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

Astonishing Tales #12 (June, 1972)

Any of you out there who aren’t already familiar with this particular comic book may be taking a look at its John Buscema-Joe Sinnott cover right now and thinking, “Nice, but what’s so special about Ka-Zar rasslin’ a big alligator, even underwater, that Astonishing Tales #12 should rate its own blog post?”  The fact of the matter, however, is that this issue (along with its immediate follow-up, Astonishing Tales #13) represents a significant chapter in the histories of not one, but two, semi-major Marvel Comics characters — neither one of whom happens to be the self-styled Lord of the Savage Land.  Read More

Korak, Son of Tarzan #46 (May-Jun., 1972)

As I wrote last month in my post about Tarzan #207, I firmly believe that it would have been all but impossible for an American child of my generation to grow up not knowing who Tarzan was.  Korak, son of Tarzan, on the other hand… well, maybe not so much.  Sure, the scion of the Lord of the Jungle had been around since 1914, when he appeared as the infant Jack Clayton in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel The Eternal Lover.  But he’d made a much smaller imprint on popular culture, at least as a solo adventurer, only appearing in a single film, the 1920 serial The Son of Tarzan; as far as most moviegoers (or movies-on-TV viewers) were concerned, the Ape Man’s kid was a boy named, er, “Boy”.  Seriously, unless you were a reader of the novels, about the only way you’d know the name “Korak” was from comics — and even there, the poor guy had to work to stake his claim. Read More

Phantom Stranger #17 (Jan.-Feb., 1972)

About a year ago I wrote my first blog post about an issue of Phantom Stranger; if you happened to read that one, you may recall that PS #11 was the first issue of the title I’d ever bought, and that I ended up liking it enough to become a regular reader henceforth.  Beyond the basic appeal of the series’ supernatural subject matter, my younger self was highly intrigued by the mysterious but noble-seeming title character; I was also a fan of the look given the comic by artist Jim Aparo, who not only pencilled and inked but also lettered each installment.  Meanwhile, Neal Adams continued to turn out one classic cover after another for the title, which, even if it wasn’t enough to make me buy the book just by itself, certainly didn’t hurt its appeal.  About the only thing in Phantom Stranger I wasn’t all that crazy about was the backup strip, which featured Dr. Thirteen, the Ghost-Breaker; but even that had the appealing artwork of Tony DeZuniga going for it, and anyway, it didn’t appear in every single issue.  Read 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

Forever People #3 (Jun.-Jul., 1971)

The third issue of Forever People leads off with a cover very much in the vein of several of the other covers of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World comics that immediately preceded it in publication date, including that of FP #2; it’s built around a drawn image, pencilled by Kirby and inked by Vince Colletta, which is then set against a photographic background, and, finally, framed by copy — a lot of it.  Based simply on this visual cue, one might expect this issue’s content to be as similar to that of the second issue as are the two books’ covers — i.e., for it to follow #2’s precedent of setting our young heroes from New Genesis against a powerful servant of Darkseid, a foe that ultimately can only be vanquished by summoning the more powerful adult champion Infinity Man to take their place, with everything being set back to the status quo by the end of the issue.

But if that’s what you were expecting, you’d be wrong.  Because with Forever People #3, Kirby abandons the formula he seemed to have settled into with the prior issue’s adventure, moving instead into the first chapter of a four-part narrative considerably darker and more disturbing than anything we’ve seen in a Fourth World comic to date.  Ultimately, this storyline will prove to be the central arc of the entire Forever People series (which, as most of those reading this likely already know, is doomed to meet a premature end with its eleventh issue), and one of the key narratives of the entire Fourth World project.  It’s where Kirby’s great theme of radical freedom versus absolute control — or, in his formulation, Life versus Anti-Life — comes to the fore more fully than it has in any previous chapter.  Read More

Hulk #140 (June, 1971)

“Harlan Ellison Month” (well, “Harlan Ellison Week +1”, anyway) continues here today at “Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books”, as we take a look at the second half of a two-issue crossover between Avengers and Hulk, originally published in March, 1971, which the writer of those two Marvel series, Roy Thomas, adapted from a plot synopsis by Mr. Ellison.

