R: Marvel Triple Action #29 (May 1976), art by Jack Kirby and Dan Adkins
(Click picture to Colossusize)
Marvel had a large line of reprint titles throughout the 1970s and early '80s, which, in those pre-trade-paperback, pre-Essentials, pre-digital comics days was often one of the cheapest ways we (the Marvel fanbulls) could pick up early copies of Avengers, Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, X-Men, Amazing Spider-Man, and more. Especially early in their runs, Marvel would replace the original covers of the sixties comics with new ones, not only confusing consumers into buying the same comics they might already have in their collections, but also, decades later, providing amble fodder for a little Saturday Night blog feature you just may have heard of. That feature's name: "Same Story, Different Cover." And now you know...the rest of the story.
But wait! Let's talk about the title of this titanic tract known unaptly as Marvel Triple Action. Picking up a book with that name, wouldn't ya expect a reprint of three, count 'em, three Marvel comic books? Should Marvel Triple Action reprint, say, FF #48-50, or other great trilogies of yore? Well, nope. This tri-comic actually consists of a story...um...a story which Marvel tells us stars three characters.
Now, you can't say Marvel wasn't trying to live up to its title's hype. For example, the premier issue, Marvel Triple Action #1, is a double-sized issue, reprinting Fantastic Four #55 and 57. (To heck with you, FF #56 and your debut of Klaw, the Living Master of Sound!)
So yeah, I see what they're going for there...the book is double-sized. They coulda called it Marvel Double Action, but that was the patented name of Kid Colt's shotgun in Kid Colt vs. Vampires #66 (August 1970). You take two issues of Fantastic Four, with their quartet of heroes in each one and you've got...oh, wait, that's Marvel Octal Action. Um, well, divide the Fantastic Four between the two issues and add in the guest stars and it's...eh, what the heck, let's just put The Thing, The SIlver Surfer, and good ol' Doc Doom's names in starbursts on the cover, call it MTA and get the kids to pony up two bits for it, 'kay?
However, it's not long before Marvel Triple Action reverts into a 36-page book which contains only one reprinted story...in this case, Avengers #10:
Okay, okay, yeah, still kinda appropriate to call this book Marvel Triple Action. With its powerhouse line-up of Avengers Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man, of course this book has triple act...oh wait, there's Giant-Man. Whoops. Pay no attention to the GIANT-MAN, folks, please.
By the time the Avengers reprints get up to the era of Cap's Kooky Kwartet, of course the MTA title is even less applicable than ever. There are three starbursts, sure, but they herald four heroes, squeezing Scarlet Witch in the same bubble as Quicksilver. (Say!) And the story's title? Well, that doesn't lead itself towards a triple story:
Let's flash-forward a few years to MTA #23. We're still looking at the triple threat of Cap, Hawkeye, and Quicksilverscarletwitch! Oh, wait: "Also in this action-packed issue: Black Widow and the original Power Man!" So, that's Marvel Sextal Action, huh? Whoa, that can't be right. We'd better throw in Goliath and get seven characters crammed in there. They shoulda called this comic book Marvel Magnificent Seven!
Okay! Ignore the five characters crammed in the corner box, because we've got a marquee of three, count 'em, three Marvel superheroes! Captain America! Hawkeye! And Golioh crap.
I'm trying to do the math here. Cap equals one. Hawkeye equals one. See, there's where the equation goes off the rails here...Cap does not equal Hawkeye. (Cap equals 1.7 Hawkeyes, maybe?) Anyway, there's two, and Goliath makes three, and Wasp makes one-eight. So this should really be called Marvel Triple and 1/8 Action! Oh no, wait, this is the period when Goliath was stuck at twelve feet tall, right? So he's two. Marvel 4.125 Action! Oh no, I forgot to count Hercules and Dragon Man. Man, comics is hard.
Eventually, Marvel just throws up its hands and says "what the heck" and just publishes whatever it wants to without trying to justify it being triple anything:
And a few months later, Marvel just moves the Avengers reprints over to a title called Marvel Super Action and we all breathe a little more easily.
And they all lived happily ever after, and nobody ever made the same mistake in comic books, ever again!
Oh fer cryin' out loud.