Avengers #105 (November, 1972)

Writing about Avengers #100 back in March of this year, I referred to the four issues that immediately followed that milestone as a “victory lap” for Roy Thomas, whose nearly-six-year tenure as the title’s writer was about to come to an end.   In characterizing Avengers #101-104 in such a fashion, I don’t mean to denigrate them; they’re not bad comics, by any means.  But coming directly upon the heels of the three-part “Olympus Trilogy” crafted by Thomas with Barry Windsor-Smith — and, right before that, the “Kree-Skrull War” epic by Thomas, Neal Adams, and Sal and John Buscema — these comics can’t help but seem somewhat anticlimactic by comparison.  I suppose there’s always been a part of me that kind of wishes that Thomas had just quit while he was ahead.  Read More

Captain America #155 (November, 1972)

When Steve Englehart came on board as the new writer for Captain America in June, 1972, your humble blogger had been a regular reader of the series for about ten months — coming on board with issue #144 — after having been an off-and-on one ever since #105, way back in June, 1968.  Originally drawn in by #144’s dramatic cover by John Romita (the effect of which was unquestionably enhanced by the Falcon’s sharp new costume design, also by Romita), I’d hung around for the quite enjoyable Hydra/Kingpin/Red Skull multi-parter that had followed, as delivered by writer Gary Friedrich and a cadre of artists including Gil Kane and Sal Buscema.  And when that storyline wrapped up in issue #148, I’d stayed with the book — despite the fact that the subsequent yarns concocted by Friedrich’s replacement Gerry Conway weren’t all that compelling.  I suppose that inertia may have been carrying me along by that point; that, and the fact that by mid-1972 I was buying the vast majority of Marvel Comics’ superheroic output.  In the context of the Marvel Universe as a whole, Captain America felt like a key title, and I didn’t want to miss anything important.  Read More

Avengers #100 (June, 1972)

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

Avengers #99 (May, 1972)

Like its immediate predecessor, the second installment of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith’s three-part follow-up to the Kree-Skrull War leads off with a cover inked by Windsor-Smith, but pencilled by John Buscema.  If you happen to have read our post about part one, aka Avengers #98, then you may recall that your humble blogger was obliged to confess therein that he’d gone close to five decades not realizing that Buscema had anything to do with that book’s cover, never having recognized any hand at work on it save for that of Windsor-Smith.  Something similar holds true for the cover of our present subject, Avengers #99 — only this time, it’s Buscema whose style I’ve always recognized, and Windsor-Smith whose contribution failed to register with your humble blogger until quite recently, when I checked the Grand Comics Database as part of my research for this post.  (This fact probably has no significance beyond highlighting what a poor eye I have for picking out artists’ styles, but it’s still kind of amusing, at least to me.)

Behind the cover, on the other hand, Windsor-Smith’s work was unmistakable — and would have been even had the opening splash page carried no credits at all…  Read More

Avengers #98 (April, 1972)

How do you follow up the Kree-Skrull War?

That was the question facing Marvel Comics in general, and Avengers writer/de facto editor Roy Thomas in particular, fifty years ago.  In terms of its length and scope, the aforementioned nine-issue storyline had been all but unprecedented at the publisher.  Not to mention the fact that the epic’s back half had (mostly) been visualized by perhaps the hottest artist in American comics at the time, Neal Adams.

So what do you do for an encore?  Well, if you’re Thomas, you segue right into a three-parter which, even if it can’t beat the KSW for length, at least gives it a run for its money in terms of scale — and which wraps things up with a very special 100th issue featuring every single Marvel character who’s ever been an Avenger, however briefly.   And as your collaborator on this trilogy, you bring back an artist who, since his first brief Avengers stint in 1969, has evolved from a raw but promising young talent to, well, another of the hottest artists in American comics, Barry Windsor-Smith.  Read More

Amazing Adventures #1 (August, 1970)

As I’ve previously related on this blog, I didn’t start buying Marvel comics on a regular basis until January, 1968 (though I’d bought my very first such issue almost half a year earlier, in August, ’67); therefore, I pretty much completely missed the era of Marvel’s original “split” books, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, and Tales of Suspense. Indeed, the month I became a full-fledged Marvelite was the very same month that Marvel rolled out Captain America and the Hulk in their brand-new solo titles, with Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange, and Nick Fury soon to follow.  It was a near miss, for sure; but it was a miss, all the same.

Still, even if I hadn’t experienced the old split book format firsthand, I knew what it was.  So, I doubt I was more than mildly surprised (if that) to see Marvel bringing it back after an absence of more than two years with the premiere issues of Amazing Adventures and Astonishing Tales, both released in May, 1970.  Read More

Avengers #65 (June, 1969)

In last month’s blog post about Avengers #64, we covered how the titular superhero team quashed the villainous scientist Egghead’s attempt to blackmail the governments of Earth using an orbiting death-ray satellite.  Our heroes’ victory, however, was marred by the violent death of their unlikely ally, a mob boss named Barney Barton — who, in an unexpected twist, turned out to be the older brother of the Avenger who, up until issue #63, had been known to one and all only as “Hawkeye”, but had now assumed the identity of Goliath — and who readers now learned had the given name of “Clint”.

