Astonishing Tales #12 (June, 1972)

Any of you out there who aren’t already familiar with this particular comic book may be taking a look at its John Buscema-Joe Sinnott cover right now and thinking, “Nice, but what’s so special about Ka-Zar rasslin’ a big alligator, even underwater, that Astonishing Tales #12 should rate its own blog post?”  The fact of the matter, however, is that this issue (along with its immediate follow-up, Astonishing Tales #13) represents a significant chapter in the histories of not one, but two, semi-major Marvel Comics characters — neither one of whom happens to be the self-styled Lord of the Savage Land. 

But rather than get into all that before we’re even out of the starting gate story-wise, what say we jump right into the deep end (if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor), and I’ll try to explain things as we go along…

Indeed, our hero’s pet Smilodon is rather less than copacetic regarding his current situation, and an armed officer standing nearby, faced with a snarling, charging saber-tooth, understandably draws his gun.  Thankfully for all concerned, Ka-Zar is a bit faster than the other man’s trigger finger…

Though he at first indicates a willingness to cooperate with the local authorities, Ka-Zar quickly changes his mind after being informed that both he and Zabu will have to be kept in custody until a judge can hear their case “in a couple’a months.”  Ka-Zar has been told by his companions that they can’t wait that long, and so…

OK, so, the young couple accompanying Ka-Zar are named “Barbara” and “Paul”.  Other than that, what did the regular readers of Astonishing Tales (including my fourteen-year-old self) know about them at this point, back in March, 1972?  Not all that much, actually; but allow me to fill you in on what scant information we’d been given thus far, regardless.

It had all started in Astonishing Tales #6 (Jun., 1971) in which scripter Gerry Conway and artists Barry Windsor-Smith and Bill Everett had kicked off a new subplot by having a young woman suddenly show up at the English estate of one Lord Kevin Plunder (aka Ka-Zar) on a dark and stormy night:

Later in the same issue, the distraught young lady explained the purpose of her impromptu visit to the estate staff:

This as-yet-unnamed mystery woman next turned up for a few panels in AT #7, courtesy of new writer Roy Thomas and new artist Herb Trimpe — just long enough for her to learn from Lord Kevin’s butler that his employer was currently in the Savage Land, and not expected to return any time soon.  “Then, for his sake,” she responded,  “and for the Earth’s — I too shall walk the Savage Land!

We next saw the young woman in AT #8, in a tale written by Thomas with Gary Friedrich, and drawn by Trimpe with inks by Tom Sutton.  Here, she finally got a name (a first one, anyway) — Barbara — and a companion, her fiancée Paul, who accompanied her to the Savage Land on her search for Ka-Zar.  She also became a blonde — a change which would prove more or less permanent (at least if the past fifty years are anything to go by):

Following the crash of their plane, Barbara and Paul fell into dangers from which, naturally, they had to be rescued by the jungle lord — though that took until issue #10 (issue #9 having contained a fill-in story — more about that a little later), in which yet another team of scripters — Thomas and Conway, this time — were joined by a returning Windsor-Smith as artist.  That one was followed by #11’s presentation of Ka-Zar’s origin story, as told by a once-more-solo Thomas in collaboration with artists Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia (all of whom, incidentally, had also recently worked together on a two-parter in Amazing Spider-Man in which Spidey visited the Savage Land and teamed up with Ka-Zar).  The impetus for having Ka-Zar slide into flashback reverie mode?  Why, nothing less than a critique of his life choices by our friend Barbara, offered as our hero escorts her and Paul through the Hidden Jungle to the Savage Land’s Outer Rim, from which they’ll be able to return to “civilization”:

At the end of the story, we learn that Ka-Zar is planning to accompany Barbara and Paul when they return to the outside world.  But we still don’t have a clue why they wanted to find him in the first place.  We haven’t learned what Barbara “felt” in her mind to make her believe that Ka-Zar is going to die (issue #6), or just how the fate of the Earth may be at stake in all of this (#7) — we’ve got nothing, really.

But hey, maybe this latest creative team — Thomas again, now joined by artists John Buscema and Dan Adkins — will finally deliver the expositional goods.  Let’s return to where we left off in Astonishing Tales #12 and find out, shall we?

