As I’ve previously related on this blog, I didn’t start buying Marvel comics on a regular basis until January, 1968 (though I’d bought my very first such issue almost half a year earlier, in August, ’67); therefore, I pretty much completely missed the era of Marvel’s original “split” books, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, and Tales of Suspense. Indeed, the month I became a full-fledged Marvelite was the very same month that Marvel rolled out Captain America and the Hulk in their brand-new solo titles, with Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange, and Nick Fury soon to follow. It was a near miss, for sure; but it was a miss, all the same.
Still, even if I hadn’t experienced the old split book format firsthand, I knew what it was. So, I doubt I was more than mildly surprised (if that) to see Marvel bringing it back after an absence of more than two years with the premiere issues of Amazing Adventures and Astonishing Tales, both released in May, 1970. Read More
Fifty years (and one month) after the fact, I’m honestly not sure whether, upon first seeing the cover for Avengers #67 back in June, 1969, I had any idea that it hadn’t been pencilled by John Buscema, but rather by his younger brother, Sal. The look of the featured characters was so close to what I was accustomed to seeing from the elder Buscema that It probably didn’t occur to me to consider that the piece might have been drawn by someone else — and, after all, I only knew Sal Buscema as an inker at this point (and only of his big brother’s work on Silver Surfer, at that).
But I feel fairly confident that a month later, when I first saw the cover of Avengers #68, I realized that something was different about it, even if I can’t claim to have any distinct memory to that effect. Sure, the Avengers still closely resembled John Buscema’s renditions, but they were “off-model” just enough that I had to know they weren’t quite the same.
And once I’d picked up the book and flipped to the first page, i realized that more than just the cover art had changed… Read More
Last month, the blog tackled Avengers #66, which featured the first chapter of writer Roy Thomas’ second-ever storyline featuring the super–villainous robot Ultron, as well as the first mention ever of Wolverine’s favorite metal, adamantium. Today, we’re moving on to the second chapter of this three-part tale, which, like the first, was illustrated by the young British artist Barry Windsor-Smith — save for the cover, that is, which was instead drawn by an American artist, named Buscema. Unlike with issue #66, however, the Buscema who pencilled #67’s cover (inked, as #66’s had been, by Sam Grainger) wasn’t the veteran John, but rather John’s brother, Sal.
The younger Buscema had been working as an inker for Marvel Comics for a little over half a year — among his first published jobs, he’d embellished his sibling’s pencils for the classic Silver Surfer #4 — but this cover represented his Marvel debut as a penciller. It would soon prove a harbinger of bigger things to come, as with the very next issue of Avengers, #68, the 33-year-old artist would graduate to becoming the regular artist for its interiors. Read More
In last month’s blog post about Avengers #64, we covered how the titular superhero team quashed the villainous scientist Egghead’s attempt to blackmail the governments of Earth using an orbiting death-ray satellite. Our heroes’ victory, however, was marred by the violent death of their unlikely ally, a mob boss named Barney Barton — who, in an unexpected twist, turned out to be the older brother of the Avenger who, up until issue #63, had been known to one and all only as “Hawkeye”, but had now assumed the identity of Goliath — and who readers now learned had the given name of “Clint”.
Barney’s heroic sacrifice decisively ended the overarching bid for world domination by what had begun as a mad-scientist triumvirate, which consisted of the Mad Thinker and the Puppet Master in addition to Egghead. The chronicle of this trio’s nefarious doings had actually begun in Captain Marvel #12, of all places, before weaving into Avengers #63, Sub-Mariner #14, and Captain Marvel #14, and then finally returning to Avengers for issue #64’s ultimate battle. But Egghead had escaped at the end of that issue, meaning that there was at least one loose end left to tie off — a loose end that was given greater urgency by the fact that it involved an Avenger’s need to avenge his own dead brother. Additionally, the revelation of Hawkeye/Goliath’s “real” name in the context of his previously unknown sibling relationship with a notorious gangster raised at least as many questions as it answered. It would be the task of the series’ creative team, scripter Roy Thomas and penciller Gene Colan (joined this issue by new inker Sam Grainger), to address most, if not all, of this unfinished business in the pages of Avengers #65. Read More
When we last left Captain Mar-Vell of the Kree, at the conclusion of our Captain Marvel #12 post back in January, the alien soldier-cum-Earth superhero had just emerged from a battle against a mysterious android, the Man-Slayer, that had been rampaging across “the Cape”, a U.S. missile base in Florida. Meanwhile, both Mar-Vell’s Earth secret identity of Dr. Walter Lawson and his costumed-adventurer persona of Captain Marvel were now wanted for treason, leaving our protagonist in a bit of a pickle. All of this was serving to distract Mar-Vell from what should be job number one — using the awesome new powers granted him by the cosmic entity Zo to exact vengeance on his mortal enemy, the Kree colonel named Yon-Rogg, whom Mar-Vell held responsible for the death of his beloved Medic Una.