Barney’s heroic sacrifice decisively ended the overarching bid for world domination by what had begun as a mad-scientist triumvirate, which consisted of the Mad Thinker and the Puppet Master in addition to Egghead.  The chronicle of this trio’s nefarious doings had actually begun in Captain Marvel #12, of all places, before weaving into Avengers #63, Sub-Mariner #14, and Captain Marvel #14, and then finally returning to Avengers for issue #64’s ultimate battle.  But Egghead had escaped at the end of that issue, meaning that there was at least one loose end left to tie off — a loose end that was given greater urgency by the fact that it involved an Avenger’s need to avenge his own dead brother.  Additionally, the revelation of Hawkeye/Goliath’s “real” name in the context of his previously unknown sibling relationship with a notorious gangster raised at least as many questions as it answered.  It would be the task of the series’ creative team, scripter Roy Thomas and penciller Gene Colan (joined this issue by new inker Sam Grainger), to address most, if not all, of this unfinished business in the pages of Avengers #65.  Read More

Avengers #64 (May, 1969)

Today’s post is the fourth in a series we’ve devoted to chronicling a storyline that ran through a number of Marvel comics in the first few months of 1969 — a sort of “stealth crossover” in which a number of the publisher’s heroes got involved (some without even knowing it) in foiling the dastardly plot of three (allegedly) big-brained super-villains intent on (what else?) taking over the world.  The comics readers of that time (your humble blogger among them) had to be paying close attention to all the editorial footnotes in the comics involved to follow the story (and even then, it was a hit-or-miss affair) — because, in high contrast to today’s multi-title “events”, Marvel’s in-house promotion for the crossover was virtually non-existent.

Things had first gotten rolling in January with Captain Marvel #12, in which the titular hero battled a powerful android, the Man-Slayer, that was trying to wreck a U.S. missile base in Florida called “the Cape” (as in Canaveral).  The Man-Slayer’s rampage was ultimately shut down not by Mar-Vell, however, but rather by S.H.I.E.L.D. operative the Black Widow, who was promptly taken prisoner by the Man-Slayer’s unseen masters.  Moving into February, Avengers #63 revealed the Widow’s captors to be the Mad Thinker, Egghead, and the Puppet Master.  The Widow was rescued by her boyfriend, the Avenging archer known as Hawkeye, though not before he’d downed a vial of Dr. Henry Pym’s growth serum and become the new Goliath.  Read More

Avengers #63 (April, 1969)

For younger readers of current comics, accustomed to publishers trumpeting every single guest appearance or “event” tie-in months in advance, the notion of a “stealth crossover” may seem all but incomprehensible.  Yet, that’s exactly what Marvel Comics did in the first quarter of 1969, as they carried over a plotline from the January-shipping issue of Captain Marvel into February’s Avengers (the subject of today’s post) without even so much as an editorial footnote in the first book to let fans know it was happening.  What the heck were they thinking fifty years ago, there at the “House of Ideas”?

But before we get into all that, we need to acknowledge the other two significant events happening in Avengers this month, one “in-story”, and the other behind the scenes, though both were heralded by the cover: the first, a major change concerning the superhero code-named Goliath; the second, the advent of a new regular artist — for after drawing Avengers for most of the last two years, John Buscema was being pulled off of the title to do layouts for Amazing Spider-Man, while Gene Colan was giving up Daredevil to take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Read More

Captain Marvel #12 (April, 1969)

Regular readers of this blog will have heard me say this before, but it bears repeating — sometimes, I just have no idea why my younger self chose to buy a particular comic book fifty years ago.

That’s certainly the case with the subject of today’s post.  After passing Captain Marvel by on the stands for almost a year, in January, 1969 I decided to gamble twelve cents on the series’ twelfth issue.  How come?

Was it the cover, by John Romita and Sal Buscema (or maybe George Tuska and Buscema — the usual reference sources differ)?  I suppose it could be.  It’s not a particularly distinguished composition (at least, not to my present-day, 61-year-old eyes), but it’s not what I’d call bad — and those bright, contrasting colors really do pop.  So, maybe.

Perhaps it was the result of a long-simmering curiosity about the character that had been sparked by my reading of the “Captain Marvin” parody in the ninth issue of Marvel’s Not Brand Echh series, back in May of ’68.  That piece, produced by the “real” Captain Marvel’s onetime writer and penciller (Roy Thomas and Gene Colan, respectively) had served as a sort of primer on the origin, powers, and modus operandi of “Marvel’s Space-Born Super-Hero!™” — though one read through a cracked glass, as it were.  It had also been pretty funny to my then ten-year-old sensibilities, even if Thomas’ gags referencing the original Captain Marvel had gone right over my head.  So, maybe I recalled this story when I saw Captain Marvel #12 on the spinner rack, and decided to give the “real thing” a try.  Read More