New Gods #6 (Dec.-Jan., 1971)

Over the six years that I’ve been producing this blog, I’ve found the fifty-year-old comic books I write about here — all of which I bought off the stands when they first came out — generally fall into one of three categories.  First, there are those comics that I liked, or even loved, when I originally read them, but which don’t hold up all that well today; though I can usually still find things to enjoy about these books, it’s by considering them either through the rosy lens of nostalgia, or at something of an ironic distance — sometimes both.  Second, there are those comics which, allowing for the inevitable changes in popular tastes and prevailing styles that have occurred over the last half-century, still hold up quite well indeed; such books continue to provide an entertainment experience that can be recommended to other readers with few if any reservations.

And then there’s the third, as well as the smallest, category: the comic books that I didn’t enjoy as much when I first bought and read them as I do today.  The comic books that I needed to grow into to fully appreciate.  Read More

Thor #195 (January, 1972)

While I can’t claim to have distinct memories of the moment my fourteen-year-old self first laid eyes on the cover of Thor #195, one half-century ago, I feel confident in telling you that I was pretty happy about it (new Marvel Comics “picture frame” cover design notwithstanding).  That’s in part because penciller John Buscema and inker Frank Giacoia provided a well-crafted illustration, obviously; but for me, it had more to do with the subject of the illustration.  The God of Thunder and his best buds, the Warriors Three (who just so happened to be my favorite members of Thor‘s supporting cast, but hardly ever seemed to make the cover)  battling a bunch of trolls?  That seemed to put us right square in the middle of the high fantasy territory that often, but not always, supplied the milieu for the Son of Odin’s adventures, both in his current run and in the old Stan Lee-Jack Kirby Journey into Mystery stories I was then enjoying in reprint form via Special Marvel Edition.  More to the point, that particular territory was my favorite milieu for Thor stories, as it had been since I’d caught the high fantasy bug by way of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in the summer of 1970 — and the main reason why Thor had become my favorite Marvel superhero in the months since then.  Read More

Forever People #6 (Dec.-Jan., 1972)

When we last left the Forever People, at the conclusion of their fourth issue back in June, our young heroes were in desperate straits.  Having been captured by Glorious Godfrey and his Justifiers in #3, they had then been handed over to the not-so-tender mercies of Desaad, who’d imprisoned them in his own private “kingdom of the damned” — essentially a torture camp, though presenting itself to the outside world as an innocent amusement park called “Happyland”.  The young gods’ sole hope seemed to lie with their living, sentient computer, Mother Box — and with the stranger into whose care Mother Box had teleported herself: a young man named Sonny Sumo.  Read More

Lois Lane #116 (November, 1971)

A little less than half a century ago, in the letters column of Lois Lane #119 (Feb., 1972), reader Karl Morris of San Diego, CA commented favorably on the title’s recent use of elements from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World mythos, but expressed concern that writer Robert Kanigher might be treading on dangerous ground: “Unless he keeps a very close check on Jolting Jack, Rapid Robert might find himself out of sync with Kirby’s Fourth World.  (Though God only knows how anyone keeps up with it!)”

Not to worry, responded LL‘s editor, E. Nelson Bridwell: “…the way we keep up with the Kirby epic is that yours truly proofreads all his mags when the artwork comes in from California, where Jarring Jack lives.”  From there, Bridwell segued into a plug for the then-current issue of New Gods (#7) which, though obviously well-intentioned, arguably gave away more of that comic’s monumental Big Reveal than Kirby, or most of his readers, might have wished.  But, hey, water under under the bridge; and besides, that’s not why we’re bringing all this up.  Read More

Avengers #94 (December, 1971)

In crafting the installment of their ongoing “Kree-Skrull War” epic that arrived on stands in September, 1971, the Avengers creative team hadn’t had the luxury (or, if you prefer, the burden) of 34 pages to work with, as they’d had for a single issue with the previous month’s issue #93.  Rather, the first 20-cent edition of the title featured a mere 23 pages of art and story.

