Like its immediate predecessor, the 122nd issue of Amazing Spider-Man leads off with a cover by John Romita, which, if not quite as iconic as that of #121, is still an exceptionally arresting image. Not to mention one which, back in April, 1973, would likely have shocked the hell out of any semi-regular reader of the web-slinger’s series who had somehow managed to miss not only that most monumental of issues, but also any fannish discussion of same over the several weeks since its release on March 13th.
If there were any such readers fifty years ago, and if they hoped for some sort of recap to bring them up to speed on the details of how so something so unthinkable as the murder of Spider-Man’s beloved Gwen Stacy had come to pass, they were pretty much out of luck — because the creative team behind both the previous episode and this one — i.e., scripter Gerry Conway, penciller Gil Kane, foreground inker John Romita (who may have also contributed to the plot) and background inker Tony Mortellaro — weren’t about to break their storyline’s headlong momentum with any more exposition than was minimally required, let alone any flashbacks: Read More
The subject of today’s blog post is generally considered to be one of the most important issues in the sixty-plus-year history of Marvel Comics’ best-known hero, Spider-Man. Many fans would call it one of the most significant single comic books ever published by Marvel, period. Some (though not, I must confess, your humble blogger) would even go so far as to call this issue the precise dividing point between the Silver Age of Comics and the Bronze.
But you almost didn’t get a chance to read about Amazing Spider-Man #121 on its fiftieth anniversary — not in this venue, anyway. Why? Because your humble blogger’s then fifteen-year-old self almost didn’t purchase the book when it first arrived on stands, back in March of 1973. And why was that? Because I’d stopped buying Amazing Spider-Man two months earlier. Read More
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
According to the account given by Marvel editor-in-chief Roy Thomas on the letters page of Amazing Adventures #18, the new feature that made its debut in that issue had been gestating for some time. (“Two long and not always enjoyable years,” to quote the man himself.) It had all started in 1971, when Marvel was looking to expand its market share in a big way, and Stan Lee (himself still editor-in-chief at that time) asked Thomas to submit a list of ideas for new comics for consideration by Lee and Marvel’s publisher, Martin Goodman. Among those ideas was a series concept based on H.G. Wells’ classic late-Victorian science fiction novel, The War of the Worlds.
More specifically, Thomas imagined “a vast, hopefully unending sequel to the Wells classic. A storyline which would pit earthmen in a kind of guerrilla warfare against the Martians, who had returned approximately 100 years after their initial invasion attempt… and who this time had come, seen, and conquered.” 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
Back in January of last year, in a post about Monsters on the Prowl #16, we discussed Marvel Comics’ late-’60s -to-early-’70s attempts to break into the “mystery” (i.e., Comics Code-approved horror) anthology market that seemed to be doing so well at the time for their primary rival, DC Comics. As we covered in that piece, in 1969 Marvel launched two titles, Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness, that were virtual clones of such DC fare as House of Mystery and The Witching Hour. These titles started off quite well, with original stories by Marvel’s top talent (Neal Adams, John Buscema, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Jim Steranko, etc.), as well as by several EC Comics pre-Code horror veterans (Johnny Craig and Wally Wood) not to mention at least one young artist poached (albeit only briefly) from DC (Bernie Wrightson). Soon, however, the new material began to be supplemented by reprints from the publisher’s late-’50s-to-early-’60s “Atlas” era; and before either title had seen as many as ten issues, Tower of Shadows had morphed into Creatures on the Loose, while Chamber of Darkness became Monsters on the Prowl. By mid-1972, one could easily be forgiven for not seeing much if any difference between those titles and the all-reprint “monster” comics that Marvel had initiated around the same time as their “mystery” books, e.g. Where Monsters Dwell. 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
Back in April, we took a look at the third issue of Marvel Comics’ Kull the Conqueror, featuring the titular hero’s first all-out battle against the undead sorcerer Thulsa Doom (a character who’d actually been introduced in another comic published a few months previously, Monsters on the Prowl #16). Today, we’ll be examining Kull #7, in which the barbarian king of Valusia meets his evil arch-foe again… for the first time.
That seemingly paradoxical statement refers to the fact that this comic book features an adaptation of the short story “Delcardes’ Cat” — the first and only story by Kull’s creator, the pulp writer Robert E. Howard, in which the skull-headed villain ever makes an appearance. Oddly enough, Howard only seems to have come up with the idea for Thulsa Doom well into the story, requiring him to go back and write another version in which the baddie gets referred to as a known threat a few times early on, just so that he doesn’t seem to come out of nowhere in the tale’s final scenes (which, as we’ll see soon enough, he kind of does anyway). Even so, Howard wasn’t able to sell the story during his all-too-brief lifetime; like most (though not all) of his Kull stories, the tale remained unpublished as of the author’s death in 1936, not seeing print until Lancer Books released its paperback collection, King Kull, in 1969.
Got all that? Great! Now, on with our comic… Read More
Back in September of last year, we took a look at Marvel Spotlight #2 (Feb., 1972), the comic book in which the feature “Werewolf by Night” made its debut. That issue introduced readers to Jack Russell, a modern Los Angeles teenager who, on his eighteenth birthday, made the very unwelcome discovery that he’d inherited the curse of lycanthropy from his late father, who’d been a baron in some unnamed European locale (eventually revealed to be — where else? — Transylvania) before being slain by silver bullets. We also met Jack’s younger sister, Lissa — who might share his curse — as well as his stepfather, Philip, whom both we and Jack were led to suspect by the end of this premiere episode might well be responsible for the death of Jack and Lissa’s mother, Laura, in an automobile accident.
Most of the key concepts, then, as well as the characters, that would drive storylines not only through this then-new feature’s three-issue run in Marvel Spotlight, but into the earliest issues of its own title as well, can be found in its first installment, as scripted by Gerry Conway (from a plot by Roy and Jean Thomas) and drawn by Mike Ploog. But there was one key ingredient to the series’ early continuity that wouldn’t be mentioned until MS #3, and wouldn’t make an on-panel appearance until issue #4. This ingredient was the Darkhold — a sinister compendium of mystical lore that would come to stand as perhaps the most significant contribution to the Marvel Universe ever made by the series, ultimately becoming rather more consequential in the grand scheme of things than the Werewolf himself. Read More
I may be misremembering, but I have a vague recollection of my fifteen-year-old self looking at this one at the spinner rack back in October, 1972 and thinking, “The Justice League standing around a grave site? Again?” After all, it had only been three issues since artist Nick Cardy had built his cover for JLA #100 around a similar idea. On the other hand, it was October — the spooky season — and what could be spookier than an open grave? Especially when said grave was being ominously loomed over by… hey, is that thePhantom Stranger? In an issue of Justice League of America? Forget about repetitive cover concepts; I couldn’t wait to buy this one and take it home. Read More