I’m not sure exactly what my fourteen-year-old self was expecting to see on the cover of Avengers #97 when it first turned up in the spinner rack, back in December, 1971; nevertheless, I’m pretty confident that Gil Kane and Bill Everett’s illustration highlighting Captain America, the original Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner — plus four other guys I didn’t recognize — wasn’t anywhere near it. I mean, it was a great image, but aside from Cap, none of those characters were Avengers. And “Rick Jones Conquers the Universe!”? OK, that last bit wasn’t so unexpected — it had been pretty clear from the latter scenes of the preceding issue that Rick was going to play an important role in the conclusion of the Kree-Skrull War. But still — where the heck were the Avengers? Or the Kree or the Skrulls, for that matter?
The story’s opening splash page — more specifically, its credits box — brought yet another surprise…
While Neal Adams hadn’t drawn every single page of Avengers since becoming the title’s new regular artist with issue #93 — John Buscema had pencilled a little less than half of #94 — it was still shocking to see him only credited as “consultant” for this, the final chapter of the epic story that writer Roy Thomas and his various artistic collaborators had been telling for the last nine months. What had happened?
It’s possible (if not terribly likely) that at this point my younger self flipped to the back of the book, to see if there was any kind of explanation offered on the letters page. If so, I found this:
Well, that seems pretty straightforward. Deadlines are deadlines, and these things happen, right? It’s a disappointment, for sure, but we can all deal. After all, John Buscema’s a fine artist, and we’ve still got Tom Palmer on inks. Surely no one would ever make a big stink about… oh, wait. Never mind.
Unfortunately for us all, the circumstances of Neal Adams’ departure from Avengers — as with so much else associated with Adams and Thomas’ brief but celebrated collaboration on the series — have become a matter of some dispute over the last five decades; a dispute not only between the two creators themselves, but also between comics fans who’ve lined up on one side or the other. (The argument goes back at least to the late ’90s; its most recent permutation, to the best of my knowledge, was carried out via the Bleeding Cool web site in 2018. That exchange is regrettably hard to read in the proper sequence, but you can start here and work you way back via the links.) Frankly, I’ve been loath to get into this mess here on the blog (mostly because, as I said back in August in my post on #93, I have no special knowledge regarding the facts of the matter), preferring instead simply to deal with the comics as we have them. That’s meant giving credit to one creator or the other for a solo story contribution on those occasions when they’re both in agreement that it’s deserved (e.g., Adams having come up with Ant-Man’s “fantastic voyage” through the Vision’s body on his own has been readily acknowledged by Thomas), but, for the most part, crediting them jointly as collaborating storytellers.
It’s almost impossible to avoid the controversy when discussing Avengers #97, however. That’s because a significant number of readers have always been disappointed in how the Kree-Skrull War was resolved — and at least some of those folks appear to be convinced that they would have liked the wrap-up a whole lot better had Neal Adams been allowed to continue on in his prior role. Your humble blogger happens to believe that that latter group of fans is misguided — but before I attempt to counter their argument, we should go ahead and look at the story itself, just to make sure we’re all on the same page.
Following the opening splash page, “Godhood’s End!” (the story’s title wraps up Thomas’ series of nods to classic science fiction works by alluding to Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 novel Childhood’s End) continues with two pages that recap the current status of all the principal players, courtesy of a vision experienced by Rick Jones — and then, it’s on with the action:
Poor Annihilus. The last time he turned up in Avengers (in issue #89), he got his clock cleaned within three pages. This time, if we skip the recap, it takes all of, um,,, three pages. Jeez, what’s a dread lord of the Negative Zone gotta do to get some respect around here?
At the end of the previous issue, when Rick was pulled into the Negative Zone, the Supreme Intelligence indicated that it was happening according to his plan. But now Captain Marvel is saying he did it, accidentally? Hmm…
You know, it’s funny how for all those months that they were switching atoms with each other, either Rick or Mar-Vell could be parked in the Negative Zone for, like, ever, and never have to worry about floating into an “explosive region”, or Annihilus suddenly showing up. Makes you wonder what’s changed around the old place.
“I spoke not of your personal birthright, Rick Jones,” the Supreme Intelligence explains, “but that of the entire human race from whose apish loins you sprang.” But further details will have to wait, as the SI suddenly senses that he’s been found out. And indeed, the usurper Ronan has detected an unlikely power surge emanating from the chamber where he’s imprisoned the former leader of the Kree Empire, and is even now dispatching a squad of soldiers to eliminate both him and Rick for good…
This scene calls back to the one in issue #92 where Rick had recalled the comic-book heroes of his childhood — but whereas in that instance Roy Thomas had instructed artist Sal Buscema to toss in a few non-Timely/Marvel heroes he figured had fallen into public domain, for this more robust treatment he opted to have Sal’s brother John draw only Marvel properties.
It’s easy — and natural, too, I suppose — for a contemporary comics fan, well aware of the deep fondness for Golden Age superheroes that Roy Thomas has demonstrated over the course of his long career in the field, to roll their eyes at the sudden shoehorning in of a quintet of obscure characters only the most dedicated and knowledgeable enthusiasts of 1971 would have been likely to recognize. But, at the time — years before the Invaders, the Liberty Legion, the All-Star Squadron, or any of the other WWII-era continuity grafts for which the writer would later be responsible — this was quite a novel development. Like I said before, it wasn’t at all what my fourteen-year-old self had been expecting — but that didn’t mean it wasn’t interesting.
Of course, I’d probably have found it all even more interesting if these old-timers had been “real”, rather than some sort of energy constructs pulled out of Rick’s comics-reading memories. (I’d been down on “facsimile” heroes ever since the sorceress Zatanna conjured up a team of faux JLAers in Justice League of America #51 [Feb., 1967] — my thinking was, if the characters I was reading about weren’t actual living beings, why should I care what happened to them?) Ironically, each and every one of these guys would eventually be brought into official Marvel Universe continuity as flesh-and-blood heroes who’d had for-real careers in the 1940s. But, for whatever reason, in 1971 Marvel still wasn’t ready to embrace its pre-Silver Age history in the way that DC Comics had done for years (though, admittedly, mostly at arm’s length, via the device of Earth-Two).
Constructs or no, you might still be curious about these characters, and since there’s no reason for you to remain as clueless as I was back in December, 1971 (seriously, Roy, not even one footnote?), we’ll be noting the provenance of each one as they take their brief moment in the spotlight. First up, as depicted in the next-to-last panel of page 10, above: the Patriot, who was created by writer Ray Gill and artist George Mandel, and who first appeared in Human Torch Comics #4 (Mar., 1941).
The original Vision was the creation of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, and made his debut in Marvel Mystery Comics #13 (Nov., 1940).
The Blazing Skull first turned up in Mystic Comics #5 (Mar., 1941), in a story written and drawn by Bob Davis.
