First off, please be advised that this blog post is going to be one of the long ones. That’s primarily due to the fact that, in addition to covering the specific fifty-year-old comic book that gives the post its title, your humble blogger is also goiing to take a shot at answering the age-old conundrum: who came first, DC Comics’ Swamp Thing or Marvel Comics’ Man-Thing? (Regular readers may recall that when the blog spotlighted the second Man-Thing story, back in March, I promised something of this sort would be forthcoming; that moment has at last arrived.)
But it’s also destined to be at least a bit on the long side because before I can even get into discussing Swamp Thing #1, I feel that it’s necessary to give some attention to an even older comic, one that came out over fifty-one years ago. Of course, I’m talking about House of Secrets #92, published by DC in April, 1971; the comic book whose first eight pages gave us the very first “Swamp Thing” story, as written by Len Wein, drawn (mostly) by Bernie Wrightson, and edited by Joe Orlando. Neither the behind-the-scenes story of how Swamp Thing-the-series came to be — nor my own initial reactions to the first issue of the latter, as a fifteen-year-old reader in August, 1972 — make a whole lot of sense outside of the context of that classic tale. So, that’s where we’re starting, on what in all probability will indeed be a lengthy (though hopefully also enjoyable) journey. Forewarned is forearmed, eh? Read More
Writing about Avengers #100 back in March of this year, I referred to the four issues that immediately followed that milestone as a “victory lap” for Roy Thomas, whose nearly-six-year tenure as the title’s writer was about to come to an end. In characterizing Avengers #101-104 in such a fashion, I don’t mean to denigrate them; they’re not bad comics, by any means. But coming directly upon the heels of the three-part “Olympus Trilogy” crafted by Thomas with Barry Windsor-Smith — and, right before that, the “Kree-Skrull War” epic by Thomas, Neal Adams, and Sal and John Buscema — these comics can’t help but seem somewhat anticlimactic by comparison. I suppose there’s always been a part of me that kind of wishes that Thomas had just quit while he was ahead. Read More
When Steve Englehart came on board as the new writer for Captain America in June, 1972, your humble blogger had been a regular reader of the series for about ten months — coming on board with issue #144 — after having been an off-and-on one ever since #105, way back in June, 1968. Originally drawn in by #144’s dramatic cover by John Romita (the effect of which was unquestionably enhanced by the Falcon’s sharp new costume design, also by Romita), I’d hung around for the quite enjoyable Hydra/Kingpin/Red Skull multi-parter that had followed, as delivered by writer Gary Friedrich and a cadre of artists including Gil Kane and Sal Buscema. And when that storyline wrapped up in issue #148, I’d stayed with the book — despite the fact that the subsequent yarns concocted by Friedrich’s replacement Gerry Conway weren’t all that compelling. I suppose that inertia may have been carrying me along by that point; that, and the fact that by mid-1972 I was buying the vast majority of Marvel Comics’ superheroic output. In the context of the Marvel Universe as a whole, Captain America felt like a key title, and I didn’t want to miss anything important. Read More
As I previously covered back in June in my post about the first issue of The Demon, sometime in the first half of 1972 DC Comics requested writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby to come up with a couple of new series concepts to complement the three titles already on his schedule. The results were pitches for what ultimately became The Demon and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth — and DC liked them a lot. Indeed, from Kirby’s perspective, they may have liked them a little too much. Read More
The fifty-year old comic book that’s the subject of today’s post features the middle chapter of the three-month-long celebration of Justice League of America‘s reaching its hundredth-issue milestone, as well as of the tenth annual summer event co-starring the JLA’s predecessors from the Golden Age of Comics, the Justice Society. Your humble blogger is as eager as the rest of you to jump back into the story by writer Len Wein, penciller Dick Dillin, and inker Joe Giella — but before we do, let’s take a good, close look at the cover by Nick Cardy.
