Comics : Mighty Marvel Superheroes Fun Book #1
This story is part of a Lookback Series: Book of the Month Club
This review was first published on: Nov 2011.
The five "Mighty Marvel Superheroes Fun Books" were produced by Fireside Books (an imprint of Simon and Schuster) from 1976 to 1979. Those guys produced a number of Marvel softback books around that time, including the classic Origins Of Marvel Comics.
Physically, these "Fun Books" were a hefty 8.25" x 11" in size. Soft cover, with 128 pages of high quality paper. All interior art is black and white only, though the printing quality is high with good reproduction.
The first three were written and assembled by Owen McCarron, who subsequently created all thirteen issues of the full-color Fun and Games comic in 1979/1980. The last couple of Fun Books were written and illustrated/assembled by Scott Edelman who isn't famous for much apart from a very short writing stint on Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #11.
Inside, the books abound with a huge variety of puzzles and games. What is so impressive to me is that for each page, the writer seems to have sat down afresh. Most modern activity books seem to cycle through a small handful of standard puzzle ideas, heavily interspersed with stock "coloring pages" featuring stock poses.
By contrast, these "Fun Books" hate to repeat themselves. When they are forced to do so, they try at least to make sure that at least the pages differ visually. Sure, there's a more than one maze each book, but they look very different.
There's also a definite feeling that these books are written for serious Marvel Fans, not just for bored seven year old kids in the back of the car. For example, one puzzle gives six different artist's versions of "Sub-Mariner". Could you identify Jim Starlin Sub-Mariner from Larry Lieber's pencils? Or Marie Severin? Or could you identify all 25 members of the "Eternals" cast? Do you know who killed Starlord's mother?
Even trickier, book #4 features eight panels where comic writers and artists have been illustrated into the comic books themselves. Could you identify the Bullpen stars? Hmm... I think I spotted Roy Thomas in panel "H". And that's maybe Stan in "B", but it's hard to tell without his sunglasses.
Yeah, these questions are hard! Some of them are also rather dated. For example "Who is Peter Parker's current girlfriend (answers on page 124)". I think I'd need a little more context for that one. Hmm... 1976, that's gotta be MJ, right?
Bottom line, these books are true gems. They're from an age where being a Marvel Fan was less about buying 1:200 variant covers, and more about being able to recognize pretty much every character in the Marvel pantheon.
Every time I open one of these books, I just can't believe how much affection flows from the pages. Each one is a road-trip into a past that has softened with time into a seemingly simpler and more caring age. Yeah, I'm sure much of that is an illusion. But it's a damn convincing illusion.
I haven't seen any puzzle book as varied, as well-researched or as fascinating in this in nigh on three decades now.
Où elles sont, ne de cest an,
Qu'à ce reffrain ne vous remaine:
Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?
Sans couleurs, ils sont noir, gris, et blanche comme lis.
(Without color, they are black, grey, and white as the lily).
But so beautiful all the same. Five webs.