Hello True Believers, and welcome to Marvel Events Part III! Last time, we looked at the Silver Age, where crossover events were just starting to be used on a regular basis. As we enter the Bronze Age however crossovers were beginning to be more and more commonplace, often times bringing characters together in ways that you would never have thought possible, many changing the Marvel U irrevocably. Not all the items listed today are crossovers as you’ll find out, but they were important story arcs or events that are so important to the history of Marvel that I couldn’t help but include them. Shall we begin?
Marvel Events Part III: The Bronze Age and Road to Secret Wars
Examining the major Marvel Crossovers and Storylines from the 70s into the mid-80s.
Mr. Kline War
Robots from the future are rarely a good thing...
The first event of the Bronze Age for Marvel is also one of the most forgotten. Usually, many of these big events eventually get collected into their own graphic novel or omnibus forms, but not this one. I asked one of Marvel’s top editors Tom Brevoort why this was, and he replied, “Because it’s kind of a mess of a story, as Gerry Conway would cop to today.” You have to understand that this was written at a time where the idea of crossovers were still being perfected, and thus, at times were not executed as well as the creators wish they had.
As the story goes, Mr. Kline, an android from the future, came back in time to eliminate three people: Foggy Nelson, Daredevil, and Iron Man. His real name MK-9, also known as the Assassin, Kline manipulated a host of villains into attacking his targets, slowly bringing his plans to fruition. When he appeared to be on the brink of victory, however, the Final Sons of Man arrived, and destroyed Kline before he could alter history, and then vanished back to their own time, never to be heard from again. This is a strange occurrence in and of itself, villains of this kind of power and reach pop up again given enough time, but no Mr. Kline, nor the people that destroyed. What happened to them continues to be mystery...
The issues included in this crossover are located in the collections featured below.
The Night that Gwen Stacy Died
Goodbye to Innocence
Now, some of you may be thinking, “this isn’t a cross-over event?” Well, you’re right, it’s not. But it is an event that changed comic books forever, and thus NEEDS to be included on this list.
Gwen Stacy was the EXTREMELY popular girlfriend of Peter Parker, AKA, Spider-Man. She was loveable, sweet, happy, and the perfect match for our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. However, writer Gerry Conway and his creative team were, for lack of a better term, bored with her. They didn’t know what to do with her and Peter, but they couldn’t just break them up, Peter and Gwen often referred to as the “perfect couple” by fans and creators alike. They also couldn’t kill Peter, because... well, duh. They thought about getting Peter married, but given their age, it would have completely changed the tone of the book, a tone that wouldn’t fit with Spidey’s overall feel. So, with seemingly no other options, the decision was made to kill Gwen off.
The story itself, no matter what we may think of the outcome, was masterfully done. Norman Osbourne, who had attempted to reform after being the Green Goblin for so long, had fallen back into that personality after his son became addicted to drugs. The problem was, he knew who Peter was now (as did Gwen), and became obsessed with destroying Spider-Man. He kidnapped Gwen, luring Spider-Man to the top of the George Washington Bridge. Goblin then hurls he from the bridge, and Spidey goes after her, shooting a web line and catching her feet. The get to the ground, and he thinks he saved her, but then soon realizes she was dead, the whiplash snapping her neck. Spidey goes after Goblin in the aftermath, leading the Goblin accidentally killing himself, but it hardly mattered in the end. Gwen was gone, and nothing Peter could do would change that.
This storyline is important for several reasons. Number one, it was the first time that a major love interest of a hero had been killed. Secondly, it was also the first time a hero had actually failed in a story. Thirdly, Gwen Stacy has (for the most part), remained dead since, a few attempts to bring her back being largely forgotten (thankfully... Clone Saga... uhhh.) That was until this year, when a Gwen from an alternate universe showed up (SPIDER-GWEN!), but that’s another story for another time.
No matter how we feel about it, The Night that Gwen Stacy Died is one of the most important comics ever published, many pointing to it as the moment that the Silver Age ended, ushering in the darker, more violent Bronze Age. Whether it did or not, it certainly changed the direction of Marvel Comics forever.
Humanity stuck in the middle
Over the years, Earth had been visited by alien races many, many times in the Marvel U. Some of these aliens became heroes, like the Silver Surfer or the first Captain Marvel, while others have caused nothing but trouble. Two of these powerful alien races, the Kree and the Skrulls, have been some of the most frequent, as well as being two of the most powerful Empires in the galaxy. They also happen to be mortal enemies of each other, which leads us to this megaevent from the beginning of the Bronze Age.
