Getting Into Spider-Man: Spider-Man Starter Stories

Spider-Man has so many great stories in his history. There are a lot of eras to Spider-Man too, s this can be a hard character for new readers to get into. Do you want to read Spidey as a teenager (as in Spider-Man: Homecoming) or do you prefer a more adult Spidey (one seldom depicted in movies but just as interesting at times)? Your uncle Geekly doesn’t really know. What he does know is that he can narrow this search to at least Peter Parker as Spider-Man.

Yeah, so we’re not covering Miles Morales (Ultimate Spider-Man), Ben Reilly (Spider Clone), Doctor Octavius (Doc Ock in Spidey’s spandex), or Spider-Girl or Gerry Drew (son of Spider-Woman Jessica Drew) or countless others—and there are several others. We’re talking Peter—not Uncle—Benjamin Parker. Yeah!

Let’s see if I can find a middle ground of teen and adult Spidey with a leaning toward young Spidey. Clear as mud? Good. Here we go.

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Ultimate Spider-Man #1-7, “Power and Responsibility” (written by Brian Michael Bendis/art by Mark Bagley; 2000-2001)

I know I said that I wouldn’t include Ultimate Spider-Man Miles Morales, but the original Ultimate Spider-Man series featured Peter Parker and the first seven issues titled “Power and Responsibility” retold Spider-Man’s origin in an accessible way. It also happens to be one of the main source materials for Spider-Man: Homecoming, so if you want to learn about this Peter Parker from the ground up, there’s no better place to start.

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Spider-Man: Blue (written by Jeph Loeb/art by Tim Sale; 2002)

Anytime Loeb and Sale team up there’s usually an origin tale or “before they were stars” story, and Spider-Man: Blue is no exception. Sale’s art takes a nice middle ground to slick, modern comic book style and retro Spidey. Loeb’ writing adds the right kind of depth for retelling the early days of Peter and his love affair with Gwen. Gwen Stacy is the one who was portrayed by Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider-Man film series, not Peter’s better-known love interest Mary Jane.

While one could read the original appearance of Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Blue adds more depth to the character that wasn’t there in the 60s.

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Amazing Spider-Man #31-33, “If This Be My Destiny” (written by Stan Lee/art by Steve Ditko; 1965-1966)

The plot for “If This Be My Destiny” is standard Spider-Man fare. It’s a well-executed Doc Ock story, but most stories of this time by Ditko and Lee were. Where “If This Be My Destiny” shines is when Spidey gets caught beneath some heavy machinery. In this classic scene, which has been duplicated in numerous Spider-Man movies, Peter musters all his willpower to free himself from the heavy load. This act shows what makes Spider-Man the endearing character he is, while his inner monologue brings his demons to light. “If This Be My Destiny” cements Spidey as the everyman hero.

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Amazing Spider-Man #39-40, “How Green Was My Goblin” (written by Stan Lee/art by John Romita Sr.; 1966)

As you might be able to tell with my books I seldom go with the original telling of stories, opting to go with contemporary retellings, but the great Stan Lee does an awesome job of setting up Peter’s nemesis. And I say Peter’s nemesis because Norman Osborne’s Green Goblin has personal attachments to The Wallcrawler.

The first movie version of the Green Goblin showed him as Harry Osborne’s dad, but this reveal was a shock at the time, and this story gets to the essence of these two’s relationship. Batman needs his Joker. Spidey needs his Green Goblin.

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Amazing Spider-Man #121-122, “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” (written by Gerry Conway/art by Gil Kane; 1973)

This one had to make the list. One of the pivotal moments of Spidey’s life as a hero came in the form of when Gwen Stacy died. It’s a tale that shows that even superheroes can fail.

Failure is a part of life and it’s definitely a part of Spidey’s life. This is one of the things that makes Spidey relatable as a character.

The death of Gwen Stacy also defined Green Goblin as a villain. As the previous entry attests, Green Goblin is Peter Parker’s enemy, not just Spider-Man’s, and “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” does the most to bring home this fact. It’s a must read.

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Web of Spider-Man #31-32; The Amazing Spider-Man #293-294; The Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132, “Kraven’s Last Hunt” (written by J. M. DeMatteis/art by Mike Zeck; 1987)

Kraven had been one of Spider-Man’s greatest enemies early in the Wallcrawler’s career, but time had passed him by. “Kraven’s Last Hunt” mirrored this decline, showcased Kraven’s ultimate revenge, and delved into Peter and Mary-Jane’s early marriage. There’s so much going on in this storyline that has defined and will continue to define the character.

It’s a story that asks what makes a hero, and one of the better Spider-Man stories ever written.

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Secret Wars #8; Amazing Spider-Man #252-259; #298-300; #315-317, “Spider-Man: Birth of Venom” (written by various/art by various; 1984-1989)

There’s a lot of time gaps with this story, but “Spider-Man: Birth of Venom” has been collected in various graphic novels—maybe not all these stories, but a great many of them—and to get a good idea of Spider-Man and his relationship with the various symbiotes one should read this story first.

So much of Spider-Man in the 1990s and even in the 2000s revolved around Spidey and the various symbiotes that one should know a little something about them. “Birth of Venom” provides that background knowledge.

That’s my list for readers who are new to Spider-Man comics. There are so many to choose from—decades in fact—and I’m sure I missed more than one, two, or five hundred. Be sure to list some in comments. I’m sure Jim would prefer your picks to mine.

3 Lists of 3 of Stan Lee

Uncle Geekly was remiss with not publishing a write-up for the late, great Stan Lee a few months ago, but that may be because it’s difficult to boil such an uncanny comic book giant with a small write-up. Ergo, a 3 Lists of 3 may be in order.

