Thor #200 (June, 1972)

Cover to Journey into Mystery #1 (Jun., 1952). Art by Russ Heath.

Cover to Journey into Mystery #83 (Aug., 1962). Art by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott.

As milestone issues of long-running comic-book series go, Thor #200 is a fairly odd duck, for a number of reasons.  The first, of course, is that it’s not really the 200th issue of “Thor at all; rather, it’s the two-hundredth sequential release of a periodical publication that began its existence in 1952 as Journey into Mystery, an anthology title which had nary a thing to do with the Norse God of Thunder until the Marvel version of that mythological figure made his debut in its 83rd issue, ten years into the book’s run.

Since the title of the publication wasn’t changed from Journey into Mystery to Thor until issue #126, there hadn’t ever been a Thor #100.  (To the best of my knowledge, there hasn’t been one in later years, either, despite multiple relaunches of the series over the last few decades; and given Marvel’s current publishing model, which simultaneously incorporates both successive restarts and “legacy” numbering, there probably never will be.)  The actual 100th issue of “Thor” as a continuing feature had been #182 — and though that was a pretty good issue, featuring a battle with Dr. Doom as well as marking the beginning of John Buscema’s multi-year tenure as the series’ new regular artist, it hadn’t taken any special note of the occasion.  By the time issue #200 rolled around, however, Marvel had made the 100th issues of Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man causes for celebration — and they were about to do the same with Avengers #100, which would arrive on stands one week after Thor #200 (it’ll also arrive on this blog one week from today, just in case you were wondering).  With 200 being such a nice round number, it would have been surprising if Marvel hadn’t chosen to commemorate Thor‘s issue numbering reaching it, as arbitrary as the milestone was in some ways.

But all of that represents just one way that Thor #200 was somewhat off-model as commemorative issues go.  Another was that the main story was a retread of a tale originally presented in 1966 (right around the time Journey into Mystery became Thor, coincidentally enough).  And yet another was that that story was a fill-in — or, at least, it read like one.  Read More

New Gods #8 (April, 1972)

Following two episodes set either on the ocean waves or on the god-worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips (the latter also being set many years in the past), in the eighth issue of New Gods writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby brought the action back to the city of Metropolis for the first time since issue #5.  In doing so, he was required to pick up plot threads that had been left dangling ever since that issue, published six months earlier, as well as to re-introduce a significant new supporting character not seen since then.  Of course, Kirby being the master storyteller he was, he could throw you right into the middle of the action — as he does on the very first page of #8 — and you’d find yourself acclimated almost immediately, even if you’d never read any previous issue of New Gods, let alone remembered the details of issue #5:  Read More

Thor #199 (May, 1972)

Back in October of last year, this blog took a look at Thor #195 — the initial chapter of incoming writer Gerry Conway’s first full story arc for the series, following two issues devoted to wrapping up a multi-parter begun by his predecessor, Stan Lee.  If you’ve been wondering if we were ever going to get back to the God of Thunder’s quest for the Twilight Well at the World’s End, well, thou need’st worry no longer.  Though, since it’s been a few months, we obviously have some catching up to do on the three issues that fall between #195 and the main topic of today’s post, Thor #199.

But before we jump into a recap of issues #196-198, it would probably be useful to briefly refresh our collective memory about what went down in #195.  We have discussed a lot of other comic books in the last four months, after all.  Read More

Jimmy Olsen #147 (March, 1972)

As the year 1972 began, Jack Kirby had only two issues left to go in his Jimmy Olsen run.  According to Mark Evanier (one of Kirby’s two assistants at the time), the writer-artist-editor hadn’t been enjoying the assignment all that much, and it’s probably safe to assume that he wasn’t sorry to see the end of it.  Nevertheless, before making his exit from the “Superman family” of DC Comics titles, Kirby would take the opportunity to deliver on an implicit promise regarding the Man of Steel which he’d made his readers at the end of Forever People #1, published a little over a year previously…  Read More

Avengers #98 (April, 1972)

How do you follow up the Kree-Skrull War?

That was the question facing Marvel Comics in general, and Avengers writer/de facto editor Roy Thomas in particular, fifty years ago.  In terms of its length and scope, the aforementioned nine-issue storyline had been all but unprecedented at the publisher.  Not to mention the fact that the epic’s back half had (mostly) been visualized by perhaps the hottest artist in American comics at the time, Neal Adams.

So what do you do for an encore?  Well, if you’re Thomas, you segue right into a three-parter which, even if it can’t beat the KSW for length, at least gives it a run for its money in terms of scale — and which wraps things up with a very special 100th issue featuring every single Marvel character who’s ever been an Avenger, however briefly.   And as your collaborator on this trilogy, you bring back an artist who, since his first brief Avengers stint in 1969, has evolved from a raw but promising young talent to, well, another of the hottest artists in American comics, Barry Windsor-Smith.  Read More

Jimmy Olsen #146 (February, 1972)

In considering the last third of Jack Kirby’s run on Jimmy Olsen — a run of five issues beginning with #144 that starts out pretty well, but finishes up rather anticlimactically, with a number of tantalizing plot threads left simply dangling — it’s probably worth remembering that Kirby was never all that excited about chronicling the adventures of “Superman’s Pal” in the first place.

In a 2011 blog post concerning JO #144, Mark Evanier (one of Kirby’s two assistants in 1971) wrote:

Jack didn’t much like working on Jimmy Olsen. It was someone else’s character, someone’s else’s book…and when you worked on the “Superman family” comics then, you had to coordinate with a half-dozen other editors who also had Superman (and sometimes Jimmy) in their comics…  Many at DC hated the way Jack drew Superman and Olsen and his renderings of those characters were being redrawn by others… and Kirby was just sick of the assignment.

Read More

Lois Lane #118 (January, 1972)

With this post, we continue our coverage of Lois Lane‘s forays into Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, courtesy of editor E. Nelson Bridwell, scripter Robert Kanigher, penciller Werner Roth, (primary) inker Vince Colletta, and uncredited Superman/Clark Kent head-finisher Murphy Anderson.  As you may recall, the intermittent usage of Kirby’s concepts and characters in the title had begun in #111, then resumed in #115 before continuing into #116Read More

Mister Miracle #6 (Jan.-Feb., 1972)

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

Daredevil #84 (February, 1972)

In his 2013 book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Sean Howe tells of how young writer Gerry Conway first came to work for the publisher, circa 1970:

Born in Brooklyn, Conway was eight years old when Fantastic Four #1 hit the stands. By the time he was sixteen, he was writing scripts for DC Comics; soon after, he met [associate editor] Roy Thomas, who assigned him a Marvel writers’ test. But [editor Stan] Lee was, as usual, less than impressed with the way another writer handled the characters he shepherded.

 

“He writes really well for a seventeen-year-old kid,” Thomas reasoned.

 

Lee, who himself had first walked into Marvel’s offices at that age, paused. “Well, can’t we get someone who writes really well for a twenty-five-year-old kid?”

The point of the anecdote (at least for Howe) seems to be the irony of Lee’s doubting that someone could be ready to start writing for Marvel at age seventeen, when that’s exactly how old he’d been himself when he’d begun working for his cousin’s husband, Martin Goodman, circa 1940.  But, after some consideration, your humble blogger is of the opinion that Stan the Man may have been on to something.

Maybe Gerry Conway wasn’t quite ready to handle the monthly adventures of Daredevil, Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, et al, fresh out of high school.  Read More