Marvel Spotlight #5 (August, 1972)

Like many another character to arise out of the production methods of the two major American comic book companies, Marvel Comics’ supernatural superhero Ghost Rider — the one with the flaming skull — had a number of creative minds involved in his beginnings.

Or, alternatively, he was in every significant sense the creation of one sole individual.  It all depends on whom you ask. (Or perhaps that should be “asked”, as more than one of the principals involved is no longer with us.)

That’s true in regards to a number of other comics characters as well, of course — though in most cases, the difference in opinion doesn’t make it all the way to federal court.  But more on that a bit later.  For now, let’s begin with a fact that’s not in dispute — to wit, that the flaming-skull guy who debuted in the 5th issue of Marvel Spotlight half a century ago was not the first comic book hero to bear the name “Ghost Rider”.  Read More

Kull the Conqueror #3 (July, 1972)

In April, 1972, the third issue of Marvel Comics’ Kull the Conqueror arrived on stands — a full eleven months after the release of issue #2.

Of course, as folks who’ve been regular readers of this blog for a while already know, while Kull, the comic book, had been absent for almost a year, the same could not be said of Kull, the character.  Marvel’s associate editor Roy Thomas, who in 1971 had launched this second series based on a Robert E. Howard fantasy hero in the wake of Conan the Barbarian‘s success (as relatively modest as that was, so far) was evidently determined to keep Conan’s literary forbear in the public eye — perhaps in hopes of eventually resuscitating the cancelled Kull title, or maybe just because he liked the hero and his milieu and/or was enjoying his collaboration (as the series’ writer) with sister-and-brother art team Marie and John Severin, who’d both come aboard Kull with issue #2.  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

Conan the Barbarian #10 (October, 1971)

One week ago, in our post about Amazing Spider-Man #101, we shared the two lead items from the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page that ran in that issue (as well as in other Marvel comics shipping in July, 1971), which explained how, due to editor Stan Lee taking a couple of weeks off his comics-scripting duties to work on a screenplay, other writers would be temporarily stepping in to handle his titles.

But Stan’s sabbatical wasn’t the only big news out of Marvel that month, as was indicated by the very next Bulletin:  Read More

Kull the Conqueror #2 (September, 1971)

In the waning months of 1970, with the early sales reports on their new Conan the Barbarian series good enough to warrant bumping the title up from bi-monthly to monthly publication, Marvel Comics — likely driven at least in part by the enthusiasm of Conan writer (and Marvel associate editor) Roy Thomas — decided to take a chance on another sword-and-sorcery barbarian hero created decades earlier by pulp writer Robert E. Howard: King Kull.

Though he’d almost immediately come to be seen by comics fans (well, by this one, anyway) as Howard’s “number two” hero, Kull was actually the earlier creation, predating the author’s imagining of Conan the Cimmerian by some three years.  Kull could even be seen as the prototype for the later, more commercially successful hero, as the very first Conan story, “The Phoenix on the Sword” (published in the magazine Weird Tales in 1932) was a reworked version of an unsold Kull yarn, “By This Axe I Rule!”  Read More

Hulk #118 (August, 1969)

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

Doctor Strange #180 (May, 1969)

As I’ve related in previous posts, I was a little slow in warming up to Doctor Strange.  Marvel Comics finally got me in late 1968, however, through the double-barrelled approach of first giving him a visual makeover, and then guest-starring him in The Avengers.  Those moves caught my interest — which, according to what Roy Thomas (a Marvel associate editor at the time, not to mention the writer of both Doctor Strange and Avengers) would state decades later in his introduction to Marvel Masterworks – Doctor Strange, Vol. 3, was precisely what the publisher had hoped they’d do.

But the next issue of Doctor Strange to hit the stands after Avengers #61 was a reprint, featuring the good Doctor’s “old look” — though, since it was a reprint of a classic tale by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee that co-starred Spider-Man, and which was 100 % new to me, I didn’t really have much to complain about.  Still, I was happy to see Doctor Strange #180, the “real” follow-up to Avengers #61, when it finally arrived in early February, 1969.  Read More