Fantastic Four #112 (July, 1971)

You always remember your first.

(Your first Hulk vs. Thing slughest, that is.  Why, what did you think I meant?)

Technically, I suppose FF #112’s “Battle of the Behemoths!”, crafted by the regular Fantastic Four creative team of scripter Stan Lee, penciller John Buscema, and inker Joe Sinnott, wasn’t really my first experience seeing these two Marvel Comics heavy hitters go at it.  Rather, that would have come several months earlier, courtesy of  Marvel’s Greatest Comics #29 (Dec., 1970), which reprinted the characters’ very first meeting from FF #12 (Mar., 1963); the problem there, however, was that that story (a production of Lee, Jack Kirby, and Dick Ayers) was actually a bit of a bust, at least as far as Thing-Hulk dust-ups went.  The two bruisers didn’t actually encounter each other until page 17 of a 23-page story, and in the three page fight scene that followed, ol’ Jade Jaws took on the entire Fantastic Four, not just Bashful Benjy Grimm.  While both big guys got in some licks, the scene ultimately wasn’t very satisfying as a one-on-one match.

Also contributing to making this story less than a slam-dunk for my thirteen-year-old self was its age — or, more accurately, what its age signified in terms of the development of the characters, both visually and personality-wise.  This was a decidedly different Hulk than the one I was familiar with — among other things, this guy spoke in the first person, and he wore purple trunks, rather than the tastefully torn trousers of the same hue that I was used to seeing him in — while this Thing was a lumpier and more belligerent fellow than the hero I was accustomed to, as well.  Read More

Fantastic Four #108 (March, 1971)

In December, 1970, after four months of whetting fans’ appetites with Jack Kirby’s first three issues of Jimmy Olsen, DC Comics at last published the debut issues of two brand new titles by Kirby, Forever People and New Gods.

And in that same month, Marvel Comics published Fantastic Four #108, containing the very last new work by Kirby for that title, some six months after the last issue fully drawn by the artist had shipped.

Some fans are of the opinion that the concurrence of these events was not coincidental; that either because Marvel wanted to capitalize on the publicity surrounding Kirby’s new DC titles, or because the company wanted to steal a bit of Kirby and/or DC’s thunder concerning their launch, or perhaps for some other reason entirely, Marvel purposefully contrived for this issue — a patchwork put together months after Kirby’s departure from the House of Ideas, featuring a combination of his pencilled art with additional work by John Buscema and John Romita, all inked by Joe Sinnott and scripted by Stan Lee — to reach spinner racks around the same time as the debut issues of the King’s highly anticipated new projects.  Read More

Fantastic Four #103 (October, 1970)

As was discussed in last month’s post on Fantastic Four #102, that issue — featuring the final collaboration of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on the title — also included a “Stan’s Soapbox” column informing Marvel Comics’ readers that Kirby was departing not just from FF, but from Marvel as a whole.  Though I didn’t mention this fact in the earlier post, the same Marvel Bullpen Bulletins text page that featured that announcement also included a relatively lengthy biography of John Romita — a creator who’d been a Marvel mainstay since 1966, and had been either the full penciller or the layout artist for Marvel’s other top title, Amazing Spider-Man, for most of that period.  By this time, then, he could hardly have been thought to be an unfamiliar figure to most regular Marvel readers; nevertheless, editor-in-chief Lee seemed to think it was a good idea to introduce (or re-introduce) Romita to the publisher’s True Believers in the wake of Kirby’s abrupt (and unexpected) exodus. Read More

Fantastic Four #102 (September, 1970)

Jack Kirby was leaving Marvel for DC.

