Justice League of America #87 (February, 1971)

Some fifteen months ago, I blogged about Avengers #70, which featured the first full appearance of the Squadron Sinister.  Regular readers may recall my sheepish confession in that post that, despite how blindingly obvious it is to me now that these four characters were homages to/parodies of (take your pick) DC Comics’ Superman, Batman, Flash, and Green Lantern, in September, 1969 my then twelve-year-old self didn’t pick up on the joke at all.

Nor was I aware that this comic book was one half of a “stealth crossover” of sorts between Marvel Comics’ Avengers and its counterpart title over at DC, Justice League of AmericaSaid crossover apparently had its origins at a party at which comics writer Mike Friedrich suggested to a couple of his cohorts, Roy Thomas (the writer of Avengers) and Denny O’Neil (then the writer of JLA), that they each present a “tip of the hat” of some sort from the super-team book they were writing to its rival, in issues coming out in the same month.  Thomas and O’Neil both agreed, and Avengers #70 and JLA #75 were the results.  But while the inspiration for Thomas’ Squadron Sinister was all but self-evident (though of course not to me, or to the other fans who chimed in after my September, 2019 blog post that they hadn’t caught on either), the relationship of the supposed Avengers analogues in O’Neil’s story — evil doppelgängers of the Justice League called “the Destructors” — to their Marvel models was obscure to the point of opacity, with the parallels being limited to such bits as having Superman’s dark twin refer to himself as being as powerful as Thor.  (Um, sure.)  I didn’t actually buy JLA #75 when it came out, but I’m all but 100% certain I wouldn’t have realized what O’Neil was up to with such subtle shenanigans, even if I had.  Read More

Sub-Mariner #34 (February, 1971)

When Sub-Mariner #34 came out in November, 1970, it had been precisely one year since I’d bought an issue of the title.  It’s somewhat ironic, then, that there’s a well-known direct connection between that issue, Sub-Mariner #22 and the subject of today’s post — even if it’s a connection that’s only obvious — and perhaps even only exists — in retrospect.

That connection, of course, is that both comics are generally understood to be major building blocks in the development of the Defenders, the “non-team” that, for some of us old geezer fans, all but epitomizes 1970s Marvel Comics (at least as far as superheroes are concerned).  Read More

Amazing Spider-Man #85 (June, 1970)

In July, 1969, Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Stan Lee announced in his “Stan’s Soapbox” column that the company was instituting a new “no continued stories” policy for all its titles.  Today, that policy (which remained in place for about a year and a half, at least officially) is widely considered to have been not Lee’s own idea, but rather one that was imposed on him by his then-boss, publisher Martin Goodman.  Assuming that’s true, it’s interesting to consider how much Lee flouted the policy in one of the relatively few books he still wrote himself, The Amazing Spider-Man — which, as it happens, was also the company’s best-selling title, and thus probably the one most likely to be noticed by Goodman.  Read More

Avengers #70 (November, 1969)

If you’re a regular reader, you may recall that at the conclusion of last month’s post concerning Avengers #69, your humble blogger unburdened himself of a shameful, half-century-old secret — namely, that upon his first encounter with the brand-new supervillain group the Squadron Sinister way back in August, 1969, he had not the faintest clue that they were intended as parodies of the Justice League of America — who were, of course, the Avengers’ counterparts over at Marvel Comics’ Distinguished Competition, not to mention a team that he’d been reading about regularly for almost four years.

