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The Greatest Bill Mantlo Stories Ever Told!

Every day in November we will reveal the greatest stories ever told starring a particular character or written/drawn by a particular creator (and throughout the month, you’ll get daily chances to vote for NEXT week’s lists). These lists are voted on by YOU, the reader!

Here is the list of characters/creators featured so far (along with the rules on how to vote).

Today’s list is the Greatest Bill Mantlo Stories Ever Told!


Sorry for the delay in getting this up!

10. The Incredible Hulk #254 “Waiting for the U-Foes”

In this issue, Mantlo introduced one of the most clever additions to the Hulk’s Rogues Gallery in years with a villainous version of the Fantastic Four. The U-Foes have become fixtures in the Marvel Universe since. Sal Buscema did the art.

9. Vision and Scarlet Witch #1-4

In this memorable mini-series, Mantlo finally revealed what fans had been guessing for awhile at the time- that Magneto was the father of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver! Rick Leonardi and inkers Ian Akin and Brian Garvey supplied the art.

8. The Incredible Hulk #312 “Monster”

In this notable issue, Mantlo re-visited Bruce Banner’s origins, with this becoming the first time in a published Marvel comic that Bruce’s history of domestic abuse became a part of the eventual formation of the Hulk (this is the first published Marvel comic that addressed the idea of the Hulk being Bruce’s bottled rage at his treatment by his father). Peter David later did a ton with this concept. Mike Mignola and Gerry Talaoc did the art.

7. ROM #31-32 “Choosing Sides”

This two-parter by Mantlo and Sal Buscema (with Joe Sinnott inks) is surprisingly notable in the history of the character of Rogue. It is in this story, of all places, that Rogue first displayed a strong capacity for good.

6. Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #25-31 “Carrion”

The mysterious Carrion was a formidable foe for a number of issues, especially since he knew Spider-Man’s secret identity! As it turned out, he was a clone of Miles Warren – the Jackal! These stories contain some of Frank Miller’s very first artwork for Marvel and his first Daredevil published work (as DD guest-starred in two issues).

5. The Incredible Hulk #256-259 “World Tour”

Mantlo was one of the guys behind the Contest of Champions, where new Marvel international heroes were featured. As a lead-up to the Contest, Mantlo had the Hulk go on a World Tour where we got to see these international heroes, most notably Sabra and the Arabian Knight, spotlighted (while invented for the Contest, they appeared in the Hulk first). Sal Buscema did the art.

4. Cloak and Dagger #1-4

Mantlo and artist Rick Leonardi and Terry Austin gave this popular duo their first solo series in this interesting series.

3. Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #72-79

This sprawling epic began as a fight between the Owl and Doctor Octopus with Spider-Man and the Black Cat stuck in the middle and ended up with a classic battle between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus (after Doc Ock beat Black Cat nearly to death). Al Milgrom and Jim Mooney did the art.

2. The Incredible Hulk #298-300

A deranged Hulk takes on pretty much all of the superheroes Marvel had in the early 1980s in this classic 300th issue spectacular! In the end, Doctor Strange ended up making a dramatic decision regarding the Hulk’s life. Sal Buscema and a variety of inkers did the art.

1. Micronauts #1-11

Mantlo, along with the legendary Michael Golden (and the not-so-shabby himself Joe Rubinstein), introduced the Micronauts into the Marvel Universe with this epic battle of good versus evil as Commander Rann leads his team of rebels against the evil Baron Karza, who has taken over the entire Multiverse!

That’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let me know!


Ronald Jay Kearschner

November 25, 2011 at 4:41 am

Glad Micronauts made the top spot, but why wasn’t issue # 12 included? It wrapped up the war for the Microverse.

Micronauts #1-11 was my no. 1 pick as well (and to answer Ronald’s question above, issue #12, spotlighting Acroyear, was more of an epilogue; I actually voted for that plus #13-14, featuring Bug, as a separate story). I also think Micronauts Annual #1, which features some nice prelude stories, should be considered part of the original epic.
Otherwise, the only other story from my list here is the Carrion arc. Man, there’s so many great Mantlo stories; this could have just as easily been a top 20 list…

I’ve read the U-Foes issue of the Hulk, but I haven’t reached any of the other Hulk issues in my reading yet. I’ve just started the Mantlo Hulk run. I’m quite fond of Iron Man 78, but that didn’t make the list.

