Panel from Avengers #112 (Jun., 1973). Text by Steve Englehart; art by Don Heck and Frank Bolle.
As we covered in last month’s blog post about Avengers #113, writer Steve Englehart had introduced a mystery in the previous issue, #112, by briefly bringing onstage a brand-new character, Mantis, and her unnamed, only-seen-in-shadow companion. About all we were told about the latter character, in either his first or his second blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance (in #113) was that he had a prior association with the series’ titular super-team, and that he had strong, less-than-positive opinions about a recently departed Avenger, Hawkeye. Not a whole lot to go on, at least in the opinion of my fifteen-year-old self… though, to be honest, I probably didn’t give the matter a whole lot of thought at the time. After all, there were plenty of other comic books to be read back in the spring of 1973, and a caption in #113 had promised us that the next issue would bring a solution to the puzzle of this mystery man’s identity. So, I was content to wait to see what May would bring us.
As it turned out, when Avengers #114 was released, I wouldn’t even have to pull the issue all the way up out of the spinner rack to discover the answer to the two-month-old mystery, as the cover (probably by John Romita) prominently featured both Mantis and her shadowy beau — so much so, in fact, that the tops of the couple’s heads obscured some of the lower real estate of the book’s logo. And if I had had a moment’s confusion in trying to place the purple-costumed, mustachioed gent dominating the cover’s left half (which I’m pretty sure I didn’t), the story title blurb at the bottom would have clued me in by the time I got the comic all the way out of the aforementioned spinner rack, by letting me know that Mantis’ mysterious amour was none other than… the Swordsman! 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
I’m not sure exactly what my fourteen-year-old self was expecting to see on the cover of Avengers #97 when it first turned up in the spinner rack, back in December, 1971; nevertheless, I’m pretty confident that Gil Kane and Bill Everett’s illustration highlighting Captain America, the original Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner — plus four other guys I didn’t recognize — wasn’t anywhere near it. I mean, it was a great image, but aside from Cap, none of those characters were Avengers. And “Rick Jones Conquers the Universe!”? OK, that last bit wasn’t so unexpected — it had been pretty clear from the latter scenes of the preceding issue that Rick was going to play an important role in the conclusion of the Kree-Skrull War. But still — where the heck were the Avengers? Or the Kree or the Skrulls, for that matter? Read More