Defenders #3 (December, 1972)

As we discussed on the blog back in May, the first issue of The Defenders (which was actually the fourth outing for the titular super-team, following their three-issue tryout run in Marvel Feature) ended on a note of mystery, as the Sub-Mariner revealed to his allies, Doctor Strange and the Hulk, that prior to the events of that comic, he’d been attacked by none other than the Silver Surfer — who had at the time appeared to be himself allied with Necrodamus, the sorcerous acolyte of the Undying Ones whose attempt to summon those evil extradimensional entities our three heroes had just then thwarted, though only barely.  Read More

Conan the Barbarian #21 (December, 1972)

As noted in last month’s post about Conan the Barbarian #20, at the time that issue went to press, the series had recently received the 1971 Shazam Award for Best Continuing Feature — a fact writer-editor Roy Thomas was understandably happy to publicize in the comic’s letters column.  But for anyone who’d missed the good news, they got a second chance to learn about it one month later, when Marvel trumpeted the accolade on the cover of Conan #21.  (Considering that Marvel’s rival DC Comics had done the same thing a year earlier when their own Green Lantern won the same award, it was hardly a surprise that Marvel would follow suit.)

That the blurb ended up appearing on the cover of this particular issue of Conan, however, would turn out to be somewhat ironic, as a number of the people involved in producing it would in later years view it as something of a train wreck.  As Roy Thomas put it in his 2018 book Barbarian Life: A Literary Biography of Conan the Barbarian, Volume 1:
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Fear #11 (December, 1972)

Last month, in our epic Swamp Thing #1 post, we covered at some length the parallel creation and development of Man-Thing and Swamp Thing, two swamp monsters who were both introduced to the comic-book-reading world in early 1971 by the two largest American comics companies, Marvel and DC.  As noted in that post, while both characters received their own ongoing color-comics series in the summer of 1972 — well over a year after their respective introductions in Savage Tales #1 and House of Secrets #92 — Man-Thing managed to make it out of the gate a month before his distinguished competition, with the July release of Fear #10.  Read More

Phantom Stranger #22 (Nov.-Dec., 1972)

Last November, we discussed Phantom Stranger #17, the fourth outing on the title for writer Len Wein. In that issue, Wein and his collaborator, artist Jim Aparo, showed us a more human side of the mysterious titular hero than we’d seen previously, largely through the introduction of a potential romantic interest.  But the Phantom Stranger bid farewell to that interest — a beautiful blind psychic named Cassandra Craft — at the end of #17; and the potential for more characterization-rich storytelling (and perhaps even a touch of issue-to-issue continuity) that Ms. Craft’s advent had seemed to signify wasn’t followed up on in the next couple of issues, both of which featured standalone adventures in which the Stranger operated as solitarily as he had before. Read More

New Gods #11 (Oct.-Nov., 1972)

As was related in our post about Forever People #11 at the beginning of this month, Jack Kirby is reputed to have already begun work both on that comic and on New Gods #11 when he received word from DC Comics that those two issues would be the last for both titles.  The official word was that the two series were being “temporarily suspended”; but Kirby seems to have known that this was truly the end for both of his cherished creations, at least for the foreseeable future.

While we’ll probably never know just how far the writer-artist had already gotten in plotting, drawing, or scripting either comic, there can be no doubt that he made whatever adjustments were necessary to be able to provide the readers of both Forever People and New Gods with not just one last adventure of the series’ titular heroes, but with an ending for each.  In the case of Forever People, Kirby quite literally took his characters off the field, transporting them across the cosmos to an idyllic planet far from the battlefront between the warring god-worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips.  Read More

Justice League of America #102 (October, 1972)

Fifty years ago, this issue brought the conclusion of the tenth annual Justice League-Justice Society summer team-up extravaganza — a special event which also served to commemorate the League’s reaching its 100th issue milestone.  Making the occasion even more memorable, this JLA-JSA get-together was the first to take up three whole issues; it also featured the unexpected return, after twenty-seven years, of yet another DC Comics superhero team: the Seven Soldiers of Victory.

Or maybe that should be most of the Seven Soldiers of Victory, since one of the key mysteries of the storyline concerns a lonely grave standing on a Himalayan peak, with a stone marker inscribed to an “Unknown Soldier of Victory”.  As of the conclusion of JLA #101, small teams of Justice League and Justice Society members have retrieved four out of seven of the time-lost Soldiers (or Law’s Legionnaires, as they’re also called) — the Crimson Avenger, the Shining Knight, Green Arrow, and Stripesy — with three more left to go.  So who’s buried in the Unknown Soldier’s grave?  Is it Vigilante?  The Star-Spangled Kid?  Speedy?

