Monday, July 18, 2011

Heroes and Comics I Miss: Part 2

A few weeks ago I gave you a few little comics that made my childhood in the 80's a lot of fun. This week I wanted to give you a few more titles that brought a smile to my face and were scooped up as soon as I saw them. These will never see an "Essential" collection, but should.

Shogun Warriors

Probably the biggest toy ever to have a comic book based on it, these guys were 3 feet tall and were an absolute treasure during my childhood. Their fists would fly off, they had little spaceships in their helmets, and were on roller skates! Well, rollers anyway.

The comic book was a lot of fun as well. It only lasted 20 issues, but it was a blast and saw guest appearances by the Fantastic Four. These guys even faced Godzilla at one point in his own comic!

Basically, it was pretty much like any Japanese manga you'd see today except this was Marvel comics drawn by Herb Trimpe so it was Americanized like crazy. These were giant robots controlled by normal guys and they would fight giant monsters, meteors, and even each other if something happened.

What makes this comic stand out above others like it is the fact that it was pretty much the first of its kind for me. Up until that point giant robots had been used by villains to attack folks like Superman and such. Here were some cool robots based on even cooler toys that were run by good guys with no super powers other than the ability to drive a giant robot!

While the toy line had several to choose from, the comic concentrated mostly on three or four. My personal favorite was Raydeen, both as a toy and as the comic. Unfortunately, this was part of a licensing deal (which Marvel really ran with in the early 80's) and therefore these guys are off the table permanently. Marvel can't touch them and the toy line is pretty much dead, though Mazinga (or Mazinger, in the Japanese version) still shows up from time to time in toy stores as a smaller version.

Crazy Magazine

Is it fair to heap a magazine into a comic book list? Yes, if we're talking about Crazy magazine. This was Marvel's answer to Mad Magazine, and as such it had some of the greatest guest shots imaginable. Marvel's earlier foray into funny books was Not Brand Ecch!, and they even packaged a reprint of that first issue in one of the Crazy issues, retitling it Crazy as well.

So what made it so good? This was a parody book that was for comic geeks as well. At one point they introduced "Teen Hulk", a character who changed when he was afraid. Nothing ever went right for him though, and he definitely wasn't like the real Hulk because he was funny. A character named "Obnoxio the Clown" was introduced later in the run, and he actually made it into the real Marvel universe to fight the X-Men! Marvel artists like John Byrne drew entire funny comic stories in it! Sometimes they would even take a Marvel story from the past and reprint it with new dialogue to make it funny. This was stuff that catered to comic fans!

Popular TV shows and movies were made fun of all the time, but these were jokes I actually got as a child. Mad sometimes got a little too deep with some of their parodies for me (or too wordy), but Crazy always kept it pure and simple.

This little book ran from 1973 to 1983, and I still vividly remember when I received notice in the mail that the title was being canceled. It was not a fun moment in my childhood.

Of course, popular culture today could not support a book like this anymore (seen Mad lately? Sheesh!). It would inevitably get too political or dirty and would therefore lose the charm this book had.

Still, this was a window into the 70's and early 80's that was consistently funny. I miss it and still try to add back issues to my collection whenever I can find one in really good condition.

Team America

Another one of those "toys tie-in" comic books, Team America was about three bikers (later five) who basically rode around in cool red-white-and-blue-themed costumes and fought criminals between stunt shows.

Along the way, they were assisted--many times without their knowledge--by the mysterious "Marauder", a black-clad biker who never spoke but could ride his crazy chopper like no one else. Due to the success of Snake Eyes in G.I. Joe, there can be little doubt who this character was designed after.

This group managed to get into the real Marvel Universe, just like the Micronauts and ROM had before it. Iron Man made an appearance, and what biker comic book could go without an appearance by Ghost Rider, fighting Marauder of course.

Who was Marauder? Well, that was the mystery. This guy showed the talents of all five members of the team, constantly giving you the impression it could be any of them. They did a great job of keeping him "off screen" when the heroes were around, and only letting him show up when no one was around so you never knew.

This series only lasted 12 short issues, with the identity of Marauder finally being explained to be a woman who was channeling the collective psychic influence of the team, thus allowing her to appear to have the abilities of all of them. It was a rip-off ending for me, but they made it all better as the final panels of the series unfolded. The team was flying away (all of them, including the woman) to go their separate ways, and then we saw this:

I was better after that. Marauder wasn't just a woman in padding! Maybe there was hope for a sequel! While the team appeared a few times in other books, they basically disappeared toward the end of the 80's and have never been seen since.

The guys were eventually exposed as mutants (hey, it was the 80's and all the cool kids were mutants) in a few other comic appearances (in New Mutants, Captain America, and the Thing) but that was never explored much because they disappeared soon after. The Ideal Toy license eventually expired so Marvel won't be reprinting this title anytime soon, just like the others on this list. Still, it was a fun read while it lasted.

I loved the toys this comic was based on. I had the Marauder toy, and managed to pick up Honcho (the guy in white) and R.U. Reddy (the guy in red) figures at garage sales. While the comic was action-packed, the figures were basically built to stay on their respective bikes and that was all. The legs were bent and wouldn't move, and the arms could only go up or down with no bend at elbows or wrists. Still, I was a happy child with the stunt bike going all over the driveway and ramps I made.

To me, Marauder was one very cool hero. He was the strong silent type, and I hate that he never managed to team up with Snake Eyes for at least one issue. Not a lot of conversation going on, but the narration would be crazy. The figures were two different sizes so playing with the 4 inch poseable Snake Eyes and the 10 inch "can't move much o'nothing" Marauder wasn't much of an option. Those adventures will forever remain a mystery.

What about you? Do you have any favorite canceled comics you miss?


pete doree said...

SO many comics I miss! Epic Illustrated & Star Reach for two (the best anthology titles ever), All the Marvel B & W mags, especially Marvel Preview & Deadly Hands. And as far as characters, if someone paid Steve Englehart to do Star-Lord the way he was originally s'posed to be done, that'd do for me!

Brian Reaves said...

I never read Star Reach, but Epic Illustrated had some good stuff. I really miss "Deadly Hands of Kung Fu" too and wish they'd give it an "Essential" collection like they did "Rampaging Hulk" and the "Conan" reprints they have. For some reason, issues of "Deadly Hands" seem to go for astronomical prices across the board. I guess everyone loves that title as well.

Chris said...

Let me do a future-reply and throw "I miss the DC Universe." I thought DC had recently (past 3 years or so) done a very good job establishing each of its "universes". They'd gotten out of the crazy "crisis" mode and had Batman's universe, Superman's universe, Flash, GL, etc. working well within each of their family of books. Those storylines like New Krypton, Batman RIP/BFTC/Rebirth/Return of Bruce, and Blackest Night did a great job of having BIG storylines, but keeping them somewhat contained. This whole super-reboot seems a bit much...I'll give it a chance, because I'm not a big continuity geek, I just want good storytelling; but I thought they had a really good thing going the past couple years...

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