In the spring of 1972, Len Wein had been writing comics professionally for almost four years. The career trajectory of the 23-year-old fan-turned-pro had thus far taken him from writing scripts for DC titles like The Adventures of Jerry Lewis, House of Secrets, and Hot Wheels, to similar work at other publishers including Marvel, Skywald, and Gold Key (Star Trek being among his gigs at the latter outfit), and then back to DC, where he’d been scripting Phantom Stranger for about a year, among other assignments. But his experience with the publisher’s best-known super-heroes had largely been limited to a single issue of Teen Titans, one Batman story in Detective (both co-written with his friend Marv Wolfman), and, more recently, a smattering of tales in Superman, Flash, World’s Finest, and Adventure. So you can imagine his surprise (and excitement, and trepidation) when, out of the blue, editor Julius Schwartz asked him if he’d like to write Justice League of America on a regular basis: Read More
In October, 1971, Don and Maggie Thompson’s fanzine Newfangles reported:
There are indications that DC is in serious trouble. Dealers are not too keen on the 25¢ comic book[s], sales are skyrocketing for Marvel, Charlton and Gold Key (GK has 15¢ books, Marvel and Charlton 20¢)… DC’s titles are also reported to be dying in droves on the stands, if they get that far—wholesalers prefer to handle the 20¢ books, apparently.
A couple of months later, with disappointing sales reports now in for about a quarter-year’s worth of the “bigger & better” format DC had inaugurated in June, publisher Carmine Infantino prepared to make some course adjustments. The most significant upcoming change would be to the format itself (more on that later), but there were other indicators of Infantino’s efforts to staunch the bleeding as 1972 got underway; for example, Green Lantern, one of the signature series of DC’s Silver Age, was cancelled with its 89th issue, shipping in February. As for the titles written, drawn, and edited by Jack Kirby, with which DC had clearly hoped to clean up with sales-wise following Kirby’s 1970 defection from DC’s chief rival, Marvel Comics: Jimmy Olsen was removed from Kirby’s purview with the 148th issue (which, like GL #89, came out in February); and while Infantino wasn’t quite ready to pull the plug on Kirby’s three remaining titles — the core books of the star creator’s interconnected “Fourth World” epic — he appears to have been determined to take a more active role in guiding their respective directions than he had before. If the King could ever have been said to have had free rein in managing “his” comics at DC (and that’s by no means an indisputable statement), that day was over. Read More
When we last saw the Forever People, they — most of them, anyway — were in the process of disappearing. In the climactic scenes of their sixth issue, their great enemy Darkseid had wielded the terrible power of the Omega Effect against the young gods from Supertown (as well as their new ally, Sonny Sumo), consigning them all to apparent oblivion — all, that is, save for the youngest of the group, Serifan, who was left to face the tender mercies of Glorious Godfrey’s Justifiers alone.
Now, writer-artist Jack Kirby (aided by inker Mike Royer) continues the story. He opens issue #7’s chapter in a novel fashion, with a character — Highfather — who, while quite familiar to readers of FP‘s companion title New Gods, has only been spoken of in this series, never seen — until now: Read More
The subject of today’s blog post is probably the best known issue of writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby’s DC Comics title Mister Miracle — or, if not that, at least the most referenced. Its contents are mentioned in most comprehensive histories of American comic books, as well as in the majority of biographies not only of Kirby himself, but also of Stan Lee, Kirby’s primary collaborator at DC’s main rival, Marvel Comics. Most of you out there reading this probably know the reason why; it’s all down to a certain character who, while he doesn’t actually appear on the comic’s cover by Kirby and inker Mike Royer, does have his debut heralded there: “Introducing.. Funky Flashman! Villain or Hero — You Decide!”
And why was — why is — Funky Flashman such a big deal? Because, as Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon so aptly put it in their 2004 book, Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book, Funky represented Kirby’s “considered vivisection of his old creative partner.”
But, here’s the thing — back in November, 1971, my fourteen-year-old self didn’t get that. At all. Read More
When we last left the Forever People, at the conclusion of their fourth issue back in June, our young heroes were in desperate straits. Having been captured by Glorious Godfrey and his Justifiers in #3, they had then been handed over to the not-so-tender mercies of Desaad, who’d imprisoned them in his own private “kingdom of the damned” — essentially a torture camp, though presenting itself to the outside world as an innocent amusement park called “Happyland”. The young gods’ sole hope seemed to lie with their living, sentient computer, Mother Box — and with the stranger into whose care Mother Box had teleported herself: a young man named Sonny Sumo. Read More
A half century ago, when your humble blogger picked the object of today’s post up out of the spinner rack and eyeballed the cover for the first time, I was awfully curious as to who — or what — that wraithlike, red-tinged figure descending into Aquaman’s body might turn out to be. At the same time, I wasn’t the least bit curious about the identity of the cover’s artist — since, with the exception of the usual left-hand column’s worth of floating JLA heads rendered by Murphy Anderson, the cover was the obvious work of Neal Adams. And as Adams had either pencilled, inked or provided complete art for more Justice League of America covers than any other artist in the three years since his very first (for issue #66 [Nov., 1968] ), that was no surprise at all.
