Conan the Barbarian #14 (March, 1972)

In October, 1971, the letters column in the back of Conan the Barbarian #13 alerted readers to the fact that the Marvel Comics series — which had been coming out monthly ever since issue #4 back in January — was going to a bi-monthly schedule;

In truth, Conan #13 was very nearly the last issue of the title — at least for a while.  As the series’ writer and de facto editor, Roy Thomas, would explain decades later in his book Barbarian Life: A Literary Biography of Conan the Barbarian, Vol. 1 (Pulp Hero Press, 2018)Read More

Amazing Adventures #11 (March, 1972)

In December, 1971, Marvel Comics’ X-Men were in a weird kind of limbo.  The franchise was by no means dead — indeed, there was a new issue of the young mutant heroes’ titular series published every two months.  It’s just that once you got past the freshly-drawn covers (such as the one produced by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia for the latest issue, #74, as shown at right), the contents of those “new” comics were all reprinted X-stories of some five years vintage (for example, #74 featured an oldie by Roy Thomas, Werner Roth, and Dick Ayers that had originally appeared in #26).

This had been the state of affairs ever since around September, 1970, when Marvel publisher Martin Goodman — having cancelled X-Men nine months earlier, in the aftermath of Thomas, Neal Adams, and Tom Palmer’s brief but acclaimed run on the series — appears to have looked at some late sales reports, liked what he saw, and approved the “revival” of the title — but only as a reprint book.  For more than a year afterwards, this would be the only place you could find the X-Men (save for a three-part Angel adventure that ran from July to December, 1970 in the back pages of two reprint issues of Ka-Zar and one of Marvel Tales, and a single guest appearance by Iceman in Amazing Spider-Man #92, published that October).  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

Mister Miracle #6 (Jan.-Feb., 1972)

The subject of today’s blog post is probably the best known issue of writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby’s DC Comics title Mister Miracle — or, if not that, at least the most referenced.  Its contents are mentioned in most comprehensive histories of American comic books, as well as in the majority of biographies not only of Kirby himself, but also of Stan Lee, Kirby’s primary collaborator at DC’s main rival, Marvel Comics.  Most of you out there reading this probably know the reason why; it’s all down to a certain character who, while he doesn’t actually appear on the comic’s cover by Kirby and inker Mike Royer, does have his debut heralded there: “Introducing.. Funky Flashman!  Villain or Hero — You Decide!”

And why was — why is — Funky Flashman such a big deal?  Because, as Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon so aptly put it in their 2004 book, Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book, Funky represented Kirby’s “considered vivisection of his old creative partner.”

But, here’s the thing — back in November, 1971, my fourteen-year-old self didn’t get that.  At all.  Read More

Daredevil #84 (February, 1972)

In his 2013 book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Sean Howe tells of how young writer Gerry Conway first came to work for the publisher, circa 1970:

Born in Brooklyn, Conway was eight years old when Fantastic Four #1 hit the stands. By the time he was sixteen, he was writing scripts for DC Comics; soon after, he met [associate editor] Roy Thomas, who assigned him a Marvel writers’ test. But [editor Stan] Lee was, as usual, less than impressed with the way another writer handled the characters he shepherded.

 

“He writes really well for a seventeen-year-old kid,” Thomas reasoned.

 

Lee, who himself had first walked into Marvel’s offices at that age, paused. “Well, can’t we get someone who writes really well for a twenty-five-year-old kid?”

The point of the anecdote (at least for Howe) seems to be the irony of Lee’s doubting that someone could be ready to start writing for Marvel at age seventeen, when that’s exactly how old he’d been himself when he’d begun working for his cousin’s husband, Martin Goodman, circa 1940.  But, after some consideration, your humble blogger is of the opinion that Stan the Man may have been on to something.

Maybe Gerry Conway wasn’t quite ready to handle the monthly adventures of Daredevil, Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, et al, fresh out of high school.  Read More

Thor #195 (January, 1972)

While I can’t claim to have distinct memories of the moment my fourteen-year-old self first laid eyes on the cover of Thor #195, one half-century ago, I feel confident in telling you that I was pretty happy about it (new Marvel Comics “picture frame” cover design notwithstanding).  That’s in part because penciller John Buscema and inker Frank Giacoia provided a well-crafted illustration, obviously; but for me, it had more to do with the subject of the illustration.  The God of Thunder and his best buds, the Warriors Three (who just so happened to be my favorite members of Thor‘s supporting cast, but hardly ever seemed to make the cover)  battling a bunch of trolls?  That seemed to put us right square in the middle of the high fantasy territory that often, but not always, supplied the milieu for the Son of Odin’s adventures, both in his current run and in the old Stan Lee-Jack Kirby Journey into Mystery stories I was then enjoying in reprint form via Special Marvel Edition.  More to the point, that particular territory was my favorite milieu for Thor stories, as it had been since I’d caught the high fantasy bug by way of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in the summer of 1970 — and the main reason why Thor had become my favorite Marvel superhero in the months since then.  Read 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

Amazing Spider-Man #103 (December, 1971)

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?

As Thomas recalled in 2000 for a personal reminiscence of his longtime friend and collaborator Kane, originally published in Alter Ego #4Read 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

Amazing Spider-Man #102 (November, 1971)

Today, we continue this blog’s commemoration of Giant-Size Marvel Month (aka August, 1971) with a look at a comic book that does both of our previous subjects, Thor #193 and Avengers #93, one better — literally — by way of a story that checks in at a whopping 35 pages,  compared to those other two worthies’ 34-page yarns.  How did scripter Roy Thomas, penciller Gil Kane, and inker Frank Giacoia pull off this trick?  I’m not sure, but it seems they may have nicked a page from Hulk #145, the only Marvel comic published that month whose extra-length story ran a mere 33 pages.

In any event, Amazing Spider-Man #102’s “Vampire at Large” kicks off precisely where the previous issue‘s installment, “A Monster Called… Morbius!” left off (the opening splash even recycles the dialogue from that tale’s final page):  Read More