Fifty years ago, John Romita’s cover for the topic of today’s blog post promised a certain degree of novelty; not only did it nod to the then-hot horror genre via presenting the superheroic Falcon as a werewolf, but it also heralded the debut of a new supervillain — and a Black female one at that. (Nightshade may not have been the first such character to appear in American comics, but her particular race-gender combo made her stand out in this era, nevertheless… actually, as far as your humble blogger can tell, it still does.)
But we readers of May, 1973 couldn’t guess the full scope of the novelty awaiting us until we turned to this issue’s first page: Read More
Readers of our Avengers #105 post back in July may recall how that issue’s plot — the first from the title’s brand new writer, Steve Englehart — concerned the team’s search for their missing member Quicksilver, who’d disappeared towards the end of the previous issue. Following the inconclusive resolution to their efforts in that tale, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes would continue their quest for the mutant speedster for months to come. But, surprisingly — well, it surprised me, back in November, 1972 — when Pietro Maximoff was finally “found”, it didn’t happen in the pages of Avengers; instead, Quicksilver resurfaced in, of all things, an issue of Fantastic Four — which, as it happened, was the new super-team scripting gig of Roy Thomas, the man who’d written Avengers for the last five-plus years prior to Englehart taking over, and thus the guy who’d launched the whole “where is Pietro?” mystery in the first place. From a creative standpoint, it made a certain kind of sense that Thomas would be the one to ultimately wrap things up; but in terms of the ongoing mega-story of the Marvel Universe, it seemed to come out of nowhere. How did Quicksilver ever manage to end up in the Himalayan homeland of the Inhumans, the Great Refuge? And why the heck was he fighting the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch, Johnny Storm? Read More
First off, please be advised that this blog post is going to be one of the long ones. That’s primarily due to the fact that, in addition to covering the specific fifty-year-old comic book that gives the post its title, your humble blogger is also goiing to take a shot at answering the age-old conundrum: who came first, DC Comics’ Swamp Thing or Marvel Comics’ Man-Thing? (Regular readers may recall that when the blog spotlighted the second Man-Thing story, back in March, I promised something of this sort would be forthcoming; that moment has at last arrived.)
But it’s also destined to be at least a bit on the long side because before I can even get into discussing Swamp Thing #1, I feel that it’s necessary to give some attention to an even older comic, one that came out over fifty-one years ago. Of course, I’m talking about House of Secrets #92, published by DC in April, 1971; the comic book whose first eight pages gave us the very first “Swamp Thing” story, as written by Len Wein, drawn (mostly) by Bernie Wrightson, and edited by Joe Orlando. Neither the behind-the-scenes story of how Swamp Thing-the-series came to be — nor my own initial reactions to the first issue of the latter, as a fifteen-year-old reader in August, 1972 — make a whole lot of sense outside of the context of that classic tale. So, that’s where we’re starting, on what in all probability will indeed be a lengthy (though hopefully also enjoyable) journey. Forewarned is forearmed, eh? Read More
In September, 1971, I bought my first issue of Captain America in almost two years; today, fifty years later, I’m not sure how to account for my long abstinence from the adventures of the Star-Spangled Avenger, especially considering that I was buying every other superhero title Marvel Comics was putting out at that time. (Well, almost every other title. Hulk remained a tough sell for your humble blogger, except for those occasions when his series crossed over with other books I followed, like Avengers.) Read More
As noted in my recent post regarding Gold Key’s Star Trek, I didn’t get to see the TV series on which that comic was based until it hit my local market in syndicated re-runs, around 1970-71. And since I started consuming licensed Trek tie-in media (what there was of it) almost immediately upon discovering the show, concurrent with my viewing the television episodes for the very first time, my initial encounters with some classic Trek stories ended up being by way of the printed page, rather than the cathode-ray tube. That’s because the earliest licensed prose fiction based on the property, a series of paperback books written by James Blish and published by Bantam Books, were collections of short stories adapted from the TV episodes themselves. Read More
When I first started buying Marvel comics in 1968, Daredevil was one of the first of the company’s titles that I sampled; over the next couple of years, it would be one of my most consistent purchases from any publisher. With that in mind, it seems a little odd that when I returned to the adventures of the Man Without Fear in December, 1970, after more than a year’s hiatus, I came back by way of a crossover with Iron Man — a Marvel series I’d only read intermittently up to this point. Read More
In the letters column of the comic that’s our main topic today, reader Normand LaBelle of Sherbrooke, Quebec expressed his great displeasure with the Captain Marvel series’ recent turn of direction, finding fault especially with the drastic changes to the titular hero’s powers and mission that had come about in issue #11. In responding to Mr. LaBelle, the anonymous editorial staffer — probably Marvel Comics associate editor (and, as of this very issue, returning Captain Marvel writer) Roy Thomas — essentially agreed with him: Read More
By May, 1969, I’d been reading Marvel comics regularly for about a year and a half, and had sampled at least one issue of most of their superhero-fronted titles — most, but not quite all. This month, I finally got around to checking out The Incredible Hulk.
