Back in January of last year, in a post about Monsters on the Prowl #16, we discussed Marvel Comics’ late-’60s -to-early-’70s attempts to break into the “mystery” (i.e., Comics Code-approved horror) anthology market that seemed to be doing so well at the time for their primary rival, DC Comics. As we covered in that piece, in 1969 Marvel launched two titles, Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness, that were virtual clones of such DC fare as House of Mystery and The Witching Hour. These titles started off quite well, with original stories by Marvel’s top talent (Neal Adams, John Buscema, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Jim Steranko, etc.), as well as by several EC Comics pre-Code horror veterans (Johnny Craig and Wally Wood) not to mention at least one young artist poached (albeit only briefly) from DC (Bernie Wrightson). Soon, however, the new material began to be supplemented by reprints from the publisher’s late-’50s-to-early-’60s “Atlas” era; and before either title had seen as many as ten issues, Tower of Shadows had morphed into Creatures on the Loose, while Chamber of Darkness became Monsters on the Prowl. By mid-1972, one could easily be forgiven for not seeing much if any difference between those titles and the all-reprint “monster” comics that Marvel had initiated around the same time as their “mystery” books, e.g. Where Monsters Dwell. Read More
In September, 1965 — the month your humble blogger first started buying Justice League of America — DC Comics made an adjustment to the publication frequency of that title, adding a ninth issue — an all-reprint “80 pg. Giant” — to the eight-times-a-year schedule the book had been on since 1962. My eight-year-old self didn’t manage to pick up the first of those giant-sized issues, which came out not only a couple of weeks before my own initial JLA purchase (issue #40), but also a mere four weeks after the first comic book I remember ever buying for myself — but I faithfully bought each one thereafter, at least for the next three years. And why wouldn’t I? For one penny more than it would cost you to buy two regular issues, you got three full-length Justice League adventures, by the same writer (Gardner Fox) and artist (Mike Sekowsky) who were producing the series’ current stories (up through issue #63, anyway). Read More
Back in November, 2021, we took a look at Marvel Premiere #1, in which Marvel’s new “Warlock” feature made its debut. As we discussed at the time, that first installment found writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane dusting off a few old Stan Lee-Jack Kirby concepts from 1960s issues of Fantastic Four and Thor and combining them to create the most overt religious allegory that had yet appeared in superhero comics. In doing so, they were clearly seeking to tap into the cultural zeitgeist exemplified by the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar both topping both the pop album charts and selling out shows on Broadway, and by the youth-driven “Jesus Movement” being featured on the cover of Time magazine, all of which happened in 1971. Read More
Last summer, we took a look at the first two issues of The Demon — a series created by writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby as a response to DC Comics’ request for him to come up with something in the “horror hero” vein. Although this new feature hadn’t originally been intended to replace Kirby’s beloved “Fourth World” titles on his production schedule — at least, that hadn’t been Kirby’s intent — following the cancellations of both Forever People and New Gods, and the mandated retooling of Mister Miracle, that’s effectively what happened, as both Demon and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth (another series dreamed up by Kirby at DC’s direction) had their publishing frequencies increased from bi-monthly to monthly status within their first three issues, so that by the beginning of 1973, they, along with the still bi-monthly Mister Miracle, effectively absorbed most if not all of the creator’s time and effort. Read More
In January, 1973, the cover of Conan the Barbarian #25 — a collaboration between Gil Kane and Ralph Reese — hardly gave any hint of the enormous artistic shift this issue represented for Marvel Comics’ award-winning series. After all, Kane had pencilled four Conan covers prior to this one, and while two of those had graced issues that also featured Kane art on the inside (the first of those, #17, also happened to have been inked by Reese), the other two — including the most recent one, for issue #23 — had fronted stories drawn by the title’s original and primary regular artist, Barry Windsor-Smith.
