Hero for Hire #9 (May, 1973)

In March, 1972, Marvel Comics published the first issue of Hero for Hire.  The new comic’s titular star, Luke Cage, wasn’t Marvel’s first Black superhero (that distinction belonged to the Black Panther, who debuted in 1966), or even its first Black American superhero (that would be the Falcon, whose first appearance came in 1969).  But he was the first Black superhero to star in his very own comics title — not just from Marvel, but from any major American company — and that made the release of Hero for Hire #1 a milestone.

According to Roy Thomas, the initiative to create Luke Cage came from Stan Lee, who was then on the verge of ascending from his longtime role as Marvel’s editor-in-chief to become its publisher — and who was determined to diversify Marvel’s line on a number of levels, one of which was race.  Taking obvious inspiration from the “blaxpoitation” trend in early 1970s American cinema, Lee and Thomas worked with writer Archie Goodwin and artist John Romita to conceptualize and design the new hero, before bringing two more artists on board — George Tuska and Billy Graham. (the latter being the only Black person among this assortment of talents) — to craft the first issue’s story with Goodwin. 

I’m fairly certain that my fourteen-year-old self noticed Hero for Hire #1 on the spinner rack when it came out — that John Romita cover was an attention-grabber, to be sure — and I suspect that I picked up a copy and thumbed through it.  But even if I did, I ultimately put the book back where I’d found it, opting not to make the purchase… despite the fact that, back in those days, I was inclined to give any new Marvel superhero title at least a chance.

So why did I pass on the “Sensational Origin Issue!” of Luke Cage, Hero for Hire?  I can’t really recall what I was thinking then, but I have to imagine that I was vaguely turned off by the very blaxploitation vibe that Stan Lee and company were going for, which seemed (to my Southern white middle-class self) to be mostly concerned with violent street-level crime in low-income urban neighborhoods — an approach which didn’t appear to leave much room for the familiar superheroic tropes I favored, such as flashy costumes, improbable technology, and even super powers (with the notable exception, of course, of Cage’s own prison-experiment-gone-wrong-derived super-strength and bulletproof hide).

And then, of course, there was the Blackness.

To be clear, I’m reasonably certain that I never had a conscious thought along the lines of, “nah, way too many Black folks in this one”, or “I need my superheroes to look like me“.  But on a subconscious level, at least, I likely determined that Luke Cage simply wasn’t as “relatable” as any number of other comic-book heroes vying for my 20 cents.*  (And no, it never occurred to me at the time — probably not even subconsciously — that my Black comic book-reading peers didn’t have much of an option in this regard.  Rather, they were basically required to find white characters “relatable”, assuming they wanted to enjoy comics on any kind of regular basis.)

So, for whatever reasons — conscious and/or subconscious — I didn’t get around to giving Hero for Hire a try until early 1973, when the series, and its title character, made their first deep dive into the Marvel Universe… beginning with issue #8, and continuing on into #9.

I figure I was still giving the book a cursory look when I saw it on the racks, and I must have been intrigued by #8’s cover — first by the unexpected appearance of robots, and then by the promise that “A Surprise Super-Villain Lurks Within These Pages!!”  Perhaps I even guessed who that villain was, based on the little bit of him we were allowed to see, and perhaps I didn’t; either way, I suspect that I flipped through the comic before buying it, just to confirm that the baddie wasn’t going to turn out to be a loser on the order of, say, the Kangaroo.  Naturally, once I saw that Luke Cage’s antagonist in this story was in fact none other than my very favorite Marvel villain, Doctor Doom, I was thoroughly sold.  (C’mon, that’s not a spoiler… you’ve already seen the cover for issue #9 at the head of this post, haven’t you?)

Self-portrait of Billy Graham, from Vampirella #16 (Apr., 1972).

