Avengers #71 (December, 1969)

At the conclusion of Avengers #70, published fifty years and one month ago, readers were promised that the next issue would feature “the most shocking surprise guests of all!!”  A month later, those fans who picked #71 up off the spinner rack wouldn’t have to look any further than the dynamic Sal Buscema-Sam Grainger cover to learn the identity of those guest stars — though it’s likely that a lot of them had already gotten the news courtesy of the Mighty Marvel Checklist entry for the book that ran in that month’s Marvel comics’ Bullpen Bulletins text page: “The battle that time forgot!  The Avengers take on Cap, the Torch, and Namor in wartime Paris!  Don’t miss “Endgame!”

In October, 1969, my twelve-year-old self had yet to read a single Golden Age Marvel (or Timely, if you prefer) comic book story.  And while I’d gleaned enough information in my few years of reading current Marvel comics to know that Captain America, the original Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner had all been around in the 1940s, I’m not sure if I knew whether or not they’d ever appeared in the same story together before.  I certainly didn’t know about the Invaders — and neither did anyone else, including their creator Roy Thomas (also the scribe of our current tale), since they wouldn’t actually exist for another six years.  So to see these three characters in World War II-era action was a whole new thing for me (and probably for a lot of other readers as well). Read More

Avengers #68 (September, 1969)

Fifty years (and one month) after the fact, I’m honestly not sure whether, upon first seeing the cover for Avengers #67 back in June, 1969, I had any idea that it hadn’t been pencilled by John Buscema, but rather by his younger brother, Sal.  The look of the featured characters was so close to what I was accustomed to seeing from the elder Buscema that It probably didn’t occur to me to consider that the piece might have been drawn by someone else — and, after all, I only knew Sal Buscema as an inker at this point (and only of his big brother’s work on Silver Surfer, at that).

But I feel fairly confident that a month later, when I first saw the cover of Avengers #68, I realized that something was different about it, even if I can’t claim to have any distinct memory to that effect.  Sure, the Avengers still closely resembled John Buscema’s renditions, but they were “off-model” just enough that I had to know they weren’t quite the same.

And once I’d picked up the book and flipped to the first page, i realized that more than just the cover art had changed…  Read More

Avengers #67 (August, 1969)

Last month, the blog tackled Avengers #66, which featured the first chapter of writer Roy Thomas’ second-ever storyline featuring the super–villainous robot Ultron, as well as the first mention ever of Wolverine’s favorite metal, adamantium.  Today, we’re moving on to the second chapter of this three-part tale, which, like the first, was illustrated by the young British artist Barry Windsor-Smith — save for the cover, that is, which was instead drawn by an American artist, named Buscema.  Unlike with issue #66, however, the Buscema who pencilled #67’s cover (inked, as #66’s had been, by Sam Grainger) wasn’t the veteran John, but rather John’s brother, Sal.

The younger Buscema had been working as an inker for Marvel Comics for a little over half a year — among his first published jobs, he’d embellished his sibling’s pencils for the classic Silver Surfer #4 — but this cover represented his Marvel debut as a penciller.  It would soon prove a harbinger of bigger things to come, as with the very next issue of Avengers, #68, the 33-year-old artist would graduate to becoming the regular artist for its interiors.  Read More

Avengers #66 (July, 1969)

Following Gene Colan’s three-issue stint as penciller on Marvel Comics’ Avengers series, the 66th issue brought yet another artistic change — though not the one that the book’s cover appeared to indicate.  That illustration, which depicted the team of heroes — including, unusually for this era, both Thor and Iron Man — battling one of their own, the Vision, across multiple levels of their mansion HQ — was by John Buscema, who’d been the series’ regular artist for the better part of the two years immediately preceding Colan’s brief tenure.  The interior art, however, was by one of Marvel’s newest (and youngest) artists, the nineteen-year-old British import we’d eventually come to know as Barry Windsor-Smith.  Read More

Daredevil #52 (May, 1969)

When we last saw Matt Murdock, at the end of last month’s post about Daredevil #51, our Man Without Fear was in pretty bad shape.  After undergoing an ordinary blood test in his costumed identity, he’d had a drastic adverse reaction to the due to the radioactive particles in his bloodstream (or something like that), and after wandering around in a delirium for a bit, had collapsed in an alley.  Meanwhile, the New York Police Department, having been clued in about the imminent danger to the Scarlet Swashbuckler, had put out an all-points bulletin for our hero.  And while all this was going on, DD’s current nemesis, a sinister robotics genius named Starr Saxon, had accidentally stumbled onto his foe’s secret identity — and had also, on pretext of being a friend of Matt’s, had convinced the blind lawyer’s almost-girlfriend, Karen Page, to accompany him, leading her into who knows what dread danger.  Read More

Avengers #64 (May, 1969)

Today’s post is the fourth in a series we’ve devoted to chronicling a storyline that ran through a number of Marvel comics in the first few months of 1969 — a sort of “stealth crossover” in which a number of the publisher’s heroes got involved (some without even knowing it) in foiling the dastardly plot of three (allegedly) big-brained super-villains intent on (what else?) taking over the world.  The comics readers of that time (your humble blogger among them) had to be paying close attention to all the editorial footnotes in the comics involved to follow the story (and even then, it was a hit-or-miss affair) — because, in high contrast to today’s multi-title “events”, Marvel’s in-house promotion for the crossover was virtually non-existent.

