but still dies in a stunt accident. As part of his deal, Johnny Blaze is transformed into a mystical servant of Hell, known as the Ghost Rider.

The early stories deal with Blaze trying to free his soul from the control of Satan. This leads to the introduction of the devil’s estranged offspring, Daimon Hellstrom, who would become an anti-hero in his own right as the Son of Satan.

Eventually, Blaze gets his soul released, but he still retains the Ghost Rider abilities. Early on, his transformations occurred at dusk, but now Blaze finds that he can now control the transition for anytime day or night. He can also extend his powers to create a flaming motorcycle out of the hellfire at his control.

In the later issues, Blaze starts working in Hollywood as a stuntman on a television show, where he meets the actress Karen Page. For longtime Marvel readers, you will recall Page as the one-time secretary of lawyer Matt Murdock. So it’s only natural that Ghost Rider would cross paths with Daredevil, the man without fear, which is exactly what happens as this volume concludes.

What makes this Essential?: I will be the first to admit that I have never been a Ghost Rider fan. I held off getting this book for as long as I possibly could, just out my general dislike for the character. What I found reading the early stories of Johnny Blaze is a far different Ghost Rider than the one that gained such popularity in the 1990s. This Ghost Rider seems more human, whose initial changes were brought on by the setting and rising of the sun. He’s a true anti-hero, never viewing himself as a super-hero; just much more interested in riding his bike at the next show. Based on his history in the Marvel Universe, the Ghost Rider is an important hero to read. But the Ghost Rider in these stories is much different than the Ghost Rider you picture in your head. 

Footnotes: Marvel Spotlight #12, and Ghost Rider #1 & #2 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1.

Ghost Rider #10 is a reprint of Marvel Spotlight #5. The cover to Ghost Rider #10 is included in this volume. In the letter column in Ghost Rider #11, it was revealed that the cover for issue #10 went to press before Marvel realized that the issue would not be ready in time.

Ghost Rider #19 & #20, and Daredevil #138 are also reprinted in Essential Daredevil Vol. 6.

There are two early Ghost Rider appearances that are not collected in this volume, but they can be found in other Essential volumes. Marvel Team-Up #15 (November 1973) can be found in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1, and Marvel Two-in-One #8 (March 1975) can be found in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1. In my opinion, both should have been included, given the number of references to those stories in the Ghost Rider title. In particular, the Marvel Team-Up issue features the first appearance of The Orb, who returns as a foe in Ghost Rider #14 and #15.

If you like this volume, try: Marvel’s first team of heroes in California, The Champions. Created by Tony Isabella to feature Angel, Iceman, and Black Goliath, it was retooled without Black Goliath and with the additions of Black Widow, Hercules, and Ghost Rider. Given the diverse line-up of the team, there were a lot of wild adventures during the team’s all-too-short 17 issue run. The Champions #1 (October 1975) debuted during the period covered in this Essential Ghost Rider, and several issues make references to his adventures with the team. While the entire series is collected in two Classic volumes, this is a series that shows up frequently in back issue bins. Make a point to track this series down!

Essential Luke Cage, Power Man Vol. 2

Essential Luke Cage, Power Man Vol. 2

First Published: August 2006

Contents: Power Man #28 (December 1975) to #49 (February 1978); and Power Man Annual #1 (1976)

Key Creator Credits: Don McGregor, Marv Wolfman, Chris Claremont, George Tuska, Sal Buscema, Lee Elias, Frank Robbins, Marie Severin, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: Cockroach Hamilton, Goldbug

Story Continues From: Essential Luke Cage, Power Man Vol. 1 

Story Continues In: Essential Power Man & Iron Fist Vol. 1

Overview: The Hero for Hire, Luke Cage, is back for more cash in the newest Essential volume. Let’s be honest here, being a super-hero is expensive work. Not all heroes get a stipend from the Stark Foundation or live off of the royalties from the patent for unstable molecules to be used to make uniforms. Paying rent, buying food, and replacing those yellow silk shirts torn up in battle adds up quick for a struggling hero. Of course, you have to charge a fee for your services.

Luke Cage remains a hero of the people, working out of his office above a Times Square movie theater. He fights a lot of run of the mill one-and-done villains created specifically for this title. Outside of a fight against Moses Magnum in Power Man Annual #1, his villains do not make many, if any, appearances in any other books.

As the book comes to an end, Cage finds a lot of familiar faces from his past coming back to confront him. Crossing paths with the kung-fu hero, Iron Fist, Luke Cage is finally able to clear his name, making him a free man for the first time in many years. The two agree that working together benefits both of them, and a new super-hero duo is formed. But like any other story, that is a tale to be continued….