Before we proceed to take a look at #8’s story, though, I’d like to say another word about its cover — or, more accurately, its artist, Billy Graham.  As already mentioned, while Graham hadn’t been part of the original discussions in which the character of Luke Cage was conceived and developed, he had been involved with the series since the first issue, for which he’d inked the pencils of the veteran George Tuska.

This happened to be Graham’s first gig at Marvel, but it was hardly his professional debut.  He’d entered the industry in 1969 via Warren Publishing, where in addition to drawing (and occasionally writing) stories for Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella, he would eventually serve a stint on the company’s editorial staff.  That experience, along with his success in fulfilling the role Roy Thomas has said was the main reason he’d suggested Graham for the inking assignment (i.e., “so he could make certain that the black characters looked authentic”) may help explain why his responsibilities in regards to the fledgling series were quickly expanded; by the third issue, he’d taken over from John Romita as the regular cover artist (a gig he’d hold onto through issue #16), and he’d also spelled Tuska as penciller for issues #4 and #6.  A few months down the road from the two issues we’re discussing today, he’d draw the book for a four-issue run, from #13 through #16; by that time, according to writer Steve Englehart (who’d taken over from Archie Goodwin as the title’s regular scripter with issue #5) Graham was also helping plot the book, so that “it was pretty much a co-production”.  (The artist would share a co-scripting credit for issues #14 and #15.)

But all that still lay some time in the future at the time your humble blogger got his first real taste of Billy Graham’s work, and of Hero for Hire in general, via issue #8’s “Crescendo!” — written by Englehart, pencilled by Tuska, and inked by Graham — so let’s get on with our look at that story.

Actually, as the first seven or so pages of said story are mostly devoted to the advancement of a subplot going back to Englehart’s first issue, #5 — and don’t have any bearing on what happens in the rest of issue #8, or in #9 — we’re going to skip ahead to page 8, where a certain well-heeled gentleman, previously blown off by Cage on page 3 so that the latter could attend to some subplot-related business, accosts our hero upon his return to his office…

Cage hits the streets to check with his network of contacts, and within five hours, he’s tracked the four thieves to “an old garage infesting the darkest alley in Bed-Stuy…”

Not expecting much of a fight from four ordinary criminals, Cage soon finds that they’re harder to put away than he anticipated…

Having earlier been given a phone number to call when the job was done, Cage is able to trace the number to the Latverian Embassy.  There he finds a party going on — as well as a familiar face, though that mug is now perched atop a military uniform, rather than a three-piece suit…

Is it a bit of a stretch to ask readers to believe that Luke Cage has never heard of Doctor Doom, who as of 1973 has already tried to conquer the world umpty-ump times?  Maybe, but seeing as how Luke (aka Carl Lucas) was in prison for at least some of the time that Doom has been active, I’m going to allow it.

This time around, Luke doesn’t even have to track his quarry down; Doom has their address.  As the metal-clad monarch of Latveria explains, “An electronic spy followed you to them before, and stayed with them when they ran.”  But even if finding the robots (who’ve now abandoned their humanoid disguises) is no problem, our hero has no less trouble taking them down than in their initial encounter…

The leader of the group, Primus, makes it clear that surrender is not an option, on either side: “…our code is kill or be killed — there is no in-between“.  Luke soon realizes that he’s going to have to go all in if he plans to walk away from this fight…

With an ending like that, how could I have resisted coming back for the next issue?  Well, obviously, I didn’t, seeing as how it says “Hero for Hire #9 (May, 1973)” at the top of this post.  And since you all know that already, and since you’ve also already had the opportunity to enjoy Billy Graham’s fine cover for this issue, we’ll move straight on to the opening splash page… where we see that Luke Cage’s bracing plunge into the mainstream of the mighty Marvel Universe won’t be limited to the supervillains’ end of the pool…

I loved (and still love) the guest appearance made by the Fantastic Four in this opening scene, even if a couple of them look a bit off-model.  Hey, the Thing’s not the easiest character in the world to draw, y’know?  And colorist Stan Goldberg probably didn’t get the memo about new member Medusa’s recent costume change.

