Another Berkeley Place top 10, this time focusing on a writer who was at his best when Marvel was at its best: The mid ‘80s to early ‘90s. David Michelinie is best known as the writer of “Demon in the Bottle” for Iron Man and as the creator of Venom, but he also created Carnage and several lesser-known but important characters like Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine. He revived the Iron Man foe Blizzard, and reinvented Ant Man as Scott Lang—a thief! Perfect origin for a size-changer!
He was also influential at DC for a brief period when he wrote the story in which Black Manta killed off Aquaman’s son (Adventure Comics #452), which has been credited as the book responsible for Aquaman subsequently getting his own monthly title. And then there’s his seminal work on Iron Man. In fact, this top 10 could probably consist of nothing more than issues of Iron Man and Spider-Man, but I’ve tried to share the wealth by adding a little breadth.
Hit the break!
BERKELEY PLACE’S TOP 10 DAVE MICHELINIE COMICS
10. Marvel Premiere #47-48
The first appearance of Scott Lang, who broke into Hank Pym’s house to get money to pay his daughter’s medical bills and found the Ant Man equipment. Scott is my favorite Ant Man. Yes, I have a favorite Ant Man.
9. The Amazing Spider-Man #329
Remember when Spidey became Captain Universe? Yes, it was a very weird time in comics. And it was then that Dave created the “Tri-Sentinel,” coming out of the “Acts of Vengeance” event, who was trying to blow up a nuclear reactor. As far as I know, this is the only time Loki resorted to modern science (i.e., robotics), rather than magic, to cause havoc.
8. Venom: Lethal Protector
One of my favorite Marvel Graphic Novels is The Avengers: The Vault. Before “the Raft” and Rykers being the primary superprison, the Marvel U housed the worst of the worst in “The Vault,” which was actually run by The Thing for a short time. In this six-issue mini, The Sentry (not the one from The Avengers, an earlier one) heads up a team to hunt down Venom, who escaped from the prison and killed a guard. Most Venom comics are pretty dumb, but not this one. It’s also notable because Michelinie created a whole team of heroes for this mini rather than relying on existing characters, which led to the sense that anything could happen. We all know Spider-Man won’t really die. But a bunch of Guardsmen? Now that’s a possibility.
This was also Venom’s first solo book, proving that the character had independent marketability.
7. Avengers Vol. 1 #185-187
The classic story of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s childhood, and the half-woman/half-cow who raised them. It was also an early example of Wanda going batshit crazy and trying to kill The Avengers.
6. Iron Man #131-133
It’s got a terrific fight between Iron Man and Hulk. It’s got Ant Man traveling through Tony’s armor, as Tony is paralyzed from the effort to defeat the jolly green giant. If you’re a fan of 1980s superheroics—unsubtle, action-packed adventures—this is a can’t miss set of issues. With the great Bob Layton, of course.
5. The Avengers Vol. 1 #183-184
Just a great ride: The Avengers versus The Absorbing Man. It was the first time I’d read about this villain, and it was love at first sight. The absorbing power is cool, but having a wrecking ball as a weapon was so totally random that it sold the character.
4. The Bozz Chronicles
A 6-issue series under Marvel’s “Epic” imprint about a fat, odd-looking alien detective solving X-Files type crimes in Victorian England because, if he wasn’t working a case, he got so depressed by life on Earth that he wanted to kill himself. Yes, it was extremely weird—and fascinating. This was a character-driving series, and it’s a damn shame it never went further.
3. The Amazing Spider-Man #298-300
The first Todd McFarlane issues, and the first appearance of Venom. Extremely well done.
2. The Avengers Vol. 1 #223
Michelinie created Taskmaster in issue #196, but it was in this issue—the famous Hawkeye/Ant-Man team-up—that showed how great Taskmaster could really be.
1. Iron Man #120-128: Demon in a Bottle
If you haven’t heard of this comic, you’re not a comic book fan. Cowritten with Bob Layton and illustrated by John Romita, Jr. (back when JRJ was in his prime) and Layton (who in my view is the greatest Iron Man artist of all time), this was the first comic to deal with alcoholism in a real and meaningful way. It led to years of comics that related back to the fall of Stark’s company and his struggle to build back his reputation (and wealth)—it moved Iron Man from a kind of lame James Bond cipher to much more realistic corporate personality. It’s probably one of the greatest comic book stories of all time, isn’t dated in the least, and won the Eagle in 1980.