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

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

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

Thor #184 (January, 1971)

When my thirteen-year-old self picked up Thor #184 in November, 1970, I hadn’t read a single issue of the title in over a year.  The last issue I’d bought, Thor #169, had featured the conclusion of Stan Lee and Kirby’s long-running (and, apparently, extensively reworked) Galactus storyline; it also led directly into Thor’s confrontation with the Thermal Man, the culmination of a subplot that had woven through the last couple of issues.  Apparently, I wasn’t interested enough in seeing the God of Thunder and yet another of Kirby’s super-powerful but personality-free robots (of whom the King gave us a few too many in the late ’60s) whomp on each other for twenty pages, and so I passed on #170.  Then, a month later, I opted to pass on #171 as well; and then on #172, and then #173…  Read More

Avengers #83 (December, 1970)

Fifty years ago, one didn’t necessarily expect fresh linguistic coinages to turn up in comic books right away.  If anything, comics were notorious for incorporating slang words and expressions (especially those presumably favored by America’s youth) years past their peak of popularity– if, indeed, they’d ever been popular at all.

But in its incorporation of the phrase “male chauvinist pigs” on its cover, Marvel Comics’ Avengers #83 seems to have been right on the money.  Read More

Thor #166 (July, 1969)

There’s a case to be made that the God of Thunder’s adversary in the issue of his comic we’re discussing today — the being known at this point only as “Him”, though he’d later pick up the less confusing appellation “Adam Warlock” — was the last major character creation of artist/storyteller Jack Kirby during his most important and productive tenure at Marvel Comics.  As recalled by comics writer and historian — and longtime Kirby associate — Mark Evanier (and reported by numerous writers, including Mike Gartland in The Jack Kirby Collector #24), the story that Kirby plotted and drew for Fantastic Four #66 – 67 was a tale of well-intentioned scientists who create an ultimate human being, an entity who’s not only physically perfect but also possesses godlike powers, only to have this being, once it’s emerged from gestation within its cocoon, turn on them and destroy them, simply because they don’t meet his standards of perfection.  However, when it came time to script the story, Kirby’s collaborator (and editor), Stan Lee, jettisoned this theme — intended as Kirby’s ironic commentary on Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy — possibly because it didn’t present a clear-cut “bad guy”.  In Lee’s version of the story — which was the one that saw print, of course — the scientists wanted to use their creation to dominate the world; “Him” realized this, and destroyed the would-be despots before taking his leave of humanity.  Already disgruntled with Lee (and with Marvel Comics, generally) over a number of matters — including the way that Lee had appropriated and reinterpreted an earlier Kirby creation for FF, the Silver Surfer —  Kirby may have seen this latest alteration of his creative vision to be, in Gartland’s words, “the last straw”.  From this time on, the theory goes, the “King” would refrain from bringing his full creative powers to bear on the work he did for Marvel, with the result that he would introduce few, if any, truly significant new characters in his last couple of years before jumping ship for DC Comics.  Read More

Daredevil #47 (December, 1968)

When we last checked in on Matt Murdock for this blog, he was engaging in an unnecessary (but still entertaining) slugfest with Captain America, while also moping over having been (sort of) dumped by his (kinda) girlfriend, Karen Page.  All that, of course, went down in Daredevil #43, published in June, 1968.  The three issues that followed that one told a single story, in which Daredevil was framed for murder by his newest arch-foe, the Jester, who’d been introduced in #42.  I bought those issues when they came out, and the story was a pretty good one, as I recall.  Nevertheless, I’ve opted not to blog about them here — mainly because the Jester’s not all that interesting to me as a villain, and I’ve already made most of the general comments I could make about scripter Stan Lee and penciler Gene Colan’s late-Sixties DD work in earlier posts.

Daredevil #47 is something different, however.   “Brother, Take My Hand!” (for which Lee and Colan are joined by inker George Klein) is a standalone story without any flashy costumed super-villains, which deals meaningfully with some fairly unusual topics for a 1968 comic book — the Vietnam War, physical disabilities, and racial equality — without actually being “about” any of them.  Read More

Thor #158 (November, 1968)

By the time September, 1968 rolled around, I’d been interested in Thor for a while.  I’d been intrigued by the couple of appearances he’d made in in Avengers issues I’d bought, and I was fascinated by the idea that this Marvel Comics superhero was apparently the same guy as the Thunder God from the Norse myths I’d studied in school (even if the Marvel version was blonde and clean-shaven, rather than red-haired and bearded, like in the myths).  I have a distinct memory of gazing at a copy of Thor #152 sitting in the spinner rack at the Short-Stop, and wondering not only who the big ugly bruiser Thor was fighting with was, but all those other strangely garbed characters in the background, as well.  But in February of ’68, when that book came out , I was still feeling my way as a new Marvel reader, and wasn’t quite ready to take the plunge.  I was feeling a lot more comfortable with Marvel by September, though.  And, in fact, I might have sampled Thor even earlier, if I hadn’t been able to tell from the Mighty Marvel Checklist’s monthly issue descriptions that the series was then in the midst of an ongoing storyline, featuring the Mangog, that lasted through the summer.  Read More

Batman #194 (August, 1967)

Recalling my early comics-reading years, I can’t think of another comic book that I looked forward to with as much breathless anticipation, simply based on the house ads, as I did Batman #194.  And I can’t think of another comic book that I considered as huge of a letdown once I finally got hold of it and read it, as I did Batman #194.

It was the cover that grabbed me in those ads, of course.  That amazing Carmine Infantino-Murphy Anderson cover, with its impeccably rendered figures of Batman and Blockbuster, its dynamic action, and, most of all, its imaginative (and, for the time, daring) incorporation of the book’s title within the illustration.  My nine-year-old self had never seen anything like it.  Read More