Avengers Annual #3 (September, 1969)

I know there must have been plenty of Marvel Comics fans who were dismayed when, in the summer of 1969, that year’s crop of giant-sized annuals arrived — and they were all 100% reprint material.  And perhaps I was a little disappointed, myself, as I’d very much enjoyed the brand new double-length stories and fun bonus features in the previous year’s Amazing Spider-Man and Avengers annuals (not to mention the same year’s Fantastic Four Annual #6, or 1967’s Avengers Annual #1, both of which I’m pretty sure I’d read by this time, having bought or perhaps borrowed them from a friend). Read More

Fantastic Four #91 (October, 1969)

The titular subject of today’s post is the first full chapter in the final complete multi-issue storyline of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four.  Along with that distinction, this story arc is well remembered for being one of the best examples of how Kirby, by this time deeply dissatisfied with his situation at Marvel Comics, was rather brazenly lifting his story ideas from stuff he’d seen on TV.  Several months earlier, he’d “playfully parodied the theme of” (as an item in this very month’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins put it) the British cult program The Prisoner for the main conceit of a four-part Doctor Doom epic.  This time, it was an episode of Star Trek — or, more probably, two episodes of Star Trek.  But before we get into all that, here’s a bit of background to help set the stage…  Read More

Aquaman #46 (Jul.-Aug., 1969)

When I look back fifty years, attempting to recollect my early comics-buying experiences, I can readily remember all of the places where I regularly purchased my books, circa 1969.  In order of (probable) shopping frequency, they were the Tote-Sum* convenience store on Triangle Drive, the Short-Stop* on Northview Dr., a second Tote-Sum on Forest Ave., and the Ben Franklin Five-and-Dime on Meadowbrook Rd..  I have some sense memory of each of those long-gone places — how they were laid out, the lighting, the location of the Icee machine behind the checkout counter, and so forth.  By and large, however, I don’t have memories of buying specific comic books; for example, I have no idea at which store I bought either Avengers #65 or X-Men #57, the two comics I’ve blogged about here most recently.

But I do remember where, and maybe even when, I bought the subject of today’s post.  I’m quite certain that I purchased it at the Triangle Drive Tote-Sum, and I’m fairly sure it was in the evening, after dark.

Why do I recall buying this particular comic book, and not others I picked up at around the same time?  Well, it wasn’t due to artist Nick Cardy’s cover illustration, as compelling (though also, as we’ll soon see, ultimately rather misleading) as it was; or even to that illustration’s promise that within the comic’s pages, the titular hero’s months-long quest to find his kidnapped wife Mera would reach its end at last.

Rather, it was due to the fact that it was the first comic book I saw that reflected the price increase for “standard” size comic books that went into effect across the industry at that time — as the cost of a single issue rose from twelve to fifteen cents — a twenty-five percent increase.**    Read More

Doctor Strange #180 (May, 1969)

As I’ve related in previous posts, I was a little slow in warming up to Doctor Strange.  Marvel Comics finally got me in late 1968, however, through the double-barrelled approach of first giving him a visual makeover, and then guest-starring him in The Avengers.  Those moves caught my interest — which, according to what Roy Thomas (a Marvel associate editor at the time, not to mention the writer of both Doctor Strange and Avengers) would state decades later in his introduction to Marvel Masterworks – Doctor Strange, Vol. 3, was precisely what the publisher had hoped they’d do.

But the next issue of Doctor Strange to hit the stands after Avengers #61 was a reprint, featuring the good Doctor’s “old look” — though, since it was a reprint of a classic tale by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee that co-starred Spider-Man, and which was 100 % new to me, I didn’t really have much to complain about.  Still, I was happy to see Doctor Strange #180, the “real” follow-up to Avengers #61, when it finally arrived in early February, 1969.  Read More

Avengers #58 (November, 1968)

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

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5 (November, 1968)

Marvel Comics’ original summer tradition of publishing “King-Size Special!” annual issues featuring (mostly) new material had a relatively brief heyday in the Sixties — just six years, really.  I’ve known that for decades, but before digging into my collection to do the research or this blog, I hadn’t realized how very few of those annuals I actually bought new off the stands.  While I’d bought my first Marvel comic book in the summer of 1967, I didn’t pick up any annuals until the summer of 1968 — and that was the last year that the specials featured all-new material, at least for a while.  As it turns out, I just managed to catch the very tail end of this golden era of Marvel annuals.  And I’d end up buying all of two off the spinner rack  Read More

Avengers Annual #2 (September, 1968)

Fifty years ago, the decision to spend twenty-five cents on the comic book that’s the subject of today’s post was pretty much a no-brainer for my eleven-year-old self.  I had already bought and read that month’s regular monthly issue of Avengers, which I had enjoyed a great deal — and while that issue’s main plotline was mostly resolved by the story’s last page, there were some tantalizing loose ends left hanging, that a caption in the last panel assured readers would be tied up in the title’s “1968 Special — now on sale!”

But even if that hadn’t been the case, I expect I would have snatched up Avengers Annual #2 simply based on its spectacular John Buscema – Frank Giacoia cover.  “The New Avengers vs. the Old Avengers!”  Two superhero teams for the price of one (even if it did look like a couple of the heroes were doing double duty on both teams).  How could I pass up a deal like that?  Read More

Justice League of America #46 (August, 1966)

By the time JLA #46 arrived in my mailbox one day in early June, 1966, I had a pretty good idea who the Justice Society of America was.  I knew about the “Golden Age of Comics” that had thrived a decade and more before I was born, and I also knew all about the “Earth-Two” concept that allowed for the “old” versions of the Flash, Green Lantern, and other DC heroes to co-exist with the current models I read about every month.  But I hadn’t yet experienced the extravaganza that was the annual two-issue JLA-JSA team-up — I’d missed the 1965 event by just a couple of months — and I didn’t have any real familiarity with most of the characters who didn’t have “Earth-One” counterparts.  So I don’t know exactly what I expected when I opened up this book for the first time (after flattening out its mailed-subscription-copy crease, of course).  I’m pretty damn sure, however, that I wasn’t the least bit disappointed.  Read More

Justice League of America #44 (May, 1966)

Justice League of America #44 was the first comic book I ever got through the mail.  It came in a brown paper wrapper.  And it was folded in two, lengthwise.

Which, of course, would significantly lessen its future value as a collectible, but my eight-year-old self hardly cared about that.  After all, I was the kid who cut the logo off the cover of Superman #181 and cut up a story page in The Brave and the Bold #64 for the subscription coupon on the back — said subscription coupon being the very reason why I was now receiving my first issue of JLA through the mail, just a few months after I’d mailed the coupon in, accompanied by a single dollar bill.  (One dollar for 10 issues!  I saved a whole 2 cents per comic book.)  Read More