TOP 5 MARVEL GUEST APPEARANCES
A guest appearance or cross over doesn’t seem an alien concept in comics anymore. Batman and Superman too of the most instantly recognisable characters in comics didn’t cross over until Superman #76 in 1952. Nearly fifteen years after they both made their debuts! Superman in Batman!!! The Holy Trinity!!! Stan Lee changed the game for guest appearances when he had the simple idea of having all his stories set in New York, the world outside his window. The ‘Marvel Age’ began with The Fantastic Four and that paved the way. Once Lee and his fellow creators had their pieces in play it was time to cross pollinate. Fantastic Four #4 (1962) is to my knowledge the first guest appearance of another Marvel character in a another series when Submariner drops in. Then in Fantastic Four #12 (1963) is the first time two Lee/Kirby creations meet. The FF would then go onto to appear in Amazing Spider-Man #1 (1963) and Daredevil #1 (1964). Hornhead and Webhead would the appear in each others books first Amazing Spider-Man #16 (1964) and Daredevil #16-#17 (1966). So Stan Lee laid the foundation for a comic trick that has become a go to. Guest appearance issues are highly sought after by collectors. On the cynical side they tend to occur when a title needs a boost or when a character has a movie out so they pop up everywhere for ultimate exposure. There are times when it works well though for example Tom Taylor has been using the concept to excellent success in his current All New Wolverine run. Now some rules for my list. Incredible Hulk #181 (1974) and Amazing Spider-Man #129 (1974) will not be included as there was no telling how well received Wolverine and Punisher would be! My list is for established characters appearing in established series. So I could include Avengers #4 (1964) but I’ve never read it so that is out too. On with the list.
The Punisher #3 (Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, Jimmy Palmiotti)
The ‘Welcome Back Frank’ story arc this issue appears in is essentially the blueprint for what would become Punisher MAX under the same creative team. The MAX continuity is very much set in the real world. It is the one man war on crime Punisher stories should always be. Ennis lays some ground work in this issue for the premise of his real world setting. Punisher and Daredevil first became to blows during Frank Millers run and since then writers have always pitted their differing values against each other. Daredevil despite being a vigilante believes in the justice system whereas Frank thinks he is judge, jury and executioner. It is a tried and tested formula and there have been times when it has been played that Frank is right. The scene in this issue is the epitome of their relationship. Frank admits DD is not that enemy and he could never beat him in hand to hand combat. But he gets the drop on his sense and then toys with him. He ties DD up with a gun in his hand. Frank is ready to take a shot at a gangster DD would rather see in a court of law. The only way to stop Frank is to shoot him in the head. I won’t spoil the outcome but it is probably the most extreme example of their relationship and a brilliant character piece by Ennis. Frank making his point to Daredevil would shape the way Ennis then went about the MAX version of the character. In this issue Frank emphasis to Daredevil his way is the only way so when the MAX line started there were no capes, no Marvel style cameos. It was Frank in the real world dealing with very real world themes. This scene of course gets a homage in the Daredevil Netflix series. Coincidently in episode three of season two. It is largely a faithful take on the scene perhaps not with the same direct message but the argument between morality and justice.
Tomb Of Dracula #44 (Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan, Tom Palmer)
The Sorcerer Supreme vs The Lord of Vampires! Wong’s life hangs in the balance as Doctor Strange faces off against Dracula! This is the type of story you can only tell in comics. This issue is part of a two part story which is then continued in Doctor Strange #14. I choose this issue out of the two as in my opinion the set up is better than the conclusion 90% of the time. The story has some heavy hitters working on it which always helps. Tomb Of Dracula #44 is written by Marv Wolfman. Whilst Steve Englehart finished the story off during his excellent Doctor Strange run. Legend Gene Colan pulled double duty and provides stunning art for both issues. This issue also plays a small role in comics history. There is a side story with Blade which reaches its conclusion on the last page, last panel. It is the first time Blade has met Hannibal King and in #45 they have their first big meet. I first read this issue in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 3. The old Essential books are a great way of picking up old complete runs that would otherwise be out of your price range. Being in black and white on the old style grade of paper added to the macabre tone of the story and therefore increased my enjoyment of it. Its like a throwback to the old horror comics and the collision of magic and vampires just works. Dracula is a popular and very strongly followed character outside of comics so to see him interact so seamlessly with Marvels heavy hitters makes for great reading.
