Saturday, July 21, 2007

'Mock Mine Marvel': Too Many Super Heroes - - The Mighty Crusaders #4, April, 1966

Here it is, THE GREATEST single issue of a super-hero comic book, EVER.

One might think, perhaps, that such a debate can never be adequately settled, that it's subject to context, or a reader's taste.

- - But one would be wrong.
This is it, right here. ➔

"But what if I'm not familiar with these 'Mighty Crusaders'? Is this comic really different from other stuff I've read?"

No, it's not. And that's sorta the point. You've probably read this story before, even if you haven't.

It's like an archetype. - - Or more specifically, a broad, cheap facsimile of an archetype.

In the mid-1960's, following in the wake of the 'Marvel Age of Comics' and the resurgence in popularity of the costumed super-hero, the Archie Comics group jumped on the bandwagon, at least for a little while.

They scraped together some of the Golden Age and Silver Age characters that were still under their Archie/Radio Comics/MLJ publishing umbrella, and revived them for a new audience of readers.

The 'relevant and troubled' breed of hero coming from the Marvel bullpen had proved a successful formula, so the new 'Mighty Comics Group' apparently reasoned that the easiest way to repeat that success was to very closely mimic Marvel's style.

Well, 'ape' might be a better term than mimic...

Nearly forgotten characters Flyman, Flygirl, the Shield, Black Hood and The Comet were updated and brought together as The Mighty Crusaders, sort of a 'Fantastic Five', or Avengers, or JLA, take your pick.

The beauty of this one action-glutted issue is the 'and-then-also-this' pace it sets, re-introducing seemingly every last old redundant character the publisher had 'under contract', until, well...
...'Too Many Super Heroes'. Go ahead, try to keep track.

If you've ever read a 1960's Marvel comic book, this story might seem familiar. Likewise if you ever read any comic book at all inspired by a '60's Marvel. Or a DC. Or any comic book.
That's how great this one is: They're all in here.

Reading this now, it reminds me a bit of 'parallel reality' stories that folks like Grant Morrison or Alan Moore have written when they're cutting loose and having fun.

In 'homage' to the 'Mighty' Marvel manner, this issue of Mighty Crusaders was written by “Jerry Ess” (Jerry Siegel, Superman's co-creator, speaking of archetypes), with art by “Paul Are” (Paul Reinman), colored by “Vic Torr” (Victor Gorelick) and edited by “Rick Gee” (Richard Goldwater).

I don't want to catalog all the characters in this story, or tip you off to any of the numerous decidedly odd (yet formulaic) twists it takes. I'm just happy to share this issue for your reading pleasure, in the hopes that people will learn from it as they are entertained.

Others around the web have (of course) already written about this particular piece of classic literature, most notably at Scott Shaw's Oddball Comics, and at Silver Age Reviews.

SPEAKING OF WHICH: Scott Shaw says that Marvel Comics later parodied this story in an issue of The Defenders, and used the same title, 'Too Many Super Heroes'. Can any of you True Believers tell me what issue? Which run? I'm asking - - this isn't a test...

(Click either on images or page numbers to open an oversized version on a new page)

PART 1: ⬇
(page 1)
(page 2)
(page 3)
(page 4)
(page 5)
(page 6)
(page 7)
(page 8)

PART 2: ⬇⬇
(page 9)
(page 10)
(page 11)
(page 12)
(page 13)
(page 14)

PART 3: ⬇⬇⬇
(page 15)
(page 16)
(page 17)
(page 18)
(page 19)

PART 4: ⬇⬇⬇⬇
(page 20)
(page 21)
(page 22)
(page 23)
(page 24)

(House ad)


Percy Trout said...

"You're right! I can't! But... You yourself, as you were years ago before you became evil, CAN!"

*Whew* ... what a mouthful!

Tony said...

It looks like the story in Defenders #113 was called "Too Many Heroes". (At least that's what it says on the cover.) You can see a pic of the cover here:

I haven't read this one, so I don't know how much of a parody this story is, but I'm interested in knowing now!


The In Crowd said...

Tony - -

Re: Defenders #113...

Thanks for the tip! While at Comic-Con I tracked down and perused a copy, and other than being chock full o' rival super-heroes, this particular Defenders issue bears very little resemblance to the Mighty Crusaders story.

Heroes meet, fight, and wind up working together, in typical Marvel fashion.

So either Scott Shaw was slightly off the mark in his parody assessment, or it's a different issue of Defenders to which he refers...

Anonymous said...

I think the issue they are referring to as "parodying" this story would be #62 "Defender for a Day". In terms of story it follows more closely.

The In Crowd said...

mwolfe: Thanks for the tip!

I'll check it out...

maw maw said...

Uncredited lettering by Sam Rosen. I guess if he'd been credited as Sam Are, he might have been misconstrued as Paul Reinman's brother.

Anonymous said...

Bought this on the stands in 1966 (still got it) and I blame it, in part, for an almost 50 year comic collecting habit.

Justice League of America #38 had already added confusion (and fuel) to the acquisitional fire, MC4 just worsened it.

Thanks for the reminder. I love these "so bad they're good" books.

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