But Stan Lee is only as human as the characters he helped bring to life, so one of the following lists may cite some issues fans had with his work or more specifically, the assigning of credit. Even with his faults, Stan “The Man” did more good than most comic book creators. The world lost a legend.

A Pioneer

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Humanizing Superheroes

There’s a tale of Stan Lee’s—it may be a legend by now—that goes like this. Before the dawn of the Marvel Age (when the Fantastic Four first launched) Stan was frustrated with writing the same thing. He told his wife Joan he’d quit, so he could write the stories he wanted to write. Joan responded to Stan that if he wanted to quit, why not write the stories you want to write in comics? If you fail, you wanted to quit anyway, so it doesn’t matter.

Stan did what his wife suggested, and the results were character-driven stories that showed superheroes as flawed people. The Fantastic Four fought like any family. Johnny Storm was a hot-head (I’m sure the pun was intended), Peter Parker struggled with most everything (money, school, and getting picked on), and Hulk has anger issues. What made these heroes great was that they had to overcome their shortcomings.

Some of the great comic book characters of the time dabbled with this concept, but Stan Lee made it a point that all his characters would have flaws. A character’s flaws and the conflicts that ensue are what makes a character interesting. Look no further than “This Man, This Monster” where The Thing must make the choice to be The Thing in order to save his friends and family.

Relatable characters existed in comics before the Marvel Age, but Stan Lee’s storytelling spark thrust them to the forefront.

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Interacting with Fans

To call Stan Lee charismatic is an understatement. He acted as cheerleader for his characters as well as his fellow comic book creators, but he stood out equally with his interaction with fans. Stan Lee could give a master course in how to communicate with and respond to fanboys and fangirls.

If a fan caught an error on a page, they could write in and let Stan know. He’d write them a personal letter, complimenting their keen eye. The Marvel No Prize offered no monetary reward, but there are some folks who hold onto their letters today and treasure them. Stan also had his “Soapbox” where he’d tackle issues and concerns fans had with their favorite characters or in their personal lives. He comforted those whose family members went to Vietnam. And just two or three weeks before he passed, Stan posted a video about how fans shouldn’t worry about his health. His left hand is doing okay, but he’s worried about his other hand. That’s when he unveils a toy Hulk fist on his right hand.

He was a joy to the end.

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An Epic Story

Stan Lee had a great sense of scope and grandeur. Comic book stories rarely went beyond a single issue, but Stan, along with his bullpen, stretched them to multiple issues. I’m not sure if Stan could envision the twelve issue plus story arcs that came decades after the Marvel Age, but he and Jack Kirby were trailblazers with the original story of Galactus.

Fantastic Four’s “Galactus Trilogy” spanned three issues and if it wasn’t for Stan revitalizing the industry, he wouldn’t have been given the latitude to make something that was “supposed” to be a single issue and give it more weight. The “Galactus Trilogy’s” success led to other comic book companies and other mediums to question preconceived notions for their art.

Controversies and Personality Flaws

It’s that time where I cover some of the less tenable things in Stan Lee’s past. There aren’t that many because he’s a legend for a reason, but he did manage to rub some people the wrong way, so I’ll include them here to show another side of Stan Lee.

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Credit Where Credit is Due

I hinted at this one already, but Stan Lee often received credit for single-handedly or predominately creating the Marvel Universe. That’s false. Stan Lee had plenty of help. Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Marie Severin, Joe Simon, Bill Everett, and even Stan’s brother Larry Lieber did a lot to shape Marvel’s stable of superheroes.

Many fans blamed Stan Lee for taking too much credit and that may hold some truth, but Stan’s fame may have come from needing to be the company’s front man, it’s icon. With Stan Lee as the face of the franchise, Marvel moved a lot of product.

Still, there’s a debate for who had more creative control. When Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby switched the titles they worked on (Ditko with Hulk; Kirby with Fantastic Four), to shake things up, the adventures in which the effected characters embarked changed to resemble the artist’s vision. If Stan Lee was the only one responsible for the stories, that wouldn’t have happened.

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A Shameless Self-Promoter

Have I said how charismatic Stan Lee was and how communicative he was with his fans? Well, he was, and some critics viewed his loquaciousness as shameless self-promotion or even arrogance.

There’s a good chance he was to some degree—aren’t we all at times?—but Stan Lee promoted everyone and everything. He could’ve named Hulk, The Hulk, but he had to be “The Incredible Hulk.” Spider-Man wasn’t just Spider-Man, he was “The Amazing Spider-Man.” So, Jack Kirby wasn’t just Jack Kirby, he was Jack “The King” Kirby because even Stan knew how influential Kirby was, even if some fans didn’t.

Here are some of my other favorite names Stan gave the Marvel Bullpen:

Gil “Sugar” Kane

“Gorgeous” George Perez

“Roisterous” Ralph Reese

“Nefarious” Neal Adams

Steve “The Angry Man” Ditko

“Jocular” John Byrne

“Arachnerd” Jim Salicrup

And yes, Jim Salicrup worked a lot on Spider-Man; I’d love a nickname like “Arachnerd.”

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He Left Comics for Hollywood

To be honest, I don’t qualify this one as a personality flaw or a controversy. I had to include it because when Stan Lee moved to Hollywood in the 1980s to start Marvel’s cinematic wing, many fans questioned his love for the medium that made him famous.

That’s crap. By the 1980s, Stan Lee had been working on comics for around forty years, and most people retire at that point in their careers. Stan Lee didn’t retire. He began what he thought would make Marvel omnipresent: a movie empire. While he didn’t succeed as much as he wanted to then (mostly TV shows, cartoons, and made-for-TV movies), Stan Lee was right in accessing that cinema would eventually make Marvel one of the hottest brands on the planet.