(Just a quick note here about the Daily Bugle‘s Phil Fox, who’s name-checked in the last panel above; while his newspaper column might be fine reading, Luke’s evident disdain for the guy will prove justified, as Fox will eventually attempt to blackmail our hero with the threat of revealing that he’s really escaped convict Carl Lucas; as you might guess, that hustle ultimately doesn’t work out so well for the journalist.)

At this point, you may be wondering: if Cage had never heard of Doctor Doom until very recently, how did he learn that the FF are the Doc’s old enemies?  I dunno — maybe he asked a friend, or went to the library.  (Enough time has passed since the end of the last issue for him to replace his shredded yellow shirt, so we know he didn’t go straight from the Latverian Embassy to the Baxter Building.)  In any event, Reed Richards decides to grant Cage’s request, setting him up with a rocketship that’ll fly him to Latveria on automatic pilot, then bring him home when his business there is done.  (And no, we’re not going to think about how much money is being spent on rocket fuel so that Luke can collect $200.  There’s a principle at stake here, people!)

One of Doom’s soldiers attempts to shoot Luke; we all know how that’s going to go, don’t we?

At first, it seems the robots are just as homicidal as the ones Cage faced last issue — it’s a minority of Doom’s soldiers who escape death or serious injury long enough to flee to the relative safety of their monarch’s castle — but Luke soon discovers that their “Death to all humans!” credo allows for at least one exception, if only for the present…

Your humble blogger had encountered the Faceless One before, thanks to having bought and read Astonishing Tales #3 (Dec., 1970), which chronicled the mysterious entity’s first defeat at Doctor Doom’s hands.

I guess Luke was paying attention when the Faceless One welcomed him a couple of panels back (“Fear not — you are among… aliens…“), since otherwise it’s highly unlikely he’d realize that his host is an extraterrestrial, and not just some weird dude wearing a shiny globe-shaped helmet.  After all, back in AT #3, Dr. Doom himself hadn’t caught on to the truth until late in the story, when the F.O. pulled the trick depicted at right (text by Larry Lieber, art by Wally Wood).


I love that Luke immediately sees through the Faceless One’s attempt to manipulate him by likening the robots’ plight to that of enslaved Black people in America’s past; it’s also a nice touch by Englehart to have the F.O. cheerfully cop to the pthen move on.

A blast from the robots’ “laser bazooka” weakens the castle’s metal gates… but it’s Luke Cage’s fist that finishes the job, allowing the revolutionaries to charge inside.  But while the robots begin to exchange fire with Doom’s human soldiers, Cage heads deeper into the structure in search of the main man himself…

But Cage doesn’t let up, and Doom is forced to grudgingly admit that his opponent reminds him of himself in younger days, “when I first determined that no one would best Victor von Doom again!”  Still, the villain says, that doesn’t mean Cage should expect Doom to go easy on him due to sympathy.  “Cram sympathy, Jack!” retorts Luke…

Is it somewhat contrived to have Luke Cage suddenly discover a vulnerability in Dr. Doom’s armor that the Thing, Hulk, Sub-Mariner, et al, have never stumbled upon in all of the Doc’s previous appearances?  Maybe, but we really, really want to see our hero get the better of the Lord of Latveria, don’t we?  So let’s just roll with it.

The mysteries of the Faceless One’s true name, and his motivations for attacking Dr. Doom, would have to wait for another time and place — which to the best of my knowledge still hasn’t arrived, half a century later (although he did show up at least one more time, in Ms. Marvel #23 [Apr., 1979]), where his ultimately unsuccessful attempt at conquering Earth didn’t involve Doom or Latveria).

Apparently, Doc Doom keeps a stash of United State currency in a desk drawer in his throne room, just for situations like this.  Who’d have guessed?

