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

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Thor #161 (February, 1969)

The subject of today’s post was the second issue of Thor that I ever bought, and that’s probably not entirely by happenstance.  Purchased three months after my first foray into the Son of Odin’s solo adventures, #161 was the first issue to come out after Silver Surfer #4 — and as readers of my most recent post know, that particular comic book — an Asgardian extravaganza which featured the titular hero in battle against the Thunder God — did at least as much as Thor #158 had to foster my growing interest in the immortal Avenger and his comic book series.

Although the mythological aspects of Thor held rather more appeal for me than either the hero’s battles against Earthbound super-villains or his outer space adventures (not that I ever disliked any of that stuff, mind you), I don’t think I was fazed by the obviously science-fictional orientation of issue #161’s cover.  In fact, I was probably interested in seeing the world-devouring Galactus in a new story, having only read about him thus far in Silver Surfer #1, where he’d appeared only in flashback.  On the other hand, I didn’t know anything at all about Ego, the Living Planet, but I suspect my eleven-year-old self thought he looked pretty interesting on that striking Jack Kirby – Vince Colletta cover.  Of course, neither of those cosmic titans were actually named on the cover, and I might not have recognized Galactus just from his profile; but since I’d read the issue descriptions in both this and the last month’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins, I knew who Thor was going to be meeting, and presumably fighting, here.  Read More

Silver Surfer #4 (February, 1969)

The Mighty Thor has been my favorite Marvel Comics character for the better part of the last half-century.  The subject of today’s post is as responsible for that fact as much as is any other single comic book — even though it’s not “really” a Thor comic.

As I’ve recounted in previous posts, I first made the acquaintance of Marvel’s take on the Norse god of thunder in the summer of 1967, via Avengers #45 (which also happened to be my very first Marvel comic), in which he appeared in only the first few pages.  I didn’t encounter him again until almost a year later — this time in the pages of Avengers Annual #2, in which he played a somewhat more substantial role — but I didn’t get around to buying an issue of Thor itself until September, when the cover of #158 caught my eye.  That turned out to be a pretty good first issue to purchase, since it reprinted in full Thor’s origin story from Journey into Mystery #83, and its new-material framing sequence by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby also introduced me to a number of the settings and characters that had been brought into the series post-origin, such as Asgard, Odin, the Lady Sif, and so forth.  I enjoyed that comic book quite a bit, but for whatever reason, I didn’t pick up another issue of Thor for several months.  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

Captain America #110 (February, 1969)

You know, I could have had the whole run of Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. — all four issues of it! (seven if you include the three he only did covers for) — bought new off the stands, back in 1968.  If only I’d had the smarts, or the good taste, or the foresight to buy ’em at the time.  Alas, for the road not taken…

Just to clarify — I’m referring here to the titular Nick Fury comic book series that premiered in February, 1968, and not to the whole run of the legendary artist’s work on the “Nick Fury” feature, which began with his providing finished art over Jack Kirby’s pencil layouts in Strange Tales #151.  Although, come to think about it, I could have started buying Steranko’s work even as far back as then, if I’d wanted; that issue came out in September, 1966, after all, and by that date I’d already been buying comic books for a little over a year.  But Strange Tales was a Marvel comic, and in 1966 I was only buying DC’s books (with the odd Gold Key thrown in here and there).  By early 1968, however, things had changed.  I had started buying a couple of Marvel comics (Amazing Spider-Man and Daredevil) regularly, and was considering sampling some others.  And, as veteran Marvel readers and comics historians well know, 1968 was the year that Marvel Comics finally got out from under the thumb of their distributor (who also happened to be their primary competitor, DC Comics) and significantly expanded their line.  Over the first three months of that year, Marvel took their three “double feature” titles — Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, and the aforementioned Strange Tales — and split them up, resulting in six “new” titles — Captain America, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange, and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Three of the books continued the numbering of the titles they’d been spun off from, while the other three (including Nick Fury) started with brand new issue #1’s.  What a great opportunity for a young comics fan to get in on the ground floor of some exciting new series, right?  Read More

Fantastic Four #82 (January, 1969)

As I’ve related in previous posts on this blog, my introduction to Marvel Comics’ Inhumans came not by way of their usual stomping grounds in Fantastic Four, but rather via an issue of Amazing Spider-Man that featured Medusa.  Soon afterwards, I encountered Medusa’s little sister Crystal as a supporting character in FF — but all I knew about her at first was that she was the Human Torch’s girlfriend, and that she had a weird pattern in her hair.  It wasn’t until issue #81, in which Crys suited up in blue to become the Invisible Girl’s temporary replacement on the team, that I even learned that she had superpowers, let alone that she was a member of the mysterious Inhumans’ royal house.

