Seven Marvel Comics Every Fan Should Read

More than just super-heroes


Marvel Comics is known for producing some of the best super-hero comics to hit the stands for over forty years. The Amazing Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the Mighty Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and the X-Men are just some of the characters created by Marvel legends Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Many of the most successful motion pictures of the last decade were based on Lee and Kirby creations, but there was much more to Marvel Comics than these iconic characters from the sixties. In the decades that followed, Marvel launched several imaginative titles created by talented and innovative writers and artists. The following seven comics are a few of the more offbeat offerings from Marvel.




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Warlock encounters the Madness Monster
Warlock encounters the Madness Monster
Howard the Duck must use all his wits to defeat the Deadly Space Turnip
Howard the Duck must use all his wits to defeat the Deadly Space Turnip
The Martians return, and this time they win
The Martians return, and this time they win
A gorgeous portrait of King Kull by Marie and John Severin
A gorgeous portrait of King Kull by Marie and John Severin
Jack Kirby's last triumph for Marvel
Jack Kirby's last triumph for Marvel
Giant Man, as seen by painter Alex Ross
Giant Man, as seen by painter Alex Ross
Stunning art by Jim Steranko
Stunning art by Jim Steranko
More Steranko art on SHIELD
More Steranko art on SHIELD

Seven "must-read" Marvel Comics


1. Warlock. Roy Thomas and Gil Kane placed the artificial life form called “Him” on Counter-Earth, renamed him Adam Warlock and transformed him into a Christ-like figure. Warlock strove to save Counter-Earth from the Man-Beast, who masqueraded as a prophet. The series hit its stride when Jim Starlin took over as writer and artist and pitted Warlock against the Universal Church of Truth and its mysterious ruler, the Magus. Starlin also created memorable characters such as the In-Betweener, Gamora and Pip the Troll. He reintroduced Thanos of Titan as Warlock’s scheming ally in his duel with the Magus, and Thanos became inextricably linked to Warlock and his adventures. Adam Warlock was eventually killed by the evil Titan, but his soul was captured in the Infinity Gem Warlock wore on his brow, making his eventual return inevitable.

2. Howard the Duck. Writer Steve Gerber teamed first with Frank Brunner and then Gene Colan to offer one of the most unique comic characters of all time. Howard was “trapped in a world he never made” when he fell through the cosmic nexus and landed in Cleveland. There he met Beverly Switzler and encountered strange adversaries such as the Hellcow, the Deadly Space Turnip, the Kidney Lady and Dr. Bong. Howard fought his own demons as often as he battled these eccentric villains, but this comic was most famous for its social commentary. Gerber made Howard the voice of the common man and used the duck to speak out on a wide variety of topics including mental illness, presidential campaigns, the art world and even Star Wars. No other writer could bring the same mix of wit, satire and introspection to Howard’s exploits, and the series floundered when Gerber left.

3. War of the Worlds featuring Killraven. Roy Thomas conceived an alternate ending to H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel, The War of the Worlds. One hundred years after the Martians failed to conquer Earth, Thomas brings them back for round two—and this time they win. Set in the distant future of 2001, this comic tells the story of an escaped gladiator named Killraven who leads a band of rebels in an effort to free humanity from their Martian captors. Keith Giffen’s artwork was raw and unpolished during this early period in his artistic career, but indications of his immense talent were there to be seen.

4. Kull the Conqueror / Kull the Destroyer. Robert E. Howard’s “other” barbarian hero was King Kull, a warrior from Atlantis who became ruler of the nation of Valusia after slaying its king. Kull was more thoughtful and refined than Howard’s Conan, and the tales had a philosophical tone lacking in Conan’s adventures. Kull’s stories pondered death and the nature of existence while still offering an ample portion of combat. The artwork followed suit, with a less “barbaric” look than Barry Smith or John Buscema sought when illustrating the Conan comics. Stories were written by Roy Thomas and lavishly illustrated by Marie and John Severin, Ross Andru and Wally Wood, and Mike Ploog. The series never caught on with fans the way Conan did, but except for Conan art by Barry Smith, Kull was every bit as good.

