Hank McCoy: Before the Fur

Tedd Riccio is a comic book aficionado chock full of useful comic history knowledge. So why not tap into that knowledge for the betterment of you, the reader? Appearing weekly is a column by newly appointed Assistant Editor Tedd (just Tedd will be fine). This column is called “Hank McCoy (Before the Fur),” so be sure to keep your eyes open for his unique insights into comics.

When I was a kid, the Avengers were really lame. Seriously. I know it’s difficult to believe- right now, there are at least three different excellent Avengers comics (New Avengers, Mighty Avengers, and Ultimates). Suddenly, some of the best writers in the business are scrambling over themselves to crank out Avengers comics. But really, if you read anything in the late 80’s or early 90’s with an Avengers label on it…well, it wasn’t exactly epic story-telling. It was kind of like the Island of Lost Toys for Marvel Superheroes- anyone who wasn’t a mutant, wasn’t a Spider-man, and wasn’t the Hulk, and that Marvel didn’t really know what else to do with, tended to gravitate there.

The lineup changed so fast you could barely understand what was happening in the book and the art wasn’t exactly stellar. I mean, it wasn’t without ANY merit- in fact, there were a few cool characters tucked away in there that I really liked (Sersi, Crystal, Black Panther, etc.). But mostly, it was a comic book that just never really caught it stride. I mean, the Fantastic Four were a family, X-Men was about prejudice, Spider-man was funny and romantic, Hulk was an outcast, and the Avengers…what were they about again? About being super-heroes, I guess. But there wasn’t a…focus, really. I mean, to be fair, it’s hard to focus a book that features a World War II legend, technological body suits, real life Norse gods, soviet super-spies, mutants (and one mutant that used magic…kind of), Inhumans, Eternals, robots, modern day knights, and…well you get the idea. Not the most coherent, focused story. I mean, in theory, it was kind of like Justice League- a meeting of the big names. But in the 90’s, the Avengers were very quickly fading into obscurity and were hardly big names anymore- after all, why read that book when you had numerous well written and drawn X-Men titles on the rack? Or HEY, why not just read Justice League for that matter?

But today, obviously, the Avengers have had a come-back of sorts. And a strong one at that. Somehow, this comic went from one of the worst to the best written anyone had seen in a while. I admit, the new line-up in New Avengers has enticed a lot of readers- it’s been really cool to see Spider-man and Luke Cage step up to the big leagues for a change. Of course, Jessica Drew has stolen the spot-light a bit- Wolverine and Cap on the same team? It was something to watch.

But the thing is, it’s hasn’t just been the switch-up. A lot of older Avengers characters are popular again- Carol Danvers, Black Panther, Hawkeye…I attribute a great deal of this success to Bendis- I swear, that guy could make the Tick a poignant, riveting comic series if he put his mind to it. But if I could point to one thing and say “there, that’s what changed”, I’d really have to tip my hat to Mark Millar’s run on the Ultimates.

Of all the modernized revamps in the ultimate continuity, this one has been really rewarding. Years ago, if you had asked me if there was ever going to be an Avengers movie, I would have assumed that chances were pretty slim. I mean, it was such a bizarre story to tell- even for comic books. It could have degraded into campy-ness so easily. But the fan friendly Ultiamte continuity always has a little bit of that blockbuster Hollywood movie, hour long primetime T.V. show flavor going on. And Millar made Ultimates WORK and for the first time- I could SEE a tangible movie coming together. This incarnation of the Avengers were a lot less super-hero, and a lot more…Tom Clancy government strike-team, kind of thing. They were young, worried about their careers, worried about the press, and in the media spotlight. At the same time, they enforced S.H.I.E.L.D. policy like a military police force. It came together so cleanly, like it was always meant to- even Thor. In fact, I’ve really gotta hand it to this modern day clean-up of a character that flew around saying things like: “Hark! Fowl Villains await our arrival! Methinks a trap awaits!” and so on. I mean, who would believe this character right?

But that’s the thing in Ultimates- they don’t believe him. When Thor starts talking about Asgard and Loki, Cap gets a disgusted look on his face and says “Thor, please!” and storms out of the room. It makes sense- well, more sense than the modern world wholly accepting that the Asgardian realm is just out there, floating in space somewhere.


You may have noticed Samuel “Colonel Fury” Jackson’s cameo in Iron Man. This casting is hardly an arbitrary move on Marvel’s part- take a look at the Ultimate continuity’s Colonel Fury and you’ll see what I mean. Some of the panels are like pictures of Samuel Jackson that Marvel put a piece of sheet paper over and traced. He IS Samuel Jackson- he even says Samuel Jackson should play him in a movie (shameless, but funny, plug scene). So if you are looking for a taste of what Marvel’s future feature films might be like, I’d highly advise checking Ultimates 1 and 2 out (not 3…oh, they did terrible, strange things in 3. Terrible. And strange. Lets just pretend it isn’t happening). If nothing else, great writing and great art- highly recommend it.