Defenders #1 (August, 1972)

Back in July of last year, we covered the advent of the Marvel Comics superhero team the Defenders in Marvel Feature #1.  This new team’s debut had come following a tryout of sorts in two late-1970 issues of Sub-Mariner; although in those comics, the grouping went by the unofficial moniker of “Titans Three”, and their number included the Silver Surfer, rather than the guy who ended up actually being the de facto leader of the team (whose other members were Sub-Mariner and the Hulk, by the way) — Doctor Strange — for the simple reason that Marvel editor-in-chief Stan Lee had a proprietary interest in the Surfer, and wouldn’t let associate editor/writer Roy Thomas use him as a permanent member of the new super-team, now formally christened “the Defenders”, when it became the basis for an ongoing feature.  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

Astonishing Tales #12 (June, 1972)

Any of you out there who aren’t already familiar with this particular comic book may be taking a look at its John Buscema-Joe Sinnott cover right now and thinking, “Nice, but what’s so special about Ka-Zar rasslin’ a big alligator, even underwater, that Astonishing Tales #12 should rate its own blog post?”  The fact of the matter, however, is that this issue (along with its immediate follow-up, Astonishing Tales #13) represents a significant chapter in the histories of not one, but two, semi-major Marvel Comics characters — neither one of whom happens to be the self-styled Lord of the Savage Land.  Read More

Amazing Spider-Man #109 (June, 1972)

In early 1972, despite the fact that I’d been reading Amazing Spider-Man for four years (albeit with a single ten-month hiatus between March, 1970, and February, 1971), one of his longest-established supporting characters — Eugene “Flash” Thompson — was, if not exactly an unknown quantity to me, still less than a truly familiar face.  My first issue of Spidey’s title, #59, had been released one full year following #47, the issue in which storytellers Stan Lee and John Romita had shipped Flash off to military service in the Vietnam War.  Sure, I had read enough reprints of the early, high-school-set material by Lee and Steve Ditko to have a good grasp of the character’s original bullying-Peter-Parker-while-idolizing-Spider-Man shtick.  But my “real time” encounters with Flash had been limited to a few scenes that appeared in a run of late-’69 to early-’70 issues, where the young soldier had made a return visit stateside just long enough to incur Peter’s jealousy over Gwen Stacy, due to a misunderstanding that thankfully got cleared up (more or less) before Flash headed back to Southeast Asia.  Read More

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