Monday, September 22, 2008

Dream Teams of the Groovy Age: Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Terry Austin, and Tom Orzechowski

Many are the fab and fantastic writers, artists, inkers, letterers, colorists, and editors who graced our beloved comicbook pages during the Groovy Age. Singly, each talented titan deserves more accolades than Ol' Groove, who is, after all, only a mere mortal, can bestow. Sometimes, though, two or more of those incredible individuals team up, and while their individual efforts are the stuff of legend, their combined energies create a kind of pure comicbook magic that shakes the foundation of the soul. (How's that for heavy hyperbole, Groove-ophiles?)

To put it mildly, sometimes some comics creators team up and make the best comics ever! Dream Teams of the Groovy Age is dedicated to bringing you, the constant reader (hey, I'm constantly writing, so you'd better be constantly reading!), the best of the best. From the most heralded to the most obscure, we're looking for that comicbook alchemy that makes the jaw drop and the heart pound.

First up, we have a team that's doggoned obvious, but it would almost be a sin to start with anyone else. Naturally, I'm yappin' about the team of Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Terry Austin, and Tom Orzechowski. Best known for their long, legendary run on the X-Men, this dream team also teamed up a few times outside that marvelous mutant mag, most notably on Marvel Preview #11 (Star-Lord) and Marvel Team-up #79 (Spider-Man and Red Sonja). Wanna see? Then, let's dig in, baby!

The Claremont/Byrne/Austin/Orz (I ain't gonna spell his name every time I mention it!) Dream Team first collaborated on Ol' Groove's all-time favorite sci-fi comic, Marvel Preview #11 (1977) featuring Star-Lord. They took a character created by the very different team of Steve Englehart and Steve Gan, spruced him up, and created a sensation. Englehart's version of Peter Jason Quill (aka Star-Lord) was an unlikable psycho. Our boys gave Quill a very unique side-kick, the living starship called "Ship", ironically, to emotionally ground him. They set the story a few years after the original so our hero had time to grow, mature, and, thankfully, mellow a bit. These ingredients, combined with a star-spanning tale of vengeance, love, and family, became a hit, making Star-Lord a cult classic. Here are a couple pages of original art I found lying around cyberspace:

Outta sight, huh?

Somebody at Marvel was a freakin' genius, 'cause when All New, All Different X-Men co-creator Dave Cockrum decided to try his hand at something non-mutant, they nabbed Byrne, Austin, and Orz to join Claremont in the mutant mayhem he'd been writing since ish #94. So for most of issues 108-143 our boys delivered what, to this day, is considered by many to be the greatest comicbook series ever. What made the magic here? Claremont and Byrne each had a vision, and those visions were sometimes very different. Somehow, they were able to compromise where it counted to create a unified voice for our Merry Mutants. Byrne, Austin, and Orz put pencil, pen, and brush to those pages with all the skill, energy, creativity, and heart they had. And they had tons of it, cause, dude, they rocked!

See, Ol' Groove won't jive ya, man!

Claremont and Byrne also teamed up fairly regularly on Marvel Team-Up before and during their X-Men run (issues 59-70, 75, 79, 100). Austin and Orz joined them on issue #79 to help Spidey meet Red Sonja. While visiting a museum with Peter Parker, Mary Jane touched Red Sonja's sword, which caused her to be possessed by/transformed into the real She-Devil with a Sword to battle the villainous Kulan Gath. This story became such a cult favorite it was given a sequel in the recent Spider-Man/Red Sonja inter-company crossover mini-series between Marvel and Dynamite. Here's just a taste of that fantasy masterpiece:

See what I mean, Groovesters? Can I get a big 10-4 for the sheer coolness of Claremont, Byrne, Austin, and Orz? I knew you'd dig 'em!

Now, have any of you got a Dream Team you'd like Ol' Groove to cover here on the Diversions blog? I have several more in mind, but I wanna hear from you! Who do you wanna see and why? Go bananas! Ol' Groove is waiting to hear from ya!



  1. ah, how cool were these guys?! hard to believe now, but there was a time when Claremont, Byrne, Austin, & Orzechowski were producing THE VERY BEST comics out there. hell, i can't even read an X-Men comic now; those guys were so good, anything that followed was just one big let-down after another.

    suggestions for future teams? god, man, where do you want me to start? there were SO MANY great teams back in the groovy day.

    how's about Doug Moench & Paul Gulacy? Steve Gerber & Gene Colan? Don Mcgregor & Billy Graham?

    right. i'm off to dig out me Marvel Team-Up # 79. . .

  2. Thanks for the suggestions, Joe. I'll put all of 'em to use, you can bet on that (hadn't thought of McGregor/Graham--good one!)!Enjoy that ish of MTU, pal!

  3. Uncanny #133 was/is the ultimate in Wolverine for me. On the art side, never quite saw enough of Perez and Austin together (ie. Annual #3). Now you guys have me hoping I still have my Team-Up #79 filed away.

  4. Ah, Perez/Austin! There's a future "Dream Team" post--won't be a big one, but that X-Men annual and their cover collaborations were outtasite!

    So did you find your copy of MTU #79?

  5. Nice to find someone who loves the comics of this period as much as I do. I have all the X-men comics done by Claremont and Byrne (well, actually, all the X-men series, period, up until a year or two ago), and they remain my favorite team. Wonderful blend of art and writing.

    As for suggestions of other teams, how about some of the guys Neal Adams worked with? The Kree-Skrull War in the Avengers, the stint on Green Lantern/Green Arrow, the Batman years...

  6. Welcome, Keith! Here's hoping you stick around for all the grooviness yet to come.

    We must have some ESP goin' between us, 'cause Ol' Groove has already been gathering up material for the team of Roy Thomas and Neal Adams (for their work on X-Men, the Avengers' Kree/Skrull War, Inhumans and War of the Worlds (in Amazing Adventures).

    Oh, yeah, I'll be covering the O'Neil/Adams work, as well as Adams' work with Frank Robbins (on the Batman/Man-Bat stories). It ain't the Groovy Age without Neal Adams, baby!



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