Three weeks ago, I promised the readers of this blog that we’d be covering the beginning of Marvel Comics’ “Phase Two” era in today’s post. And we will definitely be doing that, before we’re done for the day — though, first, we still have some “Phase One” business to finish up with; namely, the conclusion of the Blackworld/Ego-Prime storyline that had been running in Thor (though only as a secondary plot to the series’ main action) ever since issue #195, which had come out in October, 1971. Read More
As milestone issues of long-running comic-book series go, Thor #200 is a fairly odd duck, for a number of reasons. The first, of course, is that it’s not really the 200th issue of “Thor“ at all; rather, it’s the two-hundredth sequential release of a periodical publication that began its existence in 1952 as Journey into Mystery, an anthology title which had nary a thing to do with the Norse God of Thunder until the Marvel version of that mythological figure made his debut in its 83rd issue, ten years into the book’s run.
Since the title of the publication wasn’t changed from Journey into Mystery to Thor until issue #126, there hadn’t ever been a Thor #100. (To the best of my knowledge, there hasn’t been one in later years, either, despite multiple relaunches of the series over the last few decades; and given Marvel’s current publishing model, which simultaneously incorporates both successive restarts and “legacy” numbering, there probably never will be.) The actual 100th issue of “Thor” as a continuing feature had been #182 — and though that was a pretty good issue, featuring a battle with Dr. Doom as well as marking the beginning of John Buscema’s multi-year tenure as the series’ new regular artist, it hadn’t taken any special note of the occasion. By the time issue #200 rolled around, however, Marvel had made the 100th issues of Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man causes for celebration — and they were about to do the same with Avengers #100, which would arrive on stands one week after Thor #200 (it’ll also arrive on this blog one week from today, just in case you were wondering). With 200 being such a nice round number, it would have been surprising if Marvel hadn’t chosen to commemorate Thor‘s issue numbering reaching it, as arbitrary as the milestone was in some ways.
But all of that represents just one way that Thor #200 was somewhat off-model as commemorative issues go. Another was that the main story was a retread of a tale originally presented in 1966 (right around the time Journey into Mystery became Thor, coincidentally enough). And yet another was that that story was a fill-in — or, at least, it read like one. Read More
Back in October of last year, this blog took a look at Thor #195 — the initial chapter of incoming writer Gerry Conway’s first full story arc for the series, following two issues devoted to wrapping up a multi-parter begun by his predecessor, Stan Lee. If you’ve been wondering if we were ever going to get back to the God of Thunder’s quest for the Twilight Well at the World’s End, well, thou need’st worry no longer. Though, since it’s been a few months, we obviously have some catching up to do on the three issues that fall between #195 and the main topic of today’s post, Thor #199.
But before we jump into a recap of issues #196-198, it would probably be useful to briefly refresh our collective memory about what went down in #195. We have discussed a lot of other comic books in the last four months, after all. Read More
While any specific memory of the occasion has been lost to time after half a century, I feel pretty sure I was at least mildly startled when I dropped in at my neighborhood Tote-Sum in the first week of August, 1971, and discovered that all the new Marvel comics — including the latest issues of three series I was buying regularly, Daredevil, Iron Man, and Thor — were now 25 cents (up from 15), and 48 pages, not counting covers (up from 32).
