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

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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

Justice League of America #56 (September, 1967)

This issue of JLA features “The Negative-Crisis on Earths One-Two!”, a story written by Gardner Fox and illustrated by Mike Sekowsky and Sid Greene.  It’s the second part of 1967’s Justice League – Justice Society team-up, an annual summertime tradition that DC Comics maintained from 1963 all the way through 1984.  I blogged about the first half of this tale a few weeks ago, and I’m sure you’re all eager to find out how our heroes get out of the mess they were in at the conclusion of JLA #55.  And we’ll get to that pretty soon — but first, I’d like us to spend a little quality time with the book’s cover.

To begin with, it’s just a great piece of work — one of the final, as well as one of the finest, products of penciller Carmine Infantino and inker Murphy Anderson’s long and profitable collaboration.  And as perhaps the first comic book cover to feature what would become an everlasting motif in the superhero genre — two line-ups of superheroes charging each other — it has historic significance as well.  Read More

Justice League of America #50 (December, 1966)

The eastern world, it is exploding
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’
You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’?

— P. F. Sloan, “Eve of Destruction”, 1964

Fighting soldiers from the sky
Fearless men who jump and die
Men who mean just what they say
The brave men of the Green Beret

— Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler and Robin Moore, “The Ballad of the Green Berets”, 1966

By October, 1966, United States military forces had been operating in Vietnam for over a decade, though mostly in an advisory role for much of that time.  Beginning in 1961, however, President John F. Kennedy had greatly increased the number of American troops stationed in the region; and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, had used the authority of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, passed in August, 1964, to escalate the U.S.’s military role in the conflict between North and South Vietnam.  The deployment of 3,500 Marines in March, 1965, effectively began the American ground war there.  By December of that year, the number of U.S. troops had been increased to 200,000.     Read More