Saturday, November 8, 2008

Novel Ideas: 1978 Marvel Novel Series from Pocket Books

During 1978/79, Marvel Comics weren't just ruling the spinner-racks, but they were doing fairly well on television, as well. The Incredible Hulk starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno was doing well, and they were trying hard to spin the really bad Spider-Man series (starring Nicholas Hammond) into a hit. There were numerous TV specials featuring Marvel characters, as well (for more info on Marvel's TV success, check out the most excellent Comics In Crisis blog--and tell 'em Ol' Groove sent ya!). With things going so well, and Marvel's having become a household name thanks to the TV shows, the powers-that-were at Marvel decided to branch out into the prose novel market. They struck a deal with Simon & Schuster, who'd already been publishing Stan Lee's Origins books (more on those next month), to publish brand new prose novels starring various Marvel super-heroes. In 1977, Simon & Schuster's Pocket Books imprint had started reprinting classic Marvel comics like the Fantastic Four, Spidey, etc., and they were proving to be successful, so things just seemed to fall into place for the novels series quite easily. 'Twas meant to be!

During roughly a year's span, Pocket Books published 11 novels featuring Marvel super-heroes. Here's a quick rundown:

#1: The Amazing Spider-Man: Mayhem in Manhattan by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman
#2: The Incredible Hulk: Stalker from the Stars by Len Wein with Marv Wolfman and Joseph Silva
#3: The Incredible Hulk: Cry of the Beast by Richard S. Meyers
#4: Captain America: Holocaust for Hire by Joseph Silva
#5: The Fantastic Four: Doomsday by Marv Wolfman
#6: The Invincible Iron Man: And Call My Killer...Modok! by William Rotsler
#7: Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts: Nightmare by William Rotsler
#8: The Amazing Spider-Man: Crime Campaign by Paul Kupperberg
#9: Stan Lee Presents: the Marvel Superheroes edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman
#10: The Avengers: The Man Who Stole Tomorrow by David Michelinie
#11: The Hulk and Spider-Man: Murdermoon by Paul Kupperberg

I don't know about anywhere else, but they were hard to find in Teen Groove's neck of the woods. When I did find them, I snatched them right up, man! I managed to nab Mayhem, Stalker, Doomsday, Marvel Superheroes, and the Man Who Stole Tomorrow, and did I ever dig 'em!

The first one, starring Spidey, was pretty cool. Written by Wein and Wolfman (both of whom had recently written/edited Amazing Spider-Man), the story involved Spidey having to solve mysterious crimes that eventually led to Doctor Octopus being the villainous mastermind. Can't tell you much about Stalker from the Stars. I never did get to finish reading it! I was reading it (during a break) in my Honors English class and the teacher asked if she could see it. I thought it was cool, she wanted to read it maybe. I never saw that book again! What a bummer, huh? My faves were (naturally) #10 starring the Avengers (by then-current writer David Micheline) featuring Eskimos and Kang the Conqueror, and #9 with its mix of superhero short stories featuring the Avengers (by Jim Shooter), Daredevil (by Kyle Christopher), the X-Men (by Jo Duffy), and the Hulk (by Len Wein). Cool trivia: the Avengers story, "This Evil Undying" was adapted into comicbook form and appeared in Avengers #201 (adapted by Michelinie--complete with George Perez art!) re-titled, "The Evil Reborn", while the Hulk story was an adaptation of an earlier Wein story from the Incredible Hulk #s 197-198. Oh, both the comics and the short story guest-starred the Man-Thing, though Manny didn't get any love on the cover of the paperback. Trippy, ain't it?

Most of the cover art is by Bob Larkin (who was the main cover artist for Marvel's Black and white mags at that time), with a few really groovy ones tossed in by guys like Dave Cockrum, and John Buscema.

8 comments:

  1. I never saw them when I was growing up but I picked up the Cap novel at a convention a few years ago. The covers are fantastic!

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  2. I remember these, yeah. didn't read a whole lot of them, although I have a vague recollection of Daredevil shaving that has never quite left me. I'm gonna have to go digging about in me old boxes. . .

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  3. I dig those covers, too, Mike--especially the Cockrum and the Buscema/Peter Ledger ones. Is the Cap story any good, btw? I've always wanted to read it...

    Joe, there was some stuff going on in those paperbacks that we didn't see in the comics. I remember Iron Man spending lots of time lusting after the Scarlet Witch in Shooter's Avengers story. Shades of today's comics!

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  4. It's OK. I remember not being totally blown away by it but it wasn't terrible by any means.

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  5. Had about half of these. Never could slog through the Cap and FF ones even though those were my favorite characters. Liked the Avengers and Spidey ones and some of the short stories. Never found the second Spidey, The Hulk, the Spidey/Hulk or the Dr. Strange. Surprisingly LOVED the Iron Man by Rotsler (whom I'd never even heard of at the time and have since decided he needs a book written ABOUT him!).

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  6. I am looking to sell the original Spider-Man novel? Any offers?
    Twoawayfromtevye@aol.com

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  7. The author of the Captain America novel (Joseph Silva) is really Ron Goulart who was at one of his most prolific periods doing literaly dozens of movie & tv novelizations, Vampirella novels, new Avenger pulp novels, the Star Hawks comic stip and novels (with Gil Kane),and of course, his own novels, short stories, and reference books!

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  8. It was that Fantastic Four cover that initially drew me in, but I really enjoyed these novels, especially Doctor Strange, Captain America, and Iron Man. The best part was that most of these were written by real comic book writers, who had a good handle on the characters, instead of novelists who did some sketchy background research and cranked them out. I also enjoyed "Last Son of Krypton", a Superman novel by Elliott Maggin, and Ron Goulart also did a Challengers of the Unknown novel that was pretty fun.

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