Marvel Team-Up #1
Issue(s): Marvel Team-Up #1
But hey, it's as solid an example of Marvel's shared universe as one could ask for, and i do like the fact that it often focuses on lesser known characters or unusual interactions.
I've often wished that the book really was Marvel Team-Up and not (with a few exceptions) Spider-Man Team-Up, but using Spider-Man does have some advantages beyond his popularity. Spider-Man is an everyman, and can be used as a POV character, or to add a level of satire or humor to the story. Captain America teaming-up with the Ghost Rider is just an adventure story. Spider-Man teaming-up with the Ghost Rider allows for the reader's WTF?! moment to be expressed by Spidey as well (of course the quality of the writing in either case is a factor as well).
One of the biggest complaints about Spidey being the consistent team-upper is the fact that his character is supposed to be a loner. But just to be contrarian, i'll note that in the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man, he tried to join the Fantastic Four. And he dropped his original application for membership in the Avengers only because he thought they were going to hurt the Hulk. Especially as Peter Parker grows up and out of the hang-ups he had as a teenager, his facility for social interaction amongst his peers should naturally expand as well.
Anyway, the first (and second and third) issue of this series didn't take any chances, and partnered Spider-Man with another of Marvel's most popular characters, the Human Torch.
And even though the two characters have an established relationship at this point, the story does a decent job of selling the team-up.
The villain is the Sandman, who shows up on the beach while Peter is there to photograph the Polar Bear Clan going for a swim (it's Christmas Eve).
It's a little weird seeing the Sandman completely reform with his Kirby costume. Unstable molecules are wonderful things, of course. But i really prefer his Ditko shirt, which just seems to work better with these kind of scenes.
Peter has a date with Gwen tonight, and he doesn't really consider the Sandman "his" villain anymore, so he tries to dump the responsibility of fighting the Sandman on the Fantastic Four. Only the Human Torch is home, however, and they end up hunting down the Sandman together.
There's even an interesting ending here, which has implications for the Sandman's eventual redemption. The Sandman defeats Spidey and the Torch but seemingly leaves them an "out" to escape from the water tank he drops them in. When they catch up with him again, he just asks that he be allowed to spend five minutes with his sick mother.
The heroes agree, and granted the Sandman slips away down the drain instead of letting them capture him, but it does show some humanity for the normally very gruff and villainous character.
Since i mentioned the Sandman's suit earlier, i will have to succumb to my adolescent shoulder devil and note that the reason the Sandman likes this suit is because of an aid that the Wizard built into it that allows him to turn hard faster.
While they are looking for the Sandman, Spidey and the Torch foil a mugging. The character being mugged will turn out to be Misty Knight; this is her retroactive first appearance.
Well, really it's just Spidey who foils the mugging; the Torch stays in the FF's flying bathtub during that fight. Soon after, though, the Torch prevents a nice corvette from getting scratched by an out of control truck.
That's certainly in character!
Even with the sentimental Christmas-y stuff, it's a fun issue, with some nice bickering between the Torch and Spidey and a good use of a villain with a history with both characters.
Johnny's outfit in this issue is 100% against the law.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Marvel Index places this between Amazing Spider-Man #94-95 and Fantastic Four #104-105. The placement is based on the fact that this story takes place on Christmas Eve. I've noticed that the Indexes put a lot more effort into fitting these stories into an actual calendar-based timeline than i think is necessary or even feasible. The Index rather wildly states:
When this story occurs, Gwen Stacy is in London following the death of her father... and consequently Spider-Man's thoughts of dating her after the conclusion of this story are all topical references. She is on Peter's mind because he misses her very much, but he does not have the time to travel to London until his Christmas vacation [in ASM #95]... Since this story was published many months after the story in which Gwen returns from London [ASM #96]... it would have been incongruous to have kept Peter's thoughts and dialogue as if Gwen were still absent.
The MCP bucks the index and places this much more sensibly after Amazing Spider-Man #99, when Gwen is back in the US, and i'm following their placement.
For the Torch, the Index states that the "girl problems" that the Human Torch refers to is the deterioration of Crystal's health, which we'll see in FF #105. And as Enchlore notes in the comments, at the end of this story the Torch thinks about how he misses Crystal. So this should take place after Fantastic Four #105-116, after Crystal has gone back to Attilan.
It is confirmed (revealed? retconned?) in Marvel Team-Up #64 that the lady being mugged in this story is Misty Knight. The Marvel Index says her appearance here is before the accident in which she loses her arm.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Marvel Team-Up vol. 1
I just realized the "hard" version of Sandman really gives off a similarity to Kinnikuman/M.U.S.C.L.E. wrestler Sunshine, who looks like a living set of bricks and likewise has cool metamorphic powers.
Posted by: Ataru320 | January 16, 2014 12:18 PM
I'm surprised it took them so long to come up with this idea. Brave and the Bold had been dedicated to Batman team-ups for a few years by this point, and World's Finest had been the Superman / Batman team-up comic for years now.
Part of the reason for this, I'm sure, is that Spider-Man wasn't in any group, so this allowed the writers to bring in other Marvel characters to interact with him without having to constantly have them in and out of Amazing.
Posted by: Erik Beck | February 7, 2015 11:45 AM
One thing you didn't note, fnord, is that the Sandman's mother is "Mrs. Baker." I think this is the first implication of Sandman's real name, William Baker. Previously there was no indication that "Flint Marko" was an alias.
Posted by: Andrew | December 9, 2016 8:50 PM
It's my guess the Sandman's sympathetic portrayal this issue helped inspire his 1980s reformation.
WORLD'S FINEST COMICS was Superman's team-up title for two years from Nov. 1970 (cover date), so DC had two team-up books at this point.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | December 10, 2016 12:36 AM
Sandman had more of a "blockhead" or square shaped head when Ditko drew him in ASM #4. In the Ross Andru scan shown here, with his corn-roll hairstyle and widow's peak, he looks way too much like Norman Osborn IMO.
Jumping back to 1965, his first Frightful Four appearance by Kirby looks more on-model (or like Ditko drew him), but, at least in the scans we have there, I don't see the widow's peak. Not a big deal at all, but it makes me wonder if Andru was thinking about Norman Osborn when he drew that panel.
Posted by: Holt | October 14, 2017 10:57 PM
There's a scene in which Johnny thinks about how much he's missing Crystal this issue. Maybe it should be placed after Fantastic Four #105-116?
Posted by: Enchlore | December 19, 2017 1:59 PM
Agree. Thanks Enchlore.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 19, 2017 2:34 PM
Fnord, I must confess to my own adolescent shoulder devil making an appearance when I saw Sandy's description of his suit, thinking he was doing a Viagra ad. Speaking of clothes, Johnny's outfit may have been lowered from felony to misdemeanor since some hipster college student might pick up an ensemble along those lines at a local thrift store. In addition, if you've ever seen the shirts designed by Wyatt Ingraham Koch (nephew of the evil right-wing billionaire benefactors the Koch Brothers), one might suspect he found his inspiration from this issue.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | February 10, 2018 8:23 PM
Comments are now closed.
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