The story begins with Captain Marvel, a Kree himself, returning to Earth from the Negative Zone. The Avengers capture him, though it is unknown at the time why they did it. The story unfolds, revealing that both the Kree and the Skrulls plan on using the Earth as a battleground for their war. The Avengers and their allies go on to fight Ronan the Accuser, Skrulls masquerade as superheroes, and even aiding the Inhumans in getting Maximus the Mad off their throne. After all that, the Avengers head into space to the Kree homeworld to rescue their captured members, who the Kree had taken when the whole conflict began
The Kree-Skrull War was one of the first big cross-over events of its kind, featuring heroes from every corner of the Marvel U fighting impossible odds against two powerful alien races. It ended in the Avengers favour, but it was only a foreshadowing of even larger conflicts, the event proving that large, company-wide stories like this could be done.
Heroes vs Heroes
Before hero team vs hero team battles became commonplace, events such as these didn’t happen all that often. In fact, many fans and creators thought it a little taboo to have heroes fighting each other, especially in Marvel where they’re all supposed to be friends and allies anyway. However, that all changed when the Avengers and Defenders, the two top teams in Marvel at the time, came into conflict.
The two teams came at odds over the Evil Eye, a magical object of immense power that in the wrong hands could end up destroying... well, everything (cliché I realize, but this is comic books we’re talking about). The two teams, each thinking that the other can’t be trusted with it, come in to conflict with one another. This war escalates more and more until the two teams realize that they are being played by Dormamu and Loki, the two respective team’s archenemies at the time. Once the Avengers and Defenders realize what is really going on, they concentrate on the villains, stopping them from absorbing the Earh into the Dark Dimension.
There have been many hero vs hero conflicts in Marvel since, the sheer scale on the conflict making it a landmark event. Up until that point, hero team vs hero team battles simply didn’t happy. However, the reception and sales this event gave Marvel all the approval they needed to produce more stories like this, leading to some of the biggest events in comic book history. But we’ll get to that...
Enter the Mad Titan
Before he hit theatres in the mid-credits scene for Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, Thanos was the arch-nemesis of one Mar-Vell, aka, the original Captain Marvel. Marvel had many enemies, but none were more dangerous or feared that the Mad Titan, Thanos
The Thanos War centered around the immensely powerful Cosmic Cube, which became the Tesseract in the movies. Thanos wanted it to impress Mistress Death (yes, really). After finding it, he used the Cube to make himself omnipotent, and then discarded it, thinking he had no further use for it. Afterwards, he imprisons Kronos, and manages to get Death’s attention. However. Marvel and the Avengers interfere, managing to destroy the Cube and taking away his power.
This event, as important as it seemed, was a prelude to an even larger conflict that occurred years later. No matter if that was the original plan or not, The Thanos War established Thanos as one of Marvel’s most powerful and feared villains.
The Issue that Saved a Book
The X-Men are arguably the most popular team in comic book history, and by far one of the most profitable. But did you know that they were once cancelled? That’s right, back in the 1960s, the X-Men were a middle of the road book that did okay at first, but sales eventually dropped down to the point where no new stories were published between 1970-1975. Issues 67-93 were reprints of older stories, published to keep the book on the shelf until something could done.
That something came in 1975. Written by Len Wein and drawn by Dave Cockrum, the oversized issue Giant-Sized X-Men #1 was a final attempt to revitalize the mutant team. Up until then, the X-Men were comprised with the five original members (Cyclops, Jean Grey as Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast, and Iceman), along with Cyclops’s brother Havok, and his girlfriend (and later confirmed daughter of Magneto) Polaris. However, when the entire team sans Cyclops went missing on the island Krakoa (actually a living land mass, fun stuff), Professor Xavier and Cyclops formed a NEW team of X-Men in order to launch a rescue mission.
This new team was and still is one of the most diverse line-ups in comic book history. Comprised of mutants from all over the world, the new recruits were Banshee (Scotland), Sunfire (Japan), Wolverine (Canada), Storm (Africa), Nightcrawler (Germany), Colossus (Russia), and Thunderbird (Native American). Cyclops and Professor X had a heck of a time getting them to work together, but once they got going, the X-Men were able to save the original team from Krakoa, kicking off a new era for the muties.
This story is important for a number of reason. For one, it featured more characters from diverse backgrounds than anywhere else, allowing the X-Men to become the go-to book for such social issues as equality and racism. Secondly, it saved the failing team’s book, which was taken over by Chris Claremont and John Bolton the next issue, kicking off the single greatest run of any comic creator in history for Claremont. That run made the X-Men megastars, featuring some of the most famous and revered stories in the history of the medium.
But it all started with a single oversized issue, a final attempt to revamp the failing team. The rest, as they say, is history.
