An Anthology Gemstone
by Avi Green
May 26, 2022
Marvel Fanfare: Strange Tales TPB
Writers and artists: various
Back in 1982-91, for at least 60 bimonthly issues, Marvel published
the Fanfare anthology, edited mainly by Al Milgrom, which contained
random stories spotlighting various superheroes of their universe.
It was a very bold experiment in something to sell primarily in
direct sales, and sported some of the best storytelling of its time.
What I'm writing about here is a trade paperback from 2011
reprinting the first 7 issues of this anthology series, which has
some very entertaining stories to offer, usually edited so there
could be 2 or 3 stories per issue, and without ads, which Milgrom
found far more comfortable. He also began the issues with a humorous
illustrated editorial where he'd tell what to expect. Though it's
the only trade of its sort focused straight on the anthology itself
to date, and with the advent of Epic Collections, Marvel's been more
likely to reprint the stories there, what we have here is still very
engaging to discuss. So, let's begin.
The anthology first began with a story co-starring both Archangel of
the X-Men, and Spider-Man. They're looking into the case of the
scientist Dr. Karl Lykos, who was bitten by mutant pterodactyls and
became a hybrid of a flying reptile himself, named Sauron, not
unlike how Dr. Curt Connors became the Lizard in Spider-Man. To try
and cure himself of this misfortune, Lykos had traveled to the
Savage Land, the parallel world accessible through an opening in the
earth located in Antarctica, and the world where Lord Kevin Plunder,
the 2nd Ka-Zar, often lived. An old lover of Karl's, Tanya
Andersson, whom Karl was defending from attacks by the same animals,
wishes to find him, and so Angel and Spidey get into action in order
to help her.
So, they travel to the Savage Land, and as expected, run into the
usual dangers, including an army of advanced mutants Sauron's brewed
up as enforcers for his reign in the alternate world. This story,
which takes place in the first 2 issues of the anthology, is most
brilliant, and would set the bar for plenty of stellar tales to come
in consecutive issues.
In the next issues, 3-4, the X-Men travel again to the Savage Land
to see if they can find Lykos again, who's still in his Sauron form,
and he's got his army of transformed mutates to back him up. They
capture the X-Men, with the intent of reverting them to primitive
forms, and it's up to Angel and Ka-Zar to rescue the captured X-Men
from Sauron's clutches. It succeeds in presenting a most suspenseful
story worth reading.
The backup stories include tales featuring Daredevil, Fantastic
Four, Captain America, Deathlok, and subsequent installments even
star Doctor Strange, and also his lover Clea. There's also some
spotlighting Iron Man and the Hulk. Might I add the Strange entries
are also quite marvelous? Indeed they are. Chris Claremont and Bill
Mantlo, among other writers here, were at their best writing the
scripts for these Bronze Age gems.
And the artwork is fantastic for its time, emphasizing these
self-contained stories with relish. Overall, this is a very fine
project for its time, produced as it was by editors and writers who
actually care about the material. As a result, it's honestly a shame
no further volumes were produced specially to archive this
anthology, but this has since been offset by how the Marvel Epic
Collections have since included a number of the entries in their
pages and archives, which means that anybody who'd like to read up
on some of the rest of the tales will be able to find some of them
So for now, I'd highly recommend this gem of a paperback as a good
starting point for anybody interested in Al Milgrom's most famous
job as an editor. It really does make for good reading in a
Copyright 2022 Avi Green. All rights reserved.