Defenders #3 (December, 1972)

As we discussed on the blog back in May, the first issue of The Defenders (which was actually the fourth outing for the titular super-team, following their three-issue tryout run in Marvel Feature) ended on a note of mystery, as the Sub-Mariner revealed to his allies, Doctor Strange and the Hulk, that prior to the events of that comic, he’d been attacked by none other than the Silver Surfer — who had at the time appeared to be himself allied with Necrodamus, the sorcerous acolyte of the Undying Ones whose attempt to summon those evil extradimensional entities our three heroes had just then thwarted, though only barely.  Read More

Conan the Barbarian #21 (December, 1972)

As noted in last month’s post about Conan the Barbarian #20, at the time that issue went to press, the series had recently received the 1971 Shazam Award for Best Continuing Feature — a fact writer-editor Roy Thomas was understandably happy to publicize in the comic’s letters column.  But for anyone who’d missed the good news, they got a second chance to learn about it one month later, when Marvel trumpeted the accolade on the cover of Conan #21.  (Considering that Marvel’s rival DC Comics had done the same thing a year earlier when their own Green Lantern won the same award, it was hardly a surprise that Marvel would follow suit.)

That the blurb ended up appearing on the cover of this particular issue of Conan, however, would turn out to be somewhat ironic, as a number of the people involved in producing it would in later years view it as something of a train wreck.  As Roy Thomas put it in his 2018 book Barbarian Life: A Literary Biography of Conan the Barbarian, Volume 1:
Read More

Captain America #155 (November, 1972)

When Steve Englehart came on board as the new writer for Captain America in June, 1972, your humble blogger had been a regular reader of the series for about ten months — coming on board with issue #144 — after having been an off-and-on one ever since #105, way back in June, 1968.  Originally drawn in by #144’s dramatic cover by John Romita (the effect of which was unquestionably enhanced by the Falcon’s sharp new costume design, also by Romita), I’d hung around for the quite enjoyable Hydra/Kingpin/Red Skull multi-parter that had followed, as delivered by writer Gary Friedrich and a cadre of artists including Gil Kane and Sal Buscema.  And when that storyline wrapped up in issue #148, I’d stayed with the book — despite the fact that the subsequent yarns concocted by Friedrich’s replacement Gerry Conway weren’t all that compelling.  I suppose that inertia may have been carrying me along by that point; that, and the fact that by mid-1972 I was buying the vast majority of Marvel Comics’ superheroic output.  In the context of the Marvel Universe as a whole, Captain America felt like a key title, and I didn’t want to miss anything important.  Read More

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