Dark Phoenix Saga
Jean Grey's Destiny
Following the reboot, the X-Men exploded in popularity, easily becoming one of Marvel’s most diverse and beloved teams. Writer ChriClaremont was on a roll, working with legendary artist John, putting out hit story after hit story. But nothing compared to their single most recognizable work, The Dark Phoenix Saga.
Though not a crossover, this story arc may be the most famous in comic book history, its effects being felt by the X-Men to this day. Jean Grey, originally known as Marvel Girl when the X-Men had formed, had blossomed into one of the team’s most popular characters. During a mission in space, Jean is exposed to solar flare, the event temporarily unlocking her true potential of her powers. After using her powers to repair the M’Kraan Crystal, she holds her powers back in order to keep them under control. After she returns to Earth, she dons a new costume and names herself, “Phoenix.”
This draws the attention of Mastermind, another mutant telepath, who is trying to entire the famed Hellfire Club. He seduces Jean slowly, using his and Emma Frost’s psychic powers to lure her to their side. While in their control, she begins to use her powers, slowly breaking down the barriers she had worked so hard to put up. Eventually, she helps the Club capture the X-Men, but when Mastermind hurts Cyclops, she breaks free, the final barriers broken down, and becomes the entity named Dark Phoenix. She attacks both the Club and the X-Men, and then heads into space.
As Dark Phoenix, Jean destroys a solar system, prompting the Shi’ar Empire to attempt to destroy. She returns to Earth, eventually subdued by Professor X, only to be capture by the Shi’ar. Xavier convinces Shi’ar Empress Lilandra to allow the X-Men to fight for Jean’s life against the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. The two groups battle on the Blue Area of the Moon, during which Cyclops is seemingly killed, breaking down the restraints on Jean again. Lilandra sets off her contingency, which would have destroyed the solar system in an effort to eliminate the Phoenix forever. The X-Men move to stop it, but Jean breaks away, heading deep into the ruins to find an ancient Kree weapon. Cyclops tries to stop it, but Jean activates it, killing herself and eliminating the Phoenix (for a time anyway). The Shi’ar, their task completed, leave the X-Men to mourn their loss.
This event was one of the first of its kind in comic book history. The killing of a major hero had never been done before, especially one as popular as Jean Grey. She would return eventually, not long after in fact, but it didn’t change what had happened. The X-Men were changed forever after that day, especially Cyclops, his inability to save Jean haunting him ever since. In addition, the story arc established the Phoenix as the single most dangerous entity in the known universe, an entity that would return again and again in the years since, bringing chaos every time.
Will of a single man...
Another important storyline, this one coming from the pages of the Avengers, the Korvac Saga is one of the more famous arcs from the 1980s Avengers, and the biggest story in the history of the original Guardians of the Galaxy.
Michael Korvac was once human, but do some alien techno-torture, he became a cyborg with the ability to manipulate energy. Later, he became a wielder of the Power Cosmic, and tried to destroy the world. Fun guy right? Well, after a failed attempt to blow up the sun, he and his wife Carina (daughter of the Collector whom Korvac had killed) went into hiding on Earth, just wanting to be left alone. The Avengers and Guardians eventually find him, leading to one of the biggest and brutal battles in the history of both teams.
Despite having the numbers advantage, the heroes were outmatched. As the battle reached its apex, Korvac began killing the heroes off one by one. All seemed lost, but the heors continued to rally, hurting Korvac little by little. When the heroes began to wear him down, Carina lost faith in her lover, causing him to destroy himself (WFT?), but not before bringing the dead heroes back. Carina was destroyed shortly thereafter.
The event was a short one, , but it featured one of the most death ridden battles in Marvel history. Sure, the heroes came back at the end, but the fact that Korvac had managed to kill all but a few made him easily one of the most dangerous beings in the history of that universe, and one can only hope that he stayed dead (it’s comics though so fat chance.)
Days of Future Past
The X-Men... have failed
Perhaps the most famous story in X-Men history besides The Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past depicts a dystopic future in which the mutant-hunting Sentinels have taken over North America, and have effectively wiped out mutantkind. Only a handful of mutants remain, and with the threat of nuclear holocaust hanging over their heads, what few X-Men that are left send Kitty Pryde back in time to 1980 to try and stop this from happening.
Possessing her younger body, Kitty works with the present day X-Men to stop Mystique and her new Brotherhood of Mutants from assassinating mutant-hating Senator, Robert Kelly. They manage to save Senator Kelly (who frankly could have thanked them the asshole), and Kitty's future self went back to her own time, leaving her with no memory of the years in between.