What makes this Essential?: This book is a step up from the first volume, but not nearly as good as it will become with Essential Power Man & Iron Fist Vol. 1, The second half of the book, under the direction of first Marv Wolfman and then Chris Claremont, starts to finally find it’s place focusing on an urban hero and not just an urban black hero. The art is serviceable, but not memorable by any means. If you are a fan of Luke Cage, this is worth the read. But I would not consider it essential to have in your collection.

Footnotes: Power Man #36 is a reprint of a story originally featured in Hero for Hire #12. The new cover for #36 is included in this Essential

Giant-Size Power Man #1 (1975) is a reprint collection of stories originally featured in Hero for Hire #14 to #16. The cover is included in this Essential.

Power Man #48 and #49 are also reprinted in Essential Iron Fist Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the New Avengers books from the last decade. When Brian Michael Bendis relaunched the Avengers in the mid-2000s, he brought in a new line-up (Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and others) to fill the spots around Captain America and Iron Man. At that time, Luke Cage had become a peripheral character in the Marvel Universe, brought to an event to help fill out the background of a large super-hero crowd scene. Over the run of the New Avengers title, Luke Cage became one of the core members of this line-up, to a point where he became the team leader. New Avengers ruffled the feathers of a lot of long-time Avengers readers, but the non-traditional line-up allowed for some interesting storylines. This has been collected multiple times in trade paperbacks, hardcovers, and omnibus editions, so it should be easy to find these stories.

Essential X-Factor Vol. 1

Essential X-Factor Vol. 1

First Published: October 2005

Contents: Avengers #262 (December 1985); Fantastic Four #286 (January 1986);  X-Factor #1 (February 1986) to #16 (May 1987); X-Factor Annual #1 (1986); Thor #373 (November 1986) and #374 (December 1986); and Power Pack #27 (December 1986)

Key Creator Credits: Bob Layton, Jackson Guice, Roger Stern, John Byrne, Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, and others

Key First Appearances: Rusty Collins (Firefist), Cameron Hodge, Artie Maddicks, Tower, Frenzy, Apocalypse, Skids, Trish Tilby, Blockbuster, Prism, War, Famine, Pestilence

Story Continues In: Essential X-Factor Vol. 2

Overview:  It’s the original X-Men, reunited once again! Cyclops, Angel, Beast, Iceman, and Marvel Girl. No longer students at Xavier’s school, what do these five friends do to continue Professor X’s dream of humans and mutants living together as one? Let’s pose as mutant-hunters, and secretly bring in mutants to start training them on how to use their powers. Maybe not the soundest start to a team, but it works for X-Factor.

X-Factor started off with sincere intentions. The team did find mutants unable to control their powers, and a cast of characters developed around the X-Factor team. But once you’ve been an X-Man, you are an X-Man for life, which means you get sucked into what ever ongoing storyline is occurring in Uncanny X-Men.

In this case, X-Factor finds themselves right in the middle of the Mutant Massacre, as the Marauders go on a rampage in the Morlocks’ tunnels. While trying to defend Artie, Angel is pinned to a wall by his wings by Harpoon (X-Factor #10). Due to the extensive injuries and infection, doctors are forced to amputate Warren’s wings in X-Factor #14. Warren has a hard time coping with the loss of his wings, and (apparently) commits suicide at the end of issue #15.

What makes this Essential?: The original X-Men hold a special place in my heart. They were the first, and to see them reunited was an exciting moment in my comic reading history. While their desire to train mutants like Professor Xavier trained them made a lot of sense, and I liked that aspect of the title. The fact that they were posing as mutant-hunters just never sat well with me.

The early issues of the title seem a little stiff. It’s only when the Simonsons come on board – first Louise and then Walt – that the book seems to come alive and move forward. These are the issues that really matter, and make it an Essential read. However, if you are going to read this, you should also read Essential X-Men Vol. 6 in order to read the complete Mutant Massacre storyline.

Like a Phoenix Rising from the Ashes: Let’s flashback to Uncanny X-Men #137 (See Essential X-Men Vol. 2). The X-Men are battling the Imperial Guard for the life of Jean Grey, who is controlled by the Phoenix force. In her last moment of clarity, Jean professes her love to Scott (Cyclops) Summers, and then commits suicide. Or did she?????

