FW Presents – Marvelous Mantlo

On this special FW Presents creator spotlight, Rob, Max, Ryan, and Shag find their joy in some of the wonderful comics written by Bill Mantlo! Including Cloak and Dagger, The Human Fly, Rom Spaceknight, and the Micronauts!

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13 responses to “FW Presents – Marvelous Mantlo

  1. I am a big fan of Rom and covered every single appearance, waxing Mantlo’s car each time, on the ol’ Blog of Geekery (something I called Spaceknight Saturdays). Truth is, the first issue I ever got was #49, and it freaked me out. The female Dire Wraiths (the witches) are wayyyyyy scarier than the males (scientists) and that issue had full on 70s Body Snatchers vibes. I only ever got Rom when he had guest stars I liked (Alpha Flight, the New Mutants in the 3rd Annual – sorry to correct you, Rob, but there were 4 Annuals, not just one). I liked him but the series scared young me too much.

    Jump ahead to the modern day (post-blogging era) and a friend of mine gets me #1 for my birthday. That’s kind of his way to make me want to go to the comics store with him to get the rest. I walked in, said I was looking for a complete run of Rom (but for 4 issues), they pointed me to a box. There were some missing issues, they went in the back, brought me what was missing. The guy from the store looked at the pile, said “how about 100$?”, I eagerly said yes. (There are some pricier issues in there because the X-Men crash the party or whatever – be prepared for that if you try to collect it.)

    And yes, Mantlo scripted Invasion, which is weird because he was a Marvel guy, but nobody ever talks about the fact that Keith Giffen is credited as co-writer of Rocket Raccoon, which I imagine is what the connection is.

  2. Well, this was delightful. Bill Mantlo was a consistently good, prolific writer, but somehow never got the star treatment, so it was lovely to hear him celebrated. ROM is something I’ve always wanted to read, but the prospect of collecting 75 issues just seems exhausting these days. Hopefully there’ll be a collection at some point if the rights issues are resolved. As an aside, the Spaceknights turned up in Hickman’s absolutely incredible Avengers run, during the Infinity arc, so the series continues to have relevance today.

    If I may reminisce… The earliest days of my comic-reading life are extremely hazy for me, but very probably my first exposure to US comics was #1 of the UK reprint title Mighty World of Marvel, which came out over here in 1983. Incidentally, the colour printing in this thing is totally jacked up and absolutely appalling, but so weirdly nostalgic that the ‘correct’ versions look wrong to me. The lead story was Uncanny X-Men #141, the first part of Days of Future Past. Because there’s no better starting point for the X-Men than an alternate future timeline. It made me an X-fan for life though, even if it was about 15 years before I read the second half of that story. However, of more relevance here is that the back-up story was the first issue of Mantlo and Leonardi’s Vision & the Scarlet Witch, which I also really loved, albeit not quite on the X-Men level. Like it did for Max, that scene of Vision phasing through the ghost burned itself into my 8-year-old retinas. The point of all this rambling is that Mantlo was there right at the beginning of my comics journey, and therefore bears some responsibility for turning me into the massive dork I am today.

  3. Impressive podcast. Most impressive. Mantlo was a great writer. More of a Journeyman wrestler than a jobber. I can’t say what issue I started on. But, I remember buying a few Micronuts. After reading the comic. So I know I read his stuff. It was just before I noted who wrote them. I remember a school councilor having an issue of his on the Hulk. And it was a good issue. Ware he’s in the cross roads. He did great work.

  4. It is too bad New York based Rankin-Bass did not hire Mantlo and Michael Golden to work on their syndicated animated adventure series (Thundercats/Silverhawks/The Comic Strip’s Tigersharks) as they worked with people from comic stips (Leonard Starr and William Overgard) and comic books (Bob Haney, Howard Post, Ron Goulart and Stephen Perry).

