Depending on how long you have been following the Green Onion Blog you may remember a series I used to write called Deconstructed. Each week I would find a back issue and go through everything from the cover, the story, the advertisements, and even the fan mail. They were a lot of fun and you can still find them available on the website in a submenu under Comics (or, just click here).
I really enjoyed writing the Deconstructed series and it was one of my favourite posts to write. However, it was an extreme amount of work, way more than it was worth. Between reading, writing, photos, editing, I was putting three times the effort in and the posts were much longer than I normally like to offer. Keeping up with the series became too much and I had to put away with it.
I have missed it ever since. One of the best parts of the series was the randomness of the comics I would Deconstruct, anything from NFL SuperPro to Mr. T. Besides flipping through my own stagnant longboxes, it also gave me a reason to search through any comics I could find from garage sales and farmers markets to the bigger conventions.
The thing is, I am fascinated by comic books. Especially the older ones that paved the way. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko’s early creations are some of the greatest art the world has ever been given. Beyond that, there are millions upon millions of comics out there and each and every one of them was brought to us from talented creators hard work and effort. Every issue ever made offers us art, story, and they all have a story behind them on how they came to be. I don’t care what it is, every comic book is beautiful.
Therefore, it has been important to me to find a way to relaunch the Deconstructed series. I want to share these stories, the art, the strange advertisements, they all deserve to be appreciated. So, to not go overboard like I did before, I needed to simplify the series. Instead of a full breakdown of page by page commentary I will be writing these more in the manner that I write a comic review of new issues. But, we will be exploring the vintage, the forgotten, the obscure, and the fun back issues.
Welcome to Longbox Selects.
Wow, that was a lengthier introduction than I intended. That background was important though, and I want everyone to understand my love for these books. It is time for us to get this series started now, though. As this is already a full post as it is I will try to keep this one as short as possible, and we can all look forward to the weeks ahead as this series really gets going.
Thank you for reading this far.
Now, I am excited to introduce the first Longbox Select. In a traditional move offering not only my favourite hero but the same character that was featured in the first Deconstructed, today we explore the ever-lovin’ Thing in, The Thing #9!
There was a time when The Thing was one of the most prized and cherished characters in the Marvel Universe. As much as Spidey or Hulk, The Thing would be plastered on t-shirts, posters, splash pages, advertisements, and anything else Marvel put out. And, for good reason. The Thing is one of the most meaningful characters you can find in comic books.
Ben Grimm was an everyman that was thrown into a multiverse of adventure, simply because of who his friends are, not because he asked for it. Tortured by this hideous rocky appearance, Grimm is as soft as they come inside. He is the heart of the Fantastic Four and the Marvel Universe. He represents so many things that are engrained in each of us, loyalty, self-consciousness, and a desire to do good. I love The Thing and I will read any book in which he appears.
Oh yes, it is The Thing, rocking out in his old school battle gear. This is a good twenty years before Planet Hulk. With men ready to blow him away with friggin’ bazookas and tanks, Alicia stands in the way. That’s good because Alicia is the true hero of this story.
In the style of a zombie movie, Alicia Masters wakes to discover the hospital she is in is all but destroyed. She is all alone, with dead and unconscious people all around her. The young blind woman must make her way through the wreckage to make it outside where things are worse and the destruction even more rampant. She manages to traverse the broken streets all alone. When she finally finds help in the form of a police officer, we discover who is behind this mess, none other than the Thing.
The body of Thing has been taken over. An ancient being has been taking over bodies for millennia waiting for his chance to take a body as powerful as this one to take over the world. This new beast is headed for the UN with the intention to make the countries of Earth kneel before him. It is up to Alicia to convince this soul that he has no right to take away a man’s life when he has had the opportunity to live so many. And, despite the many hundreds of people he has killed in the last hour, he gives in to her pleas and abandons the world he wished to conquer.
I love eighties advertisements. This was an age where they learned how to advertise everything to children with big bright colours and lots of action and excitement. It was also a time where they learned that you can take your franchise and put it onto a box of anything from cereal to toys. And, there was also the coming rise of video games. If it were not for going through this book, I would have no idea that there ever was a Masters of the Universe game for Intellivision and Atari. It looks terrible and amazing at the same time.
The way this story begins is quite interesting to me. In this world of superheroes where New York City is seemingly destroyed every week, we don’t often get to see how that impacts the citizens on ground level. Especially a character such as Alicia Masters who lives her life without sight. There are pages of Alicia trying to navigate the devastation around her as her narration struggles to explain how jarring that must be. It is a pretty powerful way to open any story.
Released in 1984 and not one of the mainstay titles of the publishing company, I am shocked by the depth and heart of this story. The issue is written by John Byrne, who is one of the most celebrated Fantastic Four creators behind only their creators. The man was a master of these characters, especially the human and vulnerable like is showcased with Alicia in this book. This is just a sample of the unbelievable mind that wrote comics as big as the movies and he didn’t need massive crossovers and events to do it. Like we saw here, he just needed a couple of characters and he could bring out the best.
This book was also released at a potent time for comic books and Marvel specifically. In May of 1984, a couple of months after this issue, Marvel would begin something that would change comic books forever and take Marvel into a new age, Secret Wars. This was a time of high creativity and development in Marvel. Underappreciated, this transitional time of the mid to late-eighties is full of great stories and they are hidden in titles like this, not just the big names like X-Men and Spidey.
Sure, this book, like others like it, has its faults. Especially in the convenient conclusion. But, you need to look past that and see the story for what it is. Like the powerful intro that filled most of the book, there is an imagery and plot hidden, and when you look past it being a Thing from the Fantastic Four book and just allow the story to be what it is, it becomes something way more grand. This single issue is those post-apocalyptic movies meets King Kong meets Marvel creativity all in one.
There are always fun letters and notes hidden in these back pages. Especially in Marvel where Stan Lee had harboured a feeling of community in the fan mail and his replies. There is one letter in here that questions Thing’s super ability of super breath, like that of Superman. An earlier Thing book had Grimm blow away a bail of hay, that no ordinary human could manage. Editor Bob Budiansky answers this concern expertly admitting Thing does not possess the power, but like the rest of his body, he is much more capable than an average human.