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
Readers of our Avengers #105 post back in July may recall how that issue’s plot — the first from the title’s brand new writer, Steve Englehart — concerned the team’s search for their missing member Quicksilver, who’d disappeared towards the end of the previous issue. Following the inconclusive resolution to their efforts in that tale, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes would continue their quest for the mutant speedster for months to come. But, surprisingly — well, it surprised me, back in November, 1972 — when Pietro Maximoff was finally “found”, it didn’t happen in the pages of Avengers; instead, Quicksilver resurfaced in, of all things, an issue of Fantastic Four — which, as it happened, was the new super-team scripting gig of Roy Thomas, the man who’d written Avengers for the last five-plus years prior to Englehart taking over, and thus the guy who’d launched the whole “where is Pietro?” mystery in the first place. From a creative standpoint, it made a certain kind of sense that Thomas would be the one to ultimately wrap things up; but in terms of the ongoing mega-story of the Marvel Universe, it seemed to come out of nowhere. How did Quicksilver ever manage to end up in the Himalayan homeland of the Inhumans, the Great Refuge? And why the heck was he fighting the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch, Johnny Storm? Read More
In October, 1971, Avengers #95 brought us what might be the most unusual installment yet in the ongoing epic of the Kree-Skrull War. From one perspective, concerned primarily with the progress of the war and the Avengers’ role in it, it could quite reasonably be deemed the least consequential chapter in the entire saga. From a different point of view, however — namely, that of the Inhumans — it might be the most significant of all.
That’s because Roy Thomas and Neal Adams took advantage of the opportunity Avengers offered not only to wrap up the story they’d begun telling in their most recent previous collaboration — the “Inhumans” strip in Amazing Adventures — but also to deepen the Inhumans’ mythos; especially that part of it wrapped up in the personal histories of the two royal brothers, Black Bolt and Maximus, whose animus had been the driver of most of the narratives Marvel Comics had produced concerning that hidden race ever since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced them back in 1965. Read More
When we last checked in with the Inhumans feature in Amazing Adventures, back in December, the new creative team of writer Roy Thomas and artist Neal Adams had just launched a new multi-part storyline. The beginning of this new arc found the Inhumans’ monarch, Black Bolt, traveling to the United States — more specifically, to San Francisco — to begin the process of developing better relations between his people and the outside world. (Exactly how he expected to accomplish this by skulking around an urban waterfront at night, especially given his self-enforced muteness, was unrevealed.) BB got off to a somewhat rocky start, getting involved in an altercation with some petty criminals as he came to the defense of a boy named Joey, the nephew of the hoods’ leader, Roscoe. Meanwhile, back in the Great Refuge, the king’s mad brother Maximus lay in what appeared to be a state of suspended animation — something Black Bolt had set up prior to his departure, without explaining his reasons to the other members of the Inhumans’ royal family. A suspicious Gorgon and Karnak elected to wake Maximus up, which turned out to be a bad move, since the previously non-super Max had recently developed immense mental powers. Maximus promptly unleashed a brain blast that traveled halfway around the world before striking down Black Bolt, simultaneously robbing him of his memory. This ten-page installment ended with young Joey, having just managed to rouse his mysterious new friend, trying to get him to say something — unaware that if the Inhumans’ incognito ruler uttered but a mere whisper, the power of his voice would unleash terrible destruction. Yipes! Read More
As I wrote in this space back in May, in 1970 my younger self bought the first two issues of Marvel Comics’ new double-feature title Amazing Adventures upon their release — but then skipped the next two. Half a century later, I can’t recall what my decision-making process was (and the vagaries of distribution being what they were at the time, it’s entirely possible that I never saw AA #3 and/or #4 on the stands). But I’d guess that I simply wasn’t all that crazy about what I’d found in #1 and #2. Even though I liked the Inhumans a whole lot, and was an admirer of Jack Kirby’s art (I was also a fan of his plotting, of course, if only unconsciously, since I didn’t yet comprehend the extent of the King’s creative contributions to his collaborations with Marvel editor/scripter Stan Lee), the two-part tale that inaugurated the Inhumans feature, written as well as drawn by Kirby, didn’t feel like essential work. At the time he produced these stories, Kirby was on the verge of unleashing a tremendous amount of pent-up creativity with his “Fourth World” project for DC; but, as with a lot of his other material for Marvel at the end of his monumental ’60s tenure at the publisher, his heart didn’t really seem to be in this stuff.