The Fin debuted in Daring Mystery Comics #7 (Apr., 1941), and was the creation of Bill Everett — better known, of course, for his other aquatic hero, the Sub-Mariner. (According to Roy Thomas’ overview of the Kree-Skrull War in Alter Ego vol. 2, #4 [Spring, 1999], Everett’s inking of Avengers #97’s cover represented a very rare instance of the artist working on both characters for a single piece.)
The original Angel , as created by Paul Gustavson, goes about as far back as Marvel itself, having initially appeared in the company’s very first comic book, Marvel Comics #1 (Oct., 1939) — a distinction he shares with the Torch and Sub-Mariner.
And now that you’ve met the whole gang, wave bye-bye, because we’re all done with ’em.
Unsure what to make of all this, our quartet of Avengers decides to head for the Skrull Throneworld to get some answers…
The brief glimpse Buscema gives us of the Skrull Armada echoes a Neal Adams splash from the previous issue, down to the close-up on Commandant Kalkor in the bottom right-hand corner.
The poetic justice of “Craddock”‘s fate is obvious, still, death by mob violence is pretty strong stuff for a 1971 Code-approved superhero comic…
OK, so… the Supreme Intelligence manipulated Mar-Vell to try to contact Rick using the Omni-Wave device, which is what unleashed the dormant powers of Rick’s “cosmic heritage”. And I suppose that Rick falling into the Negative Zone was merely an unintended consequence, obviously included by our storytellers just so there could be a cliffhanger at the end of issue #96. Yeah, I think we’ve got it, folks.
I get why some readers find the resolution of the Kree-Skrull War to be anti-climactic — hell, I wouldn’t have minded another space battle or two myself — but I have to say that the basic concept of the two advanced races having reached an evolutionary “dead end“, and humanity ultimately having the upper hand (though still needing the Supreme Intelligence to take advantage of it, of course) has always worked for me. There’s a basic irony there that I find appealing; it also feels like the logical payoff to the whole “beachhead Earth” idea that Thomas has been playing with since the storyline’s earliest episodes.
Roy Thomas seems to have had a propensity for taking superheroes “off the board” after their series had been cancelled — he’d done it with Doctor Strange a year or so back by having the Master of the Mystic Arts “retire” for a while, and here he was doing it again by having Captain Marvel give up his life-force to save Rick. I doubt that many (if any) fans believed at the time that we’d never see Mar-Vell again, so I have to wonder what the point of this was.
“…he could have hoped she would become — even more.” Actually, Princess Anelle did become something more to Mar-Vell, if only briefly; as many of you reading this will already know, much later stories would reveal that, during their acquaintance, the royal Skrull and the captive Kree conceived a child together — the future head of the Kree-Skrull Alliance, Teddy Kaplan-Altman, aka Hulkling. (Though when and how the couple managed to find the time and opportunity to get busy, I have no idea.)
Incidentally, the notion that Anelle would become regent of the Skrull Empire in the war’s aftermath — an appealing outcome, but not one that’s really supported by events — would be ignored by future storytellers; Anelle’s dad, Dorrek VII, wasn’t going anywhere, at least not for a while.
“…Kree and Skrull at uneasy peace, your planet safe —” It’s not actually very clear just how the SI’s enforced armistice is supposed to work. At some point, the “freeze” instituted by Rick has to end, if it hasn’t already — and when it does, what’s to keep Ronan, Dorrek, et al from picking up right where they left off? One might presume that there’s some sort of residual fail-safe left in place from Rick’s actions that’ll lock everything back up should the former combatants try to resume hostilities; but that’s just a guess. Honestly, this should have been explained better.
Was Nick Fury’s joke the first time my younger self had ever heard of Gilbert Shelton’s classic underground comix characters? Yeah, probably.
At last… the mystery of the Fourth Skull, explained! (Although that should probably be amended to “adequately explained”, for reasons I’ll go into below.)
As you may recall from the discussion in our Avengers #93 post, three Skrulls who’d been hypnotized by Reed Richards (aka Mister Fantastic) way back at the end of Fantastic Four #2 (Jan., 1962) had been revived by the Super Skrull in the present day, and sent to attack the Avengers. But there had been four Skrulls captured by the FF earlier in that classic tale. To all appearances, penciller Jack Kirby just plain forgot about Number Four when it came time to draw FF #2′ final pages, leaving it up to scripter Stan Lee to come up with the fairly lame explanation offered in the panel shown at right. Now, at last, the truth is out — which I suppose means that either Reed had some good reason readers weren’t told about in ’62 to believe that the fourth Skrull really had somehow managed to rejoin his fellow invaders in outer space, or he actually had no idea what had happened to the guy, and so handed the U.S. military a line to cover the FF’s asses. Your choice, faithful readers!
One more thing to note here: In issue #96, the Supreme Intelligence had claimed responsibility for influencing “Craddock” to go after the Avengers; in my post about that issue, I’d suggested that that claim didn’t really jibe with what we’d later learn about the guy, i.e., that he was actually a Skrull. Obviously, I should have read on ahead through #97 before writing that, because here’s Thor telling us that, yes, “’twas surely the Intelligence Supreme did influence the Skrull thus — to bring the Avengers into the fray.” Um, OK, I guess. Although it seems like an unnecessary complication to my mind — why would the fourth Skrull have needed a push from the S.I. to make trouble, when his three former comrades and the Super Skrull hadn’t? (It also underscores what seems in retrospect to be one of the plot’s major weaknesses — that the Supreme Intelligence’s ability to mentally manipulate virtually anyone, anywhere in the cosmos, is all but absolute. Which was fine as long as he was portrayed as essentially benign, like Thomas did in Captain Marvel as well as here — but problematic for later Marvel storytellers who wanted to use him as a bad guy.)
Ah, well, it’s all over now anyway, right? No? Oh, right, I almost forgot…
Yeah, it’s not what you’d call the tidiest ending to a nine-part epic, but finishing up a comic with a hook to bring you back for the next issue is the Mighty Marvel way of doing things, circa 1971. And we’ll be back next month to fill you in about Clint Barton’s fate, so don’t fret too much about the guy in the interim, OK?
And now to return to the questions we postponed dealing with at length earlier in this post: Why didn’t Neal Adams draw the conclusion to the Kree-Skrull War? And would that conclusion have been substantially different, in a story sense, if he had?
Roy Thomas’ version of events hasn’t changed substantially since the announcement that ran in Avengers #97 letters column, fifty years ago; in essence, it’s that Adams ran into deadline problems, which in turn led Thomas (in his editorial capacity at Marvel), to assign the plot for #97 that he and Adams had already worked out (hence Adams’ credit as “consultant”) to John Buscema to illustrate.
As for Adams — here’s his account, in its latest (2018) iteration:
Let’s be clear. When I took over the Avengers, Roy was doing a rather scattered series that included many characters. When I asked if he had a specific direction, Roy said not really, but since we were working Marvel Method, I could go in any direction I wanted. I looked at what Sal [Buscema] and Roy were doing,…thought about it, and told Roy that I’d like to do a very long story. perhaps 10 or 12 books and lead the whole thing including ALL the Marvel characters into a full out Kree-Skrull War, all to focus on a much unused Rick Jones. Roy seemed very pleased, and so I began. In all honesty the story just got off the ground and Rick was in place, the opposition lined up and the meat of the war was to begin. The Kree Skrull War.