Like all of the other JLA covers of this era, it features a left-hand column of League members’ floating heads (this particular issue also includes a right-hand column of JSA heads as an added bonus). But unlike virtually any other such cover, there are only three full-time active members of the League included in this group of five — the presently non-powered Diana Prince being on a leave of absence, while Metamorpho is only a “reserve member”. That meager number is the max number of “official” JLAers appearing in the story as well. Read More
With this issue of Marvel Comics’ Conan the Barbarian, writer-editor Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith inaugurated the first proper extended storyline to appear in the title since its inception. A note on the letters page cited the single Conan novel written by the hero’s creator Robert E. Howard, “The Hour of the Dragon” (published in book form as Conan the Conqueror), as a model for the two storytellers; nearly half a century later, in his 2018 bookBarbarian Life: A Literary Biography of Conan the Barbarian, Volume 1, Thomas would also invoke Homer’s epic poem, the Iliad, as an inspiration. Both works scan as legitimate antecedents for the multi-issue chronicle of what would soon come to be referred to as the Hyrkanian War, or the War of the Tarim; still, I think its fair to say that of the two, the Iliad bears closer resemblance to the story that Thomas and his collaborators would unfold to Conan‘s readership over the next seven months, at least in its setting and overarching premise. Both epics tell of the siege of a great city by an equally great army; of a bloody war in which neither side may be said to be entirely in the right. Read More
Neal Adams’ cover for Batman #244 is probably one of the most famous and iconic comic book covers of its era. There are a number of good reasons for that, starting with the sheer drama of the moment it depicts, as our hero lies vanquished, perhaps even dead, at the feet of his greatest enemy, Ra’s al Ghul. Then there’s the strength of Adams’ composition, which frames that dramatic moment so perfectly, as well as the sophisticated coloring by Adams and Jack Adler, which wonderfully enhances the mood as well as the visual appeal of the illustration.
And then there’s the chest hair. Oh, and the nipples, of course. Mustn’t forget the nipples. Read More
In July, 1972, I bought my second-ever issue of Wonder Woman. My first issue had been #171 (Jul.-Aug., 1967) — and as I wrote here on the blog back in May, 2017, my nine-year-old self hadn’t been all that taken at the time with Robert Kanigher’s silly scripts, nor had the art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito held much appeal for me. So, what motivated me to finally get around to giving the title another go, five years later?
It wasn’t the whole “New Wonder Woman”, white-jumpsuited Diana Rigg Prince thing, for sure; that had been around since 1968, and if it hadn’t inspired me to lay down my coin to check it out yet, it wasn’t going to. No, it was the appearance on the Dick Giordano-drawn cover of perhaps the two most unlikely guest stars I could have imagined — science fiction and fantasy author Fritz Lieber’s sword-and-sorcery heroes, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. What the heck were those guys doing on the cover of any DC comic book — let alone Wonder Woman? Read More
Back in April, we took a look at Marvel Premiere #3, which relaunched Doctor Strange as an ongoing solo feature following a 32-month absence. That comic, featuring a script by the Master of the Mystic Arts’ original writer, Stan Lee, and art by rising young star Barry Windsor-Smith, inaugurated a story arc centered on a mysterious new menace — someone as yet both unseen and unnamed, but powerful enough to compel the service of Nightmare, one of Dr. Strange’s mightiest foes. The issue ended with the sorcerous superhero returning home to his Sanctum Sanctorum following his defeat of Nightmare, unaware that a silhouetted stranger waited there for him.
Two months later, Marvel Premiere #4 picked up exactly where the previous episode left off — but with a significantly changed creative team. In his 2009 introduction to Marvel Masterworks — Doctor Strange, Vol. 4, Marvel’s then new editor-and-chief (and once and future Dr. Strange scripter) Roy Thomas provided this explanation: Read More
I’ll be honest with you — it feels a little strange to be writing about the first issue of Jack Kirby’s The Demon in June, at a time when I still have my final posts about Forever People and New Gods coming up in August. That’s because for the better part of the past half-century, I’ve tended to categorize the bulk of Kirby’s work at DC Comics in the 1970’s as being either “the Fourth World” or “everything after the Fourth World”. But the fact of the matter is that those categories overlap chronologically, even if only by a couple of months. And that’s significant, I believe, as it reflects the fact that when the writer-artist came up with the series concepts for both The Demon and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth fifty years ago, he thought of them as complementary — and probably secondary — to his ongoing Fourth World epic, rather than as the replacement for that ambitious project that they inevitably became.
Which doesn’t necessarily mean that Kirby would have approached the development of Demon and Kamandi differently, had he known that these two series were what he was going to be spending the majority of his working hours dealing with for the next year or more. But it’s something to think about, at least. Read More