A Legacy

An Ambassador

I’ve used the term icon and giant to describe Stan Lee, but let’s throw in ambassador of comics to mix. Stan Lee promoted comic books his entire life. Even though it may not have been what he wanted to do with his career (he wanted to write novels), he made the art form his own. He empowered others to pursue it as a legitimate career path. He, along with others, put comic books on the map.

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The Movies

Thank goodness we have all those Stan Lee cameos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Each one shows how loose, carefree, and fun Stan Lee was. He never took himself too seriously. There may be a lesson there.

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His Stories and Some Quotes

 Here are some of my favorite Stan Lee stories, in no particular order, that may be worth checking out:

“The Galactus Trilogy” Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #48-50

“This Man, This Monster” Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #51

 “If This Be My Destiny” Amazing Spider-Man #31-33

 “How Green Was My Goblin” Amazing Spider-Man #39-40

 “Spider-Man No More” Amazing Spider-Man #50

“Captain America Joins…The Avengers” Avengers #4

The Incredible Hulk Vol. 1 #1-6
This one comes with a caveat; The Hulk didn’t take off as well as Marvel would’ve liked, but one can see Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at the drawing board with each issue, reworking the character so he could work.

“The Eternity Saga” Strange Tales #130-146

And some quotes:

“Forced idleness is a terrible thing.”

“The only advice anybody can give is if you want to be a writer, keep writing. And read all you can, read everything.”

“The pleasure of reading a story and wondering what will come next for the hero is a pleasure that has lasted for centuries and, I think, will always be with us.”

“Face front, true believers.”

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

“Excelsior!”

“Nuff said!”

Shazam! Starter Stories

Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury: Shazam!. Billy Batson, or rather his alter ego Captain Marvel, donned the famous—or not so famous—red, gold and white costume. Shazam! wasn’t always a DC Comics property and the history of his rites and identity is a strange one. Uncle Geekly will take a hot minute to recap it for those of you who care to know.

Captain Marvel got his start with Fawcett Comics in the late 1930s and ironically, Fawcett had to stop publishing Captain Marvel and his Marvel family of comics (there were other superheroes in the Marvel line like Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel) due to a 1953 lawsuit won by DC Comics that claimed he was too similar to Superman. Hmm.

So, Captain Marvel faded into obscurity for a couple of decades until DC licensed the characters from Fawcett (in 1972)—Why bother with just licensing the characters from a defunct publishing house?—and eventually bought them outright in 1991—I guess it takes two more decades for a buyout. DC Comics wanted to reboot the character as Captain Marvel, but by that time another Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell, Marvel Comics rendition of Captain Marvel) already existed and Captain Marvel had to change his name to Shazam. You know, the acronym of the six “immortal elders” who grant Billy his powers.

Wow. I could go on with more domino copyright infringement cases that led to other famous comic book characters changing their name (as a result of the Captain Marvel ruling for Marvel Comics) like Marvelman to Miracleman, but this starter story writeup is for the 14-year-old boy with the body of a jacked Zachary Levi. That’s another odd phrase I never thought I’d say: a jacked Zachary Levi. Shazam! indeed.

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The Power of Shazam! Vol. 1 (written by Jerry Ordway/art by Jerry Ordway; 1994)

I’ll skip the Fawcett years because DC Comics retconned (changed the origin and details) of the character so many times after Shazam became a DC Comics property and I’ll hop over some of those other abandoned versions of the character(s) to get to a version of Shazam that had a little more staying power, so I’m landing on The Power of Shazam!. While you could pick up the second volume of this series (which was an ongoing title that introduced the rest of the Marvel Family members), the first volume includes an updated retelling of Shazam’s origin with a minor tweak that gives Black Adam and Billy Batson a personal tie. Honestly, it makes them more natural enemies.

Ordway’s story is the closest to the original Fawcett origin story; it also happens to be easy to understand, straightforward and if I was to bet on a story that the upcoming Shazam! movie will pull the most inspiration from, it’d be The Power of Shazam!. All the major players are here.

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Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil (written by Jeff Smith/art by Jeff Smith; 2007)

I’m not sticking with one Shazam origin story, you can’t make me. Jeff Smith (of Bone fame) retold the story again about a decade later. In this telling, Smith used far less space to show Batson’s origin and focused more on the character dealing with the repercussions of magic on the unsuspecting people of Fawcett City (DC tipping their hat to the original creators). There’re also aspects of government untrustworthiness; it’s subtle, but Dr. Sivana (mad scientist and archnemesis of Shazam) is the Attorney General of the United States. Of course Sivana is secretly behind the horrors of Fawcett City, but it’s a nice twist for the character and Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil does more to develop Billy’s sister Mary (as in Mary Marvel) as a character.

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Shazam! Power of Hope (written by Paul Dini and Alex Ross/art by Alex Ross; 2005)

I included Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth in my “Wonder Woman Starter Stories” write-up a few weeks ago and here’s another selection from the DC oversized graphic novel series that featured Alex Ross’s artwork. Like most of the other stories in this line, Dini and Ross focus more on real world and human issues.

In Shazam! Power of Hope, Billy visits children in a hospital. He gets the impression that one kid in a wheelchair is being beaten by his father and being a kid and knowing how children can feel powerless around adults, Billy attempts to the threaten the kid’s father. By the end, Billy realizes that he’s part of the cycle and learns that he can help just by visiting these children and giving them hope.

Yes. It’s sappy, but Shazam! Power of Hope has some nice character moments. It also reminds readers that Billy is still a kid, even if he looks like Superman. It also shows the character as the inspiring superhero he is.

