All summer long, thanks to the big blockbuster movie, people have been asking me about the original comic book appearances of the Guardians Of The Galaxy, and I’ve responded with “It’s kind of complicated.”   Here’s why…  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review of Marvel Super-Heroes #18 awaits!

MarvelSuperHeroes18CoverMARVEL SUPER-HEROES #18
Writer: Arnold Drake
Penciler: Gene Colan
Inker: Mike Esposito
Colorist: Stan Goldberg
Letterer: Herb Cooper
Editor: Stan Lee
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 25 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $600.00

Previously in Marvel Super-Heroes: Arnold Drake was a comics renaissance man.  In addition to long runs on DC Comics’ 1950s humor titles, he was the co-creator of both Deadman and The Doom Patrol during the Silver Age, and was the mind behind the strange-but-adorable ‘Stanley And His Monster.’

Gene Colan’s first comics work dates back to the 1940s, with notable runs on Daredevil and Doctor Strange in the early years of Marvel Comics, and creating a penciling style that was at once unique and approachable, and developing a knack for unique layouts.

What happens when they put their creative heads together?  Fade in: The Year 3007, outer space…


Captain Charlie-27 returns from a deep space mission to his home on Jupiter, puzzled at the lack of a welcome.  Stepping out of his craft, his genetically altered Jovian body adjusting to the massive gravity of his home world, Charlie discovers the horrible truth behind his missing colonists: The alien Badoon have invaded and enslaved his people!


Colan’s layouts in this issue are NUTS, in all the right ways.  The angular panels are great for conveying the dread of an empty world, and really punctuate the violence of Charlie-27’s super-strong rage as he lays into the alien aggressors at full tilt.  Even if you don’t appreciate Colan’s stylistic tics, you have to admit that the aliens (including our protagonist) look truly alien in ways that many comic characters don’t.  Skulking about his home planet, Charlie finds the populace, including his family, trapped under the rule of The Badoon, forced to mine highly radioactive Harkovite ore without protection, literally being worked to death.  Charlie-27 cannot help but react, with a suicidal plan…


Fortunately, he changes his mind, leaping into a teleport and transmatting himself away from Jupiter just in time to avoid frap-ray disintegration.  Drake’s script is reminiscent of the hard science-fiction stories of my (and presumably his) youth, taking bits and pieces of actual science lore and weaving them into the script.  When Charlie lands, he finds himself on Pluto, having not had time to set the teleport ray properly.  The Badoon are here as well, and Captain 27 only avoids capture thanks to the work of another future Guardian…


The crystal man introduces himself as Martinex, and combines his heat-manipulating powers with Charlie’s strength, allowing the two men to hijack another teleporter, beaming themselves back to Earth.  Unfortunately, the Badoon have made their way all the way there as well, and the center of civilization is under their rule.  The good news is, they’re not the only future freedom fighters in play…


The Badoon king, unable to get any information out of Major Vance Astro, uses a memory probe to rip the thoughts from the mind of the man who claims to be 1,000 years old, showing us Vance’s past…


So, we have two heroes who are genetically engineered to colonize their adopted worlds, and a third whose origin involves a lack of faster-than-light travel…  This is some pretty heavy science stuff for the Marvel Universe, even 45 years ago, but somehow Drake weaves it all into a compelling story, even one with some harsh dramatic irony in play.  By the time he reaches his destination, Major Astro discovers human colonists have beaten him there by centuries, thanks to advances in physics long after he set off from the early 21st Century of about five years ago for us…


Vance and Yondu grow tired of parlay, and quickly launch into swift and blinding violence, thanks to Vance’s new psionic powers (the result of 1000 years in stasis) and Yondu’s control of his mystical Yaka arrow.  (This, it might be noted, is the ONLY concept from this issue to make it into the GOTG movie this summer, if I recall correctly.)  Vance and Yondu rush for the teleporter, hoping to make their escape in a stream of molecules, only to run head-on into Charlie-27 and Martinex, running the other way…


Since it is a Marvel comic, our heroes are contractually obligated to bust heads before teaming up, and so they clash…


…before realizing that none of them is Badoon, and turning their considerable powers back against their captors.  Individually, they were outnumbered, but the combination of their powers proves enough to overcome the platoon of Badoon, and our Guardians quickly take advantage of the situation, striking out together to build a resistance to Badoon rule.


The issue ends on a cliffhanger, which must have been a real bummer for fans of the book, as the next issue featuring a solo tale of Ka-Zar the Savage.  The Guardians eventually picked up their own feature in Marvel Premiere a couple of years later, as well as appearances in the titles of The Avengers and The Defenders, where their war with the Badoon finally got an ending, and the team picked up new members Starhawk and Nikki.  Still, they proved notable enough to get their own solo title some 20-odd years later, which led to the present-day incarnation of the team, and the rest is history.  With Drake and Colan on board, it’s easy to see why these characters stuck in people’s minds, as every bit of the issue is packed with detail and richness that was uncommon for the comics of the sixties, and the concepts of these original Guardians, while modified, were solid enough to last for several decades of story.  In short, Marvel Super-Heroes #18 is one of those odd books that is at once more and less than the sum of its parts, featuring a LOT of fascinating concepts front-loaded into its pages, and starting a slow burn that led to movie greatness, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall…


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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