As the year 1970 wound down, it seemed that mainstream American comic books had, at last, embraced the “sword and sorcery” fantasy subgenre in all its pulpy glory. After some tentative moves in that direction — courtesy of DC Comics’ three “Nightmaster” issues of Showcase in 1969, which were followed in 1970 by Marvel’s publication of several S&S short tales in its new horror anthology titles like Chamber of Darkness and Tower of Shadows — Marvel finally jumped into the deep-end of the pool in July, 1970, with a licensed adaptation of the field’s most prototypical character, Robert E. Howard’s Conan: 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
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
The subject of today’s post, in addition to being another fine installment in writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema’s original run on The Avengers, also happens to have been my first real encounter (outside of a couple of cameos) with Marvel Comics’ Master of the Mystic Arts, Doctor Strange — or, at least, I think it was.
The problem here is that I know that, once upon a time, I owned a copy of Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics #19 — a terrific, double-sized reprint book that not only included a classic early Doctor Strange tale (from Strange Tales #128), but also an equally-classic Fantastic Four story (from the 27th issue of that team’s title) that guest-starred the good Doctor. A double dose of Doc, if you will. And since that book would have been on sale in November, 1968, it would necessarily have been my first Strange-featuring comic — if I’d bought it new off the stands, that is. Which I have no truly compelling reason to believe I didn’t.
Still — and allowing for how vague many of my comics-buying memories are after half a century’s passage — I somehow don’t believe that was the case. When I reread both these books now, Avengers #61 simply feels like it was my first Dr. Strange comic, and MCIC #19 … doesn’t. So I’ve decided, for the purposes of this blog, that I probably came into possession of my copy of the reprint book some time later, probably via trade with (or sale by) a friend. If I’m wrong — well, we’ll never know, right? (Besides which, nobody but me likely cares all that much.)
But even if Avengers #61 wasn’t the first comic book I ever read that featured Dr. Strange, it was certainly the first non-reprint book to include the hero that I ever picked up. Without it, I might well not have taken to the character as much (and almost certainly not as quickly) as I did; for, immediately following my reading this issue, I became a regular purchaser of the Doctor Strange series — and I’d remain a faithful reader of the title for years to come, sticking around through its rather frequent cancellations and revivals, with its star ultimately becoming my second favorite Marvel character (right after Thor).
Which is pretty much just what Roy Thomas and his colleagues at Marvel hoped would happen, when they decided to guest-star Doctor Strange in Avengers back in late 1968. Read More
They just don’t make superhero wedding comics* the way they used to.
These days, it’s as likely as not that a heavily promoted “wedding issue” will come out and have not a single scene where anything remotely resembling a wedding ceremony occurs. Or, a couple does get married, but it’s a different couple than the one whose marital union the book was supposed to be about. Something of a bait-and-switch going on in both of those cases, if you ask me.
Ah, but in the Good Ol’ Days (AKA the Silver Age of Comics), the major funnybook publishers really knew how to celebrate them some nuptials. For an example, take Aquaman #18 (Nov.-Dec., 1964), where the whole blamed Justice League of America turns out for the Sea King’s undersea wedding to Mera (bubble helmets thoughtfully provided by the Royal Atlantean Event Planning Committee, I’m sure), Or Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965), in which not only do all of Reed Richards’ and Sue Storm’s super friends show up, but so do a whole passel of super foes, as well, thanks to the machinations of the diabolical Doctor Doom. Now that’s what I call a wedding to remember. Not a dry (or un-blackened) eye in the house, y’know what i mean?
And then, there’s Avengers #60, featuring “‘Til Death Do Us Part!”, by Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema (penciler), and Mike Esposito (inker, as “Micky Demeo”) — which not only gives us an Avengers Mansion-ful of super-powered guests and gatecrashers, but also brings the wacky on a level rarely seen before or since. Read More
By September, 1968, when the subject of today’s post came out, I was buying The Avengers semi-regularly. Of course, “semi” literally means “half” (at least in the original Latin) — which is my way of saying that though I’d bought issues #53, #56, and the 1968 Annual, I’d skipped, or at least missed, issues #54, #55, and #57. So, not only did my eleven-year-old self miss out on the debut of the Vision (in #57), but I was also completely in the dark about the malevolent robot who’d allegedly created him, Ultron-5, introduced in issues #54 and #55 as the mysterious leader of the “new” Masters of Evil.
Thus, when I came across Avengers #58 in the spinner rack, I may have been momentarily daunted. Even if I had no obvious way of knowing that this issue tied into the Masters of Evil storyline from several months back, it was clear from the cover that the story was a direct follow-up to the previous issue’s Vision tale.
But the cover also made it crystal clear that the book featured appearances by Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor — the Avengers’ “Big Three”, whom series writer Roy Thomas wasn’t allowed to use as regular team members by the fiat of editor Stan Lee, but whom he nevertheless shoehorned into the book every chance he got — and I had been conditioned by now to recognize this as being something of a special event (if not necessarily a rare one). And, in the end, that must have sold me. I’d buy the book, and trust that the creative team — which included penciler John Buscema and inker George Klein, in addition to Thomas — would catch me up. Read More
By July, 1968, my eleven-year-old self had decided he liked the Avengers, but, apparently, not quite enough yet to commit to buying their book every single month. I’d bought my first Avengers comic (which also happened to be my very first Marvel comic), issue #45, almost a whole year previously, but had then waited until the following April to pick up my second, #53 (which also featured the X-Men, making it a bargain from a “more heroes for the money” perspective). But even though I was already a regular buyer of two other Marvel comics (Amazing Spider-Man and Daredevil) by that time, I continued to hedge my bets on Avengers, for whatever reason.
Probably, it’s because neither of those Avengers issues had featured a story that continued into the following issue, as both Amazing Spider-Man #59 and Daredevil #39 — my first issues of those two series — had done. By the time those two latter titles had each wrapped up three-issue story arcs in their respective issues #61 and #41, I was hooked enough on the main characters, and the subplots involving them and their supporting casts, to want to see what happened in their next issues. In contrast, neither of the Avengers comics I’d bought thus far, as enjoyable as they’d been, had provided a compelling hook to bring me back for the next one. It’s possible, of course, that I simply never saw copies of Avengers #54 or #55 for sale — as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I didn’t necessarily get to the Tote-Sum, or one of my other comics outlets, every single week — but since I was managing to score my copies of Spidey’s and DD’s books every month, it seems more likely that I did see ’em, and simply opted to pass. Read More