So, if you were a regular Conan reader who’d somehow managed to miss issue #24 (and if you were, you have my sympathies), you may well have been startled to open #25 to its first page to see that the story had been drawn by a penciller previously unseen in these pages (though his name and work were hardly unfamiliar to Marvel fans)… namely, John Buscema: Read More
In recent months, we’ve followed the Phantom Stranger’s crusade against the secret society of sinister sorcerers called the Dark Circle, as chronicled by writer Len Wein and artist Jim Aparo. That crusade finally comes to an end in the 24th issue — so after pausing just long enough to admire Aparo’s typically fine, mood-setting cover, let’s turn to the first page and get right to it, shall we? Read More
Back in July of this year, we took a look at Wonder Woman #202 — an issue which, in addition to being the penultimate issue of that title’s four-year “Diana Prince” run (which had found the Amazing Amazon battling bad guys sans her traditional powers or costume), featured the comic-book debut of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, two heroes of sword-and-sorcery fiction who’d been appearing in the stories of Fritz Leiber since 1939. In the comic’s story, Diana and Catwoman journeyed to the the world of Nehwon (spell it backwards), where they tussled briefly with the two blade-wielding adventurers before teaming up against their common foes.
Immediately following the story’s conclusion, a half-page ad promised us readers of 1972 that this was by no means the last we’d see of Fafhrd and the Mouser: Read More
Calendar-specific note for anyone reading this blog post on or soon after its original date of publication: No, your humble blogger hasn’t gotten his holidays mixed up. But I’m at the mercy not only of what comics were published a half century ago this month, but also of which comics my younger self actually bought… and my December, 1972 haul was decidedly light on seasonally appropriate fare. On the other hand, Tomb of Dracula #7 does at least have snow in it, so maybe that counts for something. And now, on to our regularly scheduled fifty year old comic book…
In December, 1972, a little over a year since its debut, Marvel Comics’ Tomb of Dracula had seen six issues delivered to stands — a run of stories which, despite having been drawn by a single artist, had been written by three different authors (five, if you count plotting contributions made to the first issue by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas). That sort of creative churn generally didn’t bode well for the long-term health of an ongoing series; but for ToD, the fourth attempt at finding a regular writer for the book would prove to be the charm, as Marv Wolfman came on board with issue #7 — and then remained at the helm for the next sixty-three issues, or (to put it another way) the next six-and-a-half years. Read More
Back in April, we took a look at the third issue of Marvel Comics’ Kull the Conqueror, featuring the titular hero’s first all-out battle against the undead sorcerer Thulsa Doom (a character who’d actually been introduced in another comic published a few months previously, Monsters on the Prowl #16). Today, we’ll be examining Kull #7, in which the barbarian king of Valusia meets his evil arch-foe again… for the first time.
That seemingly paradoxical statement refers to the fact that this comic book features an adaptation of the short story “Delcardes’ Cat” — the first and only story by Kull’s creator, the pulp writer Robert E. Howard, in which the skull-headed villain ever makes an appearance. Oddly enough, Howard only seems to have come up with the idea for Thulsa Doom well into the story, requiring him to go back and write another version in which the baddie gets referred to as a known threat a few times early on, just so that he doesn’t seem to come out of nowhere in the tale’s final scenes (which, as we’ll see soon enough, he kind of does anyway). Even so, Howard wasn’t able to sell the story during his all-too-brief lifetime; like most (though not all) of his Kull stories, the tale remained unpublished as of the author’s death in 1936, not seeing print until Lancer Books released its paperback collection, King Kull, in 1969.
Got all that? Great! Now, on with our comic… Read More
In our present age, when not only the original Captain Marvel has been the subject of a blockbuster motion picture (with a second one on the way), but so has his most powerful adversary, it may be difficult for younger fans to comprehend just how obscure Billy Batson and his alter ego were to the average comic book reader of half a century ago. Even if you were an avid comics fan who’d been reading superhero funnybooks for the past seven years (as was my fifteen-year-old self, back in December, 1972), you might not have much more than a vague idea of what the “Marvel Family” and its mythos were all about, prior to the publication of Shazam! #1. Read More