Justice League of America #94 (November, 1971)

A half century ago, when your humble blogger picked the object of today’s post up out of the spinner rack and eyeballed the cover for the first time, I was awfully curious as to who — or what — that wraithlike, red-tinged figure descending into Aquaman’s body might turn out to be.  At the same time, I wasn’t the least bit curious about the identity of the cover’s artist — since, with the exception of the usual left-hand column’s worth of floating JLA heads rendered by Murphy Anderson, the cover was the obvious work of Neal Adams.  And as Adams had either pencilled, inked or provided complete art for more Justice League of America covers than any other artist in the three years since his very first (for issue #66 [Nov., 1968] ), that was no surprise at all.

But interior art by Adams in an issue of JLAThat was unexpected; nevertheless, on turning past the cover to the book’s opening splash, that’s exactly what my fourteen-year-old self beheld:  Read More

Green Lantern #86 (Oct.-Nov., 1971)

There’s a lot going on on the cover of Green Lantern #86.  Besides boasting an outstanding illustration by Neal Adams that would probably be even better remembered than it is if it hadn’t followed right on the heels of its instantly iconic predecessor, the cover also boldly heralds the inclusion within the comic’s pages of “an important message” from no less a personage than the 1966-73 mayor of New York City, John Lindsayand proudly announces that Green Lantern has won the Academy Award for Best Comic.  That’s a lot to take in — but don’t worry, we’ll get to it all, starting with the subject of Adams’ compelling cover image — the concluding installment of the groundbreaking two-part story focused on drug addiction that Adams and writer Denny O’Neil had begun in the previous issue, #85Read 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

Batman #234 (August, 1971)

Over the course of writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams’s classic early-’70s collaboration on Batman, the team was responsible not only for introducing one major new adversary (Ra’s al Ghul) to the ranks of the Darknight Detective”s greatest foes, but also for reclaiming and refurbishing of two vintage baddies who’d fallen out of favor in recent years.  The second of these restorations to appear, “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge!” (Batman #251 [Sept., 1973]), is doubtless the best-remembered of the two, due to its ultimately having had such a dramatic impact not only on the Bat-mythos, but on the DC Universe as a whole — rehabbing what had become a joke of a character (no pun intended) during the camp “Batmania” era of the mid-Sixties into the comics medium’s quintessential avatar of psychopathic evil — a character arguably more popular than all but a small handful of DC’s best-known superheroes, and one with enough cultural gravitas for screen portrayals of him to have earned Academy Awards for two different actors.

I didn’t buy that one.  Read More

Superman #240 (July, 1971)

With this issue of DC Comics’ flagship title, the “Sand Superman” saga that writer Denny O’Neil and penciller Curt Swan had initiated with the iconic Superman #233 (“Kryptonite Nevermore!”) moved into its climactic final phase.  In the previous chapter (published in #238, incidentally, as #239 was a giant-sized reprint issue), the Man of Steel had been brought to his lowest ebb yet.  While he’d ultimately managed to save the day in that episode, the victory had been a close one; with his powers still seriously depleted from multiple encounters with his mysterious sandy doppelgänger, our hero mused to himself in the story’s final panel:  “I’m a pretty poor excuse for a Superman these days… and that must change!  I’ll regain my former might — and soon! — or die trying!

Despite these determined words, however, when we turn past Neal Adams’ simple but dramatic cover for #240 to the story’s opening pages, we find that the Man of Tomorrow’s status remains pretty much the same as it was, well, yesterday:  Read More

Lois Lane #111 (July, 1971)

In May, 1971, DC Comics continued to chronicle the ongoing saga of the war between the god-worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips in three new releases:  Mister Miracle #3, Jimmy Olsen #139 — and Lois Lane #111.

True, the progenitor of that cosmic saga, Jack Kirby, neither wrote, nor drew, nor edited the third of the comic books listed above; indeed, he may not even have served as an informal consultant in its production.  Nevertheless, the latest episode in the continuing adventures of “Superman’s Girl Friend” leaned heavily on concepts developed by Kirby for Jimmy Olsen, with a plot centered on an attempt by the minions of Darkseid, Lord of Apokolips, to assassinate Lois’ mighty beau.  And why not?  Whatever else Kirby’s Fourth World was, it was clearly part of DC’s  shared universe, with especially strong ties to Superman’s corner of that fictional world; after all, in his guise of Clark Kent, Superman even had a minion of Darkseid for his boss.  It only made sense, therefore, that the cosmic conflict at the heart of Kirby’s four series (which included Forever People and New Gods in addition to Jimmy Olsen and Mister Miracle) would eventually spill over into the rest of DC’s line — and that any stories resulting from such a spillover would and should “count”, continuity-wise, every bit as much as did the King’s.

