In our post last October regarding Sub-Mariner #57, we discussed how Subby’s creator Bill Everett, who’d returned to write and draw the series in 1972 with issue #50, began to have trouble keeping up with the book’s monthly schedule due to chronic health issues; this situation eventually led to occasional fill-ins by other creators, as well as to ongoing help for Everett on both the writing and artistic ends of things.
During this period, the continuing uncertainty over Everett’s status month-to-month was evidenced in the title’s letters pages, where the anonymous Marvel Bullpener(s) responsible for answering reader correspondence would be telling fans in one issue (#55) that Everett probably wouldn’t be handling every story going forward, as “getting back into the swing of a monthly deadline is harder than you might imagine”; then, a few months later (in issue #58), explaining that “due to deadline problems, Bill will now be doing final art over the layouts of Irv Wesley [i.e., Sam Kweskin, who occasionally used the Wesley pen name], while Steve Gerber, working closely with the ebullient Mr. Everett, who will continue to plot the yarns, handles the scripting chores”; and then, finally, acknowledging (in #59) that “Bouncin’ Bill Everett has, indeed, moved on to other projects for Mighty Marvel (the monthly deadline on Subby’s book, sadly, proved too much for the compulsively conscientious Mr. Everett to handle)”. Read More
According to the account given by Marvel editor-in-chief Roy Thomas on the letters page of Amazing Adventures #18, the new feature that made its debut in that issue had been gestating for some time. (“Two long and not always enjoyable years,” to quote the man himself.) It had all started in 1971, when Marvel was looking to expand its market share in a big way, and Stan Lee (himself still editor-in-chief at that time) asked Thomas to submit a list of ideas for new comics for consideration by Lee and Marvel’s publisher, Martin Goodman. Among those ideas was a series concept based on H.G. Wells’ classic late-Victorian science fiction novel, The War of the Worlds.
More specifically, Thomas imagined “a vast, hopefully unending sequel to the Wells classic. A storyline which would pit earthmen in a kind of guerrilla warfare against the Martians, who had returned approximately 100 years after their initial invasion attempt… and who this time had come, seen, and conquered.” Read More
In February, 1973, Marvel Comics published 42 individual comic books — a 75% percent increase in production from the previous year, when the second month of 1972 had seen the company release a mere 24 new issues. And notwithstanding such a prodigious expansion in production, the company (which had recently surpassed arch-rival DC Comics in sales numbers for the first time ever) wasn’t nearly done. But Marvel’s next major phase of growth — which in fact began in that very month of February, 1973 — was to be in a different area than the full-color comics line in which it had made its mark. Read More
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
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
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
I’m not sure if it would have been possible for an American kid of my generation to grow up not knowing who Tarzan was. Even if you never once heard the name “Edgar Rice Burroughs”, you’d inevitably learn to recognize that author’s most famous hero by sight, as his loincloth-clad form swung by on a vine — or by sound, per his distinctive, (literally) trademarked yell.
Your humble blogger was no exception in this regard. Still, I may have been in a minority among my peers in at least one Tarzan-related area: I never saw a single Tarzan movie in my formative years, despite their showing up regularly on television. How come? I’m not 100% sure, but I figure it was probably because of my dad. Read More
As discussed on this blog back in January, Teen Titans #32 ended with two of our young heroes, Kid Flash and Mal, trapped in a bizarre alternate reality following their inadvertently causing the death of a young caveman during a time-trip to the Stone Age. Having been coerced by this quasi-medieval world’s version of their adult mentor Mr. Jupiter — here a wizard called Jupiterius — into being tested to prove themselves worthy of his assistance, the final page of the story found Kid Flash attempting to match or best “Trueshot” — this world’s Speedy — in an archery contest: Read More
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
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 Comics. Read More