New Gods #6 (Dec.-Jan., 1971)

Over the six years that I’ve been producing this blog, I’ve found the fifty-year-old comic books I write about here — all of which I bought off the stands when they first came out — generally fall into one of three categories.  First, there are those comics that I liked, or even loved, when I originally read them, but which don’t hold up all that well today; though I can usually still find things to enjoy about these books, it’s by considering them either through the rosy lens of nostalgia, or at something of an ironic distance — sometimes both.  Second, there are those comics which, allowing for the inevitable changes in popular tastes and prevailing styles that have occurred over the last half-century, still hold up quite well indeed; such books continue to provide an entertainment experience that can be recommended to other readers with few if any reservations.

And then there’s the third, as well as the smallest, category: the comic books that I didn’t enjoy as much when I first bought and read them as I do today.  The comic books that I needed to grow into to fully appreciate.  Read More

Avengers #95 (January, 1972)

In October, 1971, Avengers #95 brought us what might be the most unusual installment yet in the ongoing epic of the Kree-Skrull War.  From one perspective, concerned primarily with the progress of the war and the Avengers’ role in it, it could quite reasonably be deemed the least consequential chapter in the entire saga.  From a different point of view, however — namely, that of the Inhumans — it might be the most significant of all.

That’s because Roy Thomas and Neal Adams took advantage of the opportunity Avengers offered not only to wrap up the story they’d begun telling in their most recent previous collaboration — the “Inhumans” strip in Amazing Adventures — but also to deepen the Inhumans’ mythos; especially that part of it wrapped up in the personal histories of the two royal brothers, Black Bolt and Maximus, whose animus had been the driver of most of the narratives Marvel Comics had produced concerning that hidden race ever since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced them back in 1965. Read More

Thor #195 (January, 1972)

While I can’t claim to have distinct memories of the moment my fourteen-year-old self first laid eyes on the cover of Thor #195, one half-century ago, I feel confident in telling you that I was pretty happy about it (new Marvel Comics “picture frame” cover design notwithstanding).  That’s in part because penciller John Buscema and inker Frank Giacoia provided a well-crafted illustration, obviously; but for me, it had more to do with the subject of the illustration.  The God of Thunder and his best buds, the Warriors Three (who just so happened to be my favorite members of Thor‘s supporting cast, but hardly ever seemed to make the cover)  battling a bunch of trolls?  That seemed to put us right square in the middle of the high fantasy territory that often, but not always, supplied the milieu for the Son of Odin’s adventures, both in his current run and in the old Stan Lee-Jack Kirby Journey into Mystery stories I was then enjoying in reprint form via Special Marvel Edition.  More to the point, that particular territory was my favorite milieu for Thor stories, as it had been since I’d caught the high fantasy bug by way of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in the summer of 1970 — and the main reason why Thor had become my favorite Marvel superhero in the months since then.  Read More

Forever People #6 (Dec.-Jan., 1972)

When we last left the Forever People, at the conclusion of their fourth issue back in June, our young heroes were in desperate straits.  Having been captured by Glorious Godfrey and his Justifiers in #3, they had then been handed over to the not-so-tender mercies of Desaad, who’d imprisoned them in his own private “kingdom of the damned” — essentially a torture camp, though presenting itself to the outside world as an innocent amusement park called “Happyland”.  The young gods’ sole hope seemed to lie with their living, sentient computer, Mother Box — and with the stranger into whose care Mother Box had teleported herself: a young man named Sonny Sumo.  Read More

Lois Lane #116 (November, 1971)

A little less than half a century ago, in the letters column of Lois Lane #119 (Feb., 1972), reader Karl Morris of San Diego, CA commented favorably on the title’s recent use of elements from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World mythos, but expressed concern that writer Robert Kanigher might be treading on dangerous ground: “Unless he keeps a very close check on Jolting Jack, Rapid Robert might find himself out of sync with Kirby’s Fourth World.  (Though God only knows how anyone keeps up with it!)”