Things had first gotten rolling in January with Captain Marvel #12, in which the titular hero battled a powerful android, the Man-Slayer, that was trying to wreck a U.S. missile base in Florida called “the Cape” (as in Canaveral).  The Man-Slayer’s rampage was ultimately shut down not by Mar-Vell, however, but rather by S.H.I.E.L.D. operative the Black Widow, who was promptly taken prisoner by the Man-Slayer’s unseen masters.  Moving into February, Avengers #63 revealed the Widow’s captors to be the Mad Thinker, Egghead, and the Puppet Master.  The Widow was rescued by her boyfriend, the Avenging archer known as Hawkeye, though not before he’d downed a vial of Dr. Henry Pym’s growth serum and become the new Goliath.  Read More

Avengers #63 (April, 1969)

For younger readers of current comics, accustomed to publishers trumpeting every single guest appearance or “event” tie-in months in advance, the notion of a “stealth crossover” may seem all but incomprehensible.  Yet, that’s exactly what Marvel Comics did in the first quarter of 1969, as they carried over a plotline from the January-shipping issue of Captain Marvel into February’s Avengers (the subject of today’s post) without even so much as an editorial footnote in the first book to let fans know it was happening.  What the heck were they thinking fifty years ago, there at the “House of Ideas”?

But before we get into all that, we need to acknowledge the other two significant events happening in Avengers this month, one “in-story”, and the other behind the scenes, though both were heralded by the cover: the first, a major change concerning the superhero code-named Goliath; the second, the advent of a new regular artist — for after drawing Avengers for most of the last two years, John Buscema was being pulled off of the title to do layouts for Amazing Spider-Man, while Gene Colan was giving up Daredevil to take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Read More

Avengers #61 (February, 1969)

The subject of today’s post, in addition to being another fine installment in writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema’s original run on The Avengers, also happens to have been my first real encounter (outside of a couple of cameos) with Marvel Comics’ Master of the Mystic Arts, Doctor Strange — or, at least, I think it was.

The problem here is that I know that, once upon a time, I owned a copy of Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics #19 — a terrific, double-sized reprint book that not only included a classic early Doctor Strange tale (from Strange Tales #128), but also an equally-classic Fantastic Four story (from the 27th issue of that team’s title) that guest-starred the good Doctor.  A double dose of Doc, if you will. And since that book would have been on sale in  November, 1968, it would necessarily have been my first Strange-featuring comic — if I’d bought it new off the stands, that is.  Which I have no truly compelling reason to believe I didn’t.

Still — and allowing for how vague many of my comics-buying memories are after half a century’s passage — I somehow don’t believe that was the case.  When I reread both these books now, Avengers #61 simply feels like it was my first Dr. Strange comic, and MCIC #19 … doesn’t.  So I’ve decided, for the purposes of this blog, that I probably came into possession of my copy of the reprint book some time later, probably via trade with (or sale by) a friend.  If I’m wrong — well, we’ll never know, right?  (Besides which, nobody but me likely cares all that much.)

But even if Avengers #61 wasn’t the first comic book I ever read that featured Dr. Strange, it was certainly the first non-reprint book to include the hero that I ever picked up.  Without it, I might well not have taken to the character as much (and almost certainly not as quickly) as I did; for, immediately following my reading this issue, I became a regular purchaser of the Doctor Strange series — and I’d remain a faithful reader of the title for years to come, sticking around through its rather frequent cancellations and revivals, with its star ultimately becoming my second favorite Marvel character (right after Thor).

Which is pretty much just what Roy Thomas and his colleagues at Marvel hoped would happen, when they decided to guest-star Doctor Strange in Avengers back in late 1968.   Read More

Avengers #60 (January, 1969)

They just don’t make superhero wedding comics* the way they used to.

These days, it’s as likely as not that a heavily promoted “wedding issue” will come out and have not a single scene where anything remotely resembling a wedding ceremony occurs.  Or, a couple does get married, but it’s a different couple than the one whose marital union the book was supposed to be about.  Something of a bait-and-switch going on in both of those cases, if you ask me.

Ah, but in the Good Ol’ Days (AKA the Silver Age of Comics), the major funnybook publishers really knew how to celebrate them some nuptials.  For an example, take Aquaman #18 (Nov.-Dec., 1964), where the whole blamed Justice League of America turns out for the Sea King’s undersea wedding to Mera (bubble helmets thoughtfully provided by the Royal Atlantean Event Planning Committee, I’m sure),   Or Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965), in which not only do all of Reed Richards’ and Sue Storm’s super friends show up, but so do a whole passel of super foes, as well, thanks to the machinations of the diabolical Doctor Doom.  Now that’s what I call a wedding to remember.  Not a dry (or un-blackened) eye in the house, y’know what i mean?

And then, there’s Avengers #60, featuring “‘Til Death Do Us Part!”, by Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema (penciler), and Mike Esposito (inker, as “Micky Demeo”) — which not only gives us an Avengers Mansion-ful of super-powered guests and gatecrashers, but also brings the wacky on a level rarely seen before or since.  Read More