Avengers #89 (June, 1971)

In October, 1970, I returned to Marvel Comics’ Avengers after a hiatus of one full year, during which time I hadn’t bought or read the title at all.  Avengers had been one of my most reliable Marvel purchases for a year or so prior to that break, but, for reasons lost to time, I was a little tentative about committing to the series again; and after buying (and, as I recall, enjoying) both #83 and #84, I sat out the next three months, not picking up another adventure of the Assemblers until #88, in March.  That one seemed to do the trick, however, because from that point on I wouldn’t miss another issue.  (Well, not until 1980 or thereabouts, anyway — but that’s another story.)

Or maybe it wasn’t #88 that sealed the deal — that Harlan Ellison-plotted issue, enjoyable as it was, essentially functioned as a lead-in to the same month’s issue of Hulk, and didn’t spend much energy encouraging readers to come back for the next month’s AvengersAvengers #89, on the other hand, kicked off a multi-issue storyline that just kept building and building, never offering anything like a reasonable jumping-off point.  By the time that storyline — the Kree-Skrull War, as we’d all quickly come to call it — came to an end with #97, it was December, and buying Avengers had become an ingrained habit for your humble blogger.  Read More

Conan the Barbarian #6 (June, 1971)

In January I posed about Conan the Barbarian #4, the first issue I’d ever picked up of Marvel Comics’ series featuring Robert E. Howard’s pulp hero.  As I wrote at the time, my thirteen-year-old self was quite favorably impressed by the efforts of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith in that comic — impressed enough that I feel fairly certain that I meant to buy the next issue when it came out.  Somehow, though, I didn’t manage to do so.  I suppose it’s possible that I never actually saw Conan #5 on the stands; but if that’s true, that was the last time that kind of thing ever happened.  Because with #6, I was back on board, and would thenceforth faithfully acquire every issue through #118 (Jan., 1981), some 9 1/2 years later.  (The occasion for my dropping the book then was Roy Thomas’ exit a few issues earlier; as far as I was concerned, Thomas was Conan’s official biographer, and without him at the series’ helm, it just wasn’t the same.)  Read More

Avengers #88 (May, 1971)

In our last post, we took a look at Justice League of America #89 — a very special issue of DC Comic’s premiere super-team book, in which writer Mike Friedrich paid homage to one of his literary heroes by basing his story’s central character of “Harlequin Ellis” on the noted science fiction author and screenwriter, Harlan Ellison.

By a remarkable (but apparently entirely random) coincidence, the same month that saw the publication pf JLA #89 (March, 1971) also saw the release of a very special issue of the Marvel Comics series featuring that publisher’s nearest analogue to the Justice League, Avengers, which writer Roy Thomas had scripted from a plot outline by the real Harlan Ellison.  You really can’t make this stuff up, y’know?  Read More

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

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

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

Avengers #71 (December, 1969)

At the conclusion of Avengers #70, published fifty years and one month ago, readers were promised that the next issue would feature “the most shocking surprise guests of all!!”  A month later, those fans who picked #71 up off the spinner rack wouldn’t have to look any further than the dynamic Sal Buscema-Sam Grainger cover to learn the identity of those guest stars — though it’s likely that a lot of them had already gotten the news courtesy of the Mighty Marvel Checklist entry for the book that ran in that month’s Marvel comics’ Bullpen Bulletins text page: “The battle that time forgot!  The Avengers take on Cap, the Torch, and Namor in wartime Paris!  Don’t miss “Endgame!”

In October, 1969, my twelve-year-old self had yet to read a single Golden Age Marvel (or Timely, if you prefer) comic book story.  And while I’d gleaned enough information in my few years of reading current Marvel comics to know that Captain America, the original Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner had all been around in the 1940s, I’m not sure if I knew whether or not they’d ever appeared in the same story together before.  I certainly didn’t know about the Invaders — and neither did anyone else, including their creator Roy Thomas (also the scribe of our current tale), since they wouldn’t actually exist for another six years.  So to see these three characters in World War II-era action was a whole new thing for me (and probably for a lot of other readers as well). Read More

Avengers #70 (November, 1969)

If you’re a regular reader, you may recall that at the conclusion of last month’s post concerning Avengers #69, your humble blogger unburdened himself of a shameful, half-century-old secret — namely, that upon his first encounter with the brand-new supervillain group the Squadron Sinister way back in August, 1969, he had not the faintest clue that they were intended as parodies of the Justice League of America — who were, of course, the Avengers’ counterparts over at Marvel Comics’ Distinguished Competition, not to mention a team that he’d been reading about regularly for almost four years.

Imagine my gratified surprise when, subsequent to that post going up, I heard from a number of fellow old fans that they, too, had failed to get writer Roy Thomas’ joke back in the day.  I’m honestly not sure whether that means that my twelve-year-old self wasn’t all that dumb after all, or simply that a lot of us were that dumb, but either way, I’ll take it as a win.  Read More