Defenders #1 (August, 1972)

Back in July of last year, we covered the advent of the Marvel Comics superhero team the Defenders in Marvel Feature #1.  This new team’s debut had come following a tryout of sorts in two late-1970 issues of Sub-Mariner; although in those comics, the grouping went by the unofficial moniker of “Titans Three”, and their number included the Silver Surfer, rather than the guy who ended up actually being the de facto leader of the team (whose other members were Sub-Mariner and the Hulk, by the way) — Doctor Strange — for the simple reason that Marvel editor-in-chief Stan Lee had a proprietary interest in the Surfer, and wouldn’t let associate editor/writer Roy Thomas use him as a permanent member of the new super-team, now formally christened “the Defenders”, when it became the basis for an ongoing feature.  Read More

Conan the Barbarian #15 (May, 1972)

When we last left Conan back in December, he and his two companions — Zephra (daughter of Conan’s old foe, the wizard Zukala), and Elric (ruler of an otherworldly realm called Melniboné) had just fended off an attack by Prince Gaynor the Damned and his Chaos Pack of beast-men.  We now pick up the tale where Conan the Barbarian #14 left off, as presented by the same storytellers — plotters Michael Moorcock (creator of Elric) and James Cawthorn, scripter Roy Thomas, artist Barry Windsor-Smith, and co-inker (with Windsor-Smith) Sal Buscema:  Read More

Avengers #99 (May, 1972)

Like its immediate predecessor, the second installment of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith’s three-part follow-up to the Kree-Skrull War leads off with a cover inked by Windsor-Smith, but pencilled by John Buscema.  If you happen to have read our post about part one, aka Avengers #98, then you may recall that your humble blogger was obliged to confess therein that he’d gone close to five decades not realizing that Buscema had anything to do with that book’s cover, never having recognized any hand at work on it save for that of Windsor-Smith.  Something similar holds true for the cover of our present subject, Avengers #99 — only this time, it’s Buscema whose style I’ve always recognized, and Windsor-Smith whose contribution failed to register with your humble blogger until quite recently, when I checked the Grand Comics Database as part of my research for this post.  (This fact probably has no significance beyond highlighting what a poor eye I have for picking out artists’ styles, but it’s still kind of amusing, at least to me.)

Behind the cover, on the other hand, Windsor-Smith’s work was unmistakable — and would have been even had the opening splash page carried no credits at all…  Read More

Avengers #98 (April, 1972)

How do you follow up the Kree-Skrull War?

That was the question facing Marvel Comics in general, and Avengers writer/de facto editor Roy Thomas in particular, fifty years ago.  In terms of its length and scope, the aforementioned nine-issue storyline had been all but unprecedented at the publisher.  Not to mention the fact that the epic’s back half had (mostly) been visualized by perhaps the hottest artist in American comics at the time, Neal Adams.

So what do you do for an encore?  Well, if you’re Thomas, you segue right into a three-parter which, even if it can’t beat the KSW for length, at least gives it a run for its money in terms of scale — and which wraps things up with a very special 100th issue featuring every single Marvel character who’s ever been an Avenger, however briefly.   And as your collaborator on this trilogy, you bring back an artist who, since his first brief Avengers stint in 1969, has evolved from a raw but promising young talent to, well, another of the hottest artists in American comics, Barry Windsor-Smith.  Read More

Conan the Barbarian #14 (March, 1972)

In October, 1971, the letters column in the back of Conan the Barbarian #13 alerted readers to the fact that the Marvel Comics series — which had been coming out monthly ever since issue #4 back in January — was going to a bi-monthly schedule;

In truth, Conan #13 was very nearly the last issue of the title — at least for a while.  As the series’ writer and de facto editor, Roy Thomas, would explain decades later in his book Barbarian Life: A Literary Biography of Conan the Barbarian, Vol. 1 (Pulp Hero Press, 2018)Read More

Daredevil #84 (February, 1972)

In his 2013 book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Sean Howe tells of how young writer Gerry Conway first came to work for the publisher, circa 1970:

Born in Brooklyn, Conway was eight years old when Fantastic Four #1 hit the stands. By the time he was sixteen, he was writing scripts for DC Comics; soon after, he met [associate editor] Roy Thomas, who assigned him a Marvel writers’ test. But [editor Stan] Lee was, as usual, less than impressed with the way another writer handled the characters he shepherded.

 

“He writes really well for a seventeen-year-old kid,” Thomas reasoned.

 

Lee, who himself had first walked into Marvel’s offices at that age, paused. “Well, can’t we get someone who writes really well for a twenty-five-year-old kid?”

The point of the anecdote (at least for Howe) seems to be the irony of Lee’s doubting that someone could be ready to start writing for Marvel at age seventeen, when that’s exactly how old he’d been himself when he’d begun working for his cousin’s husband, Martin Goodman, circa 1940.  But, after some consideration, your humble blogger is of the opinion that Stan the Man may have been on to something.

Maybe Gerry Conway wasn’t quite ready to handle the monthly adventures of Daredevil, Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, et al, fresh out of high school.  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

Conan the Barbarian #11 (November, 1971)

Continuing the blog’s commemoration of Giant-Size Marvel Month, we have today an unusual entry — one of only two 25-cent, 48-page Marvel comic books published in August, 1971 that was the second issue of its title to appear in the new format.  (The other, if you’re wondering, was the partially-new, partially-reprint Rawhide Kid #93.)  As we covered in last month’s Conan #10 post, a number of Marvel titles made the jump to 25 ¢/48 pages in July, anticipating the increase in price and size the rest of the line would make a month later.  But since most of them weren’t published monthly, only a couple managed to get out two issues in the new format before Marvel publisher Martin Goodman abruptly pulled the plug at the end of August, dropping the page count back down to the old standard of 32 pages — though lowering the price only to 20 cents, so that buyers were now spending a nickel more for the “classic” standard-size Marvel comic than they had been before the July-August jump.  Read More

Thor #193 (November, 1971)

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

Conan the Barbarian #10 (October, 1971)

One week ago, in our post about Amazing Spider-Man #101, we shared the two lead items from the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page that ran in that issue (as well as in other Marvel comics shipping in July, 1971), which explained how, due to editor Stan Lee taking a couple of weeks off his comics-scripting duties to work on a screenplay, other writers would be temporarily stepping in to handle his titles.

But Stan’s sabbatical wasn’t the only big news out of Marvel that month, as was indicated by the very next Bulletin:  Read More