The Avengers Are So Hot Right Now, So Here’s This Month’s Great Cover

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I had to go with an Avengers cover for this month, didn’t I? How could I not? Disney’s Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame is in theaters and is doing monster business. Well, I’m more than willing to jump on that bandwagon, so I picked an issue of The Avengers as an example of a great cover.

This one is a little different than what one might think of as a great comic book cover. There’s no pitched battle. There’s no image of our hero or heroes about to be or having been defeated. There’s no super-villain or group of super-villains.

It’s just our heroes gathered around their conference table. They are being dressed down by a lone man, normal, no superpowers, holding a file marked “Top Secret”. He’s Peter Gyrich and he’s from the US National Security Agency, which I suppose could be considered a super-hero or a super-villain, depending on your feelings toward government.

The Avengers’ organization has gotten too big, too unruly, and too lax in their security for the US Government. They are becoming more of a risk than an asset. They need to be more tightly controlled and to do that many of them had to go. Earth’s mightiest heroes may not have started out as a government sanctioned group, but since their founding they had acquired certain privileges and clearances and funding. If they wished to continue getting those favors, they would have to follow the rules.

The greatness of this cover starts with its excellent execution by artists George Perez (penciler) and Terry Austin (inker). It’s hard to go wrong with that artistic team-up. Perez does a fantastic job of drawing and design here. It’s not easy to incorporate so many characters, 24 in all, in such a limited space and make them all appear as though they are all standing on the same floor and have their own space. They may be a little cramped, but Perez handles it beautifully here. And he didn’t even try make it easier on himself by drawing two of the characters in their miniature states, as he could have with The Wasp and Yellowjacket.

I also like the little connections between the couples of the group. The Vision is gently caressing Scarlet Witch. The Wasp is holding Yellowjacket’s reassuring hand as he places it on her shoulder. Captain America’s hug of Iron Man… Well, maybe that’s not technically a hug.

Gyrich’s arrogance and self-confidence is on full display. He boldly stands before a gathering of super-powered beings, any one of whom could easily reduce him to a quivering pile of human flesh, and dictates the government’s terms. He shows no sign of being intimidated, at all.

The cover of Avengers #181 (March, 1979) may seem an unusual choice, but I think it’s a great cover.

And Endgame? Fantastic! Bravo Marvel! Bravo Disney!

Oh! As a bonus. John Byrne and Gene Day produced what some might consider an even better version of the cover scene as part of the story. However, theirs has only 23 characters. Can you figure out which one is missing?

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It’s Yondu of the Guardians of the Galaxy who is missing.

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

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George Perez: Quite An Artist, Quite A Legacy

This past weekend George Perez, one of the comic book industry’s greatest illustrators, announced he was retiring.

Retire? Hold on while I look that up…

“To withdraw from one’s position or occupation or from one’s active working life.”

What?! People can do that? How do their bills get paid?

Huh. Oh, well.

So, Perez is doing this retire thing and that got me thinking of when I first saw his illustrations. As I wrote in my blog about discovering Marvel’s The Uncanny X-Men in the summer of 1978, I had just determined to become serious about collecting comic books and start buying titles and reading the storylines, instead just buying books with interesting covers. Along with The X-men, I began buying The Avengers.

The first issue I picked up with this new zeal for comics was The Avengers #171 (May, 1978).

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It’s cover was drawn by George Perez and inked by Terry Austin and they proved to be a nearly as potent a creative team as John Byrne  and Austin were on The X-Men. The interior art of this issue of The Avengers was inked by Pablo Marcos and he proved to be an even better fit with Perez’s pencils. Some penciler and inker combinations are truly magical. Perez and Marcos was one such combo.

I quickly began scarfing up back issues of The Avengers, which had become my favorite title. (Oh, how I wish I had done the same with the Dave Cockrum drawn X-Men issues.) And what I saw was a young artist becoming great.

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Perez’s early work in the Avengers was more simple and maybe a little awkward. Some of that was undoubtedly due to the inkers he was paired up with in those early days. His drawings with Vince Colletta or Sam Grainger inking weren’t quite there yet. (See the example from Avengers #141 with Colletta inking, above.) Perez was showing promise, but he was still getting settled in and when he teamed up with Marcos his artwork soared.

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By the time Avengers #161 was produced, Perez and Marcos were creating incredible pages. The action sequences were more dramatic and dynamic. The characters’ anatomy and poses were also more dramatic and more precisely drawn. In the example (see above), how great is that explosive first panel? And the expression on Iron Man’s… um… mask in the fourth panel is far more expressive than any of the faces in that earlier sample.

And Perez’s blossoming as an artist was not only confined to the pages of Earth’s Mightest Heroes. He also turned out some fine work in Marvel’s adaption of the 1976 sci-fi classic Logan’s Run. For that series he was teamed up with inker Klaus Janson. And they also gelled well together. In the first sample, just look at the center frame. Fantastic!

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The second sample is an outstanding example of his dramatic splash pages. Also from the Logan’s Run series.