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Superman/Shazam: First Thunder (written by Judd Winick/art by Joshua Middleton; 2006)

There’s only one thing to take away from Superman/Shazam: First Thunder and it’s an important one: how Superman and Shazam interact. DC Comics likes to show how these two iconic and most powerful men in their universe differ and this retelling of Superman and Shazam’s first encounter shows what makes these two characters unique and why DC would pay to have two characters with similar—and yet dissimilar—superpowers.

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Shazam! The New 52 (written by Geoff Johns/art by Gary Frank; 2012-2014)

Okay. This is yet another telling of Shazam’s origin story; this character changes origins more frequently than I change underwear. But of course, he’d have another origin story, Uncle Geekly, what would you expect from the alternate Earth of the New 52?

In this tale, Billy Batson is more obnoxious and angsty than his previous incarnations as this is a more reality-based take on a 15-year-old orphan who was stuck in the foster care system for many years and lacks the trust of the adults in his life that the other versions of Billy share. This is also a more modern version of Billy. Don’t expect any “aw shucks” moments.

Shazam! The New 52 delivers on an epic showdown between Shazam and his archnemesis Black Adam (who will be played by The Rock in upcoming DCEU films), and if the DCEU continues its line of edgier superhero films, this may be the film version of Billy Batson.

I thought I’d add a few more stories to this list, but there are too many interpretations of Billy Batson/Captain Marvel/Shazam!/The Other Superman that it could muddy the waters further than I believe is necessary.

Judd Winick’s The Trials of Shazam! is another excellent story, but it casts Billy as the wizard who gave him his powers and Captain Marvel Jr. must assume the role as the new Shazam. There are the original stories and those other DC versions of the character throughout the 70s and 80s and there were some good stories there too, but I think the above stories do the most to ground readers in who this character is.

I’m sure I may have missed a story or two. Let me know of any ones you’d add to this list in the comments.

Wonder Woman Starter Stories

The first lady of comic books Wonder Woman has had an odd history, both in terms of how she came to be and with the path, or more exactly, the paths she’s taken. Hi. Uncle Geekly here and while I could address Wonder Woman’s creation story, we’ll spend today covering some of the greatest Wonder Woman stories for readers new to comic books.

Believe me. There are so many origin stories for Wonder Woman that Greg Rucka in his latest Wonder Woman run addressed them in DC Rebirth (2016-2017). That story just missed the cut, but it’d be a great honorable mention for this list, and I recommend reading that one too if you have the time. Let’s get to the ones that did make the list.

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Wonder Woman Chronicles Vol 1. (written by Dr. William Martson/art by Harry G. Peter; 1941-1942)

The writing is dated but Wonder Woman Chronicles Vol. 1 collects the original appearances of Wonder Woman in chronological order, so Steve Trevor makes an appearance–perhaps too much of one. Despite a shaky beginning, this volume shows how Wonder Woman promoted female empowerment long before it became commonplace. Heck. Wonder Woman was the first female superhero and while her origins may be humble (Diana takes on the name Wonder Woman because her mother gives it to her and she does a lot of what she does for Steve, a man she just met), these stories laid the ground work for an icon.

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Wonder Woman ‘77 (written by various/art by various; 2015-2016)

Following the success of the Batman ’66 series that chronicled the continuing story of the 1966-68 television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward, DC Comics did the same for the 1975-79 Wonder Woman television series that starred Lynda Carter with Wonder Woman ’77.

Initial writer Marc Andreyko wanted to use “under-appreciated” Wonder Woman rogues and include them in the series, since the television series’ limited budget didn’t allow from them. As a result, classic Wonder Woman villains like Cheetah, Silver Swan, and Doctor Psycho received the Wonder Woman TV treatment they never had and Andreyko does such a great job including them that folks won’t remember that they were never in the original series—or maybe they will.

Anyway, Wonder Woman ’77 is a great series for fans of the Lynda Carter TV show or for people who may have missed the original show and don’t want to sit through the dated special effects and again, dated writing. This series does a great job of cleaning up some of the television show’s shortcomings.

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Gods and Mortals (written by George Perez and Len Wien/art by George Perez; 1987)

Gods and Mortals is a quintessential Wonder Woman story. After Marston’s Golden Age run and Crisis on Infinite Earths, the quality of Wonder Woman was—how to do I put this kindly—a mixed bag. George Perez relaunched the Wonder Woman title and he abandoned Diana as a marginalized member of the JLA’s boy’s club. He took Diana back to her feminist roots and made Steve Trevor and Etta Candy (one of Wonder Woman’s closest friends) rich and layered characters. Perez deployed a sense of fatalistic realism as the Amazons put themselves in a self-imposed exile after Queen Hippolyta (Diana’s mother) was put into bondage and raped by Hercules.

As you can see, Gods and Mortals took risks that many in the comics world would’ve taken at the time, but the end result was Diana standing on her own, apart from the Justice Society and Justice League. She didn’t need the male pantheon for support, and it was Gods and Mortals that made Greek gods regular characters in Wonder Woman stories.

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Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth (written by Paul Dini/art by Alex Ross; 2001)

Paul Dini of Batman: The Animated Series fame crafts an understated moment between Diana and Clark Kent having coffee and swapping tales. Artist Alex Ross does a great job rendering these moments of Clark and Diana enjoying each other’s company one instant and the Amazonian Warrior lifting tanks, taking on armies, and fighting for women’s rights the next. Spirit of Truth may only come in at 64 pages, but it captures what makes Wonder Woman an endearing character.