The answer, as many of you reading this already know, is:  none of the above.  Which is, and simultaneously is not, a cheat.  But we’ll get to that soon enough — just as we’ll get to the solution to the separate mystery posed by Nick Cardy’s superb cover (his best yet for the title, in the opinion of your humble blogger) — who else among our heroes is doomed to die?  Read More

Conan the Barbarian #20 (November, 1972)

As we discussed on the blog last month, the 19th issue of Conan the Barbarian saw not only the beginning of the title’s most ambitious multi-issue storyline to date, but also the return of artist Barry Windsor-Smith after a hiatus of several months.  That return was marked by a noticeable improvement in the artist’s already impressive skills in the time he’d been away; but it was also marred somewhat by deadline problems that resulted in only the first nine pages of the story being fully inked (by Dan Adkins), the remaining eleven having to be reproduced from Windsor-Smith’s pencils; an intriguing, but not altogether successful experiment, given the limits of comic-book printing technology of the time.  Read More

Swamp Thing #1 (Oct.-Nov., 1972)

First off, please be advised that this blog post is going to be one of the long ones.  That’s primarily due to the fact that, in addition to covering the specific fifty-year-old comic book that gives the post its title, your humble blogger is also goiing to take a shot at answering the age-old conundrum: who came first, DC Comics’ Swamp Thing or Marvel Comics’ Man-Thing?  (Regular readers may recall that when the blog spotlighted the second Man-Thing story, back in March, I promised something of this sort would be forthcoming; that moment has at last arrived.)

But it’s also destined to be at least a bit on the long side because before I can even get into discussing Swamp Thing #1, I feel that it’s necessary to give some attention to an even older comic, one that came out over fifty-one years ago.  Of course, I’m talking about House of Secrets #92, published by DC in April, 1971; the comic book whose first eight pages gave us the very first “Swamp Thing” story, as written by Len Wein, drawn (mostly) by Bernie Wrightson, and edited by Joe Orlando.  Neither the behind-the-scenes story of how Swamp Thing-the-series came to be — nor my own initial reactions to the first issue of the latter, as a fifteen-year-old reader in August, 1972 — make a whole lot of sense outside of the context of that classic tale.  So, that’s where we’re starting, on what in all probability will indeed be a lengthy (though hopefully also enjoyable) journey.  Forewarned is forearmed, eh?  Read More

Avengers #105 (November, 1972)

Writing about Avengers #100 back in March of this year, I referred to the four issues that immediately followed that milestone as a “victory lap” for Roy Thomas, whose nearly-six-year tenure as the title’s writer was about to come to an end.   In characterizing Avengers #101-104 in such a fashion, I don’t mean to denigrate them; they’re not bad comics, by any means.  But coming directly upon the heels of the three-part “Olympus Trilogy” crafted by Thomas with Barry Windsor-Smith — and, right before that, the “Kree-Skrull War” epic by Thomas, Neal Adams, and Sal and John Buscema — these comics can’t help but seem somewhat anticlimactic by comparison.  I suppose there’s always been a part of me that kind of wishes that Thomas had just quit while he was ahead.  Read More

Captain America #155 (November, 1972)

When Steve Englehart came on board as the new writer for Captain America in June, 1972, your humble blogger had been a regular reader of the series for about ten months — coming on board with issue #144 — after having been an off-and-on one ever since #105, way back in June, 1968.  Originally drawn in by #144’s dramatic cover by John Romita (the effect of which was unquestionably enhanced by the Falcon’s sharp new costume design, also by Romita), I’d hung around for the quite enjoyable Hydra/Kingpin/Red Skull multi-parter that had followed, as delivered by writer Gary Friedrich and a cadre of artists including Gil Kane and Sal Buscema.  And when that storyline wrapped up in issue #148, I’d stayed with the book — despite the fact that the subsequent yarns concocted by Friedrich’s replacement Gerry Conway weren’t all that compelling.  I suppose that inertia may have been carrying me along by that point; that, and the fact that by mid-1972 I was buying the vast majority of Marvel Comics’ superheroic output.  In the context of the Marvel Universe as a whole, Captain America felt like a key title, and I didn’t want to miss anything important.  Read More