But interior art by Adams in an issue of JLA? That was unexpected; nevertheless, on turning past the cover to the book’s opening splash, that’s exactly what my fourteen-year-old self beheld: Read More
The fourth issue of Jack Kirby’s Forever People brought us the second chapter in the five-part story arc which would prove to be the centerpiece of this ultimately short-lived series. But, published as it was on the first day of June, 1971, the issue was also the harbinger of a new era for its publisher, DC Comics — marking the end of the 32-page comic book at the company (at least for the next eleven months), as the standard-size comic’s page length was increased to 48 pages, and the price raised from 15 to 25 cents.
I don’t actually know whether this particular issue was the very first 25-cent DC comic I myself saw or bought — unlike the occasion of DC’s last price hike, I have no clear memory of the specific comic that presented me with the sensation of “sticker shock” that surely must have accompanied my discovery of the change. (And it was a change I would have been utterly unaware of until I was confronted by it at the spinner rack; DC had given no hint this was coming in the past month’s books, and I was not yet plugged into any fan networks, formal or otherwise, that might have broken the news.) But Forever People #4 could have been the first — it was in DC’s first batch of 25-cent releases, for sure — so I’m going to use its release as a platform for discussing the change. Read More
As regular readers of this blog know, I went through a brief period at age 12, lasting roughly from the fall of 1969 through the spring of 1970, when, for one reason or another, I became disaffected with comic books. By June, 1970, my interest in them was again on the increase, but I wasn’t quite all the way back yet; and one unfortunate consequence of this was that I failed to buy Justice League of America #82 off the stands when it was released that month. Why was missing this one comic such a big deal? Simply because it featured the first chapter of that year’s two-part team-up between the Justice League of America and their counterparts on “Earth-Two”, the Justice Society of America — an annual summertime tradition at DC Comics ever since 1963, and one in which I’d faithfully participated ever since 1966. That mean that not only had I been buying and enjoying these mini-epics for most of the time I’d been reading comics, but for a significant chunk of my life, period. Four years is a pretty substantial period of time when you’re only twelve years old, after all. Read More
As I’ve written in several previous posts, I was something of a wuss as a kid, at least when it came to my choices in entertainment. (Oh, who do I think I’m kidding? I was an all-around, all-purpose wuss.) To put it plainly, I was scared of being scared.
So I pretty much eschewed all forms of scary media: horror movies, eerie TV shows, spooky comic books… you get the idea.* That is, until a friend took me gently by the hand (metaphorically speaking) and showed me that a walk through the cemetery at midnight could actually be kind of fun. Read More
By September, 1968, when the subject of today’s post came out, I was buying The Avengers semi-regularly. Of course, “semi” literally means “half” (at least in the original Latin) — which is my way of saying that though I’d bought issues #53, #56, and the 1968 Annual, I’d skipped, or at least missed, issues #54, #55, and #57. So, not only did my eleven-year-old self miss out on the debut of the Vision (in #57), but I was also completely in the dark about the malevolent robot who’d allegedly created him, Ultron-5, introduced in issues #54 and #55 as the mysterious leader of the “new” Masters of Evil.
Thus, when I came across Avengers #58 in the spinner rack, I may have been momentarily daunted. Even if I had no obvious way of knowing that this issue tied into the Masters of Evil storyline from several months back, it was clear from the cover that the story was a direct follow-up to the previous issue’s Vision tale.
But the cover also made it crystal clear that the book featured appearances by Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor — the Avengers’ “Big Three”, whom series writer Roy Thomas wasn’t allowed to use as regular team members by the fiat of editor Stan Lee, but whom he nevertheless shoehorned into the book every chance he got — and I had been conditioned by now to recognize this as being something of a special event (if not necessarily a rare one). And, in the end, that must have sold me. I’d buy the book, and trust that the creative team — which included penciler John Buscema and inker George Klein, in addition to Thomas — would catch me up. Read More