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Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia (written by Greg Rucka/art by Drew Johnson, Eric Shanower, and Brian Stelfreeze; 2003)

The Hiketeia takes an intriguing look at the ancient idea of justice in the modern world. When Diana meets Danielle Wellys, Danielle evokes the ancient rite of Hiketeia and bonds herself to Diana as Diana’s supplicant. In return, Diana must ensure Danielle’s protection, but little does Diana know that Danielle has been on a murder spree to avenge her slain sister. Danielle’s actions attract the attention of the Furies of Greek myth, seeking vengeance for the victims, and Batman.

Batman and Wonder Woman’s views on justice differ as Diana marries fairness with justice. The Hiketeia does a great job showing how two thirds of DC’s trinity interact as they have a respectful but adversarial relationship.

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Wonder Woman: Down to Earth (written by Greg Rucka/art by Drew Johnson, Eric Shanower, and Brian Stelfreeze; 2004)

Down to Earth is an unconventional superhero story as Wonder Woman doesn’t stop villains or save the world; she shares her ideals in a book of essays and others try to tear down her philosophies. A lot of this backlash originates with the mysterious Veronica Cale—who functions like a female Lex Luthor—and she pulls all kinds of strings that make Diana’s life difficult. The book even creates tension in Mount Olympus with the gods, which doesn’t end well for Wonder Woman in the long run.

Down to Earth is another great story by Greg Rucka, and it does a lot to set up many of the events in his excellent four year run of Wonder Woman.

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Wonder Woman: The New 52 (written by Brian Azzarello/art by Cliff Chiang; 2012-2015)

Brian Azzarello’s run on Wonder Woman: The New 52 was amazing. It embraces Diana’s Greek mythological roots and bends these same classic Greek myths, turning them into something new and exciting. Every step of the way you’ll stop and think that’s so Hades or that’s so Poseidon and Diana the daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus fits right in. The ending doesn’t disappoint. I won’t ruin it here, but Azzarello does a great job of pacing and taking what makes these characters who they are—both Greek myth and comic book characters—and blends them together seamlessly.

That’s my list for readers who are new to Wonder Woman comics. There are so many to choose from—decades after decades in fact—and I’m sure I missed more than one, two, or five hundred. Be sure to list some in comments. I’m sure Jim will prefer your picks to mine.

Captain Marvel Starter Stories

Many characters have gone by the moniker Captain Marvel, so your uncle Geekly will be specific and say that the stories listed here will pertain to Carol Danvers (the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s choice for Captain Marvel). In fact, I’ll throw in some stories that predate Danvers as Captain Marvel so that new readers of the character will have a good baseline.

Wow! There’s a lot of history with both Marvel’s Captain Marvel (not to be confused with DC’s Shazam!) and Carol Danvers as a character. Let’s start with a list of Carol Danvers’ history in the Marvel universe.

As USAF Major Carol Danvers: Marvel Super-Heroes #13 (March 1968)

As Ms. Marvel: Ms. Marvel #1 (January 1977)

As Binary: The Uncanny X-Men #164 (December 1982)

As Warbird: The Avengers #4 (May 1998)

As Captain Marvel: Avenging Spider-Man #9 (July 2012)

The various individuals who have had the title Captain Marvel are many and eclectic. Here’s a quick run down of all of Marvel’s Captain Marvels.

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1) Mar-Vell (who will be portrayed by Jude Law in the upcoming Captain Marvel movie), member of the Kree Imperial Militia (1967-1982)

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2) Monica Rambeau, a police lieutenant from New Orleans (1982-1993)

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3) Genis-Vell, engineered son of Mar-Vell and his lover Elysius (1993-2004)

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4) Phyla-Vell, Genis-Vell’s younger sister (2004-2007)

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5) Khn’nr, a Skrull sleeper agent (2007-2009)

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6) Noh-Varr, Kree ensign and Captain Marvel of The Dark Avengers (2009-2010)

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7) Carol Danvers (2012-Present)

As you can see, there have been plenty of people who have taken the mantel of Captain Marvel for Marvel, but let’s get back to the current one, the one who’ll be in 2019’s Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers.

There are a lot of ways I could organize this list even though it’ll only contain Carol Danvers, but I’ll start with the comics that’ll do the most to get new readers up to speed with the character for the upcoming movie. Then, I’ll add a background reading section for the completionists who want to know everything that occurred to Carol Danvers before her run as Captain Marvel.

Note: There is a new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan.

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The above is a picture of Kamala as the new Ms. Marvel. She’s a great character and you should give her a read if you’re interested in Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel, but she won’t be included in these starter stories.

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Ms. Marvel Vol. 1.: Best of the Best collecting Ms. Marvel #1-4 and #21-25 (written by Brian Reed/art by Frank Cho; 2006)

This Ms. Marvel reboot does a lot of things right. I like how Ms. Marvel goes out on patrol and what she does with her time when she isn’t being “assembled” for the Avengers. It also tells an important story of Danvers who, having fought the Brood during the “Brood Wars,” must balance the protection of Brood refugees while simultaneously protecting Earth. Alliances can change. Threats can change. Hatred shouldn’t govern one’s actions.

It turns out that a larger threat is over the horizon. Ms. Marvel wouldn’t have accomplished anything if she gave into her hatred and she wouldn’t have been prepared for the new threat if she went on a Brood killing spree—no matter how good it would’ve made her feel.

This story also does a good job of touching some points of Danvers’ past if one were to read her background stories.

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Earth’s Mightiest Hero: Captain Marvel (written by Kelly Sue DeConnick/art by various; 2012-2015)

The movie will and should draw the most inspiration from this storyline. It’s also the one where Carol Danvers gets promoted to Captain Marvel. There are so many good story arcs in this run, so I’ll do my best to show the graphic novels in the order they should be read at the end of this write-up. Trust me. It’s a mess.

