In our post last October regarding Sub-Mariner #57, we discussed how Subby’s creator Bill Everett, who’d returned to write and draw the series in 1972 with issue #50, began to have trouble keeping up with the book’s monthly schedule due to chronic health issues; this situation eventually led to occasional fill-ins by other creators, as well as to ongoing help for Everett on both the writing and artistic ends of things.
During this period, the continuing uncertainty over Everett’s status month-to-month was evidenced in the title’s letters pages, where the anonymous Marvel Bullpener(s) responsible for answering reader correspondence would be telling fans in one issue (#55) that Everett probably wouldn’t be handling every story going forward, as “getting back into the swing of a monthly deadline is harder than you might imagine”; then, a few months later (in issue #58), explaining that “due to deadline problems, Bill will now be doing final art over the layouts of Irv Wesley [i.e., Sam Kweskin, who occasionally used the Wesley pen name], while Steve Gerber, working closely with the ebullient Mr. Everett, who will continue to plot the yarns, handles the scripting chores”; and then, finally, acknowledging (in #59) that “Bouncin’ Bill Everett has, indeed, moved on to other projects for Mighty Marvel (the monthly deadline on Subby’s book, sadly, proved too much for the compulsively conscientious Mr. Everett to handle)”. Read More
In February, 1973, Marvel Comics published 42 individual comic books — a 75% percent increase in production from the previous year, when the second month of 1972 had seen the company release a mere 24 new issues. And notwithstanding such a prodigious expansion in production, the company (which had recently surpassed arch-rival DC Comics in sales numbers for the first time ever) wasn’t nearly done. But Marvel’s next major phase of growth — which in fact began in that very month of February, 1973 — was to be in a different area than the full-color comics line in which it had made its mark. Read More
In May of last year, I blogged about Sub-Mariner #40, an issue that completed a crossover storyline that had begun in Daredevil #77 and which also guest-starred Spider-Man. That comic also happened to be the first installment of a ten-issue run written by Gerry Conway and drawn by Gene Colan and others; my younger self, having enjoyed the crossover storyline that kicked off Conway’s tenure, ended up sticking around for his whole run. But with issue #50, both Conway and Colan were gone, replaced in their respective roles by a single creator, Bill Everett — the writer-artist who had in fact created the Sub-Mariner, way back in 1939, and was thus one of the primary progenitors of what we would come to know as Marvel — both as a company, and as a Universe. 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
I’m not sure exactly what my fourteen-year-old self was expecting to see on the cover of Avengers #97 when it first turned up in the spinner rack, back in December, 1971; nevertheless, I’m pretty confident that Gil Kane and Bill Everett’s illustration highlighting Captain America, the original Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner — plus four other guys I didn’t recognize — wasn’t anywhere near it. I mean, it was a great image, but aside from Cap, none of those characters were Avengers. And “Rick Jones Conquers the Universe!”? OK, that last bit wasn’t so unexpected — it had been pretty clear from the latter scenes of the preceding issue that Rick was going to play an important role in the conclusion of the Kree-Skrull War. But still — where the heck were the Avengers? Or the Kree or the Skrulls, for that matter? Read More
From the perspective of a half century later, the horror boom in American comics in the early 1970s looks all but inevitable. The appeal of the classic movie monsters to young audiences had been clear ever since the first syndicated collection of old Universal horror films started showing up on TV sets in the late 1950s, quickly becoming widely popular. The subsequent success of Warren Publishing’s Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine (originally produced in 1958 as a one-shot publication, but almost immediately converted into an ongoing periodical), can only have reinforced the sense among U.S. comics publishers that there was gold to be mined in those dark, storm-blasted hills of Gothic horror — as must have Warren’s following up FMoF in the next decade with the black-and-white comics magazines Creepy, Eerie, and, as the 1960s drew to a close, Vampirella. Then there was the mid-to-late Sixties success of Dark Shadows, the daytime television serial that began its broadcast life firmly planted in the genre of Gothic romance, but soon morphed into a much more freewheeling fantasy show, happily recycling the tropes of both classic horror fiction and old monster movies, and bringing vampires, werewolves, zombies, and their ghastly ilk into America’s homes five afternoons a week. Read More
While any specific memory of the occasion has been lost to time after half a century, I feel pretty sure I was at least mildly startled when I dropped in at my neighborhood Tote-Sum in the first week of August, 1971, and discovered that all the new Marvel comics — including the latest issues of three series I was buying regularly, Daredevil, Iron Man, and Thor — were now 25 cents (up from 15), and 48 pages, not counting covers (up from 32).
