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

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

Avengers #83 (December, 1970)

Fifty years ago, one didn’t necessarily expect fresh linguistic coinages to turn up in comic books right away.  If anything, comics were notorious for incorporating slang words and expressions (especially those presumably favored by America’s youth) years past their peak of popularity– if, indeed, they’d ever been popular at all.

But in its incorporation of the phrase “male chauvinist pigs” on its cover, Marvel Comics’ Avengers #83 seems to have been right on the money.  Read More

Avengers #65 (June, 1969)

In last month’s blog post about Avengers #64, we covered how the titular superhero team quashed the villainous scientist Egghead’s attempt to blackmail the governments of Earth using an orbiting death-ray satellite.  Our heroes’ victory, however, was marred by the violent death of their unlikely ally, a mob boss named Barney Barton — who, in an unexpected twist, turned out to be the older brother of the Avenger who, up until issue #63, had been known to one and all only as “Hawkeye”, but had now assumed the identity of Goliath — and who readers now learned had the given name of “Clint”.

Barney’s heroic sacrifice decisively ended the overarching bid for world domination by what had begun as a mad-scientist triumvirate, which consisted of the Mad Thinker and the Puppet Master in addition to Egghead.  The chronicle of this trio’s nefarious doings had actually begun in Captain Marvel #12, of all places, before weaving into Avengers #63, Sub-Mariner #14, and Captain Marvel #14, and then finally returning to Avengers for issue #64’s ultimate battle.  But Egghead had escaped at the end of that issue, meaning that there was at least one loose end left to tie off — a loose end that was given greater urgency by the fact that it involved an Avenger’s need to avenge his own dead brother.  Additionally, the revelation of Hawkeye/Goliath’s “real” name in the context of his previously unknown sibling relationship with a notorious gangster raised at least as many questions as it answered.  It would be the task of the series’ creative team, scripter Roy Thomas and penciller Gene Colan (joined this issue by new inker Sam Grainger), to address most, if not all, of this unfinished business in the pages of Avengers #65.  Read More

X-Men #45 (June, 1968)

Last week I blogged about Avengers #53, a classic comic book featuring the titular super-team in battle with a second band of costumed heroes whom I hadn’t previously encountered as of April, 1968 — namely, the X-Men.  That issue was actually the concluding chapter of a story that was continued from X-Men #45, making it the first comics crossover I ever experienced*.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the Avengers book was the second part of the crossover until after I’d already bought it and brought it home.  That didn’t stop me from going ahead and reading the book — but as soon as I got the chance, I headed back to the convenience store to see if I could score a copy of the first part.  Even though I already knew how the story ended, obviously, I still wanted to know how the heroes of both groups got themselves into the situation in which they found themselves at the beginning of Avengers #53 in the first place.  Read More

Avengers #53 (June, 1968)

The first Marvel comic book I ever bought was Avengers #45, back in August, 1967, but even though I enjoyed that issue, I wouldn’t get around to trying another Avengers comic for another eight months.  By April, 1968, however, I’d begun buying both Amazing Spider-Man and Daredevil regularly, and I was ready to expand my Marvel-reading horizons a little further.  Avengers was already a known quantity, obviously, and issue #53 clearly had something else going for it, as well — the appearance of a whole other super-group, the X-Men.

I’m honestly not 100% certain that I even knew whether the X-Men were supposed to be heroes or villains at this point, though it seems likely I would have noticed their book on the stands at some point.  Assuming I did know that the X-Men were good guys, that would have been another strong selling point, as my younger self appears to have loved the idea of getting double the heroes (in this case, two hero teams) for the price of one — as attested to by the fact that in my first couple of years of comic book consumption, the only title I bought almost as regularly as Justice League of America was The Brave and the Bold, (which, of course, featured DC’s heroes teaming up with one another).  And the fact that the cover heralded a “vs.” situation wouldn’t have thrown me, either — even as a mostly-DC reader up to 1968, I knew that heroes fought each other sometimes.  After all, I was the proud owner of JLA #56, which featured what’s probably the first instance of the battle-lines-of-heroes-charging-each-other motif that informs Avengers #53’s cover (as it would many another cover through the years).  Read More

Avengers #45 (October, 1967)

By August, 1967, I’d been buying and reading comic books for two years — and the books that I had bought had almost exclusively been those published by DC Comics, with an occasional Gold Key issue for variety.  But in that month, as the Summer of Love (or the Long Hot Summer, take your pick) wound down — I finally broke down and bought my first Marvel Comics Group comic book.

So what the hell took me so long?

It’s entirely possible that I just didn’t see that many Marvel comics on the spinner racks in those first two years of comic-book buying.  Prior to 1968, the publisher’s newsstand distribution was controlled by Independent News (a company owned by National Periodical Publications, aka DC Comics — and no, that doesn’t sound like an ideal competitive situation, does it?), which restricted the number of titles that Marvel could release per month.  That restriction would be all but completely lifted by early 1968, but in the summer of 1967, it was still in place.  Read More