5. The Eternals. Jack Kirby’s final significant creation for Marvel after his return from DC was the Eternals. Eons ago, gigantic space gods called the Celestials visited earth and conducted genetic experiments on ancient man. These experiments created two distinct human mutations: the Eternals, an immortal race mistaken for gods in ancient times, and Deviants, a hideous race who inspired tales of devils and demons. Similar experiments were conducted on the Kree and Skrull home worlds. Celestial activities also indirectly led to the colonization of Uranus and Saturn’s moon Titan (home of Thanos), and the creation of the Inhumans. Eternals and Deviants remained in conflict while awaiting the return of the Celestials, who resolved to eventually return and judge the worthiness of their creations. The Eternals was complex and broad in scope, and added the final chapter to Jack Kirby’s legacy.

6. Marvels. Writer Kurt Busiek and painter Alex Ross offered a gorgeous look at the early years of Marvel Comics, from the creation of the original Human Torch to the death of Gwen Stacey at the hands of the Green Goblin. This look back at the early adventures of Marvel super-heroes is seen through the eyes of photojournalist Phil Sheldon, who documents the exploits of the “Marvels” that fascinate him so. It captured perfectly the innocence and charm of early Marvel comics while sadly demonstrating that this look back was better than anything else Marvel had going on at the time. The painted comics were breathtaking in their beauty and rife with references to television and movie figures from the past. The Beatles, Rob and Laura Petrie from the Dick Van Dyke show, and Bea Arthur all attended the wedding of Reed Richards and Sue Storm. Reed even resembled the Professor from Gilligan’s Island. Marvels ran for only a few issues, but Alex Ross’ wonderfully painted illustrations set a new standard for comic book storytelling.

7. Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD. For approximately two years in the mid-sixties, Jim Steranko transformed a weak spy-comic created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby into something slick and gorgeous. Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD cast World War II vets Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan and Gabe Jones (from the Marvel Comic Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos) as counter-espionage agents. Joined by La Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, Jasper Sitwell and Clay Quatermaine, SHIELD battled terrorists such as HYDRA, the Yellow Claw and the Zodiac. SHIELD was innovative in both story and art, and Jim Steranko’s vision of comics was so distinctive it has never been equaled.


A different era


Steve Gerber, Jim Starlin and the others saw the potential comics held for creative storytelling, and sought to realize it—each in their own unique way. None of the comics featured here were traditional super-hero titles, but the experimentation their creators embraced represents much of their considerable charm. They were part of a different era in comics and embodied the growing pains associated with Marvel’s expansion in the late 60’s and 70’s. Howard the Duck, Killraven and Nick Fury were not cornerstones of the Marvel Comics universe, but they were bold and original. Their place in the Marvel pantheon cannot be disputed.


Comments 28 comments

katiem2 profile image

katiem2 5 years ago from I'm outta here

Marvel Comics are a timeless treasure and I for one love Marvel. I have a bit of a collection of sorts and was thrilled to find your peice on the seven marvel comics every fan should read and to that I say amen with one exception, read them over and over again... Well Done and a very fitting tribute to Marvel greats! Peace and Love :)


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Katie, thanks for stopping by and reading. I still have quite a few of the old comics as well, and I agree--read them over and over again. I dragged a few of them out while writing this, and they still hold up well over time, both in story and art. Comics look slicker now with better paper and new methods for inking and coloring, but these comics can stand up to anything published today.

Thanks for reading. Have a great Sunday.