Then…. well, things changed. And the wonderful John Buscema was instructed to shorten and end the story, I can promise you I had quite fantastic things planned.
Adams had more to say about his unrealized plans for the storyline in the most detailed account of these events that he’s given (as far as I’m aware); it originally appeared as part of an interview conducted in 1998 for Comic Book Artist #3 (Winter, 1999):
I really had the sense that I could do something bigger, something really, really big with Marvel’s key characters. If you look at the four issues of the Avengers and see all the stuff that’s in there, you really get the sense of a tremendous framework building in a short amount of time; it’s an awful lot of work. Consider the work that went into the layout of every page; look at the detail in these pages. I turned out an awful lot of pages for this with a tremendous amount of sincerity, and I felt it was going to turn into something. I was building a kind of Marvel New Gods.
I felt I was embarked on an epic and I discovered the support for doing an epic wasn’t there, in general. The Marvel “machine” was not prepared to get behind something as big as this, for whatever reason…
My main issue with this account is that, frankly, I don’t get “the sense of a tremendous framework building in a short amount of time” when I look at those four issues of Avengers. Certainly not in the sense that the story was building towards a 10 – 12 issue extravaganza “including ALL the Marvel characters”. If that were true, then surely there’d be a sense of plot threads introduced in #93 – 96 that are simply truncated in #97, that never pay off — and there aren’t, at least not that I can see. Pretty much every element that gets introduced into the storyline after Adams joins the creative team — the cow-Skrulls (actually foreshadowed in issue #92), the Super Skrull, the Omni-Wave Projector, the Mandroids, the Inhumans — either gets wrapped up before #97, or is appropriately dealt with in the course of the finale.
The other important thing to note about Adams’ words here is that they lay the blame for his departure from Avengers on Marvel’s lack of support for his vision; in doing so, they sidestep the issue of his missed deadlines. And indeed, in his 2018 pronouncements about these events, the artist doesn’t address deadlines at all. In the 1998 CBA interview, however — sandwiched in between the grand plans and the recriminations — there’s this:
I talked to Roy about the story as it progressed, and we were collaborating more on the individual book storylines at that point, but only I knew where it was going. I suggested to Roy the idea of doing the next story from the point of view of a classroom in the future, telling the story of how the Kree-Skrull War got to Earth. Roy kind of questioned that; he thought it really sort of says that we survived. I thought it really wasn’t that important at that point; we know we’re gonna survive. I thought it would be an interesting way to do the story; he didn’t like it very much. I said I thought I could make it work; he said okay, go ahead.
I went home thinking, “Let me think about this. Let me try out some different ideas.” After a few days I realized it really wasn’t going to work, so it probably wasn’t such a great idea. Not only that, Roy didn’t like it that much. So I just went back to straight narrative. I had some other work I had to get done at the time, and it took me a good week to get back to it. When I got back to it, I was fine. I had pages, I brought them in.
Well, apparently Roy had decided he was going to go with a different way to tell the story, and he had sent the story to John Buscema! It threw me for a loop…
Thomas’ account of events, while including additional details, is actually pretty consistent with Adams’. In his 1999 article for Alter Ego vol. 2, #4, after noting that Marvel either had to deliver something called Avengers to the printer every 30 days, or be charged a hefty late fee, the writer goes on to say:
…when Neal and I discussed #97, incorporating ideas I’d had seven issues earlier plus new ones one or both of us had, he told me he wanted to set #97 in Earth’s far future, with a teacher Instructing a new generation about the long-ago war between the Skrulls and the Kree. The last chapter of the War would be, in effect — a flashback!
I wasn’t wild about this idea, but if Neal could do it and still tell the main story in 21 pages, I’d go along with it. I hadn’t lost my faith in Neal’s instincts. Far from it.
As Neal was presumably working on the artwork for #97 and the deadline loomed I was getting considerable grief from production manager [John] Verpoorten, especially when, after a decent interval, no penciled pages had been delivered.
…I finally yielded to the inevitable. I wrote out a version of the plot (which up to then had been only a verbal discussion between Neal and me) and Special Deliveryed it off to John Buscema, who was implored to pencil the issue as quickly as possible for Tom Palmer to embellish. Under pressure, John did so in less than a week.
Under the circumstances, I decided not to use Neal’s futuristic framing sequence, since that would simply have thrown John an unneeded curve at a crucial stage. Otherwise, however, the plot was very much along the lines of who Neal and I had agreed on…
While John was finishing the pencils, Neal came into the Marvel offices with a handful of pages of finished pencils or layouts — frankly I forget which. I recall them as dealing with his futuristic framing sequence, but I won’t swear to that part of it — only to the fact that it was just the bare beginnings of a past-due issue.
At that point I had to tell Neal we’d now have to go with Buscema-Palmer art. I was unhappy about it, but Verpoorten and I had to get the book out, and we still weren’t sure we were going to make it in time. (For all I recall, maybe we did have to pay late charges on #97. If not, we made it just under the wire.)
In his version, Adams suggests that Thomas made up his mind to change course while the artist had run into a delay in his drawing the issue, as though the delay itself didn’t precipitate Thomas’ decision. But he doesn’t deny that the delay occurred. Why bring it up at all, if it wasn’t the decisive factor that led to his losing the assignment?
If anyone out there reading this still has any doubt that Neal Adams could have been having such serious deadline problems in late 1971 that his publisher was in danger of either having to put out a reprint book or pay late fees to their printer, they only have to look at the issue of the other book Adams was drawing regularly at the time — DC’s Green Lantern — that also shipped in December, just a few weeks after Avengers #97 hit the stands.
Because, rather than featuring the latest brand-new adventure of Green Lantern and Green Arrow as chronicled by the award-winning team of Adams and writer Denny O’Neil, GL #88 went to press with two reprinted Silver Age Green Lantern stories, accompanied by a never-published tale of the Golden Age GL that had been sitting in DC’s files for twenty-two years. The only pieces of Neal Adams artwork that appeared in this “Special Surprise Issue!” were its cover, and a pencil rough of the cover for the next issue, #89.
Naturally, Adams has an explanation for this unfortunate circumstance, just as he does for his abrupt exit from Avengers. In an interview published in The Comics Journal #43 (Dec., 1978), the artist said:
There was a time when a Green Lantern reprint was put in as an editorial decision long before any deadline was up… I think Carmine Infantino was a little bit annoyed that the Green Lantern/Green Arrow series was getting a lot of attention and that I couldn’t do his covers while I was turning out Green Lantern/Green Arrow. You must understand the situation I was in. I was being asked to turn out Green Lantern/Green Arrow, but I was also being asked to do five covers a week for DC Comics… So, when people talk about my having trouble with deadlines, they tend to forget to mention things like, “Well, while Neal was having trouble turning out Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Neal was also being asked by Carmine Infantino to turn out approximately five covers a week, pencils, inks, and colors. And when he let down on doing those covers and insisted that Green Lantern/Green Arrow was more important, it was insisted to him by the publishers that indeed it was much more important to get out those covers because those covers sold more books. And, after all, Green Lantern/Green Arrow wasn’t that important after all.”
