By Kevin McVicker
The story of how I was first introduced to Marvel’s The Collector is a strange and convoluted narrative which does not start where you think it would. Bare with me as I traverse this tale of a collector stumbling upon a kin soul and one of the main characters in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
This all starts in a small town in South Carolina call Winnsboro. My family moved there my senior year of High School due to my stepfather getting his first call to the ministry at a church in that area. Technically we lived in Longtown, but since that is little more that a crossroads with a dirty restaurant and gas station which I doubt still to this day take plastic, let’s just say we lived in Winnsboro.
Two things happened my senior year living in this area to set me on the course to discover The Collector. The first was that Winnsboro opened its first Wal-Mart and the second was the release of a little indie film called The Phantom Menace. Prior to the Phantom Menace’s opening, and possibly due to left overs from the re-releases of the original trilogy, Wal-Mart had a large quantity of Star Wars actions figures. These were re-releases of the toys I had when I was a kid and use to fight with my Super Power actions figures (Batman always won). Wal-Mart put them on sale for one dollar, so I immediately went on a diet of water and used all of my weekly lunch money to start collecting these figures.
By the time I stopped collecting the Star Wars action figures I had about 30 or 40 with my prize being Han Solo in carbonite. After a year or two of having them in a box at my parent’s house because I went off to college, my mom asked what I was going to do with all my “dolls” and if nothing, could I please get rid of them. So slightly begrudgingly I took my action figures (they’re not dolls, mom!) to a local comic book store to see if they would buy them from me. To my surprise I got about $70 in store credit for my collection, which looking back isn’t really bad considering I only spent one dollar a piece on them.
Being that I was in college and had books to study and papers to write I generally just read comics and drank beer. So I took that $70 in store credit and went over to the store’s dollar bins and randomly just started picking out full runs and story arcs of comics that I thought I might enjoy. Out of those random picks I gathered up was Avengers issues 334 through 339: The Collection Obsession.
The first issue in the arc had a beautifully drawn cover by Andy Kubert showing Quicksilver getting beat horribly by an unheard of villain named Thane Ector while Captain America rushed headlong to rescue his whiny teammate (the whiny is implied, but it is Quicksilver). The arc was written by Bob Harras and drawn by both Andy Kubert and Steve Epting and featured the Avengers fighting a team of three enemies calling themselves the Brethren. By the end of the arc it turns out they were let loose on Earth by the Collector and he’s been the mastermind behind the destruction these three Brethren had visited upon the Avengers and the human race.
I cannot be certain that I had never read an issue featuring the Collector prior to this story, but this was definitely the first time learning who he was and what he was capable of became apparent to me. It didn’t set off some life long enjoyment of hunting issues featuring him like the Infinity Gauntlet had with me for Thanos a decade earlier, but it did give me a respect for the character, his capabilities, and some of his motives.
While any Avengers team featuring Rage, Sersi, Hercules, and Quasar is not my favorite, seeing Black Panther, Captain America and the Vision fighting alongside each other of is always enjoyable which also helped these issues stick in my mind. As well known now by his amazing run with Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting is also a master of drawing Captain America, and while he wasn’t the same artist then that he is today, hints of foreshadowing of his developing style are evident looking back at these issues. Andy Kubert, who only did the first issue in the arc, had an extremely intense and defined style which he carries through to this day in large part most likely do to his father’s tutelage (RIP Joe Kubert). And Bob Harras is a legend in his own right having written for virtually every character Marvel has. If you’ve read comics in the 80s or 90s, you’ve read a comic written or edited by Bob Harras. And do not let the Clone Saga change your perception of the man. The idea was fine, it was just executed poorly by others.
While the storyline The Collection Obsession is not available on Comixology or at DCBService, I would recommend reading it if you’re looking for a strong 90’s Avengers storyline and decent introduction to the character of The Collector. It may not blow you away and become one of your favorite issues ever, but it is a solid tale which is fantastically drawn and very well written. There’s also a good chance you can find the issues in the dollar bins at your local comic book store.