Jimmy Olsen #135 (January, 1971)

The month of November, 1970 brought comics readers the third installment of writer-artist Jack Kirby’s run on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen — a book which also happened to be the third installment of the massive, multi-title, interconnected epic that we’d eventually come to know as Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, though few if any of us who were reading the comics as they came out fifty years ago had more than the vaguest inkling of that fact.

But it hardly mattered, because Kirby was giving us so much to thrill to and wonder at in each issue of Jimmy Olsen on its own, with no need for reference to any larger narrative.  The “King” had come roaring out of the gate with his very first issue, #133, which set Jimmy and his new best friends, the Newsboy Legion, on a mission into the mysterious Wild Area, where they immediately got mixed up with a community of motorcyclists called the Outsiders, who made their home in a “tree city” called Habitat.  The next issue, #134, found Jimmy and company taking their super-vehicle, the Whiz Wagon, out onto a subterranean drag strip called the Zoomway, joining the Outsiders in a quest for the Mountain of Judgement — which turned out to be an enormous, high-tech mobile home, the headquarters of yet another hidden society, the Hairies.  In the issue’s climax, a bomb that had been surreptitiously placed in the Whiz Wagon was discovered and — with the help of Superman, who’d followed Jimmy and his colleagues to the Wild Area — dealt with just in time to prevent the Mountain of Judgement and its inhabitants from being blown to bits.  The issue ended with Jimmy’s new boss, Morgan Edge — the man who’d built the Whiz Wagon for the Newsboys in the first place, and then sent them and Jimmy into the Wild Area — reporting in to his own, secret boss: a forbidding-looking fellow named Darkseid.

Quite a lot to take in for just two issues, wouldn’t you say?  Read More

Phantom Stranger #11 (January, 1971)

In August, 1970, DC Comics retired the logo that had, with minor adjustments, appeared on the cover of their publications since 1949.  (For the record, the red lettering had been added in 1954.)  It was replaced by a new branding approach that basically consisted of the letters “DC”, the comic’s title, and a graphic representing the comic’s subject matter.  That approach gave us a few imaginative and distinctive new logos, such as the eagle-and-shield emblem that graced the Justice League of America’s covers for a couple of years; for the most part, however, the publisher’s books defaulted to a simple formula of “DC” + title + image of the headliner(s), often with some or all of those elements enclosed within a circle.  The end result was that every series seemed to have its own individual (if not necessarily memorable) logo, with even those comics that were part of a larger “family” of titles — such as those starring Superman or Batman — standing on their own, with little sense of a shared identity.

There were a couple of exceptions, however, both of which involved anthology titles that didn’t have continuing characters who starred in every issue — specifically, DC’s romance and mystery comics.  Read More

Avengers #84 (January, 1971)

As the year 1970 wound down, it seemed that mainstream American comic books had, at last, embraced the “sword and sorcery” fantasy subgenre in all its pulpy glory.  After some tentative moves in that direction — courtesy of DC Comics’ three “Nightmaster” issues of Showcase in 1969, which were followed in 1970 by Marvel’s publication of several S&S short tales in its new horror anthology titles like Chamber of Darkness and Tower of Shadows — Marvel finally jumped into the deep-end of the pool in July, 1970, with a licensed adaptation of the field’s most prototypical character, Robert E. Howard’s Conan:  Read More

Superman #233 (January, 1971)

As a kid, I was a big fan of Superman.  But I wasn’t all that crazy about Superman comics.

Oh, I bought ’em, at least occasionally.  Indeed, the very first comic I remember buying for myself was an issue of the “World’s Best-Selling Comics Magazine!” (as the blurb on each issue’s cover confidently assured us).  But they tended not to make a terribly strong impression, especially as my experience of comics widened; to me, at least, it seemed that for every Superman #199 (which featured the first race between Superman and the Flash, and which my then ten-year-old self enjoyed very much), there was a Superman #198 (see left) which centered on an “impossible” (but not really all that exciting) situation, or a Superman #200 (see right), which devoted all of its pages to an “imaginary novel” whose events didn’t even happen to the “real” Man of Steel, and thereby didn’t count.  (Yes, I was that kind of comics fan, pretty much from the get-go.)  Read More

Sub-Mariner #34 (February, 1971)

When Sub-Mariner #34 came out in November, 1970, it had been precisely one year since I’d bought an issue of the title.  It’s somewhat ironic, then, that there’s a well-known direct connection between that issue, Sub-Mariner #22 and the subject of today’s post — even if it’s a connection that’s only obvious — and perhaps even only exists — in retrospect.

