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
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;
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
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
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
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
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
Avengers #92 was a transitional issue for the Marvel Comics series in several ways, a couple of which are signified by the issue’s cover. For one, the cover marks the arrival of artist Neal Adams, who’d begin a brief but glorious run as the title’s penciller and co-plotter with the very next issue. For another, the prominence given to Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America presages the end of an era in which those heroes only appeared on a semi-regular basis in Avengers; while the old dictum of editor Stan Lee that none of the “Big Three” could appear in the title except as occasional guest stars had been honored largely in the breach for a couple of years now, up to this point you might still have stretches in which none of them showed up at all (in fact, none had appeared in the previous three issues, and, as we’ll soon see, they barely play a role in #92, cover prominence notwithstanding). From issue #93 forward, Cap, Thor, and Iron Man would simply be “Avengers”, on the same basis as their fellow members who didn’t have their own books — effectively ending what had been the status quo of the title ever since issue #16 (May, 1965). Read More
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