Mike


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Mike - Now that we have seen successful films featuring Superman, Batman, Ironman and Spiderman. can the Green Hornet, Warlock and Kull be far behind? I would also nominate Mandrake the Magician for filmdom glory. I know these were not all Marvels but they were some of my favorites.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Drbj, thanks for stopping by. I especially loved the Green Hornet after discovering the television show in the 60's with Bruce Lee as Kato. I am all for making movies out of all of these characters. I am also fascinated at the notion that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby could sit in their office at Marvel comics in the early 60's and pour out material that would form the basis for dozens of Hollywood movies, 40 years later. I believe Iron Man, the Hulk, Spider-Man and Fantastic Four were all created within months of each other. It took decades to convince Hollywood that comics were a hot commodity, but once they did, well-- they have taken over. If nothing else, it demonstrates the potential comics held--and still hold.

Thanks for reading.

Mike


pmccray profile image

pmccray 5 years ago from Utah

I so agree with your last statement about Marvel. These guys were never afraid to step out of the box for their art. Excellent and beautifully written hub. Happy Holidays to you and yours


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

pmccray, thanks for stopping by. These weird comics (and other titles such as Ghost Rider, Master of Kung-Fu and the Man-Thing) were outstanding comics that either avoided or transcended the standard super-hero fare, all with spectacular results. It was a great era for comics that has never been matched.

Thanks again for reading, and I wish you a happy holiday season, as well.

Mike


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, I remember them well, my brother collected Marvel and I collected DC comics! superman etc, the only Kull the conqueror that I remember was in the film, but the other well known ones certainly bring back memories, cheers nell


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hi, Nell! Thanks for reading. I collected DC until my brother bought a Fantastic Four comic, and I was hooked on both DC and Marvel after that. I remember the Kull movie and kinda liked it, even though it did not seem well received. Unfortunately, the Howard the Duck movie was generally regarded as one of the worst films of all time, which just demonstrates that not every good comic translate well to the big screen.

Thanks again for reading.

Mike


JannyC profile image

JannyC 5 years ago

Awesome read! My inner comic geek girl squees with delight. I started my writing career in comic script writing did you know that? All thanks to Marvel.

Happy Holidays!

~Janny


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Janny, any gal who loves comics is a special lady, indeed. I knew you liked comics but didn't know you wrote them. That is completely cool. Comics, of course, helped inspire my love for drawing and obviously have influenced my style. Like you, I owe it to Marvel Comics.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you're doing well. Have a great holiday season.

Mike


Awful Poet profile image

Awful Poet 5 years ago from The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) (m-M)_0 = 18.41, or 48 kpc (~157,000

Awesome.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 5 years ago

THANK YOU! I've been making behavior sticks (yes, behavior sticks) for one of the students I service. He's a Spiderman buff, but I haven't wanted to focus on just the one. You've given me new ideas............. thanks! Kaie


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Awful Poet, thanks for stopping by and reading. I greatly appreciate it. Take care.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Kaie, thanks for reading. It is always gratifying when something one says can spark a new idea--I'm happy to have provided a springboard for your project. Have a great weekend.

Mike


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 5 years ago from US

I learned how to read in English when my mom bought those old comics - Marvel comics from here - US, they sell it at lower prices after some time when I was a kid in the Phils. Nce one Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hi, Maita! Nice to see you here. I learned to read in part from comics--when I was too young to read them, my brother read some of them to me. They were great for developing a good vocabulary.

Welcome back! Thanks for stopping by.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Saleheensblog, thanks for stopping by. Comics truly are an under-appreciated medium. The success in the last ten years of movies based on comics have given them some exposure, but still not what they deserve. Comics are truly entertaining.

Mike


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 5 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

I forgot about Howard The Duck, wow, that's way back. I have two small acid free boxes with my humble collection of comics, quite a few from a smaller company called Kitchen Sink Press. These seven are pretty unknown to me Mike, I wish I could buy a sample of all of them in a graphic novel for easier consumption.

I've always been impressed by the life study abilities of comic book illustrators, amazing!

