Swamp Thing #1 (Oct.-Nov., 1972)

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

Jimmy Olsen #152 (Aug.-Sep., 1972)

Regular readers of this blog will recall how, over the past year, we’ve been tracking the Fourth World-adjacent story material that appeared in various “Superman” family titles — mostly in Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane — during the period that Jack Kirby was writing, drawing, and editing Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen.  The most significant piece of this material was that having to do with Morgan Edge, the head of Galaxy Broadcasting (and thus the boss of Lois and Jimmy, as well as of Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent).  Originally created by Kirby, Edge was introduced in his first Fourth World comic, Jimmy Olsen #133, as being secretly involved with the criminal organization Intergang — and thereby, as shown in the very next issue, also an operative of the dark lord of Apokolips, Darkseid.  More recently, however, it had been revealed in Lois Lane #118 that the Morgan Edge we readers had been reading about in all the Superman books wasn’t the real Edge at all — rather, he was an evil clone who’d been created by Darkseid’s minions in the Evil Factory to pose as the media mogul.  Read More

Batman #237 (December, 1971)

Batman #237’s “Night of the Reaper!” wasn’t the first comic book story set at the real-life Rutland, VT Halloween Parade; that distinction goes to Avengers #83, which was published one year earlier (and was covered here on this blog last October).  Nor would it be the last such tale.

But it was almost certainly the best of the bunch.

That’s really not surprising, given that the story was crafted by one of the most outstanding creative teams of the era — writer Denny O’Neil, penciller Neal Adams, and inker Dick Giordano — as well as that it, more than most of its fellows, aspired to be about something more than either the Parade itself, or conventional superheroic goings-on — something decidedly more serious, in fact — and was largely successful in achieving this aim, ultimately addressing the subject of the Holocaust in a dramatic, but sensitive, manner.

Nevertheless, the origins of this classic story in certain actual (but not very serious) events — and the appearance within its pages of several equally actual persons who either already were, or would soon become, well-known comics industry professionals — can’t help but be responsible for a certain amount of “Night of the Reaper!” lasting appeal.  And it’s with those events, and persons, that we begin.  Read More

Marvel Feature #1 (December, 1971)

As regular readers will recall, we’ve begun the last two Marvel-focused posts on this blog with excerpts from the Bulletin Bulletins page that ran in the company’s comics published in July, 1971 — and we see no reason to break that run with this installment.  Especially since the very next Bulletin following those we’ve already shared is specifically about the subject of today’s post.

Coming after a Roy Thomas editorial and “ITEM!” that dealt with Lee’s decision to take a brief sabbatical from comics writing (and what that meant for the series he usually scripted, such as Amazing Spider-Man) — and directly preceded by another item announcing the move of several Marvel titles (including Conan the Barbarian) to a larger, 25-cent format — this Bulletin caught the attention of readers (well, this particular fourteen-year-old reader, at any rate) with a graphic by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer from Doctor Strange #180, featuring that book’s titular star — a hero who, in the wake of the cancellation of his series with issue #183, had been conspicuous by his absence from the Marvel Universe ever since a late-1969 guest appearance in Incredible Hulk which had effectively retired the character:  Read More

Kull the Conqueror #2 (September, 1971)

In the waning months of 1970, with the early sales reports on their new Conan the Barbarian series good enough to warrant bumping the title up from bi-monthly to monthly publication, Marvel Comics — likely driven at least in part by the enthusiasm of Conan writer (and Marvel associate editor) Roy Thomas — decided to take a chance on another sword-and-sorcery barbarian hero created decades earlier by pulp writer Robert E. Howard: King Kull.

Though he’d almost immediately come to be seen by comics fans (well, by this one, anyway) as Howard’s “number two” hero, Kull was actually the earlier creation, predating the author’s imagining of Conan the Cimmerian by some three years.  Kull could even be seen as the prototype for the later, more commercially successful hero, as the very first Conan story, “The Phoenix on the Sword” (published in the magazine Weird Tales in 1932) was a reworked version of an unsold Kull yarn, “By This Axe I Rule!”  Read More

World’s Finest Comics #199 (December, 1970)

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

Amazing Spider-Man #85 (June, 1970)

In July, 1969, Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Stan Lee announced in his “Stan’s Soapbox” column that the company was instituting a new “no continued stories” policy for all its titles.  Today, that policy (which remained in place for about a year and a half, at least officially) is widely considered to have been not Lee’s own idea, but rather one that was imposed on him by his then-boss, publisher Martin Goodman.  Assuming that’s true, it’s interesting to consider how much Lee flouted the policy in one of the relatively few books he still wrote himself, The Amazing Spider-Man — which, as it happens, was also the company’s best-selling title, and thus probably the one most likely to be noticed by Goodman.  Read More

The Brave and the Bold #79 (Aug.-Sept., 1968)

The topic of today’s post is, I believe, one of the most important single comic books in the evolution of  Batman to appear during the character’s nearly eighty-year history — probably ranking in the top five or so such comics.  Chronologically speaking, it’s certainly the most important Batman comic that DC Comics had published since 1964’s Detective Comics #327, the issue in which editor Julius Schwartz and artist Carmine Infantino debuted a “New Look” for the Caped Crusader — and I think that a strong case can be made that there wouldn’t be another single Bat-book quite so significant until the publication of the first installment of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight, in 1986.

That’s because “The Track of the Hook”, written by Bob Haney and illustrated by Neal Adams, serves as the clearest point of origin for the most thorough overhaul ever of one of comics’ most iconic heroes — an overhaul that has often been called a return to the character’s original 1939 roots, but is probably more accurately viewed as an approach based on what comics writer Denny O’Neil once described as “remembering how we thought it should have been” [emphasis mine].  It was an approach which returned an air of mystery, a touch of noir, to Batman and his milieu — one which did indeed recover visual and thematic elements that had been present, or at least implicit, in the character’s earliest published adventures, but which explored and elaborated on those elements in a more sophisticated fashion than readers had ever seen before.  And it all started with Brave and the Bold #79, and the art of Neal Adams.  Read More

X-Men #45 (June, 1968)

Last week I blogged about Avengers #53, a classic comic book featuring the titular super-team in battle with a second band of costumed heroes whom I hadn’t previously encountered as of April, 1968 — namely, the X-Men.  That issue was actually the concluding chapter of a story that was continued from X-Men #45, making it the first comics crossover I ever experienced*.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the Avengers book was the second part of the crossover until after I’d already bought it and brought it home.  That didn’t stop me from going ahead and reading the book — but as soon as I got the chance, I headed back to the convenience store to see if I could score a copy of the first part.  Even though I already knew how the story ended, obviously, I still wanted to know how the heroes of both groups got themselves into the situation in which they found themselves at the beginning of Avengers #53 in the first place.  Read More

Flash #175 (December, 1967)

If you’ve been reading this blog for a few months or more, you’ll recall (I hope) our post back in June about Superman #199, the classic DC comic book that featured the first-ever race between Superman and the Flash.  That race ended in a tie, but the end of the story promised us readers a “terrific rematch, coming soon in The Flash!”  So when the DC house ads for Flash #175 began appearing a few months later, my ten-year-old self was pumped.  Surely, when the second race was run in the Fastest Man Alive’s own series, he’d win the victory that he so obviously and logically deserved (in my mind, anyway.  See that earlier post for more details of my reasoning).  And regardless of the outcome, with Carmine Infantino (the artist who’d pencilled every single Flash solo story I’d ever read) drawing the book, it was bound to look great.

Well.  Things didn’t quite work out as my ten-year-old self expected.  Read More