Demon #1 (Aug.-Sep., 1972)

I’ll be honest with you — it feels a little strange to be writing about the first issue of Jack Kirby’s The Demon in June, at a time when I still have my final posts about Forever People and New Gods coming up in August.  That’s because for the better part of the past half-century, I’ve tended to categorize the bulk of Kirby’s work at DC Comics in the 1970’s as being either “the Fourth World” or “everything after the Fourth World”.  But the fact of the matter is that those categories overlap chronologically, even if only by a couple of months.  And that’s significant, I believe, as it reflects the fact that when the writer-artist came up with the series concepts for both The Demon and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth fifty years ago, he thought of them as complementary — and probably secondary — to his ongoing Fourth World epic, rather than as the replacement for that ambitious project that they inevitably became.

Which doesn’t necessarily mean that Kirby would have approached the development of Demon and Kamandi differently, had he known that these two series were what he was going to be spending the majority of his working hours dealing with for the next year or more.  But it’s something to think about,  at least.  Read More

Mister Miracle #9 (Jul.-Aug., 1972)

In March, 1972, the lead story of Mister Miracle #8 had ended with a “Coming!” blurb promising that the very next issue would introduce readers to a “lovable old rascal” named Himon — billed not only as the man who’d mentored the series’ titular hero in his craft of escape artistry, but as an updated take on the character Fagin from Charles Dickens’ 1838 novel Oliver Twist.  With Ron Moody’s Oscar-nominated performance as Fagin in the 1968 film adaptation of the musical Oliver! still relatively fresh in the pop-cultural memory, readers might have been forgiven for expecting Mister Miracle #9 to be something of a romp — a tale one might read while listening to the movie soundtrack’s renditions of “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” or “I’d Do Anything” playing in the background.

On the other hand, readers who’d been following the “Young Scott Free” back-up feature in the last few issues of Mister Miracle might suspect that such a level of jauntiness would be incongruous (to say the least) in the context of our hero’s upbringing on the hell-planet of Apokolips.  But even those readers might not be prepared for the reality of “Himon!” — probably the darkest and most brutal episode of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World epic yet to appear, although one that still ends on a strong note of optimism and hope.  Read More

New Gods #9 (Jun.-Jul., 1972)

In its design, the cover of New Gods #9 mirrors that of Forever People #9, the other Jack Kirby comic published by DC in April, 1972.  Both covers feature a dominant image that excludes the comic’s titular stars, who are shunted off to a narrow. left-side border; both utilize a considerable amount of black in their color schemes, as well.  This striking similarity seems unlikely to have been a coincidence.

In his indispensable book Old Gods & New: A Companion to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World (TwoMorrows, 2021), author John Morrow posits that, in both cases, the intent was to boost sales by making the books look less like superhero comics and more like something in the horror-mystery genre, which was then a successful niche for DC.  Morrow suggests that this was part of a move by the company’s publisher, Carmine Infantino, to take a heavier hand in setting the course for these two titles, both ostensibly under the editorial control of Kirby.  (Another known indicator of that heavier hand was Infantino’s directing Kirby to include Deadman as a guest star in issues #9 and #10 of Forever People, regardless of Kirby’s disinterest in the character.)  Read More

Forever People #9 (Jun.-Jul., 1972)

In October, 1971, Don and Maggie Thompson’s fanzine Newfangles reported:

There are indications that DC is in serious trouble. Dealers are not too keen on the 25¢ comic book[s], sales are skyrocketing for Marvel, Charlton and Gold Key (GK has 15¢ books, Marvel and Charlton 20¢)… DC’s titles are also reported to be dying in droves on the stands, if they get that far—wholesalers prefer to handle the 20¢ books, apparently.

A couple of months later, with disappointing sales reports now in for about a quarter-year’s worth of the “bigger & better” format DC had inaugurated in June, publisher Carmine Infantino prepared to make some course adjustments.  The most significant upcoming change would be to the format itself (more on that later), but there were other indicators of Infantino’s efforts to staunch the bleeding as 1972 got underway; for example, Green Lantern, one of the signature series of DC’s Silver Age, was cancelled with its 89th issue, shipping in February.  As for the titles written, drawn, and edited by Jack Kirby, with which DC had clearly hoped to clean up with sales-wise following Kirby’s 1970 defection from DC’s chief rival, Marvel Comics: Jimmy Olsen was removed from Kirby’s purview with the 148th issue (which, like GL #89, came out in February); and while Infantino wasn’t quite ready to pull the plug on Kirby’s three remaining titles — the core books of the star creator’s interconnected “Fourth World” epic — he appears to have been determined to take a more active role in guiding their respective directions than he had before.  If the King could ever have been said to have had free rein in managing “his” comics at DC (and that’s by no means an indisputable statement), that day was over.  Read More

Mister Miracle #8 (May-Jun., 1972)

In March, 1972, the eighth issue of Mister Miracle picked up right where #7 had left off.  Having voluntarily returned to the dark god-world of Apokolips with the aim of formally earning his freedom through trial by combat, our titular hero, aka Scott Free, had been taken into custody by the forces of Granny Goodness — as had been his friend, ally, and fellow former inmate of Granny’s “orphanage”, Big Barda.  But while Scott was taken away to the mysterious Section Zero to face an unknown fate, Granny ordered that Barda “be returned to the female barracks”.

