Batman #242 (June, 1972)

In addition to being a fine piece of artwork by Michael W. Kaluta, the cover of Batman #242 represents a minor milestone of sorts; outside of those for a small handful of giant-sized all-reprint issues, it was the first cover since October, 1969 for either Batman or its companion title, Detective Comics, not to have been drawn by Neal Adams.  (That particular month, not so coincidentally, was the same one in which those titles’ editor at DC Comics, Julius Schwartz, introduced the Caped Crusader’s “Big Change” — a return to a moodier, more grounded approach to the hero that was largely inspired by what Adams had been doing over in Brave and the Bold for the last year or so.) Read More

Forever People #9 (Jun.-Jul., 1972)

In October, 1971, Don and Maggie Thompson’s fanzine Newfangles reported:

There are indications that DC is in serious trouble. Dealers are not too keen on the 25¢ comic book[s], sales are skyrocketing for Marvel, Charlton and Gold Key (GK has 15¢ books, Marvel and Charlton 20¢)… DC’s titles are also reported to be dying in droves on the stands, if they get that far—wholesalers prefer to handle the 20¢ books, apparently.

A couple of months later, with disappointing sales reports now in for about a quarter-year’s worth of the “bigger & better” format DC had inaugurated in June, publisher Carmine Infantino prepared to make some course adjustments.  The most significant upcoming change would be to the format itself (more on that later), but there were other indicators of Infantino’s efforts to staunch the bleeding as 1972 got underway; for example, Green Lantern, one of the signature series of DC’s Silver Age, was cancelled with its 89th issue, shipping in February.  As for the titles written, drawn, and edited by Jack Kirby, with which DC had clearly hoped to clean up with sales-wise following Kirby’s 1970 defection from DC’s chief rival, Marvel Comics: Jimmy Olsen was removed from Kirby’s purview with the 148th issue (which, like GL #89, came out in February); and while Infantino wasn’t quite ready to pull the plug on Kirby’s three remaining titles — the core books of the star creator’s interconnected “Fourth World” epic — he appears to have been determined to take a more active role in guiding their respective directions than he had before.  If the King could ever have been said to have had free rein in managing “his” comics at DC (and that’s by no means an indisputable statement), that day was over.  Read More

House of Mystery #202 (May, 1972)

In March, 1972, the format change that DC Comics editor Joe Orlando had brought to the company’s House of Mystery title at the beginning of his tenure had been in place for four years.  This format — which emulated the approach of the horror anthology comics of the early 1950s to the extent possible under the strictures of the Comics Code Authority — had proven very successful, leading to similar revamps of other DC titles (House of Secrets and Tales of the Unexpected) as well as the launch of brand new titles cut from the same rotting gravecloth (Witching Hour and Ghosts).  Even DC’s arch-rival Marvel had been moved to try its hand at the “mystery” anthology comics game (though so far without much success).

Through it all, House of Mystery had kept to the course charted by Orlando in 1968, centered on a mix of short stories of supernatural horror (generally featuring twist endings), interspersed with a page or two of macabre cartoons, all “hosted” by Cain the Caretaker.  To the extent that anything had changed in the last four years, it was largely in the makeup of the talent roster that produced the title’s content.  Even so, it was still possible to pick up an issue and be completely surprised — as was the case with the very comic we’re looking at today.  Read More

Green Lantern #89 (April, 1972)

As regular readers of this blog may have noticed, we haven’t featured an issue of DC Comics’ Green Lantern title here since #86, way back last August.  If you happen to be one of those readers, you might well wonder what’s been up with that, considering that I’ve written about every other issue in the Denny O’Neil-Neal Adams “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” run from the first one I bought (#80) onwards.

The reason’s a pretty simple one; on this blog, I only write about comic books I got new off the stands fifty years ago… and I didn’t get either GL #87 or #88 upon their initial release (in October and December, 1971, respectively).  My decision not to purchase #88 is, I think, still essentially supportable; it was an all-“vintage” issue (though not all-reprint, as I’ll explain presently), and technically not part of the O’Neil-Adams “GL/GA” canon at all.  (For what it’s worth, at age fourteen I had yet to develop the collector’s mentality that would have me pick up an otherwise undesirable comic book so as not to “break the run”.)  But Green Lantern #87?  My opting not to pick that one up out of the spinner rack (or, having already picked it up, to put it back without buying it) is one I ruefully kick myself for to this very day.  Read More

