Flashback Friday: Marvel Comics Presents #54

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Marvel Comics Presents #54

Edited by Terry Kavanagh
Written by Michael Higgins, Len Kaminski, Len Wein, Hollis Bright
Pencils by Dave Ross, Jim Fry, Jim Fern, and Steve Ditko

Published by Marvel Comics (1990)

 

There are staples in the comic world. Usually once you’re a fan of a hero, you’ll always be a fan, to some extent, of that hero. Publishers know this of course, and will stoop to put favourites on the covers of comics just to move them, even when they’re not really in the story. It’s a capitalist industry, and they want the capital to continue coming in.

Marvel Comics Presents has always been a mixed bag for me. When I was growing up, I was taken in by the great covers, always dramatic fight scenes, or as in this case, one depicting Wolverine and the Grey Hulk, and I’d think, ”here it is…finally we’re going to see who wins.” It took some years and several disappointments to find out that neither could really “win”, but it wouldn’t (and won’t still) stop me from picking up the issues.

The whole concept of the Marvel Comics Presents titles was to showcase short stories that wouldn’t become major plotlines, usually in 8 or 10 part segments, as well as four page mini comics featuring some of the lesser-known characters from the Marvel Universe, and written by lesser-known writers. It’s a great format when it works. The Weapon-X origin story was first published here, a story penned and drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith.

Marvel Comics Presents #54 features a great cover, the aforementioned Grey Hulk…uh…hulking behind the brown-suited Wolverine with the ominous tag “But will they meet as friends or foes?!” hovering in the bottom right.

The Wolverine story is merely an intro to a much longer, many-issued story. The measly four pages left me wanting more but not enough to search out the rest. The second story starred Werewolf by Night and was visually much more interesting. It recounts the few minutes before Jack Russell transforms, the nightmares, and the beast within beginning to emerge. This short was much more enjoyable than the rest, but that could be put to my love of the horror genre in comics. The third story detailed a fight between oceanographer Dr. Walter Newell, whose fancy exoskeleton makes him into the hero known as Stingray (We’re going to imagine quotation marks around the word known.) and the evil fish-man Tiger Shark. This short was really a case of “who cares?” and the answer to that question was, probably no one. The last story is a Cloak and Dagger knockoff about the Shroud and Firefly. Not even Steve Ditko could save this one, and like I used to when I was a kid, read half and looked at the pictures for the rest.

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So are there any redeeming qualities to a book like Marvel Comics Presents? In the 54th issue, I’d say no, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some inherent value. This title gave that fabled chance to writers and artists who were just starting out. In some cases, it changed the history of major characters, like the Weapon X story, and I’m sure sometimes it created a higher awareness for characters that the bigwigs at Marvel thought weren’t getting enough play. So for those reasons, it was a good project to have around.  But it never felt like a comic that I would pull every month.

As far as Marvel Comics Presents #54 goes, there was a lot of power and not much carry. The art was indicative of the era, and the storylines, where they worked, were just not long enough to keep me interested.

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