New Gods #11 (Oct.-Nov., 1972)

As was related in our post about Forever People #11 at the beginning of this month, Jack Kirby is reputed to have already begun work both on that comic and on New Gods #11 when he received word from DC Comics that those two issues would be the last for both titles.  The official word was that the two series were being “temporarily suspended”; but Kirby seems to have known that this was truly the end for both of his cherished creations, at least for the foreseeable future.

While we’ll probably never know just how far the writer-artist had already gotten in plotting, drawing, or scripting either comic, there can be no doubt that he made whatever adjustments were necessary to be able to provide the readers of both Forever People and New Gods with not just one last adventure of the series’ titular heroes, but with an ending for each.  In the case of Forever People, Kirby quite literally took his characters off the field, transporting them across the cosmos to an idyllic planet far from the battlefront between the warring god-worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips.  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

Forever People #11 (Oct.-Nov., 1972)

As I previously covered back in June in my post about the first issue of The Demon, sometime in the first half of 1972 DC Comics requested writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby to come up with a couple of new series concepts to complement the three titles already on his schedule.  The results were pitches for what ultimately became The Demon and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth — and DC liked them a lot.  Indeed, from Kirby’s perspective, they may have liked them a little too much. Read More

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