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 there.

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 self-contained sense.

Copyright 2022 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

Home FAQ Columns Reviews Links Favorite Characters Special Features Politics Blog Comics Blog Food Blog