Marvel Comics might seem like all capes and tights but for a time in the 1980s they were publishing some really off the wall obscure comics. Some of the comics were even of an odd subject matter. Nothing too crazy or adult oriented, I figure that’s where most of the reader’s thoughts were imaging.
It was the 1980s, you could find a Marvel Comic at every 7-11 in a comic rack next to a Slurpee machine and an arcade game as well as find an Atari video game ad in every issue. It was a fun time to be into comic books, Jim Shooter was Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics and he was making it fun.
In 1982, Marvel published off the wall titles such as Team America, a series about stunt bikers who would turn quasi-superheroes. They even teamed up with Iron Man in an issue. 1983 would see a rather strange title called US 1; the story of a truck driver who lives life dangerously on the road. That series ended with the main character, U.S. Archer who ended up being an inter-galactic space trucker at the end of the 12 issue series. He still makes appearances today in some Marvel Comics.
These series were fun and are interesting to seek out but the meat of what I really wanted to cover is rather more obscure than usual. Here are three real off the wall books that might make you stop and scratch your head:
The Life of Pope John Paul II
Yes this book is real. It’s a whopping 60+ pages which chronicles the life of Pope John Paul II from his childhood to his adulthood, becoming a major religious icon all the way to the attempt on his life in 1981. It’s an interesting comic, very historically accurate as well. The nice thing about this book is it is completely free of the Marvel Universe, even the reporter who we follow which his train of thought if showing us the life of His Eminence is an unnamed reporter with no ties to the rest of the Marvel Universe. Surprisingly enough this book was a real success; it’s been reported this book sold a few million which for the time was an amazing print run for any single comic book issue.. I imagine this was the equivalent of being on Twitter or Facebook in this era. Some say it would only be the sheer ingenuity of Jim Shooter which would make him green light the next spotlighted issue.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta
In 1984, Marvel Comics would do a follow-up to their smash hit, The Life of Pope John Paul II. This time they would focus on Mother Teresa of Calcutta. What was interesting with this issue which told the life story of a then living saint was the inclusion of black and white pictures. John Tartaglione returned to draw this issue, he was the artist who worked on The Life of Pope John Paul II. The issue was written by a huge name in comics, David Michelinie who would go on to help create Venom years later in Amazing Spider-Man. The comic is once again all about the life of a religious icon in the modern-day. Not much comic book action here but Mother Teresa’s struggle is very real and a fantastic comic which gives us a small commentary on real life.
Marvel never did go on to spotlight any other religious icons of interest. Now that I have shed a bit of light on these two forgotten issues, time for something completely different:
Generic Comic Book #1
This one-off comic from 1984 is one questionable read. Even the cover bills the issue as this:
One neurotic Super-Hero type with a variety of personal problems; one bad-guy bent on world domination through arcane means; assorted villainous hench-people; the hero’s nefarious employer, pathetic family, and well-endowed girlfriend; a plot containing a conflict, a subplot, a resolution, a plot twist, and as many fights as it takes to fill up the rest of the pages.
The comic is terribly boring however, a nice poke at themselves and the whole comic book genre but even the comic wasn’t worth the 60 cents cover price of the time. Marvel would stop poking fun themselves for a while until a series drawn by Fred Hembeck in late 80s and early 90s.
There are many comics out there from Marvel which break the whole image of mainstream. Marvel has always been able to laugh at themselves and remember that these are just comics.