Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Missing Essentials

At the moment the future of the Essential series seems uncertain after no new volume has so far been announced for next year. We've had lengthy gaps before so let's wait and see what the situation is. However there are still plenty I haven't reviewed yet so this blog will just keep going.

But what other series could and should be given at least a first volume? There are a good number of series not yet touched. Some are limited by various rights issues, others by problems of reproduction. But many series should be able to avoid those problems. Here's are seven series that could do with at least a first volume:

By far the most obvious omission is Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Originally launched in Strange Tales #135, the strip ran for the last thirty-four issues of that series and then in the great 1968 Marvel expansion it was given its own title which lasted for another fifteen issues. The whole run has been collected in three Masterworks editions and there are a few individual trade paperbacks. But it's amazing that it's never been touched by the Essentials, especially given Fury's current high profile in the various Marvel movies and the ongoing TV series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Then there's the Two-Gun Kid. The original Kid was the first of Marvel's western heroes with his own ongoing title in the 1940s & 1950s; however when the title was revived and revamped in 1962 the lead character was replaced, with the original being retconned away as being merely the star of a series of dime novels that the new Kid had read and been inspired by. (To add to the ignominy some of the original Kid's adventures were later modified and reprinted as though they starred the new Kid.) The main Marvel rival to the Rawhide Kid for popularity in this genre, it would be a pity to leave his adventures languishing.

Millie the Model. Since Marvel have delved into their Western and war comics, both genres that have heaily declined in relative popularity since their heyday, why not shine a bit of light on their soap and comedy offerings? Millie has unfortunately been the butt of many a joke over the last few decades but in her day she had an incredibly long lasting title that ran from the 1940s until the 1970s, surviving even when the Timely/Atlas/Marvel superheroes didn't. A collected edition would allow modern audiences a chance to see what her series was really like. After all, it worked for Dazzler.

Patsy Walker. Before she was Hellcat (hey that might work as a title), Patsy starred in her own teen soap titles that were Marvel's answer to the various Archie series, including both her original one and Patsy and Heddy. The exact relationship of these series with her later appearances varies a bit depending upon the writer (some treat them as her early years; others as another case of fiction-within-fiction, here written by her mother and actually a source of embarrassment to Patsy), but whatever the position in continuity a reprint of Patsy's stories would show one of the major Defenders in a very different environment.

The Champions. This is one of a number of series that have instead been collected in the colour Classic line though the volumes are now out of print, with some now commanding very high prices on the second seller market, and a Essential volume would help to bring the various series back to accessibility (and actually provide an answer to the question "Do you know how hard it is to find supervillains in Los Angeles?"). This odd team was reportedly largely constructed by ticking boxes and was contemporary to the All-New All Different X-Men revival. Based in Los Angeles, it consisted of the Black Widow, the Angel, Hercules, Iceman, Ghost Rider and, later on, Darkstar. They made their way through seventeen issues and spilled over into a few other series. It should be possible to assemble a slightly slender Essential volume.

The Invaders. This 1970s series took Marvel's biggest Golden Age heroes and teamed them together in a series set during the Second World War (their only contemporary teamings as the All-Winners Squad hadn't appeared until 1946). Consisting of Captain America, Namor the Sub-Mariner and the Original Human Torch, plus a number of other heroes both from the time and latter-day creations, the team's creation reflected Roy Thomas's great fondness for the Golden Age and his work to add as much as possible to continuity as possible. The series has previously been collected in Classic volumes, but again many of those volumes are out of print and some are going for extreme prices.

Alpha Flight. Moving into the early 1980s, this series featured a team of Canadian heroes initially created as a one-off group for X-Men where they came to retrieve Wolverine for their government, but they proved successful enough to return multiple times and were eventually spun out into the first of a succession of titles in 1983, initially written and drawn by John Byrne. Coming from Canada, like their creator, they show a very different approach from the more traditional Marvel teams. Some of the earliest issues have been collected in the Classic line and once more suffer the same fate.

Let's hope the next new Essential volume comes soon and at least some of these series get some Essential attention.


  1. Some other suggestions that I think are long overdue:

    Inhumans - given their current prominence in the ongoing Marvel Universe, I think a collection of their early appearances should be an easy choice.

    Ka-Zar - he's been around since the mid-1960s, with several runs, either in his own title or a shared title.

    Marvel (Warren) Magazines - a lof of these have been reprinted piecemeal in the Marvel Horror Essentials, but it would be nice to have a complete run of the magazines as they were printed.

    Spidey Super-Stories - I know these fall outside of canon, but I would love to see these collected in one volume.

    West Coast Avengers - Given that WCA has received the Omnibus treatment, it seems a no-brainer that they should also release this in B&W.

    New Mutants and Excalibur - These have been released in the Classic line of books, like Alpha Flight above. Given the number of X-Men, X-Factor, and Wolverine Essentials already released, both of these titles should certainly be considered for a run of Essentials.

    As always, there are the various licensed comics which crossed over constantly in the Marvel Universe, such as ROM and Micronauts.


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