Iron Fist #15 (Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Dan Green)
Man this issue is fun! Many early guest appearance issues or ‘vs’ issues are based on the concept of two heroes fighting each other without having the full facts of the situation, before putting aside their differences to reach a common goal. This issue take some of those elements and dials them up. For anyone who knows their comic history you will know that Claremont and Byrne were writing both Iron Fist and X-Men at the time. In Claremonts pocket universe of the larger 616 Jean Grey shares an apartment with Misty Knight. This issue doesn’t have major implications for any of the series going forward. Okay it is Iron Fists last issue on his own before eventually teaming with Power Man in a title. In context of X-Men stories it is only a few months after Jean has gained the power of Phoenix. The basic plot revolves around Jean having a party at her apartment and inviting her fellow X-Men. Her and Scott have popped out for some more snacks and Iron Fist drops by after a fight to see Misty. Only Misty isn’t there. Logan is the first to arrive and believes Danny to be a burglar. They fight of course! Oh I should mention Logan comes complete with Fang costume. Logan is thrown out the window into the arms of Colossus and Nightcrawler. Of course! Storm gets a pie in the face! She needs an in to join the fight! Eventually Jean and Scott return and calm everything down and have the party in the end. Like I said fun! There are a few fanboy moments. Firstly if you weren’t reading X-Men at the time when Jean comes in and declares herself to have the power of The Phoenix would have caught you off guard. Secondly Danny compares Logan’s fighting style to Sabertooth who he had fought in the previous issues and hypothesis they could share a connection. There are three bearded gentlemen at the party who I assume to be Claremont, Byrne and Cockrum. While the biggest take away from the issue is the level of enjoyment, the characters involved play it straight. I mean Danny just going up against one X-Man would have been his biggest challenge to date, but the whole team! Colossus comes up against a person who can punch him clear across a room. We rarely get these down time fun moments in comics anymore. This is why it makes the list. Everything nowadays is event driven and epic. Claremont made the X-Men popular by going big and then following it up with a slower beat. Here he manages to do it with two sets of his characters. The X-Men put Claremont on the map and made him a star but his Iron Fist run is very underrated.
Daredevil #178 (Frank Miller, Klaus Janson)
Power Man and Iron Fist appearing in Daredevil became something of a staple during Brian Bendis tenure. With the latter even masquerading as Daredevil at times. This issue came before all that though and more surprisingly it comes from Frank Miller. Not only is it Miller but it is slap bang in the middle of his critically acclaimed run on Daredevil. Three issues before the death of Elektra! So unlike the previous entry on the list this issue is a major stepping stone in the grand scheme of things. Even being Miller it still has some of the quaintness that comes with an early Stan Lee crossover. Nelson and Murdock are working on a big political case with ties to the Kingpin. Foggy being Foggy is worried for Matts safety what with him being ‘blind’ so he hires the Heroes for Hire to protect him. Obviously Matt can take care of himself so spends the issue trying to lose the duo and then they believe Daredevil is interfering in their job. While Millers run on Daredevil was predominantly about Elektra, Bullseye and Kingpin he did have Punisher and Black Widow drop in at times. To see him use Power Man and Iron Fist is a good read. At the time of this issue they were deep into their own series after teaming up to boost sales. He manages to write them with distinctiveness, they are noticeably different from characters who have shown up in his run. They bring an element of comedy to the storyline. While this issue can be read and enjoyed as a done in one it is book ended with two scenes that first reveal to the reader Elektra is now working for Kingpin. Miller runs the full range of artistic skill. The fight scenes are cinematic, reminiscent of his work on Wolverine. He gives Power Man and Iron Fist his famous shading treatment. Some Will Eisner homages and a Kermit balloon in a parade.
The Uncanny X-Men #268 (Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, Scott Williams)
Uncanny X-Men #268 is a literal check list of great fanboy moments. Wolverine! Captain America! Black Widow! Madripoor! Nazis! The Hand! Even Psylocke and Jubilee! This issue was voted 97th in the ‘100 Greatest Single issues’ But the story told between the covers was a game changer for the characters involved. If you’ve always thought Logans old age made it so meeting Cap during the war made sense you have this issue to thank for that. When you consider Cap had been around for nearly fifty years when this issue came out. Black Widow over twenty and Wolverine sixteen it does such a great job of giving a fresh new angle to these beloved characters. The combo of Claremont and Lee are what help make this issue a fan favourite. It could be argued the age of Black Widow doesn’t quite hold up in the retconning. But this story does get referenced time and time again. I picked this issue up well cheap and I don’t even collect Uncanny X-Men. The cover just called to me and I had to have it. The story opens with a Jim Lee splash page of Captain America charging head first into action and its no turning back from there. To say it is Cap guest staring in Uncanny X-Men is a tad unfair. This issue could easily have been in the Wolverine series. Its always good having Psylocke in a story, she has always been one of my favourite X-Men characters. Claremont writes good Jubilee as the little girl jealous of Natasha showing up. Really it could be seen as a sequel/prequel to the brilliant Wolverine mini series by Claremont and Miller. It is Wolverine vs The Hand round two. Also it expands on the relevance of Madripoor, the fictional island in South East Asia that debuted five years earlier. A must for Wolverine fans, but still an enjoyable read for others.
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