I’m not going to provide a summary of the tale’s opening chapter here, mostly because the recap provided on the first three pages of Hulk #140 (which’ll be coming up shortly) will tell you pretty much everything you need to know to be able to follow the rest of the story — and also because you can, at any time, click on this link for the Avengers #88 post if you missed reading it a few days ago, and you really do want all the details.  Even so, before we plunge head-first into the comic’s narrative, we need to take a moment to note what Thomas, as scripter, is going to be getting up to in these pages.  And to facilitate our doing that, we’re going to quickly flip to the back of the book, to have a look at the letters column. Read More

Star Trek #10 (May, 1971)

As I’ve mentioned in passing a time or two before on this blog, I didn’t get to see Star Trek when it originally aired on the NBC television network from 1966 to 1969.  Until 1970, we only had two TV stations in the Jackson, MS metro area; and although one of them was an NBC affiliate, it sometimes pre-empted that network’s programming to carry something else (usually a program from ABC, the odd-network-out in our market).  My maiden voyage upon the starship Enterprise would thus have to wait until reruns of the by-then-cancelled show started airing locally in syndication, probably sometime in 1970.

Once first contact was finally made, however, I immediately (and unsurprisingly, considering the other stuff I was into) became a big Trek fan.  And I was keen to extend my enjoyment of the show through what we would now call ancillary media.  The thing was, in 1970 and 1971, there wasn’t a whole lot of licensed Trek story-product available.  Read More

Witching Hour #13 (Feb.-Mar., 1971)

Portrait of Dick Giordano by Joe Orlando, published in many of Giordano’s inaugural DC letters columns in1968.

In October, 1970, Dick Giordano had been an editor at DC Comics for roughly two and a half years.  Since moving over from a similar position at the smaller Charlton Comics, Giordano had made his mark on such DC titles as Beware the Creeper, The Hawk and the Dove, Aquaman, and Teen Titans — all of which featured work by creators he’d previously employed at Charlton, including Steve Ditko, Denny O’Neil, Jim Aparo, and Steve Skeates.  He had also served in the vanguard of a new cohort of DC editors who, like himself, had worked as comics artists before ascending into editorial positions.  This was an innovation driven largely by Carmine Infantino, himself a veteran freelance artist who had recently moved into an executive role at DC; Giordano, however, had been hired not by Infantino, who in early 1968 was still “only” DC’s Art Director, but rather by Executive Vice President Irwin Donenfeld.  Very soon after Giordano’s arrival, Donenfeld was ousted from the company, with Infantino being promoted to Editorial Director — a change which made him Giordano’s new boss.  And although Giordano highly respected Infantino as an artist, he soon found it difficult — and ultimately, impossible — to work with him within their new roles.  Read More

Detective Comics #408 (February, 1971)

There’s an interesting story behind Detective #408’s lead Batman feature (and cover story), “The House That Haunted Batman!”.  Or perhaps we should say, in the interest of total accuracy, that there are four of them.

Back in 1998, in the 1st issue of Comic Book Artist, editor Jon B. Cooke published “The Story That Haunted Julie Schwartz”, a collection of interviews with four of the personnel who’d been involved with producing this classic Detective story:  editor Julius Schwartz, writers Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, and penciller Neal Adams.  The funny thing about it, though, was that in spite of the interviews’ brevity (the entire article ran only two pages) the four veteran comics pros’ recollections differed in certain details, lending the whole enterprise a Rashomon-like quality.

This much, at least, the quartet could agree on:  Quite early on in their professional careers, longtime friends Len Wein and Marv Wolfman wrote a Batman story together which they hoped to sell to Julius Schwartz.  Somewhere along the line, Neal Adams took an interest in the as-yet-unbought script and ended up drawing it in his spare time, on spec — a remarkably generous gesture, considering how busy the artist was (not to mention what his time was worth).  Ultimately, despite the irregularity of the process, editor Schwartz did indeed buy the completed 15-pager, and scheduled it for the next available issue of Detective ComicsRead More