Phantom Stranger #24 (Mar.-Apr., 1973)

In recent months, we’ve followed the Phantom Stranger’s crusade against the secret society of sinister sorcerers called the Dark Circle, as chronicled by writer Len Wein and artist Jim Aparo.  That crusade finally comes to an end in the 24th issue — so after pausing just long enough to admire Aparo’s typically fine, mood-setting cover, let’s turn to the first page and get right to it, shall we?  Read More

Phantom Stranger #23 (Jan.-Feb., 1973)

Artist Jim Aparo’s dramatic cover for Phantom Stranger #23 depicts a scene that unmistakably calls back to Gaston Leroux’s 1909-10 novel Phantom of the Opera, or one of its several film adaptations; meanwhile, a blurb at the top plugs the opening installment of a new back-up series, “Frankenstein”.  A prospective buyer eyeing this one in the spinner rack back in November, 1972, might well have wondered:  didn’t the comic’s publisher, DC Comics, know that Halloween was last month?  Why were they releasing this kind of Double Creature Feature now, after the spooky season had already passed?

On the other hand, this was the latest issue of Phantom Stranger — and “spooky” was what this comic book title was all about, not just in October, but all year long.  So I suspect most fans probably didn’t think twice about the double dose of classic horror stars, half a century ago; in any event, I’m pretty sure I didn’t, either when I first eyed the cover, or when, after buying the book and taking it home, I finally turned to the first page…  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

Thor #207 (January, 1973)

In our last post we discussed Amazing Adventures #16, one of three comics published in October, 1972 in which a trio of young comic-book writers staged an unofficial crossover between Marvel and DC Comics, set at the annual Halloween Parade in Rutland, Vermont, and featuring themselves as characters, without telling their bosses they were doing so.  In this post, we’ll be taking a look at another of those comics: Thor #207, which, behind its dynamic cover by Gil Kane and Joe Sinnott, features a script by Gerry Conway and art by John Buscema, Vince Colletta… as well as Marie Severin, whose mysterious credit for “good works” covers her renderings of the story’s likenesses of Conway, Steve Englehart, Len Wein, and Glynis Oliver (who, as it happens, also served as the story’s colorist, under her then-married name of Glynis Wein).  Read More

Amazing Adventures #16 (January, 1973)

In previous posts, we’ve discussed a couple of early “unofficial” crossovers between DC and Marvel Comics that appeared in 1969 and 1970.  Both involved an issue each of DC’s Justice League of America (#75 and #87) and Avengers (#70 and #85), and both were built on a conceit of each super-team series parodying the stars of the rival company’s book during the same month.  Part of the fun — at least for the creators responsible — was its mildly illicit nature, as none of the writers involved (JLA‘s Denny O’Neil and Mike Friedrich, Avengers‘ Roy Thomas) informed their bosses (DC’s Julius Schwartz, Marvel’s Stan Lee) what they were up to.  The results were perhaps something of a mixed bag (both as crossovers and simply as stories), but for the most part, these books made for a good time for comic-book fans.  Read More

Swamp Thing #2 (Dec., 1972-Jan., 1973)

According to an interview with Bernie Wrightson published in Back Issue #6 (Sep., 2004), the artist was initially reluctant to take on Swamp Thing, in large part because he wasn’t sure he’d be able to handle the deadlines required in producing a regularly published full-length comic book — even one that came out on a bi-monthly schedule.  What ultimately convinced him?  Mostly, he said, it was because he realized he’d never get a better chance to draw a series that would be “wall-to-wall monsters”.

