Jimmy Olsen #136 (March, 1971)

In early 1971, when the subject of today’s post blog first showed up on spinner racks, Jack Kirby had been producing new comic books for DC Comics for almost half a year.  Not only had three issues of Kirby’s debut project, Jimmy Olsen, been released by this time, but so had the premiere issues of his three brand new titles — Forever People, New Gods, and Mister Miracle (the latter actually hitting stands on the very same day as Jimmy Olsen #136, January 14).  He was becoming established (or, more accurately re-established) at the publisher, in other words.  Perhaps that’s the main reason that this fourth Olsen outing, unlike the first three, didn’t feature Kirby’s name anywhere on the cover; after five months, DC may have figured they no longer needed to tell us readers that Kirby Was Here — by now, we must know that, surely.  Read More

Mister Miracle #1 (Mar.-Apr., 1971)

The first issue of Mister Miracle, written, drawn, and edited by Jack Kirby, was the sixth book to be released in the creator’s new “Fourth World” project for DC Comics.  (Or, if you prefer, the seventh, as both it and Jimmy Olsen #136 — which I’ll be blogging about next week — were published on the same date, January 14, 1971.  So, take your pick.)  The earliest chapters of Kirby’s epic, published in three consecutive issues of Jimmy Olsen (beginning with #133 in August, 1970), had introduced readers to Darkseid — a mysterious and sinister figure hailing from a world called Apokolips.  Next, the premiere issues of two new titles, Forever People and New Gods (both published in December), had revealed that Darkseid was no ordinary alien, but a god — the supreme leader of the “new gods” of Apokolips, who stood in eternal opposition to the more benign divinities of New Genesis.  Now, as the new year began, it was time for the fourth major piece of Kirby’s Fourth World to fall into place, and while my thirteen-year old self wasn’t sure what to expect from Mister Miracle, I was confident that we’d see a further expansion of the already compelling, cosmic-scale mythology Kirby had introduced in his first three titles.

I was therefore somewhat bemused, and even a bit disappointed, to find behind the Jack Kirby-Vince Colletta cover of Mister Miracle #1 a completely earthbound story, with nary an alien god in sight (so far as I could tell, anyway), and not even a single mention of Darkseid.  What in the heck was going on?  Read More

Witching Hour #13 (Feb.-Mar., 1971)

Portrait of Dick Giordano by Joe Orlando, published in many of Giordano’s inaugural DC letters columns in1968.

In October, 1970, Dick Giordano had been an editor at DC Comics for roughly two and a half years.  Since moving over from a similar position at the smaller Charlton Comics, Giordano had made his mark on such DC titles as Beware the Creeper, The Hawk and the Dove, Aquaman, and Teen Titans — all of which featured work by creators he’d previously employed at Charlton, including Steve Ditko, Denny O’Neil, Jim Aparo, and Steve Skeates.  He had also served in the vanguard of a new cohort of DC editors who, like himself, had worked as comics artists before ascending into editorial positions.  This was an innovation driven largely by Carmine Infantino, himself a veteran freelance artist who had recently moved into an executive role at DC; Giordano, however, had been hired not by Infantino, who in early 1968 was still “only” DC’s Art Director, but rather by Executive Vice President Irwin Donenfeld.  Very soon after Giordano’s arrival, Donenfeld was ousted from the company, with Infantino being promoted to Editorial Director — a change which made him Giordano’s new boss.  And although Giordano highly respected Infantino as an artist, he soon found it difficult — and ultimately, impossible — to work with him within their new roles.  Read More

Detective Comics #408 (February, 1971)

There’s an interesting story behind Detective #408’s lead Batman feature (and cover story), “The House That Haunted Batman!”.  Or perhaps we should say, in the interest of total accuracy, that there are four of them.

Back in 1998, in the 1st issue of Comic Book Artist, editor Jon B. Cooke published “The Story That Haunted Julie Schwartz”, a collection of interviews with four of the personnel who’d been involved with producing this classic Detective story:  editor Julius Schwartz, writers Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, and penciller Neal Adams.  The funny thing about it, though, was that in spite of the interviews’ brevity (the entire article ran only two pages) the four veteran comics pros’ recollections differed in certain details, lending the whole enterprise a Rashomon-like quality.

