The Unlucky 13: Marvel Titles That Deserve More Attention

List items

  • While the content of Worlds Unknown falls outside of mainstream continuity, all eight issues of this 1973 series contained amazing adaptations of stories and movies from sci-fi, fantasy, and horror greats, like Theodore Sturgeon, L. Sprague de Camp, and A.E. Van Vogt, to name a few.

  • Guy Davis (Sandman Mystery Theater, Baker Street) lent his considerable talent to this four-issue limited series about Daily Bugle reporter Kat Farrell trying to sort why supervillains are turning up dead in the back alleys of New York City. It has been collected into a trade paperback.

  • A three-issued limited series w/ story and art by bloody legend Brendan McCarthy (Mad Max: Fury Road, Judge Dredd). Dr. Strange goes on a magickal mystery tour to rescue Spider-Man from the Arachnix, some spider-demons who want the wall-crawler for a midnight snack. Also available collected into a trade paperback.

  • Like Worlds Unknown, Supernatural Thrillers began as horror and sci-fi adaptations, but in #5, along comes N'Kantu, the Living Mummy. N'Kantu has one of the more compelling backgrounds of any of Marvel's original horror characters, an African prince who is betrayed and cursed with immortality to awaken in the Marvel Universe. His adventures lead him into conflict with a classic X-Men foe, a cabal of immortal elementals, and law-enforcement and military types (who usually step-up when rampaging monsters are on the loose).

  • A short-lived horror anthology story with some stories that overlapped into mainstream continuity, Tower of Shadows is a gallery of legendary artists like Barry Windsor Smith, Wally Wood, Jack Kirby, Syd Shores, and more. Also, the Crypt Keeper-esque narrator, The Digger, later joined the Shroud's Night Shift as a villain, bashing heroes with his shovel, and the Tower itself apparently became the team's base of operations.

  • A one-shot with beautiful art by Nexus creator Steve Rude, this story may not have had ramifications for either company's metaplot, but it is beautifully told, nonetheless. In spite of rolling out in 1999, this book had a conservative print run and was not reprinted to excess. If you find one, snag it. You won't regret it.

  • Jae Lee illustrates this Bruce Jones story as the ever-lovin', blue-eyed idol of millions and Bruce Banner's surly alter ego take a trip down memory lane... and lay into one another frequently along the way. The trade paperback collects this series and 1974's Thing/Hulk bout from Giant-Size Super-Stars # 1 (one of the first Marvel books to sport "Giant-Size" in the title; sorry, X-Men and Man-Thing). Trade or not, be like Tom Haverford or Donna Meagle and treat yourself.

  • With the success of Larry Hama and Michael Golden's The 'Nam, Marvel rolled out this series, each issue telling a different story of the United States Marine Corps. One of the last projects John Severin was involved in, this book doesn't feature any Frank Castle in 'Nam stories or overlap with Marvel's superhero books. It's just a nice homage to the men and women who have fought and sometimes died to preserve America. Reading this, only a callous @$$ would call these men and women "losers" or "suckers." Sadly, Semper Fi has not been collected in trade form.

  • While Dynamite currently holds the license for this Edgar Rice Burroughs' property, in the late-70s, Marvel picked up John Carter and Tarzan from DC. The result here is science fiction adventure captured on the printed page with the epic treatment that the characters deserve.

  • #0, # 1/2, and then guess how many issues are in this limited series penned by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Chris Weston. The story follows a team of mystery men from the Timely-era who go on a secret mission to end WWII... but something goes wrong and they end up in suspended animation, forgotten by the world. Well, at least until they are revived. BUT! This isn't another Captain America-Invaders story. It's quite mental. I. LOVE. IT! And so will you, I wager, unless you prefer crap.

  • Brent Anderson, Armando Gil, Ron Frenz, and Paul Neary are just some of the artists involved in one of the most quietly controversial Marvel books to life. In # 23, Ka-Zar is raped by Ramona Starr, an AIM agent who threatens to have Shanna the She-Devil and Zabu killed if he doesn't comply with her desires. Shanna also contemplates suicide when she thinks Ka-Zar might be dead. The whole series is gorgeous, inside and out. Belasco first appears in this title, and Kraven the Hunter and Spider-Man show up later on. It's mature storytelling in the Marvel Universe with a pulp feel.

  • Vanth Dreadstar is my jam, as the young people probably don't say anymore. Fresh off the heels of the Adam Warlock-Mar-Vell-Thanos odyssey that set the bar so high for other writers and artists who followed, Jim Starlin began this storyworld for Epic Illustrated. It evolved into an ongoing series for Marvel's Epic imprint, and then survived cancellation by moving on to First Comics. BUT! The scope of this story and the profound treatment with which Starlin gives each of the characters herein is timeless storytelling. While back issues pop up in bargain bins and quarter boxes across the U.S., that's mental to me. This is every bit as deserving a read as Starlin's cosmic tales set in the regular Marvel U.

  • And that brings us to Crazy, Marvel's rival for readers' attention against magazines like Mad, Cracked, and National Lampoon. I like to laugh, and this magazine did just that. That writers and artists I have long admired lent their talents to the title certainly helped. Remember the Crazy ads from the early 80s with Batroc the Leaper? The first time I saw that ad, I was sold. Give it a try; I think you will be too.