In our present age, when not only the original Captain Marvel has been the subject of a blockbuster motion picture (with a second one on the way), but so has his most powerful adversary, it may be difficult for younger fans to comprehend just how obscure Billy Batson and his alter ego were to the average comic book reader of half a century ago. Even if you were an avid comics fan who’d been reading superhero funnybooks for the past seven years (as was my fifteen-year-old self, back in December, 1972), you might not have much more than a vague idea of what the “Marvel Family” and its mythos were all about, prior to the publication of Shazam! #1. Read More
With this issue of Superman, the story arc begun eight months earlier in the iconic #233 (“Kryptonite Nevermore!”) came to a close — and the revamp of the Man of Steel inaugurated in that issue by writer Denny O’Neil and editor Julius Schwartz was at last complete. But before we dive into issue #242’s “The Ultimate Battle!”, written by O’Neil and illustrated by his usual artistic collaborators, Curt Swan (penciller) and Murphy Anderson (inker), we’ll need to back up one month to take a look at issue #241’s “The Shape of Fear!”, by the same creative team — which not only leads right into #242’s concluding chapter of the “Sand-Superman saga”, but also follows directly from the previous chapter in issue #240 — which, of course, also happens to be the last issue we posted about on this blog.
As you may recall, that installment had ended with a moment of great personal triumph for Superman, who, though his powers had been thoroughly leeched from him by his mysterious sandy duplicate, had yet managed to save both himself and I-Ching (the mentor of Diana Prince, as seen regularly in Wonder Woman) from a vicious attack by the Anti-Superman Gang. But as we’ll soon see, the note of optimism with which that chapter ended is about to turn decidedly sour… Read More
As a kid, I was a big fan of Superman. But I wasn’t all that crazy about Superman comics.
Oh, I bought ’em, at least occasionally. Indeed, the very first comic I remember buying for myself was an issue of the “World’s Best-Selling Comics Magazine!” (as the blurb on each issue’s cover confidently assured us). But they tended not to make a terribly strong impression, especially as my experience of comics widened; to me, at least, it seemed that for every Superman #199 (which featured the first race between Superman and the Flash, and which my then ten-year-old self enjoyed very much), there was a Superman #198 (see left) which centered on an “impossible” (but not really all that exciting) situation, or a Superman #200 (see right), which devoted all of its pages to an “imaginary novel” whose events didn’t even happen to the “real” Man of Steel, and thereby didn’t count. (Yes, I was that kind of comics fan, pretty much from the get-go.) Read More
By September, 1968, when the subject of today’s post came out, I was buying The Avengers semi-regularly. Of course, “semi” literally means “half” (at least in the original Latin) — which is my way of saying that though I’d bought issues #53, #56, and the 1968 Annual, I’d skipped, or at least missed, issues #54, #55, and #57. So, not only did my eleven-year-old self miss out on the debut of the Vision (in #57), but I was also completely in the dark about the malevolent robot who’d allegedly created him, Ultron-5, introduced in issues #54 and #55 as the mysterious leader of the “new” Masters of Evil.
Thus, when I came across Avengers #58 in the spinner rack, I may have been momentarily daunted. Even if I had no obvious way of knowing that this issue tied into the Masters of Evil storyline from several months back, it was clear from the cover that the story was a direct follow-up to the previous issue’s Vision tale.
But the cover also made it crystal clear that the book featured appearances by Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor — the Avengers’ “Big Three”, whom series writer Roy Thomas wasn’t allowed to use as regular team members by the fiat of editor Stan Lee, but whom he nevertheless shoehorned into the book every chance he got — and I had been conditioned by now to recognize this as being something of a special event (if not necessarily a rare one). And, in the end, that must have sold me. I’d buy the book, and trust that the creative team — which included penciler John Buscema and inker George Klein, in addition to Thomas — would catch me up. Read More
By August, 1967, I’d been buying and reading comic books for two years — and the books that I had bought had almost exclusively been those published by DC Comics, with an occasional Gold Key issue for variety. But in that month, as the Summer of Love (or the Long Hot Summer, take your pick) wound down — I finally broke down and bought my first Marvel Comics Group comic book.
So what the hell took me so long?
It’s entirely possible that I just didn’t see that many Marvel comics on the spinner racks in those first two years of comic-book buying. Prior to 1968, the publisher’s newsstand distribution was controlled by Independent News (a company owned by National Periodical Publications, aka DC Comics — and no, that doesn’t sound like an ideal competitive situation, does it?), which restricted the number of titles that Marvel could release per month. That restriction would be all but completely lifted by early 1968, but in the summer of 1967, it was still in place. Read More