And that’s just where we find Big Barda on the first page of MM #8 — though the precise manner of her arrival is probably not quite what Granny had in mind…  Read More

Thor #200 (June, 1972)

Cover to Journey into Mystery #1 (Jun., 1952). Art by Russ Heath.

Cover to Journey into Mystery #83 (Aug., 1962). Art by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott.

As milestone issues of long-running comic-book series go, Thor #200 is a fairly odd duck, for a number of reasons.  The first, of course, is that it’s not really the 200th issue of “Thor at all; rather, it’s the two-hundredth sequential release of a periodical publication that began its existence in 1952 as Journey into Mystery, an anthology title which had nary a thing to do with the Norse God of Thunder until the Marvel version of that mythological figure made his debut in its 83rd issue, ten years into the book’s run.

Since the title of the publication wasn’t changed from Journey into Mystery to Thor until issue #126, there hadn’t ever been a Thor #100.  (To the best of my knowledge, there hasn’t been one in later years, either, despite multiple relaunches of the series over the last few decades; and given Marvel’s current publishing model, which simultaneously incorporates both successive restarts and “legacy” numbering, there probably never will be.)  The actual 100th issue of “Thor” as a continuing feature had been #182 — and though that was a pretty good issue, featuring a battle with Dr. Doom as well as marking the beginning of John Buscema’s multi-year tenure as the series’ new regular artist, it hadn’t taken any special note of the occasion.  By the time issue #200 rolled around, however, Marvel had made the 100th issues of Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man causes for celebration — and they were about to do the same with Avengers #100, which would arrive on stands one week after Thor #200 (it’ll also arrive on this blog one week from today, just in case you were wondering).  With 200 being such a nice round number, it would have been surprising if Marvel hadn’t chosen to commemorate Thor‘s issue numbering reaching it, as arbitrary as the milestone was in some ways.

But all of that represents just one way that Thor #200 was somewhat off-model as commemorative issues go.  Another was that the main story was a retread of a tale originally presented in 1966 (right around the time Journey into Mystery became Thor, coincidentally enough).  And yet another was that that story was a fill-in — or, at least, it read like one.  Read More

Conan the Barbarian #15 (May, 1972)

When we last left Conan back in December, he and his two companions — Zephra (daughter of Conan’s old foe, the wizard Zukala), and Elric (ruler of an otherworldly realm called Melniboné) had just fended off an attack by Prince Gaynor the Damned and his Chaos Pack of beast-men.  We now pick up the tale where Conan the Barbarian #14 left off, as presented by the same storytellers — plotters Michael Moorcock (creator of Elric) and James Cawthorn, scripter Roy Thomas, artist Barry Windsor-Smith, and co-inker (with Windsor-Smith) Sal Buscema:  Read More

New Gods #8 (April, 1972)

Following two episodes set either on the ocean waves or on the god-worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips (the latter also being set many years in the past), in the eighth issue of New Gods writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby brought the action back to the city of Metropolis for the first time since issue #5.  In doing so, he was required to pick up plot threads that had been left dangling ever since that issue, published six months earlier, as well as to re-introduce a significant new supporting character not seen since then.  Of course, Kirby being the master storyteller he was, he could throw you right into the middle of the action — as he does on the very first page of #8 — and you’d find yourself acclimated almost immediately, even if you’d never read any previous issue of New Gods, let alone remembered the details of issue #5:  Read More

Thor #199 (May, 1972)

Back in October of last year, this blog took a look at Thor #195 — the initial chapter of incoming writer Gerry Conway’s first full story arc for the series, following two issues devoted to wrapping up a multi-parter begun by his predecessor, Stan Lee.  If you’ve been wondering if we were ever going to get back to the God of Thunder’s quest for the Twilight Well at the World’s End, well, thou need’st worry no longer.  Though, since it’s been a few months, we obviously have some catching up to do on the three issues that fall between #195 and the main topic of today’s post, Thor #199.

But before we jump into a recap of issues #196-198, it would probably be useful to briefly refresh our collective memory about what went down in #195.  We have discussed a lot of other comic books in the last four months, after all.  Read More

Monsters on the Prowl #16 (April, 1972)

You know, Marvel may have never quite licked the horror/mystery/fantasy/science fiction/what-have-you anthology format during the Bronze Age of Comics — at least not in the color comics arena — but you’ve got to give them points for trying.  From 1969 to 1975, the publisher launched at least sixteen series that can be grouped within that admittedly broad category (more, if you include all the title changes).  It’s quite the bewildering array of funnybooks to try to get a handle on half a century later, even if you were buying and reading Marvels all through the era (as your humble blogger indeed was).  Trying to account for all those Loose Creatures and Dwelling Monsters, not to mention the Shadowy Towers and Crypts and the Chambers offering you a choice of either Darkness or Chills, can feel like a real Journey into Mystery at times; honestly, it can be hard to know if you’re coming or going.  Or Prowling or Roaming, if you catch my drift.

But never Fear, faithful reader — Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books is here to help.  While I can’t promise you’ll possess a comprehensive understanding of all the varied aspects of this little chapter in comics history by the time you finish reading this post, I believe that I can at least relieve you of feeling like you’re trapped within a Tomb of Darkness, informationally speaking.  Something like that, anyway.  At least for the first couple of years of the phenomenon.  Read More