“I’m Dr. Barbara Morse“.  Yep, that’s Barbara “Bobbi” Morse, probably better known to contemporary Marvel Comics fans as the superheroine Mockingbird (though some of us geezers will also recall her one brief outing as the Huntress — no, not that one — or that one, either.)  As she says, she’s part of a very hush-hush “U.S. scientific project” — and though we’ll learn fairly quickly that that’s not all she is, that information is still accurate, as far as it goes.

So… what was all that weird stuff she was talking about back in England, in AT #6 and #7?  Her psychic premonitions of Ka-Zar’s death, ominous references to “the fate of worlds“, etc.?  And hey, while we’re asking, whatever happened to her propensity to use archaic contractions like “’tis” in everyday speech?

Well, faithful reader, my advice to you is to forget all of that… because Marvel obviously did.

It seems pretty clear that if Gerry Conway had had any definite idea about who the mysterious young woman who turned up at the Plunder manor was going to turn out to be, back when he first introduced her in Astonishing Tales #6 — and frankly that’s a really big “if”, given the author’s propensity for writing by the seat of his pants at this early stage in his career — a U.S. government employee involved with a research project in the Florida Everglades was almost certainly not what he had in mind.  But whatever Conway’s original intention was for this character — or whatever initial thoughts Conway’s successor as writer, Roy Thomas (who is known to have worked closely with Conway when the latter, younger writer was first starting out at Marvel, and thus might actually have contributed to the plotting of the Ka-Zar story in AT #6) had about how Barbara’s storyline should play out — they seem to have been set aside in favor of a new tack, one that involved the mysteriously vanished “key man” of the project, Professor Ted Sallis.

Although, actually, it wasn’t quite a new tack at all — as readers of Marvel’s Savage Tales #1, published in January, 1971, might have realized at this point.  As your humble blogger had not been one of those, however, I would have to wait a few more pages to see where this latest development would lead…

Ka-Zar manages to deposit Dr. Morse safely ashore, just before one of the swamp’s native denizens shows up feeling a bit peckish (cue cover scene)…

Ka-Zar and company soon arrive at the small complex of buildings that serves as the project’s base.  Barbara comes to just as they’re greeted by her and Paul’s associate, Dr. Wendell, who proceeds to tell them that yet another of their colleagues, Dr. Calvin, is “still hanging on… just barely.

OK, so what is this?  Sure, if we were paying attention to the creator credits given back on page 1, we’ve known to expect to see a “‘Man-Thing’ sequence written by Len Wein, drawn by Neal Adams” turn up before the end of the issue.  That still doesn’t explain what it’s doing here, in the middle of Ka-Zar’s Florida adventure — or why it is, for the most part, printed in black and white and… yellow?

For the answer, we have to look back over a year to the aforementioned first issue (also almost the last issue) of Savage Tales, Marvel Comics’ second attempt (following 1968’s Spectacular Spider-Man #1) to enter the black-and-white comics magazine market — and the first to attempt to capture the same “mature readers” demographic that had made a success of Warren Publishing’s Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella.

Cover to Savage Tales #1 (May, 1971). Art by John Buscema.

Savage Tales #1 was headlined by Conan the Barbarian; but Ka-Zar appeared as well, as did several brand-new character concepts that Marvel apparently hoped would work as continuing series.  Among these was Man-Thing.

In a 2002 interview (eventually published in Alter Ego #81 [Oct., 2008]), Roy Thomas recalled the genesis of the feature:

[Marvel editor] Stan Lee called me in; it would’ve been late ’70 or early ’71.  He wanted to launch this new magazine called Savage Tales, and one of its features was to be called “Man-Thing.”  He had a couple of sentences or so for the concept — I think it was mainly the notion of a guy working on some experimental drug or something for the government, his being accosted by spies, and getting fused with the swamp so that he becomes this creature.  The creature itself sounded a lot like [the 1940s Hillman Periodicals character] The Heap, but neither of us mentioned that character at the time, though Stan’s said since, when people have asked him about the Hulk, that he was familiar with The Heap.

