Markley’s Fevered Brain: Decades

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley

by Wayne Markley

When I write the word decades it has many meanings. How long I have been in this business (almost 4), how long I have read comic books (over 5), how long comics have been published (over 10), how long Marvel and DC have been publishing (over 7), or any number of other things. But what I am writing about this time is a series of books Marvel has recently published called Decades with each volume being devoted to a specific decade of their publishing history. They have done eight going from the 1940s through 2010s (well the 2010s comes out in August) and I love these books. I do not love all of the material in these collections as at times it is periods I do not care for, but I love the idea they are showing respect for their history. Now if only DC would do something similar. DC did do a series of books a number of years ago with Superman and Batman in the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60, etc. but they have such a rich history they could do huge volumes of each decade. Better yet, bring back the archives! (And I know, this will never happen.) Anyway, the Marvel Decades trades are all (well, mostly all) around 250 to 300 pages each and are in full color on slick paper and look great. I think any true fan of Marvel should have all of these books in their library.

Decades: Marvel in the '40s

Decades: Marvel in the ’40s

The first volume is called Decades: Marvel in the ‘40s – The Human Torch vs. The Sub-Mariner. The title sort of gives away what this books is, a collection of all of the Torch/Subby stories from the 1940s. I love these because they are such iconic fights between two of Marvel’s biggest characters of the 1940s, but also because you get the great storytelling of Bill Everett (one of my all-time favorite artists), creator of the Sub-Mariner and Carl Burgos, the creator of the Human Torch. There are seven stories reprinted here, and given the page count that shows you how long these stories are. In each story the two start off fighting but then join forces to fight a common foe, Nazis. These are fine examples of what makes the Golden Age of comics fun. A quick aside, in the recent one-shot Captain America and the Invaders, by Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway, there is a panel where two people are shown in the street talking and carrying portfolios. Those two people are Bill Everett and Carl Burgos. Thanks Jerry Ordway for the tribute to the original creators.

Decades: Marvel in the '50s

Decades: Marvel in the ’50s

Next we have Decades: Marvel in the ‘50s – Captain America Strikes. This is a complete collection of the Captain America stories from the 1950s. The Red Skull is still around, and instead of Nazis you have communists, and you do not have Simon and Kirby on art but these are interesting stories that truly reflect the time. I consider this an important collection if only because it sets up one of the greatest Captain America stories ever that would come in the early ‘70s by Steve Englehart that revealed that the Cap in these stories is not Steve Rogers, but a fake. An amazing run of storytelling that can be found reprinted in Captain America Epic Collection: Hero or Hoax. This Decades book reprints stories from Captain America 76-78, Young Men 24-28 and Men’s Adventure 27 and 28.

Decades: Marvel in the '60s

Decades: Marvel in the ’60s

Decades:Marvel in the ‘60s – Spider-Man meets the Marvel Universe. This collection I love because it is the heart of the modern Marvel Universe. I have no idea how of all of the amazing stories that came out of Marvel in the ‘60s how they shrunk it down to 256 pages. Basically what they have done is reprint stories where Spider-Man fights, confronts, joins, helps, etc. other Marvel heroes. So you get solo Spider-Man stories as well as him alongside with the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Daredevil, Avengers, Hulk, and many others. Plus you get classic stories by Stan Lee along with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others. Easily Marvel’s most creative period. This is also probably the most appealing to the casual comic fan.

Decades: Marvel in the '70s

Decades: Marvel in the ’70s

Decades:Marvel  in the ‘70s – Legion of Monsters. The ‘70s are also a favorite of mine when it comes to Marvel, not because of the sheer creative genius they showed in the ‘60s, but because of the experiments they did and the genres they tried. With monsters being a big part of it. (And let’s not forget Kung-Fu). In the ‘70s Marvel did all sorts of monster comics, from the landmark Tomb of Dracula, to the Legion of Monsters (a team of monsters) to the next movie sensation, Blade. This is a fine selection of stories featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, Werewolf by Night, Blade, the Manphibian, Ghost Rider and more. Also, this collection has stories that have never before been collected. In addition you get some stunning art work by Gene Colon, Mike Ploog, John Buscema, Neal Adams, and others. While not as historically as important as the ‘60s, this might be my favorite collection.