Not to worry, responded LL‘s editor, E. Nelson Bridwell: “…the way we keep up with the Kirby epic is that yours truly proofreads all his mags when the artwork comes in from California, where Jarring Jack lives.”  From there, Bridwell segued into a plug for the then-current issue of New Gods (#7) which, though obviously well-intentioned, arguably gave away more of that comic’s monumental Big Reveal than Kirby, or most of his readers, might have wished.  But, hey, water under under the bridge; and besides, that’s not why we’re bringing all this up.  Read More

Marvel Spotlight #2 (February, 1972)

From the perspective of a half century later, the horror boom in American comics in the early 1970s looks all but inevitable.  The appeal of the classic movie monsters to young audiences had been clear ever since the first syndicated collection of old Universal horror films started showing up on TV sets in the late 1950s, quickly becoming widely popular.  The subsequent success of Warren Publishing’s Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine (originally produced in 1958 as a one-shot publication, but almost immediately converted into an ongoing periodical), can only have reinforced the sense among U.S. comics publishers that there was gold to be mined in those dark, storm-blasted hills of Gothic horror — as must have Warren’s following up FMoF in the next decade with the black-and-white comics magazines Creepy, Eerie, and, as the 1960s drew to a close, Vampirella.  Then there was the mid-to-late Sixties success of Dark Shadows, the daytime television serial that began its broadcast life firmly planted in the genre of Gothic romance, but soon morphed into a much more freewheeling fantasy show, happily recycling the tropes of both classic horror fiction and old monster movies, and bringing vampires, werewolves, zombies, and their ghastly ilk into America’s homes five afternoons a week.  Read More

Justice League of America #94 (November, 1971)

A half century ago, when your humble blogger picked the object of today’s post up out of the spinner rack and eyeballed the cover for the first time, I was awfully curious as to who — or what — that wraithlike, red-tinged figure descending into Aquaman’s body might turn out to be.  At the same time, I wasn’t the least bit curious about the identity of the cover’s artist — since, with the exception of the usual left-hand column’s worth of floating JLA heads rendered by Murphy Anderson, the cover was the obvious work of Neal Adams.  And as Adams had either pencilled, inked or provided complete art for more Justice League of America covers than any other artist in the three years since his very first (for issue #66 [Nov., 1968] ), that was no surprise at all.

But interior art by Adams in an issue of JLAThat was unexpected; nevertheless, on turning past the cover to the book’s opening splash, that’s exactly what my fourteen-year-old self beheld:  Read More

Captain America #144 (December, 1971)

In September, 1971, I bought my first issue of Captain America in almost two years; today, fifty years later, I’m not sure how to account for my long abstinence from the adventures of the Star-Spangled Avenger, especially considering that I was buying every other superhero title Marvel Comics was putting out at that time.  (Well, almost every other title.  Hulk remained a tough sell for your humble blogger, except for those occasions when his series crossed over with other books I followed, like Avengers.)  Read More

Amazing Spider-Man #103 (December, 1971)

As writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane began work on the 103rd issue of Amazing Spider-Man over half a century ago, the comics-scripting sabbatical of the title’s regular writer (and Marvel editor) Stan Lee — originally announced as “a couple of weeks away from the typewriter” — was going on its third month.  For their first two issues together, Thomas and Kane had been kept busy resolving the “six arms to hold you” plotline Lee and Kane had set up in AS-M #100, while also introducing Marvel’s first vampire supervillain, Morbius. — an idea inspired by Lee’s interest in taking advantage of the new freedoms offered by recent revisions to the Comics Code.  But now, having restored Peter Parker and his web-slinging alter ego to their normal two-armed status quo, as well as having sent Morbius to a watery grave (don’t worry, it didn’t hold him), the two creators were finally on their own.  What would they do now?

As Thomas recalled in 2000 for a personal reminiscence of his longtime friend and collaborator Kane, originally published in Alter Ego #4Read More

Avengers #94 (December, 1971)

In crafting the installment of their ongoing “Kree-Skrull War” epic that arrived on stands in September, 1971, the Avengers creative team hadn’t had the luxury (or, if you prefer, the burden) of 34 pages to work with, as they’d had for a single issue with the previous month’s issue #93.  Rather, the first 20-cent edition of the title featured a mere 23 pages of art and story.

Nevertheless, the reduction of space didn’t deter writer Roy Thomas from continuing to break each issue’s episode of the galaxies-spanning saga into multiple chapters — or from giving every chapter its own individual title, each inspired by a well-known work of science fiction.  For #94’s “More Than Inhuman”, the reference was to Theodore Sturgeon’s 1953 novel, More Than HumanRead More