Imagine my gratified surprise when, subsequent to that post going up, I heard from a number of fellow old fans that they, too, had failed to get writer Roy Thomas’ joke back in the day.  I’m honestly not sure whether that means that my twelve-year-old self wasn’t all that dumb after all, or simply that a lot of us were that dumb, but either way, I’ll take it as a win.  Read More

Amazing Spider-Man #78 (November, 1969)

By the late summer of 1969, Marvel Comics had been slowly but steadily increasing the number of black characters in its titles for some time.  Having already introduced the first black costumed superhero, the Black Panther, to the world in 1966, Marvel had gone on to develop such non-costumed, supporting cast-type African-American characters as newspaper editor Joe “Robbie” Robertson and his family (in Amazing Spider-Man); while Gabe Jones, who’d been appearing as one of Sgt. Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos in that World War II army unit’s series since 1963, was gaining greater visibility in the present-day Marvel Universe as one of Fury’s agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..  June, 1969, had brought the debut of Marvel’s first African-American hero, the Falcon (the Panther, of course, was African, but not American) — and with August came the first appearance of yet another black costumed character, the Prowler.  This character, however, would be introduced as the world not as a superhero — but as a super-villainRead 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

Amazing Spider-Man #68 (January, 1969)

As early as 1964 — barely three years into what Marvel Comics’ editor-in-chief Stan Lee had already proclaimed “The Marvel Age of Comics” — it was already evident that the publisher’s output, ostensibly aimed at an audience of children and (maybe) young teens, was rapidly growing in popularity on college campuses.  Besides the missives from readers with university addresses that frequently appeared in Marvel’s letters columns (perhaps somewhat out of proportion to the actual percentage of mail Marvel received from college students, though it’s hard to know for sure),  Lee himself was being invited to speak at such august institutions of higher learning as Bard College.  In September, 1965, both Spider-Man and the Hulk managed to crack Esquire magazine’s list of current college campus heroes, “28 People Who Count”, where they rubbed shoulders with the likes of Bob Dylan and Malcolm X; by the following year, Marvel rated an entire six-page feature article in the magazine’s annual college issue, which reported that as many as 50,000 American college students had joined Marvel’s official fan club, the Merry Marvel Marching SocietyRead More

Spectacular Spider-Man #2 (November, 1968)

By August, 1968, I’d been buying Amazing Spider-Man regularly for eight months; and if it hadn’t yet become my very favorite comic book, it was awfully close.  I wasn’t quite ready to start investigating his earlier, reprinted adventures in Marvel Tales just yet (perhaps because I wasn’t yet sold on the other Marvel heroes he shared space with in that twenty-five center — Thor and a solo Human Torch — or perhaps because at that time I still thought Steve Ditko’s artwork looked a little strange), but otherwise, I was buying everything your friendly neighborhood arachnid appeared in.

Or I was trying to, anyway.  I know for sure that when the full-age ad shown below had turned up in Marvel’s comics that spring, I’d been pretty darned jazzed, and had had every intention of buying the book:  Read More

Not Brand Echh #9 (August, 1968)

I gotta say, I sometimes have a hard time figuring out what was going through my younger self’s mind when I made certain choices at the spinner rack half a century ago.  The subject of today’s post is a case in point.  I mean — why would I put down 25 cents for a giant-size humor comic filled with satirical versions of Marvel characters I was only now getting to know in their “serious” incarnations?

I’m guessing that it was partly because Not Brand Echh, with its parodies of current movies and TV shows as well as comic books, reminded me of Mad magazine — which was one of my most regular comics purchases in the late Sixties, despite the fact that I haven’t yet devoted a blog post to it (probably because back in my younger days, I didn’t think of Mad as a bona fide “comic book”, due to its black-and-white magazine-size format).  And, hey, my inclination to go for the “bargain” of getting multiple heroes for the price of one (which, in contrast to Mad, I’ve often noted on the blog), may have figured into my purchasing decision as well — even if these were parody version of the heroes, there were still a lot of ’em.  Read More

The Brave and the Bold #76 (Feb.-March, 1968)

When I picked up this issue of Brave and the Bold fifty years ago (give or take a couple of weeks), Batman’s co-star in the book, Plastic Man, had been around for over twenty-six years — almost as long as the Caped Crusader himself.  But he’d only been a DC Comics hero for a little over one year — which is about as long as my ten-year-old self had been aware of him.  Read More