From Lee’s basic idea, Thomas wrote a detailed three-page plot; the story’s ultimate, 11-page comic-book version (the first two pages of which are shown here) was then scripted by Gerry Conway and illustrated by Gray Morrow (not necessarily in that order).  As noted by Thomas, Morrow “drew Man-Thing about as close to The Heap as anything could be, which is exactly what I in particular wanted.”

Following Savage Tales‘ launch, a second Man-Thing story was prepared for the next issue — although by a different creative team this time, i.e., Len Wein* and Neal Adams.  But the seven-pager wouldn’t see print for about a year, due to Savage Tales‘ abrupt cancellation by Marvel publisher Martin Goodman, who (again according to Thomas) “had never really wanted to do a non-Code comic, probably because he didn’t want any trouble with the CMAA [Comics Magazine Association of America, the organization that administered the Comics Code Authority] over it.  Nor did he really want to get into magazine-format comics; and Stan really did. So Goodman looked for an excuse to cancel it.”  Naturally, the material already produced for Savage Tales #2, which Marvel had bought and paid for, would eventually find its way into other publications; for example, a Ka-Zar story by Stan Lee and John Buscema had already been converted into the color comics format and slotted into Astonishing Tales #9 (never mind that doing so interrupted Thomas and co.’s ongoing storyline).  Now it was Man-Thing’s turn; although, since the story’s artwork was to be reproduced directly from Neal Adams’ pencils, Marvel in this case wisely decided to forego color, at least for the most part.  (The use of the yellow tinting for Adam’ art, plus the blue background used for the story’s captions, clued in readers that there hadn’t been some sort of mistake at the printing plant, as Marvel probably imagined straight-up black-and-white pages would have led some to believe.)

Of course, my fourteen-year-old self knew next to none of this behind-the-scenes stuff, back in 1972.  In fact, I hadn’t even bought Savage Tales #1 when it came out, so Man-Thing was a wholly unknown property to me at this point.  Luckily, the first page of Wein and Adams’ “sequence” summarized the main events of Thomas, Conway, and Morrow’s origin story quite efficiently, so that I had no problem picking up the narrative as it moved from there into brand new territory…

Readers of virtually any later Man-Thing story will recall the basic (and oft-stated) principle that “whatever knows fear, burns at the touch of the Man-Thing”.  That idea hadn’t quite yet coalesced in the very first tales of Marvel’s premier swamp monster, in which it appears that Manny’s hand simply burns whatever it grasps, regardless of the subject’s emotional state.  (Though, as in the scene above, anyone getting burned by Man-Thing was usually pretty freaked out at the time, so Marvel didn’t really have to worry about inconsistency on this point.)

Gerry Conway’s script for the first Man-Thing story had described Ted Sallis’ research as involving a process to “change an ordinary soldier into an indestructible warrior“, but hadn’t used the precise phrase “super-soldier“, which more directly evokes the origin of Captain America.**  Nor had there been any mention in his script of A.I.M. or S.H.I.E.L.D., or anything else that specifically established the tale as taking place in the “mainstream” Marvel Universe.  It’s intriguing to speculate as to whether the continuity references in what was supposed to be Man-Thing’s second Savage Tales outing were included in Wein’s original script, or whether they were added later at the editorial stage; though we’ll probably never know, one way or the other.

According to various sources, John Romita made uncredited alterations to Adams’ renderings of Dr. Barbara Morse throughout this sequence; as the story had originally been intended for the “M”-rated Savage Tales, it seems likely that Barbara’s attempt at escape in the fourth panel above originally left her somewhat more exposed than she is in the published version.

In March, 1972, it had been a good while since comics fans had seen Neal Adams’ artwork in a horror-type comics story; it was good to see that he hadn’t lost his touch.

The flashback sequence concludes rather abruptly, making one wonder if there might originally have been more of Wein and Adams’ story than we’re given here.  However, when asked for the special “Swampmen” issue of Comic Book Creator (#6, Winter, 2014) if his original script had ended the same way, Wein answered that it had, though with a few qualifications:

The dialogue would have been different. I don’t remember exactly what the script was, but it would have been written to have more of an ending sense to itself, that it was an ending. Some words did change in the transition, some captions and dialogue would have had to change to meet Code approval.  But it’s not radically different from the original script. I would say it’s probably 95% of the script I wrote originally.

