Panel from Avengers #112 (Jun., 1973). Text by Steve Englehart; art by Don Heck and Frank Bolle.
As we covered in last month’s blog post about Avengers #113, writer Steve Englehart had introduced a mystery in the previous issue, #112, by briefly bringing onstage a brand-new character, Mantis, and her unnamed, only-seen-in-shadow companion. About all we were told about the latter character, in either his first or his second blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance (in #113) was that he had a prior association with the series’ titular super-team, and that he had strong, less-than-positive opinions about a recently departed Avenger, Hawkeye. Not a whole lot to go on, at least in the opinion of my fifteen-year-old self… though, to be honest, I probably didn’t give the matter a whole lot of thought at the time. After all, there were plenty of other comic books to be read back in the spring of 1973, and a caption in #113 had promised us that the next issue would bring a solution to the puzzle of this mystery man’s identity. So, I was content to wait to see what May would bring us.
As it turned out, when Avengers #114 was released, I wouldn’t even have to pull the issue all the way up out of the spinner rack to discover the answer to the two-month-old mystery, as the cover (probably by John Romita) prominently featured both Mantis and her shadowy beau — so much so, in fact, that the tops of the couple’s heads obscured some of the lower real estate of the book’s logo. And if I had had a moment’s confusion in trying to place the purple-costumed, mustachioed gent dominating the cover’s left half (which I’m pretty sure I didn’t), the story title blurb at the bottom would have clued me in by the time I got the comic all the way out of the aforementioned spinner rack, by letting me know that Mantis’ mysterious amour was none other than… the Swordsman! Read More
Like its immediate predecessor, the 122nd issue of Amazing Spider-Man leads off with a cover by John Romita, which, if not quite as iconic as that of #121, is still an exceptionally arresting image. Not to mention one which, back in April, 1973, would likely have shocked the hell out of any semi-regular reader of the web-slinger’s series who had somehow managed to miss not only that most monumental of issues, but also any fannish discussion of same over the several weeks since its release on March 13th.
If there were any such readers fifty years ago, and if they hoped for some sort of recap to bring them up to speed on the details of how so something so unthinkable as the murder of Spider-Man’s beloved Gwen Stacy had come to pass, they were pretty much out of luck — because the creative team behind both the previous episode and this one — i.e., scripter Gerry Conway, penciller Gil Kane, foreground inker John Romita (who may have also contributed to the plot) and background inker Tony Mortellaro — weren’t about to break their storyline’s headlong momentum with any more exposition than was minimally required, let alone any flashbacks: Read More
It’s been a while — sixteen months, to be precise — since this blog checked in with Marvel Comics’ Man Without Fear. Granted, our last Daredevil-themed post was something of a marathon, seeing as how it attempted to cover writer Gerry Conway’s entire “Mister Kline” saga — a complicated (and ultimately unsuccessful) continuity that encompassed not only a whopping eight issues of DD’s own series, but also five installments of Iron Man, and even one random Sub-Mariner — in a single go. It was a long post, in other words; one in which no one could seriously claim we hadn’t given Matt Murdock and his alter ego a lot of quality time. Still — it has been a while. So, before we get on with the business of marking the milestone of ol’ Hornhead’s first hundred issues, we have some catching up to do in regards to what our Scarlet Swashbuckler been up to for the last 1 1/3 years. Read More
Last April, we took a look at Marvel Premiere #3 (Jul., 1972), which featured Doctor Strange starring in his first full-length solo adventure since the cancellation of his title back in 1969. In this issue, artist Barry Windsor-Smith and scripter Stan Lee introduced a mysterious new adversary for the Master of the Mystic Arts — a menace who was powerful enough to suborn one of the Doc’s oldest and most formidable foes, Nightmare, but who remained yet nameless and unseen at the episode’s conclusion.
