From the perspective of a half century later, the horror boom in American comics in the early 1970s looks all but inevitable. The appeal of the classic movie monsters to young audiences had been clear ever since the first syndicated collection of old Universal horror films started showing up on TV sets in the late 1950s, quickly becoming widely popular. The subsequent success of Warren Publishing’s Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine (originally produced in 1958 as a one-shot publication, but almost immediately converted into an ongoing periodical), can only have reinforced the sense among U.S. comics publishers that there was gold to be mined in those dark, storm-blasted hills of Gothic horror — as must have Warren’s following up FMoF in the next decade with the black-and-white comics magazines Creepy, Eerie, and, as the 1960s drew to a close, Vampirella. Then there was the mid-to-late Sixties success of Dark Shadows, the daytime television serial that began its broadcast life firmly planted in the genre of Gothic romance, but soon morphed into a much more freewheeling fantasy show, happily recycling the tropes of both classic horror fiction and old monster movies, and bringing vampires, werewolves, zombies, and their ghastly ilk into America’s homes five afternoons a week. 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
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
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:
In the spring of 1971, roughly four months after he’d crossed over a couple of Marvel superheroes in Iron Man #35 and Daredevil #73, writer Gerry Conway did it again — though this time, the team-up tale started in Daredevil and ended in another title (Sub-Mariner), rather than the other way around. What was more, Conway even managed to work in a third marquee hero — the biggest star among the three, actually — although that hero’s title, Amazing Spider-Man, wasn’t itself a part of the crossover. Perhaps oddest of all, after getting the ball rolling in Daredevil, Conway completely dropped the Man Without Fear from his narrative, so that DD’s role in the second half of the crossover was limited to appearing in a single flashback panel.
Whatever the thinking was behind doing things this way, if the intention was to get Marvel fans who weren’t currently consistent buyers of Daredevil and/or Sub-Mariner to pony up for at least one issue of each series, then it worked, at least as far as my thirteen-year-old self was concerned. Having been a fairly regular purchaser of DD’s book in earlier days (through most of 1968-69, to be more precise), and an occasional sampler of Subby’s title as well, I very likely would have grabbed both comics even if there hadn’t been a third co-star. But adding Spidey to the mix made it virtually a no-brainer for me — as I suspect it also did for a good number of other fans. Read More
As I wrote in this space back in May, in 1970 my younger self bought the first two issues of Marvel Comics’ new double-feature title Amazing Adventures upon their release — but then skipped the next two. Half a century later, I can’t recall what my decision-making process was (and the vagaries of distribution being what they were at the time, it’s entirely possible that I never saw AA #3 and/or #4 on the stands). But I’d guess that I simply wasn’t all that crazy about what I’d found in #1 and #2. Even though I liked the Inhumans a whole lot, and was an admirer of Jack Kirby’s art (I was also a fan of his plotting, of course, if only unconsciously, since I didn’t yet comprehend the extent of the King’s creative contributions to his collaborations with Marvel editor/scripter Stan Lee), the two-part tale that inaugurated the Inhumans feature, written as well as drawn by Kirby, didn’t feel like essential work. At the time he produced these stories, Kirby was on the verge of unleashing a tremendous amount of pent-up creativity with his “Fourth World” project for DC; but, as with a lot of his other material for Marvel at the end of his monumental ’60s tenure at the publisher, his heart didn’t really seem to be in this stuff.
As for the title’s second feature, the Black Widow — she was more of an unknown quantity for me, anyway. Besides the obvious fact that this was her first solo strip, I had at this point read very few of her earlier appearances in Avengers and elsewhere, and had little to no investment in the character. Despite the reliably fine draftsmanship of John Buscema on her first two installments (with John Verpoorten inking Buscema’s pencils), I didn’t find enough there to hook me and bring me back. Read More
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
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
On July 21, 2015, this blog made its debut with a post entitled “It was the summer of ’65…”. In that first installment, I described my earliest experiences with comic books, leading up to to my very first comics purchase in the, well, summer of ’65. Since then, I’ve been writing about some of the most interesting individual issues I bought in my first few years as an avid comics reader (and nascent collector), while also attempting to chronicle, more generally, the evolution of my own comics tastes and interests, and setting that personal narrative in the broader context of what was going on in the funnybook industry (and, more broadly, in American culture), during those years.
But now, almost half a decade after starting this project, I’ve reached the point in the narrative of my comic book buying and reading where that story almost came to an end, fifty years ago. I’ve arrived at the time in my life when, at least for a while, I stopped buying comics. Read More
If you’re a regular reader, you may recall that at the conclusion of last month’s post concerning Avengers #69, your humble blogger unburdened himself of a shameful, half-century-old secret — namely, that upon his first encounter with the brand-new supervillain group the Squadron Sinister way back in August, 1969, he had not the faintest clue that they were intended as parodies of the Justice League of America — who were, of course, the Avengers’ counterparts over at Marvel Comics’ Distinguished Competition, not to mention a team that he’d been reading about regularly for almost four years.
Imagine my gratified surprise when, subsequent to that post going up, I heard from a number of fellow old fans that they, too, had failed to get writer Roy Thomas’ joke back in the day. I’m honestly not sure whether that means that my twelve-year-old self wasn’t all that dumb after all, or simply that a lot of us were that dumb, but either way, I’ll take it as a win. Read More