- Books, Literature, and Writing
Comic Books that Time Forgot: Marvel Team-Up #137 (1984)
Marvel Team Up #137 (January 1984)
Writer: Michael Carlin
Artist: Greg LaRoque
(Author's Note: I'm a retired comic book geek. After fifteen years of avid collecting, I sold off the bulk of my comics in the early 1990s. At one time my collection was somewhere in the neighborhood of 5000 books, but after The Great Purge I boiled everything down to one long box (approx. 400 books) of "keepers" that I plan on hanging onto forever. These comics may not be particularly valuable, but they're personal favorites that I have always enjoyed reading and re-reading. This is the first in a series of occasional Hubs in which I will simply reach into the "keepers" box, pull out a random book, and post about it. )
To start things off, I present what may be one of the WEIRDEST team-up/crossover books ever produced: MARVEL TEAM UP #137, circa January 1984. Yes, even weirder than Archie Meets the Punisher.
The cover of this issue trumpets that it's "Not a Dream! Not a Hoax! Not an Imaginary Story!" Marvel Team-Up usually paired up its regular star, Spider-Man, with a different character every month, but #137 was a whole 'nother kinda special issue of MTU. For one month in late 1983, all of the regular Marvel editors were going to be in California appearing at the San Diego Comic-Con. Therefore, the task of editing of all the books that went out that month fell to the Assistant Editors. Marvel made a big to-do about how special "ASSISTANT EDITOR'S MONTH" was going to be, that the inmates were going to be running the asylum, and that readers could expect to see some weird stuff in their books that month. Well, this issue of MTU deals out the weird in spades!!
Those of you who read comics in the '70s and '80s probably remember those one-page advertisements for Hostess snack cakes, which would feature a Marvel or DC superhero in a six panel adventure that always ended with the super villain being distracted by Twinkies or Hostess Cupcakes so the hero could get the drop on 'em. In this issue, Michael Carlin (writer) and Greg Laroque (artist) took that idea and blew it out to a feature length story, with hilarious results.
Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) and his Aunt May are attending the circus together, and happen to find themselves seated in the same row as the Fantastic Four, who are on a "family outing" with Reed (Mr. Fantastic) and Sue (Invisible Woman)'s son Franklin. Word gets to the FF that the planet eating demi-God Galactus has been sighted in Earth orbit, so they need to rush back to the Baxter Building and suit up. Franklin, being a bratty little kid, doesn't want to leave the circus, of course. Overhearing the commotion, Peter comes up with a solution: leave Franklin in the capable hands of Aunt May (who's an experienced babysitter, don'cha know) till the FF can get back. Everyone's happy, the FF and Spidey head off to the Baxter building, and BLAMMO! Galactus suddenly crashes thru the roof of the arena. Seems he was homing in on the "Cosmic Energy" given off by Franklin, thinking he would make a suitable new Herald of Galactus. Aunt May throws herself in front of the shot from Galactus' eye beams meant for Franklin, which bestow upon her the Power Cosmic. Galactus thus names Aunt May, now called "GOLDEN OLDIE," as his new herald and puts her in charge of finding new planets suitable for his consumption. Aunt May/Golden Oldie discovers that "Mostess Twinkles" (Franklin's favorite snack) actually have an effect on Galactus' hunger pangs so she at first collects all of the Twinkles in New York, then the world, and offers them to Galactus. Once they've been devoured, they're off to space to find another world for Galactus to suck dry.
Being a kind, grandmotherly sort, Aunt May naturally doesn't want to bring Galactus to any inhabited planets (Careful, May - having a conscience is what got the Silver Surfer in trouble!). While traveling thru space she finds a planet that is, amazingly, shaped like a gigantic "Mostess Twinkle!" The baker who created the planet (an alien who looks like the love child of Poppin' Fresh of Pillsbury fame, and the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man) tells her he has been baking these planet-sized treats with Galactus in mind for hundreds of years, in the hopes that The Great One might finally discover him. So hey, this works out fine for everyone. Sta-Puft Guy can bake as many yummy planets as Galactus needs, therefore Aunt May no longer needs to hunt down worlds for Galactus to devour. Thus, Galactus releases May from her duties as Herald and she returns to Earth just in time to get Franklin back home and to bed.
(Whew!) Believe it or not, all this amazing intergalactic intrigue cost only sixty cents!! Lord, they don't make'em like this anymore. This exercise in absurdity, Marvel style, never fails to make me laugh even after all these years. Apparently it's not a particularly collectible issue, as its current back-issue price will set you back about three bucks.
As bizarre as #137 is, old time comic fans will probably remember that Marvel Team-Up was never a really dark-and-serious type of series anyway. The writers on MTU seemed more interested in simply creating fun stories for fans. For the most part the Team-Up stories tended to happen outside of the "regular" Spidey storyline (i.e. they were self-contained tales that didn't have any effect on the events in the rest of the Spidey books, and vice versa). Part of the fun of Marvel Team-Up was going to the comic rack every month to see what character he'd be hooked up with in each new story. There are numerous odd-ball issues like this scattered throughout the original series' run (which started in the early '70s and lasted well into the mid-'80s), so you'll likely see more Marvel Team-Ups in future "Comics That Time Forgot" entries. Issue #137 is a stone cold hoot that's well worth seeking out as long as you don't take your Marvel Universe continuity terribly seriously.