Panel from Avengers #112 (Jun., 1973). Text by Steve Englehart; art by Don Heck and Frank Bolle.
As we covered in last month’s blog post about Avengers #113, writer Steve Englehart had introduced a mystery in the previous issue, #112, by briefly bringing onstage a brand-new character, Mantis, and her unnamed, only-seen-in-shadow companion. About all we were told about the latter character, in either his first or his second blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance (in #113) was that he had a prior association with the series’ titular super-team, and that he had strong, less-than-positive opinions about a recently departed Avenger, Hawkeye. Not a whole lot to go on, at least in the opinion of my fifteen-year-old self… though, to be honest, I probably didn’t give the matter a whole lot of thought at the time. After all, there were plenty of other comic books to be read back in the spring of 1973, and a caption in #113 had promised us that the next issue would bring a solution to the puzzle of this mystery man’s identity. So, I was content to wait to see what May would bring us.
As it turned out, when Avengers #114 was released, I wouldn’t even have to pull the issue all the way up out of the spinner rack to discover the answer to the two-month-old mystery, as the cover (probably by John Romita) prominently featured both Mantis and her shadowy beau — so much so, in fact, that the tops of the couple’s heads obscured some of the lower real estate of the book’s logo. And if I had had a moment’s confusion in trying to place the purple-costumed, mustachioed gent dominating the cover’s left half (which I’m pretty sure I didn’t), the story title blurb at the bottom would have clued me in by the time I got the comic all the way out of the aforementioned spinner rack, by letting me know that Mantis’ mysterious amour was none other than… the Swordsman! Read More
It’s been a while — sixteen months, to be precise — since this blog checked in with Marvel Comics’ Man Without Fear. Granted, our last Daredevil-themed post was something of a marathon, seeing as how it attempted to cover writer Gerry Conway’s entire “Mister Kline” saga — a complicated (and ultimately unsuccessful) continuity that encompassed not only a whopping eight issues of DD’s own series, but also five installments of Iron Man, and even one random Sub-Mariner — in a single go. It was a long post, in other words; one in which no one could seriously claim we hadn’t given Matt Murdock and his alter ego a lot of quality time. Still — it has been a while. So, before we get on with the business of marking the milestone of ol’ Hornhead’s first hundred issues, we have some catching up to do in regards to what our Scarlet Swashbuckler been up to for the last 1 1/3 years. 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
The final panel of Avengers #99 had promised that “this hour” would see an imminent invasion of “the hallowed halls of Olympus!!“, as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes prepared to mount a rescue of their amnesiac comrade, Hercules, who’d just been snatched away by servants of Ares, the Greco-Roman God of War. So you’d naturally expect the next issue to begin with such a scene — or if not, then maybe a scene of something happening simultaneously to the invasion, just to draw out the suspense a little bit longer.
As we’ll see momentarily, that’s not quite what happens in the opening pages of the Avengers’ hundredth issue. But our heroes’ delay in launching their assault on the home of the gods turns out to have some justification behind it. After all, it takes a little time to gather all of the characters on view in artist Barry Windsor-Smith’s instant-classic cover image — a first-time-ever assemblage of every Marvel character who’d ever been an Avenger as of March, 1972. Read More
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
Fifty years ago, one didn’t necessarily expect fresh linguistic coinages to turn up in comic books right away. If anything, comics were notorious for incorporating slang words and expressions (especially those presumably favored by America’s youth) years past their peak of popularity– if, indeed, they’d ever been popular at all.
But in its incorporation of the phrase “male chauvinist pigs” on its cover, Marvel Comics’ Avengers #83 seems to have been right on the money. Read More
As I’ve discussed in a previous post, when Marvel Comics brought back their mid-Sixties double-feature format with two titles in 1970, my younger self promptly jumped on one of them — Amazing Adventures, co-starring the Inhumans and Black Widow — picking up both the first and second issues. For some reason, however, I put off sampling the companion title — Astonishing Tales, headlined by Ka-Zar and Doctor Doom — for several months, so my first issue was the series’ third. Yes, reader; that does indeed mean that I turned up my nose at new work from not just one, but two giants of comic book art — Jack Kirby (who already had one foot out the door at Marvel) and Wally Wood (who was just putting a foot back in). What can I say? I was a callow youth, who pretty much took Kirby for granted (he put a couple of new books out every month, after all; if you missed one, there’d be another one along in a couple of weeks) — and, truth to tell, I didn’t yet know who Wood even was, or why I should care. 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
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