Cage easily makes his way back to the Fantastic Four’s rocketship, even as explosions resound from the castle at his back.  And then, after a “downright dull” transatlantic flight home to NYC…

My fifteen-year-old self was thoroughly entertained by this two-parter back in February, 1973.  (My sixty-five-year-old self is still pretty fond of it, too, in case that wasn’t clear.)  As far as I was concerned, Cage’s demanding of Doom, “Where’s my money, honey?” had been worth the price of admission all by itself.  Nevertheless, the positive experience didn’t make me a regular buyer/reader of Hero for Hire.

Perhaps things might have been different, had Billy Graham done the full art for these two issues’ interiors — because, as much as I liked his finishes over George Tuska’s pencils, there’s only so much an inker can do.  (No offense to Mr. Tuska or his fans, but his style in general has never been much to my particular taste.)  But I suspect that the series’ return to relatively more grounded, “street-level” storylines — as indicated by the next-issue blurb heralding the debut of Señor Muerte — was the main factor in my decision not to make Hero for Hire a monthly purchase.  And though I’d check in from time to time over the next few years, as Luke Cage’s adventures edged closer to the Marvel mainstream — a movement that was marked by such changes as the book’s change in title from Hero for Hire to Power Man, (with issue #17) and then, roughly four years later, by Luke’s teaming up more-or-less permanently with martial arts master Danny Rand in Power Man and Iron Fist (issue #50) — I never became a regular reader of the book over the course of its original run.

On the other hand… as of February, 1973 I at least knew I liked Luke Cage as a character.  I’d be pleased to see him when he showed up in Amazing Spider-Man #123 just three months later, and in Defenders #17, a little more than a year after that… and in Fantastic Four #168 a little more than a year after that, when you could say the contacts he made in Hero for Hire #9 really paid off, as Luke was hired to replace the temporarily-de-powered Thing.  Sweet Christmas!

In 1973-1975, then, Luke Cage had about the same status with your humble blogger as did Iron Man and the Hulk — i.e., Marvel superheroes whom I was perfectly happy to read about in team books, or when they guest-starred in another series I was following, but still wasn’t into enough to buy their own title on more than an intermittent basis.  To put it another way, I’d come to find the hustling, hard-edged (Black) hero-for-hire at least as “relatable” as a multi-millionaire playboy (white) industrialist with a suit of high-tech armor, or a mild-mannered (white) physicist who spent most of his time as an enormous (green) rage monster.  Which may or may not have been progress, but was… something, perhaps?

Then again, maybe I’m just full of spit.


*Similar thinking (if one can really call it that) probably influenced my decision later the same year to pass on the first issue of The Cat, which was (if I’m not mistaken) the first Marvel title devoted to the solo exploits of a female superhero since the dawn of the “Marvel Age of Comics”, back in 1961.  On the other hand, I did pick up not just the first issue, but the whole five-issue run, of Shanna, the She-Devil, which debuted one week after the Cat’s premiere — and was, like it, part of a female-focused three-title initiative Marvel launched in August, 1972.  (The third title of the group, and actually the first to be published, was Night Nurse; that one I never considered buying at all, since it looked like a romance comic, and I assiduously avoided those.)  Does that mean that I somehow found the red-headed white jungle queen more “relatable” than the black-maned, feline-themed superheroine?  I wish I could believe that were true… but I’m pretty sure that it simply came down to my younger (teenage, horny) self’s preference for Shanna’s skin-baring leopard-skin outfit over the Cat’s skin-tight spandex suit.