I wasn’t completely surprised, of course. After all, DC Comics had raised their prices and page counts by the exact same amounts two months earlier, and it only made sense that Marvel would eventually follow suit. (The only other comics industry price hike I’d experienced personally — the move from 12 cents to 15 cents back in 1969 — had been effected by both DC and Marvel more or less simultaneously.) What was more, several Marvel titles, such as Conan the Barbarian, had already made the jump to the new format/price point back in July — a move that Marvel had at least hinted could be a harbinger of things to come via a comment on that month’s Bullpen Bulletins page. (“As for what the future holds in store for the rest of our magniloquent mags — well, keep lookin’ forward, pilgrim, ’cause that’s where the future’s coming from!”) But a hint’s not the same thing as a promise, and just because one expects something to happen eventually, doesn’t mean one won’t still be surprised when said thing happens right now. So, I’d say that at least some mild startlement was in order for my fourteen-year-old self, as well as for most of my comics-buying peers. Read More
Back in November of last year, we took a look at Thor #184 — the premiere installment in the first multi-issue, large scale epic that editor-scripter Stan Lee had attempted in the title since losing his longtime collaborator Jack Kirby to DC Comics. Hyping the comic in the Nov., 1970 Bullpen Bulletins, Marvel went so far as to compare it to the debut of the Inhumans in Lee and Kirby’s Fantastic Four, some five years previously. And upon my thirteen-year-old self’s actually reading it, it really did feel like Lee and his collaborators, penciller John Buscema and inker Joe Sinnott, had pulled out all the stops for this one.
This opening chapter of what would prove to be a five-issue story arc introduced us readers — as well as the mighty Thor, himself — to the menace of the World Beyond: a mysterious realm somewhere out past the farthest reaches of space, which was, somehow, devouring our universe from the edges in. Associated with this menace was a word — perhaps a name — of unknown significance: “Infinity”. We and Thor also met an intriguing new character, appropriately dubbed the Silent One, who had recently shown up in Asgard unannounced; All-Father Odin had since decided to let him hang around, sensing that he was in some way the key to the mystery. Read More
When my thirteen-year-old self picked up Thor #184 in November, 1970, I hadn’t read a single issue of the title in over a year. The last issue I’d bought, Thor #169, had featured the conclusion of Stan Lee and Kirby’s long-running (and, apparently, extensively reworked) Galactus storyline; it also led directly into Thor’s confrontation with the Thermal Man, the culmination of a subplot that had woven through the last couple of issues. Apparently, I wasn’t interested enough in seeing the God of Thunder and yet another of Kirby’s super-powerful but personality-free robots (of whom the King gave us a few too many in the late ’60s) whomp on each other for twenty pages, and so I passed on #170. Then, a month later, I opted to pass on #171 as well; and then on #172, and then #173… Read More
At the conclusion of our discussion of Thor #166 three months ago, we left the God of Thunder about to face the judgement of his omnipotent All-Father, Odin, for his crime in succumbing to the affliction of Warrior Madness. Thor had been driven to this state of irrational, uncontrollable fury following the abduction of his lady, Sif, by the artificially-created superhuman called Him (later to be known as Adam Warlock). As things turned out, Sif was safely rescued, and Him, though soundly thrashed by the scion of Asgard, escaped without mortal injury. Nevertheless, at the issue’s end Thor was called home to the Golden Realm to face the music; what he didn’t yet know, but we readers did, is that Odin had already determined that his punishment would be to go on a cosmic quest to find the world-devouring Galactus, learn the secret of his origin, and end his threat forevermore. Read More
There’s a case to be made that the God of Thunder’s adversary in the issue of his comic we’re discussing today — the being known at this point only as “Him”, though he’d later pick up the less confusing appellation “Adam Warlock” — was the last major character creation of artist/storyteller Jack Kirby during his most important and productive tenure at Marvel Comics. As recalled by comics writer and historian — and longtime Kirby associate — Mark Evanier (and reported by numerous writers, including Mike Gartland in The Jack Kirby Collector #24), the story that Kirby plotted and drew for Fantastic Four #66 – 67 was a tale of well-intentioned scientists who create an ultimate human being, an entity who’s not only physically perfect but also possesses godlike powers, only to have this being, once it’s emerged from gestation within its cocoon, turn on them and destroy them, simply because they don’t meet his standards of perfection. However, when it came time to script the story, Kirby’s collaborator (and editor), Stan Lee, jettisoned this theme — intended as Kirby’s ironic commentary on Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy — possibly because it didn’t present a clear-cut “bad guy”. In Lee’s version of the story — which was the one that saw print, of course — the scientists wanted to use their creation to dominate the world; “Him” realized this, and destroyed the would-be despots before taking his leave of humanity. Already disgruntled with Lee (and with Marvel Comics, generally) over a number of matters — including the way that Lee had appropriated and reinterpreted an earlier Kirby creation for FF, the Silver Surfer — Kirby may have seen this latest alteration of his creative vision to be, in Gartland’s words, “the last straw”. From this time on, the theory goes, the “King” would refrain from bringing his full creative powers to bear on the work he did for Marvel, with the result that he would introduce few, if any, truly significant new characters in his last couple of years before jumping ship for DC Comics. Read More
The subject of today’s post, in addition to being another fine installment in writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema’s original run on The Avengers, also happens to have been my first real encounter (outside of a couple of cameos) with Marvel Comics’ Master of the Mystic Arts, Doctor Strange — or, at least, I think it was.
