Blame Mark Gruenwald and Tom DeFalco.
As I've been tooling around with this project over the last few months one thing that I realized was that I was really missing some of the stories of my youth, comics with a lighter tone and a sense of fun. Marvel '78 was starting to look like it was going to be downer.
It was looking nothing like Marvel Two-In-One.
Marvel Two-In-One (henceforth referred to as MTIO) was a staple of comics collecting when I was a youth with a limited budget. I'd constantly buy from the quarter bin, and that meant lesser lights of the bronze age; MTIO, in particular, was a perennial favorite. The best stories from MTIO were those of Gruenwald and DeFalco. Both made comics that were breezy and a joy to read, four-color adventure yarns that celebrated Marvel's vast canon. Gruenwald was the champion of lost comics, weaving together a tapestry of characters and storylines from cancelled series and replaced creators to create something that not only satisfied fans of those comics but which made it all feel like one big interconnected world. DeFalco had a soft spot for underdogs and working class baddies, whether that be the Thing doing his best Rocky impression against a space god or having a beer with jobber super-villain Sandman.
These two writers would each reach their career apex as writers in the late '80s / early '90s, with Gruenwald's marathon run on Captain America and DeFalco penning Thor for several years, two of my favorite 'modern' comics hitting the stands. I briefly thought about going with Marvel '88, being not only a good time in each of their respective careers but also when I was six years old. They say that when you are six years old is the real golden age of science fiction, and that holds true for comics, too.
Yet I still wanted comics with grit, that let a little of the night in. After all, I was reading (and loving) Ann Nocenti's Daredevil right beside Gruenwald's Captain America, where the ol' Hornhead was dealing with corrupt politicians and leaders of industry, living among the homeless, the mentally ill, and the addicted. Did I really want to throw all that away? No, these were two sides of the same coin, and part of what made Marvel great: the ability to tell a variety of stories all while sharing the same universe.
So, Marvel '84 is my compromise position: a world where guys like Stilt-Man rob helicopters in broad daylight but also a place where thuggish gangsters and sinister conspiracies rule the night.