  1. frasersherman · February 15

    “Spit.” I remember in the Spider-Man story Cage uses the phrase “Motherless freaking scum.” As a tween, I assumed this represented some real kind of swear word (much as I did Blue Blazes and the like in the previous decade).
    I’ve never bought the argument that Doom is a man of honor who would never ghost on someone he owed money too (which Dwayne McDuffie worked into an issue of Damage Control). In the Silver Age he stiffed the Terrible Trio and trapped them in another dimension to boot, and that’s just one example.
    $200 was a respectable week’s salary for a blue-collar guy back then. I don’t have any problem believing Reed’s rockets are incredibly fuel efficient.
    Yes, I’ve often wondered about the Faceless One as well.
    You have a point about Cage not recognizing Doom (of course when Thor met Magneto they’d never heard of each other either) but Luke laughing at the latter is great. Like Anarky a couple of decades later lecturing R’As al Ghul when they meet.
    I’d only just started buying Marvel comics again a few months earlier so it’s not surprising I didn’t expand to include Cage.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. frednotfaith2 · February 15

    Likewise, I was slow to pick up on Luke Cage – the first issue I got was #17, when the title changed to Power Man, but it wasn’t until a year or so later that I started getting the series regularly. In 1973 was the year I started collecting more series on a regular basis, but given my limited budget I was more focused on the series I was already familiar with or whatever else intrigued me enough to check out if I had enough coins on hand when making my comics selections. I also passed on the Cat, Shanna and Night Nurse, and it would still be a few years before I gave Conan a try. I did get the Black Panther series in Jungle Action, albeit irregularly. Billy Graham provided some excellent artwork in that series, after taking over from Rich Buckler. I never much cared for George Tuska’s art either, Alan, although I did start collecting Iron Man a bit later, when Tuska was still on his long run on that title. Sort of like Trimpe on the Hulk, or Robbins on The Invaders, I could take their art on certain titles, but seeing them elsewhere made me go, “ugh!” Such as when Tuska had a short run in the Avengers, before George Perez took over — even Perez’s early art on Avengers appealed to me far more than Tuska’s art. Anyhow, Cage’s tussle with the cheapskate Dr. Doom was a fun romp and somewhat echoes Dr. Doom’s appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #5, of initiating a relatively new hero into facing one of the baddest of all bad guys. In the early ’70s, Dr. Doom was appearing more often in titles other than the Fantastic Four, thus far including Thor, Hulk Sub-Mariner and probably others, aside from his own short-lived series in Astonishing Adventures.

    Liked by 3 people

    • frasersherman · February 15

      I never cared for Tuska, though I don’t have the eye for art to say how much of that was due to his inkers (as Chris says below).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Steve McBeezlebub · February 17

      I loved the Shanna series but didn’t like them killing off every supporting character in subsequent appearances after the cancellation. Made me worry about Ka-Zar when she joined his series.

      Liked by 2 people

      • frasersherman · February 17

        Except Nekra who went on to become a free-floating villain, cropping up in Spider-Girl, then Vision/Scarlet Witch.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Chris Green · February 15

    We all have different tastes, of course, but I feel I have to put in a word of support for George Tuska here. I love his work, and his Iron Man issues in the late 60s and early 70s are gems of dynamic visual storytelling, and especially appealing when he was inked by the great Johnny Craig. Sadly, he was often saddled with inkers such as Colletta and Esposito, who did him no favours.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Haydn · February 15

    That was a fun romp!

    Though it sounds dated today, I LOVED the 1970s euphemisms for non-Comics Code-approved invective. Wolverine even said “futzers” once or twice in the early years of the new X-men. It took me a few years to figure out what he REALLY said…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Steve McBeezlebub · February 15

    I also grew up in a very white town, suspiciously so since it was across the arbor from Boston and never boasted more than two Black familes. Hmmm, racist real estate agents perhaps? Anyway, I was the worst kind of completist (my OCD wouldn’t be diagnosed for decades) and I bought Luke’s adventures from issue one. I actually loved it, Tuska art and all. He was mid-level in my enjoyment however. He was no Andru, Brown, or Kane but he wasn’ Ayers or Heck. (I did appreciate Heck much more as my tastes matured). Luke was part of Marvel’s steet level trifecta and better than that era’s Daredevil. Heck, nothing against Aunt May’s nephew but I’ve always liked Luke better than him.