Avengers #97 (March, 1972)

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

Lois Lane #118 (January, 1972)

With this post, we continue our coverage of Lois Lane‘s forays into Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, courtesy of editor E. Nelson Bridwell, scripter Robert Kanigher, penciller Werner Roth, (primary) inker Vince Colletta, and uncredited Superman/Clark Kent head-finisher Murphy Anderson.  As you may recall, the intermittent usage of Kirby’s concepts and characters in the title had begun in #111, then resumed in #115 before continuing into #116Read More

Lois Lane #116 (November, 1971)

A little less than half a century ago, in the letters column of Lois Lane #119 (Feb., 1972), reader Karl Morris of San Diego, CA commented favorably on the title’s recent use of elements from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World mythos, but expressed concern that writer Robert Kanigher might be treading on dangerous ground: “Unless he keeps a very close check on Jolting Jack, Rapid Robert might find himself out of sync with Kirby’s Fourth World.  (Though God only knows how anyone keeps up with it!)”

Not to worry, responded LL‘s editor, E. Nelson Bridwell: “…the way we keep up with the Kirby epic is that yours truly proofreads all his mags when the artwork comes in from California, where Jarring Jack lives.”  From there, Bridwell segued into a plug for the then-current issue of New Gods (#7) which, though obviously well-intentioned, arguably gave away more of that comic’s monumental Big Reveal than Kirby, or most of his readers, might have wished.  But, hey, water under under the bridge; and besides, that’s not why we’re bringing all this up.  Read More

Fantastic Four #116 (November, 1971)

When we last checked in with the Fantastic Four, the team was dealing with the aftermath of the temporarily deranged Thing’s rampage through Manhattan in FF #111, and subsequent rumble with the Hulk in issue #112 — a battle which had apparently left Ben Grimm no longer among the living.  As revealed in the following month’s #113, however, Ben wasn’t completely dead, and Reed Richards (aka Mister Fantastic) was ultimately able not only to resuscitate his old friend, but reverse the ill effects of Reed’s attempt to cure him back in #107, restoring Bashful Benjy to his old irascible (but not antisocial) self.

Notwithstanding that good news, the FF still had some major problems with which to contend.  Public opinion had turned strongly against them over recent events, to the extent that there was a warrant out for their arrest; plus, their landlord at the Baxter Building was trying to throw them out of their headquarters.  But most urgent of all was a surprise visit from an old friend, whose coming was teased throughout the first thirteen pages of the story by a bright light in the sky that drew steadily closer and closer until, at last, it entered in through the FF’s window, and revealed itself as… the Watcher!  Read More

Justice League of America #92 (September, 1971)

July, 1971 brought DC Comics fans the second half of the year’s Justice League-Justice Society team-up (the ninth such event since the institution of the annual summer tradition in 1963).  Like the first half, it was produced by the regular JLA creative team of Mike Friedrich (writer), Dick Dillin (penciller), and Joe Giella (inker).  And, as you might expect, it began with a recap — though in this case, a bit more time and space were spent recapping the basic concept of the inter-dimensional assemblage of superheroes than the specific events of the story’s opening chapter:  Read More

Superman #242 (September, 1971)

With this issue of Superman, the story arc begun eight months earlier in the iconic #233 (“Kryptonite Nevermore!”) came to a close — and the revamp of the Man of Steel inaugurated in that issue by writer Denny O’Neil and editor Julius Schwartz was at last complete.  But before we dive into issue #242’s “The Ultimate Battle!”, written by O’Neil and illustrated by his usual artistic collaborators, Curt Swan (penciller) and Murphy Anderson (inker), we’ll need to back up one month to take a look at issue #241’s “The Shape of Fear!”, by the same creative team — which not only leads right into #242’s concluding chapter of the “Sand-Superman saga”, but also follows directly from the previous chapter in issue #240 — which, of course, also happens to be the last issue we posted about on this blog.

As you may recall, that installment had ended with a moment of great personal triumph for Superman, who, though his powers had been thoroughly leeched from him by his mysterious sandy duplicate,  had yet managed to save both himself and I-Ching (the mentor of Diana Prince, as seen regularly in Wonder Woman) from a vicious attack by the Anti-Superman Gang.  But as we’ll soon see, the note of optimism with which that chapter ended is about to turn decidedly sour… Read More