Jump ahead a few years and the Avengers discover a cocoon at the bottom of Jamaica Bay in New York. The Avengers bring the cocoon to the Fantastic Four, because Reed Richards is the smartest guy in the world. During his examination of the object, it opens up and out walks Jean Grey, alive and well. Apparently when the X-Men were returning from space, they crash-landed their shuttle at JFK Airport in New York City, coming to a rest in the aforementioned Jamaica Bay. Prior to the crash, the Phoenix force placed Jean Grey in this protective cocoon, and created a new body in Jean’s image to inhabit. It was this host body that died in Uncanny X-Men #137. So now Jean is back, with no memories of what happened since the the shuttle crash

Footnotes: X-Factor #9 to #11, Thor #373 and #374, and Power Pack #27 were also reprinted in Essential X-Men Vol. 6.

If you like this volume, try: the All-New X-Men series by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen. As part of the Marvel Now campaign which launched several years ago, All-New X-Men brings the original X-Men team (circa Uncanny X-Men #9) from the past to the current day, in an attempt to make them aware of what their future would look like and try to get them to change. The original team is shocked by how their lives have played out, but choose to stay in the modern times to find out more. This is the perfect jumping on book for anyone afraid of how large the X-Universe has become, because the reader shares many of the same questions as the original X-Men. This is still an ongoing title, and the early issues have been collected in multiple trade paperbacks and hardcovers.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 1

Essential Wolverine Vol. 1

Essential Wolverine Vol. 1

First Published: October 1996

Contents: Wolverine #1 (November 1988) to #23 (April 1990)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, John Buscema, Peter David, Archie Goodwin, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: Bloodscream, Roughhouse, Archie Corrigan, Silver Fox, Geist

Story Continues In: Essential Wolverine Vol. 2

Overview: Welcome to the solo adventures of Wolverine. Under the guidance of writer Chris Claremont, Wolverine had developed into one of the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe in the 1980s. At a time when the X-Men were confined to just one book per month – yes, that’s true – it made sense to spin Wolverine off into his own title and give the character even more exposure.

Most of the stories in this volume take place on an island nation, Madripoor, where Wolverine loses his costume and goes by the name of Patch, complete with a trademark eyepatch. Add in a small supporting cast, such as Jessica Drew and Lindsey McCabe from the pages of Spider-Woman, and Wolverine is a distinct book that can be read without also reading the Uncanny X-Men.

In the lead story, Wolverine is caught up in a turf war on Madripoor, and must get his hands dirty to protect his friends and help free Karma from the New Mutants. Another story arc dealt with Wolverine’s pilot friend, Archie Corrigan, whose brother stands to inherit a lot of money, but has delusions of grandeur. That story arc brings the characters to San Francisco before returning to Madripoor.

The final story arc, from the creative team of Archie Goodwin and John Byrne, takes Wolverine to Central America, where he must keep a general from using tainted heroin to turn his own son into his own super-soldier.

What makes this Essential?: At the time this first volume was released, I was adamantly opposed to this being collected as an Essential. This was first released in 1996, so these stories were less than 10 years old. I wanted to see more of the older material being collected, and not issues I could have bought (and sometimes did buy) on the newsstand when it was first released. Jump ahead to the spring of 2014, and I am now looking at this volume for the first time, nearly 17 years after it was first released, and these stories are now more than 20 years old. With that frame of mind, yes, these stories should be collected as an Essential. Wolverine was an extremely popular character and worth being featured in his own book. Given the talented creators attached to this book, it should be part of any collection. 

Footnotes: At the same time that Marvel launched the ongoing monthly Wolverine comic, the tittle character could also be found in a new bi-weekly anthology, Marvel Comics Presents. This title would feature 3-4 stories per issue, with Wolverine being the anchor character and the other stories rotating throughout the Marvel Universe. The Wolverine stories were not included in the Essential Wolverine volumes, focusing strictly on the character’s monthly title.