And on that note, we’ll return to our present-day narrative, courtesy of Thomas, Buscema, and Adkins:

Having trapped the Man-Thing, the agents of A.I.M. prepare to laser-blast him “into a lifeless, loathsome jigsaw puzzle!”  But then…

In knocking over the agents, Ka-Zar accidentally sends one tumbling into the pit…

Two months later, Astonishing Tales #13 brought us the conclusion of the story.  Man-Thing actually made the cover this time, which was both pencilled and inked by Rich Buckler as one of his first jobs for Marvel.  Buckler also had a pencilling credit for the issue’s interiors, shared with John Buscema; according to the Grand Comics Database, his contribution was limited to the story’s first six pages, the first three of which were  given over to a recap of the previous installment.  Buscema handled the rest, with Dan Adkins continuing as inker for the whole shebang.

Skipping the recap, we’ll jump back in at the top of page 4, as Ka-Zar wills himself to overcome his initial reaction of fear upon seeing the Man-Thing…

Man-Thing finally manages to grab hold of Ka-Zar, and lifts him up over his head.  This brings the jungle lord into sight of the A.I.M. agents still hovering at the edge of the pit, and although they still can’t clearly make out the form of the creature holding him, one of them has a bright idea: “…I’ll fire my laser-beam directly below the man –”

Oh, so the only reason the A.I.M. agents have been trying to capture Ka-Zar rather than kill him is so that he could help them look for Ted Sallis?  I guess we’ll have to roll with that, though it seems that Ka-Zar’s reputation as a great tracker is being asked to do a lot of heavy lifting in this storyline…

According to the GCD, this is the point in our story where Rich Buckler turns the pencil over to John Buscema –right in the middle of Zabu’s leap.

Ka-Zar’s adventures may be taking place in a superheroic milieu, but Thomas’ script makes it clear that our hero (or at least his furry sidekick) isn’t nearly as scrupulous about preserving the lives of his enemies as, say, Captain America would be in similar circumstances.

The remaining A.I.M. agents scatter, just as Barbara, Paul, and Dr. Wendell arrive on the scene.  Ka-Zar, naturally, isn’t the least bit hurt, let alone “mangled” after being dropped by the laser-struck Man-Thing.  But what of the strange creature himself?

Ka-Zar may be dismissive of Barbara’s insight regarding how the physiological changes caused by fear serve to trigger the Man-Thing’s burning touch — but, of course, we contemporary readers will recognize that here we have at last the codification of what will be perhaps the single most important (as well as the most distinctive) concept in the swamp monster’s mythos.

Following a short sequence in which Ka-Zar shows up the burly workmen from the lab by hauling the Man-Thing’s inert form out of the pit all by himself…

Hmm, is it just me, or is Dr. Morse — who was already asserting herself more back at the end of page 8 — demonstrating considerably more independence and authority than one might have expected based on her previous behavior, now that Paul Allen is (at least temporarily) out of sight?  For now, let’s just assume that we don’t quite have the complete picture yet…

Barbara’s ultimate “plan of action” essentially comes down to having Ka-Zar threaten their single A.I.M. captive (i.e., the guy who shot Dr. Calvin at the end of the Wein-Adams sequence in the last issue) with a mauling by Zabu unless he tells them what they want to know.  And whaddya know, it works:

Yeah, these three A.I.M.-ers may have laser guns, but they’re still no match for our jungle lord and his kitty-cat, who quickly take them out (not fatally, this time — well, not 100% fatally, anyway) in a couple of pages of rousing action.  And then…

Unwilling to risk Barbara’s life, Ka-Zar finds himself stymied, even as Paul aims his gun at Dr. Calvin’s head.  Then…

Cover to Fear #10 (Oct., 1972). Art by Gray Morrow.

Of course, the Man-Thing was far from dead — indeed, he’d soon be shambling into his own continuing series in Fear (which up to this point had been purely a reprint anthology title) with that comic’s 10th issue, coming in July. (And if you suspect that you’ll be reading multiple future posts on this blog concerning the solo career of Marvel’s muck-encrusted mockery of a man, especially once writer Steve Gerber becomes his chronicler with Fear #11, you’ve got some pretty good instincts.)