As for the title’s second feature, the Black Widow — she was more of an unknown quantity for me, anyway. Besides the obvious fact that this was her first solo strip, I had at this point read very few of her earlier appearances in Avengers and elsewhere, and had little to no investment in the character. Despite the reliably fine draftsmanship of John Buscema on her first two installments (with John Verpoorten inking Buscema’s pencils), I didn’t find enough there to hook me and bring me back. Read More
Fifty years ago, one didn’t necessarily expect fresh linguistic coinages to turn up in comic books right away. If anything, comics were notorious for incorporating slang words and expressions (especially those presumably favored by America’s youth) years past their peak of popularity– if, indeed, they’d ever been popular at all.
But in its incorporation of the phrase “male chauvinist pigs” on its cover, Marvel Comics’ Avengers #83 seems to have been right on the money. Read More
I was never more than a semi-regular reader of the original Silver Surfer series — out of the first year’s worth of bi-monthly issues, I only purchased #1, #4, and #5. On the other hand, I recall liking all three of those issues (especially the first two) quite a bit. So I’m not entirely sure why, after one more issue, #7 (which also happened to be the last that Marvel published in a double-sized, 25-cent, bi-monthly format), I basically told the book goodbye. I do remember being a bit disappointed by this issue’s “Frankenstein” tale — mainly, I think, because I was expecting a monster, and all I got was an evil replica of the Surfer himself. Perhaps that was all it took; in any event, when the series went to a standard 15-cent format and monthly schedule with issue #8 (Sep., 1969), I didn’t bite — and I wouldn’t, until almost a year later, when — probably attracted by the fact that the Inhumans were guest starring — I picked up #18. Read More
As I’ve previously related on this blog, I didn’t start buying Marvel comics on a regular basis until January, 1968 (though I’d bought my very first such issue almost half a year earlier, in August, ’67); therefore, I pretty much completely missed the era of Marvel’s original “split” books, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, and Tales of Suspense. Indeed, the month I became a full-fledged Marvelite was the very same month that Marvel rolled out Captain America and the Hulk in their brand-new solo titles, with Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange, and Nick Fury soon to follow. It was a near miss, for sure; but it was a miss, all the same.
Still, even if I hadn’t experienced the old split book format firsthand, I knew what it was. So, I doubt I was more than mildly surprised (if that) to see Marvel bringing it back after an absence of more than two years with the premiere issues of Amazing Adventures and Astonishing Tales, both released in May, 1970. Read More
With the 94th issue of Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics’ new single-issue story policy, first announced by editor-in-chief Stan Lee in a “Stan’s Soapbox” editorial three months earlier, finally caught up with the publisher’s flagship title — its implementation there having been delayed for a couple of issues while Lee and his collaborator Jack Kirby wrapped up their “Skrull gangster planet” multi-parter. Prior to that storyline, the book had featured another serialized tale, involving the Mole Man, that filled up two issues and spilled over into a third; that story had in turn followed a Dr. Doom epic that ran four issues; and so on. In fact, the last real “done-in-one” story to appear in Fantastic Four had been “Where Treads the Living Totem!” in #80 (Nov., 1968) — an issue which happened to be not only the second-ever FF comic I’d ever bought, but also my least favorite issue to date. Outside of reprints, prior to October, 1969 that was likely the only single-issue, non-continued Fantastic Four story my twelve-year-old self had ever read. Read More
As I’ve related in previous posts on this blog, my introduction to Marvel Comics’ Inhumans came not by way of their usual stomping grounds in Fantastic Four, but rather via an issue of Amazing Spider-Man that featured Medusa. Soon afterwards, I encountered Medusa’s little sister Crystal as a supporting character in FF — but all I knew about her at first was that she was the Human Torch’s girlfriend, and that she had a weird pattern in her hair. It wasn’t until issue #81, in which Crys suited up in blue to become the Invisible Girl’s temporary replacement on the team, that I even learned that she had superpowers, let alone that she was a member of the mysterious Inhumans’ royal house.
And then, just one month later, it was at last time to meet the rest of the family… Read More