Now, from that point of view, whatever problems I had with the Green Lantern/Green Arrow series were created by publishing decisions.
Hmm. Is it just me, or does anyone else see a little bit of a pattern here?
I hope that nothing I’ve written here comes across as terribly disrespectful to Neal Adams, who was, is, and shall doubtless remain one of my favorite comics artists of all time. Indeed, I happen to believe that he’s absolutely right about at least part of what he told Comic Book Artist in 1998 — he did put an “awful lot of work” into his four issues of Avengers. The level of effort, care, and (to borrow his own word) “sincerity” is evident on every single page; so much so that, as much as I respect the fine job John Buscema did on Avengers #97, I still wish Neal Adams had drawn the book. Would my fourteen-year-old self have been OK with Marvel putting out a reprint in December, so that the Kree-Skrull War could finish up a month later, in #98, with Adams still on board? I’d like to think I would. On the other hand, I didn’t buy Green Lantern #88 that month, despite being a pretty regular reader of the title — so who knows?
And, in the end, perhaps it all did go down fifty years ago just as Adams claims. As I’ve said before, I wasn’t there, so there’s no way I can ever know for sure. All I do know is that, given the evidence available, it seems pretty unlikely.
So, if you regret that we didn’t get a Neal Adams-drawn “Godhood’s End!”, join the club. But if you’re still pining after half a century for a 12-part epic featuring “ALL the Marvel characters” doing “quite fantastic things” in “a full out Kree-Skrull War” — well, let’s just say that your time and energy could probably be better spent on other things.
I read most of the Kree-Skrull War within a year or two of publication and i gotta say, I prefer any Buscema on the plot to Adams. I’ve never been an Adams fan at all and the more traditional work of the Buscemas was always more pleasing. It is interesting to look back at a time when John was doing full pencils under Palmer’s inks. His last run on the book was still great but so much lesser with Palmer having to do most of the heavy lifting.
The first time I recall reading any reference to the Kree-Skrull War was in Captain Marvel #27 (which was also the first comic I got with art by Jim Starlin) and I didn’t read any part of the epic itself until the 1980s. Earlier, I’d gotten CM #22, wherein Captain Marvel makes his return (I don’t remember any reference to KSW in that), which was my intro to Cap — I wound up missing the next 4 issues, although I did get them much later. Funny that on this cover the Avengers’ epic is referred to as the Skrull vs. Kree War and elsewhere Thomas refers to it as the Skrull-Kree War, but in short order it appears fandom decreed it should be Kree-Skrull War instead (and I think that’s likely due to that just rolling off the tongue easier than the other way around). As Marvel’s editor by the time CM 27 came out, Thomas was on board with the switch by then. Anyhow, by the time I actually did read this issue, I’d already read Thomas’ issues featuring the Liberty Legion, featuring the Patriot and the Fin, and elsewhere I’d at least seen references to the Blazing Skull, and the original Vision and Angel. Funny that in all the discussions about who came up with the Johnny Blaze version of Ghost Rider, I rarely see references to Blazing Skull, who appeared here several months before the similarly flaming-skulled Ghost Rider made his debut. But I also recall seeing ads for various “hip” stickers that along with Crumb’s “Keep on Truckin'” guy also included a flaming skull, so even if Blazing Skull didn’t set the comics world on fire in the ’40s, the basic idea stuck around and maybe even pre-dated that character.
Back to the story though, sort of an amusing Rick Jones guest-starring as the brief deus ex machina to wind down the story. I think page-count wise, this was Marvel’s largest multi-issue epic to date. Ditko’s Dr. Strange vs Baron Mordo & Dormammu epic in Strange Tales may taken up more issues but with fewer page count installments. Of course, over at the Distinguished Competition, Kirby was embarking on the first multi-title multi-issue epic, even if in a bit of a scattershot method as each title was going in it’s own direction such that an issue of New Gods didn’t lead directly to the concurrent issue of The Forever People, etc. Englehart’s Avengers-Defenders clash of 1973 would be the first to do that for several issues in both titles.
What Adams’ claims to have envisioned would eventually become practically a standard operating procedure for many comics epics of the ’80s onward, starting with a brief taste in Mantlo’s Contest of Champions but really taking off with Shooter’s Secret Wars (admittedly, neither really did all that much for me; Shooter’s writing, IMO, was terrible on SW). Can’t say for sure if Adams’ really had that idea while working on the story in 1971 and if so, could’ve been great and perhaps if he had managed to meet those deadlines Thomas would have gone along with it, but one of those great What Ifs left to our fantasies. As to what really was, overall I enjoyed this epic. Adams’ artistry made for some fantastic highlights, brother Sal provided good introductory chapters and big John B a satisfying enough grand finale. Oh, and Thomas managed to get his Timely-era Big Three fix on an Avengers cover again, but still a few years away from putting WWII era Cap, Subby and the original HT in their own comic.
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“Funny that on this cover the Avengers’ epic is referred to as the Skrull vs. Kree War and elsewhere Thomas refers to it as the Skrull-Kree War, but in short order it appears fandom decreed it should be Kree-Skrull War instead (and I think that’s likely due to that just rolling off the tongue easier than the other way around).”
One thing that I discovered in researching this post is that the Mighty Marvel Checklist entries for both #96 and #97 referred to “the Kree-Skrull War”. So you could say that Marvel gave the fans a choice, and we made it — prob for the very reason you state, fred. 🙂
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This is one of the biggest flaws of the Marvel method in my opinion. Not in terms of how well the story turns out or in how well it’s written or drawn, but in these ridiculous arguments about who gets credit for what. Jack says he did it all and Stan did nothing, Neal says he did it all and then Roy took it away from him and gave it to Buscema. I realize we’re all human here and I certainly understand an artist’s desire to feel a sense of ownership to the story he or she has been working on, but these playground-level disagreements about such things have ruined friendships and working relationships among creatives for years and have probably cost us some great stories in the process.
Truthfully, the same thing probably would have happened if Roy had written out a full script and given it to Neal because they were first and foremost “co-plotters,” as were Stan and Jack for that matter, and it seems like this nebulous gray area is where most of the disagreements begin. It’s a shame we can’t ask Uatu to provide us with a written transcript of who said what and when during the plotting process, but we can’t and are destined to live through a fifty-year-old tug of war between well-meaning people who probably really don’t remember how it all went down in the first place, but rather how they WISH it went down. How very sad…how very human.