Great list. The first U-Foes appearance was my #1 pick. I loved the premise of villains trying to re-create the FF’s powers, I loved the execution of the story, the original powers, the visuals, the actions, the quite horrific twist ending, and the Hulk’s trademark melancholy at the end.

I also included the Alpha Flight appearance in Rom (#’s 56-57). It was a really interesting portrayal of the tragedy of a natural disaster (technically, the flood’s caused by Dire Wraiths, but it pretty much becomes like a natural disaster). The idea of superheroes actually unable to save everybody, but having to be grateful for the lives they do save, was quite moving and a departure from typical superhero outcomes at the time.

And I love that battle royal in Hulk #300, particularly the Power Man/Iron Fist take-downs!

Vision/Scarlet Witch was a great look at not just the Magneto family angle, but all the other family dynamics in that weird couple (like the Whizzer/Ms. America and Wonder Man/Grim Reaper issues too).

Hulk 312 is of course a classic.

Mantlo made for a lot of happy comic book memories back in the day…

Rumor has it that Bill Mantlo stole Bruce Banner’s origin as an abused child from an unpublished, uncomplteted Barry Windsor-Smith story (was that ever recounted in Comic Book Legends?) but aside from that, yes, I think Mantlo was a very talented, underrated writer. Rom Spaceknight is one of my all time favorite Marvel series, the characters of Cloak & Dagger he co-created with Ed Hannigan were really awesome, and he had very solid, respectable runs on Spectacular Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, and Alpha Flight.

It was a tremendous tragedy that he was struck by a hit & run driver all those years ago, suffering apparently irreversible brain damage. Definitely one of the saddest events involving someone in the industry that I’ve ever heard.

Bill Mantlo really was amazing, wasn’t he?

I think that he gets underrated because so much of his best work was in non-“core” Marvel titles. MICRONAUTS was amazing. ROM was wildly inventive. However, both were licensed properties that have since left the Marvel Universe.

What, no Hypno Hustler?

Also, Brain, you said you’d give us the results to the Spider-Man poll this week!

this is the first of these “greatest” lists that really made me wish that the publisher/publishers involved were tuning in and would then put out a tpb of these issues. this would be a fabulous evening of reading. (love the characters; love the stories, love the art – well, most of it!).


Did Milgrom do that Peter Parker cover. I love it. I would buy that.

The Micronauts — especially the first 12 issues — was a true classic, and Golden’s art simply amazing. I agree with the top choice completely!

Even though only two of these were on my personal top ten, I can’t argue with any of these choices. Damn, Mantlo was good. I’d be interested in seeing others’ individual top tens, as his body of work was so extensive that I know there are some hidden gems out there that I have yet to read!

1. Incredible Hulk #300 “Days of Rage”
2. Luke Cage, Power Man #29 “No One Laughs at Mr. Fish”
3. Champions #14-15 ‘Swarm!’
4. Spectacular Spider-Man #36-37 ‘Swarm!’
5. Spectacular Spider-Man #81-83 ‘Cloak & Dagger/Punisher/Kingpin’
6. Rom #31-32 ‘vs. Brotherhood of Evil Mutants’
7. Incredible Hulk #272 “Weirdsong of the Wendigo” (w/Sasquatch!)
8. Super-Villain Team-Up #14, Champions #16… ‘Dr. Doom, Magneto, Champions, Avengers, Hulk, & Jimmy Carter!’

9. Spectacular Spider-Man #66 “Electro Will Be Free”
10. X-Men #106 “Dark Shroud of the Past”

I didn’t vote because I haven’t read enough of Mantlo’s work, my top 10 would have just been various picks from his Hulk run with Sal Buscema!

I forgot to vote. I starting making a list and got distracted.

Hulk 290 was there. Rom 23 – 28? The issues involving the return to Galador which introduced me to a larger Marvel Universe as Mr Fantastic, PM/IF, Nova, Terrax & Galactus guest starred. Rom 49 as the entire supporting cast gets massacrred. But I’d forgotton he wrote Champions. and Vision &Scarlet Witch. and as for Micronauts….. not read it, but am in the process of tracking issues down

He wrote so much good stuff

Question: My Comic Shop’s website lists Hulk 254-265 as a 12-part story called World Tour. Is this not the case?

