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
In July, 1972, I bought my second-ever issue of Wonder Woman. My first issue had been #171 (Jul.-Aug., 1967) — and as I wrote here on the blog back in May, 2017, my nine-year-old self hadn’t been all that taken at the time with Robert Kanigher’s silly scripts, nor had the art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito held much appeal for me. So, what motivated me to finally get around to giving the title another go, five years later?
It wasn’t the whole “New Wonder Woman”, white-jumpsuited Diana Rigg Prince thing, for sure; that had been around since 1968, and if it hadn’t inspired me to lay down my coin to check it out yet, it wasn’t going to. No, it was the appearance on the Dick Giordano-drawn cover of perhaps the two most unlikely guest stars I could have imagined — science fiction and fantasy author Fritz Leiber’s sword-and-sorcery heroes, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. What the heck were those guys doing on the cover of any DC comic book — let alone Wonder Woman? 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
Like its immediate predecessor, the second installment of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith’s three-part follow-up to the Kree-Skrull War leads off with a cover inked by Windsor-Smith, but pencilled by John Buscema. If you happen to have read our post about part one, aka Avengers #98, then you may recall that your humble blogger was obliged to confess therein that he’d gone close to five decades not realizing that Buscema had anything to do with that book’s cover, never having recognized any hand at work on it save for that of Windsor-Smith. Something similar holds true for the cover of our present subject, Avengers #99 — only this time, it’s Buscema whose style I’ve always recognized, and Windsor-Smith whose contribution failed to register with your humble blogger until quite recently, when I checked the Grand Comics Database as part of my research for this post. (This fact probably has no significance beyond highlighting what a poor eye I have for picking out artists’ styles, but it’s still kind of amusing, at least to me.)
Behind the cover, on the other hand, Windsor-Smith’s work was unmistakable — and would have been even had the opening splash page carried no credits at all… Read More
As writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane began work on the 103rd issue of Amazing Spider-Man over half a century ago, the comics-scripting sabbatical of the title’s regular writer (and Marvel editor) Stan Lee — originally announced as “a couple of weeks away from the typewriter” — was going on its third month. For their first two issues together, Thomas and Kane had been kept busy resolving the “six arms to hold you” plotline Lee and Kane had set up in AS-M #100, while also introducing Marvel’s first vampire supervillain, Morbius. — an idea inspired by Lee’s interest in taking advantage of the new freedoms offered by recent revisions to the Comics Code. But now, having restored Peter Parker and his web-slinging alter ego to their normal two-armed status quo, as well as having sent Morbius to a watery grave (don’t worry, it didn’t hold him), the two creators were finally on their own. What would they do now?
In crafting the installment of their ongoing “Kree-Skrull War” epic that arrived on stands in September, 1971, the Avengers creative team hadn’t had the luxury (or, if you prefer, the burden) of 34 pages to work with, as they’d had for a single issue with the previous month’s issue #93. Rather, the first 20-cent edition of the title featured a mere 23 pages of art and story.
Nevertheless, the reduction of space didn’t deter writer Roy Thomas from continuing to break each issue’s episode of the galaxies-spanning saga into multiple chapters — or from giving every chapter its own individual title, each inspired by a well-known work of science fiction. For #94’s “More Than Inhuman”, the reference was to Theodore Sturgeon’s 1953 novel, More Than Human: 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