First off, please be advised that this blog post is going to be one of the long ones. That’s primarily due to the fact that, in addition to covering the specific fifty-year-old comic book that gives the post its title, your humble blogger is also goiing to take a shot at answering the age-old conundrum: who came first, DC Comics’ Swamp Thing or Marvel Comics’ Man-Thing? (Regular readers may recall that when the blog spotlighted the second Man-Thing story, back in March, I promised something of this sort would be forthcoming; that moment has at last arrived.)
But it’s also destined to be at least a bit on the long side because before I can even get into discussing Swamp Thing #1, I feel that it’s necessary to give some attention to an even older comic, one that came out over fifty-one years ago. Of course, I’m talking about House of Secrets #92, published by DC in April, 1971; the comic book whose first eight pages gave us the very first “Swamp Thing” story, as written by Len Wein, drawn (mostly) by Bernie Wrightson, and edited by Joe Orlando. Neither the behind-the-scenes story of how Swamp Thing-the-series came to be — nor my own initial reactions to the first issue of the latter, as a fifteen-year-old reader in August, 1972 — make a whole lot of sense outside of the context of that classic tale. So, that’s where we’re starting, on what in all probability will indeed be a lengthy (though hopefully also enjoyable) journey. Forewarned is forearmed, eh? Read More
Regular readers of this blog will recall how, over the past year, we’ve been tracking the Fourth World-adjacent story material that appeared in various “Superman” family titles — mostly in Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane — during the period that Jack Kirby was writing, drawing, and editing Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. The most significant piece of this material was that having to do with Morgan Edge, the head of Galaxy Broadcasting (and thus the boss of Lois and Jimmy, as well as of Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent). Originally created by Kirby, Edge was introduced in his first Fourth World comic, Jimmy Olsen #133, as being secretly involved with the criminal organization Intergang — and thereby, as shown in the very next issue, also an operative of the dark lord of Apokolips, Darkseid. More recently, however, it had been revealed in Lois Lane #118 that the Morgan Edge we readers had been reading about in all the Superman books wasn’t the real Edge at all — rather, he was an evil clone who’d been created by Darkseid’s minions in the Evil Factory to pose as the media mogul. Read More
Three weeks ago, I promised the readers of this blog that we’d be covering the beginning of Marvel Comics’ “Phase Two” era in today’s post. And we will definitely be doing that, before we’re done for the day — though, first, we still have some “Phase One” business to finish up with; namely, the conclusion of the Blackworld/Ego-Prime storyline that had been running in Thor (though only as a secondary plot to the series’ main action) ever since issue #195, which had come out in October, 1971. 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
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
Cover to Journey into Mystery #1 (Jun., 1952). Art by Russ Heath.
Cover to Journey into Mystery #83 (Aug., 1962). Art by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott.
As milestone issues of long-running comic-book series go, Thor #200 is a fairly odd duck, for a number of reasons. The first, of course, is that it’s not really the 200th issue of “Thor“ at all; rather, it’s the two-hundredth sequential release of a periodical publication that began its existence in 1952 as Journey into Mystery, an anthology title which had nary a thing to do with the Norse God of Thunder until the Marvel version of that mythological figure made his debut in its 83rd issue, ten years into the book’s run.
Since the title of the publication wasn’t changed from Journey into Mystery to Thor until issue #126, there hadn’t ever been a Thor #100. (To the best of my knowledge, there hasn’t been one in later years, either, despite multiple relaunches of the series over the last few decades; and given Marvel’s current publishing model, which simultaneously incorporates both successive restarts and “legacy” numbering, there probably never will be.) The actual 100th issue of “Thor” as a continuing feature had been #182 — and though that was a pretty good issue, featuring a battle with Dr. Doom as well as marking the beginning of John Buscema’s multi-year tenure as the series’ new regular artist, it hadn’t taken any special note of the occasion. By the time issue #200 rolled around, however, Marvel had made the 100th issues of Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man causes for celebration — and they were about to do the same with Avengers #100, which would arrive on stands one week after Thor #200 (it’ll also arrive on this blog one week from today, just in case you were wondering). With 200 being such a nice round number, it would have been surprising if Marvel hadn’t chosen to commemorate Thor‘s issue numbering reaching it, as arbitrary as the milestone was in some ways.
But all of that represents just one way that Thor #200 was somewhat off-model as commemorative issues go. Another was that the main story was a retread of a tale originally presented in 1966 (right around the time Journey into Mystery became Thor, coincidentally enough). And yet another was that that story was a fill-in — or, at least, it read like one. Read More
Back in October of last year, this blog took a look at Thor #195 — the initial chapter of incoming writer Gerry Conway’s first full story arc for the series, following two issues devoted to wrapping up a multi-parter begun by his predecessor, Stan Lee. If you’ve been wondering if we were ever going to get back to the God of Thunder’s quest for the Twilight Well at the World’s End, well, thou need’st worry no longer. Though, since it’s been a few months, we obviously have some catching up to do on the three issues that fall between #195 and the main topic of today’s post, Thor #199.
But before we jump into a recap of issues #196-198, it would probably be useful to briefly refresh our collective memory about what went down in #195. We have discussed a lot of other comic books in the last four months, after all. Read More
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
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