  5. I was so glad to see a Bill Mantlo spotlight episode here on the network! Mr. Mantlo was one of my go-to writers in my (long ago) youth, and remains so this day as I re-read his material. I’m one of those who enjoyed Alpha Flight more when Bill Mantlo took over the book, and I also have very fond memories of his run on the Incredible Hulk. I never read a single issue of the Human Fly, but as of now, I am sorely tempted. As far as “Sectaurs” goes, at first I thought that was Marvel’s experiment into directly creating and marketing a toy line, but then I remembered that was “Crystar” instead. But yes, like many of us Mantlo fans, ROM and the Micronauts were two of my favorite series at the time they were coming out. I know that Siskoid blogged about ROM on his Spaceknight Saturdays series, but to give myself an excuse to re-read the title, I’ve also sporadically started blogging about it here: https://maxreadscomics.wordpress.com/?s=rom. Shag is so right about the density of content in the Micronauts, too: it will give you whiplash if you read almost any comic book from the past 15 years and then read an issue of that series. About the only thing I can’t get over from the Micronauts title is the use of the word “Sepsis” as someone’s name that gets used rather often in a “Great Scott”-stlye oath. Great episode as always! Thanks!

  6. Great show guys! Despite my Mego love, Micronauts was a total blindspot for me, other than knowing the comic existed. I was too much of a super hero guy to ever give it or ROM much of a look, which was a shame. I need to rectify that someday. I did have most of Mantlo’s PPTSSM run, although I think I missed the issue where Cloak and Dagger first appeared.

    But man, I want two things: 1) A Human Fly podcast by Max, and 2) A Human Fly documentary AND biopic. I guess that’s three things.

    Nice spotlight on Mantlo. And I agree with some of our listeners. Maybe we should all (including myself) use the term “journeyman” more than “jobber”. It’s at little more complimentary, me thinks.


  7. Bill Mantlo was definitely one of those writers that did amazing work. With Micronaughts and ROM: Spaceknight he proved capable of creating comics that far outlasted and outsold the toys they were meant to promote. Maybe if Jim Shooter had kept him as the writer on Team America, that series would have been a success!
    I mean, it’s highly unlikely…. but…

  8. My first exposure to Mantlo was probably in one of his MARVEL TEAM-UP work. His work on on INCREDIBLE HULK #297- #314 “CROSSROADS” storyline is a *must* read for any Hilk fan. His work on ROM was always a great read. Like Larry Hama on the GI JOE comic, Mantlo took a toy advertisement and fleshed out the characters in ways beyond a simple merchandise assignment. I pick up issues of ROM occasionally and still find it better than a good deal of comics out today. The stories are so dense, in a good way. J

  9. Another excellent spotlight on a great and prolific writer! I liked the diversity of comics that everyone brought to the table and, like most other commentators, this makes me want to read The Human Fly. It just sounds too wacky and kooky NOT to be read. Well done on piquing my interest!
    I’m pretty sure I’ve read more Bill Mantlo stories than I actually can remember as he seems to have been so prolific! I’m sure I encountered him during his Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man run but, my love for his writing will forever be his Alpha Flight run where he created Vindicator and had interesting storylines for Box, who was one of my favourite characters.
    Also as a Canucklehead, I enjoyed Rob’s Canadian accent impression. Noo doot a-boot it, it was a beauty, eh?
    Well done everyone. Keep up the great work!

  10. My first experience of Bill Mantlo was as Mr Fill-In, popping up everywhere across the Marvel line with smart, fun, done-in-ones – finally learning about his role as the assigned writer of ‘Marvel Fill-In Comics’, it all made sense. Who was that speaking in the clip at the end of the podcast?

    I think Champions was the first series Mantlo did regularly that I came across, I loved that book.

    I’ve never bought an action figure in my life yet I read every issue of Rom and Micronauts, they were just blooming entertaining comics, with plenty of fun crossovers with the regular Marvel Universe. It’s such a shame they can’t be collected… mind, that was the case with Master of Kung Fu for years, and now I have four omnibuses, so who knows?

