As I’ve written here on earlier occasions (and even if I hadn’t, a quick scan of the blog’s archives would clue you in), I didn’t pick up many humor comic titles in my formative years as a comic book fan, a half-century and more ago. The most notable exception to that rule was Mad, which, as I explained some weeks back, I probably didn’t consider to be a “comic book” in quite the same way that I did, say, Flash, or Daredevil. Oh, there was that one issue of Not Brand Echh, of course, as well as several issues of The Fox and the Crow (aka Stanley and His Monster) — and even a Dennis the Menace comic or two, fairly early on, which I opted not to write about here. But that was it, as far as “funny” funnybooks went. Needless to say, I completely eschewed the teen humor genre — indeed, the only time I can remember even being vaguely interested in checking out the Archie Comics line circa 1965-1967 was when the company briefly jumped on the superhero fad bandwagon, with their flagship character transformed into Pureheart the Powerful and so forth. Even then, I didn’t bite.
So, why in the world would my twelve-year-old self, after more than four years of enjoying DC comics (almost all of which were in the superhero genre) and close to two years of the same with Marvel (ditto) — pretty much to the exclusion of anything else (save, naturally, for Mad) — suddenly succumb to the impulse to buy an Archie title? Read More
At the conclusion of Avengers #70, published fifty years and one month ago, readers were promised that the next issue would feature “the most shocking surprise guests of all!!” A month later, those fans who picked #71 up off the spinner rack wouldn’t have to look any further than the dynamic Sal Buscema-Sam Grainger cover to learn the identity of those guest stars — though it’s likely that a lot of them had already gotten the news courtesy of the Mighty Marvel Checklist entry for the book that ran in that month’s Marvel comics’ Bullpen Bulletins text page: “The battle that time forgot! The Avengers take on Cap, the Torch, and Namor in wartime Paris! Don’t miss “Endgame!”
In October, 1969, my twelve-year-old self had yet to read a single Golden Age Marvel (or Timely, if you prefer) comic book story. And while I’d gleaned enough information in my few years of reading current Marvel comics to know that Captain America, the original Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner had all been around in the 1940s, I’m not sure if I knew whether or not they’d ever appeared in the same story together before. I certainly didn’t know about the Invaders — and neither did anyone else, including their creator Roy Thomas (also the scribe of our current tale), since they wouldn’t actually exist for another six years. So to see these three characters in World War II-era action was a whole new thing for me (and probably for a lot of other readers as well). Read More
With the 94th issue of Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics’ new single-issue story policy, first announced by editor-in-chief Stan Lee in a “Stan’s Soapbox” editorial three months earlier, finally caught up with the publisher’s flagship title — its implementation there having been delayed for a couple of issues while Lee and his collaborator Jack Kirby wrapped up their “Skrull gangster planet” multi-parter. Prior to that storyline, the book had featured another serialized tale, involving the Mole Man, that filled up two issues and spilled over into a third; that story had in turn followed a Dr. Doom epic that ran four issues; and so on. In fact, the last real “done-in-one” story to appear in Fantastic Four had been “Where Treads the Living Totem!” in #80 (Nov., 1968) — an issue which happened to be not only the second-ever FF comic I’d ever bought, but also my least favorite issue to date. Outside of reprints, prior to October, 1969 that was likely the only single-issue, non-continued Fantastic Four story my twelve-year-old self had ever read. Read More
Sub-Mariner was the last Marvel solo superhero title of the late ’60s that I got around to sampling as a young comics reader. As I indicated in my Incredible Hulk #118 post a few months back, it probably took a while for me to warm up to the Avenging Son of Atlantis (as it likely also did for ol’ Greenskin) simply because it was hard for me to see the guy as a bona fide superhero. After all, when I encountered Prince Namor in other comics — mostly reprints of Fantastic Four and Avengers stories from the early Sixties — he was usually fighting other heroes while attempting to conquer the surface world. And though I understood that, these days, he was no longer actively trying to overthrow human civilization, the Sub-Mariner still seemed to have such an attitude. He was a damned imperious sort of Rex, if you know what I mean. Read More
If you’re a regular reader, you may recall that at the conclusion of last month’s post concerning Avengers #69, your humble blogger unburdened himself of a shameful, half-century-old secret — namely, that upon his first encounter with the brand-new supervillain group the Squadron Sinister way back in August, 1969, he had not the faintest clue that they were intended as parodies of the Justice League of America — who were, of course, the Avengers’ counterparts over at Marvel Comics’ Distinguished Competition, not to mention a team that he’d been reading about regularly for almost four years.