Nevertheless, the reduction of space didn’t deter writer Roy Thomas from continuing to break each issue’s episode of the galaxies-spanning saga into multiple chapters — or from giving every chapter its own individual title, each inspired by a well-known work of science fiction.  For #94’s “More Than Inhuman”, the reference was to Theodore Sturgeon’s 1953 novel, More Than HumanRead More

New Gods #5 (Oct.-Nov., 1971)

With this post, we’re taking a short break from Giant-Size Marvel Month to pay a brief visit to the DC Universe — more specifically, to that section of it known as Jack Kirby’s Fourth World.  When last we looked in on the New Gods, our hero Orion had assumed the earthly disguise of “O’Ryan” just in time for he and his ally, P.I. Dave Lincoln, to go into action against Inter-Gang — the human criminal organization allied with the forces of Apokolips — and their plan to take out Earthly communications technology for thousands of miles.  While the duo were able to thwart Inter-gang’s immediate plot with the secret aid — or at least the presence — of the mysterious Black Racer, the organization itself was hardly slowed down — as Orion would learn as early as the next issue.

In New Gods #4’s “O’Ryan Gang and the Deep Six”, the war between Apokolips and New Genesis enters a deadly new phase, as for the first time — or at least the first we readers have been privy to — a denizen of the latter god-world falls to enemy forces upon our own Earth.  Pulled from harbor waters by police officers, he is recognized by Orion:  Read More

Avengers #93 (November, 1971)

If there’s a single comic book that best exemplifies the potential of the all-new, 48-page format which Marvel Comics rolled out to great fanfare in August, 1971 (or, as we’ve christened it on this blog, Giant-Size Marvel Month), it surely must be the subject of today’s post: Avengers #93, featuring the 34-page story “This Beachhead Earth” — which, in addition to being the mid-point of the extended storyline known as the Kree-Skrull War, was also the first installment of a short but superlative run on the series by the creative team of scripter Roy Thomas, penciller Neal Adams, and inker Tom Palmer.

And if any set of classic comics exemplifies just how contentious two talented creators can become over the issue of who deserves the credit for which aspects of their storied collaboration, it’s the same short Avengers run by Thomas, Adams, and Palmer. Read More

Thor #193 (November, 1971)

While any specific memory of the occasion has been lost to time after half a century, I feel pretty sure I was at least mildly startled when I dropped in at my neighborhood Tote-Sum in the first week of August, 1971, and discovered that all the new Marvel comics — including the latest issues of three series I was buying regularly, Daredevil, Iron Man, and Thor — were now 25 cents (up from 15), and 48 pages, not counting covers (up from 32).

I wasn’t completely surprised, of course.  After all, DC Comics had raised their prices and page counts by the exact same amounts two months earlier, and it only made sense that Marvel would eventually follow suit.  (The only other comics industry price hike I’d experienced personally — the move from 12 cents to 15 cents back in 1969 — had been effected by both DC and Marvel more or less simultaneously.)  What was more, several Marvel titles, such as Conan the Barbarian, had already made the jump to the new format/price point back in July — a move that Marvel had at least hinted could be a harbinger of things to come via a comment on that month’s Bullpen Bulletins page.  (“As for what the future holds in store for the rest of our magniloquent mags — well, keep lookin’ forward, pilgrim, ’cause that’s where the future’s coming from!”)  But a hint’s not the same thing as a promise, and just because one expects something to happen eventually, doesn’t mean one won’t still be surprised when said thing happens right now.  So, I’d say that at least some mild startlement was in order for my fourteen-year-old self, as well as for most of my comics-buying peers.  Read More

Mister Miracle #4 (Sep.-Oct., 1971)

When I was nine years old, I fell in love with a superheroine whose unlikely name — a name that still brings a wince of lust and embarrassment to my face when I say it — was Barda. Big Barda. I have never recovered, thank God, from my first sight of her, in Mister Miracle #8 (September 1972).  — Michael Chabon, “A Woman of Valor”, 2004.

Your humble blogger’s own first meeting with Big Barda came four issues earlier than did that of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay; and I was fourteen years old at the time, not nine.  Nevertheless, I can definitely relate.  Read More

Jimmy Olsen #141 (September, 1971)

Why Don Rickles?

That was the question I had, back in the spring and summer of 1971, as Jack Kirby devoted not just one, but two issues of Jimmy Olsen — the first two following the conclusion of his initial story arc for the series, a six-chapter saga that he’d begun in his very first issue — to a tale focused on the famous insult comic.

It’s not that my fourteen-year-old self had anything against Don Rickles; I actually thought the guy was pretty funny.  But that didn’t necessarily mean that I wanted to see him — or any comedian, really — in my superhero comics.  I certainly didn’t expect it, in any event.  Read More