The first arc in the series does a great job of grounding the reader, even if they don’t know much about Carol Danvers’ long history. Future arcs show her transitioning into an Astronomical hero—sort of Marvel’s answer to Green Lantern. Danvers evolution as a character occurs most here, and it’s a must read for people getting ready for the movie.

Here’s that reading list I promised.

  1. Captain Marvel Vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight
  2. Captain Marvel Vol. 2: Down
  3. Avengers: The Enemy Within
  4. Captain Marvel Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster
  5. Captain Marvel Vol. 2: Stay Fly
  6. Captain Marvel Vol. 3: Alis Volat Propriis
  7. Captain Marvel & the Carol Corps

Background

Essential Ms Marvel Vol 1

Essential Ms. Marvel, Vol 1 Collecting issues Ms. Marvel #1-23, Marvel Super-Heroes Magazine #10-11 (written by Various/art by Various; 1968-1982)

Carol Danvers was little more than a bit character in the original Captain Marvel comic book—that’s the one that starred Mar-Vell (the Kree warrior who went against orders and defended Earth against his own kind)—and when Mar-Vell saved Carol, the Psyche-Magnitron radiation she was hit with slowly gave her super powers.

This collection goes through this origin and a lot more as it collects the first run of Ms. Marvel, which was—for the time—a feminist and progressive name because she was “Ms.” instead of Mrs. or Girl or Woman.

New readers will also see some interesting developments with the Carol Danvers character. She’ll disappear in the 1980s, or at least fade to the periphery: she’s the one whose powers Rogue stole.

Fans of the X-Men Animated Series will learn that unlike the cartoon, Danvers didn’t fall into a coma. She retained some of her powers and few of her memories, a nasty side-effect from a clumsy, young Rogue.

Since this collection spans a good two decades, it’s very uneven. Thankfully, readers are spared the infamous “Marcus” storyline, but the story’s aftermath and Chris Claremont’s attempt to clean up the mess can leave readers wanting. Still, this is a great volume for anyone who wants to know the character’s early history.

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The Brood Saga (written by Chris Claremont/art by Dave Cockrum; 1982-1983)

This story is one for the X-Men that ran during Uncanny X-Men #155-167, but an amnestic Carol Danvers gets drawn into this tale. When the Brood realize that Carol’s DNA has been infused with Kree DNA, the results are interesting.

This is the first time and best time Danvers dons her 1980s persona Binary. I’m not sure if Marvel has ever collected The Brood Saga in paperback, but this title should be available on Comixology and Marvel Unlimited.

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Live Kree or Die (written by Kurt Busiek/art by various; 1998)

I always liked Danvers (who went by Warbird) in the reformed Avengers of Heroes Return. This story jettisons Danvers’ link to her Binary powers, and that forces her to hide from her teammates. She has some fantastic character moments. If I remember correctly, she struggles with alcoholism, and Tony Stark takes an odd turn as her sponsor.

Danvers/Warbird ultimately ends up quitting the Avengers. I’m not sure if some of these moments will be explored in the Marvel Film Captain Marvel, but it could explain why Nick Fury has Danvers’ number but refuses to call it until it’s necessary.

That’s my list for beginning Captain Marvel—but specifically Carol Danvers Captain Marvel—readers. I’m sure there are some omissions. Feel free to send Rogue over to my house so she can rob me of the rest of my memories, or you could leave a comment.

3 Lists of 3 Faithful and Unfaithful Comic Book and Manga Movies

Cause it takes a strong man, baby, but I’m showing you the door. Cause I gotta have faith. I gotta have faith. Or do you?

Your uncle Geekly is back with more comic book movie magic and a three list of three. This week we’ll concentrate on comic book movies that are the most and least faithful adaptations to their source material and throw in a third, fun list for kicks.

Usually, a faithful adaptation is better than one that isn’t, but that’s not always the case. 2011’s Green Lantern made the short list for faithful adaptations, and it stunk. Regardless, the following lists will let you know which ones have geek cred, and which ones don’t.

Most Faithful Comic Book or Manga Movies (so far)

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Iron Man (2008)

All the main points for Tony’s character are present in 2008’s Iron Man, except that he’s more of a social drinker than an alcoholic. That may be the one part that I’ve never liked about the movie version, but I get it. Marvel/Disney wants to make Iron Man more accessible for a greater audience. But alcoholism is a common problem and that’s one of the things that makes Tony accessible for people.

Oh well, like I said, the main character points are there: billionaire playboy, womanizer, purveyor of the best weapons, regrets the creation of such weapons, and needs a suit to stay alive. One must take the omission of alcoholism with stride. The cinematic Iron Man deals with his alcoholism as much as cinematic versions of Batman deal with the loss of his parents. It’s a peripheral thing.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Yes. This is the second Marvel movie in a row, but it’s a good one that’s very faithful to its source material. The only things the movie Winter Soldier changes are plot points that wouldn’t fit within the confines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Sharon Carter wasn’t introduced until this movie, so Black Widow is part of Cap’s team) and some of the more fantastic or mystical elements (sorry, no Cosmic Cube, this version is more grounded).

Again, the main points are there. Cap’s team investigate the mysterious Winter Soldier, who turns out to be Cap’s former sidekick Bucky. At the end, Bucky sneaks away to find himself. The few deviations make sense and don’t detract from the movie capturing the characters and the feel of the comics.

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Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)

Some source material was cut or condensed to fit a two-hour runtime, but Scott Pilgrim vs. The World captures the original story perfectly. Over-the-top video game battles? Check. A frenetic pace? Check. Extremely expressive characters? Have you seen Michael Cera’s face? He may have eyes as large as the title character in the manga. The supporting characters are equally over-the-top and animated—but in the best possible way.

