It takes very little to get me to rhapsodize over either of the defining writing Steves (Gerber and Englehart) of Marvel’s 1970s super-hero comics. For me, Englehart embodied a number of qualities whose general scarcity led me to dump spandex comics a few years back:
He tended to take fallow ideas and inject them with new life and potential. (The Cat’s old costume + a retired romance comic heroine = Hellcat. Enchantress’s sidekick-weapon becomes independent character and first female Defender. And so on.)
His crossovers were generally restrained and sensible in terms of not derailing the momentum of any of the books involved. Just because comics companies have abused the concept doesn’t mean his Avengers-Defenders War wasn’t an entertaining story.
He tended to leave female characters more interesting and formidable than he found them. Male characters too, now that I think of it.
He managed to find the comedy in melodrama without undermining suspense or lapsing into self-referential cynicism. (Example: rivals Scarlet Witch and Mantis independently coming to the conclusion that Wanda must be the Celestial Madonna, because seriously, consider the alternative.)
Really, Englehart’s (and Gerber’s) comics are some of the few from my childhood that I can still read and enjoy without irony. Or at least too much irony.
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