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

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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

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

Avengers Annual #2 (September, 1968)

Fifty years ago, the decision to spend twenty-five cents on the comic book that’s the subject of today’s post was pretty much a no-brainer for my eleven-year-old self.  I had already bought and read that month’s regular monthly issue of Avengers, which I had enjoyed a great deal — and while that issue’s main plotline was mostly resolved by the story’s last page, there were some tantalizing loose ends left hanging, that a caption in the last panel assured readers would be tied up in the title’s “1968 Special — now on sale!”

But even if that hadn’t been the case, I expect I would have snatched up Avengers Annual #2 simply based on its spectacular John Buscema – Frank Giacoia cover.  “The New Avengers vs. the Old Avengers!”  Two superhero teams for the price of one (even if it did look like a couple of the heroes were doing double duty on both teams).  How could I pass up a deal like that?  Read More

Avengers #56 (September, 1968)

By July, 1968, my eleven-year-old self had decided he liked the Avengers, but, apparently, not quite enough yet to commit to buying their book every single month.  I’d bought my first Avengers comic (which also happened to be my very first Marvel comic), issue #45, almost a whole year previously, but had then waited until the following April to pick up my second, #53 (which also featured the X-Men, making it a bargain from a “more heroes for the money” perspective).  But even though I was already a regular buyer of two other Marvel comics (Amazing Spider-Man and Daredevil) by that time, I continued to hedge my bets on Avengers, for whatever reason.

Probably, it’s because neither of those Avengers issues had featured a story that continued into the following issue, as both Amazing Spider-Man #59 and Daredevil #39 — my first issues of those two series — had done.  By the time those two latter titles had each wrapped up three-issue story arcs in their respective issues #61 and #41, I was hooked enough on the main characters, and the subplots involving them and their supporting casts, to want to see what happened in their next issues.  In contrast, neither of the Avengers comics I’d bought thus far, as enjoyable as they’d been, had provided a compelling hook to bring me back for the next one.  It’s possible, of course, that I simply never saw copies of Avengers #54 or #555 for sale — as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I didn’t necessarily get to the Tote-Sum, or one of my other comics outlets, every single week — but since I was managing to score my copies of Spidey’s and DD’s books every month, it seems more likely that I did see ’em, and simply opted to pass.  Read More

Captain America #105 (September, 1968)

In June, 1968, almost a year after buying my first Marvel comic, and about five months after I started picking up the publisher’s books on a regular basis, I finally bought my first comic book featuring the work of the man who was probably the single most important architect of the “House of Ideas” (as they liked to call it back then) — Jack Kirby.  That book was Captain America #105 — the subject of this week’s blog post.

Unless, of course, it was Fantastic Four #78 — the subject of next week’s blog post.

Allow me to explain that ambiguous statement.  The fact is, both of those books came out in the first half of June, 1968 — and as I didn’t necessarily get to the Tote-Sum or one of my other comics outlets every single week back in those days, I can’t just go by which one would have reached stores the earliest.  And since I have no specific recollection of which I bought first (and it’s quite possible that I picked them up together, on the same day), I’m going to blog first about the one with the earlier “official” publication date according to the Library of Congress’ records (as reported by Mike’s Amazing World) — and that’s CA #105 (published June 4th) rather than FF #78 (published June 11th).  I wish I could be more certain that this one is the first, but this is the best I can do with the information (and poor memory) that I’ve got.

Still — to my mind, the more interesting question isn’t which Marvel comic by Jack Kirby I bought first, but rather, why did it take me so long to buy a Marvel comic by Jack Kirby in the first place?  Read More

X-Men #45 (June, 1968)

Last week I blogged about Avengers #53, a classic comic book featuring the titular super-team in battle with a second band of costumed heroes whom I hadn’t previously encountered as of April, 1968 — namely, the X-Men.  That issue was actually the concluding chapter of a story that was continued from X-Men #45, making it the first comics crossover I ever experienced*.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the Avengers book was the second part of the crossover until after I’d already bought it and brought it home.  That didn’t stop me from going ahead and reading the book — but as soon as I got the chance, I headed back to the convenience store to see if I could score a copy of the first part.  Even though I already knew how the story ended, obviously, I still wanted to know how the heroes of both groups got themselves into the situation in which they found themselves at the beginning of Avengers #53 in the first place.  Read More

Avengers #53 (June, 1968)

The first Marvel comic book I ever bought was Avengers #45, back in August, 1967, but even though I enjoyed that issue, I wouldn’t get around to trying another Avengers comic for another eight months.  By April, 1968, however, I’d begun buying both Amazing Spider-Man and Daredevil regularly, and I was ready to expand my Marvel-reading horizons a little further.  Avengers was already a known quantity, obviously, and issue #53 clearly had something else going for it, as well — the appearance of a whole other super-group, the X-Men.

I’m honestly not 100% certain that I even knew whether the X-Men were supposed to be heroes or villains at this point, though it seems likely I would have noticed their book on the stands at some point.  Assuming I did know that the X-Men were good guys, that would have been another strong selling point, as my younger self appears to have loved the idea of getting double the heroes (in this case, two hero teams) for the price of one — as attested to by the fact that in my first couple of years of comic book consumption, the only title I bought almost as regularly as Justice League of America was The Brave and the Bold, (which, of course, featured DC’s heroes teaming up with one another).  And the fact that the cover heralded a “vs.” situation wouldn’t have thrown me, either — even as a mostly-DC reader up to 1968, I knew that heroes fought each other sometimes.  After all, I was the proud owner of JLA #56, which featured what’s probably the first instance of the battle-lines-of-heroes-charging-each-other motif that informs Avengers #53’s cover (as it would many another cover through the years).  Read More

Amazing Spider-Man #59 (April, 1968)

As regular readers of this blog may recall, I purchased my very first Marvel comic book, Avengers #45, in August, 1967.  That book was the one with which I finally expanded my comics consumption beyond what had been, for the full first two years that I’d been buying and reading the things, a diet consisting almost exclusively of DC comics.  Still, as I wrote in my post about that issue, five months ago, that first, single excursion into Marvel territory wouldn’t be followed by another one until the fateful day in January, 1968, that I picked up the subject of today’s post, Amazing Spider-Man #59.

I’m not exactly sure why it took me that long to buy my second Marvel book — I do remember liking that Avengers issue, so it wasn’t as though I’d tested the waters and found them wanting.  Probably, it was just a reluctance to change my ingrained buying habits.  But even if I’m not certain why I dragged my feet for another five months, I have little doubt that it would have taken me even longer, if not for this:  Read More

Avengers #45 (October, 1967)

By August, 1967, I’d been buying and reading comic books for two years — and the books that I had bought had almost exclusively been those published by DC Comics, with an occasional Gold Key issue for variety.  But in that month, as the Summer of Love (or the Long Hot Summer, take your pick) wound down — I finally broke down and bought my first Marvel Comics Group comic book.

So what the hell took me so long?

It’s entirely possible that I just didn’t see that many Marvel comics on the spinner racks in those first two years of comic-book buying.  Prior to 1968, the publisher’s newsstand distribution was controlled by Independent News (a company owned by National Periodical Publications, aka DC Comics — and no, that doesn’t sound like an ideal competitive situation, does it?), which restricted the number of titles that Marvel could release per month.  That restriction would be all but completely lifted by early 1968, but in the summer of 1967, it was still in place.  Read More