On the other hand, the “super-soldier formula” plotline that our present two-part story had derived from Man-Thing’s origin story would be leaving both him and the Everglades behind — accompanying Ka-Zar and Dr. Barbara Morse to the Big Apple, where the struggle between S.H.I.E.L.D. and A.I.M. over the formula would play out over the next year’s worth of stories, as Mike Friedrich came on board as Ka-Zar’s new regular writer.

Agent 19, aka Bobbi Morse, in Astonishing Tales #20 (Oct., 1973). Text by Mike Friedrich; art by Marie Severin, Werner Roth, and Frank Giacoia.

As for Dr. Morse herself — in Friedrich’s very first issue (which was actually #15, #13 being yet another fill in), she tells Ka-Zar, “Call me Bobbi!”  And from that point on, he does just that — as does everybody else in the Marvel Universe, for the next half-century and counting.  Over the course of Friedrich’s run, Bobbi’s professional status as a biologist is, if not actually retconned, then still definitely downplayed, as we come to know her better as the ass-kicking Agent 19 of S.H.I.E.L.D..  By the time Bobbi Morse exits Ka-Zar’s supporting cast in Savage Tales #8 (Jan., 1975), the groundwork has been well laid for her transition to costumed superheroine status a year later, in Marvel Super Action #1 (Jan., 1976).

Cover to Mockingbird #1 (May, 2016). Art by Joëlle Jones.

Of course, there was still significant character development to come for Bobbi before she’d emerge as the sometime Avenger we know as Mockingbird — a heroine who might have had to wait until 2016 to headline her own solo title, sure, but who nevertheless has the distinction of having had a New York Times best-selling thriller author write said series (not to mention the additional distinction of being the only character I’m aware of to have not one, but two discrete Marvel Cinematic Universe iterations.  Who else can you say that about?)  A sizable crop of comics creators would eventually contribute to said development, perhaps most notably Mark Gruenwald and Steven Grant.

But even as early as 1972, the future Mockingbird had already had a remarkable number of creators involved in shaping her destiny — most of whom probably didn’t have any idea they were developing anything more lasting than a minor supporting character who’d drop out of sight after a story or two, as the vast majority of such characters did, and still do.  In the end, who should we say created Bobbi Morse?  Was it Gerry Conway and Barry Windsor-Smith, whose unnamed, brunette young psychic was the first version of the character to be published?  Or was it Len Wein and Neal Adams, whose blonde biologist Dr. Barbara Morse, almost certainly conceived entirely independently of the Conway/Windsor-Smith character, may have been put to paper first, even if she didn’t make it into print until later?  Or was it Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, and Herb Trimpe, who crafted the story in Astonishing Tales #8 that first welded those two quite disparate character concepts together?  In the opinion of your humble blogger, the best answer to the question is: all of the above, and also maybe some others we don’t even know about.

However one ultimately chooses to answer the question, however, I think it’s indisputable that Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird serves as a prime example of just how complicated the issue of “who created this hero” can sometimes be when we’re talking about company-owned characters, generated under work-for-hire conditions.  Sometimes, it’s pretty well cut and dried; other times, however, it’s anything but.  It’s something to keep in mind, especially when we’re attempting to attribute credit for work done in comic books made several decades ago.

 

Cover of DC Comics’ House of Secrets #92 (Jun.-Jul., 1971). Art by Bernie Wrightson.

*Coincidentally, Len Wein was also the author of another short story about a man who becomes a muck monster, for another publisher — a tale which saw print just a few months after the release of Savage Tales #1.  There’s a good bit more than that to be said about the relationship between DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Man-Thing, of course — but that’s a discussion were going to postpone until this August, when the blog will take up Swamp Thing #1.

 

**Interestingly, the super-soldier serum angle doesn’t appear to have originally been part of Roy Thomas’ plot for the first Man-Thing story.  As presented in full in Alter Ego #81, Thomas’s text refers instead to Ted Sallis’ developing of “more death chemicals for our little police action in Nam”.  Then, the first time the transformed Man-Thing burns someone with his touch, “there is a sizzling and burning — like napalm, y’might say.”  At the very end of the plot, the Man-Thing sees his reflection in the waters of the swamp and understands: “He’s his own prison — the payment for his sins in inventing death-weapons without feeling anything more than a liberal wishy-washy responsibility for them.”

