Marvel Comics is celebrating their 80th anniversary in style, and with that comes some excellent Visionaries trades. They’ve produced this collection for John Romita Sr., Stan Lee, and now, Roy Thomas. The Thomas collection features stories from 1965 all the way to 1989 and encompasses a wide range of titles, like Avengers, Dracula Lives!, Fantastic Four, and even Not Brand Echh!.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Celebrate the career of a true Marvel Visionary! Relive some of Rascally Roy Thomas’ greatest stories as, under his pen, the Fantastic Four confront racism, social injustice and…the Impossible Man?! Plus, the Vision joins the Avengers! The Hulk finds his way to “Heaven!” The Sub-Mariner fights Dragon Man! Captain Marvel escapes the Murder Maze! The origin of the Invaders! Doctor Strange’s secrets revealed! Dracula in Salem and the X-Men in Japan! And who is Starr the Slayer? Plus rarely seen stories of humor and romance from Marvel’s Silver Age!
Why does this matter?
If you ever wanted to read a wide swath of stories from one creator who literally changed the industry, this is a great place to start. It may not house complete story arcs, but it gives you a taste from a lot of different works. Thomas has a romance comic, horror comic, classic superhero stuff, and more all collected in this 352-page book.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This collection, or a form of it, was originally published in 2006, which is why this collection features an intro written by Stan Lee in that year. It also has a handy reflection from Thomas himself on many of the major titles collected here, which is a nice addition especially since the other Visionaries collections I’ve reviewed didn’t have that. There are other great extras too, like prose, and even a letter from J. Jonah Jameson (written by Thomas of course). These additional resources help show how talented Thomas was.
There is quite a lot to enjoy in this collection, with most of the work coming from the ’60s and ’70s. The book opens with a Modeling with Millie, which seems well-timed given this character popped up in the recent Fearless #1. This story hasn’t aged quite as well as the rest of the book — its take on its female characters is far from ideal — but overall this was an intense time to be writing comics. The ’60s and ’70s had plenty of opportunities to infuse the stories with a social commentary, which you can see. Humanizing Vision is a big element captured in this collection too.
Those who like superheroes will enjoy the various baddies that show up. In one issue, Ultron rears his head, while in another the oft-forgotten Dictator faces off against the Avengers. The original Invaders play a big role too, like with the original Human Torch facing off against Namor or when the Invaders face off against the super-Nazi Master Man. There is also some humor to be had here as the Impossible Man faces off against the Fantastic Four, plus Thomas tries his hand at Not Brand Echh! where Thor decides he needs to get married.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
I’ve said this with all of the Visionaries books. but it’s hard to read these and enjoy the stories. It jumps around so much and there’s never any closure to what you’re reading. Reading them feels more like scholarly work to understand the writer better than to enjoy their writing. You end up comparing the work and trying to see their growth over the decades.
Is it good?
The work of Roy Thomas is collected in this fine Visionaries title and it serves as a great starting point for anyone curious about the creator.