Anyway, as I said in another comment, I didn’t read this story fifty years ago and am digesting it now for the first time and for the most part, I’ve really enjoyed it up until now. One of the other drawbacks of the Marvel Method is that really, the artist can draw whatever he wants and because of deadlines, the writer simply has to make it work. Not that any sane artist who wants to keep working would go too far afield, but if Neal decides there’s something he just “has” to draw or if there’s a plotpoint that Roy finds important that Neal doesn’t or that Neal interprets in a different way, Roy gets stuck with trying to explain Neal’s interpretation of that point, which sometimes gets us into deep water, story-wise. To me, this whole story feels like Thomas and Adams plotted themselves into a corner and it took the deus ex machina of the Supreme Intelligence and Rick Jones to get them out of it. This may not be a company-wide crisis involving every Marvel hero as Neal stated, but I can definitely see that it should have taken another three or four issues to resolve it logically in a way that didn’t feel rushed and made sense without all the finger-waving we get here. I liked the fact that Mar-Vell had to pay the price for the Supreme Intelligence’s use of Rick-one of my favorite things about Marvel is that actions always have consequences and those consequences stick; for a while anyway-but everything up to that point feels rushed and shoehorned in.
Was Rick’s largely pointless recreation of his old comic book heroes supposed to be a nod to the Invaders? I have very little knowledge of that old WWII team, other than that it included Cap, Namor and the original Torch, but I do think it’s a missed opportunity that the current Vision didn’t get to meet the original one OR that he didn’t also get to meet the original Torch, who provided the Vision’s original body, if I’m not mistaken. Could have been an interesting conversation is all I’m saying.
The oldest comic I own, by the by, is a 1964 issue of Strange Tales (I think that’s what it’s called) that featured 1940’s re-prints of Captain American and the original Human Torch. Imagine my confusion, having never known of the original Torch before that moment and having to figure out what the hell was going on from one old story. Especially since the reason I got the book in the first place was because I was a huge FF fan and was expecting a story about Johnny Storm. Sheesh.
Anyway, thanks for the wrap-up of one of the biggest stories I never read, Alan. I can cross this one off my bucket list.
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“This is one of the biggest flaws of the Marvel method in my opinion. Not in terms of how well the story turns out or in how well it’s written or drawn, but in these ridiculous arguments about who gets credit for what.”
I wonder if that’s one reason that hardly anyone seems to use the MM anymore. I get the impression that most comics produced these days by writer-artist teams are done full-script method; in instances where the artist contributes significantly to the plot, the credits usually indicate it some way.
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“…playground-level disagreements about such things have ruined friendships and working relationships among creatives for years and have probably cost us some great stories in the process.”
I don’t think these are playground-level disagreements — there were people’s livelihood’s and paychecks at stake based on these disagreements. Wally Wood, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, etc. (rightfully) felt they were doing part of the writing and not being compensated for it, with Stan enjoying both the editor’s salary and the full writer’s page rate. No one wants to do work that someone else receives the paycheck for.
Beyond that, in some cases there were millions of dollars at stake in those disagreements. Jack Kirby died heartbroken and his wife needed a handout to make ends meet in her later years, while Stan Lee and his wife spent their twilight years with tens of millions of dollars in the bank. Receiving that credit made the difference.
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It’s said that you should never meet your heroes. Along similar lines, one should be wary of revisiting beloved old comic storylines from one’s childhood. This arc had a lot of good stuff in it, but it was also sloppy and messy. Part of this was because there was too much labor at Marvel being divided between a criminally-low number of hands, but even so, it really should have never gotten this bad. In this case, I believe Thomas left too much of the plot specifics to Adams– he was the credited writer, he should have had more concrete plans for where this was all going, as opposed to flying by the seat of his pants, as so many of the writers at Marvel appeared to be doing back then. None of this was remotely “tidy,” imo.
Some personal perspective: I bought Avengers #97 as a back issue sometime circa 1980 based solely on all the Golden Age heroes on the cover. My 1981 Comic Book Price Guide values the comic at that time as three bucks in mint condition, which is what I remember paying (or thereabouts). Just to offer some perspective, it valued Avengers #92 at $3.60, #93 at $22, and #’s 94-96 at $12, with the wide range in values being due to the Neal Adams art, clearly (and these are mint condition prices, of course). With Barry Smith taking over the next few issues, #98-99 were valued $8 apiece, and #100 at $12. Again, all conditions mint. (In fact the guide only listed three conditions back then: Good, Fine, and Mint.)
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I got #93 circa 1984 for $25.00, the most I’ve ever paid for one issue. To me it seems with longer stories, most comics writers/plotters were going about it haphazardly by the seat of their pants and few did it really well. I think the best from the ’70s were Starlin’s Warlock vs. Magus, and several of Moench’s Master of Kung Fu epics. But otherwise seems it was Alan Moore who was the first prominent comics writer to really meticulously plan out his stories with detailed written instructions as to what he was going for and had definite planned out endings even for his long multi-issue stories. I don’t believe he’s ever written using the “Marvel method” of coming up with a brief synopsis and leaving it to the penciller to flesh out the plot and details.
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Yeah, Moore was the opposite end of the spectrum– I think his script for the first issue of Watchmen was 100 pages long, right?
When Steve Gerber wrote that text issue of Howard the Duck– “Zen and the Art of Comic-Book Writing,” from HTD #16– he said changed his mind on plots more often than most people change their underwear (or something like that). Yet his Headmen saga (or “Bozos” epic, if you prefer) came together to a rather neat resolution (not counting the Elf with a gun, which probably was never intended to be a part of the storyline anyway). You can write by the seat of your pants like this and still have tidy story arc, is what I’m trying to I’m trying to say here. I believe the Kree-Skrull War could have been improved with just a tad more care and oversight from its writer.
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I’ve heard that Alan Moore actually laid out his stories, drawing thumbnails for his own reference, that he didn’t mail to the artist because he wanted them to have room for artistic interpretation.
That said, he did have story conferences with some of his artists beforehand. Watchmen’s Nite-Owl was created by Dave Gibbons as a teenager, for example, and he created the idea of the electric car chargers scattered around the city.
Actually, it was Marvel Fantasy Masterpieces that published Golden Age Captain America, Human Torch and Sub-Mariner stories in the late 1960s, before it was renamed Marvel’s Greatest Comics and started reprinting Fantastic Four and other early Silver Age stories. In the actual Golden Age, Cap, Torch & Subby were only ever briefly teamed up, after WWII, in a team called the All Winners Squad. Thomas retroactively put them together in the Invaders set in December 1941 (after the U.S. became an active combatant) but published in 1975 and part of Marvel’s ret-conned history ever since.
