I’d say that if it’s not the discount trades shelves that are the foul temptress of my LCS, it’s the magazine longboxes. That’s where I’ve been finding a lot of the old-school Marvel Graphic Novels as well as old ‘Nam Magazine, and this particular book.
Marvel Preview, to my knowledge, was a catch-all series that featured various characters who were often outside the purview of the main Marvel Universe and I guess may have been one of those precursors to the Epic line that Marvel launched in the 1980s (a line that I’ve become more and more interested in over the years, but don’t have the money to really dive into).
So, this issue’s featured character is Merlin, whose life on adventures in connection to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is recounted by writers Doug Moench and John Buscema and artists John Buscema, Tom Palmer, and John Tartaglione with lettering and calligraphy by John Costanza. It’s titled “Quest of the King” and centers around a knight named Belair, who claims to be from The Netherlands, infiltrating his way into Camelot with nefarious plans for Arthur, his knights, and his mentor. That plan leads to the kidnapping of Queen Guinevere followed by a quest for Arthur and Merlin to find Belair and eventually confront his true identity.
I’m not sure what this would have been a preview for–an ongoing fantasy series involving the Arthurian legend, perhaps? I kind of wish that had come to fruition because it’s a wonderful story. I’m mostly familiar with Doug Moench’s writing on Batman, but here he presents us with a tight story that gives us all of the classic features of Camelot along with a new story that stands out on its own. That idea–that Arthur and/or Merlin can have adventures on the level of another hero without them being incredibly vital to the larger story/continuity–is a good one as well, because like The Raven Banner, I don’t feel pressured to have a deep reserve of greater context knowledge.
Buscema, Palmer, and Tartaglione do a great job with the black and white art in the magazine that has a water-color “gray wash” effect as far as coloring is concerned, and Costanza (whom I’m, of course, used to through DC Comics) letters the book wonderfully. The characters are dynamically portrayed and you can tell that they had some real fun crafting the look and feel of the story.
Plus, there are two text pieces in the back which are fascinating: “The Ages of Arthur” by Bill Mantlo, which tells about the various literary interpretations of the Arthurian Legend; along with “Looking for the Real Arthur” by Steven Grant, which provides us with historical context for Arthur. These were both fascinating, both as a piece of information about the stories and as artifacts. After all, when this was published in 1980, seeking out any authoritative summary of the Arthurian Legend took some serious effort at a library and not just a few clicks on Wikipedia.
Like I said at the beginning, these magazines are intriguing because they’re not your typical back issue bin fodder and very few are in good condition. I can’t necessarily tell you exactly if I’m going down this particular rabbit hole, but it might be fun. And if you see this in a bin for cheap (my copy was $4), pick it up.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?