Originally, then, there was a clear, literal connection drawn between the effects of actual incendiary weapons used in the Vietnam War — napalm, specifically — and the Man-Thing’s burning touch.  Whether consciously excised from the final version of the story that was published in Savage Tales #1, or simply mislaid in the transition from Thomas’ plot to Conway’s script, this aspect of the Man-Thing concept would have given the character a particular resonance in the context of its times whose failure to come to fruition may seem regrettable.  On the other hand, the very timeliness of the napalm reference might have quickly dated the character — and one might also say that the Man-Thing has done all right over the years with the more apolitical — and perhaps ultimately more universal — “whatever knows fear, burns…” approach taken by Marvel’s creators.

28 comments

  1. DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · March 23

    I gotta confess that I’m a lot more interested in the behind the scenes machinations involved in the origins of both Man-Thing and Swamp Thing than I am in either one of their adventures…at least not until Alan Moore gets his hands on Swamp Thing and really revolutionizes the character…but if you say I have to wait for that, Alan, I suppose I’ll wait.

    As for the rest of this story, it’s like a convention of some of my least favorite comics characters. As I’ve pointed out before, I was a superhero fan, almost exclusively, and to me, Ka-Zar was simply a Tarzan knock-off and Man-Thing was a Creature of the Black Lagoon knock-off and I didn’t find either one of them interesting enough to spend any money on. I did have a certain fascination regarding the Savage Land, which in my opinion was also a knock-off of Shangri-La and several other literary “hidden lands” in popular fiction, but that fascination wasn’t strong enough to overcome my extreme apathy in regard to the lead characters themselves.

    Then, of course, in addition to Thomas’ purple prose, there’s the garish Southern stereotype in some of the dialogue, “They makin’ monstuhs heah!” which I find insulting and the “cruddy broad” epithet which I just can’t believe anyone would ever say. Thomas is so overwhelmed here, ironically playing Frankenstein with three different stories by himself, Conway and Wein, that it’s no wonder he can’t keep it all straight. Thankfully, the artwork, by Buscema and Adams is exceptional or the whole thing would have just been a flat out waste of time for my fourteen year old self.

    Of course, if either Ka-Zar or Man-Thing had been wearing a cape, it might have been a totally different picture. Was I really that shallow as a boy in 1972? Yes…yes, I was.

    Liked by 3 people

    • crustymud · March 24

      I got into some of the behind-the-scenes stuff between Manny and Swampy on my own blog several years back– cheap plug here: http://crustymud.paradoxcomics.com/?p=245

      Liked by 4 people

      • Alan Stewart · March 24

        Thanks, crustymud! I’ll check it out.

        Liked by 1 person

        • crustymud · March 24

          While I point out that Manny was a Heap rip-off, I didn’t realize just how *shameless* a rip-off he was until reading your own article here!

          Liked by 2 people

      • DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · March 24

        I enjoyed your blog post, Mr. Mud. Quite informative on the creation of a character I didn’t know very well. I will say that, just from a “have you got to be kidding?” standpoint that the fact that Len and Gerry were roommates while creating Swamp Thing and Man-Thing is HIGHLY suspicious, even if the Heap did come first.

        Liked by 3 people

        • frednotfaith2 · March 24

          But then both DC & Marvel swamp monsters came out rather shortly after the Heap made its return to comics, likely due to a suggestion by Roy Thomas who had also within the previous year conjured up his own take on the Heap in a Hulk story. Seems the idea for the Man-Thing came from a conversation between Stan Lee & Thomas — apparently Lee liked the name “Man-Thing” and insisted Thomas come up something to match the name, and, hey, why not a new swamp monster! Whether Swamp Thing was entirely Lein’s or Wrightson’s idea or that of a DC editor, I haven’t read. As Wein appears to have been doing freelance work for both Marvel & DC at the time, maybe he got wind of Man-Thing early on, or maybe he and/or Wrightson decided on their own to do a variation of the Heap or Sturgeon’s It as just a one off story. Obviously, one of the editors thought it would be a good idea to retool it for a series at about the same time Thomas decided to feature Man-Thing in an ongoing regular color comic series. Among those crazy series of coincidences that may have really been mostly or entirely coincidental but in the long run what does it really matter? Both made for some great classic comics, art & story-wise, and to me that’s the most important, ahem, thing! Of course, Ben Grimm wasn’t too happy about so many new things popping out of the woodworks.