And then, just one month later, it was at last time to meet the rest of the family…  Read More

Amazing Spider-Man #68 (January, 1969)

As early as 1964 — barely three years into what Marvel Comics’ editor-in-chief Stan Lee had already proclaimed “The Marvel Age of Comics” — it was already evident that the publisher’s output, ostensibly aimed at an audience of children and (maybe) young teens, was rapidly growing in popularity on college campuses.  Besides the missives from readers with university addresses that frequently appeared in Marvel’s letters columns (perhaps somewhat out of proportion to the actual percentage of mail Marvel received from college students, though it’s hard to know for sure),  Lee himself was being invited to speak at such august institutions of higher learning sas Bard College.  In September, 1965, both Spider-Man and the Hulk managed to crack Esquire magazine’s list of current college campus heroes, “28 People Who Count”, where they rubbed shoulders with the likes of Bob Dylan and Malcolm X; by the following year, Marvel rated an entire six-page feature article in the magazine’s annual college issue, which reported that as many as 50,000 American college students had joined Marvel’s official fan club, the Merry Marvel Marching SocietyRead More

Daredevil #47 (December, 1968)

When we last checked in on Matt Murdock for this blog, he was engaging in an unnecessary (but still entertaining) slugfest with Captain America, while also moping over having been (sort of) dumped by his (kinda) girlfriend, Karen Page.  All that, of course, went down in Daredevil #43, published in June, 1968.  The three issues that followed that one told a single story, in which Daredevil was framed for murder by his newest arch-foe, the Jester, who’d been introduced in #42.  I bought those issues when they came out, and the story was a pretty good one, as I recall.  Nevertheless, I’ve opted not to blog about them here — mainly because the Jester’s not all that interesting to me as a villain, and I’ve already made most of the general comments I could make about scripter Stan Lee and penciler Gene Colan’s late-Sixties DD work in earlier posts.

Daredevil #47 is something different, however.   “Brother, Take My Hand!” (for which Lee and Colan are joined by inker George Klein) is a standalone story without any flashy costumed super-villains, which deals meaningfully with some fairly unusual topics for a 1968 comic book — the Vietnam War, physical disabilities, and racial equality — without actually being “about” any of them.  Read More

Fantastic Four #81 (December, 1968)

Sometimes, it can seem like most of the introductory paragraphs I write for these blog posts are explanations (or apologies) for the posts I’m not writing — i.e., the posts about the classic comic books I can’t write about here (at least not directly), because I didn’t buy them new off the stands fifty years ago.  That’s been especially true for the comics of 1968 — a year seemingly chock full of milestones, of which I seem to have missed at least as many as I caught.  The latest example came just last week, when I had to explain in the introduction to my Avengers #58 post how I’d missed the three issues that led up to that landmark story.  And this week, we have yet another one.

  • If you’re a regular reader, you may recall that my first issue of FF was #78, which featured the first half of a two-part story in which Ben Grimm was cured (again) of being the Thing; unfortunately, I missed the next month’s issue, and by the time I got back on board, with #80,  Ben was all orange ‘n’ rocky again, and he and the other guys were having a brief adventure way out West prior to the birth of Sue and Reed Richards’ child.  But hey, at least I got to witness the return of one-time regular supporting character Wyatt Wingfoot, along with the awesome debut of a brand-new villain, Tomazooma!  Still, that would soon prove small consolation for my missing the next issue of Fantastic Four to hit the stands — namely, the 1968 Annual, which featured not only the debut of a considerably more impressive (and durable) villain, Annihilus, but also the introduction of a brand-new supporting character: none other than Reed and Sue’s bouncing baby boy, Franklin Benjamin Richards.

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 s 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