Shazam! #1 (Feb., 1973)

In our present age, when not only the original Captain Marvel has been the subject of a blockbuster motion picture (with a second one on the way), but so has his most powerful adversary, it may be difficult for younger fans to comprehend just how obscure Billy Batson and his alter ego were to the average comic book reader of half a century ago.  Even if you were an avid comics fan who’d been reading superhero funnybooks for the past seven years (as was my fifteen-year-old self, back in December, 1972), you might not have much more than a vague idea of what the “Marvel Family” and its mythos were all about, prior to the publication of Shazam! #1.  Read More

Justice League of America #103 (December, 1972)

I may be misremembering, but I have a vague recollection of my fifteen-year-old self looking at this one at the spinner rack back in October, 1972 and thinking, “The Justice League standing around a grave site?  Again?”  After all, it had only been three issues since artist Nick Cardy had built his cover for JLA #100 around a similar idea.  On the other hand, it was October — the spooky season — and what could be spookier than an open grave?  Especially when said grave was being ominously loomed over by… hey, is that the Phantom Stranger?  In an issue of Justice League of America?  Forget about repetitive cover concepts; I couldn’t wait to buy this one and take it home.  Read More

Batman #244 (September, 1972)

Neal Adams’ cover for Batman #244 is probably one of the most famous and iconic comic book covers of its era.  There are a number of good reasons for that, starting with the sheer drama of the moment it depicts, as our hero lies vanquished, perhaps even dead, at the feet of his greatest enemy, Ra’s al Ghul.  Then there’s the strength of Adams’ composition, which frames that dramatic moment so perfectly, as well as the sophisticated coloring by Adams and Jack Adler, which wonderfully enhances the mood as well as the visual appeal of the illustration.

And then there’s the chest hair.  Oh, and the nipples, of course.  Mustn’t forget the nipples.  Read More

Justice League of America #100 (August, 1972)

In the spring of 1972, Len Wein had been writing comics professionally for almost four years.  The career trajectory of the 23-year-old fan-turned-pro had thus far taken him from writing scripts for DC titles like The Adventures of Jerry Lewis, House of Secrets, and Hot Wheels, to similar work at other publishers including Marvel, Skywald, and Gold Key (Star Trek being among his gigs at the latter outfit), and then back to DC, where he’d been scripting Phantom Stranger for about a year, among other assignments.  But his experience with the publisher’s best-known super-heroes had largely been limited to a single issue of Teen Titans, one Batman story in Detective (both co-written with his friend Marv Wolfman), and, more recently, a smattering of tales in Superman, Flash, World’s Finest, and Adventure.  So you can imagine his surprise (and excitement, and trepidation) when, out of the blue, editor Julius Schwartz asked him if he’d like to write Justice League of America on a regular basis:  Read More

Batman #242 (June, 1972)

In addition to being a fine piece of artwork by Michael W. Kaluta, the cover of Batman #242 represents a minor milestone of sorts; outside of those for a small handful of giant-sized all-reprint issues, it was the first cover since October, 1969 for either Batman or its companion title, Detective Comics, not to have been drawn by Neal Adams.  (That particular month, not so coincidentally, was the same one in which those titles’ editor at DC Comics, Julius Schwartz, introduced the Caped Crusader’s “Big Change” — a return to a moodier, more grounded approach to the hero that was largely inspired by what Adams had been doing over in Brave and the Bold for the last year or so.) Read More

Justice League of America #97 (March, 1972)

During the nearly yearlong period (June, 1971 through April, 1972) that DC Comics published most of their books in a giant-sized, 25-cent format, Justice League of America presented a particular sort of challenge for its editor, Julius Schwartz.  The problem arose from the fact that the new, larger format called for a certain amount of reprint material — generally, 13 to 15 pages’ worth — to fill out each issue.  And whereas for Schwartz’s other books, such as Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Superman, there was a ready archive of suitable old stories featuring the titular stars, the same wasn’t true for JLA, which from the beginning had been devoted to issue-length tales of more than 20 pages.  Such stories weren’t going to work as backups in the new format without being either cut in half or severely abridged, neither of which options seems to have appealed to the veteran editor.  Read More

Lois Lane #118 (January, 1972)

With this post, we continue our coverage of Lois Lane‘s forays into Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, courtesy of editor E. Nelson Bridwell, scripter Robert Kanigher, penciller Werner Roth, (primary) inker Vince Colletta, and uncredited Superman/Clark Kent head-finisher Murphy Anderson.  As you may recall, the intermittent usage of Kirby’s concepts and characters in the title had begun in #111, then resumed in #115 before continuing into #116Read More

Batman #237 (December, 1971)

Batman #237’s “Night of the Reaper!” wasn’t the first comic book story set at the real-life Rutland, VT Halloween Parade; that distinction goes to Avengers #83, which was published one year earlier (and was covered here on this blog last October).  Nor would it be the last such tale.

But it was almost certainly the best of the bunch.

That’s really not surprising, given that the story was crafted by one of the most outstanding creative teams of the era — writer Denny O’Neil, penciller Neal Adams, and inker Dick Giordano — as well as that it, more than most of its fellows, aspired to be about something more than either the Parade itself, or conventional superheroic goings-on — something decidedly more serious, in fact — and was largely successful in achieving this aim, ultimately addressing the subject of the Holocaust in a dramatic, but sensitive, manner.

Nevertheless, the origins of this classic story in certain actual (but not very serious) events — and the appearance within its pages of several equally actual persons who either already were, or would soon become, well-known comics industry professionals — can’t help but be responsible for a certain amount of “Night of the Reaper!” lasting appeal.  And it’s with those events, and persons, that we begin.  Read More

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