          Liked by 3 people

          • Alan Stewart · March 24

            You guys are really beginning to make me wish I hadn’t decided to wait until August before taking on this topic… 😉

            Liked by 3 people

  2. frednotfaith2 · March 23

    I missed A.T. # 12, but got 13 and then 15-19 and the first few issues of Ka-Zar’s self-titled series. Maybe oddly, I actually preferred Friedrich’s run of Ka-Zar in the big city to the tales of him back in the Hidden Jungle. While like Don, I tended to prefer costumed heroes as young lad, I still branched out into other fare, as long as I had enough spare change to get them when I was at my usual comics outlet, a mom & pop type little store about a couple of miles bike ride away from our rented home in Salt Lake City at the time. I must confess, my 10 year old self was a bit smitten with Bobbi Morse, particularly as drawn by Rich Buckler, but also her competent and self-assured nature. One of the more positive signs of Marvel slowly shifting away from how it typically represented female characters, although in 1972 they still had a ways to go. I missed her turn as the Huntress but got her first few outings as Mockingbird and thought it was apt that she was promoted to costumed super-heroine, like Carol Danvers, but without an initial costume or name derived from another character. Thinking it over, I think one big reason I preferred Ka-Zar in the city (or even Florida swamps) was the supporting cast he had in those stories, which mostly ebbed away when he went back to his jungle and often had only Zabu or the bad guys of the month to talk to. Even back then, stories that were more focused on pure action, cover to cover, tended to bore me if that was all that was going on in a mag month after month.
    As to the Man-Thing, i got a trio of his stories in Fear, issues 16-18, and a few of his solo series towards the tale end of that run, but eventually I filled in most of the holes in my Man-Thing collection, particularly those stories written by Gerber, which remain some of my favorite comics from the mid-70s, along with Gerber’s Defenders and Howard the Duck.
    Enjoyed your informative write-up, as always, Alan!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Alan Stewart · March 24

      ” I must confess, my 10 year old self was a bit smitten with Bobbi Morse, particularly as drawn by Rich Buckler…”

      My fourteen-year-old self was more into Dan Adkins’ take… but otherwise, yeah, fred, I hear ya. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • frednotfaith2 · March 25

        Now it occurs to that like many kids, I was fascinated with dinosaurs and other extinct prehistoric creatures and I liked cats, and here’s this guy whose best bud is a huge, prehistoric sabre-tooth cat and their homeland was filled with dinosaurs, pterodactyls, etc. Can’t say for certain that that prompted me to add comics featuring Ka-Zar and Zabu to my monthly comics to get list but likely it was a contributing factor. At some point, I realized that the entire idea of a place like the Hidden Jungle in Antarctica filled with specific creatures who never lived anywhere near that continent was far too absurd, even given that when Antarctica was a bit further north and before it was frozen over, a variety of dinosaurs – not counting penguins! – did inhabit it, but it’s not too likely that sabre-tooths or mammoths or ancient humans ever trod that land, ice or no ice. And as with the Arctic, nights and days are six-months long. To read those stories now, I’d have to turn off my rational mind and go into full far-out fantasy mode. Or just pretend the the HIdden Jungle is actually in another dimension to which there is some sort of magic portal to get in and out on Antarctica.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. crustymud · March 24

    The convoluted evolution of “Doctor” Barbara “Bobbi” Morse moves me to ponder, yet again: did the incoming writers even bother to glance at the stories that preceded them back in the 70s?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Kirk G · March 25

