While I can’t claim to have distinct memories of the moment my fourteen-year-old self first laid eyes on the cover of Thor #195, one half-century ago, I feel confident in telling you that I was pretty happy about it (new Marvel Comics “picture frame” cover design notwithstanding). That’s in part because penciller John Buscema and inker Frank Giacoia provided a well-crafted illustration, obviously; but for me, it had more to do with the subject of the illustration. The God of Thunder and his best buds, the Warriors Three (who just so happened to be my favorite members of Thor‘s supporting cast, but hardly ever seemed to make the cover) battling a bunch of trolls? That seemed to put us right square in the middle of the high fantasy territory that often, but not always, supplied the milieu for the Son of Odin’s adventures, both in his current run and in the old Stan Lee-Jack Kirby Journey into Mystery stories I was then enjoying in reprint form via Special Marvel Edition. More to the point, that particular territory was my favorite milieu for Thor stories, as it had been since I’d caught the high fantasy bug by way of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in the summer of 1970 — and the main reason why Thor had become my favorite Marvel superhero in the months since then. Read More
As writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane began work on the 103rd issue of Amazing Spider-Man over half a century ago, the comics-scripting sabbatical of the title’s regular writer (and Marvel editor) Stan Lee — originally announced as “a couple of weeks away from the typewriter” — was going on its third month. For their first two issues together, Thomas and Kane had been kept busy resolving the “six arms to hold you” plotline Lee and Kane had set up in AS-M #100, while also introducing Marvel’s first vampire supervillain, Morbius. — an idea inspired by Lee’s interest in taking advantage of the new freedoms offered by recent revisions to the Comics Code. But now, having restored Peter Parker and his web-slinging alter ego to their normal two-armed status quo, as well as having sent Morbius to a watery grave (don’t worry, it didn’t hold him), the two creators were finally on their own. What would they do now?
As Thomas recalled in 2000 for a personal reminiscence of his longtime friend and collaborator Kane, originally published in Alter Ego #4: Read More
In crafting the installment of their ongoing “Kree-Skrull War” epic that arrived on stands in September, 1971, the Avengers creative team hadn’t had the luxury (or, if you prefer, the burden) of 34 pages to work with, as they’d had for a single issue with the previous month’s issue #93. Rather, the first 20-cent edition of the title featured a mere 23 pages of art and story.
Nevertheless, the reduction of space didn’t deter writer Roy Thomas from continuing to break each issue’s episode of the galaxies-spanning saga into multiple chapters — or from giving every chapter its own individual title, each inspired by a well-known work of science fiction. For #94’s “More Than Inhuman”, the reference was to Theodore Sturgeon’s 1953 novel, More Than Human: Read More
When we last checked in with the Fantastic Four, the team was dealing with the aftermath of the temporarily deranged Thing’s rampage through Manhattan in FF #111, and subsequent rumble with the Hulk in issue #112 — a battle which had apparently left Ben Grimm no longer among the living. As revealed in the following month’s #113, however, Ben wasn’t completely dead, and Reed Richards (aka Mister Fantastic) was ultimately able not only to resuscitate his old friend, but reverse the ill effects of Reed’s attempt to cure him back in #107, restoring Bashful Benjy to his old irascible (but not antisocial) self.
Notwithstanding that good news, the FF still had some major problems with which to contend. Public opinion had turned strongly against them over recent events, to the extent that there was a warrant out for their arrest; plus, their landlord at the Baxter Building was trying to throw them out of their headquarters. But most urgent of all was a surprise visit from an old friend, whose coming was teased throughout the first thirteen pages of the story by a bright light in the sky that drew steadily closer and closer until, at last, it entered in through the FF’s window, and revealed itself as… the Watcher! Read More
If there’s a single comic book that best exemplifies the potential of the all-new, 48-page format which Marvel Comics rolled out to great fanfare in August, 1971 (or, as we’ve christened it on this blog, Giant-Size Marvel Month), it surely must be the subject of today’s post: Avengers #93, featuring the 34-page story “This Beachhead Earth” — which, in addition to being the mid-point of the extended storyline known as the Kree-Skrull War, was also the first installment of a short but superlative run on the series by the creative team of scripter Roy Thomas, penciller Neal Adams, and inker Tom Palmer.
And if any set of classic comics exemplifies just how contentious two talented creators can become over the issue of who deserves the credit for which aspects of their storied collaboration, it’s the same short Avengers run by Thomas, Adams, and Palmer. 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
As we’ve discussed in previous posts on this blog, the year 1971 brought the first significant revisions to the American comic book industry’s self-regulating mechanism, the Comics Code Authority, since its establishment in 1954. Among the most important changes made to the Code in that year was the relaxing of restrictions on the depiction of certain sorts of imaginary creatures; or, as a newly added statement read: “Vampires, ghouls and werewolves shall be permitted to be used when handled in the classic tradition such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and other high calibre literary works…” Read More
As we related on this blog back in February, in early 1971 Marvel Comics became the first major American comic-book company to publish a story dealing with drug abuse, when they released three monthly issues of Amazing Spider-Man without the Comics Code Authority’s Seal of Approval. But DC Comics could easily have been the first to do so, instead, if only they’d had the nerve — or at least that’s how artist Neal Adams tells the story.
That story appears to begin with a project that DC was invited to produce for a government agency (either the City or the State of New York, depending on the version of Adams’ narrative you consult). Both Adams and his creative collaborator on DC’s famously socially conscious title Green Lantern, writer Denny O’Neil, were asked to submit treatments for a comic book about drug addiction. This, presumably, would have been some sort of giveaway comic, distributed in such a manner that the Comics Code would have been irrelevant — but the project never came to fruition. As Adams told interviewer Bryan Stroud in 2007: Read More
In June, 1971, we Marvel Comics readers turned to the “Bullpen Bulletins” text page appearing in that month’s issues (including the book that’s the topic of today’s post, naturally) to find the “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” reproduced below. This was a particularly lengthy edition of editor Lee’s monthly column, taking up almost a third of the page’s available real estate — but considering the occasion, that didn’t seem at all inappropriate. Read More
Conan the Barbarian #8 was the third consecutive issue of the Marvel Comics series that I bought, and the fourth overall. But it was the first one that had the map.
By “the map“, I am of course referring to this work of imaginative cartography, familiar to virtually everyone who read Marvel’s Conan comics even occasionally back in the day: