Marvel Unlimited Edition: Ego The Living Planet
The Marvel Unlimited app is a gigantic, messy cache of awesome and terrible old comic books: a library of 13,000 or so back issues of Marvel titles, available on demand for subscribers with tablets or mobile phones. Like any good back-room longbox, it’s disorganized and riddled with gaps, but it’s also full of forgotten and overlooked jewels, as well as a few stone classics. In Marvel Unlimited Edition, Eisner-winning critic Douglas Wolk dives into the Unlimited archive to find its best, oddest and most intriguing comics.
Ego the Living Planet is one of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's trippier creations: introduced in 1966 in Thor #132, he is literally a planet who is also a dude. With a face. (His first appearance was one of the photo-collages that Kirby was occasionally doing in those days; the gaunt, bearded face that Kirby pasted onto a planet shape was significantly different from most of the characters he designed.) Understandably, it's a little bit hard to do much with a planet-sized character who has to interact with humans, but nearly every artist who's gotten to work with Ego over the years has clearly relished the chance to draw his massive, scowling visage.
Lee and Kirby brought Ego back in the course of a longer storyline about Thor, the planet-eating Galactus and some itinerant aliens. It's triple-fortissimo Cosmic Marvel -- Ego reappears in another photo-collage (with the same face!), Kirby piles on the gigantic in-your-face images, and Lee's script dives shamelessly into operatic bombast ("What madness do you mouth? You are but a single being--and I a world entire!"). When early Fantastic Four went big, it was always grounded by human perspective; when Lee and Kirby aimed for the same territory in Thor, nothing tempered the craziness. (Except maybe proofreading issues. I think you might mean "invincible," Ego.)
The 2000-2001 crossover Maximum Security kicked off with this Kurt Busiek/Jerry Ordway one-shot in which an insane Ego's attacks on other planets somehow lead to everybody deciding that Earth is the real problem. It's an entertainingly over-the-top space opera, although trying to read the whole event involves two of the most frustrating things about Marvel Unlimited in its current state: incomplete stories and glitchy data. Look under "Maximum Security" in the "Events" section of the app, and you'll see Dangerous Planet, the three issues of Maximum Security itself, and four issues of other series that connected to it -- but not the relevant issues of Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers and Marvel Knights, which are available on the app, or nine other tie-ins, which aren't.
This one-off story by Jeff Parker, Juan Santacruz and Raul Fernandez, created for Marvel's all-ages line, offers an entirely different take: "Ego, the Loving Planet," a heartsick interstellar Barry White type who's getting his gravitational field all up in the Earth's business. (That does explain the facial hair, though.) Classic dialogue: "You hear Hulk, stupid planet?! Earth not interested in you!!!"