Among the oldest comics in my collection are FF #18, first appearance of the Super Skrull, and Avengers #8, first appearance of Kang. Didn’t get those new off the racks but decades later from back issues stores and they weren’t all that expensive, I think less than $10 for each — of course, they weren’t exactly in mint condition but still intact and readable. Fun to read the letters pages from those early Marvels — the Avengers had comments about issue 4, Cap’s big comeback and not everyone was impressed. I think the oldest issue in my collection that I got brand new off the racks and still have are ASM #98 and Marvel’s Greatest Comics #33, which reprints FF’s 44 & 45 (intro of the Inhumans) and a Strange Tales Johnny & Ben story wherein they, and Alicia and Dorrie, “Meet the Beatles”, both from 1971. I’d had many comics from before that but they all got tossed out when my family moved from California to Utah, but somehow I held on to those two, although they are very much in not so good condition, missing covers, etc. That MGC may have been the first time I read a reference to the Beatles — I got into them in a big way a few years later and still love their music. Saw part 1 of Peter Jackson’s Get Back series last Wednesday and seeing part 2 later today with friends.
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ACTUALLY actually 😉 , Fantasy Masterpieces morphed into Marvel Super-Heroes (where Captain Marvel debuted). Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics is the one that became Marvel’s Greatest Comics.
(As a side note, I hope you enjoy all 3 parts of Get Back as much as I did, fred!)
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Ah, got my old reprint mags mixed up, Alan! I knew MGC had started off with another name but forgot that it was Marvel Collectors’ Item Comics. By the time I was collecting either title they’d both changed names and Marvel Super-Heroes was reprinting Tales to Astonish Hulk and Sub-Mariner stories. May have been more apt to call it Marvel Super-Anti-Heroes without Shirts!
I enjoyed the first part and looking forward to seeing the next 2 installments (I don’t have Disney but my friend does so I’m watching it at his place rather than subscribe to Disney, but might eventually do so anyhow). A fascinating peek at the band dynamics late in their career, only 3 years past their touring “Moptop” era but already looking much older despite all still being under 30 — Ringo & John 28, Paul 26 and George 25. And clearly George was bristling with ideas and eager to come out from the massive shadow of John & Paul, even if early on he told Paul he’d play whatever he wanted him to play or play nothing at all if that would please him. Also amusing to see Mel playing the hammer and anvil on Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.
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“Five covers a week,” my ass. I went back and looked. I count, during that general timeframe, no more than four-six covers a MONTH, generally five. Maybe he meant “a cover a week” and misspoke. Let’s hope. (And I don’t believe he actually colored the covers, either. He may have provided a rough color GUIDE, but full colors? Doubtful.)
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Okay, reiterating what I said in my comment on Alan’s retrospective for Avengers #93: When I first read “The Kree-Skrull War” in 2000 when the trade paperback was released, it seemed clear to me (and Roy Thomas’ afterword confirmed it) that these issues were plotted out pretty much “on the fly” without any overarching, detailed master plan by Thomas, Neal Adams, or anyone else involved.
And now I have to add that was the case with nearly ALL the Marvel Comics produced from the early 1960s on, thru to the early 1980s, I would guess. It was literally standard operating procedure.
From a 21st Century perspective, yes, “The Kree-Skrull War” is disjointed. It was very much a product of its time. Over the past couple of decades, though, I have come to understand the proper historical position within which this storyline was created, to appreciate the strengths that “The Kree-Skrull War” DID possess, and to recognize that Roy Thomas & Co’s work paved the way for, and absolutely influenced, the superhero epics that have followed since.
So, yes, I do enjoy “The Kree-Skrull War,” warts and all.
And repeating what I commented on Facebook, if this story was done today, it would probably end with the entire Avengers team channeling the Phoenix Force to cripple both alien armadas, or doing something with all that Celestial technology they lately seem to have on hand, or some other plot device… and, well, when it comes down to it, how is that much better than the Supreme Intelligence activating the Destiny Force in Rick Jones’ mind? A deus ex machina is a deus ex machina, and when you are pitting your heroes against two massive alien armadas you’re probably going to need to come up with something out of left field to resolve it and get all your characters out alive.
Besides, the classic “Galactus Saga” by Kirby & Lee from Fantastic Four #48-50 is resolved by the Watcher leading the FF to the Ultimate Nullifier, which they use to drive off Galactus and save the Earth. Total deus ex machina!
In regards to the disagreements between Roy Thomas and Neal Adams, this is definitely a real life case of the Rashomon effect. I am sure that Thomas and Adams both believe the truth & validity of their recollections. As Don the Artist said above, barring the Watcher showing up to reveal what “really” happened, there is no way to know the truth with 100% certainty.
Having interacted with both Thomas and Adams (much more Thomas than Adams, admittedly) I will say that I tend to give Thomas’ recounting of these events more credence. Thomas has always struck me as attempting to offer a balanced recollection of events, and to assign credit as fairly as he can. He is as much a historian as he is a writer & editor, and his work on Alter Ego magazine comes across as striving to accurately document the histories of the industry’s many creative personnel. Adams, on the other hand, gives the impression of tending towards self-mythologizing. There’s probably some truth at the root of Adams’ version of events, but it’s become distorted over the decades.
Oh, well, as Thomas himself said, “Brilliant artist, though.”
And with that I will bring an end to this looooooong comment!
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“And now I have to add that was the case with nearly ALL the Marvel Comics produced from the early 1960s on, thru to the early 1980s, I would guess. It was literally standard operating procedure.”
I wonder if that was the newspaper strip influence. When you read classic adventure strips like Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Prince Valiant, Tarzan, Captain Easy, etc., you really see where Kirby got his plotting / writing style from.
Russ Manning wrote his newspaper strips in what I imagine is such the same style: “The way I much prefer to write, and this eventually wrote the Star Wars people up the wall, is to just sit down and conceptualize a story. I decide what the main conflict is, who the villain is and what he is, how it ends, how the hero solves it, who the main characters are through the story, and that’s it. I don’t write it out, pre-plot it, or anything of that nature. I didn’t even break it down into 8 weeks or 12 weeks or anything of this nature, but would just start writing, thinking it would be fresher and more fun for me, every week, to do what was necessary for that Sunday page or that particular set of six dailies.
[…] I didn’t even tell stories. I told little happenings that would go on and then you could move off until another kind of happening.”
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“I decide what the main conflict is, who the villain is and what he is, how it ends, how the hero solves it, who the main characters are through the story, and that’s it.”
I think that two key phrases from the middle of that Manning quote — “how it ends, how the hero solves it” — distinguish his approach from a lot of the “on the fly” plotting we’ve been discussing here of late (though it may well apply in regards to the Kree-Skrull War, as well as much of Kirby’s work)
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I brought up seeing Peter Jackson’s Get Back series and watching the 2nd episode last night, I couldn’t help but think how past discussions of the making of what eventually became the original Let It Be album & film didn’t quite gel with what was filmed of its making relates to these discussions of what went into the making of the Kree-Skrull War how the concluding chapter wound up drawn by John Buscema rather than Neal Adams. Of course, in this case there is no film available to reveal what really happened, but I agree with Ben’s assessment that Thomas’ assertions are likely closer to the truth than Adams’. One amusing tidbit from the first episode of Get Back and which I read about elsewhere was that along with many other songs that wound up on Abbey Road or on various solo lps or never officially released at all was Lennon’s Gimme Some Truth — Lennon & McCartney are seen working on the song together. Jackson recounted talking with McCartney about the scene and McCartney told him, essentially, there couldn’t be any such scene because Lennon did that after the Beatles broke up. Then Jackson showed him the scene and apparently McCartney was flabbergasted because he had no memory of playing an early version of the song with Lennon during the Get Back sessions, but there was the evidence that they did! Then there were Lennon’s assertions after the break-up that those sessions were utterly miserable but while the films do show some tensions, they also show them enjoying each other’s company, clowning around, as well as making music as a band. I think later business as well as growing creative differences with McCartney clouded Lennon’s memories of the sessions.