At this time, my knowledge of the Hulk was pretty much limited to what I’d been able to glean from his guest appearances in comics I had read, the most substantial of which had been in Avengers Annual #2 (Sept.,1968) and Captain America #110 (Feb., 1969). From those, I’d learned at least some of the basics regarding the character — I knew, for instance, that the Hulk was the super-strong alter ego of Dr. Bruce Banner, an otherwise “ordinary” human being. I even knew a bit about his past history with a teenager named Rick Jones. But I also knew that he was belligerent, dangerously uncontrollable, and — at least sometimes (especially as depicted by artist Jim Steranko in CA #110) — rather frightening. Based on what I’d seen so far, I didn’t quite understand what made the Hulk a superhero.
But Marvel certainly seemed to be positioning him as a superhero, as best as I could tell; and I liked Marvel superhero comics. Thus, it was inevitable that I’d give the Hulk’s series a shot sooner and later; and when Hulk #118 came along, it probably seemed like an ideal opportunity to take the plunge, if only because the issue guest-starred the one other Marvel heroic headliner whose title I still hadn’t sampled: Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Read More
After having bought Captain America for five months straight (or almost straight, as I somehow managed to miss issue #111), in early 1969 I took a couple of months off from reading the Star-Spangled Avenger’s adventures. Five decades later, I can’t quite remember why I did so. Obviously, beginning with #114 there was a considerable stylistic shift in the look of the book, which had just seen the end of Jim Steranko’s brief but epochal run as the series’ artist — but it seems unlikely that I would have turned up my nose at the work of either John Romita (who drew both the cover and interiors of #114) or John Buscema (who contributed the interior art for #115, behind a Marie Severin cover), considering how much I enjoyed their work on other titles. Admittedly, the Romita cover is a little dull, at least in comparison to the Steranko (and Jack Kirby) jobs that immediately preceded it, but it’s hard for me to believe I would have passed on Severin’s dramatic rendition of a shrunk-down Cap being held prisoner within a transparent cube by the Red Skull, while Sharon Carter looks on helplessly. Perhaps I never actually saw that issue on the stands (or the one preceding it, for that matter). Read More
I first made the acquaintance of Marvel Comics’ X-Men in April, 1968 — one year prior to the publication of the subject of today’s post. — when they made a guest appearance in Avengers #53. That particular issue turned out to be the last chapter of a crossover story that had begun in the mutant team’s own book; and even though I now knew how everything would turn out, I was still curious enough about the characters and situations to go back and pick up the preceding chapter in that same month’s issue of X-Men (and even to buy the issue before that, when the opportunity presented itself). But though I enjoyed those two comics well enough, I wasn’t taken enough with either of them to keep following the series. As I wrote in my X-Men #45 post last year, that may have been partly due to the somewhat atypical circumstances surrounding the book at the time I sampled it. Marvel had then just recently decided to start downplaying the team concept in the series’ cover designs, in favor of spotlighting the individual members (or, in a few cases, major story events); a decision that was soon mirrored in the stories themselves, as the team actually broke up in the issue immediately following the Avengers crossover, #46. In addition, I was almost certainly influenced in my decision to pass on X-Men (at least for the time being), by my lack of enthusiasm for the competent but underwhelming art that then filled the title’s pages, by the likes of Don Heck and Werner Roth.
Apparently, I wasn’t alone in my general attitude of indifference to Marvel’s Merry Mutants, as, by virtually all accounts, the title was the publisher’s worst selling at the time — if not yet right on the edge of cancellation, then still uncomfortably close to it. Which is why, when Neal Adams — the hottest young artist at Marvel’s main competitor, DC Comics — came to Marvel expressing an interest in doing some work for them, and editor-in-chief Stan Lee gave him his choice of assignments… Adams chose to work on X-Men. Read More