Justice League of America #94 (November, 1971)

A half century ago, when your humble blogger picked the object of today’s post up out of the spinner rack and eyeballed the cover for the first time, I was awfully curious as to who — or what — that wraithlike, red-tinged figure descending into Aquaman’s body might turn out to be.  At the same time, I wasn’t the least bit curious about the identity of the cover’s artist — since, with the exception of the usual left-hand column’s worth of floating JLA heads rendered by Murphy Anderson, the cover was the obvious work of Neal Adams.  And as Adams had either pencilled, inked or provided complete art for more Justice League of America covers than any other artist in the three years since his very first (for issue #66 [Nov., 1968] ), that was no surprise at all.

But interior art by Adams in an issue of JLAThat was unexpected; nevertheless, on turning past the cover to the book’s opening splash, that’s exactly what my fourteen-year-old self beheld:  Read More

Green Lantern #86 (Oct.-Nov., 1971)

There’s a lot going on on the cover of Green Lantern #86.  Besides boasting an outstanding illustration by Neal Adams that would probably be even better remembered than it is if it hadn’t followed right on the heels of its instantly iconic predecessor, the cover also boldly heralds the inclusion within the comic’s pages of “an important message” from no less a personage than the 1966-73 mayor of New York City, John Lindsayand proudly announces that Green Lantern has won the Academy Award for Best Comic.  That’s a lot to take in — but don’t worry, we’ll get to it all, starting with the subject of Adams’ compelling cover image — the concluding installment of the groundbreaking two-part story focused on drug addiction that Adams and writer Denny O’Neil had begun in the previous issue, #85Read More

Superman #242 (September, 1971)

With this issue of Superman, the story arc begun eight months earlier in the iconic #233 (“Kryptonite Nevermore!”) came to a close — and the revamp of the Man of Steel inaugurated in that issue by writer Denny O’Neil and editor Julius Schwartz was at last complete.  But before we dive into issue #242’s “The Ultimate Battle!”, written by O’Neil and illustrated by his usual artistic collaborators, Curt Swan (penciller) and Murphy Anderson (inker), we’ll need to back up one month to take a look at issue #241’s “The Shape of Fear!”, by the same creative team — which not only leads right into #242’s concluding chapter of the “Sand-Superman saga”, but also follows directly from the previous chapter in issue #240 — which, of course, also happens to be the last issue we posted about on this blog.

As you may recall, that installment had ended with a moment of great personal triumph for Superman, who, though his powers had been thoroughly leeched from him by his mysterious sandy duplicate,  had yet managed to save both himself and I-Ching (the mentor of Diana Prince, as seen regularly in Wonder Woman) from a vicious attack by the Anti-Superman Gang.  But as we’ll soon see, the note of optimism with which that chapter ended is about to turn decidedly sour… Read More

Green Lantern #85 (Aug.-Sep., 1971)

As we related on this blog back in February, in early 1971 Marvel Comics became the first major American comic-book company to publish a story dealing with drug abuse, when they released three monthly issues of Amazing Spider-Man without the Comics Code Authority’s Seal of Approval.  But DC Comics could easily have been the first to do so, instead, if only they’d had the nerve — or at least that’s how artist Neal Adams tells the story.

That story appears to begin with a project that DC was invited to produce for a government agency (either the City or the State of New York, depending on the version of Adams’ narrative you consult).  Both Adams and his creative collaborator on DC’s famously socially conscious title Green Lantern, writer Denny O’Neil, were asked to submit treatments for a comic book about drug addiction.  This, presumably, would have been some sort of giveaway comic, distributed in such a manner that the Comics Code would have been irrelevant — but the project never came to fruition.  As Adams told interviewer Bryan Stroud in 2007Read More

Batman #234 (August, 1971)

Over the course of writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams’s classic early-’70s collaboration on Batman, the team was responsible not only for introducing one major new adversary (Ra’s al Ghul) to the ranks of the Darknight Detective”s greatest foes, but also for reclaiming and refurbishing of two vintage baddies who’d fallen out of favor in recent years.  The second of these restorations to appear, “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge!” (Batman #251 [Sept., 1973]), is doubtless the best-remembered of the two, due to its ultimately having had such a dramatic impact not only on the Bat-mythos, but on the DC Universe as a whole — rehabbing what had become a joke of a character (no pun intended) during the camp “Batmania” era of the mid-Sixties into the comics medium’s quintessential avatar of psychopathic evil — a character arguably more popular than all but a small handful of DC’s best-known superheroes, and one with enough cultural gravitas for screen portrayals of him to have earned Academy Awards for two different actors.