That opportunity didn’t come immediately, of course; as readers of Swamp Thing #1 (or our August 13 blog post on same) already know, there’s just one bona fide monster in that issue — and he doesn’t even show up until well into the story.  But as we’re about to see, by only the series’ second installment, young Mr. Wrightson would be able to make his dreams come true.  Read More

Phantom Stranger #22 (Nov.-Dec., 1972)

Last November, we discussed Phantom Stranger #17, the fourth outing on the title for writer Len Wein. In that issue, Wein and his collaborator, artist Jim Aparo, showed us a more human side of the mysterious titular hero than we’d seen previously, largely through the introduction of a potential romantic interest.  But the Phantom Stranger bid farewell to that interest — a beautiful blind psychic named Cassandra Craft — at the end of #17; and the potential for more characterization-rich storytelling (and perhaps even a touch of issue-to-issue continuity) that Ms. Craft’s advent had seemed to signify wasn’t followed up on in the next couple of issues, both of which featured standalone adventures in which the Stranger operated as solitarily as he had before. Read More

Justice League of America #102 (October, 1972)

Fifty years ago, this issue brought the conclusion of the tenth annual Justice League-Justice Society summer team-up extravaganza — a special event which also served to commemorate the League’s reaching its 100th issue milestone.  Making the occasion even more memorable, this JLA-JSA get-together was the first to take up three whole issues; it also featured the unexpected return, after twenty-seven years, of yet another DC Comics superhero team: the Seven Soldiers of Victory.

Or maybe that should be most of the Seven Soldiers of Victory, since one of the key mysteries of the storyline concerns a lonely grave standing on a Himalayan peak, with a stone marker inscribed to an “Unknown Soldier of Victory”.  As of the conclusion of JLA #101, small teams of Justice League and Justice Society members have retrieved four out of seven of the time-lost Soldiers (or Law’s Legionnaires, as they’re also called) — the Crimson Avenger, the Shining Knight, Green Arrow, and Stripesy — with three more left to go.  So who’s buried in the Unknown Soldier’s grave?  Is it Vigilante?  The Star-Spangled Kid?  Speedy?

The answer, as many of you reading this already know, is:  none of the above.  Which is, and simultaneously is not, a cheat.  But we’ll get to that soon enough — just as we’ll get to the solution to the separate mystery posed by Nick Cardy’s superb cover (his best yet for the title, in the opinion of your humble blogger) — who else among our heroes is doomed to die?  Read More

Swamp Thing #1 (Oct.-Nov., 1972)

First off, please be advised that this blog post is going to be one of the long ones.  That’s primarily due to the fact that, in addition to covering the specific fifty-year-old comic book that gives the post its title, your humble blogger is also goiing to take a shot at answering the age-old conundrum: who came first, DC Comics’ Swamp Thing or Marvel Comics’ Man-Thing?  (Regular readers may recall that when the blog spotlighted the second Man-Thing story, back in March, I promised something of this sort would be forthcoming; that moment has at last arrived.)

But it’s also destined to be at least a bit on the long side because before I can even get into discussing Swamp Thing #1, I feel that it’s necessary to give some attention to an even older comic, one that came out over fifty-one years ago.  Of course, I’m talking about House of Secrets #92, published by DC in April, 1971; the comic book whose first eight pages gave us the very first “Swamp Thing” story, as written by Len Wein, drawn (mostly) by Bernie Wrightson, and edited by Joe Orlando.  Neither the behind-the-scenes story of how Swamp Thing-the-series came to be — nor my own initial reactions to the first issue of the latter, as a fifteen-year-old reader in August, 1972 — make a whole lot of sense outside of the context of that classic tale.  So, that’s where we’re starting, on what in all probability will indeed be a lengthy (though hopefully also enjoyable) journey.  Forewarned is forearmed, eh?  Read More

Justice League of America #101 (September, 1972)

The fifty-year old comic book that’s the subject of today’s post features the middle chapter of the three-month-long celebration of Justice League of America‘s reaching its hundredth-issue milestone, as well as of the tenth annual summer event co-starring the JLA’s predecessors from the Golden Age of Comics, the Justice Society.  Your humble blogger is as eager as the rest of you to jump back into the story by writer Len Wein, penciller Dick Dillin, and inker Joe Giella — but before we do, let’s take a good, close look at the cover by Nick Cardy.

Like all of the other JLA covers of this era, it features a left-hand column of League members’ floating heads (this particular issue also includes a right-hand column of JSA heads as an added bonus).  But unlike virtually any other such cover, there are only three full-time active members of the League included in this group of five — the presently non-powered Diana Prince being on a leave of absence, while Metamorpho is only a “reserve member”.  That meager number is the max number of “official” JLAers appearing in the story as well. Read More