At least that’s how my thirteen-year-old self saw the matter, fifty years ago; and since I was then avidly following any and all developments in the Fourth World saga, that was enough to get me to pick up my first issue of Lois Lane in almost five years.  Read More

Green Lantern #84 (Jun.-Jul., 1971)

Although writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams had begun their tenure on Green Lantern in 1970 with a run of grounded stories featuring more-or-less realistic antagonists, as they moved into their second year they appeared more willing to incorporate the sort of colorfully code-named and costumed supervillains that had been the series’ bread-and-butter prior to their own advent.  Already in GL #82 they’d brought back Sinestro,  the renegade ex-Green Lantern; and now, two issues later, they were drafting yet another veteran foe back into active service — although you couldn’t tell that from the cover, which (like #82’s before it) gave no hint of who the story’s main bad guy actually was.  While O’Neil and Adams (and their editor, Julius Schwartz) may have decided that it was a good idea to include more old-school superhero genre elements in their storytelling, they evidently didn’t think putting a returning villain’s puss on the cover would have much if any impact on the book’s sales.  Read More

Batman #232 (June, 1971)

Panel from Detective #411. Text by Denny O’Neil (and, presumably, Julius Schwartz), art by Bob Brown and Dick Giordano.

Last month we took a look at Detective Comics #411, featuring the first appearance of Talia al Ghul, and the first mention of her father, Ra’s.  As we noted at the time, despite that story giving the appearance of being one chapter in an extended story arc dating back to the first appearance of the League of Assassins in Detective #405, with the next installment already lined up for the very next issue of Batman, #432 (per a blurb in the story’s final panel), that wasn’t writer Denny O’Neil’s original intention at all.  Rather, as he’d later tell fellow Bat-writer Mike W. Barr in an interview for Amazing Heroes #50 (July 1, 1984), Talia was created specifically “to serve the needs of that plot and that story [i.e., Detective #411’s “Into the Den of the Death-Dealers”], with no thought that she would ever appear again, or that she would have a father, or any of that stuff.”  But somewhere in between the writer’s original conception and the story’s final published form, someone — perhaps Detective and Batman editor Julius Schwartz — had another idea; and the League of Assassins story arc, rather than concluding tidily with its third installment (fourth, if you count Detective #408’s “The House That Haunted Batman!”), instead became just the prelude to what was ultimately a much more influential saga, that of Ra’s al Ghul, “the Demon’s Head”.

But whence came Ra’s al Ghul?  Read More

Detective Comics #411 (May, 1971)

As of March, 1971, my thirteen-year-old self was picking up Detective Comics on a fairly consistent basis — but it was a habit I’d acquired only recently (or perhaps I should say reacquired, as I’d been a regular reader of the title before, back in 1965-67).  For that reason, I’d missed writer Denny O’Neil’s first two “League of Assassins” stories, which had run in issues #405 and #406, respectively.  On the other hand, I had bought and read Detective #408, whose lead Batman story, though not scripted by O’Neil, had featured an attempt by the villainous Dr. Tzin-Tzin to eliminate the Darknight Detective at the League’s behest.  So it wasn’t like I was completely unfamiliar with the sinister organization prior to my purchasing issue #411.  Rather, I was intrigued by the little I knew — and though I realized I was coming in late, I was eager to catch up. Luckily, this third installment of O’Neil’s League saga didn’t depend very much on knowledge of the previous two at all — and what little I did need to know, I’d manage to pick up easily through the script’s unobtrusive exposition.    Read More

Justice League of America #89 (May, 1971)

As noted in my recent post regarding Gold Key’s Star Trek, I didn’t get to see the TV series on which that comic was based until it hit my local market in syndicated re-runs, around 1970-71.  And since I started consuming licensed Trek tie-in media (what there was of it) almost immediately upon discovering the show, concurrent with my viewing the television episodes for the very first time, my initial encounters with some classic Trek stories ended up being by way of the printed page, rather than the cathode-ray tube.  That’s because the earliest licensed prose fiction based on the property, a series of paperback books written by James Blish and published by Bantam Books, were collections of short stories adapted from the TV episodes themselves.  Read More