I didn’t buy that one.  Read More

Justice League of America #91 (August, 1971)

It’s summertime!  The most wonderful time of the year — especially if you’re a fan of DC’s original super-team, the Justice Society of America, and the year happens to fall within the range of 1963 to 1985 — ’cause that means it’s time for the annual team-up between the JSA and their pals in the Justice League of America.  1971 brought the sixth of these events that I’d personally enjoyed since becoming a comic-book reader, and the ninth published overall.  And judging by the cover heralding this year’s team-up — more specifically, the two columns of floating heads flanking the dramatic central image by Neal Adams — 1971’s iteration of this beloved tradition was going to offer us something new: for the first time, the featured rosters of the two teams would be identical.  We were going to get two Supermen, two Flashes, two Green Lanterns, and so on — all for the price of one.  (Of course, as heralded by that “only 25¢ Bigger & Better” slug at the very top of the cover, the “price of one” had just gone up a substantial amount.  But more about that in a bit.)  Read More

Superman #240 (July, 1971)

With this issue of DC Comics’ flagship title, the “Sand Superman” saga that writer Denny O’Neil and penciller Curt Swan had initiated with the iconic Superman #233 (“Kryptonite Nevermore!”) moved into its climactic final phase.  In the previous chapter (published in #238, incidentally, as #239 was a giant-sized reprint issue), the Man of Steel had been brought to his lowest ebb yet.  While he’d ultimately managed to save the day in that episode, the victory had been a close one; with his powers still seriously depleted from multiple encounters with his mysterious sandy doppelgänger, our hero mused to himself in the story’s final panel:  “I’m a pretty poor excuse for a Superman these days… and that must change!  I’ll regain my former might — and soon! — or die trying!

Despite these determined words, however, when we turn past Neal Adams’ simple but dramatic cover for #240 to the story’s opening pages, we find that the Man of Tomorrow’s status remains pretty much the same as it was, well, yesterday:  Read More

Batman #232 (June, 1971)

Panel from Detective #411. Text by Denny O’Neil (and, presumably, Julius Schwartz), art by Bob Brown and Dick Giordano.

Last month we took a look at Detective Comics #411, featuring the first appearance of Talia al Ghul, and the first mention of her father, Ra’s.  As we noted at the time, despite that story giving the appearance of being one chapter in an extended story arc dating back to the first appearance of the League of Assassins in Detective #405, with the next installment already lined up for the very next issue of Batman, #432 (per a blurb in the story’s final panel), that wasn’t writer Denny O’Neil’s original intention at all.  Rather, as he’d later tell fellow Bat-writer Mike W. Barr in an interview for Amazing Heroes #50 (July 1, 1984), Talia was created specifically “to serve the needs of that plot and that story [i.e., Detective #411’s “Into the Den of the Death-Dealers”], with no thought that she would ever appear again, or that she would have a father, or any of that stuff.”  But somewhere in between the writer’s original conception and the story’s final published form, someone — perhaps Detective and Batman editor Julius Schwartz — had another idea; and the League of Assassins story arc, rather than concluding tidily with its third installment (fourth, if you count Detective #408’s “The House That Haunted Batman!”), instead became just the prelude to what was ultimately a much more influential saga, that of Ra’s al Ghul, “the Demon’s Head”.

But whence came Ra’s al Ghul?  Read More

Superman #238 (June, 1971)

Please –-” begs a kneeling Man of Steel on the cover of Superman #238, “You’re the only one on Earth who can help –”

No!” replies the figure standing before him with arms impassively folded.  “I am not human!  I care nothing for you and your world!”  The figure is Superman’s doppelgänger in every respect — save that it appears to be made completely out of yellow sand.

If all that you knew about early-’70s Superman comics was what you’d previously read on this blog, you’d still be able to tell that quite a bit had happened since the last issue I wrote about, back in November.  In that heralded first installment of “The Amazing New Adventures of Superman”, a scientific experiment gone haywire resulted in an explosion that  temporarily knocked our hero down and out, but then was revealed to have had the welcome, and apparently permanent, effect of turning all kryptonite on Earth into iron.  The first indication that something rather less welcome had also resulted from the blast came thirteen pages into the story, when Superman experienced a moment of weakness as he flew over the spot in Death Valley where he’d fallen during the explosion.  Two pages later, a figure slowly rose from the desert sands of that very spot, and while this “thing” had a marked resemblance to the Man of Tomorrow, it didn’t yet have a face — so you could hardly expect it to speak, as we now see it doing on Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson’s dramatic cover for issue #238 (which, incidentally, is the first Superman cover since #230 to be neither pencilled nor inked by Neal Adams.  Now you know.)

So, yeah, a lot happened in the last four issues.  Let’s see if we can get you caught up, shall we? Read More

Detective Comics #411 (May, 1971)

As of March, 1971, my thirteen-year-old self was picking up Detective Comics on a fairly consistent basis — but it was a habit I’d acquired only recently (or perhaps I should say reacquired, as I’d been a regular reader of the title before, back in 1965-67).  For that reason, I’d missed writer Denny O’Neil’s first two “League of Assassins” stories, which had run in issues #405 and #406, respectively.  On the other hand, I had bought and read Detective #408, whose lead Batman story, though not scripted by O’Neil, had featured an attempt by the villainous Dr. Tzin-Tzin to eliminate the Darknight Detective at the League’s behest.  So it wasn’t like I was completely unfamiliar with the sinister organization prior to my purchasing issue #411.  Rather, I was intrigued by the little I knew — and though I realized I was coming in late, I was eager to catch up. Luckily, this third installment of O’Neil’s League saga didn’t depend very much on knowledge of the previous two at all — and what little I did need to know, I’d manage to pick up easily through the script’s unobtrusive exposition.    Read More