    BTW, I tried Googling something I once read about Luke Cage but can’t find it anymore. A writer stated that Marvel accidentally gave Luke the perfect power set for a Black in man in the US: Bulletproof skin. If anyone knows where I read that please tell me since I’d like to reread the whole thing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Alan Stewart · February 15
      • Steve McBeezlebub · February 15

        It’s longer and better formatted than memory what I recall so I probably read something abridged, which is weird because they usually do that to change an article’s intent and they didn’t.

        Liked by 1 person

    • frasersherman · February 15

      It’s entirely possible it was a “sundown town” that discouraged POCs sticking around after sunset. There was one like that near where I used to live; as a reporter I’d have loved to research it if I could have figured out how.


      • Steve McBeezlebub · February 15

        I wish. I lived there from six to sixteen and it was definitely something. We had the permanant Black family and when the second family moved away, only then were there any new Black home owners. Somewhere in there the courts forced Boston to desegregate so it fits with the area.


    • frednotfaith2 · February 15

      I recall reading that a few years ago in a discussion of Luke Cage’s tv show on Netflix. I can’t remember where, though. Maybe on Vulture.com


  6. DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · February 15

    Yeah, I didn’t read Luke Cage either…not ever. I read team-up issues that included him and I’m not saying I never read an issue of the book at random, but “never” basically sums it up. While I’m sure there was some benign racism inherent in that choice (white kid raised in a largely white community in 60’s and 70’s Mississippi, fer cryin’ out loud), I think my conscious reasons were that Cage wasn’t “super-hero” enough for me with his street-level crime fighting and that the attempts at “jive-talking” by white writers trying to sound black seemed dumb and insulting and unrealistic to me, even at age 15. Also, the fake cursing; spit, Christmas and what have you, sounded really fake and really dumb. It also probably had something to do with the fact that I’d only begun reading Marvel books two years earlier and wasn’t as up to speed on what Marvel offered as much as I was DC (in my defense, weak as it is, I began buying DC’s Black Lightning from its very first issue). Long story short (too late), while my initial rejection of Luke Cage carried undoubtedly more than a few racist overtones from my upbringing, they weren’t the only reasons.

    As to the book itself, the story here is excellent, though it makes no sense to me that Doom would create all this grief for himself simply by not paying his debt to Luke. I suppose, like Luke, it was the principle of the thing, though in Doom’s case it was the opposite side of the same principle. Still, it made for a fun adventure, though the Faceless One stole his entire “Head on Spider-legs attached to a host body” thing in it’s entirety from an old John Carter of Mars novel. I loved the confrontation with the FF at the Baxter Building, though the penchant for Marvel to rush their heroes into dust-ups with one another never made sense and seemed like nothing more than an excuse for our heroes to fight (which it was). I’m also not a huge fan of Tuska’s artwork here, but as someone else said, at least it wasn’t Ayers or Heck. I’m glad the unfortunately named Billy Graham was able to lay more claim to the character as it went on; a book about a black hero at that time absolutely cried out for a black person’s input in it’s creation, but I agree that he was a better penciller than he was an inker, at least on Tuska’s work.

    My real appreciation and enjoyment of Luke Cage didn’t come until the Netflix series, which I enjoyed a great deal. Its interesting to go back here and see what all the fuss was about fifty years ago. Thanks, Alan.

    Liked by 3 people

    • frasersherman · February 16

      Marvel’s nickname for Billy Graham in the Soapbox was “The Irreverent Billy Graham” so they were obviously aware of it.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Chris A. · February 15

    The first one I saw was #5 with oversized villainess Black Mariah, and it was as cringey then as it is now:


    I *did* like Luke Cage’s appearance in the Amazing Spider-Man #123, a superb followup to the death of Gwen Stacy/Green Goblin storyline. Very solid comic, with fine drawing by Gil Kane and John Romita Sr.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. crustymud · February 15

    “Where’s my money, honey?”

