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

Thor #158 (November, 1968)

By the time September, 1968 rolled around, I’d been interested in Thor for a while.  I’d been intrigued by the couple of appearances he’d made in in Avengers issues I’d bought, and I was fascinated by the idea that this Marvel Comics superhero was apparently the same guy as the Thunder God from the Norse myths I’d studied in school (even if the Marvel version was blonde and clean-shaven, rather than red-haired and bearded, like in the myths).  I have a distinct memory of gazing at a copy of Thor #152 sitting in the spinner rack at the Short-Stop, and wondering not only who the big ugly bruiser Thor was fighting with was, but all those other strangely garbed characters in the background, as well.  But in February of ’68, when that book came out , I was still feeling my way as a new Marvel reader, and wasn’t quite ready to take the plunge.  I was feeling a lot more comfortable with Marvel by September, though.  And, in fact, I might have sampled Thor even earlier, if I hadn’t been able to tell from the Mighty Marvel Checklist’s monthly issue descriptions that the series was then in the midst of an ongoing storyline, featuring the Mangog, that lasted through the summer.  Read More

Avengers #53 (June, 1968)

The first Marvel comic book I ever bought was Avengers #45, back in August, 1967, but even though I enjoyed that issue, I wouldn’t get around to trying another Avengers comic for another eight months.  By April, 1968, however, I’d begun buying both Amazing Spider-Man and Daredevil regularly, and I was ready to expand my Marvel-reading horizons a little further.  Avengers was already a known quantity, obviously, and issue #53 clearly had something else going for it, as well — the appearance of a whole other super-group, the X-Men.

I’m honestly not 100% certain that I even knew whether the X-Men were supposed to be heroes or villains at this point, though it seems likely I would have noticed their book on the stands at some point.  Assuming I did know that the X-Men were good guys, that would have been another strong selling point, as my younger self appears to have loved the idea of getting double the heroes (in this case, two hero teams) for the price of one — as attested to by the fact that in my first couple of years of comic book consumption, the only title I bought almost as regularly as Justice League of America was The Brave and the Bold, (which, of course, featured DC’s heroes teaming up with one another).  And the fact that the cover heralded a “vs.” situation wouldn’t have thrown me, either — even as a mostly-DC reader up to 1968, I knew that heroes fought each other sometimes.  After all, I was the proud owner of JLA #56, which featured what’s probably the first instance of the battle-lines-of-heroes-charging-each-other motif that informs Avengers #53’s cover (as it would many another cover through the years).  Read More

Avengers #45 (October, 1967)

By August, 1967, I’d been buying and reading comic books for two years — and the books that I had bought had almost exclusively been those published by DC Comics, with an occasional Gold Key issue for variety.  But in that month, as the Summer of Love (or the Long Hot Summer, take your pick) wound down — I finally broke down and bought my first Marvel Comics Group comic book.

So what the hell took me so long?

It’s entirely possible that I just didn’t see that many Marvel comics on the spinner racks in those first two years of comic-book buying.  Prior to 1968, the publisher’s newsstand distribution was controlled by Independent News (a company owned by National Periodical Publications, aka DC Comics — and no, that doesn’t sound like an ideal competitive situation, does it?), which restricted the number of titles that Marvel could release per month.  That restriction would be all but completely lifted by early 1968, but in the summer of 1967, it was still in place.  Read More