Edgar Wright did a fantastic job translating the Canadian manga into a cult classic. Unfortunately, cult classic means that it didn’t do as well as it should have in theaters.

Least Faithful Comic Book or Manga Movies (so far)

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Catwoman (2004)

Catwoman. Ugh, Catwoman! It’s so different from the source material that I wouldn’t be surprised if a film distributor other than Warner Brothers released this one. The anti-hero’s moniker and character appearance (sort of) are the only commonalities between the two entities.

Patience Philips is Catwoman’s real name instead of Selina Kyle. Patience drowns and comes back to life with the help of a magical cat instead of being a world-class cat burglar. There’s an Egyptian goddess Bastet angle that’s just awful. Who wrote this? How could the actors read the script and think this would be a good movie? Who allowed this to exist?

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The Spirit (2008)

The Spirit comic may have had some issues with Ebony White (it’s a product of its age), but the story is a great blend of crime and humor with strong characterization. I like how Will Eisner portrayed The Spirit as an everyman. It made him relatable and accessible.

The movie strips the characters of their personality and clothes. Comic book fans have known for years that Frank Miller (the movie’s director) doesn’t have the most enlightened opinion of women, and it shows here. I would say that 2008’s The Spirit should only be aired on Skinamax, but soft-core porn has more story and does more with their characters. Also, The Spirit can heal like Wolverine, so that everyman quality is lost.

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Death Note (2017)

Fans didn’t like the announcement that Netflix would release a live action Death Note and set it in the United States. While I agree that changing the setting and other cosmetic alterations damaged the movie, Death Note’s biggest sin is that the characters are dumb. It’s not that they’re dumb as in they make little sense or have limited characterization, which they do make little sense and have limited characterization, but the main characters have a collected IQ of 30. That’s not ideal for a series that’s main draw is that it plays out like a high-stakes Chess match.

Instead of schemes becoming more complex throughout the movie, they get dumb and dumber and dumberer and dumberest. This movie is so stupid that I’m making up words.

Awesome Animated Comic Book Movies

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All-Star Superman (2011)

It helps when the source material is excellent, but 2011’s All-Star Superman is amazing. It captures the essence of the character in a way other Superman films haven’t been able to. It shows what Superman would do if he knew he didn’t have much time left on this planet. He continues to protect the Earth and his loved ones because that’s who he is. There’s even a great Lex Luthor character moment when he sees the world as Superman does, ever the optimist. All-Star Superman is a must watch.

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Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)

Batman: Under the Red Hood was released early in DC’s animated line, but it may be the best animated Batman film ever. Jensen Ackles (Supernatural) is Jason Todd and he may own the role for some time to come. Bruce Greenwood’s Dark Knight and John DiMaggio’s Joker are almost as good as Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, and that’s saying a lot.

This film explores the complex relationship Batman has with killing and with the Robins who have joined him in his crusade. Yes. Under the Red Hood has the prerequisite action and crime fighting, but it’s a surprisingly deep movie.

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Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

I could’ve gone with a lot of other DC animated films with this final move—DC Animated movies are far better than most Marvel ones, they’re the inverse of the live action films—but I had to go with one of the first Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. To me, Kevin Conroy is Batman. Mark Hamill has given one of the most memorable performances as The Joker. There’s a reason the pair have been playing these characters for over two decades.

The original characters in this film are well done too, and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm holds the distinction of being the first Batman: The Animated Series film. Any Batman newbie should watch at least the first season of Batman: The Animated Series, followed by Mask of the Phantasm.

I can only list 9 movies in this 3 lists of 3, so I’m sure some readers will differ in their opinions. Turn on the Geek Signal and I may come running if you leave within a fifty-mile radius or leave a comment.

Fantastic Four Starter Stories

Fantastic Four began the Marvel Age of Comics, but that doesn’t mean that it’s had as much luck with its movies as other Marvel properties. The ugliness brought on by less-than-stellar films and the fallout from contract disputes led to the comic book getting cancelled before 2015’s Fant4stic. The FF’s omission spread to other projects like Marvel: Dice Masters. I’m still waiting for the Fantastic Four set we were supposed to get shortly after launch.

Anyway. With Disney buying out Fox that should all change. Heck, the Fantastic Four comic book was relaunched in August 2018, so positive things have already happened. This is only the beginning.

Your uncle Geekly’s sure Marvel’s first family will make its Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in the not-so-distant future, and it may be a good time to catch up with some of the stories new fans will want to read to get to know Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny better. These are good stories for new fans.

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The Galactus Trilogy Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #48-50 (written by Stan Lee/art by Jack Kirby; 1966)

Uncle Geekly could’ve started with the Fantastic Four’s origin story, and that would be a good enough place to begin, but it’s been covered in film and cartoon a lot. Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #1 is as good as any of the reboots and relaunches, but I talk about origins all the time with these starter stories. Let’s start with something different. Let’s begin with the ultimate in Fantastic Four required reading: Galactus.

First, the Galactus story came out in the middle of Lee and Kirby’s collaboration, so they’re at the height of their storytelling powers. You’ll see more of this in the next entry.

Second, the peerless pair didn’t hit the brakes once after this story got started. Silver Surfer arrives. Uatu warns the family. Galactus looms large above Earth, preparing to eat it. It was loud and bombastic. This story was one of the longest comic book stories at the time. The pacing worked, and it led to comic books adopting longer story arcs.

