Growing Up The Marvel Way #1


Everything I Love About Marvel Comics in Just Two Panels

When I was about 8 years old, my father returned from a trip to his childhood home with a two boxes overflowing with comic books. It was the greatest night of my young life.

From then on, my childhood was a happy blur of newsprint-stained fingers, my father’s books on cartooning (most notably “How to Draw Comics The Marvel Way“), lunch table discussions with buddies of which hero was the strongest and endless rows of 25 cent boxes at The Great Escape*.  Each 25 cent box contained the adventures of costumed titans just waiting to be read and loved. And, I was game to try.

To be sure, I found and read and loved DC comics, Tower Comics, Archie Comics and more. But, from the very start, Marvel Comics made their mark on me — from the angst of  X-Men to the stoic patriotism of Captain America to the audacity of the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four run and the constantly changing roster of the Mighty Avengers.

I left comics behind when I hit high school under the mistaken impression it would help me get girls. (It didn’t). And, I didn’t go back until a few years after I graduated from college because I was “an adult.” (I wasn’t.)

But, when I wandered back into Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find*** about 12 years ago, it was like coming home. And, I headed right back into Marvel Universe. I do read lots of modern comics from Marvel to Image to DC/Vertigo and Dark Horse. But to me there is no substitute from the titles that came from my Dad or the hundreds  of 25 cent boxes I scoured for treasure. The Golden and Silver ages of Marvel are where I turn again and again. And, it’s what I write about on my blog, Marvel SmartAss.

This column will explore, revere and poke fun at the comics of my youth. Comics that engender a certain “comic-bookiness” — a willingness to be insane — that seems a bit vacant from the books on the shelves these days. Along the way, I hope to meet and interview some of the creators who spun the tales and drew the images that ignited my passion for comics. And, maybe I’ll have you diving back into your collection for a dog-eared issue of The Defenders or a well-loved copy of Marvel Team-Up. Suggestions are always welcome.

And, so that brings us to Incredible Hulk #111.

This is going to sounds like shameless plugging for, but I do love digital comics, especially as they allow me to time-travel back to the golden age without breaking the bank. I want to read them. Not look at them through mylar.

Skimming through the recent online release of Incredible Hulk #111, I found a two-panel sequence that perfectly encapsulates the absolute “comic bookiness” I love about the Marvel U. …

“Bring forth the Titan Time Probe!”

I love it. The hamminess. The schlock. The unbridled imagination and utter disregard for common sense. That is a sentence that can only be uttered and believed in the world of a comic book.

And, what is the purpose of the Titan Time Probe? Why to compute the identity of the unknown victim-to-be, of course! And, apparently the robotic probe is a “he!” And, “he” just happens to look like a low-rent lunar lander from an episode of Jon Pertwee-era Doctor Who. And – lest we forget  – “he” is the only “he” who can bring forth the victim … the all-important unknown victim-to-be!

Oh, Stan … I just love you to pieces for this.

I continued to read and found 10 more things I love about Marvel comics on glorious display in just one little issue of the Hulk. Join me, please …

Shakespearean Language
The totally dramatic turns of phrase in Stan’s writing. We get use of “naught” on two consecutive pages …

A Little Dash of Irony
Here, we have a man raised in a land of dinosaurs standing next to his best friend, a sabre-toothed tiger … in Antarctica … in a loin cloth … and apparently unfazed by sub-zero temperatures. But, the fact that the tracks just end … now, THAT … that’s just MADNESS, my friends.

Language Defying Sound Effects
Forget for a moment that there’s no noise in space … “Sptoooom!” Let’s face it, “Sptooom” would have sucked. But, the fourth “O” really makes the magic. The issue also gives us a “Rbthoom!” a “Zzask!” and, no lie, a “Skrazzzskkkk!”

Buckets of Dramatic Gesticulating
There’s more dramatic gesturing in this issue than an episode of “Glee.” But, who can blame the bad guys? I mean, releasing the main lever so “it” can “begin” is pretty frakkin’ important.

P.S. Is it me, or does the lever look like the gear shift of a Scion?

Understandable Character Motivation
The Hulk is completely shredding the aliens in this issue. He’s trapped in outer space. He doesn’t know where he is. He doesn’t know how he’ll get home. But, it is absolutely IMPERATIVE he discover the identities of exactly who’s doing this to him. Because then, and only then, he can correctly administer them a jolly good rodgering.

The Villainous Bitch-Slap
To be a truly proper villain, you must regularly backhand your subordinates. That’s like a law or something. I mean, they just won’t respect you if you don’t. If you can’t deliver a really impactful, mid-evil-tantrum bitch-slap, you’re not going to be promoted. Just give it up and go work as “Flunkie #12″ in HYDRA.

Pseudo-Science 101
Okay, this is a species capable of building a “Titan Time Probe” capable of locating an unknown victim-to-be, which we all know is, like, really, really hard. But, they are totally mystified by how the Hulk can lift the scanner in one hand … in space. Umm … there’s no gravity, so it’s weightless?!?! Just saying …

The Big Reveal
The Hulk is ready for the “Big Boss” (as are funky Billy Chin and little Sammy Chung) … and it’s apparently an enormous, radioactive space amoeba … with vampire teeth. It’s apparently upwardly mobile as it has risen from single-celled organism to being the supreme space lord. It’s the American dream, bless its heart. Oh, wait … it doesn’t have a heart.

Best of all … we are promised that this story will soon be “Hulk-inued” next month. And, after all, isn’t that the single most important promise a comic can make to a reader?

And, a Little Extra Credit …
I didn’t qualify to take AP physics, but I don’t think Ka-Zar and Zabu made it …

Tim Miner lives in Charlotte, NC and dreams of someday writing a totally insane comic book some kid will make fun of 25 years later. That’s if he survives raising two girls. For more explorations of the lighter side of the Marvel U., visit


* A comics store in my hometown, Nashville, TN.

** My LCS in Charlotte, NC.


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