This much, at least, the quartet could agree on:  Quite early on in their professional careers, longtime friends Len Wein and Marv Wolfman wrote a Batman story together which they hoped to sell to Julius Schwartz.  Somewhere along the line, Neal Adams took an interest in the as-yet-unbought script and ended up drawing it in his spare time, on spec — a remarkably generous gesture, considering how busy the artist was (not to mention what his time was worth).  Ultimately, despite the irregularity of the process, editor Schwartz did indeed buy the completed 15-pager, and scheduled it for the next available issue of Detective ComicsRead More

Green Lantern #82 (Feb.-Mar., 1971)

As I noted in my post about Green Lantern #81 back in October, that issue had concluded on a note of finality, with Denny O’Neil’s script commemorating the end of the cross-country (and cross-galaxy) journey that the title character and his fellow emerald-hued hero, Green Arrow, had been on since O’Neil and artist Neal Adams had launched the series on a new, “relevant” trajectory, beginning with issue #76.  Readers at the time might well have wondered if Green Lantern had been cancelled, especially when an issue of the title, previously published on an eight-times-a-year schedule, didn’t appear on the racks in November, as had been the case since the 10th issue back in 1961.

But, in December, 1970, a new issue of Green Lantern (now being published bi-monthly) did finally show up — and things didn’t seem to have changed much, if at all.  As proclaimed by the cover logo, this was still the “all-NEW! all-NOW! Green Lantern co-starring Green Arrow”.  Neal Adams’ presence as cover artist indicated continuity with preceding issues as well.  If anything seemed off at all, it might have been that after a couple of issues whose covers heralded their socially relevant themes quite overtly — i.e., #80‘s graphic evocation of the Chicago 8 trial, and #81’s direct reference to the “population explosion” in its blurb text — #82’s depiction of our two heroes being besieged by mythological harpies suggested that we’d moved back into the area of pure fantasy.

Or did it?  Could it be, perhaps, that those harpies… weren’t just harpies? Read More

New Gods #1 (Feb.-Mar., 1971)

By the time DC Comics released New Gods #1 on December 22, 1970, we readers were beginning to get some sense of the scope of the conflict at the heart of the imaginative construct we would eventually come to call Jack Kirby’s Fourth World.

Information had been delivered on a steady, if limited basis since the release of Kirby’s first new comic for DC, Jimmy Olsen #133, back in August.  There we’d been introduced to Inter-Gang, a shadowy criminal organization whose insidious reach extended even into the everyday workplace of the DC Universe’s premiere superhero and his closest friends.  In the following issue, published in October, we’d learned that Inter-Gang reported to someone called Darkseid; and in November’s JO #135, we’d discovered that this craggy-faced figure was also the boss of a couple of aliens, hailing from a world named Apokolips, who managed an Evil Factory where they conducted sinister experiments with human DNA — with the clear implication that Darkseid shared their extraterrestrial origin.  Finally, in Forever People #1, published December 1st, we’d met a group of strangely garbed — and gifted — young folks from someplace called Supertown, who arrived on Earth by a bizarre means of transport called a Boom Tube.  One of their number had been kidnapped by none other than Darkseid, who had come to our world in search of an  “ultimate weapon” called the Anti-Life Equation — and it seemed clear that while Darkseid himself might not be from Supertown, he and these Forever People were nevertheless connected in some way. Read More

Fantastic Four #108 (March, 1971)

In December, 1970, after four months of whetting fans’ appetites with Jack Kirby’s first three issues of Jimmy Olsen, DC Comics at last published the debut issues of two brand new titles by Kirby, Forever People and New Gods.

And in that same month, Marvel Comics published Fantastic Four #108, containing the very last new work by Kirby for that title, some six months after the last issue fully drawn by the artist had shipped.