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Finally, I want to look at a cover he did for the Fantastic Four #184 (July, 1977). He did a run of both covers and interior art with pioneer inker Joe Sinnott. Now, I think Sinnott was a fine inker, but by the 1970s his inking tended to overshadow the artist, not compliment them. However, Perez’s style was not too adversely affected.

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I also want to point out that Perez could be a maniac when it came to drawing backgrounds. There would sometimes be an incredible amount of detail involved, but he kept it under control and kept his covers and pages from looking too busy. That’s not an easy thing to do. I think the two covers I’ve included here are good examples of his attention to detail.

And this is all just his work from the 1970s!

George Perez’s career in comic books would span an additional four decades! Over those decades, his artwork maintained the highest quality as he worked for both Marvel and DC Comics. His work always looked fresh. He kept up with the times, while never losing that classic George Perez look. That in itself is a rare and terrific feat.

The man has left an impressive legacy as he now embarks on his well-earned retirement.

Kudos, Mr. Perez!

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And, for my money, no one drew Ultron better than George Perez!

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

My Introduction To The Uncanny X-Men

It has been said that timing is everything and, when it came to my becoming a serious comic book collector, my timing couldn’t have been better. As I wrote in my blog about The Korvac Saga in The Avengers series, a friend had encouraged me to become a serious collector and I started collecting The Avengers and The Uncanny X-men in the summer of 1978. So, when I started collecting The Avengers, the artist was George Perez. Perez was pretty early in his career with Marvel and he was really hitting his stride when I started collecting Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. My timing was also good, because they were battling one of their greatest foes: Ultron.

The first issue I bought of The Uncanny X-Men was #113 (September, 1978). My timing was a little off in that I joined a story already in progress, but that story featured the group’s greatest adversary: Magneto. And Magneto was at the height of his power. He had just defeated the new X-Men in issue #112. Pretty handily to boot.

At the time I thought Perez was a great artist, but the guy drawing The X-Men was a revelation to me. When I opened that first issue of seriously collected X-Men, I saw this…

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I was completely wowed! It was just a character shot of Magneto approaching the “camera” with power crackling from his hand, but it was drawn so well. I loved the style. And page after page, book after book my jaw kept dropping lower than I thought was humanly possible.

The artist was John Byrne and he was working with inker Terry Austin. I will say this right here – Byrne and Austin were one to the best pairings of penciller and inker ever! The art produced by that team on this X-Men run is, in my opinion, unparalleled. Those guys were amazing. So, my timing was good to start buying when such a great team of artists was producing at such a high level.

It wasn’t just great timing for the art, there was a great writer making waves, too. The writer was Chris Claremont who, with plot assist from Byrne, set the reader on a long and winding road of powerful bad guys bringing this new group of mutants to the brink of death again and again. In fact, for a time, Professor X, the group’s founder and mentor, believed that Jean Grey (Marvel Girl/Phoenix) was the only X-Man left alive after their battle with Magneto. Phoenix and Beast (former X-Man, but an Avenger at the time) were able to escape an erupting volcano that destroyed Magneto’s sub-Antarctica super complex.

Despite their inexperience, the new team was able to defeat Magneto, but in doing so, as it appeared to Phoenix and Beast, the rest of the team were killed in the volcanic eruption. But, Cyclops, Wolverine, Banshee, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Storm had survived. And they believed it was they who were the ones who got out alive.

They had dug their way out of the underground mega-station to surface in the Savage Land, a land that time forgot in the center of Antarctica. It’s a primitive jungle-covered land filled with all sorts of dangerous creatures dating back to the age of dinosaurs. There they stayed with people native to that land and eventually met up with Ka-Zar, Marvel’s answer to Tarzan.

They got a chance to rest for a while. And I got a chance to see just how well Byrne could draw the female form.

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Even Banshee was impressed.

Well, to not go on too very long, the X-Men’s rest was short-lived due to having to battle Sauron, which led to a greater battle to save the Savage Land and the world from the evil ambitions of Garokk, the Sun-God. Then they ended up in Japan and hooked up with Sunfire to fight Mandroids and to stop Moses Magnum from sinking that island nation. A battle in which Banshee lost his voice from the strain of destroying a mountain.

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All this while making their way back to their school in Westchester, NY and to Professor X. However, the Professor had decided, since he believed his X-Men were dead, to shut down the school and leave planet earth to live with his love Lilandra, Majestrix of the Shi’ar Empire.

Yeesh! You need a damn program to keep track!

But at 13, I loved it. Claremont, Byrne, and Austin weaved a complex tale of super-powered mutants going from battle to battle, developing these new and exciting characters along the way. They were even sewing in hints at troubled times ahead. Jean Grey as Phoenix had become extremely powerful and she was enjoying it a little too much. They were moving her character toward the destructive evil of Dark Phoenix, which would open a universe-spanning saga of its own.

You see how it was? I could keep going, because that creative team was just so good at putting together such a sprawling tale of this heroic group of mutants sworn to protect a world that feared and hated them. It was marvelous and it’s why the X-Men went from an also-ran, nearly cancelled, series to Marvel Comic’s marquee title.

And it’s why the Claremont/Byrne/Austin run of The Uncanny X-Men is one of the greatest of all time.

Packing Peanuts!

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