Back in September of last year we took a look at Fear #11 (Dec., 1972), featuring writer Steve Gerber’s debut outing on the “Man-Thing” feature (as well as the fifth appearance overall of that feature’s titular star). As you may remember, that story introduced two siblings, Jennifer and Andy Kale, who lived with their grandfather in a small Florida town; the pair’s ill-advised experimentation with a book of magic spells “borrowed” from Grandpa inadvertently summoned a demon, the Nether-Spawn, who was only prevented from ravaging the town by the intervention of the Man-Thing, within whose swampy habitat the young people had conducted their spell-casting. At the tale’s end, the Nether-Spawn had been banished back to his hellish dimension by the expedient of burning the spell-book, and the Kale kids had declared their gratitude and everlasting friendship for their shambling, semi-sentient savior. There was no indication whether Gerber would return to these characters — or to the intriguing question of what Grandpa Kale was doing with such a powerful grimoire in the first place — but the conclusion certainly left the door open for a sequel. Read More
Back in April, 1973, I don’t expect anyone who saw and appreciated artists Gil Kane and Tom Palmer’s fine cover for the tenth issue of Marvel Comics’ Tomb of Dracula anticipated how historically significant this image — the first sight ever provided the general public of a new character named Blade — would eventually become; probably not even that character’s creator, writer Marv Wolfman. In retrospect, it seems more than fitting that the figure of Blade dominates Kane’s composition, taking up more space than (and pulling focus from) the comic’s titular star; after all, the wooden-knife-wielding vampire hunter would ultimately come to overshadow the very series that gave him four-color life, at least in terms of mass public awareness… and the financial rewards reaped by Marvel. Read More
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
Last April, we took a look at Marvel Premiere #3 (Jul., 1972), which featured Doctor Strange starring in his first full-length solo adventure since the cancellation of his title back in 1969. In this issue, artist Barry Windsor-Smith and scripter Stan Lee introduced a mysterious new adversary for the Master of the Mystic Arts — a menace who was powerful enough to suborn one of the Doc’s oldest and most formidable foes, Nightmare, but who remained yet nameless and unseen at the episode’s conclusion.
More clues were forthcoming in the following bi-monthly issue, which we covered here last June. This one was drawn by Windsor-Smith in collaboration with relative newcomer Frank Brunner, while Archie Goodwin scripted from a plot by Roy Thomas; it saw the storyline take a turn towards cosmic horror, as Dr. Strange journeyed to the New England village of Starkesboro, whose half-human, half-reptilian inhabitants secretly worshiped the demonic entity Sligguth. However, Sligguth himself was no more than another servant of the same dark threat that our hero had first learned of in MP #3 — a threat that still remained nameless in this installment, though we at least learned a bit more about him — mostly courtesy of Doc’s mentor, the venerable Ancient One, who warned of the imminent return of “a cosmic obscenity that slumbers”. The issue ended on a cliffhanger, with Strange shackled to a stone altar, about to be sacrificed to Sligguth by the demon’s scaly celebrants: 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
Back in November, 2021, we took a look at Marvel Premiere #1, in which Marvel’s new “Warlock” feature made its debut. As we discussed at the time, that first installment found writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane dusting off a few old Stan Lee-Jack Kirby concepts from 1960s issues of Fantastic Four and Thor and combining them to create the most overt religious allegory that had yet appeared in superhero comics. In doing so, they were clearly seeking to tap into the cultural zeitgeist exemplified by the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar both topping both the pop album charts and selling out shows on Broadway, and by the youth-driven “Jesus Movement” being featured on the cover of Time magazine, all of which happened in 1971. Read More
In January, 1973, the cover of Conan the Barbarian #25 — a collaboration between Gil Kane and Ralph Reese — hardly gave any hint of the enormous artistic shift this issue represented for Marvel Comics’ award-winning series. After all, Kane had pencilled four Conan covers prior to this one, and while two of those had graced issues that also featured Kane art on the inside (the first of those, #17, also happened to have been inked by Reese), the other two — including the most recent one, for issue #23 — had fronted stories drawn by the title’s original and primary regular artist, Barry Windsor-Smith.
So, if you were a regular Conan reader who’d somehow managed to miss issue #24 (and if you were, you have my sympathies), you may well have been startled to open #25 to its first page to see that the story had been drawn by a penciller previously unseen in these pages (though his name and work were hardly unfamiliar to Marvel fans)… namely, John Buscema: Read More
As we discussed on the blog back in May, the first issue of The Defenders (which was actually the fourth outing for the titular super-team, following their three-issue tryout run in Marvel Feature) ended on a note of mystery, as the Sub-Mariner revealed to his allies, Doctor Strange and the Hulk, that prior to the events of that comic, he’d been attacked by none other than the Silver Surfer — who had at the time appeared to be himself allied with Necrodamus, the sorcerous acolyte of the Undying Ones whose attempt to summon those evil extradimensional entities our three heroes had just then thwarted, though only barely. Read More