It was the comics industry story of 1970 — and if you were a hip, well-connected fan who subscribed to Don and Maggie Thompson’s newszine Newfangles, you learned about it not all that long after the industry pros did, in March:

If, on the other hand, you were just a run-of-the-mill, solitary comics-reading twelve-year-old like yours truly, you probably had no idea that this was happening until June, when you perused the Bullpen Bulletins page that ran in all Marvel’s comics cover-dated September, 1970 (including Fantastic Four #102), and read the stunning news in Stan Lee’s “Soapbox” column:  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 #71 (December, 1969)

At the conclusion of Avengers #70, published fifty years and one month ago, readers were promised that the next issue would feature “the most shocking surprise guests of all!!”  A month later, those fans who picked #71 up off the spinner rack wouldn’t have to look any further than the dynamic Sal Buscema-Sam Grainger cover to learn the identity of those guest stars — though it’s likely that a lot of them had already gotten the news courtesy of the Mighty Marvel Checklist entry for the book that ran in that month’s Marvel comics’ Bullpen Bulletins text page: “The battle that time forgot!  The Avengers take on Cap, the Torch, and Namor in wartime Paris!  Don’t miss “Endgame!”

In October, 1969, my twelve-year-old self had yet to read a single Golden Age Marvel (or Timely, if you prefer) comic book story.  And while I’d gleaned enough information in my few years of reading current Marvel comics to know that Captain America, the original Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner had all been around in the 1940s, I’m not sure if I knew whether or not they’d ever appeared in the same story together before.  I certainly didn’t know about the Invaders — and neither did anyone else, including their creator Roy Thomas (also the scribe of our current tale), since they wouldn’t actually exist for another six years.  So to see these three characters in World War II-era action was a whole new thing for me (and probably for a lot of other readers as well). Read More

Fantastic Four #94 (January, 1970)

With the 94th issue of Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics’ new single-issue story policy, first announced by editor-in-chief Stan Lee in a “Stan’s Soapbox” editorial three months earlier, finally caught up with the publisher’s flagship title — its implementation there having been delayed for a couple of issues while Lee and his collaborator Jack Kirby wrapped up their “Skrull gangster planet” multi-parter.  Prior to that storyline, the book had featured another serialized tale, involving the Mole Man, that filled up two issues and spilled over into a third; that story had in turn followed a Dr. Doom epic that ran four issues; and so on.  In fact, the last real “done-in-one” story to appear in Fantastic Four had been “Where Treads the Living Totem!” in #80 (Nov., 1968) — an issue which happened to be not only the second-ever FF comic I’d ever bought, but also my least favorite issue to date.  Outside of reprints, prior to October, 1969 that was likely the only single-issue, non-continued Fantastic Four story my twelve-year-old self had ever read. Read More

Fantastic Four #91 (October, 1969)

The titular subject of today’s post is the first full chapter in the final complete multi-issue storyline of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four.  Along with that distinction, this story arc is well remembered for being one of the best examples of how Kirby, by this time deeply dissatisfied with his situation at Marvel Comics, was rather brazenly lifting his story ideas from stuff he’d seen on TV.  Several months earlier, he’d “playfully parodied the theme of” (as an item in this very month’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins put it) the British cult program The Prisoner for the main conceit of a four-part Doctor Doom epic.  This time, it was an episode of Star Trek — or, more probably, two episodes of Star Trek.  But before we get into all that, here’s a bit of background to help set the stage…  Read More

Amazing Spider-Man #75 (August, 1969)

Back in October of last year, I wrote a post about Amazing Spider-Man #68, the first installment of the “petrified clay tablet” story arc that would run for a full eight issues (or ten, depending on how you look at it — more about that later).  If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you may remember that I identified this storyline as a major highlight of my early years as a Spider-Man fan, and that I wrote I planned to return to it for at least a couple more posts before we reached the 50th anniversary of its finale.

Well, it’s kind of funny how things go, sometimes.  The fact is, there have been so many other fine comics hitting the half-century mark over the past seven months that Spidey has kept getting squeezed out.  But there’s no way I can let the climactic chapter, issue #75’s “Death Without Warning” pass by without posting about it; and so, here we are.  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