If you like this volume, try: the original Wolverine mini-series from 1982 from Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. This was one of the first mini-series that Marvel released, and was a break-out hit. It is still a popular book in the back issue marketplace. Wolverine gets word that his beloved, Mariko, has been married off, and Logan travels to Japan to find out what is going on. Along the way, Wolverine gives us his famous catchphrase, “I’m the best there is at what I do…” while taking on ninjas and double-crosses. This series has been collected many, many times, so it should not be hard to track this down. Sadly, this series has never been collected in an Essential volume, although Marvel had two opportunities to include the book. Obviously, it could have been included in this Essential volume. With this edition serving as one of the first volumes released, it appears Marvel was trying to keep page count in the 500-550 range. If they had included the mini-series in this Essential, it would mean breaking up the Archie Goodwin-John Byrne storyline. The second choice to place this volume would be Essential X-Men Vol. 4. Readers will find that most reprint collections of the Wolverine mini-series include Uncanny X-Men #172 and #173, which featured the X-Men traveling to Japan for Wolverine and Mariko’s wedding. Those two issues are included in Essential X-Men Vol. 4. Bear in mind, there was a lot going on in the Uncanny X-Men book at the time, so including the Wolverine mini-series there might be an issue, but it does complete the story. If you are only reading the X-Men title, Wolverine’s wedding comes as a big surprise to the reader. Regardless, this story should be a must-own read in any fan’s collection. 

Essential Iron Fist Vol. 1

Essential Iron Fist Vol. 1

First Published: October 2004

Contents: Marvel Premiere #15 (May 1974) to #25 (October 1975); Iron Fist #1 (November 1975) to #15 (September 1977); Marvel Team-Up #63 (November 1977) and #64 (December 1977); Power Man #48 (December 1977) and #49 (February 1978); Power Man & Iron Fist #50 (April 1978)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Doug Moench, Larry Hama, Tony Isabella, Arvell Jones

Key First Appearances: Danny Rand/Iron Fist, Yu-Ti, K’un-Lun, Shou-Lao, Thunderer, Joy Meachum, Colleen Wing, Rafael Scarfe, Steel Serpent, Jeryn Hogarth, Victor Creed/Sabretooth

Story Continues In: Essential Power Man & Iron Fist Vol. 1

Overview: After the death of his parents, young Danny Rand takes refuge in K’un-Lun, a hidden city that appears in our world once every 10 years. While there, he trains in the martial arts, making his body a living weapon. When he focuses his chi into his fist, letting it build until it becomes like unto a thing of iron, Danny Rand can unleash the Iron Fist.

Returning to the real world, Rand is a stranger in a strange land, having to relearn how to function in modern society. Rand finds out that he is the heir to half of the fortunes of the Rand-Meachum Corporation, which allows Rand to live the life he wants to, helping out people as best as he can. He often teams up with Colleen Wing and Misty Knight, the female private detectives from Knightwing Restorations.

Eventually, Iron Fist’s path crosses with that of Luke Cage, the hero for hire known as Power Man. The two form a tight friendship and join together as partners in a Heroes for Hire business.

What makes this Essential?: I believe you have two reasons for wanting to pick up this Essential. The first, and most obvious, is that you are a fan of the Iron Fist character. This is a great way to read about the early years of the character. Iron Fist was clearly a product of the 1970s, fueling the interest in martial arts via a comic book. But he has managed to survive (despite his death in Power Man & Iron Fist #125) for forty years.

The other reason is for the run of issues by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Primarily remembered for their run on Uncanny X-Men, their 15-issue run on the Iron Fist jumps off the page with energy. With cameos by Iron Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men, and with the key first appearance of Sabretooth, the Claremont-Byrne run on Iron Fist is a hidden gem of the Marvel Universe.

Footnotes: Marvel Team-Up #63 and #64 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 3.

Power Man #48 and #49 are also reprinted in Essential Luke Cage, Power Man Vol. 2.

Power Man & Iron Fist #50 is also reprinted in Essential Power Man & Iron Fist Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: The Immortal Iron Fist by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Travel Foreman, and Duane Swierczynski from 2007. This series helped bring Danny Rand back into the popular spotlight. Early stories focused on the Iron Fist prior to Danny Rand, as the title and role has been passed down multiple times before it reached our hero. Danny Rand would later buy back the Heroes for Hire headquarters and redirect his company into a non-profit organization, becoming a resource for the needy. The series ran for just over two years and is available in multiple editions.

Essential X-Men Vol. 2

Essential X-Men Vol. 2

First Published: October 1997

Contents: Uncanny X-Men #120 (April 1979) to #144 (April 1981), and Uncanny X-Men Annual #3 (1979) and #4 (1980)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Terry Austin, George Perez, John Romita Jr., Brent Anderson

Key First Appearances: Jeanne-Marie Beaubier/Aurora, Jean-Paul Beaubier/Northstar, Walter Langkowski/Sasquatch, Michael Twoyoungmen/Shaman, Narya Easton/Snowbird, Kevin MacTaggert/Proteus, the Hellfire Club, Harry Leland/Black Bishop, Sebastian Shaw/Black King, Donald Pierce/White Bishop, Emma Frost/White Queen, Kitty Pryde, Alison Blaire/Dazzler, Tessa, Senator Robert Kelly, Heather Hudson, Stevie Hunter, Avalanche, Irene Adler/Destiny, Pyro, Rachel Summers

Story Continues from: Essential X-Men Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 3

Overview: As the X-Men grew in members, abilities and even popularity, Chris Claremont and John Byrne amped up the stories to take the X-Men to new heights. New challenges were introduced, such as Alpha Flight trying to return Wolverine to Canada; the return of Arcade; and the introduction of the sinister Hellfire Club. Mastermind begins tampering with Jean Grey’s mind, leading to the Dark Phoenix and the death of an original X-Man.

