Today’s Super Comics — Marvel Premiere #47-48 (1979)

marvel_premiere_vol_1_47When Hank Pym debuted as Ant-Man, his early stories were kind of lackluster compared to those of the Fantastic Four, Hulk, Iron Man, and others. There were several reasons for that, but a big one was Pym’s lack of a clearly defined motivation.

But Marvel got it right in the second draft, when ex-con Scott Lang took over the role in Marvel Premiere #47 and 48. Like in the movie, Scott steals the Ant-Man suit from his predecessor, but the circumstances are different. His nine-year-old daughter is suffering from a life-threatening heart condition, and there’s one specialist who might be able to operate on her…if Scott can rescue this doctor from her kidnappers.

That’s a pretty compelling motivation driving the story, and it gives us a Marvel superhero different from most others at the time—a single dad who’s a reluctant thief. Importantly, he’s a thief who’s willing to turn himself in after his daughter is safe, but Pym lets him off the hook…perhaps a bit too easily. Then again, Pym lacking clear motivation for his actions brings us full circle in a way.

The action is solid throughout. The villain shares the name of the movie’s villain, Darren Cross, although here he’s a pink brutish Hulk sort with a much higher IQ. He, too, has a heart condition, and he’s willing to steal people’s hearts to replace his own. He’s a true monster inside and out and a formidable obstacle for the rookie superhero, who has to rely much more on ingenuity than brute strength.

Definitely a much more interesting Ant-Man all around.

Writer: David Michelinie

Artists: John Byrne and Bob Layton

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Ant-Man Scott Lang (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Invincible Iron Man #150 (1981)

Iron_Man_Vol_1_150Iron Man vs. Doctor Doom…in Camelot.

Yep, it’s classic comic book action that places its protagonist out of his element, doubly so. Not only is the electronically powered superhero stranded in a pre-electronics era, with no way to recharge his armor, but he also has to battle magical forces, which are basically the opposite of his comfort zone.

And Doctor Doom fits very well as an Iron Man foe, representing the dark side of technology. And yet he’s also perfectly comfortable with mysticism in a way Iron Man will never be, giving the bad guy a distinct advantage. (All of which is why Doctor Doom has been a welcome addition to recent Iron Man issues.)

The Invincible Iron Man #150 holds up as lots of fun, though it’s easy to picture how differently it would be written today. Tony Stark of the 1980s was much more Tom Selleck than Robert Downey Jr., and an adventure of this scale could easily fill six issues or more, rather than being set up in #149 and playing out in the double-sized #150.

As it stands, however, it’s a memorable time-travel story with a ridiculously fantastic premise and enjoyable execution. It’s not literature, but it sure is a wild ride.

Writer: David Michelinie

Penciler: John Romita, Jr.

Inker/Co-Plotter: Bob Layton

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Iron Man vs. Doctor Doom: Doomquest (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up