Marvel Two-in-One #86 (first story): Time Runs Like Sand!
Marvel Two-in-One #86 (second story): Farewell, My Lummox!

Writer: Tom DeFalco
Penciller: Ron Wilson
Inker: Chic Stone
Letterer: Jim Novak
Colorist: George Roussos
Editor: Jim Salicrup

The Guest Star:

The Villain:

Guest Shots:
      Mr. Fantastic; Hydro-Man; Invisible Girl; Franklin Richards; Impossible Man

The Set Up (first story):
      Ben is back from Los Angeles, and Reed has put him to work moving heavy equipment. As Ben complains about the work and wishes for a good old-fashioned super-villain like the Sandman, Reed tells him the Sandman was reported dead- he was accidentally combined with Hydro-Man and then was dehydrated, crumbling into dust.
     Cut to the scientists working on that dust, who have concluded that it is indeed dead and worthless, and then send it to the dump. Once dumped, it shortly separates into two components- Sandman and Hydro-man. Hydro-man departs, heading south, and Sandman grabs a discarded hat and coat and heads into town. Exhausted, he stops in at a bar and orders a beer. The bartender notices the sandy feet and quietly calls the FF, getting Ben.
     Taking this chance to ditch out on the work that needs done, Ben grabs his jet cycle and heads off. Arriving at the bar, he realizes that it really is the Sandman. He declares he's taking him in, and the Sandman immediately... surrenders. The two sit down at the bar, and instead of fighting they began a serious conversation on their life stories...

The Set Up (second story):
     Reed and Sue are leaving the Baxter Building for the night, leaving Ben to babysit Franklin. While Ben works out, his punching bag dissolves with a familiar 'pop' and he soon realizes the Impossible Man is back- with his new girlfriend in tow. Ben learns its even worse than that- the Impossible Man is trying to recreate his race, and there are about 20 Impossible Children in tow. While the Impossible Man and Woman use the FF's computer to find a new world for his family to inhabit, Ben finds himself trying to babysit two dozen Impossible Children...

Clobberin' Time?:
      Page 23, panel 4, sort of. Ben is working out, and say to Franklin "Now, I'll give you a real treat! I'll show you how I practice my world-famous 'Clobberin' Time' punch!"

Petunia's Patch:
      No Petunia this issue.

Things of Interest:
      This is the only issue of Marvel Two-in-One which has two stories in it. For those detail-oriented people out there- both stories have the exact same creative teams, so I only listed them once on this page, though I did include both titles at the top. Story one is on pages 1-19, and story 2 is on pages 22-31.
     At the right is quite possibly my favorite piece of MTIO-related art of all-time. This was apparently done by Rusty Shackles in January 2010 for the Covered (artists re-interpreting comics covers) website. Wonderful piece; I kind of want it on a beat-up tin sign for my walls!
     The Sandman story. Don't get me started. Sandman is a longtime Fantastic Four villain, having fought them many times as a member of the Frightful Four. He dates waaay back to Amazing Spider-man volume 1, issue 4. Through all that time he's had a pretty generic personality- basically a bad guy bruiser. This story actually looks at things from his point-of-view, and gives us a real backstory for him. It draws some comparisons between him and Ben, and at the end Ben decides to give him a second chance. Sandman soon appears again, returning the favor, in Marvel Two-in-One 96. After this, a variety of later writers build on this, and over many years and many different appearance in various Spider-man titles, Silver Sable, and Avengers, Sandman slowly makes a hard turn back to the good side of the tracks, culminating in his eventually being awarded reserve Avengers status. And then along came John. In Amazing Spiderman issue 4 (volume 2), John Byrne decides to ignore years of character development and in that one issue has Sandman basically say "I was just joking with you all that time, I'm really still evil." Y'know, I can understand that John Byrne wants characters never to change. He's stuck in his childhood, a lot of us are on various issues. I only wish that Mr. Byrne would have the craft to do it gradually, to come up with reasons, to stay true to the character. This was an evolution which took years to work, and in one issue he chose to make a joke of it with an unreasonable explanation. There were better than 50 issues in his evolution as a character, and it took one issue to destroy it. Yes, indeed, that issue (Amazing Spider-man volume 2, number 4) does have my vote as the single worst retcon or decision in the history of the Marvel Universe. Resurrecting Norman Osborne, the Spider-clone saga, the amazingly bad resolution of Omega the Unknown in Defenders, the revelation that the Vision & Scarlet Witch's children were demons/illusions, the resurrection of Jean Grey. Even the Howard the Duck movie. All arguably bad decisions, but none of them hold a candle to the completely horrid 'writing' (and I used that term loosely) that was Byrne's Sandman "it was all a joke" retcon. Since Byrne is usually at least halfway decent, I can only guess that he read at least some of those issues, saw there was really no rationale way to turn the Sandman back into a villain, and so decided just to do something completely irrational. Based on all the chances he had had as a hero to set himself up for life (Avengers clearance, anyone?), all the thought balloons we saw of his agonizing over this, and all the things he's done, it clearly could not have been a joke. At least, not to anyone but Byrne. {pause, deep breath} Okay, okay, I'll calm down. I did tell you not to get me started. Yes, I have a great affinity for comics, and I grow annoyed when writers treat them as a joke. A return to villainy by Sandman would have been fine if it was done with even a tenth of the care and justification that his change to heroics was handled. However, it was not- it was plain and simply bad writing, laziness, and a slap in the face to those who are actually professional writers (meaning professional in the sense of caring about and working on improving their craft, as opposed to just getting paid).
     Reading that screed a few years later, I feel a need to note... I'm not a Byrne-hater. I do love his Alpha Flight work, and find most of his FF to be quite enjoyable. The guy is undeniably talented, and undeniably one of the justifiably best-regarded creators of his period. But this really was, in my opinion, just plain poorly done. Sorry, Mr. Byrne.
     In 2010, this was voted as number 6 / 5 in the "Greatest Thing (Ben Grimm) Stories Ever Told!" poll at Comic Book Resources.
     The Impossible Man story follows up pretty directly on the story events of Marvel Two-in-One 60.
     At one point Franklin Richards thinks "I wish they hadn't cancelled my favorite show-- 'Monster Man'!" That's a reference back to issue 78, which had the 'Monster Man' show, based on the Thing.
     I also rather enjoy the book of bedtime stories Ben picks up to read to the Popuppians: "Tales of Dr. Doom."
     You gotta like the way Ben answers the phone...