The problem here is that I know that, once upon a time, I owned a copy of Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics #19 — a terrific, double-sized reprint book that not only included a classic early Doctor Strange tale (from Strange Tales #128), but also an equally-classic Fantastic Four story (from the 27th issue of that team’s title) that guest-starred the good Doctor. A double dose of Doc, if you will. And since that book would have been on sale in November, 1968, it would necessarily have been my first Strange-featuring comic — if I’d bought it new off the stands, that is. Which I have no truly compelling reason to believe I didn’t.
Still — and allowing for how vague many of my comics-buying memories are after half a century’s passage — I somehow don’t believe that was the case. When I reread both these books now, Avengers #61 simply feels like it was my first Dr. Strange comic, and MCIC #19 … doesn’t. So I’ve decided, for the purposes of this blog, that I probably came into possession of my copy of the reprint book some time later, probably via trade with (or sale by) a friend. If I’m wrong — well, we’ll never know, right? (Besides which, nobody but me likely cares all that much.)
But even if Avengers #61 wasn’t the first comic book I ever read that featured Dr. Strange, it was certainly the first non-reprint book to include the hero that I ever picked up. Without it, I might well not have taken to the character as much (and almost certainly not as quickly) as I did; for, immediately following my reading this issue, I became a regular purchaser of the Doctor Strange series — and I’d remain a faithful reader of the title for years to come, sticking around through its rather frequent cancellations and revivals, with its star ultimately becoming my second favorite Marvel character (right after Thor).
Which is pretty much just what Roy Thomas and his colleagues at Marvel hoped would happen, when they decided to guest-star Doctor Strange in Avengers back in late 1968. Read More
The subject of today’s post was the second issue of Thor that I ever bought, and that’s probably not entirely by happenstance. Purchased three months after my first foray into the Son of Odin’s solo adventures, #161 was the first issue to come out after Silver Surfer #4 — and as readers of my most recent post know, that particular comic book — an Asgardian extravaganza which featured the titular hero in battle against the Thunder God — did at least as much as Thor #158 had to foster my growing interest in the immortal Avenger and his comic book series.
Although the mythological aspects of Thor held rather more appeal for me than either the hero’s battles against Earthbound super-villains or his outer space adventures (not that I ever disliked any of that stuff, mind you), I don’t think I was fazed by the obviously science-fictional orientation of issue #161’s cover. In fact, I was probably interested in seeing the world-devouring Galactus in a new story, having only read about him thus far in Silver Surfer #1, where he’d appeared only in flashback. On the other hand, I didn’t know anything at all about Ego, the Living Planet, but I suspect my eleven-year-old self thought he looked pretty interesting on that striking Jack Kirby – Vince Colletta cover. Of course, neither of those cosmic titans were actually named on the cover, and I might not have recognized Galactus just from his profile; but since I’d read the issue descriptions in both this and the last month’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins, I knew who Thor was going to be meeting, and presumably fighting, here. Read More