More clues were forthcoming in the following bi-monthly issue, which we covered here last June. This one was drawn by Windsor-Smith in collaboration with relative newcomer Frank Brunner, while Archie Goodwin scripted from a plot by Roy Thomas; it saw the storyline take a turn towards cosmic horror, as Dr. Strange journeyed to the New England village of Starkesboro, whose half-human, half-reptilian inhabitants secretly worshiped the demonic entity Sligguth. However, Sligguth himself was no more than another servant of the same dark threat that our hero had first learned of in MP #3 — a threat that still remained nameless in this installment, though we at least learned a bit more about him — mostly courtesy of Doc’s mentor, the venerable Ancient One, who warned of the imminent return of “a cosmic obscenity that slumbers”. The issue ended on a cliffhanger, with Strange shackled to a stone altar, about to be sacrificed to Sligguth by the demon’s scaly celebrants: Read More
Back in January of last year, in a post about Monsters on the Prowl #16, we discussed Marvel Comics’ late-’60s -to-early-’70s attempts to break into the “mystery” (i.e., Comics Code-approved horror) anthology market that seemed to be doing so well at the time for their primary rival, DC Comics. As we covered in that piece, in 1969 Marvel launched two titles, Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness, that were virtual clones of such DC fare as House of Mystery and The Witching Hour. These titles started off quite well, with original stories by Marvel’s top talent (Neal Adams, John Buscema, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Jim Steranko, etc.), as well as by several EC Comics pre-Code horror veterans (Johnny Craig and Wally Wood) not to mention at least one young artist poached (albeit only briefly) from DC (Bernie Wrightson). Soon, however, the new material began to be supplemented by reprints from the publisher’s late-’50s-to-early-’60s “Atlas” era; and before either title had seen as many as ten issues, Tower of Shadows had morphed into Creatures on the Loose, while Chamber of Darkness became Monsters on the Prowl. By mid-1972, one could easily be forgiven for not seeing much if any difference between those titles and the all-reprint “monster” comics that Marvel had initiated around the same time as their “mystery” books, e.g. Where Monsters Dwell. Read More
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
As writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane began work on the 103rd issue of Amazing Spider-Man over half a century ago, the comics-scripting sabbatical of the title’s regular writer (and Marvel editor) Stan Lee — originally announced as “a couple of weeks away from the typewriter” — was going on its third month. For their first two issues together, Thomas and Kane had been kept busy resolving the “six arms to hold you” plotline Lee and Kane had set up in AS-M #100, while also introducing Marvel’s first vampire supervillain, Morbius. — an idea inspired by Lee’s interest in taking advantage of the new freedoms offered by recent revisions to the Comics Code. But now, having restored Peter Parker and his web-slinging alter ego to their normal two-armed status quo, as well as having sent Morbius to a watery grave (don’t worry, it didn’t hold him), the two creators were finally on their own. What would they do now?
When I first started buying Marvel comics in 1968, Daredevil was one of the first of the company’s titles that I sampled; over the next couple of years, it would be one of my most consistent purchases from any publisher. With that in mind, it seems a little odd that when I returned to the adventures of the Man Without Fear in December, 1970, after more than a year’s hiatus, I came back by way of a crossover with Iron Man — a Marvel series I’d only read intermittently up to this point. Read More
Ah, here we are again, pondering the eternal question: Who’s faster, Superman or the Flash? Let’s see if I can recall where we’ve already been, and how we got where we are “now”, in October, 1970…
Oh, yeah, I remember. Way back in the June of 1967, when your humble blogger had not yet reached the tender age of ten years, his DC superhero-besotted self thrilled to the first ever race between the Man of Steel and the Scarlet Speedster, as chronicled by the team of Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, and George Klein in Superman #199. Thrilled, that is, up until the story’s last page, when the Flash was robbed — robbed, I say! — of his rightful victory, when the race ended in a tie. (Why was I rooting for the Flash? Essentially, because super-speed was his one and only thing, while Superman had a dozen other super-abilities he could be “best” at.) Shooter’s story might have framed this as a necessary move by the heroes to thwart two gambling syndicates that were illegally betting on the race — but my younger self knew a rip-off when he saw one: Read More