This volume also introduces us to Kitty Pryde, who went through code names (and costumes) before settling on Shadowcat; future X-Men member Dazzler, who was touring books in the Marvel Universe before headlining her own title; and the possible future line-up of the X-Men, featuring Franklin Richards, Rachel Summers, Kate Pryde, and Wolverine struggling to stay alive in a world that executes mutants.

What makes this Essential?: If you were to own just one Essential X-Men volume, this would be the one. The stories contained here have impacted the entire Marvel comic book universe for 35 years, as well as serve as the source material for at least two of the X-Men movies. Claremont & Byrne are at their peak with these stories. The Dark Phoenix and Days of Future Past stories in here have been reprinted numerous times. but this is the most affordable way to read the stories from start to finish.

Footnotes: The first edition of this volume did not contain the annuals.

Even though this blog uses Uncanny X-Men as the comic title, the comic was known just as X-Men up until early 1981. It was only with issue #142 that the title was officially named Uncanny X-Men. This becomes important to note to help later on, when, in the 1990s, Marvel had a monthly Uncanny X-Men title and a monthly X-Men title on newsstands.

Uncanny X-Men #130 and #131 are also reprinted in Essential Dazzler Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: John Byrne’s Next Men series. The original series was released by Dark Horse Comics in the early 1990s. Recently, Byrne returned to these characters with another run of the series at IDW. The DHC comics run were collected in two black & white editions released by IDW. The Next Men were a fresh take on the concept of teenage kids with powers and abilities that set them apart from the people around them.

Essential X-Men Vol. 1

Essential X-Men Vol. 1

First Published: October 1996

Contents: Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975), Uncanny X-Men #94 (August 1975) to #119 (March 1979)

Key Creator Credits: Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, Terry Austin

Key First Appearances: Piotr Rasputin/Colossus, Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler, Illyana Rasputin/Magik, Ororo Munroe/Storm, John Proudstar/Thunderbird, Krakoa, Steven Lang, Moira MacTaggert, Eric the Red, Princess Lilandra, Amanda Sefton, Black Tom Cassidy, Phoenix, Corsair and the Starjammers, Gladiator and the Imperial Guard, James Hudson/Weapon Alpha/Guardian, Mariko Yashida

Story Continues From: Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 2

Overview: In 1975, Marvel introduced a complete overhaul of the X-Men title. For the previous five years, the book reprinted X-Men issues from the 1960s. Len Wein and Dave Cockrum came in to revitalize the title by introducing brand new characters (Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Thunderbird), recruiting existing Marvel characters (Banshee, Wolverine), and changing the concept of the book forever.

A new threat causes Professor Xavier to recruit new X-Men. The new X-Men came from all parts of the world, making this the most diverse book in that era. Following the defeat of Krakoa and Count Nefaria, the X-Men bury a team member; say goodbye to the original X-Men such as Angel, Beast, Iceman, and Marvel Girl (although they all return at different times in this volume); and do their best to protect a world that fears their abilities and appearances.

What makes this Essential?: These stories were the building blocks of a publishing juggernaut, spawning the X-Universe in comics, animated shows, toys and motion pictures. Chris Claremont begins his legendary run on the title with issue #94. John Byrne joins the team with issue #108, and the book explodes with energy. As great as this book is, the Claremont/Byrne run hits its peak with the issues contained in Essential X-Men Vol. 2.

Footnotes: Essential X-Men Vol. 1 was the first Essential volume published by Marvel Comics in 1996. There have been three editions released of this volume, sporting different covers, but the contents have remained the same.

If you like this volume, try: the Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 10, which collects Legion stories from the Superboy comic of the early 1970s. Dave Cockrum was the artist for most of these issues. During this era, Cockrum designed new costumes for many characters, as well as introduced many new characters. A lot of these characters were later mimicked by Cockrum when the Imperial Guard was introduced in Uncanny X-Men #107.