In this edition of “Comics, Seriously,” my recurring column here on SKTCHD that takes weird moments from comic book history and looks at them in far too serious of a fashion, we’ll be looking at one of the earliest comics I can remember reading. You see, when I was a kid, I loved sports more than I loved comics. Sports always left an indelible impact on my brain thanks to iconic players like Ken Griffey, Jr. and Reggie Miller, whose heroism on the field or court loomed large in my life, while comics were mostly left to me excitedly engaging with The Transformers in a different way.
But what happened when the two met in the middle? What happened when comics featured sports? Magic, that’s what. That intersection is what we’re going to look at in this week’s column, as we’re going to dig into the first three pages from Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom’s West Coast Avengers Annual #2 from 1987, in which The Avengers and West Coast Avengers played a rather high scoring game of baseball against each other.
This was a momentous issue for me, as it told me everything I needed to know about these characters as a child. Thor was a powerhouse. So was Wonder Man, although he might be quitting the team. Hank Pym was a science guy. Silver Surfer hated roofs. Etc. etc. You know, the usual. It was a big deal for me, and an issue I loved for its fusion of baseball and superheroes.
However, given my childhood nostalgia for this issue, it’s one I’ve revisited many times over – not just because of the baseball game, but also because The Grandmaster has the two Avengers squads face off against each other in a Contest of Champions of sorts in this issue and The Avengers annual that follows 1 – and the more I reread it, the more I realized how completely absurd it was from a pure baseball standpoint. As good as these characters are at superheroics, were they maybe not the best at baseball and following the sport’s rules?
This week’s edition of Comics, Seriously will attempt to explore those questions with analysis of the sequence’s key plays and players. And the person helping us out in this endeavor is one of the best in the business: Ben Lindbergh, who writes about baseball 2 for The Ringer, co-hosts the baseball podcast Effectively Wild, and recently published a book he co-wrote with Travis Sawchik called The MVP Machine: How Baseball’s New Nonconformists Are Using Data to Build Better Players, which explores how the player development side of the sport has been revolutionized. Lindbergh’s a brilliant writer and analyst of baseball, and today, he’ll be using those abilities to help me figure out the plusses and minuses of some of the bold strategies these two super teams employ, and maybe even who really would win this game in the end.