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Old Comic Book Stories

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was reading through some old comic books. In that earlier post, I talked about the vintage advertisements in those old books. Well, now I want to talk about the old stories told in those pages — really hokey stories. I’ve noticed two patterns in the old stories that now just astonish me.

The first story pattern is how coincidental everything is. I know coincidence has always been a part of story telling, especially comic book stories. And it still is a part of story telling, especially comic book stories. I mean, really, it seems that Peter Parker can’t go to the library without some super villain attacking. But I always looked at that as: Peter goes to the library all the time, and nothing ever happens; the comic book story only bothers to show the time something does happen. We comic book readers wouldn’t be interested in reading about the dozen times that week that Pete sat in peace and studied his chemistry. It’s the one time when Green Goblin blasts in, and Pete has to change into Spider-Man, that we buy the comic for.

But some coincidences are just so unbelievably lucky or unlucky that I just have to roll my eyes. For instance, in Iron Man #174, (September 1983), when bad guys are breaking into Tony Stark’s labs, (where he keeps several sets of the Iron Man armor), Tony’s allies fly the suits away via remote control. This is a neat trick and bit of team work. Eleven suits of armor fly up and out over the coast and are ditched into the Atlantic Ocean.

In the next issue of Iron Man, we see that the suits of high-tech armor came to rest on the ocean floor right next to Warlord Krang’s palace. Out of the entire Atlantic Ocean, the Iron Man suits coincidentally fall right in the lap of “a water-breathin’ Hitler,” as Nick Fury describes him in this issue. Really. That’s like a nuclear-powered satellite falling out of orbit and randomly crashing within the walls of a certain compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, (before May 1, 2011).

Iron Man 175

The second story pattern is how quickly comic book stories get resolved. The story about the rush to grab the loose Iron Man armors could easily fill six months worth of comic book issues, what with S.H.I.E.L.D going in, Krang’s troops going for them, and Iron Man himself rushing to beat both of them.

Hell, Nick Fury says the armor fell into international waters, so imagine how many countries, including the U.S., would be mounting recovery, (read: looting), expeditions. It could be a whirlwind (whirlpool) of activity with a dozen opposing groups trying to be the first to find, collect, and get away with the Iron Man armors. That’s a whole friggin’ epic story arc, right there; that plot could be running as main and sub plot for years to follow.

But no. The whole story is started and finished in one issue. Iron Man ends up slagging the whole collection of extra armor suits with a “fusion pod.” What a waste of a really good plot. Did the writers have so many stories in backup that they could so easily solve and throw away such potentially long-lasting plots?


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5 Responses to Old Comic Book Stories

  1. Comical says:

    Aren’t stories in modern comic books about the same? Concidence and one issue resolution. Nothing has changed.

  2. Frederick Burg says:

    The one issue stories was more common back in the early days of comics. Modern comics will tend to have longer stories with arcs that can fit in a trade paperback length book.

  3. Dee says:

    As the mother of a 14 year old son, I can only say that comic books have changed a lot since I was a kid. My son loves “graphic novels” now – book length comic books. He also loves to read though, and comics were a way for him to get used to reading in English [his first language was Russian; I adopted him 4 years ago.] I am just happy he reads at all.

  4. Bullgrit says:

    Dee, I agree that comic books have changed a lot since we were kids. But, then, the world has changed a lot through those years. As the culture goes, so goes comic books, and every other type of entertainment.

    It’s cool that your son used comic books to learn/improve his English.

    Frederick Burg, that’s a good point about fitting stories to book length.

    Comical, the more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess.

  5. Well, there is the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Been around for years and has a bunch of short mystery stories in each of them. I wish I saved a few of them. There’s a couple I remember that was so great, I want to read again. :~(

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