Just examples that our memories are not like tape recorders, they can become very distorted from what actually happened even if it is something that we experience first hand! Much more so for events that happened decades ago, as with both the Get Back sessions and the making of the Kree-Skrull War. In my own case, my memories of what I was doing 50 years ago when I was 9 years old are hopelessly muddled. I know my family was still living in Long Beach, CA, and would be moving to Salt Lake City in early 1972, at least a few months before the school year ended. But I can’t conjure up any specific memories of anything I did in December 1971.
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Just finished watching part two of “Get Back” myself and I found the level of joy and the enjoyment of one another’s company to be much higher as the band entered the home stretch and as the plans for the rooftop concert came together. It’s a shame if that’s not really the way Lennon and McCartney remember(ed) it and if they let subsequent unpleasanted mar what was obviously a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. And oh yeah…COMICS!
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Alan, I do believe I should address the comments that you quoted from Neal Adams (from around 1978) regarding GL 88. I am not sure if you will be reviewing GL 89 in a few months, but I knew I had read some information that was somewhat different from Neal’s comments regarding GL 88 and I just found it, in the very good “American Comic Book Chronicles, 1970-1979.” Here is a quote:
“[Carmine] Infantino asserted that it was a combination of sales and scheduling that caused the cancellation [of GL/GA]: “in this case the artist was very late. We had to cobble the next to last book [GL 88] out of reprints almost overnight. It was a marginal book and the printer’s late fees killed the book. In fact, Neal Adams turned in the art for his final Green Lantern comic  some 18 weeks late.”
I had heard from various sources that the GL 88 reprint was not planned and this appears to confirm this. I had also heard that GL 89 was incredibly late and almost missed its publication date at the end of February 1972. Regarding Avengers 97, i heard that it did get out on time (just barely) but that was because of Tom Palmer working very late nights, and that he allegedly would not work with Neal again as he would not wish to be put into that sort of situation again. That appears to be true to the extent that it does not appear that Neal and Tom have worked together again. Too bad. What is puzzling and I guess your research has not uncovered this, is what caused Neal to miss 2 important deadlines in December 1971, 50 years ago? Perhaps we may never know. It does not appear that he did any interior comic work for Marvel or DC in December 1971 but he did several covers for DC this month, including for example, Batman 239, Detective 420, JLA 96 and World’s Finest 209 (although it’s not clear he was providing 5 covers a week as noted by Mark Waid). I am a major Neal Adams fan but just wanted to provide another perspective.. 1971 was a very busy year for Neal but things would change in 1972. He would do less covers, and actually Nick Cardy would become the main DC cover artist (and already started to handle a number of cover assignments in December 1971 such as Brave & Bold and Action Comics). Sadly we saw much less work from Neal in 1972 at DC and at Marvel I believe there may have been only one story (the Man-Thing story that turned up in Astonishing Tales) and a very small number of covers. Not sure why, maybe he was just losing interest in mainstream comics. I still think Neal is one of the best artists in comics ever, but all things considered John and Tom and of course Roy did an incredible job with Avengers 97 under the circumstances and my memories of that book now are very pleasant. I did not think about it at the time but I agree that the end was very rushed, especially your questions about the Supreme Intelligence…Maybe he had some way to deal with Ronan, but Dorrek and the gigantic Skrull armada…? Never really thought about that. oh well…
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brucesfl, thanks for sharing the additional info about Adams’ GL deadline problems from “American Comic Book Chronicles: 1970-1979” (which I agree is a great resource, and is in fact one of my regular research go-to’s — not sure why I neglected to check it this time! 🙂 ). I will be covering GL #89 in February, and I expect we’ll be coming back around to this topic then.
Something I didn’t bring up in the current post that I think may have contributed to Adams’ 1971 deadlines problems in general — and that I’m sure affected his ability/interest regarding comic book work in the years that immediately followed — is that this is when he and Dick Giordano were starting up their commercial art agency, Continuity Associates. Getting a brand new business up and running had to have eaten significantly into the amount of time he had for his comics freelancing; frankly, it’s not at all hard to see how he could have become professionally over-committed, especially in the company’s earliest days.
I believe we do have a few more Adams-pencilled Marvel stories coming up in addition to the Man-Thing short you mentioned — two Conans and a Dracula, to be more precise. I hope to blog about ’em all. 🙂
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What can you tell us about Quicksilver? Ever since he rejoined the team in issue 75 he would often be in the tuck position literally bouncing off the walls and through people, as in page 5 here. I very vaguely remember reading something about Roy wanting to do something with Pietro (as with his short lived flying ability).
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See fred’s comment for more info about Quicksilver in the ’60s and ’70s than your humble blogger can himself recall. 🙂 I do remember that he was flying when I first started reading Avengers in ’67, but I can’t tell you when he stopped, or if his losing the power was ever explained. As for the “tuck, roll, and bounce” shtick, I associate it mostly with John Buscema, so maybe it was his idea — though that’s just speculation on my part.
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I think it was Stan Lee, with Don Heck on art, who initially showed Pietro “flying” but neither Lee nor Thomas did much with the idea — maybe because it occurred to them that the idea of someone running on air for any great distance was at least a tad ridiculous. They’d occasionally show him “flying” or essentially leaping and doing the “cannonball” shot for short distances, but nothing like the Flash running around the globe in a few seconds or however long it took him, or even the Hulk bounding from New York to New Mexico within an hour or so as Lee & Kirby indicated he did a few times — after they’d played with and then dropped having the Hulk fly in one of his earliest stories. When Pietro had to get from New York to Australia in issue 104, he took a plane. I get the feeling Lee & Thomas wanted to keep Pietro’s powers relatively limited At any rate, with the transition from Thomas to Englehart with issues 104 & 105, Pietro was essentially written out of the series and would only show up in cameos or brief guest appearances for the next decade or so, and didn’t show up all that often anywhere else either. At least not until Englehart used him in West Coast Avengers as a villain in the 1980s. As far as I know, he eventually went back to the good side and was used in some of the X-Men related titles in the ’90s or so. But for the remainder of the ’70s, aside from his fight with Johnny Storm over Crystal and his subsequent marriage to her, Pietro was mostly out of action.
