Here's something we haven't talked about much: Fill-In issues. Victims of The Dreaded Deadline Doom. Those single editions that appeared, unannounced and unwelcome, right slap-bang in the middle of a story you were really enjoying and couldn't wait to read the next part of.
As much a part of the Bronze Age as those painful looking metal brassieres Conan's girlfriends habitually wore, they were often the result of lax editorial oversight, too much freedom given to creators or said creators' massive drugs intakes, depending on which chapter of Sean Howe's Marvel Comics The Untold Story you're reading.
All of those things were also, natch, responsible for some of the greatest comics ever done by anybody ever.
Probably the most well known, and most divisive, fill-in was Steve Gerber's Howard The Duck #16:
Which he wrote, as he says, while driving to Vegas. When this issue came out, I absolutely loathed it. Though to be fair to Steve, he knew we would...
Even as an adult, even as a massive Gerber fan, I still find this issue boring and pointless, though at least he didn't go reprint. ( Something that was even worse - generally a new Gil Kane cover, with a crap Silver Age reprint behind it )
Here's another one - X-Men #110:
Len Wein, Chris Claremont & Dave Cockrum had just brought the X-Men back from the dead, John Byrne and Terry Austin were now on board and the book was just about to become great. Then we get some completely random bad guy called Warhawk invading the X-Mansion, with Tony DeZuniga on art duties.
Don't get me wrong, Tony was of course one of the greats, but this was blatantly a story that had been sitting in someone's draw for a while. And I didn't want DeZuniga on X-Men, I wanted Byrne & Austin.
More? Here's Marv, Sal and Dave Hunt stepping in on Avengers #169:
Again, nothing wrong with this one. In fact, it's quite a fun adventure for Cap, T'Challa & Shellhead, But it didn't fit. It wasn't part of what we'd been reading. It was another fill-in.
And it sat there in your collection, being slightly irritating, but there was no way you could get rid of it. You couldn't couldn't swap it for something better, 'cos that would mean you didn't have the complete set!
But, but, but .... It was better than a reprint.
Interestingly, whenever the writer was so late they couldn't do an HTD #16, it nearly always seemed to be Bill Mantlo who filled in, like in these two examples. Maybe he was hanging out round the offices a lot.
And you can disagree with me about this one if you like, as it's an interim issue between Len Wein & Gerry Conway's runs on Werewolf By Night, but instead of Mike Ploog you get Werner Roth, and to me, it always smelt like a fill-in.
There were loads of these in the Bronze Age, not necessarily bad comics, just... unwelcome ones.
Maybe it's time for a Marvel Essential Fill-ins?
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