    Got this as a back issue twenty years after it was originally published. This line stuck with me forever afterward and I have have repeated it quite often.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. FredKey · February 15

    Luke reminds me of the insane paperboy in Better Off Dead. Where that kid was relentless chasing his $2, Luke had to fight robots and aliens and Supervillains for his $200! As a freelancer I would have told him he was entitled to another $200 as the cost of his time spent collecting the debt.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Michael A. Burstein · February 15

    I wish Archie Goodwin were still around, because ever since I learned Luke Cage’s origin I wonder how he ended up creating the character of Noah Burstein. My surname is not one of the more common variations.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Another excellent retrospective, Alan.

    I appreciate your insightful self-reflection regarding why you did not initially read Hero For Hire. I am afraid that I must admit to the same failings on my part. In the 1990s as a teenager I all-but ignored the excellent Milestone Media line of comics released through DC, outside of the first few issues of Hardware, which I had difficulty relating to. Looking back at this 30 years later, I realize, unfortunately, that there was definitely some unconscious bias at work on my part.

    I’ve always considered myself liberal and progressive and open-minded, but I’ve come to realize that as a white male who grew up in the United States it was inevitable that on some subconscious level I would inevitably be influenced by this country long, tragic history of institutionalized racism. I really wish I hadn’t been so quick to pass up the Milestone books as a teen. Fortunately as an adult I really do make a conscious effort to read a genuinely diverse selection of material, both in terms of the characters featured and the creators who are creating those stories. But, yeah, I’m still a work in progress. I guess the first step in making things better is in admitting your own failings so you understand what you have to work at to become a better person.

    Regarding this story, I’ve heard some people mock the idea of Luck Cage borrowing a rocket from the FF just to go to Latveria to collect $200 from Doctor Doom. There’s two things to consider: One, checking the online US Inflation Calculator, $200 in 1973 money is the equivalent of nearly $1,350 in 2023 value, a not-inconsiderate sum for a self-employed working-class individual like Cage. Two, if Cage is able to collect the fee from Doctor Doom, he’s going to have much less of a worry about anyone else trying to rip him off in the future. Seriously, unless you’re incredibly stupid, you’re not going to want to stiff the guy who got Doctor Doom to pay up.

    Regarding the artwork, I like George Tuska, but I definitely feel his penciling became more and more characterized by awkward stock figure poses from the 1970s onward. In a way it’s understandable. Tuska was 57 years old in 1973. During the Golden Age his forte had been crime comics, horror and Westerns. He always seemed a bit miscast as a superhero artist, and as that genre became more and more prevalent he was increasingly called upon to illustrate material that did not really suit his artistic strengths. Given the low pay rates of the industry and his age, I can’t really blame him for turning in merely adequate work from the Bronze Age onward. But I do find the inking / embellishing by Billy Graham really enhanced Tuska’s pencils on this series.

    Graham was a fantastic artist who passed away too young, and who often doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. I hope that you read the Black Panther stories he did with writer Don McGregor when they first came out, because I’d enjoy seeing you do write-ups on those for your blog.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Alan Stewart · February 16

      Alas, Ben, my benighted younger self passed on the McGregor-Graham Black Panther run, as well as the Killraven run by McGregor and P. Craig Russell — so even though I’ve read and enjoyed both in the decades since, I won’t be writing about ‘em here. 😦


      • 😭😭😭😭😭

        Liked by 1 person

        • frasersherman · February 17

          I finally read Killraven in TPB and I was disappointed. It didn’t match up to Black Panther or to McGregor’s short but bizarre stories of Morbius in Vampire Tales. Though I know Killraven has plenty of fans who’d disagree.


          • Steve McBeezlebub · February 17

            ‘raies both hands’

            Liked by 1 person

    • JoshuaRascal · February 17

      “$200 in 1973 money is the equivalent of nearly $1,350 in 2023 value,”

      That’s what the calculator on usinflationcalculator.com spits out. I have always had issues with the inflation calculations from the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index (CPI). IMO, the U.S. Inflation rate has been severely underestimated in US Government statistics.