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OK, since GL 88 was mentioned here, I’ve got a question that maybe someone can answer or provide some additional perspective on. Right about this time, Flash also had an all-reprint issue and JLA 97 had an unusual story that combined new and reprint material. This coincided with my immersion into comics, so I may be giving it more importance than it warrants, but it seems like Julie Schwartz had something happen that threw things off. The Flash reprint was even right before a scheduled Super Spectacular issue.
Kree-Skrull war: yes I can see the plot holes, but still it’s a delight to revisit. I can easily envision this Rick Jones centric issue in the Flashback format described. In fact knowing that makes this issue’s focus and tying up of loose ends make more sense to me. Things like Mar-Vell and Rick re-joining to restore their previous status quo, for instance, as an afterthought rather than a major part of the issue. However, having since encountered that framing device in other comics, I am really glad it wasn’t in the final product. I find those issues fail to provide me any real emotional hook, and come across as summaries, not stories. Just an idea that doesn’t work for me, I guess.
Thank you Alan for the blog, and thanks to all the commenters. It’s a nice place to visit.
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slagnwordscott, you’re very welcome! Per your questions about all these reprints on Julius Schwartz’s watch around this time — I always figured that the JLA issue (which I’ll be blogging about next month) was just a clever way to integrate the required reprint quotient of the “bigger and better” 25-cent era with a new story, but maybe there was more to it (I haven’t researched the issue yet, so we’ll see). But the Flash thing is a poser — running two all-reprint issues in a row does seem very odd. Maybe somebody out there who was keeping up with Flash better than I was back then will have a better idea…
I can’t get on board with Neal’s account because I’ve seen a discrepency in a previous Neal account:
“Arlen: After your run on the X-Men ended, you did a couple of issues of Thor immediately following Kirby’s departure from Marvel; how did that come about?
Neal: I don’t know quite when it was. Stan asked me, “What would you like to do next?” I said, “Y’know, Stan, I would love to work on a Thor with you.” He said, “Really?” So then Stan asks, “What do you think you want to do?” I said, “Well, do you have a story?” Stan would go, “What do you think you want to do?” (rather than say no).
So I said, “I’d like to change identities between Thor and Loki.” He said, “Oh, that’s fine. Go ahead and do that.” I said, “I’d like to do that for two issues. Is that okay?” He said, “Yeah, sure, sure. Go ahead and do it.” So that was pretty much the story conference.”
The problem is that Jack Kirby’s final issue of Thor introduced the body-swap between Thor and Loki, Neal’s issue was just following up on a cliff-hanger already established. I suppose it’s possible that Neal called Jack and told him what to draw in order to set up his issue — but I find that scenario very implausible.
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And another example of Neal’s questionable memory — in the Neal Adams interview for Comic Book Historians on YouTube, they mention his first printed comic book artwork was a transformation sequence in The Fly — he left some sample pages and they actually cut out that single panel and pasted it over the original art.
This can be seen here: https://comics.ha.com/itm/original-comic-art/panel-pages/joe-simon-and-neal-adams-the-adventures-of-the-fly-4-partial-story/a/7079-92304.s
In any case, Neal makes it a point to say that it was a Jack Kirby drawn story and they liked his version better. Quite a feat to best the King! Except — I can’t find anyone that credits Jack Kirby for the art in that issue (and it seems like Jack left The Fly after #2). Most credit Joe Simon (and likely his assistants) for the art that issue and he was famous for using Kirby swipes in his penciling, make it understandable that Neal would have some confusion, but still — you’d think you’d want to be 100% sure before boasting about it.
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Coming in late to the party, I don’t want to repeat the stuff that’s already been brought up. Reading the back-story (both sides) though, one thing struck me that I don’t think has been brought up yet. Neal Adams didn’t find out that he had been replaced on the issue until he popped into the office with his sketches? Didn’t Roy Thomas think of calling Adams up on the phone to warn him of the dire situation and the firm deadline? I know that Adams knew of the deadline, but still it would have been common courtesy for Thomas to remind him as a last warning or at the very least to tell him by phone that the issue was reassigned. My speculation on this is that this wasn’t Thomas’ job to do as the writer of the story, but it should have been his job as acting editor in Stan Lee’s absence. I suspect, just as I did regarding Gerry Conway’s running off the rails in the Mr. Kline multi-issue mess, that Thomas really had no interest in being editor and pretty much let things go (as I understand was the case for the revolving door or editors that followed in the 1970s until Jim Shooter took the position).
When the 50th anniversary of these issues began I was very excited to re-read them again. In fact, in my memory they were the highlight of what I remembered as being a poor year for Marvel, particularly after the Kirby era ended. While I have always preferred Marvel to D.C., I have to say from reviewing 1971 that the combination of Kirby’s Fourth World plus the projects of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams (in whole or in part) on Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Batman and Superman gives D.C. a decided edge for the year in quality. Unfortunately, while re-reading the Kree/Skrull war Averngers issues along with Alan’s excellent blog posts about them, I realize now that while they certainly had some real high points (the Marvel/Rick Jones split, the giant-sized issue with the tour through the Vision and the return of the Skrull cows), the overall trek tended to meander about quite a bit, lost its thread occasionally and ended rather abruptly and, to my view today, unsatisfactorally.
I confess that when I read the final issue in 1971, I was very satisfied. I thought that it was cool to have the 1940s heroes show up (I assumed that they were all actual 1940s Marvel heroes). Having always liked Rick Jones (despite the fact that it was his stupidity that led to the creation of the Hulk) I cheered his saving the day. As far as the entire epic, when I was ten years old I just saw the forest and not the trees. I was impressed with the sprawling story, unprecedented for Marvel (or so I thought, Alan you might agree that the tablet story in Spider Man in 1968-69 lasts as long and with no less continuity than the Kree Skrull war series). Today I see the major flaws that everyone has pointed out including about how anyone (short of Michael Korvac, the Beyonder or the holder of the Infinity Gauntlet) could stop everyone in their tracks and automatically make them stop fighting once the freeze was over. However, I said that I would not repeat what others have written..
So I will end with not only did the fans have the final say of “Kree Skrull War” over “Skrull Kree War”, but fortunately everyone including Alan and the commenters wound up calling the Kree leader “The Supreme Intelligence” instead of “The Intelligence Supreme” as Rascally Roy does in this story.
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“Didn’t Roy Thomas think of calling Adams up on the phone to warn him of the dire situation and the firm deadline?”
When quoting Roy Thomas’ “Alter Ego” account of what happened with Avengers #97 in the original post, I felt I needed to edit it for length. He did in fact address the matter of his not phoning Adams in a section I left out.
The following appears in the original 1999 article right before the paragraph that begins, “While John was finishing the pencils…”
“Perhaps I should have phoned Neal right away and told him I’d given John a plot, but by now, having failed to receive any pages, I’d probably gone into my we-gotta-get-the-damn book-out mode. If, sadly from my viewpoint, Neal would later feel betrayed by me, at this point I’m sure I was feeling betrayed by him.
“Maybe, in a sense, we inadvertently betrayed each other, more’s the pity. I’m sure neither of us intended to do so.”
Thanks for the explanation Alan!
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