And (hypothetically) if it is the case, and the votes for Hulk 254 are combined with the votes for Hulk 256-259, where would that story rank, and what story would move into the #10 spot?

ookerdookers – don’t have my entire list handy (I rather stupidly don’t usually save them once I mail them off to Brian), but besides the three I mentioned above some of my other picks included the Rocket Raccoon mini, the Rocket Raccoon issue of Incredible Hulk (#271), the Glorian “Daydream” story from Incredible Hulk #267, the Killraven “Dreamdome” story from Amazing Adventures #38, and the introduction of White Tiger in Spectacular Spider-man #9-10. And I also think – but can’t remember entirely, because I remember agonizing over my last few picks – I included the big Spider-man time travel story from Marvel Team-up #41-46 (or maybe it was the Presence/Soviet Super Soldiers story from Incredible Hulk #258-259…)

I do wish Marvel could iron out some kind of arrangement with Hasbro and get Micronauts back out there, even if just in Essential format. They already have their toy license, you’d hope they could extend it a bit to get that done. They managed it with Godzilla!

Jim Shooter goes into the connection to the BWS Hulk story here:

While I’m therefore disappointed that this particular Hulk story appears here, the rest of the list is great. I love the original Cloak and Dagger mini and the Micronauts are superb. I’m only disappointed more of ROM didn’t appear here.

How did it line up bellow the top ten Brian?

I failed to vote in this one so I’ll throw out love for the Human Fly here in the comments section, the first issue of which would have placed well for me.

That said, yay for Micronauts!

I’m having trouble voting on some of these. To me the Vision/Scarlet Witch mini-series is really three or four individual stories as opposed to being a single story.

Wow, I always knew in the back of my head that Bill Mantlo was pretty awesome, but until I saw this list, I never realized just how awesome!

About 80% of this list are stories I can remember as though I just read them yesterday, even though it’s been more than 20 years since the last time I read most of them.

I’m really glad to see the original Carrion story up here, as well as the Black Cat / Doc Ock saga. My father loved those issues so much, and I grew up looking at them as classics.

nice to see cloak and dagger did make the list after all though thought it would include the team up with spider man to stop the punisher from killing the kingpin. plus also love how his run on hulk almost took up most of the list. though surprised rom did not rate higher. and too bad marvel has yet to put more of his work in trade at least all but rom

Glad to see that Cloak & Dagger and Vision & Scarlet Witch made the list but I would have also included The Jack of Hearts mini-series.

Ooooh, Amazon’s listing have just thrown up two Mantlo Hulk trades in the near future:

Pardoned http://www.amazon.com/Incredible-Hulk-Pardoned-Bill-Mantlo/dp/0785162089/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b Collects Hulk 269-285

Regression http://www.amazon.com/Incredible-Hulk-Regression-Bill-Mantlo/dp/0785162593/ref=sr_1_25?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325416012&sr=1-25 Collects 286-300

Not 286-295, 297-300.

They think 296 is in there. oooooooh

A few of my favorite Marvel stories are on this list, among them the “Owl-Octopus War,” the Hulk story that served as a prelude to the “Crossroads” epic, and the Carrion story in “Spectacular,” which I believe is also known as “Ashes to Ashes.”

A note on that latter story, I was really disappointed to discover that Marvel recently dumped that storyline into the recent “Original Clone Saga” trade, since there are at least 40 issues of both “Amazing” and “Spectacular” that take place between the actual Clone saga in “Amazing” and the Carrion story in “Spectacular.” I understand the connection between the two stories, but still, I’m sure Marvel could have made more money off two books as opposed to one big one. Maybe I’m wrong.

I really hope Marvel attempts at some point puts out a “‘Spectacular Spider-Man’ by Mantlo” series of tpb’s along the lines of the “‘FF’ by Byrne,” “‘Incredible Hulk’ by David” and “Thor by Simonson” tpb series they currently produce, with the Carrion and Owl-Octopus stories each taking up a volume. Mantlo is an underrated but talented author. Perhaps if they did a “‘Spectacular’ by Mantlo” series of tpb’s they could have part of the proceeds benefit the Hero Fund, since I believe he is still in need of 24-hour care, correct?

I really hope Marvel attempts at some point puts out a “‘Spectacular Spider-Man’ by Mantlo” series of tpb’s

All of Mantlo’s Spectacular is now available in Essentials.

They think 296 is in there. oooooooh

That would be fantastic, but I can’t imagine that it’s actually true.

Dang, messed up my blockquote tags somehow.

