By Fabian Nicieza
A comic came out in 1975 called Giant-Sized Invaders #1 featuring Captain America, Sub-Mariner, Human Torch. World War II. Roy Thomas wrote it. I bought it. I didn't much like it.
A regular-sized #1 issue came out. Bought it. Didn't much like it.
I didn't buy too many comics. A buck allowance would only go so far. I had to be very judicious in my choices. Invaders didn't make the cut. Sporadically, I would get an issue here or there, if a cover interested me (like the Union Jack covers for #10 and #20). Got the crossover with the Liberty Legion in Marvel Premiere. A great Annual storyline starting in the Fantastic Four Annual featuring the Invaders and a Marvel Two-In-One Annual featuring the Thing and the Liberty Legion.
Overall though, I didn't like Frank Robbins' cartoony art in the monthly series, or the Golden Age setting. I thought it was childish in comparison to the work Jim Starlin, Barry Smith and Marshall Rogers were doing at the time. In hindsight, I was just too old to get the book's innocence and too young to appreciate its roots.
A few years later, as a late teen, I was attracted to Jerry Ordway's art on All-Star Squadron at DC (written by Roy Thomas) and gained a whole new appreciation for what Roy was doing there -- and had been doing on Invaders.
Curious, I reread any comic reference books I had at home, including Jim Steranko's History of Comics, Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Superheroes, and All in Color for a Dime by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson.
And I started to get it.
I started to understand what those stories meant to the people who read them and what they meant to the industry now.
That appreciation grew even greater after I started working in the industry -- day to day with the people who had been putting the comics together that I'd been reading since I was a kid.
And at the forefront of that appreciation -- one that to this day I regret having never sufficiently voiced in a public manner -- was a respect for the work of Roy Thomas. He will be forever defined by his run on Avengers and the industry-shaking success of Conan, but in my mind, his work on Invaders and All-Star Squadron looms even larger.
Roy got the big picture. He understood better than any other writer of his generation how the pieces of the puzzle all fit together to delight (and sometimes simultaneously infuriate) the meticulous (some would say anal) preferences of comic book readers.
More than anyone of his generation, Roy drew from the work of Stan Lee, Julie Schwartz and Gardner Fox to show that you can successfully play with ALL of the toys in the sandbox and share those toys with your readers. He showed us how superhero universes could be built from a foundation of published history to create a structure of such integrity (and fun!) that nothing could every really tear it apart -- not economics or ego.
Over the decades, many at both Marvel and DC have tried to knock those structures down, often with the best of creative intentions. They have managed to change some bricks. Maybe build a few additions to the basic house. But for all their huffing and puffing, they haven't been able to blow the house down.
And they never will.
Because it's something that Roy understood from the time he read his first comic during the Golden Age to the time he created them during the Silver Age all the way through until today.
You can't change history. You can rewrite it. You can spin it just about any damned way you want. But you can't change it. The history of the superhero genre -- of our characters -- lies in the experience of having read, saved and remembered the stories.
You can change origins, costumes and powers, but you can't change or impugn an individual's memory of having read the work for the very first time.
Thanks to Roy Thomas for having given us so many memories to cherish. Citizen V and the V-Battalion exists because of the foundation you worked tirelessly to fortify.
I hope I'll be allowed to continue building on it.
- Fabian Nicieza
This page was revised on August 31, 2002