In addition to being a fine piece of artwork by Michael W. Kaluta, the cover of Batman #242 represents a minor milestone of sorts; outside of those for a small handful of giant-sized all-reprint issues, it was the first cover since October, 1969 for either Batman or its companion title, Detective Comics, not to have been drawn by Neal Adams. (That particular month, not so coincidentally, was the same one in which those titles’ editor at DC Comics, Julius Schwartz, introduced the Caped Crusader’s “Big Change” — a return to a moodier, more grounded approach to the hero that was largely inspired by what Adams had been doing over in Brave and the Bold for the last year or so.) Read More
In October, 1971, Don and Maggie Thompson’s fanzine Newfangles reported:
There are indications that DC is in serious trouble. Dealers are not too keen on the 25¢ comic book[s], sales are skyrocketing for Marvel, Charlton and Gold Key (GK has 15¢ books, Marvel and Charlton 20¢)… DC’s titles are also reported to be dying in droves on the stands, if they get that far—wholesalers prefer to handle the 20¢ books, apparently.
A couple of months later, with disappointing sales reports now in for about a quarter-year’s worth of the “bigger & better” format DC had inaugurated in June, publisher Carmine Infantino prepared to make some course adjustments. The most significant upcoming change would be to the format itself (more on that later), but there were other indicators of Infantino’s efforts to staunch the bleeding as 1972 got underway; for example, Green Lantern, one of the signature series of DC’s Silver Age, was cancelled with its 89th issue, shipping in February. As for the titles written, drawn, and edited by Jack Kirby, with which DC had clearly hoped to clean up with sales-wise following Kirby’s 1970 defection from DC’s chief rival, Marvel Comics: Jimmy Olsen was removed from Kirby’s purview with the 148th issue (which, like GL #89, came out in February); and while Infantino wasn’t quite ready to pull the plug on Kirby’s three remaining titles — the core books of the star creator’s interconnected “Fourth World” epic — he appears to have been determined to take a more active role in guiding their respective directions than he had before. If the King could ever have been said to have had free rein in managing “his” comics at DC (and that’s by no means an indisputable statement), that day was over. 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
About a year ago I wrote my first blog post about an issue of Phantom Stranger; if you happened to read that one, you may recall that PS #11 was the first issue of the title I’d ever bought, and that I ended up liking it enough to become a regular reader henceforth. Beyond the basic appeal of the series’ supernatural subject matter, my younger self was highly intrigued by the mysterious but noble-seeming title character; I was also a fan of the look given the comic by artist Jim Aparo, who not only pencilled and inked but also lettered each installment. Meanwhile, Neal Adams continued to turn out one classic cover after another for the title, which, even if it wasn’t enough to make me buy the book just by itself, certainly didn’t hurt its appeal. About the only thing in Phantom Stranger I wasn’t all that crazy about was the backup strip, which featured Dr. Thirteen, the Ghost-Breaker; but even that had the appealing artwork of Tony DeZuniga going for it, and anyway, it didn’t appear in every single issue. Read More
Avengers #92 was a transitional issue for the Marvel Comics series in several ways, a couple of which are signified by the issue’s cover. For one, the cover marks the arrival of artist Neal Adams, who’d begin a brief but glorious run as the title’s penciller and co-plotter with the very next issue. For another, the prominence given to Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America presages the end of an era in which those heroes only appeared on a semi-regular basis in Avengers; while the old dictum of editor Stan Lee that none of the “Big Three” could appear in the title except as occasional guest stars had been honored largely in the breach for a couple of years now, up to this point you might still have stretches in which none of them showed up at all (in fact, none had appeared in the previous three issues, and, as we’ll soon see, they barely play a role in #92, cover prominence notwithstanding). From issue #93 forward, Cap, Thor, and Iron Man would simply be “Avengers”, on the same basis as their fellow members who didn’t have their own books — effectively ending what had been the status quo of the title ever since issue #16 (May, 1965). Read More
Over the course of writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams’s classic early-’70s collaboration on Batman, the team was responsible not only for introducing one major new adversary (Ra’s al Ghul) to the ranks of the Darknight Detective”s greatest foes, but also for reclaiming and refurbishing of two vintage baddies who’d fallen out of favor in recent years. The second of these restorations to appear, “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge!” (Batman #251 [Sept., 1973]), is doubtless the best-remembered of the two, due to its ultimately having had such a dramatic impact not only on the Bat-mythos, but on the DC Universe as a whole — rehabbing what had become a joke of a character (no pun intended) during the camp “Batmania” era of the mid-Sixties into the comics medium’s quintessential avatar of psychopathic evil — a character arguably more popular than all but a small handful of DC’s best-known superheroes, and one with enough cultural gravitas for screen portrayals of him to have earned Academy Awards for two different actors.
Behind an attention-arresting cover, which — like most others Jack Kirby produced for DC Comics around this time — was built around an imaginative photo collage (and which also, like the cover of the issue of Jimmy Olsen that had immediately preceded it, featured Neal Adams’ inks over Kirby’s pencils), the comics readers of April, 1971 — including your humble blogger — were treated to the thrilling conclusion of the first multi-part storyline (indeed, the first storyline, period) of the massive Fourth World project written, drawn, and edited by Kirby. Read More
A half-century after the fact, I’m at something of a loss to explain why I stopped reading Amazing Spider-Man for almost an entire year, after my subscription ran out with issue #85 in March, 1970. Regular readers of this blog may remember that my younger self went through a period of being considerably less interested in comic books than I previously had been, a period that began in the fall of 1969 and extended through the next spring. But my subscription had actually carried through the bulk of that time span, as it had for my other favorite Marvel comic of the time, Fantastic Four; and I was back to picking up FF, at least occasionally, by June, 1970. Somehow, though, even as late as February, 1971 — well after I’d resumed buying Avengers, Daredevil, and other Marvel standbys on a semi-regular basis — I was still avoiding becoming reacquainted with May Parker’s favorite nephew.
Until Amazing Spider-Man #96, that is. This one brought me back into the fold. Read More
Justice League of America was my first favorite comic book. As I’ve written about here before, it was the first series I subscribed to through the mail (my first USPS-delivered issue being #44, in 1966), and even after my sub ran out, I managed to score every new issue when it hit the spinner racks — up until issue #69, that is, which I either missed or intentionally passed on (the former seems a bit more likely, but who knows). A couple of months later, I missed (or skipped) #72 as well; and then, after #74, I apparently more-or-less dropped the book. In any case, I didn’t buy another issue of JLA until the one I’m writing about today, which arrived on stands in January, 1970. By this time, as regular readers of the blog know, I had entered a period in which comic books in general held less appeal for me, and I was buying hardly anything at all. So what could have grabbed me about Justice League of America #79 so much that I felt compelled to pick the book up? Read More