And that was MIGHTY MARVEL MAY!


And that’s it! My top 30 favorite Marvel Comics character in minibust form. So many fun characters had to be left out (Sorry Blade! Sorry Kingpin! Sorry everyone in Power Pack! Punisher- you’re still a Spider-Man villain to me, and I didn’t have room for Norman Osborn, the ne plus ultra of Spidey villains, so you didn’t make the cut).  Marvel has been publishing for more than 70 years, have thousands of characters, and occupied most of my childhood and young adulthood.

For all my love of this vast fictional universe, in this series I’ve tried to pay homage to the creators of these characters. It’s very easy to think of the Marvel Universe as an almost organic whole, and that these stories will be there every month without fail, but without Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, John Romita, Gene Colan, Steve Gerber, John Byrne, Chris Claremont, and so many more there would be no Marvel Universe. These people gave words and form to the imaginary heroes who have thrilled us. As a kid, I may have wanted to swing across a cityscape like Spider-Man or have the strength of the Thing. But as an adult I wish I could create something to inspire people the way Jack Kirby has.

‘Nuff said.

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MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #18: IRON MAN

Most of you are probably familiar with the story of billionaire playboy inventor Tony Stark, a munitions maker injured by (in most versions) his own weaponry in the field. With a shrapnel precariously close to his heart, a makeshift electromagnet is all that keeps him from death. He escapes captivity and saves his own life by making himself a weapon: Iron Man.

Originally created by old standbys Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, in a story scripted by Larry Lieber and drawn by Don Heck in TALES OF SUSPENSE #39 in 1963. Iron man gets periodic updates to his origin, which originally took place in Vietnam and has been moved to Afghanistan, and to his armor, once “powered” by transistors. He’s always remained ahead of the pace of even real-world science.

Although Tony Stark’s identity as Iron Man was secret for most of his career, in recent years he’s gone public with it. An autocratic technocrat, Tony tries to make the world better with his inventions, at the same time steadfastly guarding against people who would misuse it. He often fails to recognize any authority but his own, which sometimes puts him at odds with government and other superheroes (although Tony was thoroughly pro-government in the CIVIL WAR miniseries which pitted brother superhero against brother superhero). Tony has also hit bottom a number of times, such as in the “Demon in a Bottle” storyline, in which his alcoholism costs him the Iron Man armor and even his company.

Constantly teetering between progress and self-ruin, human and machine, Iron Man perfectly represents the nature of technology. And he does it with style.

Iron Man’s look is always evolving, too. After the initial, bulky, robotic Kirby design, Steve Ditko created the first version of the more iconic, streamlined yellow-and-red armor. Although the version I’ve done, inspired by artist Adi Granov, is not his favorite, I dedicate this piece to Iron Man fan Steve Bannister, who’s as resolute (and right more often) in his opinions as Tony Stark himself.

Tomorrow I’ll present a very attractive character for MIGHTY MARVEL MAY.

MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #5: ANTMAN/ HANK PYM

People love to make fun of Aquaman. “Ha ha! He can talk to fish!” Actually, Aquaman can command fish. But what about the guy who can only command ants?

Hank Pym was created by Stan Lee, Stan’s brother Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby in 1962’s TALES TO ASTONISH #27 in a story called “The Man in the Ant Hill” . At first, he wasn’t a superhero, but a victim of his own experiment, a pretty direct lift from the film version of THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957). In his next appearance, he was Ant-Man. Despite the numerous, obvious liabilities presented in being a man who can shrink to the size of a bug, Ant-Man actually did pretty well and went on to co-found the Avengers (along with his wife-then-girlfriend, see MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #2: THE WASP ). Soon he learned to grow and became Giant-Man instead. Then Goliath. Then back to shrinking as the anti-hero Yellowjacket. Then simply Dr. Pym. Giant-Man again. He even took his wife’s superhero name, The Wasp (she wasn’t using it at the time). Etc.

Pym has never seemed happy as a superhero. He’s rarely seemed happy, period. He and the Wasp are the Burton/Taylor of the Marvel Universe. Infamously, in the midst of a nervous breakdown, he once backhanded her (supposedly the result of an artist misinterpreting a written plot description).

So what is there to like about this guy?

Saddled with what might be the saddest, most meager set of superpowers, Hank Pym tried again. He reinvented himself. And when that didn’t work, he tried again. And again. He keeps trying to make himself better, to overcome his past, and to do the right thing. It has never been easy for him, but he keeps trying. Most of us are never going to have the happy lab accident that gives us a superpower, but all of us are going to screw up (although, one hopes, not so spectacularly), and keep our fingers crossed that we’ll get it right the next time.

Ant-Man is depicted here with a little Grant Williams, star of THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, style. I believe Williams was the physical model for Pym. Kirby’s bizarre, inventive helmet, with its loudspeaker/mandibles, is both ridiculous and cool all at once.  Also depicted is the Wasp, Hank’s partner and love at this time.

Hope you’ll come back for tomorrow’s installment. This next character is a riot.