    How well I remember these issues. Astonishing Tales had been a home for Jack Kirby’s KaZar and Dr. Doom for 8 or so issues. By the time this hit, Doom was no longer in the pages, and this seemed to be an uneven mess, a collague of different art styles and characters. I quite buying comics about this time, and when I went back to them some 8 years later, found that I had bought at least two copies of #11 that were still in mint condition in my closet back in my parent’s house. I was always searching for the perfect Mint copy on the spinner rack, some sort of early sense that the condition of my comics were going to become of critical importance some day down the road…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. mkelligrew · March 25

    Due to the later Ka-Zar series by Bruce Jones and Brent Anderson, we named our orange cat Zabu.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Stu Fischer · March 27

    I never cared for the swamp monsters although I did like Ka Zar and read this story arc (but not really happy about it). I reread the previous issue on the 50th anniversary that it came out and it wasn’t until I read this blog post that I found out to my shock that Barbara Morse became Bobbi “Mockingbird” Morse. I had no idea. I don’t remember the Huntress and reading Marvel stories from the 1980s and 1990s for the first time during the last eight years on Marvel Unlimited, I assumed that Bobbi’s full name was Roberta (why, I don’t know: ironically in 1972 I knew a Barbara that went by Bobbi but I didn’t think about that reading the books in this century).

    Amusingly, re-reading about Barbara Morris in Ka-Zar recently before your reveal in the blog post, I was wondering if this could possibly be the woman who became the Valkyrie, although I was sure that her name was Barbara Norris. 😀 Well, my memory on that at least was correct. I guess you’ll be talking about her in just a couple of months.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · March 27

      The Mockingbird entry in Wikipedia lists “Roberta Morse” as one of the character’s “notable aliases” — which leads me to suspect that some Marvel writer got confused on the matter somewhere along the way. and used “Roberta” as her actual given name.

      And yes, you may rest assured that Barbara Norris will soon be coming your way… 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Chris A. · March 29

    I never knew about this Neal Adam’s story segment in AT #12 — will have to track that one down. Was it ever ultimately reprinted in Savage Tales in black and white?

    I know that Neal drew a Conan story for the magazine which likewise was published in the regular comic series (#37, I believe), but he complained that the panels looked too cramped and tiny in the size it was published.

    By the way, have you ever seen the 1972 videos of Neal Adams, Joe Kubert, and Moebius taking turns drawing in markers on a huge board? These were for a French TV show, but filmed in NYC. Another was done that same year with Wrightson, Kaluta, Druillet, and Forrest. They are all on YouTube.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. slangwordscott · March 31

    Thank you, Chris, for letting us know about those videos!

    As for Ka-Zar, I really only liked the stories that contrasted him with modern civilzation in s9me way. I liked these issues well enough and really liked the Mike Friedrich issues that jumped headfirst into the civilzation versus Savage Land issue and continued the supersoldier plot. Ka-Zar as Tarzan surrogate (but without Tarzan’s subtlety) didn’t work for me, even with extra added dinosaurs. I did enjoy the more fantasy/sword and sorcery aspect of the Barry Smith issues, so maybe a Conan surrogate resonated more, even 8n the days before I really became a fan of the Conan comics. Smith’s art certainly helped!

    Regarding the art in these issues, while I can understand the reasons for the coloring of the Neal Adams pages, they just look muddy and unappealing to me. I can’t believe I’m saying that about 1972 Adams art! I’d be very interested in seeing it pr8nted as originally intended, or scans of the original art.

    Ah, early Rich Buckler! I would have been a very happy reader if he had continued in this vein. Unfortunately, it seems like his (or editorial?) desire to see more work from Kirby and Adams led him alomg a different path. Still, I’ve always enjoyed his storytelling, which is what Marvel prioritized.

    John Buscema – storytelling and gorgeous work! After his first issue of Conan, and the shock of losing Smith, I have never been disappointed to see his name in the credits.

    I haven’t commented recently, but as always I very much enjoy your blog, Alan. Thank you for doing it, and thank you to all the commenters (even when I disagree).

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Chris A. · April 2

    Here’s a link for a video of John Buscema, Burne Hogarth, and Philippe Druillet drawing together for a short French documentary in 1972:

    Like

  10. Pingback: Swamp Thing #1 (Oct.-Nov., 1972) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books
  11. Pingback: Fear #11 (December, 1972) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books

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