Defenders #4 (February, 1973)

Behind an attention-grabbing cover pencilled by John Buscema from a rough layout by Jim Starlin (and inked by Frank Giacoia), the Defenders creative team of writer Steve Englehart, penciller Sal Buscema, and inker Frank McLaughlin began this latest installment of the super-team’s continuing adventures right where the previous one had left off.

It wasn’t exactly what you’d call a happy scene…  Read More

Fantastic Four #131 (February, 1973)

Readers of our Avengers #105 post back in July may recall how that issue’s plot — the first from the title’s brand new writer, Steve Englehart — concerned the team’s search for their missing member Quicksilver, who’d disappeared towards the end of the previous issue.  Following the inconclusive resolution to their efforts in that tale, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes would continue their quest for the mutant speedster for months to come.  But, surprisingly — well, it surprised me, back in November, 1972 — when Pietro Maximoff was finally “found”, it didn’t happen in the pages of Avengers; instead, Quicksilver resurfaced in, of all things, an issue of Fantastic Four — which, as it happened, was the new super-team scripting gig of Roy Thomas, the man who’d written Avengers for the last five-plus years prior to Englehart taking over, and thus the guy who’d launched the whole “where is Pietro?” mystery in the first place.  From a creative standpoint, it made a certain kind of sense that Thomas would be the one to ultimately wrap things up; but in terms of the ongoing mega-story of the Marvel Universe, it seemed to come out of nowhere.  How did Quicksilver ever manage to end up in the Himalayan homeland of the Inhumans, the Great Refuge?  And why the heck was he fighting the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch, Johnny Storm? Read More

Conan the Barbarian #23 (February, 1973)

Gil Kane’s cover for Conan the Barbarian #23 is a fine piece of work.  Nothing to complain about here.  I mean, it’s Gil Kane, right?

That said, I’ve always regretted that the story it illustrates, “The Shadow of the Vulture!”, wasn’t published under the cover that Barry Windsor-Smith had originally drawn for it…  Read More

Phantom Stranger #23 (Jan.-Feb., 1973)

Artist Jim Aparo’s dramatic cover for Phantom Stranger #23 depicts a scene that unmistakably calls back to Gaston Leroux’s 1909-10 novel Phantom of the Opera, or one of its several film adaptations; meanwhile, a blurb at the top plugs the opening installment of a new back-up series, “Frankenstein”.  A prospective buyer eyeing this one in the spinner rack back in November, 1972, might well have wondered:  didn’t the comic’s publisher, DC Comics, know that Halloween was last month?  Why were they releasing this kind of Double Creature Feature now, after the spooky season had already passed?

On the other hand, this was the latest issue of Phantom Stranger — and “spooky” was what this comic book title was all about, not just in October, but all year long.  So I suspect most fans probably didn’t think twice about the double dose of classic horror stars, half a century ago; in any event, I’m pretty sure I didn’t, either when I first eyed the cover, or when, after buying the book and taking it home, I finally turned to the first page…  Read More

Frankenstein #1 (January, 1973)

In October, 1972, the debut of Marvel Comics’ new title Frankenstein — or, if you prefer, The Monster of Frankenstein, as it says on the cover — is unlikely to have come as a surprise to anyone.  Given the recent relaxing of the Comics Code Authority’s rules regarding the depiction of horror, as well as the subsequent launch by Marvel of two series featuring (or at least inspired by) the other members of Universal Pictures’ classic trinity of monsters — i.e., Dracula and the Wolfman — the four-color advent of a Marvel version of Victor Frankenstein’s famous creation must have seemed all but inevitable to most observers.  Read More

Werewolf by Night #3 (January, 1973)

Back in September of last year, we took a look at Marvel Spotlight #2 (Feb., 1972), the comic book in which the feature “Werewolf by Night” made its debut.  That issue introduced readers to Jack Russell, a modern Los Angeles teenager who, on his eighteenth birthday, made the very unwelcome discovery that he’d inherited the curse of lycanthropy from his late father, who’d been a baron in some unnamed European locale (eventually revealed to be — where else? — Transylvania) before being slain by silver bullets.  We also met Jack’s younger sister, Lissa — who might share his curse — as well as his stepfather, Philip, whom both we and Jack were led to suspect by the end of this premiere episode might well be responsible for the death of Jack and Lissa’s mother, Laura, in an automobile accident.

