Swamp Thing #2 (Dec., 1972-Jan., 1973)

According to an interview with Bernie Wrightson published in Back Issue #6 (Sep., 2004), the artist was initially reluctant to take on Swamp Thing, in large part because he wasn’t sure he’d be able to handle the deadlines required in producing a regularly published full-length comic book — even one that came out on a bi-monthly schedule.  What ultimately convinced him?  Mostly, he said, it was because he realized he’d never get a better chance to draw a series that would be “wall-to-wall monsters”.

That opportunity didn’t come immediately, of course; as readers of Swamp Thing #1 (or our August 13 blog post on same) already know, there’s just one bona fide monster in that issue — and he doesn’t even show up until well into the story.  But as we’re about to see, by only the series’ second installment, young Mr. Wrightson would be able to make his dreams come true.  Read More

Swamp Thing #1 (Oct.-Nov., 1972)

First off, please be advised that this blog post is going to be one of the long ones.  That’s primarily due to the fact that, in addition to covering the specific fifty-year-old comic book that gives the post its title, your humble blogger is also goiing to take a shot at answering the age-old conundrum: who came first, DC Comics’ Swamp Thing or Marvel Comics’ Man-Thing?  (Regular readers may recall that when the blog spotlighted the second Man-Thing story, back in March, I promised something of this sort would be forthcoming; that moment has at last arrived.)

But it’s also destined to be at least a bit on the long side because before I can even get into discussing Swamp Thing #1, I feel that it’s necessary to give some attention to an even older comic, one that came out over fifty-one years ago.  Of course, I’m talking about House of Secrets #92, published by DC in April, 1971; the comic book whose first eight pages gave us the very first “Swamp Thing” story, as written by Len Wein, drawn (mostly) by Bernie Wrightson, and edited by Joe Orlando.  Neither the behind-the-scenes story of how Swamp Thing-the-series came to be — nor my own initial reactions to the first issue of the latter, as a fifteen-year-old reader in August, 1972 — make a whole lot of sense outside of the context of that classic tale.  So, that’s where we’re starting, on what in all probability will indeed be a lengthy (though hopefully also enjoyable) journey.  Forewarned is forearmed, eh?  Read More

Astonishing Tales #12 (June, 1972)

Any of you out there who aren’t already familiar with this particular comic book may be taking a look at its John Buscema-Joe Sinnott cover right now and thinking, “Nice, but what’s so special about Ka-Zar rasslin’ a big alligator, even underwater, that Astonishing Tales #12 should rate its own blog post?”  The fact of the matter, however, is that this issue (along with its immediate follow-up, Astonishing Tales #13) represents a significant chapter in the histories of not one, but two, semi-major Marvel Comics characters — neither one of whom happens to be the self-styled Lord of the Savage Land.  Read More

Green Lantern #84 (Jun.-Jul., 1971)

Although writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams had begun their tenure on Green Lantern in 1970 with a run of grounded stories featuring more-or-less realistic antagonists, as they moved into their second year they appeared more willing to incorporate the sort of colorfully code-named and costumed supervillains that had been the series’ bread-and-butter prior to their own advent.  Already in GL #82 they’d brought back Sinestro,  the renegade ex-Green Lantern; and now, two issues later, they were drafting yet another veteran foe back into active service — although you couldn’t tell that from the cover, which (like #82’s before it) gave no hint of who the story’s main bad guy actually was.  While O’Neil and Adams (and their editor, Julius Schwartz) may have decided that it was a good idea to include more old-school superhero genre elements in their storytelling, they evidently didn’t think putting a returning villain’s puss on the cover would have much if any impact on the book’s sales.  Read More

House of Secrets #81 (Aug.-Sept., 1969)

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

Avengers #58 (November, 1968)

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

Justice League of America #51 (February, 1967)

Throughout the 1960’s, as their upstart rival Marvel Comics distinguished itself with the development of a complex and more-or-less consistent fictional universe that linked all of the company’s heroes, villains, and other characters into one ongoing meta-story, DC Comics resolutely continued to operate as a collection of mostly independent fiefdoms, each under the dominion of its own editor.  Sure, all the A-list heroes showed up for Julius Schwartz’s Justice League of America, regardless of who was editing the heroes’ solo series, and they could also pair off in George Kashdan’s (later, Murray Boltinoff’s) The Brave and the Bold — but, by and large, DC’s editors didn’t pay much attention to continuity across the line.

Within an individual editor’s purview, however, there were occasional stabs at crossovers and other signifiers of a shared universe — especially within the books guided by Schwartz.  As we’ve discussed in a previous post, one way Schwartz accomplished this was be establishing close friendships between pairs of his heroes (Flash and Green Lantern, Atom and Hawkman) which provided frequent opportunities for guest-shots in one another’s books.  Another way was to set up a plotline in one book that would carry over into another book — as was done in the classic “Zatanna‘s Search” story arc that ran through multiple Schwartz-edited books from 1964 through 1966, culminating in Justice League of America #51’s “Z — as in Zatanna — and Zero Hour!”.     Read More

Batman #181 (June, 1966)

Most of the villains generally considered to be on Batman’s “A-list” of foes were introduced in the first decade or so following the Caped Crusader’s first appearance in 1939.  The Joker first arrived on the scene in 1940, barely a year after his heroic adversary’s debut, as did Catwoman.  The Penguin and the Scarecrow followed soon after, in 1941, while Two-Face first turned up in 1942.  Even the Riddler, a character who wouldn’t really take off until the mid-Sixties, debuted as early as 1948.

I may be as old as dirt, but even so, I’m not quite ancient enough to have been around for any of those characters’ introductory appearances.  On the other hand, I am old enough, and also fortunate enough, to have been present for the debut of another member of that top rank of Batman baddies — the villainess known as Poison Ivy.      Read More