*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.
Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.
Five Furious and Fast: Bill Mantlo (Part 1)
Bill Mantlo stands alongside Bernie Wrightson as the two creators who molded this Donist into the comic book fanatic I am today. The later instilled a sense of wonderment with his precise line work, shadows deep as the abyss, and character acting tangible enough to empathize with on a near physical level. The former gave me a world so rich and so vibrant I never wanted to leave, but it was also a world mired in evil and a darkness fraught with concepts that, at the time, I had never had cause to consider. Wrightson was the first artist to teach me that not all illustrators are the same, that what enchanted and terrified me in his work was something not normal, something magical. Mantlo was the first writer to fill me with fear, fear of missing the next issue that might hold the resolution to a conflict in the book I just read, or that might reveal a new plot development that sends his character(s) on to new adventures I dare not miss. A great artist makes you want to linger on a page to take it all in. A great writer makes you want to desperately fly through the pages to see what happens next. Bill Mantlo is the one who taught me to fly.
The Micronauts(Written by Bill Mantlo; most notably illustrated by Michael Golden, Pat Broderick, and Jackson “Butch” Guice; published by Marvel Comics beginning in 1979)
I know, I know…you’re probably thinking I mention this series with every “Comics Lust” chapter, but I would say thee nay; I only mention it 70–80 percent of the time. There’s a good reason for this: The Micronauts is the comic I was hinting at above and it is the book that made me a comic book collector. Yes, the much-loved and now defunct toyline brought me to the comic. Yes, Golden’s oh-so-lovely art grabbed my eye and made me excited for the new, green, insect-like character gracing the cover. But it was the new world, the Microverse, where subatomic particles were home to countless bizarre creatures, all held under the oppressive boot of the despotic ruler Baron Karza—my favorite toy, btw—that would make young Donist beg to go by every newsstand in the hope of finding a missed issue, or better yet, a new one.
The unfortunate thing about The Micronauts series is that it is caught in a quagmire of licensing issues that means there are currently no trades, no omnibus, and no plans to release any as of this writing, which means you are going to have to bargain bin dive and online hunt for the individual issues. What you must find are as follows: The Micronauts #1–59, The Micronauts Annual #1–2, and The X-Men and the Micronauts #1–4. This is all of the Mantlo material and it is what you need to experience this tremendous series that holds up as well today as it did nearly 40 years ago. It is one that I reread every other year or so with a renewed sense of excitement and joy that never diminishes.
Rom(Written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated mostly Sal Buscema, published by Marvel Comics beginning in 1979)
After sending you on a quest to find issues of The Micronauts, it’s only fair that I send myself on a journey as well. Rom, like The Micronauts, is a much-loved series by its fans. It, however, is one that I have only read a handful of issues. This is not because I did not like what I read, but only because I fell victim to the dreaded “Okay, okay! You can get ONE comic, and ONLY one comic. Now, stop whining.” All too often, something else won out over poor ol’ Rom. Much like Mantlo’s diminutive spacefaring heroes series, this comic sprang from a toy, is wrapped up in a weird licensing limbo, has never been collected, and there are no plans to have it reprinted. Rom is about a Space Knight from Galador named Rom who travels to Earth to combat the dreaded Dire Wraiths, a race of stocky, squid-headed monsters adept at sorcery and science who also have the ability to change shape. What’s not to love? Rom also frequently crosses paths with many of the Marvel mainstream heroes in what were some truly epic adventures…adventures I desperately need to catch up on. So, I will be joining you on the hunt for all 75 issues, and the four annuals, as I vow to put this collection together piecemeal with whatever beat-up copies I can find.
