Conan the Barbarian #4 (April, 1971)

For me as a young reader in early 1971, the road to Robert E. Howard’s fantasy realms of the Hyborian Age — and Marvel Comics’ version of the same — led through the equally imaginary landscapes of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

This was true despite the fact that, just one year earlier, I probably wouldn’t even have been able to tell you what the word “fantasy” meant, at least in terms of genre.  Science fiction, horror, mystery, Western, romance — I had at least a rudimentary understanding of all of those, even at age twelve.  But fantasy?  What was that?  Read More

Justice League of America #87 (February, 1971)

Some fifteen months ago, I blogged about Avengers #70, which featured the first full appearance of the Squadron Sinister.  Regular readers may recall my sheepish confession in that post that, despite how blindingly obvious it is to me now that these four characters were homages to/parodies of (take your pick) DC Comics’ Superman, Batman, Flash, and Green Lantern, in September, 1969 my then twelve-year-old self didn’t pick up on the joke at all.

Nor was I aware that this comic book was one half of a “stealth crossover” of sorts between Marvel Comics’ Avengers and its counterpart title over at DC, Justice League of AmericaSaid crossover apparently had its origins at a party at which comics writer Mike Friedrich suggested to a couple of his cohorts, Roy Thomas (the writer of Avengers) and Denny O’Neil (then the writer of JLA), that they each present a “tip of the hat” of some sort from the super-team book they were writing to its rival, in issues coming out in the same month.  Thomas and O’Neil both agreed, and Avengers #70 and JLA #75 were the results.  But while the inspiration for Thomas’ Squadron Sinister was all but self-evident (though of course not to me, or to the other fans who chimed in after my September, 2019 blog post that they hadn’t caught on either), the relationship of the supposed Avengers analogues in O’Neil’s story — evil doppelgängers of the Justice League called “the Destructors” — to their Marvel models was obscure to the point of opacity, with the parallels being limited to such bits as having Superman’s dark twin refer to himself as being as powerful as Thor.  (Um, sure.)  I didn’t actually buy JLA #75 when it came out, but I’m all but 100% certain I wouldn’t have realized what O’Neil was up to with such subtle shenanigans, even if I had.  Read More

Amazing Adventures #5 (March, 1971)

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

Daredevil #73 (February, 1971)

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

Avengers #84 (January, 1971)

As the year 1970 wound down, it seemed that mainstream American comic books had, at last, embraced the “sword and sorcery” fantasy subgenre in all its pulpy glory.  After some tentative moves in that direction — courtesy of DC Comics’ three “Nightmaster” issues of Showcase in 1969, which were followed in 1970 by Marvel’s publication of several S&S short tales in its new horror anthology titles like Chamber of Darkness and Tower of Shadows — Marvel finally jumped into the deep-end of the pool in July, 1970, with a licensed adaptation of the field’s most prototypical character, Robert E. Howard’s Conan:  Read More

Sub-Mariner #34 (February, 1971)

When Sub-Mariner #34 came out in November, 1970, it had been precisely one year since I’d bought an issue of the title.  It’s somewhat ironic, then, that there’s a well-known direct connection between that issue, Sub-Mariner #22 and the subject of today’s post — even if it’s a connection that’s only obvious — and perhaps even only exists — in retrospect.

That connection, of course, is that both comics are generally understood to be major building blocks in the development of the Defenders, the “non-team” that, for some of us old geezer fans, all but epitomizes 1970s Marvel Comics (at least as far as superheroes are concerned).  Read More

Avengers #83 (December, 1970)

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

Astonishing Tales #3 (December, 1970)

As I’ve discussed in a previous post, when Marvel Comics brought back their mid-Sixties double-feature format with two titles in 1970, my younger self promptly jumped on one of them — Amazing Adventures, co-starring the Inhumans and Black Widow — picking up both the first and second issues.  For some reason, however, I put off sampling the companion title — Astonishing Tales, headlined by Ka-Zar and Doctor Doom — for several months, so my first issue was the series’ third.  Yes, reader; that does indeed mean that I turned up my nose at new work from not just one, but two giants of comic book art — Jack Kirby (who already had one foot out the door at Marvel) and Wally Wood (who was just putting a foot back in).  What can I say?  I was a callow youth, who pretty much took Kirby for granted (he put a couple of new books out every month, after all; if you missed one, there’d be another one along in a couple of weeks) — and, truth to tell, I didn’t yet know who Wood even was, or why I should care.  Read More

It was April, 1970…

On July 21, 2015, this blog made its debut with a post entitled “It was the summer of ’65…”.  In that first installment, I described my earliest experiences with comic books, leading up to to my very first comics purchase in the, well, summer of ’65.  Since then, I’ve been writing about some of the most interesting individual issues I bought in my first few years as an avid comics reader (and nascent collector), while also attempting to chronicle, more generally, the evolution of my own comics tastes and interests, and setting that personal narrative in the broader context of what was going on in the funnybook industry (and, more broadly, in American culture), during those years.

But now, almost half a decade after starting this project, I’ve reached the point in the narrative of my comic book buying and reading where that story almost came to an end, fifty years ago.  I’ve arrived at the time in my life when, at least for a while, I stopped buying comics.  Read More

Sub-Mariner #22 (February, 1970)

Back in September, I wrote about buying and reading my first issue of Sub-Mariner, #20, a mostly done-in-one tale (in keeping with Marvel’s new “no continued stories” policy) which nevertheless ended on an inconclusive note — though Namor, Prince of Atlantis, had escaped the clutches of Doctor Doom, he was still a fugitive in New York City, hunted by the U.S. military as well as by the municipal police, and unable to escape to the ocean depths due to having had his gills surgically closed by a forgettable villain from outer space called (checks notes) the Stalker.  I ended the post by asking the question: would my twelve-year-old self be invested enough in Namor’s plight to come back for issue #21?  On the face of it, it seemed a dubious prospect, as I was becoming somewhat less interested in comics in general around this time.  After all, if I was on the verge of dropping titles I’d been buying regularly for a year or more, including Avengers and Daredevil, what sense would it make for me to start getting involved with yet another series?  Read More