In March, 1972, Marvel Comics published the first issue of Hero for Hire. The new comic’s titular star, Luke Cage, wasn’t Marvel’s first Black superhero (that distinction belonged to the Black Panther, who debuted in 1966), or even its first Black American superhero (that would be the Falcon, whose first appearance came in 1969). But he was the first Black superhero to star in his very own comics title — not just from Marvel, but from any major American company — and that made the release of Hero for Hire #1 a milestone.
According to Roy Thomas, the initiative to create Luke Cage came from Stan Lee, who was then on the verge of ascending from his longtime role as Marvel’s editor-in-chief to become its publisher — and who was determined to diversify Marvel’s line on a number of levels, one of which was race. Taking obvious inspiration from the “blaxpoitation” trend in early 1970s American cinema, Lee and Thomas worked with writer Archie Goodwin and artist John Romita to conceptualize and design the new hero, before bringing two more artists on board — George Tuska and Billy Graham. (the latter being the only Black person among this assortment of talents) — to craft the first issue’s story with Goodwin. Read More
Calendar-specific note for anyone reading this blog post on or soon after its original date of publication: No, your humble blogger hasn’t gotten his holidays mixed up. But I’m at the mercy not only of what comics were published a half century ago this month, but also of which comics my younger self actually bought… and my December, 1972 haul was decidedly light on seasonally appropriate fare. On the other hand, Tomb of Dracula #7 does at least have snow in it, so maybe that counts for something. And now, on to our regularly scheduled fifty year old comic book…
In December, 1972, a little over a year since its debut, Marvel Comics’ Tomb of Dracula had seen six issues delivered to stands — a run of stories which, despite having been drawn by a single artist, had been written by three different authors (five, if you count plotting contributions made to the first issue by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas). That sort of creative churn generally didn’t bode well for the long-term health of an ongoing series; but for ToD, the fourth attempt at finding a regular writer for the book would prove to be the charm, as Marv Wolfman came on board with issue #7 — and then remained at the helm for the next sixty-three issues, or (to put it another way) the next six-and-a-half years. Read More
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 titles 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
As I’ve discussed in a previous post, when Marvel Comics brought back their mid-Sixties double-feature format with two titles in 1970, my younger self promptly jumped on one of them — Amazing Adventures, co-starring the Inhumans and Black Widow — picking up both the first and second issues. For some reason, however, I put off sampling the companion title — Astonishing Tales, headlined by Ka-Zar and Doctor Doom — for several months, so my first issue was the series’ third. Yes, reader; that does indeed mean that I turned up my nose at new work from not just one, but two giants of comic book art — Jack Kirby (who already had one foot out the door at Marvel) and Wally Wood (who was just putting a foot back in). What can I say? I was a callow youth, who pretty much took Kirby for granted (he put a couple of new books out every month, after all; if you missed one, there’d be another one along in a couple of weeks) — and, truth to tell, I didn’t yet know who Wood even was, or why I should care. 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
For younger readers of current comics, accustomed to publishers trumpeting every single guest appearance or “event” tie-in months in advance, the notion of a “stealth crossover” may seem all but incomprehensible. Yet, that’s exactly what Marvel Comics did in the first quarter of 1969, as they carried over a plotline from the January-shipping issue of Captain Marvel into February’s Avengers (the subject of today’s post) without even so much as an editorial footnote in the first book to let fans know it was happening. What the heck were they thinking fifty years ago, there at the “House of Ideas”?
But before we get into all that, we need to acknowledge the other two significant events happening in Avengers this month, one “in-story”, and the other behind the scenes, though both were heralded by the cover: the first, a major change concerning the superhero code-named Goliath; the second, the advent of a new regular artist — for after drawing Avengers for most of the last two years, John Buscema was being pulled off of the title to do layouts for Amazing Spider-Man, while Gene Colan was giving up Daredevil to take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Read More
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
Marvel Comics’ original summer tradition of publishing “King-Size Special!” annual issues featuring (mostly) new material had a relatively brief heyday in the Sixties — just six years, really. I’ve known that for decades, but before digging into my collection to do the research or this blog, I hadn’t realized how very few of those annuals I actually bought new off the stands. While I’d bought my first Marvel comic book in the summer of 1967, I didn’t pick up any annuals until the summer of 1968 — and that was the last year that the specials featured all-new material, at least for a while. As it turns out, I just managed to catch the very tail end of this golden era of Marvel annuals. And I’d end up buying all of two off the spinner rack Read More
The subject of today’s post has the distinction of being the first Marvel Comics “first issue” I ever purchased. That may actually be somewhat less of a big deal than my putting it that way makes it sound, since, way back fifty years ago in May, 1968, I’d only been buying Marvel’s books regularly since the beginning of the year — and also because prior to January, 1968, launches of brand-new Marvel comics were pretty rare birds. Read More