This story arc did numerous things for the X-Men. For one, it introduced the character Rachel Summers, the daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey. Secondly, it was the first time the X-Men had experience time travel in their long history, a recurring theme that has been used time and again for the mutant team. The story became so popular that it spawned a movie adaptation, though the story was slightly changed due to circumstances.
No matter what however, Days of Future Past changed the course of the X-Men forever, the threat of the Sentinels becoming clearer than anyone could have imagined.
The Death of Captain Marvel
End of a Hero, Start of a Legacy
Captain Marvel, the Kree soldier who had come to Earth as Mar-Vell, had been a mainstay in Marvel Comics for years. Dubbed Earth’s Mightiest Hero, he was also a member of the Avengers, and one of comic book’s most popular heroes. However, as Marvel continued to push the envelope with their new, darker, edgier stories, it came to pass that Earth’s Mightiest Hero had to die.
The Death of Captain Marvel was a tragic event in comic book history, major heroes not killed off as a general rule, often times brought back at later dates in some new form. However, it was the manner of his death that was truly unique. Captain Marvel didn’t die in battle fighting his arch-enemy. Instead he died of cancer. Contracted while fighting the villain Nitro, and with no cure available, the story follows Marvle’s last days, finishing with Earth’s Mightiest Hero dying in bed, surrounding by the other heroes. Oddly enough, long time nemesis Thanos came to him as he began to fade away, but not as an enemy. Thanos instead guided him into the afterlife, leaving Earth’s heroes to mourn his loss.
The far-reaching effects of his death are still being felt today, both the good and the bad. In the wake of his death, former colleage Carol Danvers, then known as Ms. Marvel, quickly took his place in the storylines, eventually becoming one of the most important and popular female characters Marvel ever produced. Other heroes, most notably Monica Rambeau, took up the name time and again, launching each one them to the forefront of the Marvel U, though none of their tenures lasted very long. That was until Ms Marvel finally took up her dear friend’s mantle in 2012, becoming Captain Marvel in an act that many fans felt was long overdue. No matter who wears the name however, the legacy of Captain Marvel lives on, his death inspiring new heroes to continue his mission.
Contest of Champions
An Impossible Wager
In the fallout of the Korvac Saga, the Elders of the Universe were suddenly very afraid. Korvac had managed to kill the Collector, an act which the Elders had thought impossible. The Grandmaster, the most powerful of their number, searched for a way to bring Collector back, eventually striking a deal with Mistress Death. Death laid down a challenge to the Grandmaster, and if he won, Collector would return to the land of the living. If he lost, the Collector would remain dead forever. Grandmaster accepts, and the two set out to choose what kind of challenge they want. Simple, right?
As it turns out, not really, as the two decide that the way to settle their wager was to take a bunch of superheroes, and pit them against each other. What results is a series of massive battles amongst the various heroes from across the Marvel Univesre. However, all this results in a big fat stalemate, after which Death makes the Grandmaster another offer. If he was willing to take the Collector’s place in the afterlife, she would bring the other Elder back. Grandmaster shockingly agrees, and the Collector is brought back to life. Seems somewhat foolish, but as it turns out, this was all a ploy by the Grandmaster, who used his new found access to the afterlife to steal Death’s power to banish all of the Elder’s from her realm, effectively making them immortal.
The heroes returned home, not quite sure what had just happened...
Aliens Invading Again...
This one, the last cross-over before the universe changing Secret Wars, is another event where information is rather scarce. I asked Marvel super-editor and fedora enthusiast Tom Brevoort about the matter, and he told me that due to ROM the Spaceknight no longer being under Marvel’s copyright, this cross-over cannot be reprinted without a MAJOR amount of lawyer stuff and Tylenol.
The story involves the Wraiths, a race of alien creatures (yes, another one), that launch a secret invasion (pardon the pun) on Earth (seriously, why do aliens want to attack our planet so much? Attack Mars, nobodies gives a fuck about that planet... at least in Marvel anyway). ROM the Space Knight set out to stop them, eliciting the aid of many of Marvel’s heroes, including the Avengers and the X-Men among others.
The Wraiths are pushed back and expelled from Earth, ROM and his allies victorious. The Wraiths haven’t been seen much since, neither has ROM for that matter, and the Wraith War has faded into obscurity.
Era of Change
Well, that was a lot to cover in one post, but we got there! The Bronze Age was a time of severe change in the comic book industry. Things were bleak for the business, Marvel and DC both having their fair share of financial troubles as a result of the generational shift in their audience. Events like the ones I’ve listed helped bring the industry back from the brink. The darker, edgier, and more emotionally charged stories of this time period engaged readers like never before. Marvel as it turns out was just getting started, their biggest and most ambitious projects on the horizon... but more on that next time. For now, HAPPY READING TRUE BELIEVERS!