In our February blog post about Marvel Comics’ Conan the Barbarian #15, we covered how that issue’s final story page — a full-page splash panel of Conan bidding the wizard Zukala farewell, signed by its artist, Barry Windsor-Smith — also served as the artist’s farewell to the series’ readers, as #15 was the last issue he would draw of the title.
In March, 1972, the lead story of Mister Miracle #8 had ended with a “Coming!” blurb promising that the very next issue would introduce readers to a “lovable old rascal” named Himon — billed not only as the man who’d mentored the series’ titular hero in his craft of escape artistry, but as an updated take on the character Fagin from Charles Dickens’ 1838 novel Oliver Twist. With Ron Moody’s Oscar-nominated performance as Fagin in the 1968 film adaptation of the musical Oliver! still relatively fresh in the pop-cultural memory, readers might have been forgiven for expecting Mister Miracle #9 to be something of a romp — a tale one might read while listening to the movie soundtrack’s renditions of “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” or “I’d Do Anything” playing in the background.
On the other hand, readers who’d been following the “Young Scott Free” back-up feature in the last few issues of Mister Miracle might suspect that such a level of jauntiness would be incongruous (to say the least) in the context of our hero’s upbringing on the hell-planet of Apokolips. But even those readers might not be prepared for the reality of “Himon!” — probably the darkest and most brutal episode of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World epic yet to appear, although one that still ends on a strong note of optimism and hope. Read More
As this post goes out on April 30, 2022, we’re a little less than a week away from the premiere of the second multi-million dollar motion picture from Marvel Studios starring Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts.
But fifty years ago, in the last week of April, 1972, Marvel Comics was just hoping that maybe the good Doctor might be able to sustain his own solo comic book series again, his last such having been canceled in 1969. Although they were hedging their bets a little by bringing him back not in his own title — not yet, anyway — but in the tryout book Marvel Premiere. Read More
In April, 1972, the third issue of Marvel Comics’ Kull the Conqueror arrived on stands — a full eleven months after the release of issue #2.
Of course, as folks who’ve been regular readers of this blog for a while already know, while Kull, the comic book, had been absent for almost a year, the same could not be said of Kull, the character. Marvel’s associate editor Roy Thomas, who in 1971 had launched this second series based on a Robert E. Howard fantasy hero in the wake of Conan the Barbarian‘s success (as relatively modest as that was, so far) was evidently determined to keep Conan’s literary forbear in the public eye — perhaps in hopes of eventually resuscitating the cancelled Kull title, or maybe just because he liked the hero and his milieu and/or was enjoying his collaboration (as the series’ writer) with sister-and-brother art team Marie and John Severin, who’d both come aboard Kull with issue #2. Read More
In its design, the cover of New Gods #9 mirrors that of Forever People #9, the other Jack Kirby comic published by DC in April, 1972. Both covers feature a dominant image that excludes the comic’s titular stars, who are shunted off to a narrow. left-side border; both utilize a considerable amount of black in their color schemes, as well. This striking similarity seems unlikely to have been a coincidence.
In his indispensable book Old Gods & New: A Companion to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World (TwoMorrows, 2021), author John Morrow posits that, in both cases, the intent was to boost sales by making the books look less like superhero comics and more like something in the horror-mystery genre, which was then a successful niche for DC. Morrow suggests that this was part of a move by the company’s publisher, Carmine Infantino, to take a heavier hand in setting the course for these two titles, both ostensibly under the editorial control of Kirby. (Another known indicator of that heavier hand was Infantino’s directing Kirby to include Deadman as a guest star in issues #9 and #10 of Forever People, regardless of Kirby’s disinterest in the character.) Read More
In addition to being a fine piece of artwork by Michael W. Kaluta, the cover of Batman #242 represents a minor milestone of sorts; outside of those for a small handful of giant-sized all-reprint issues, it was the first cover since October, 1969 for either Batman or its companion title, Detective Comics, not to have been drawn by Neal Adams. (That particular month, not so coincidentally, was the same one in which those titles’ editor at DC Comics, Julius Schwartz, introduced the Caped Crusader’s “Big Change” — a return to a moodier, more grounded approach to the hero that was largely inspired by what Adams had been doing over in Brave and the Bold for the last year or so.) Read More
In October, 1971, Don and Maggie Thompson’s fanzine Newfangles reported:
There are indications that DC is in serious trouble. Dealers are not too keen on the 25¢ comic book[s], sales are skyrocketing for Marvel, Charlton and Gold Key (GK has 15¢ books, Marvel and Charlton 20¢)… DC’s titles are also reported to be dying in droves on the stands, if they get that far—wholesalers prefer to handle the 20¢ books, apparently.
A couple of months later, with disappointing sales reports now in for about a quarter-year’s worth of the “bigger & better” format DC had inaugurated in June, publisher Carmine Infantino prepared to make some course adjustments. The most significant upcoming change would be to the format itself (more on that later), but there were other indicators of Infantino’s efforts to staunch the bleeding as 1972 got underway; for example, Green Lantern, one of the signature series of DC’s Silver Age, was cancelled with its 89th issue, shipping in February. As for the titles written, drawn, and edited by Jack Kirby, with which DC had clearly hoped to clean up with sales-wise following Kirby’s 1970 defection from DC’s chief rival, Marvel Comics: Jimmy Olsen was removed from Kirby’s purview with the 148th issue (which, like GL #89, came out in February); and while Infantino wasn’t quite ready to pull the plug on Kirby’s three remaining titles — the core books of the star creator’s interconnected “Fourth World” epic — he appears to have been determined to take a more active role in guiding their respective directions than he had before. If the King could ever have been said to have had free rein in managing “his” comics at DC (and that’s by no means an indisputable statement), that day was over. Read More
In March, 1972, the format change that DC Comics editor Joe Orlando had brought to the company’s House of Mystery title at the beginning of his tenure had been in place for four years. This format — which emulated the approach of the horror anthology comics of the early 1950s to the extent possible under the strictures of the Comics Code Authority — had proven very successful, leading to similar revamps of other DC titles (House of Secrets and Tales of the Unexpected) as well as the launch of brand new titles cut from the same rotting gravecloth (Witching Hour and Ghosts). Even DC’s arch-rival Marvel had been moved to try its hand at the “mystery” anthology comics game (though so far without much success).
Through it all, House of Mystery had kept to the course charted by Orlando in 1968, centered on a mix of short stories of supernatural horror (generally featuring twist endings), interspersed with a page or two of macabre cartoons, all “hosted” by Cain the Caretaker. To the extent that anything had changed in the last four years, it was largely in the makeup of the talent roster that produced the title’s content. Even so, it was still possible to pick up an issue and be completely surprised — as was the case with the very comic we’re looking at today. Read More
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. Read More
In March, 1972, the eighth issue of Mister Miracle picked up right where #7 had left off. Having voluntarily returned to the dark god-world of Apokolips with the aim of formally earning his freedom through trial by combat, our titular hero, aka Scott Free, had been taken into custody by the forces of Granny Goodness — as had been his friend, ally, and fellow former inmate of Granny’s “orphanage”, Big Barda. But while Scott was taken away to the mysterious Section Zero to face an unknown fate, Granny ordered that Barda “be returned to the female barracks”.
And that’s just where we find Big Barda on the first page of MM #8 — though the precise manner of her arrival is probably not quite what Granny had in mind… Read More