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

Tomb of Dracula #1 (April, 1972)

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

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

Batman #237 (December, 1971)

Batman #237’s “Night of the Reaper!” wasn’t the first comic book story set at the real-life Rutland, VT Halloween Parade; that distinction goes to Avengers #83, which was published one year earlier (and was covered here on this blog last October).  Nor would it be the last such tale.

But it was almost certainly the best of the bunch.

That’s really not surprising, given that the story was crafted by one of the most outstanding creative teams of the era — writer Denny O’Neil, penciller Neal Adams, and inker Dick Giordano — as well as that it, more than most of its fellows, aspired to be about something more than either the Parade itself, or conventional superheroic goings-on — something decidedly more serious, in fact — and was largely successful in achieving this aim, ultimately addressing the subject of the Holocaust in a dramatic, but sensitive, manner.

Nevertheless, the origins of this classic story in certain actual (but not very serious) events — and the appearance within its pages of several equally actual persons who either already were, or would soon become, well-known comics industry professionals — can’t help but be responsible for a certain amount of “Night of the Reaper!” lasting appeal.  And it’s with those events, and persons, that we begin.  Read More

Avengers #95 (January, 1972)

In October, 1971, Avengers #95 brought us what might be the most unusual installment yet in the ongoing epic of the Kree-Skrull War.  From one perspective, concerned primarily with the progress of the war and the Avengers’ role in it, it could quite reasonably be deemed the least consequential chapter in the entire saga.  From a different point of view, however — namely, that of the Inhumans — it might be the most significant of all.

That’s because Roy Thomas and Neal Adams took advantage of the opportunity Avengers offered not only to wrap up the story they’d begun telling in their most recent previous collaboration — the “Inhumans” strip in Amazing Adventures — but also to deepen the Inhumans’ mythos; especially that part of it wrapped up in the personal histories of the two royal brothers, Black Bolt and Maximus, whose animus had been the driver of most of the narratives Marvel Comics had produced concerning that hidden race ever since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced them back in 1965. 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

Marvel Spotlight #2 (February, 1972)

From the perspective of a half century later, the horror boom in American comics in the early 1970s looks all but inevitable.  The appeal of the classic movie monsters to young audiences had been clear ever since the first syndicated collection of old Universal horror films started showing up on TV sets in the late 1950s, quickly becoming widely popular.  The subsequent success of Warren Publishing’s Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine (originally produced in 1958 as a one-shot publication, but almost immediately converted into an ongoing periodical), can only have reinforced the sense among U.S. comics publishers that there was gold to be mined in those dark, storm-blasted hills of Gothic horror — as must have Warren’s following up FMoF in the next decade with the black-and-white comics magazines Creepy, Eerie, and, as the 1960s drew to a close, Vampirella.  Then there was the mid-to-late Sixties success of Dark Shadows, the daytime television serial that began its broadcast life firmly planted in the genre of Gothic romance, but soon morphed into a much more freewheeling fantasy show, happily recycling the tropes of both classic horror fiction and old monster movies, and bringing vampires, werewolves, zombies, and their ghastly ilk into America’s homes five afternoons a week.  Read More

Thor #193 (November, 1971)

While any specific memory of the occasion has been lost to time after half a century, I feel pretty sure I was at least mildly startled when I dropped in at my neighborhood Tote-Sum in the first week of August, 1971, and discovered that all the new Marvel comics — including the latest issues of three series I was buying regularly, Daredevil, Iron Man, and Thor — were now 25 cents (up from 15), and 48 pages, not counting covers (up from 32).

I wasn’t completely surprised, of course.  After all, DC Comics had raised their prices and page counts by the exact same amounts two months earlier, and it only made sense that Marvel would eventually follow suit.  (The only other comics industry price hike I’d experienced personally — the move from 12 cents to 15 cents back in 1969 — had been effected by both DC and Marvel more or less simultaneously.)  What was more, several Marvel titles, such as Conan the Barbarian, had already made the jump to the new format/price point back in July — a move that Marvel had at least hinted could be a harbinger of things to come via a comment on that month’s Bullpen Bulletins page.  (“As for what the future holds in store for the rest of our magniloquent mags — well, keep lookin’ forward, pilgrim, ’cause that’s where the future’s coming from!”)  But a hint’s not the same thing as a promise, and just because one expects something to happen eventually, doesn’t mean one won’t still be surprised when said thing happens right now.  So, I’d say that at least some mild startlement was in order for my fourteen-year-old self, as well as for most of my comics-buying peers.  Read More

Amazing Adventures #8 (September, 1971)

When we last checked in with the Inhumans feature in Amazing Adventures, back in December, the new creative team of writer Roy Thomas and artist Neal Adams had just launched a new multi-part storyline.  The beginning of this new arc found the Inhumans’ monarch, Black Bolt, traveling to the United States — more specifically, to San Francisco — to begin the process of developing better relations between his people and the outside world.  (Exactly how he expected to accomplish this by skulking around an urban waterfront at night, especially given his self-enforced muteness, was unrevealed.)  BB got off to a somewhat rocky start, getting involved in an altercation with some petty criminals as he came to the defense of a boy named Joey, the nephew of the hoods’ leader, Roscoe.  Meanwhile, back in the Great Refuge, the king’s mad brother Maximus lay in what appeared to be a state of suspended animation — something Black Bolt had set up prior to his departure, without explaining his reasons to the other members of the Inhumans’ royal family.  A suspicious Gorgon and Karnak elected to wake Maximus up, which turned out to be a bad move, since the previously non-super Max had recently developed immense mental powers.  Maximus promptly unleashed a brain blast that traveled halfway around the world before striking down Black Bolt, simultaneously robbing him of his memory.  This ten-page installment ended with young Joey, having just managed to rouse his mysterious new friend, trying to get him to say something — unaware that if the Inhumans’ incognito ruler uttered but a mere whisper, the power of his voice would unleash terrible destruction.  Yipes!  Read More

Sub-Mariner #40 (August, 1971)

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