Swords of the Swashbucklers(Written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated by Jackson “Butch” Guice, published by Marvel/Epic beginning in 1984)
This is yet another one I missed the first time around, but it is one I often saw on the shelves back in the day. Thankfully, I recently remedied the fact that I had not read this immensely fun, time-traveling, spacefaring pirate tale filled with quests across the cosmos, family drama, alien creatures, superpowered women, and epic battles that instantly charmed me but that ended all too abruptly. Swords of the Swashbucklers was first introduced as the 14th “Marvel Graphic Novel,” a 48-page standalone tale that quickly leaped into a twelve-issue series that was strong up until the final issue that was rushed to completion because of the series cancellation. Issue 12 is disheartening in that I would have preferred a more satisfactory ending over an additional six issues, but whatchagonnado? Business is business. Still, the series as a whole is very much worth your time, especially given that after 30 years, Raader and her pirate crew have returned with Swashbucklers: The Story Continues (written by Marc Guggenheim, illustrated by Andrea Mutti, published by Dynamite in 2018), which I intend to pick up today, and that looks to right the wrong of an enjoyable series ended in its prime. The good thing about Swords of the Swashbucklers is that you don’t need to hunt for this series issue by issue, but rather you can get the beautiful, recently-released hardcover that collects the original graphic novel and the twelve issues before setting sail for new uncharted lands.
Cloak and Dagger(Written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated by Rick Leonardi, published by Marvel Comics beginning in 1983)
Okay, maybe this was not the most appropriate book to read for a thirteen-year-old. Cloak and Dagger is the story of two teenagers who run away from their homes and meet on the streets of New York City where they become friends. Naive and scared, the pair soon falls victim to some ne’er-do-wells who force them to take a synthetic form of heroin that eventually leaves them with superpowers. Cloak has the ability to absorb both light and living beings into his cloak which leads to a terrible dark dimension that will slowly suck the living light/soul out of his victims. He can also use his abilities to be intangible and to teleport but at the cost of a terrible, undying hunger. Dagger has the ability to generate psychic “knives” of pure light that she can fling with her mind and can render people weak or unconscious and even cure them of their addictions. Her knives also have the ability to diminish Cloak’s hunger…for a time. The heroes fight street-level thugs and serial killers while having the occasional run-in with other Marvel heroes at large. They first appeared as a co-creation of Mantlo and Ed Hannigan in the pages of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #64 (1982) before eventually graduating to their own miniseries in Cloak and Dagger #1–4 (1983), then their own short-lived series Cloak and Dagger #1–11 (1985), then the Cloak and Dagger and Doctor Strange shared Strange Tales #1–6 (1987), and finally the “Marvel Graphic Novel” Power Pack and Cloak and Dagger: Shelter from the Storm (1989). If you don’t want to pick up the individual issues, and you want the most bang for your buck before the June 7, 2018 television series debut, then you should grab the trades Cloak and Dagger: Shadows and Light and Cloak and Dagger: Lost and Found.
Vision and Scarlet Witch #1–4(Written by Bill Mantlo, illustrated by Rick Leonardi, published by Marvel beginning in 1982)
Talk about your messed up families. Seriously. The Vision, an immensely powerful android, was created using the brainwave patterns of Simon Williams (Wonder Man) and imprinted upon the body of the World War II era Human Torch by none other than Ultron. Ultron considers himself the Vision’s daddy, Wonder Man considers himself his brother, and Wonder Man’s actual brother, The Grim Reaper, is pissed off by The Vision’s existence and does not consider him to be of any relation at all. Got it? Okay, Scarlet Witch…she and Quicksilver are twins, a certain notorious character is revealed to be their father (it must be where Quicksilver gets his stylish hair), but the two grew up believing they were the offspring of the speedster The Whizzer, which is not true. Quicksilver marries Crystal (one of the Inhumans…if you were lost before this point, don’t worry your pretty little head, just go with the flow) and they have a kid named Luna. The Scarlet Witch marries the Vision and their quest to create a child—both together and separately, after Mantlo’s awesome limited series—will boggle your mind. Aside from having some monumentally awkward family reunions, the miniseries is thrilling, bizarre, and at times action-packed. Just the way I like it. If you can’t find the inexpensive four-issue limited series, then Avengers: Vision and the Scarlet Witch will get you where you need to be.
Before, during, and after the comics mentioned above, Mantlo touched a vast number of comic titles we all know and love. He eventually left comics to go into law, but in 1992, he was the tragic victim of a hit-and-run that nearly killed him and left him with severe brain damage that requires him to have lifelong care. Mantlo will always be my hero and his works are something comic fans can celebrate forever.
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