Imagine my gratified surprise when, subsequent to that post going up, I heard from a number of fellow old fans that they, too, had failed to get writer Roy Thomas’ joke back in the day. I’m honestly not sure whether that means that my twelve-year-old self wasn’t all that dumb after all, or simply that a lot of us were that dumb, but either way, I’ll take it as a win. Read More
This post wasn’t originally supposed to be a postmortem on Mad. In fact, I’d originally planned to run it on July 1st — which, if I’d followed through, would have seen it beat the news of Mad‘s impending demise (at least as a purveyor of new material) by a couple of days. That would have made for a timely, even prescient post, rather than one that may seem like it’s bringing up the rear, commentary-wise — and at some distance, at that. Read More
In 1969, Alex Toth had been a professional comic book artist for over two decades; but prior to the summer of that year, I’d never seen his work. That’s because I didn’t start buying comics until the summer of 1965, and the work that Toth was producing at that time only appeared in Warren Publishing’s black-and-white horror comics and in DC Comics’ romance titles, both of which were beyond my ken (though for different reasons) as an eight-year-old lad. And then, approximately one year after my own initiation into comic books, Toth left the industry (though, thankfully, only temporarily) to go work in TV animation. Read More
In his Introduction to the 2008 Marvel Masterworks volume reprinting this issue, scripter Roy Thomas compliments his artistic collaborator Sal Buscema for the “dramatic yet difficult cover”, noting that “it’s always hard to have a bunch of little guys fighting one big guy — and Goliath’s in-between size just complicated things further.” That’s undoubtedly true; but my recent re-reading of Thomas’ words in preparation for writing this post reminded me of another cover that met the very same challenge, with at least a couple of the same characters — namely, Sal’s big brother John’s cover for Avengers #45, which came out almost exactly two years prior to Avengers #69, and which also just so happens to have been not only my first Avengers comic, but my first Marvel comic, period. There’s no good reason why any of that should be particularly significant to anyone except me, I realize; but I hope you’ll pardon my momentary self-indulgence in deciding to highlight it here anyway. Read More
By the late summer of 1969, Marvel Comics had been slowly but steadily increasing the number of black characters in its titles for some time. Having already introduced the first black costumed superhero, the Black Panther, to the world in 1966, Marvel had gone on to develop such non-costumed, supporting cast-type African-American characters as newspaper editor Joe “Robbie” Robertson and his family (in Amazing Spider-Man); while Gabe Jones, who’d been appearing as one of Sgt. Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos in that World War II army unit’s series since 1963, was gaining greater visibility in the present-day Marvel Universe as one of Fury’s agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. June, 1969, had brought the debut of Marvel’s first African-American hero, the Falcon (the Panther, of course, was African, but not American) — and with August came the first appearance of yet another black costumed character, the Prowler. This character, however, would be introduced as the world not as a superhero — but as a super-villain. Read More
The last issue of Daredevil discussed in this blog, #55, ended with the Man Without Fear’s decisive triumph over Starr Saxon, the sinister technologist who’d discovered his secret identity as attorney Matt Murdock back in #51. While Daredevil’s strategy against Saxon had centered on the rather drastic expedient of staging Matt’s violent demise in an aerial explosion, his ultimate victory actually came about when, while tussling with our hero high over the streets of Manhattan, Saxon slipped and fell to his (apparent) death. With the man who had known Daredevil’s secret no longer among the living, that specific problem was obviously now solved; but, considering that DD was still left with no civilian identity, and that all of his friends and loved ones still thought he was dead, you’d probably be surprised to find the guy, at the beginning of issue #56, swinging through New York’s concrete canyons singing a happy tune.
On second thought, if you were familiar with late-Sixties Marvel comics — maybe you wouldn’t be. Read More