    I love Max’s enthusiasm for The Human Fly. If he ever does a podcast on the guy he could call it Come Human Fly With Me

    I’d really like to see the spaceknight in the Marvel movies, I want to see the Dire Wraiths on the big screen, both versions. It could be a RomCom.

    I hope Shagg does read more Rom, it’s a great series. Especially when Akin and Garvey come on with the inks, their textures were just wonderful, really enriching Rom’s world.

    Thank you so much for putting out a tribute show while the subject is still with us. How about a bi-monthly podcast, Creator Credit, with a couple of network all-stars and a guest? I’d suggest the ridiculously under-appreciated Cary Bates.

  11. In the early 80s my Mum allowed me to get a single Marvel UK weekly comic delivered to the house. I started with Thor & the X-Men but soon changed to Spider-Man & his Amazing Friends because I liked the cartoon. Within a year I wanted to change again to Return of the Jedi weekly. Before she would let me change title again I had to agree to give away my previous comics. I was only allowed to keep one title. So I gave away all my Spider-Man comics which meant by the time I read the name Bill Mantlo in an issue of Alpha Flight I had no idea he had written my favourite Spider-Man stories I’d read when I was 7.

    I later discovered these stories were from Spectacular Spider-Man. The way that Mantlo mixed the Kingpin, Punisher, Cloak & Dagger and Black Cat with each character following their own path and Spider-Man getting caught in the middle worked really well. I think this run gets overlooked because it ran at the same time as the Stern/JRJR Amazing but I think it’s comparable in quality.

    I would also recommend Mantlo’s Alpha Flight run. Particularly up to issue 50. I remain impressed that when Bill was told he couldn’t reveal that Northstar was gay he made him half magical.

    If he can’t be a fairy, I’ll make him a faerie.

    I was also a huge fan of his Cloak and Dagger run. Rick Leonardi is my number one favourite comics artist so I’m biased but Bill was also at his best. By tackling religion, mental health and drugs he really was ahead of his time.

    My understanding is that Bill was training to become a human rights lawyer when he had his accident so it is possible that he would never have written another comic but I wish we could get his version of his Marvel experience. He was there for the entire Shooter years and involved in some of the big controversies of the age. There is no doubt that he was also key in the development of key artists. He wrote the first stories drawn by Keith Giffen, Jim Lee, Mike Mignola and Jackson Guice and has been mentioned as someone who loved to work with the New guys at a time when a lot of the top writers preferred to work with experienced artists.

    My main thought when it comes to Bill though is that his story shows how broken the comics industry is. He created characters and concepts that have been movie and tv stars and yet there was a need to crowdfund his healthcare. This is so upsetting. I still can’t believe that Marvel don’t just pay for it all. I know a lot of people would say I’m naive to expect this but I read a lot of comics as a kid and they presented altruism as a virtue.

  12. I’m tempted to copy and paste Martin’s comments! So, I’ve got to add some original content. I wasn’t aware of Mantlo’s breadth of work for the first few years I was collecting (late 70s.) It wasn’t until I got a Hembeck book (Best of Dateline ?) that had his tribute to Mantlo that I got it. Hembeck did a page that tried to include every character Mantlo had written a fill-in story for, and that was most of the the Marvel line! So, even though I didn’t buy Micronauts or Rom (my prejudices against toy tie-ins), I heard from my friends and fandom about how good they were! I particularly like his story in fantastic Four Annual #13.
    The PPTSS story at Ellis Island was written when Ellis Island was abandoned, neglected, and falling to ruin. It was about the creepiest place in NYC at the time.
    I bought Human Fly #1 when it was first on sale, and haven;t given it a second thought since then. Max, you have intrigued me! Let’s have more talk about Human Fly! (Not Spanish Fly, eh Mr. Romero?)

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