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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Marvel in the 1980s Made Crazy Changes like DC's New 52…But They Got it RIGHT!

 After writing my blog about John Walker, the Crazed Captain America I had an ephiphany: Marvel in the 1980s had about just as many changes as DC Comics had with its New 52. Think about it:

Wolverine’s Brown costume

Spider Man’s Black costume

Jim Rhodes 30+ issue stint as Iron Man

Wasp divorcing Yellowjacket

Henry Pym quit being Yellowjacket and became just good ol’ Henry Pym

Hawkeye got married to Mockingbird

John Walker took over as Captain America

Steve Rogers put on a Black costume and became The Captain

Johnny Blaze gives up being Ghost Rider

Jessica Drew gives up being Spider-Woman

The Fantastic Four got new navy blue and white costumes when they came out of the Negative Zone

Sue Richards became Malice Mistess of Hate (More Sue Richards character development in one issue than in 20 years!)

The Invisible Girl became the Invisible Woman.

The She-Hulk Joined the Fantastic Four when the Thing left

Storm became the field commander of the X-men

Jean Grey came back from the dead

Julia Carpenter became Spider-Woman

Cyclops quit the X-men and formed X-Factor

The Hulk became Gray

Beast became human then became blue and furry again

X-Factor’s Angel became Archangel with badass metal razor wings

Iron Man got red and silver armor

Thor got a beard. Then he got an AWESOME suit of armor.

Captain Britain got the AWESOME Union Jack costume that became his ICONIC look

Kitty Pryde became Shadowcat

Vision became White

The Silver Surfer became shiny.

Cable took over the New Mutants.

Dan Ketch became the new Ghost Rider

And for all these changes most comic fans didn’t get upset. If you read a letters page of a 1980’s Marvel comic most readers just went with the flow. Some fans were even accepting of the changes. Others wanted more.

Why? Because Marvel did NOT blow up their universe and start over the way DC did in 2011. While they made changes throughout the 1980s, most of those changes came from the past history of a character. And for all the external changes like new costumes and new badguys, the mission and core values of the heroes remained the same.

And the becaue most of the stories were FUCKING AWESOME most fans accepted the changes and just enjoyed the comics in their growing collections. Many of the stories to come out of Marvel in the 1980s are now considered comic classics.

Secret Wars

Walt Simonson’s entire run on Thor

Hulk: Ground Zero

The Black costume saga on Spider-man

The Sin-eater murders in Spider Man

Peter Parker’s wedding

Iron Man’s Iron Monger storyline

Iron Man: Armor Wars

Captian America: The Captain

John Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four

Joe Fixit Hulk

The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse

The introduction of Venom in Spider-man

Acts of Vengeance

And the main reason most didn’t mind the changes at Marvel: In spite of all the change going on with new costumes the characters remained the same. Spider-Man was still the same Peter Parker with the same problems. Only he wore a Black Costume when he fought crime. Steve Rogers was still fighting the good fight as The Captain but with new colors on his mighty sheild. Iron man was still Tony Stark but in a red and silver suit. Wolverine was still the best there was at what he did but he was just wearing a brown and tan costume to do it in. The Hulk was still the strongest on there is and still breaking shit. Only he was a gray dude and not a green one. The Fantastic Four were still a family of adventurers but in blue and white costumes. And instead of a big orange guy they had a green girl on the team.

For all the change going on there was a lot of growth in Marvel’s characters too. Tony Stark man overcame alcoholism for a second time. Steve Rogers was rebuilt his character and resolve after breaking away from his Captain America identity. Janet Van Dyne became a leader. Henry Pym overcame his inferiority complex and his inner demons and became a confident man. Bruce Banner became more aware of his father issues and how they related to his rage. Sue Richards actualized her potential as a heroine. Storm became a leader. Kitty Pryde was on her way to becoming her own woman. Jim Rhodes stopped being a sidekick and became a superhero. Wolverine got a little better at what he did. Peter Parker got married.

Many of Marvel’s characters changed and they changed for the better. The storytelling at Marvel in the 1980s was top notch. Because the changes came from the stories organically and built on the characters’ existing history, most comic fans accepted them. Many like myself were eager to see what was going to happen next, anticipating the next issue.

Thanks to all the great storytelling Marvel created a bunch of new characters who became household names in the 80s. Apocalypse. Baron Zemo II. Crossbones. Hobgoblin. Rogue. Terrax.  Gambit. Jubilee. Forge. Nova (Frankie Raye). U.S Agent. Venom. Cable. Deadpool. And we wouldn’t have gotten any of these characters if it weren’t for creators changing things in the story paradigms of Marvel’s classic catalog of heroes.

If you read official websites and blogs, Jim Shooter was hated by many comic creators and some comic fans the way Dan Didio is today. But under his leadership Marvel Comics grew into one of the number one comic publisher in the world at the time. Most of the comics he published then are now considered CLASSIC stories today that every comic fan must read.

Most people remember the Changes at Marvel in the 1980s fondly. I even own quite a few marvel Legends action figures based on those changes in my collection. And I wish Hasbro would make more 80’s Marvel looks. I’d love for Hasbro to make an Armored/bearded Thor, Kitty Pryde in her Shadowcat costume, a Captain Britain in his Union Jack costume or a Dr. Pym in his red jumpsuit to join my Brown n’ tan Wolverine, U.S. Agent, Silver Centurion Iron man, Black costume Spider-man and Joe Fixit Hulk on the shelf. 

Marvel in the 80s was a lot like the DC’s New 52 today. Only it was done a LOT better. While there were a lot of new ideas, it was the execution of those new ideas that made those comics published the fresh and exciting. The numerous changes at Marvel in the 1980s, made the characters better and redefined their mission and values for a new generation of readers. Comic fans don’t mind change when change is good.  


  1. I realised that the New 52 is the launchpad for CW's Arrow and Flash but for some odd reason despite their popularity Arrow and Flash aren't anywhere as heavily merchandised, promoted and advertised as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and even the DCAU productions. I can remember DCAU cartoons being promoted not only by tie-in comic books but also by notebooks, t-shirts, toys, fliers and posters. Arrow and Flash only has a fraction of that and it gets sadder to think that the CW Arrow and Flash could've picked up where Young Justice left off. It didn't happen when CW Barry Allen doesn't resemble his YJ counterpart that much beyond shared personality, appearance and powers and even comics Barry Allen wasn't heavily monitored by other people until recently.

  2. Ad, I'll be doing a blog about Arrow and Flash soon. Strange about the merchandising though. Outside of DC Direct I haven't seen much of it.

    Wish they could have picked up where YJ left off that show is a CLASSIC.