Most of the key concepts, then, as well as the characters, that would drive storylines not only through this then-new feature’s three-issue run in Marvel Spotlight, but into the earliest issues of its own title as well, can be found in its first installment, as scripted by Gerry Conway (from a plot by Roy and Jean Thomas) and drawn by Mike Ploog.  But there was one key ingredient to the series’ early continuity that wouldn’t be mentioned until MS #3, and wouldn’t make an on-panel appearance until issue #4.  This ingredient was the Darkhold — a sinister compendium of mystical lore that would come to stand as perhaps the most significant contribution to the Marvel Universe ever made by the series, ultimately becoming rather more consequential in the grand scheme of things than the Werewolf himself.  Read More

Justice League of America #103 (December, 1972)

I may be misremembering, but I have a vague recollection of my fifteen-year-old self looking at this one at the spinner rack back in October, 1972 and thinking, “The Justice League standing around a grave site?  Again?”  After all, it had only been three issues since artist Nick Cardy had built his cover for JLA #100 around a similar idea.  On the other hand, it was October — the spooky season — and what could be spookier than an open grave?  Especially when said grave was being ominously loomed over by… hey, is that the Phantom Stranger?  In an issue of Justice League of America?  Forget about repetitive cover concepts; I couldn’t wait to buy this one and take it home.  Read More

Thor #207 (January, 1973)

In our last post we discussed Amazing Adventures #16, one of three comics published in October, 1972 in which a trio of young comic-book writers staged an unofficial crossover between Marvel and DC Comics, set at the annual Halloween Parade in Rutland, Vermont, and featuring themselves as characters, without telling their bosses they were doing so.  In this post, we’ll be taking a look at another of those comics: Thor #207, which, behind its dynamic cover by Gil Kane and Joe Sinnott, features a script by Gerry Conway and art by John Buscema, Vince Colletta… as well as Marie Severin, whose mysterious credit for “good works” covers her renderings of the story’s likenesses of Conway, Steve Englehart, Len Wein, and Glynis Oliver (who, as it happens, also served as the story’s colorist, under her then-married name of Glynis Wein).  Read More

Amazing Adventures #16 (January, 1973)

In previous posts, we’ve discussed a couple of early “unofficial” crossovers between DC and Marvel Comics that appeared in 1969 and 1970.  Both involved an issue each of DC’s Justice League of America (#75 and #87) and Avengers (#70 and #85), and both were built on a conceit of each super-team series parodying the stars of the rival company’s book during the same month.  Part of the fun — at least for the creators responsible — was its mildly illicit nature, as none of the writers involved (JLA‘s Denny O’Neil and Mike Friedrich, Avengers‘ Roy Thomas) informed their bosses (DC’s Julius Schwartz, Marvel’s Stan Lee) what they were up to.  The results were perhaps something of a mixed bag (both as crossovers and simply as stories), but for the most part, these books made for a good time for comic-book fans.  Read More

Swamp Thing #2 (Dec., 1972-Jan., 1973)

According to an interview with Bernie Wrightson published in Back Issue #6 (Sep., 2004), the artist was initially reluctant to take on Swamp Thing, in large part because he wasn’t sure he’d be able to handle the deadlines required in producing a regularly published full-length comic book — even one that came out on a bi-monthly schedule.  What ultimately convinced him?  Mostly, he said, it was because he realized he’d never get a better chance to draw a series that would be “wall-to-wall monsters”.

That opportunity didn’t come immediately, of course; as readers of Swamp Thing #1 (or our August 13 blog post on same) already know, there’s just one bona fide monster in that issue — and he doesn’t even show up until well into the story.  But as we’re about to see, by only the series’ second installment, young Mr. Wrightson would be able to make his dreams come true.  Read More