Equally impressive is your detailed explanation of each and the artists related to each, Kirby is an old name I'm barely familiar with; I did hear years ago that Stan Lee held out for decades to create the Marvel movies because he wanted the effects to be more convincing.

Authoritative piece Mister Lickteig well done as usual.

Ben


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Ben, thanks for stopping by. I always loved comic book art--the guys who drew comics are under-appreciated creators. In the list from above, particularly Jim Steranko was an illustrative genius.

Stan Lee tried for a long time to get Hollywood interested in his comics, but he was indeed determined to have them do it right. Howard the Duck was made into a movie in the mid-1980's and was ridiculed (I liked it--go figure). After that, Marvel waited quite awhile before trying again. Now movies about comics characters are among the more reliable draws in Hollywood. Again--go figure.

Well, I appreciate your stopping by. Have a safe and Happy New Year, my friend!

Mike


BigSerious profile image

BigSerious 5 years ago from Harrisburg, PA

Hi, Mike! I loved this hub. I used to work at Borders and many of my colleagues read comics/graphic novels. I wanted in, but it never stuck. However, I did read all the Transmetropolitan (I loved it) and most of Gaiman's The Sandman. I read one superhero comic but honestly can't remember the name (something like Universal Avenger??)

I want to get my son to read some comics. So far, at only almost 2 and a half, he definitely has an interest in superheroes (Batman, Spider-man, Superman and Iron Man). Just yesterday, in fact, he spend the entire day wearing his cheap polyester spider-man costume, while wielding a plastic sword!

Though I may not be able to get hold of the ones you mention here, I hope to find some great comics today that are classics tomorrow. I'm reading through your hubs, so I may learn myself, but have you written anything about today's comics?

Thanks for the fun post! (and just so you know, my sister and I adored Howard the Duck the movie. And the bad guy - Jones? - I couldn't look at him without feeling a little sick...) (also, I love the signature at the end of the post; excellent!)

Christen


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hi, Christen... Thanks for the kind words. I haven't written that much about contemporary comics--I am a product of my era to a large degree, and while I am still a fan, I don't look to see what is out there so much anymore. I will also confess to a preference to the older and simpler story lines of yesteryear. While I am not opposed to the cosmic dramas that frequent today's comics, they escalate into stories that lack the wit, humor and fun of the older titles.

I am thrilled to find someone who enjoyed the Howard the Duck movie--I thought it was a good product for its times. It was juvenile in many ways, but that was long before Hollywood turned comics into a more sophisticated form of entertainment.

I do encourage you to find comics for your son to read. Comics played a role in helping me develop a speaking and writing vocabulary. I also think comics do a good job of articulating "right" and "wrong" in a way kids and teens can relate to.

Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it!

Mike


deblipp profile image

deblipp 5 years ago

Many of these are my favorites of the 60s and 70s. Sterenko also made waves with Captain Marvel and Doc Strange.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Deblip, thanks for stopping by. Steranko was a brilliant comic artist whose work will never be matched. He was so good, no one even tried to imitate him. He is indeed one of my favorites.

Mike


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 years ago from The Garden State

I salute your respect of Howard the Duck! So many people automatically discount HTD due to the awful movie version, unfortunately they'll never know that the original '70s Howard the Duck series was one of the best comics Marvel ever published.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

FatFreddy, thanks for your comments. Howard the Duck was a truly fine comic, and so original in story and art. I miss comics like this.

Mike


scott33thomas profile image

scott33thomas 5 years ago from Germany, Colombia, USA, Panama, Mexico, Spain

a good collector of comics could understand this world of superheroes and super villains great hub


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Scott, thanks for the kind words. I appreciate your stopping by.

Mike


Lyricalvibes profile image

Lyricalvibes 3 years ago from Orange County, CA.

Great hub ! I use to live right next to a comic shop in my old neighborhood. It was called Another World, and everyone conjugated there to read comic books and just talk about relating subjects. This hub made me look back during my younger days and brought a smile to my face. Thanks !

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