And while all this was going on on the printed page, Captain Marvel was facing challenges behind the scenes as well — because after already going through three writers and an equal number of artists over its fourteen-issue run (counting two issues of Marvel Super-Heroes), his series was about to welcome aboard yet another writer, Gary Friedrich, and artist, Frank Springer. With Captain Marvel #13, both of those gentlemen dove right into the ongoing storyline that had been developed over the past couple of issues by the previous scripter (Arnold Drake) and penciller (Dick Ayers) — and then proceeded to tread water for twenty pages. Read More
For younger readers of current comics, accustomed to publishers trumpeting every single guest appearance or “event” tie-in months in advance, the notion of a “stealth crossover” may seem all but incomprehensible. Yet, that’s exactly what Marvel Comics did in the first quarter of 1969, as they carried over a plotline from the January-shipping issue of Captain Marvel into February’s Avengers (the subject of today’s post) without even so much as an editorial footnote in the first book to let fans know it was happening. What the heck were they thinking fifty years ago, there at the “House of Ideas”?
But before we get into all that, we need to acknowledge the other two significant events happening in Avengers this month, one “in-story”, and the other behind the scenes, though both were heralded by the cover: the first, a major change concerning the superhero code-named Goliath; the second, the advent of a new regular artist — for after drawing Avengers for most of the last two years, John Buscema was being pulled off of the title to do layouts for Amazing Spider-Man, while Gene Colan was giving up Daredevil to take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Read More
In December, 1968 — about a year and a half after my first sampling of Marvel Comics’ wares, and a year after I’d begun buying the company’s books on a regular basis — I finally got to read a story featuring their number one super-villain. Of course, I’m talking about Doctor Doom.
And by this time, I was more than ready to make the not-so-good Doctor’s better acquaintance. After all, not only had I caught him on several episodes of the Fantastic Four’s Saturday morning TV cartoon show (one of which, “The Way It All Began”, had even provided a stripped-down version of his origin story), but I’d also encountered him in flashback or other cameo appearances in several comics, including Silver Surfer #1 and Not Brand Echh #9 (though the latter was technically not the “real” Victor von D., but rather the “Marble Comics” parody version, “Doctor Bloom”. Read More
You know, I could have had the whole run of Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. — all four issues of it! (seven if you include the three he only did covers for) — bought new off the stands, back in 1968. If only I’d had the smarts, or the good taste, or the foresight to buy ’em at the time. Alas, for the road not taken…
Just to clarify — I’m referring here to the titular Nick Fury comic book series that premiered in February, 1968, and not to the whole run of the legendary artist’s work on the “Nick Fury” feature, which began with his providing finished art over Jack Kirby’s pencil layouts in Strange Tales #151. Although, come to think about it, I could have started buying Steranko’s work even as far back as then, if I’d wanted; that issue came out in September, 1966, after all, and by that date I’d already been buying comic books for a little over a year. But Strange Tales was a Marvel comic, and in 1966 I was only buying DC’s books (with the odd Gold Key thrown in here and there). By early 1968, however, things had changed. I had started buying a couple of Marvel comics (Amazing Spider-Man and Daredevil) regularly, and was considering sampling some others. And, as veteran Marvel readers and comics historians well know, 1968 was the year that Marvel Comics finally got out from under the thumb of their distributor (who also happened to be their primary competitor, DC Comics) and significantly expanded their line. Over the first three months of that year, Marvel took their three “double feature” titles — Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, and the aforementioned Strange Tales — and split them up, resulting in six “new” titles — Captain America, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange, and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Three of the books continued the numbering of the titles they’d been spun off from, while the other three (including Nick Fury) started with brand new issue #1’s. What a great opportunity for a young comics fan to get in on the ground floor of some exciting new series, right? Read More
“Batmania” may have dominated the pop culture landscape in 1966, but it was by no means the only thing going on at the time — not even within the smaller sphere of pop-cultural activity that was of special interest to nine-year-old boys such as myself. For one thing, there was also The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (that’s the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, for those of you who don’t already know, and yet might actually care for some reason), in addition to being something of a mini-phenomenon of its own, was of course also part of the larger wave of popularity of the “super-spy” genre in the early-to-mid-Sixties. The wellspring of this popularity was author Ian Fleming’s James Bond, the hero of a series of espionage thrillers who’d debuted in 1953, but who’d really taken off (especially in the United States), when it was revealed that President John F. Kennedy was a fan. By 1966, the enormous success of Agent 007 had yielded a crop of imitators as well as variations on the “spy-fi” concept, including TV’s spoof Get Smart and Western-spy-fi genre hybrid The Wild Wild West, not to mention comics’ Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents series. Read More