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

Batman #197 (December, 1967)

In January, 2016, some six months after the debut of this blog, I posted “a spoiler warning for all seasons” — a page dedicated to the idea that, while some might find the idea of spoiler warnings for comic book stories of a half-century’s vintage to be a little absurd, others might expect them as a matter of course.  Since then, that single page has served as my blanket spoiler warning for any and all fifty-year-old comics discussed over the course of the blog.  Today, however, we have a somewhat different situation, as I’m planning to refer to the concluding scene of a very recent comic book, namely Batman (2016) #32, which will have been on sale for only about three weeks at the time of this post’s publication.

So, here you go:  if you haven’t yet read Tom King and Mikel Jamin’s concluding chapter to “The War of Jokes and Riddles”, and you’re planning to, and you’d rather not know what happens on the last page — consider yourself hereby warned.

And now, on with our regularly scheduled 50 Year Old Comic Book… 
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Wonder Woman #171 (July-Aug., 1967)

It may be difficult for some younger comics fans to believe, but Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman haven’t always been perceived as a “Trinity” of characters standing head and shoulders above the rest of their fellow DC Comics heroes, in the Justice League and elsewhere.  That’s not to say that fans in earlier eras didn’t appreciate the special status of these three characters — the only superheroes to remain in virtually continuous publication in their own titles from the 1940s to the present day — but that appreciation didn’t necessarily equate to seeing the characters as equals.

When I first started reading comics in 1965, Batman and Superman were each headlining two titles of their own in addition to co-starring in World’s Finest, and were also appearing regularly in Justice League of America.  Add to that the two titles featuring Superboy, and (from late 1965 on), Batman’s frequent co-starring turns in The Brave and the Bold, and it was clear to me that these guys were DC’s Big Two, and no one else was in the same class.  Wonder Woman, after all, starred in just one title, and also appeared in JLA — which simply put her in the same good-sized camp as Aquaman, Atom, Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman.  Of course, Princess Diana also had the distinction of having been around in the same incarnation since the Forties, unlike most of those guys, as well as the unique quality of being the only female superhero with her own comic book, which put her a step ahead of Supergirl.  Still, all that wasn’t enough to give her iconic status — at least, not in the eyes of the (admittedly ignorant) little boy I was at the time.  Read More

Batman #181 (June, 1966)

Most of the villains generally considered to be on Batman’s “A-list” of foes were introduced in the first decade or so following the Caped Crusader’s first appearance in 1939.  The Joker first arrived on the scene in 1940, barely a year after his heroic adversary’s debut, as did Catwoman.  The Penguin and the Scarecrow followed soon after, in 1941, while Two-Face first turned up in 1942.  Even the Riddler, a character who wouldn’t really take off until the mid-Sixties, debuted as early as 1948.

I may be as old as dirt, but even so, I’m not quite ancient enough to have been around for any of those characters’ introductory appearances.  On the other hand, I am old enough, and also fortunate enough, to have been present for the debut of another member of that top rank of Batman baddies — the villainess known as Poison Ivy.      Read More

Batman #179 (March, 1966)

In January, 1966, I bought my first issue of Batman.  I’d already had plenty of exposure to the character by this time, of course, in multiple issues of Justice League of America, plus appearances in The Brave and the Bold and World’s Finest.  More to the point, one of the very first comics I’d bought had been the 344th issue of Detective, Batman’s “other” book (and arguably the primary Batman book, as it was the 27th issue of Detective in which the character made his debut way back in 1939).  Still, up until January, 1966, I hadn’t gotten around to buying an actual issue of the Caped Crusader’s titular comic.

But if I was ever going to pick up an issue of Batman, there could hardly have been another month when I would have been more primed to do so than January of 1966.  Because on January 12, eight days prior to the release of Batman #179, American television viewers saw this on their screens for the very first time: Read More