I wasn’t completely surprised, of course. After all, DC Comics had raised their prices and page counts by the exact same amounts two months earlier, and it only made sense that Marvel would eventually follow suit. (The only other comics industry price hike I’d experienced personally — the move from 12 cents to 15 cents back in 1969 — had been effected by both DC and Marvel more or less simultaneously.) What was more, several Marvel titles, such as Conan the Barbarian, had already made the jump to the new format/price point back in July — a move that Marvel had at least hinted could be a harbinger of things to come via a comment on that month’s Bullpen Bulletins page. (“As for what the future holds in store for the rest of our magniloquent mags — well, keep lookin’ forward, pilgrim, ’cause that’s where the future’s coming from!”) But a hint’s not the same thing as a promise, and just because one expects something to happen eventually, doesn’t mean one won’t still be surprised when said thing happens right now. So, I’d say that at least some mild startlement was in order for my fourteen-year-old self, as well as for most of my comics-buying peers. Read More
As regular readers will recall, we’ve begun the last two Marvel-focused posts on this blog with excerpts from the Bulletin Bulletins page that ran in the company’s comics published in July, 1971 — and we see no reason to break that run with this installment. Especially since the very next Bulletin following those we’ve already shared is specifically about the subject of today’s post.
Coming after a Roy Thomas editorial and “ITEM!” that dealt with Lee’s decision to take a brief sabbatical from comics writing (and what that meant for the series he usually scripted, such as Amazing Spider-Man) — and directly preceded by another item announcing the move of several Marvel titles (including Conan the Barbarian) to a larger, 25-cent format — this Bulletin caught the attention of readers (well, this particular fourteen-year-old reader, at any rate) with a graphic by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer from Doctor Strange #180, featuring that book’s titular star — a hero who, in the wake of the cancellation of his series with issue #183, had been conspicuous by his absence from the Marvel Universe ever since a late-1969 guest appearance in Incredible Hulk which had effectively retired the character: Read More
When we last checked in with the Inhumans feature in Amazing Adventures, back in December, the new creative team of writer Roy Thomas and artist Neal Adams had just launched a new multi-part storyline. The beginning of this new arc found the Inhumans’ monarch, Black Bolt, traveling to the United States — more specifically, to San Francisco — to begin the process of developing better relations between his people and the outside world. (Exactly how he expected to accomplish this by skulking around an urban waterfront at night, especially given his self-enforced muteness, was unrevealed.) BB got off to a somewhat rocky start, getting involved in an altercation with some petty criminals as he came to the defense of a boy named Joey, the nephew of the hoods’ leader, Roscoe. Meanwhile, back in the Great Refuge, the king’s mad brother Maximus lay in what appeared to be a state of suspended animation — something Black Bolt had set up prior to his departure, without explaining his reasons to the other members of the Inhumans’ royal family. A suspicious Gorgon and Karnak elected to wake Maximus up, which turned out to be a bad move, since the previously non-super Max had recently developed immense mental powers. Maximus promptly unleashed a brain blast that traveled halfway around the world before striking down Black Bolt, simultaneously robbing him of his memory. This ten-page installment ended with young Joey, having just managed to rouse his mysterious new friend, trying to get him to say something — unaware that if the Inhumans’ incognito ruler uttered but a mere whisper, the power of his voice would unleash terrible destruction. Yipes! Read More
As I wrote in this space back in May, in 1970 my younger self bought the first two issues of Marvel Comics’ new double-feature title Amazing Adventures upon their release — but then skipped the next two. Half a century later, I can’t recall what my decision-making process was (and the vagaries of distribution being what they were at the time, it’s entirely possible that I never saw AA #3 and/or #4 on the stands). But I’d guess that I simply wasn’t all that crazy about what I’d found in #1 and #2. Even though I liked the Inhumans a whole lot, and was an admirer of Jack Kirby’s art (I was also a fan of his plotting, of course, if only unconsciously, since I didn’t yet comprehend the extent of the King’s creative contributions to his collaborations with Marvel editor/scripter Stan Lee), the two-part tale that inaugurated the Inhumans feature, written as well as drawn by Kirby, didn’t feel like essential work. At the time he produced these stories, Kirby was on the verge of unleashing a tremendous amount of pent-up creativity with his “Fourth World” project for DC; but, as with a lot of his other material for Marvel at the end of his monumental ’60s tenure at the publisher, his heart didn’t really seem to be in this stuff.
As for the title’s second feature, the Black Widow — she was more of an unknown quantity for me, anyway. Besides the obvious fact that this was her first solo strip, I had at this point read very few of her earlier appearances in Avengers and elsewhere, and had little to no investment in the character. Despite the reliably fine draftsmanship of John Buscema on her first two installments (with John Verpoorten inking Buscema’s pencils), I didn’t find enough there to hook me and bring me back. Read More