Finally, the legend of how this story came about is telling of the pair’s storytelling technique and of Galactus. Kirby asked Lee “What if the Fantastic Four met God?” I’m not sure if this conversation ever happened, but presumably Lee responded with a “yes, and.” One would get the ball rolling and the other would always add to original idea, and the original idea of Galactus was an enemy that was above good and evil: a force of nature.

The idea of a villain that was neither good or evil was novel, and “The Galactus Trilogy” remains one of the best Fantastic Four stories.

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This Man, This Monster! Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #51 (written by Stan Lee/art by Jack Kirby; June 1966)

Just in case you missed the details of the last entry and this one, you’ll notice that Galactus was followed up immediately with “This Man, This Monster!.” Like the story it followed, “This Man, This Monster!” introduced more elements to superhero storytelling: focusing on a character’s humanity and interpersonal relationships.

The Thing’s powers are a blessing and a curse and no story by Lee and Kirby does a better job of illustrating that than this one. It’s a single-issue story that explores what happens when Ben Grimm loses his powers and culminates with him making a tragic personal sacrifice. It’s one of Lee and Kirby’s best and shows the pair’s range.

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The Trial of Reed Richards Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #262 (story and art by John Byrne; June 1984)

I’m not going to sugar coat this. The 1970s weren’t a good decade for Fantastic Four stories. John Byrne did a lot to reinvent and reinvigorate the team. “The Trial of Reed Richards” represents the best Byrne had to offer.

Reed must stand trial for allowing Galactus to live and devour more planets. This single-issue tale does a great job of exploring morality, catches readers up on what Galactus was doing for the past decade, and questions what the universe would be like without a force of nature that can eat entire planets. Byrne does a great job of defending Galactus’s right to exist.

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Fantastic Four: Unthinkable (written by Mark Waid/art by Mike Wieringo; 1998)

I’ve gone long enough without a Doctor Doom story, and that’s because I wanted to wait for the best Doctor Doom story “Unthinkable.”

Waid and Wieringo’s run on Fantastic Four captured the boundary pushing adventures of the FF’s past and is considered one of the best runs on the series. “Unthinkable” does a lot to solidify that claim. Unable to beat Reed as a scientist, Doom turns to the one “science” Reed was never able to comprehend: magic.

“Unthinkable” forced the Fantastic Four, and especially Reed, to stretch their capabilities. Doom reached new levels of villainy here that included dark arcane powers, a suit made of flesh. Despite Reed’s efforts, Doom still magically disfigured Reed and set him on a path that would lead to Ben’s death.

If a reader wants to know the depth of Doom’s hatred for Reed and the rest of the FF, look no further than “Unthinkable.”

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Fantastic Four: Hereafter (written by Mark Waid/art by Mike Wieringo; 2004)

I did it with Lee and Kirby and here I go again—sort of—with Waid and Wieringo. “Hereafter” follows “Authoritative Action” which happened because of “Unthinkable.” Let’s just say that Reed didn’t handle Ben’s death well, and it led to some ugliness in Latvaria. Reed decides to put his trust in something greater than himself in “Hereafter.” The surviving members of the Fantastic Four storm the gates of Heaven to rescue Ben. This story doesn’t question existence as much as exploring one’s consequences.

Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben don’t save the world in “Hereafter.” They don’t battle a huge villain or overcome a cosmic threat. This story focuses on love, friendship, and hope.

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Fantastic Four: Three (written by Jonathan Hickman/art by Steve Epting; 2010-2011)

What is with the Fantastic Four and wanting to be a trio? Hickman had a great run with Fantastic Four in the 2000s, and “Three” might be the best of his stories. Annihilus—an often-overlooked FF villain—poses the threat here, but the crux of the story comes in the form of Ben losing his powers and not being able to help his best friend Johnny during an invasion from the Negative Zone.

Johnny gets overrun by the Annihilation Wave as Ben seals the portal from the outside. Ben gets his wish of being normal, but he struggles with losing Johnny. If readers want to learn more about Johnny and Ben’s unique bond, give “Three” a read.

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Fantastic Four: 1234 (written by Grant Morrison/art by Jae Lee; 2011)

Grant Morrison likes to bend reality with his stories, so a Fantastic Four mini-series was inevitable. “1234” splits the family with four individual stories. Each member must suffer through a series of personal misfortunes and many of the team’s greatest enemies make appearances.

All the madness in “1234” leads to the team’s greatest adversary Doctor Doom. “1234” is a great showdown between two of the smartest men in the Marvel Universe. This is a battle of will, wits, and intelligence.

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Fantastic Faux (written by Matt Fraction/art by Mike Allred; 2012-2014)

It may not look like it, but many heroes have donned the Fantastic Four uniform. The oddest group to wear Fantastic Four tights must be the team of Fantastic Faux.

Following Jonathan Hickman’s great run on Fantastic Four, Fraction took over both Fantastic Four and its sister title FF. The results were the team being sent through space and time, which left a vacancy in the Baxter Building for a substitute team to fill.

Ant-Man, Medusa, She-Hulk, and the newly introduced Ms. Thing (Johnny’s pop-star girlfriend Darla Deering who wore a mechanical Thing suit) were left in charge of the Future Foundation’s group of advanced science students. As Allred and Fraction are wont to do, they dial the sci-fi bizzarroness up to 50. A Voltron-style Doc Doom/Annihilus/Kang mash-up villain named Kang the Annihilating Conqueror, a one-eyed future Johnny, and the odd alien Foundation’s students graced this 16-issue run.

But like most great FF runs, “Fantastic Faux” challenges the idea of family. Not only are we born into a family, we have family that we choose.

That’s my list for readers who are new to Fantastic Four comics. If I didn’t get the list right, I’m sure it’s right in some alternate reality. I’ll have to ask Reed which one or you could let me know in comments.