That connection, of course, is that both comics are generally understood to be major building blocks in the development of the Defenders, the “non-team” that, for some of us old geezer fans, all but epitomizes 1970s Marvel Comics (at least as far as superheroes are concerned).  Read More

Thor #184 (January, 1971)

When my thirteen-year-old self picked up Thor #184 in November, 1970, I hadn’t read a single issue of the title in over a year.  The last issue I’d bought, Thor #169, had featured the conclusion of Stan Lee and Kirby’s long-running (and, apparently, extensively reworked) Galactus storyline; it also led directly into Thor’s confrontation with the Thermal Man, the culmination of a subplot that had woven through the last couple of issues.  Apparently, I wasn’t interested enough in seeing the God of Thunder and yet another of Kirby’s super-powerful but personality-free robots (of whom the King gave us a few too many in the late ’60s) whomp on each other for twenty pages, and so I passed on #170.  Then, a month later, I opted to pass on #171 as well; and then on #172, and then #173…  Read More

The Brave and the Bold #93 (December, 1970)

Based on this note from editor Murray Boltinoff that appeared on the issue’s letters page, Brave and the Bold #93’s “Red Water Crimson Death” by Denny O’Neil (writer) and Neal Adams (artist) had been in the works for a while:

“…one of the most distinguished and inspired examples of comic mag art”?  That’s some pretty high praise from Mr. Boltinoff.  But my thirteen-year-old self wouldn’t have argued with him back in 1970; and it still sounds just about right to sixty-three-year-old me, here and now in 2020.

In any event, regardless of how and why the production of this story might have been delayed, its ultimate release could hardly have been more opportunely timed — October 27, just four days before Halloween.  What better time for Batman to dare enter the House of Mystery?  Read More

World’s Finest Comics #199 (December, 1970)

Ah, here we are again, pondering the eternal question:  Who’s faster, Superman or the Flash?  Let’s see if I can recall where we’ve already been, and how we got where we are “now”, in October, 1970…

Oh, yeah, I remember.  Way back in the June of 1967, when your humble blogger had not yet reached the tender age of ten years, his DC superhero-besotted self thrilled to the first ever race between the Man of Steel and the Scarlet Speedster, as chronicled by the team of Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, and George Klein in Superman #199.  Thrilled, that is, up until the story’s last page, when the Flash was robbed — robbed, I say! — of his rightful victory, when the race ended in a tie.  (Why was I rooting for the Flash?  Essentially, because super-speed was his one and only thing, while Superman had a dozen other super-abilities he could be “best” at.)  Shooter’s story might have framed this as a necessary move by the heroes to thwart two gambling syndicates that were illegally betting on the race — but my younger self knew a rip-off when he saw one:  Read More

Green Lantern #81 (December, 1970)

Green Lantern #81, the sixth issue of writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams’ classic “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” run, represented a couple of “firsts” for the series.  For one, the superheroine Black Canary, who’d previously appeared in issues #78 and #79, was cover-billed as a guest-star for the first time.  For another, this was the first installment that overtly heralded the major social issue dramatized within the book’s pages with a cover blurb, i.e., the “Population Explosion!”

Along with these firsts, however, issue #81 almost had the added distinction of being the last issue drawn by Neal Adams.  As the artist would later tell interviewer Arlen Schumer (in Comic Book Marketplace #40 [Oct., 1996]), “I thought we started to run out of ideas when we ran the overpopulation story… Politically, I had a problem with the book.” Read More

Jimmy Olsen #134 (December, 1970)

In August, 1970, when DC Comics released Jimmy Olsen #133 — the first new comic book produced for the publisher by Jack Kirby to make it to print — they marked the occasion with a “Kirby Is Here!” banner headline (a consummation of the “Kirby Is Coming!” promotional campaign they’d been running the last couple of months), topping a cover drawn (mostly) by Kirby himself.

Two months later, when the publisher brought out their second Kirby comic, they continued to use his name as a selling point, with the cover’s banner headline now proclaiming “A King-Size Kirby Blockbuster!”  (“King-Sized” was in fact not an entirely accurate description, since both the physical comic itself and the featured story within were of standard length; perhaps DC was trying to evoke the “King” nickname that Kirby had acquired at his former employer, Marvel Comics.)  But the cover illustration itself wasn’t by Kirby, this time; rather, it was the work of Neal Adams. Read More