The number of times I’ve done that or used BB code instead of html……

without 296 the book isn’t worth doing: it’s crucial to the story

Maybe they’ll just swap ROM out for one of the Spaceknights they actually own. Or, I dunno, Star-Lord or something. But if they actually could sneak ROM into an upcoming collection, it’d make my day.

[…] Comics Should Be Good recently compiled a run-down of his ten greatest stories, which are worth a look at. Nobody was more prolific than Bill Mantlo! If you’d like to read more about his work in comics, I’d like to point you to this site, where you can buy a biography of his career. […]

[…] He was the first Spider-Man villain to appear in two consecutive issues, although this arguably wasn’t a two-parter since Amazing Spider-Man #11 didn’t really end in a cliffhanger. He led the Sinister Six in the first Spider-Man annual. He was the primary antagonist of the Master Planner saga, the first three-part Spider-Man story, although he actually only appeared in seven pages of the middle chapter. His next story was a four parter, unprecedented in Spider-Man comics. Captain America might fight the Red Skull for six issues, but Spider-Man had almost always sent his bad guys to jail at the end of two issues, three on rare occasions. It would be almost a decade later when a member of the rogues gallery appeared in a longer storyline, when the Bart Hamilton Green Goblin was the bad guy for a five-part saga. Though a few years later, Doctor Octopus was the main villain in the eight part Octopus/ Owl war, considered the highlight of Bill Mantlo’s Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man run. […]

ROM #24 is one of the first two comic books I ever bought with my own money :-D It’s a nice way to tie up the Nova series, though I’m glad Erik Larsen and subsequent creators like Abnett/ Lanning continued his story. (Wolfman left for DC just before ROM #24 was created so it was a way of tying up the character’s legacy for the time being.) Now when I came on to assist Joe Phillips for a brief while, one of our first conversations was how interesting it was to bring Rich Ryder back to Earth sans powers. That one idea sparks a corner of my own creative universe: it’s like Howard the Duck’s “What to do the Night After You Save the Universe?” story, that kind of quiet interface that makes the comic book world merge so readily with our own, especially when we are the young “secret identity” !

Meanwhile :-D the ROM series –despite starting out with stories where the character’s name is used three to five times a page, by himself and those conversing with him, which may be a late 70’s thing—is a warm reminder of our honeymoon. My doll adored Mantlo’s Shakespearean (Surfer)-like diction and the romantic tragedy of Rom and Brandy, through about three dozen mid-run issues we found for a dime each and read together on the floor. I wrote a tribute to that memory through Zon, Cosmic Knight From Beyond, in my novel. Hey, I’m not playin’ with Parker Brothers unless it’s a board game :-D

The Spectacular Spider-Man covers from Mantlo’s second run were full of brilliant graphic art ideas, weren’t they? Al Milgrom and Frank Springer may not be spoken of with the hushed tones of a Perez or Byrne, but their cover ideas were dramatic, even heart-pounding! To use a more straight-forward but visceral example, Spider-Man holding a bloodied Black Cat will remain sketched forever in my young memory (#76—the copy I borrowed was in bad shape, too, which just adds to the effect!)

Finally, “The Machine or the Mountain?” issue of HULK, with the death of Glenn Talbot, was one of the rare comics Mom bought me in those days. “Sunset of a Samurai!” in #260 was my first significant exposure to Japanese culture, and the director’s story alongside the battle with Talbot was maybe the richest comic book I had ever read for the first years of my life. Hulk’s trademark melancholy, indeed! Hulk stories often relied on transient characters to embolden the drama and human element, as the character was relatively limited before Peter David.

When I read the synopses for the MTU time travel stories, I was enthralled, trying to block that action out in the style of those terrific covers, one bleak and exciting alternative history/ future after the next, complete with Doctor Doom! I think the concept and character choices are even better than the execution, but they’re so quintessentially 70’s! I loved those Olshevsky indices…perfect for the collector with limited cash…great for the imagination! Probably why I still let the ‘Net and blogs like this substitute for my mostly-distant comics collection.

It’s just as well we don’t have the story of Spidey’s illegitimate child on the list :-D and I rarely felt Mantlo captured naturalistic dialogue like, say, Roger Stern. Yet, his Stan Lee-inspired melodrama, so often paired with Buscema’s rhomboid mouths, is a delightful callback to childhood for many of us visiting here.

remember getting hulk 300 and 312 when they came out. both exciting times for the hulk. the former for the establishment of a new status quo (a bannerless hulk in alternative dimensions) and the latter for the all important origin story which explained banners issues

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