Decades: Marvel in the '80s

Decades: Marvel in the ’80s

This is logically followed by Decades: Marvel in the ‘80s – Awesome Evolutions. This collection is all about change. It reprints stories where the heroes get new powers, looks or costumes, or even life changes. It reprints the stories where Thor gets his battle armor. Where Angel becomes the metal-winged agent of Apocalypse. Where the Hulk returns to being gray. Where Spider-Man gets a black costume (and gets married) and so much more. This collection is a fine example of showing how Marvel was, and is, willing to changes things up in an attempt to tell a good story or freshen up a character. Something they have been criticized for in recent years. (Changing the sex of a hero or their powers is not a new thing for the House of Ideas.) Not my favorite collection, but historically important.

Decades: Marvel in the '90s

Decades: Marvel in the ’90s

Decades:Marvel in the ‘90 – The Mutant X-plosion is exactly what the title says. The ‘90s saw the X-Men’s popularity take off and Marvel did everything they could to capitalize on it. Here you get a wide sampling off all of the x-related books that came out in the ‘90s. Reprints include examples of Excalibur (which has really nice Alan Davis art), Cable, X-Force, Deadpool, Generation X, X-Factor, X-Men and of course Uncanny X-Men. As the X-Men continue to be very popular in the Marvel Universe, I suspect a lot of people would enjoy this volume.

Decades: Marvel in the '00s

Decades: Marvel in the ’00s

Decades: Marvel in the ‘00s – Hitting the Headlines. This is a collection of stories where Marvel gained mass publicity for their stories, which was both good and bad, and it really marked a time where the fun Stan Lee era was gone. The stories were now being done for the trade (that is multi part stories over six issues so they could be collected), and the stories were tied more into current events and politics than ever before, and in some ways, darker than before. Again while not my favorite period there is some really good stories here. Some of which include, Ultimate Spider-Man, Captain America: Truth, Red, White and Black, Ultimates, Civil War and more.

Decades: Marvel in the ‘10s

Decades: Marvel in the ‘10s

Finally we have Decades:Marvel in the ‘10s – Legends and Legacy. I have not read this trade yet but I have read all of the books it collects. This volume is a fine example of Marvel continuing to experiment and attempt new things by changing their characters up, and with some of these, you get some amazing stories. Reprinted here are the first appearances of Jane Foster Thor, Kamala Kahn as Ms. Marvel, Gwen “Spider-Gwen” Stacy, Squirrel Girl (perhaps the most amazing use of a C level character and turning them into a great character and book), and others. Plus it reprints issues of Iron Man, Edge of the Spider-Verse, Guardians of the Galaxy, and so much more. Again, not their best period in my opinion, but this collection does show how much good material Marvel has recently done that I would not have thought of off the top of my head. Ms. Marvel and the Lady Thor stories are some of my favorite Marvel books in the last 30 years.

So here you have eight volumes covering almost 80 years of Marvel Comics. Each of these volumes are really the best (at times just a small sampling of the greatness), of each of these decades. You have an amazing mix of talent which really shows the evolution of comics over the last 80 years. While there were clearly books I enjoyed more than others, I do not think there were any stories here that I really disliked. I would recommend these books as a sampler for someone just trying out comics, or for those who are interested in comic book history or even for those of you who are just looking for a fun afternoon read. A very enjoyable collection of books!

As always I would like to know if you have read any of these collections yourself, and if you have, what did you think? Does one decade bring back your love of comics? Does one make you feel warm and nostalgic like the ‘70s did for me? I would like to know. I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. All of these thoughts and words are mine and do not reflect the thoughts or feelings of Westfield Comics or their employees. As always…

Thank you.


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