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
In February, 1973, Marvel Comics published 42 individual comic books — a 75% percent increase in production from the previous year, when the second month of 1972 had seen the company release a mere 24 new issues. And notwithstanding such a prodigious expansion in production, the company (which had recently surpassed arch-rival DC Comics in sales numbers for the first time ever) wasn’t nearly done. But Marvel’s next major phase of growth — which in fact began in that very month of February, 1973 — was to be in a different area than the full-color comics line in which it had made its mark. Read More
Calendar-specific note for anyone reading this blog post on or soon after its original date of publication: No, your humble blogger hasn’t gotten his holidays mixed up. But I’m at the mercy not only of what comics were published a half century ago this month, but also of which comics my younger self actually bought… and my December, 1972 haul was decidedly light on seasonally appropriate fare. On the other hand, Tomb of Dracula #7 does at least have snow in it, so maybe that counts for something. And now, on to our regularly scheduled fifty year old comic book…
In December, 1972, a little over a year since its debut, Marvel Comics’ Tomb of Dracula had seen six issues delivered to stands — a run of stories which, despite having been drawn by a single artist, had been written by three different authors (five, if you count plotting contributions made to the first issue by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas). That sort of creative churn generally didn’t bode well for the long-term health of an ongoing series; but for ToD, the fourth attempt at finding a regular writer for the book would prove to be the charm, as Marv Wolfman came on board with issue #7 — and then remained at the helm for the next sixty-three issues, or (to put it another way) the next six-and-a-half years. Read More
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
The Marvel Comics title that would become Tomb of Dracula appears to have been in the works for quite some time prior to its first issue reaching stands in November, 1971. Perhaps the first inkling comics readers had of its development had come by way of a vague reference on the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page appearing in comics published that March; in the midst of a news item explaining the moves of several artists from one title to another, the following statement appeared:
By “another 50¢ mag labeled M”, the anonymous Bulletin scribe meant that Marvel was planning a companion to Savage Tales, a black-and-white comics magazine intended “for the mature reader” whose first issue had gone on sale in January. Read More
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
In September, 1971, I bought my first issue of Captain America in almost two years; today, fifty years later, I’m not sure how to account for my long abstinence from the adventures of the Star-Spangled Avenger, especially considering that I was buying every other superhero title Marvel Comics was putting out at that time. (Well, almost every other title. Hulk remained a tough sell for your humble blogger, except for those occasions when his series crossed over with other books I followed, like Avengers.) Read More
In the spring of 1971, roughly four months after he’d crossed over a couple of Marvel superheroes in Iron Man #35 and Daredevil #73, writer Gerry Conway did it again — though this time, the team-up tale started in Daredevil and ended in another title (Sub-Mariner), rather than the other way around. What was more, Conway even managed to work in a third marquee hero — the biggest star among the three, actually — although that hero’s title, Amazing Spider-Man, wasn’t itself a part of the crossover. Perhaps oddest of all, after getting the ball rolling in Daredevil, Conway completely dropped the Man Without Fear from his narrative, so that DD’s role in the second half of the crossover was limited to appearing in a single flashback panel.
Whatever the thinking was behind doing things this way, if the intention was to get Marvel fans who weren’t currently consistent buyers of Daredevil and/or Sub-Mariner to pony up for at least one issue of each series, then it worked, at least as far as my thirteen-year-old self was concerned. Having been a fairly regular purchaser of DD’s book in earlier days (through most of 1968-69, to be more precise), and an occasional sampler of Subby’s title as well, I very likely would have grabbed both comics even if there hadn’t been a third co-star. But adding Spidey to the mix made it virtually a no-brainer for me — as I suspect it also did for a good number of other fans. Read More
In October, 1970, I returned to Marvel Comics’ Avengers after a hiatus of one full year, during which time I hadn’t bought or read the title at all. Avengers had been one of my most reliable Marvel purchases for a year or so prior to that break, but, for reasons lost to time, I was a little tentative about committing to the series again; and after buying (and, as I recall, enjoying) both #83 and #84, I sat out the next three months, not picking up another adventure of the Assemblers until #88, in March. That one seemed to do the trick, however, because from that point on I wouldn’t miss another issue. (Well, not until 1980 or thereabouts, anyway — but that’s another story.)
Or maybe it wasn’t #88 that sealed the deal — that Harlan Ellison-plotted issue, enjoyable as it was, essentially functioned as a lead-in to the same month’s issue of Hulk, and didn’t spend much energy encouraging readers to come back for the next month’s Avengers. Avengers #89, on the other hand, kicked off a multi-issue storyline that just kept building and building, never offering anything like a reasonable jumping-off point. By the time that storyline — the Kree-Skrull War, as we’d all quickly come to call it — came to an end with #97, it was December, and buying Avengers had become an ingrained habit for your humble blogger. Read More
As I wrote in this space back in May, in 1970 my younger self bought the first two issues of Marvel Comics’ new double-feature title Amazing Adventures upon their release — but then skipped the next two. Half a century later, I can’t recall what my decision-making process was (and the vagaries of distribution being what they were at the time, it’s entirely possible that I never saw AA #3 and/or #4 on the stands). But I’d guess that I simply wasn’t all that crazy about what I’d found in #1 and #2. Even though I liked the Inhumans a whole lot, and was an admirer of Jack Kirby’s art (I was also a fan of his plotting, of course, if only unconsciously, since I didn’t yet comprehend the extent of the King’s creative contributions to his collaborations with Marvel editor/scripter Stan Lee), the two-part tale that inaugurated the Inhumans feature, written as well as drawn by Kirby, didn’t feel like essential work. At the time he produced these stories, Kirby was on the verge of unleashing a tremendous amount of pent-up creativity with his “Fourth World” project for DC; but, as with a lot of his other material for Marvel at the end of his monumental ’60s tenure at the publisher, his heart didn’t really seem to be in this stuff.
As for the title’s second feature, the Black Widow — she was more of an unknown quantity for me, anyway. Besides the obvious fact that this was her first solo strip, I had at this point read very few of her earlier appearances in Avengers and elsewhere, and had little to no investment in the character. Despite the reliably fine draftsmanship of John Buscema on her first two installments (with John Verpoorten inking Buscema’s pencils), I didn’t find enough there to hook me and bring me back. Read More