Some fans are of the opinion that the concurrence of these events was not coincidental; that either because Marvel wanted to capitalize on the publicity surrounding Kirby’s new DC titles, or because the company wanted to steal a bit of Kirby and/or DC’s thunder concerning their launch, or perhaps for some other reason entirely, Marvel purposefully contrived for this issue — a patchwork put together months after Kirby’s departure from the House of Ideas, featuring a combination of his pencilled art with additional work by John Buscema and John Romita, all inked by Joe Sinnott and scripted by Stan Lee — to reach spinner racks around the same time as the debut issues of the King’s highly anticipated new projects.  Read More

Justice League of America #87 (February, 1971)

Some fifteen months ago, I blogged about Avengers #70, which featured the first full appearance of the Squadron Sinister.  Regular readers may recall my sheepish confession in that post that, despite how blindingly obvious it is to me now that these four characters were homages to/parodies of (take your pick) DC Comics’ Superman, Batman, Flash, and Green Lantern, in September, 1969 my then twelve-year-old self didn’t pick up on the joke at all.

Nor was I aware that this comic book was one half of a “stealth crossover” of sorts between Marvel Comics’ Avengers and its counterpart title over at DC, Justice League of AmericaSaid crossover apparently had its origins at a party at which comics writer Mike Friedrich suggested to a couple of his cohorts, Roy Thomas (the writer of Avengers) and Denny O’Neil (then the writer of JLA), that they each present a “tip of the hat” of some sort from the super-team book they were writing to its rival, in issues coming out in the same month.  Thomas and O’Neil both agreed, and Avengers #70 and JLA #75 were the results.  But while the inspiration for Thomas’ Squadron Sinister was all but self-evident (though of course not to me, or to the other fans who chimed in after my September, 2019 blog post that they hadn’t caught on either), the relationship of the supposed Avengers analogues in O’Neil’s story — evil doppelgängers of the Justice League called “the Destructors” — to their Marvel models was obscure to the point of opacity, with the parallels being limited to such bits as having Superman’s dark twin refer to himself as being as powerful as Thor.  (Um, sure.)  I didn’t actually buy JLA #75 when it came out, but I’m all but 100% certain I wouldn’t have realized what O’Neil was up to with such subtle shenanigans, even if I had.  Read More

Amazing Adventures #5 (March, 1971)

As I wrote in this space back in May, in 1970 my younger self bought the first two issues of Marvel Comics’ new double-feature title Amazing Adventures upon their release — but then skipped the next two.  Half a century later, I can’t recall what my decision-making process was (and the vagaries of distribution being what they were at the time, it’s entirely possible that I never saw AA #3 and/or #4 on the stands).  But I’d guess that I simply wasn’t all that crazy about what I’d found in #1 and #2.  Even though I liked the Inhumans a whole lot, and was an admirer of Jack Kirby’s art (I was also a fan of his plotting, of course, if only unconsciously, since I didn’t yet comprehend the extent of the King’s creative contributions to his collaborations with Marvel editor/scripter Stan Lee), the two-part tale that inaugurated the Inhumans feature, written as well as drawn by Kirby, didn’t feel like essential work.  At the time he produced these stories, Kirby was on the verge of unleashing a tremendous amount of pent-up creativity with his “Fourth World” project for DC; but, as with a lot of his other material for Marvel at the end of his monumental ’60s tenure at the publisher, his heart didn’t really seem to be in this stuff.

As for the title’s second feature, the Black Widow — she was more of an unknown quantity for me, anyway.  Besides the obvious fact that this was her first solo strip, I had at this point read very few of her earlier appearances in Avengers and elsewhere, and had little to no investment in the character.  Despite the reliably fine draftsmanship of John Buscema on her first two installments (with John Verpoorten inking Buscema’s pencils), I didn’t find enough there to hook me and bring me back.  Read More

Daredevil #73 (February, 1971)

When I first started buying Marvel comics in 1968, Daredevil was one of the first of the company’s titles that I sampled; over the next couple of years, it would be one of my most consistent purchases from any publisher.  With that in mind, it seems a little odd that when I returned to the adventures of the Man Without Fear in December, 1970, after more than a year’s hiatus, I came back by way of a crossover with Iron Man — a Marvel series I’d only read intermittently up to this point. Read More