      The price of an ounce of Gold in early 1973 was $65. On the sdbullion.com website the current market price for an ounce of Gold is $1827. $200 in early 1973 could buy 3 ounces of Gold. Today those 3 ounces are worth almost $5500.

      In late 1972, the price of a bbl. of crude oil was about $2.00. $200 could buy 100 bbl. of crude oil in 1972. Today, 100 bbl. of crude oil wold cost roughly $8000.

      Going halfway around the world to collect a $5500 to 8000 debt (in today’s money) does make a lot more sense.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. JoshuaRascal · February 17

    Regarding the Jungle Queen, “Shanna, the She-Devil”. Something new from the “house of ideas” (Marvel Comics) in the 1970’s? Nope. Just something reintroduced to comics after pretty much disappearing since the 1950’s, probably because of the Comics Code. The latest in a long line of White Jungle Goddesses, Queens, Princesses and what not that appeared in comic books with great frequency during the late 1930’s to early 1950’s.

    The original Jungle Queen has to be “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle” appearing in comic books published by Fiction House from 1938 to the early 1950’s. Sheena had a long run in Fiction House’s “Jumbo Comics” from issue #1 to #167 (1938 to 1953) and her own title “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle” #1 to #18 (1942 to 1952). Sheena also had her own TV series in 1955-56 starring Irish McCalla.

    Sheena was so popular she spawned a multitude of imitations during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Rulah the Jungle Goddess, Tiger Girl, Lorna the Jungle Girl, Nyoka the Jungle Girl, Tegra the Jungle Empress, Princess Pantha, Taanda the White Princess of the Jungle…

    Let’s not forget the boys in the Jungle comics. Tarzan and all the imitation Tarzans in the comic books had to have their “mates”. It is hard to believe how popular Tarzan was from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. And not just in the movies. It seemed every comic book company had their own version of Tarzan. Atlas/Marvel had Ka-Zar. Fiction House had Kaanga. There was Jo-Jo, Zago, and others. But interestingly, the covers would usually prominently display their “mates”. Whatever sold the comics.

    Liked by 1 person

    • frasersherman · February 17

      I picked up a collection of reprints of out-of- copyright comics heroes and it was eye-opening to see, as you say, the number of white jungle goddesses (or as a friend puts it “non-native rain forest authority figures.”) knocking off Sheena.
      Blogging about B’Wana Beast a few years ago, I initially described as comics’ last attempt to create a character in that line, then I remembered Shanna.
      Don McGregor said in the introduction to the collection of his Jungle Action Black Panther run that he was mortified to be reprinting old Tarzan knockoff strips so when Marvel started talking about adding new material to the books he proposed a T’Challa series as something that fit the name and wouldn’t be embarrassing.
      The Friday Foster strip managed something different in the Tarzan genre, a black American athlete who returns to Africa and becomes a black jungle adventurer.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. spencerdS · February 18

    Another entertaining and informative post. I didn’t pass on Hero for Hire #1, but didn’t , for whatever reason, stick with it. Maybe, since I came from a small town, it didn’t resonate with me. Who knows? Probably the bigger reason is that what was available on the rack month to month varied widely.
    On another not, I have to hand it to you for the amount of work that goes into each of these posts, from the research, scanning , and all that. I do a much simple blog, called Comics Revisited, which is much simpler and just “revisits” comic runs I remember. Just started with Thor, the first 15 cent issue, #166. It really is a riot to go back and read those. The suspension of disbelief was really something in my 8- 15 yr old self. Thanks for another great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. markwaid · February 22

    Another great post. And I’m with the poster above–I’ll die on the hill that Doom’s much-vaunted “nobility and honor” is largely a figment of his own ego and comes into play only when it is of use to him (which is, in itself, dishonorable).

    Liked by 2 people

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