Monday, May 5, 2014

CBR Mini Marvels


For the occasion of the new Amazing Spider-man film, here's something I really wanted to have a look at for a while...

Comic title: Mini Marvels Vol. 1: Rock, Paper, Scissors
Art by Chris Giarrusso
Written by Chris Giarrusso withMarc Sumerak, Sean McKeever, Audrey Loeb & Paul Tobin

Published by Marvel Comics
From 2008
Lineup Marvel Universe/Mini Marvels series
Format: Digest-sized trade paperback collecting Giant-Size Mini Marvels #1 ("Paperboy Blues" and a collection of "Bullpen Bits"), Spidey and the Mini Marvels #1 ("Paperboy Showdown" and "Cereal Quest" plus several other stories.

The "Bullpen Bulletins" were a part of the letters section Stan Lee used back in the 1960s to answer particular questions from the readers regarding the Marvel Universe. How did Spider-man's web-shooters work? Where did The Thing grow up in New York City? What's with The Silver Surfer's black dots around his energy?

If some readers had particular questions regarding the MU, be it in all good fun or more serious, Stan "The Man" Lee always had fun exploring those. Most of those answers ended up actually used in comics pages or part of the Marvel Universe as a whole!

Sadly, Marvel ditched those over the decades, as Lee & co left the way for younger new authors.

Stan Lee himself made a comeback along his Bullpen Bulletins back in the 90s for a short while.

Enters the Mini Marvels in 2001.

Chris Giarrusso was put in charge of the "Bullpen Bits", a sort of revival and play on Stan Lee's classic Bullpen Bulletins column.

Giarrusso parodies started their life as these Bullpen Bits, short 3-panel (most of the time) comic strip parodies of the Marvel Universe.

Usually mocking Marvel conventions and characters tropes.

They ran as an occasional random back-up feature in several books.

Before they spread out and evolved into Mini Marvel, as one-shots... before finally getting their own short lived series and trade paperback.

Mini Marvel is an all-ages series written and illustrated by Chris Giarrusso (with some occasional guest writers helping along).

A fun light hearted play on Marvel Comics featuring Marvel super heroes as kids.

It's such a fun creative series, a love letter to all things Marvel. Featuring the best you can find in comics.

Genuinely fun lighthearted adventures, but also acting as a tribute to the bigger broader Marvel Universe - kind of an analogue to what DC would have a couple years later in Tiny Titans.

Mini Marvels see Spider-man working as a delivery newspaper boy for the Daily Planet (instead of a freelance photograph), having to deal with Venom who's always trying to steal his route from him.

There are a lot of funny allusions and references to the broader Marvel mythos. And a lot more for old time comic strips fans, such as several Peanuts allusions to which Mini Marvels is actually pretty close in tone.

Chris Giarrusso's art is quite lovely. Like I said, it's pretty close to Peanuts/Snoopy in terms of humor and style.

The characters are easily recognizable in a glimpse, the artwork is clean, fun and kid friendly.

The characters spend all of their time always in costume. And it plays with that fact, nobody seems to figure our Peter Parker is Spidey despite him being always dressed as the wall-crawler (even his employer at the Bugle J. Jonah Jameson can't figure it out...).

As the series went on, it sort of left Spider-man's sole perspective to feature several other Avengers. Hawkeye himself became one of Giarrusso's favorite no doubt, he was hilarious!

He also played with the fact Marvel was introducing so many new characters to the Hulk lore at the time, and thus began the adventures of Hulk, Red Hulk and introducing the all-new Blue Hulk created for the occasion!

Terribly cute puny Gamma monsters. Just... d'awww....

The Man Without Fear, Daredevil himself always appeared facing the wrong direction...

All these Mini Marvels features were originally reprinted in two one shots, the "Giant Size Mini-Marvels: Featuring Spidey" and "Spidey and The Mini-Marvels".

All these including several Bullpen Bits comic strips were collected for the very first time in a digest-sized collection in 2002.

Folling those, the huge success of the Mini Marvels allowed Chris Giarrusso to try longer stories in the form of full feature length parodies of actual Marvel epic events.

The series was finally put a stop to in the mid-2000s, which didn't stop Giarrusso. He simply went to Image Comics where he continued to explore the same brand of humor with his all-new character-owned creation, G-Man! You can check out his more recent stuff and follow is work on his official website nowadays, mostly revolving around G-Man now (you can find the Mini Marvels over there as well!).

Overall, a great all-ages Marvel comic, launched at a time Marvel was desperately needing new kid-friendly material for a line that was only rarely used (Marvel Ages aside).

A 2nd volume collecting most of the rest of these Mini Marvels parodies and the remaining missing Bullpen Bits was later released. Mini Marvels Volume 2: Secret Invasion.

This one collecting mostly the longer spoofs. Such as the Civil War, the Secrete Invasion and the Planet Hulk/World War Hulk storylines. Only, Mini Marvels-ified.

More recently a complete hardcover collection - Mini Marvels: Ultimate Collection - featuring every single Mini Marvels parody (the material composing both volumes) was finally published in an all-new oversized trade paperback.

All in all, highly recommended for both new and old comic book readers!

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Howards!

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