Witching Hour #5 (Oct.-Nov., 1969)

In 1969, Alex Toth had been a professional comic book artist for over two decades; but prior to the summer of that year, I’d never seen his work.  That’s because I didn’t start buying comics until the summer of 1965, and the work that Toth was producing at that time only appeared in Warren Publishing’s black-and-white horror comics and in DC Comics’ romance titles, both of which were beyond my ken (though for different reasons) as an eight-year-old lad.  And then, approximately one year after my own initiation into comic books, Toth left the industry (though, thankfully, only temporarily) to go work in TV animation. Read More

Aquaman #47 (Sept.-Oct., 1969)

When last we left Aquaman, the King of the Seven Seas had just been reunited with his long-lost Queen, Mera, and the two were swimming swiftly back to Atlantis to confront Narkran — the man whom Aquaman had trusted to rule Atlantis in his stead while he searched for the kidnapped Mera, and whom he’d since learned had actually been conspiring all along with surface-world gangsters to take and hold Mera prisoner.  Both King and Queen were unaware, however, of three other critical situations that were unfolding at the same time: the first (and most urgent) being the solitary battle of Aquaman’s junior partner Aqualad against a fearsome sea monster called the Bugala; the second, a burgeoning popular movement of rebellion against Narkran’s despotism by a band of young Atlanteans; and the third, an ongoing series of tremors that were rocking the undersea kingdom’s foundations.  Read More

House of Secrets #81 (Aug.-Sept., 1969)

As I’ve written in several previous posts, I was something of a wuss as a kid, at least when it came to my choices in entertainment.  (Oh, who do I think I’m kidding?  I was an all-around, all-purpose wuss.)  To put it plainly, I was scared of being scared.

So I pretty much eschewed all forms of scary media: horror movies, eerie TV shows, spooky comic books… you get the idea.*  That is, until a friend took me gently by the hand (metaphorically speaking) and showed me that a walk through the cemetery at midnight could actually be kind of fun.  Read More

Aquaman #46 (Jul.-Aug., 1969)

When I look back fifty years, attempting to recollect my early comics-buying experiences, I can readily remember all of the places where I regularly purchased my books, circa 1969.  In order of (probable) shopping frequency, they were the Tote-Sum* convenience store on Triangle Drive, the Short-Stop* on Northview Dr., a second Tote-Sum on Forest Ave., and the Ben Franklin Five-and-Dime on Meadowbrook Rd..  I have some sense memory of each of those long-gone places — how they were laid out, the lighting, the location of the Icee machine behind the checkout counter, and so forth.  By and large, however, I don’t have memories of buying specific comic books; for example, I have no idea at which store I bought either Avengers #65 or X-Men #57, the two comics I’ve blogged about here most recently.

But I do remember where, and maybe even when, I bought the subject of today’s post.  I’m quite certain that I purchased it at the Triangle Drive Tote-Sum, and I’m fairly sure it was in the evening, after dark.

Why do I recall buying this particular comic book, and not others I picked up at around the same time?  Well, it wasn’t due to artist Nick Cardy’s cover illustration, as compelling (though also, as we’ll soon see, ultimately rather misleading) as it was; or even to that illustration’s promise that within the comic’s pages, the titular hero’s months-long quest to find his kidnapped wife Mera would reach its end at last.

Rather, it was due to the fact that it was the first comic book I saw that reflected the price increase for “standard” size comic books that went into effect across the industry at that time — as the cost of a single issue rose from twelve to fifteen cents — a twenty-five percent increase.**    Read More

Spectre #9 (Mar.-Apr., 1969)

As of January, 1969, The Spectre was one of only two DC Comics titles I was still buying regularly (the other one was Justice League of America) — or maybe I should say I was trying to buy them regularly.  Somehow, I managed to miss Spectre #8 on the stands — and since the book only came out bi-monthly, that meant that I hadn’t spent any real quality time with the Ghostly Guardian since the previous September.  Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem in terms of picking up where I’d left off, storywise (though it was always irksome to miss an issue, of course), because Spectre — like most other DC titles of this era — had very little in the way of issue-to-issue continuity.  That wasn’t entirely the case with this issue, however, as we’ll see in a bit.  Read More

The Brave and the Bold #82 (Feb.-March, 1969)

December, 1968, saw the publication of the fourth issue of Neal Adams and Bob Haney’s run on Brave and the Bold — a partnership that had begun with the duo’s “The Track of the Hook” some six months earlier, and which was gradually evolving the image of Batman towards a darker, more mysterious vision, one closer to how he’d originally been concerned by Bob Kane and Bill Finger thirty years before.  That vision was slowly becoming established as the proper take on the Caped Crusader in the minds of comics pros as well as fans (though there was as yet little evidence of its influence in the other series in which Batman regularly appeared).  And while this emerging new direction for Batman was inarguably driven almost entirely by the artistic efforts of Adams, Haney’s scripts — more grounded and serious than most of his earlier work with the character in BatB, which he’d produced during the TV show-inspired “camp” era — were consistent with the visual tone set by Adams’ drawings, and usually managed to carry their share of the weight in the ongoing enterprise of re-imagining DC Comics’ Darknight Detective.  That was true even in the context of a story like “The Sleepwalker from the Sea!”, which brought one of the publisher’s more fanciful heroes into the increasingly gritty urban milieu of Gotham City.   Read More

Justice League of America #66 (November, 1968)

1968 was a watershed year for my first favorite comic book, Justice League of America, though I don’t think that my then eleven-year-old self fully realized that at the time.  Sure, artist Mike Sekowsky — who’d drawn every single issue since I’d started buying the series three years before, as well as every earlier JLA story I’d seen reprinted in DC Comics’ “80-Page Giants” — had left the book with issue #63, with Dick Dillin coming in as penciler starting with the following issue.  And Gardner Fox, who’d written every League story I’d ever read, was gone as well, just two issues later.  But Sid Greene was still inking the book (for now), so it still looked very much the same* (to my young and unsophisticated eye, at least).  But, even with both Greene and (more importantly) editor Julius Schwartz still in place, there had most definitely been a changing of the guard; and JLA #66 represented the beginning of a new era — whether I knew it or not. Read More

Aquaman #42 (Nov.-Dec., 1968)

Regular readers of this blog may recall that Aquaman was the very last Justice League member with their own book in the late ’60s that I got around to sampling as a solo draw.  And, as I posted almost one full year ago, what finally convinced me to pick up the Sea King’s 36th issue had less to do with the comic book itself, and more to do with the fact that the hero just debuted as one of the two titular stars of CBS’ animated series, The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure.  As things turned out, that single issue, featuring a story by the regular team of Bob Haney and Nick Cardy, failed to grab me enough for me to pick up the next issue, or the one after that.  By the time September, 1968 rolled around, one year later, the TV series had aired its last original episode, and with Aquaman only appearing in roughly every other issue of Justice League of America at the time, there wasn’t exactly a lot going on to spark a renewed interest in the hero’s solo adventures on my part.  Still, something convinced me to pick up Aquaman #42 when I saw it on the stands.  What could it have been?

Well, duh.  It was the cover, of course.   Read More

The Brave and the Bold #79 (Aug.-Sept., 1968)

The topic of today’s post is, I believe, one of the most important single comic books in the evolution of  Batman to appear during the character’s nearly eighty-year history — probably ranking in the top five or so such comics.  Chronologically speaking, it’s certainly the most important Batman comic that DC Comics had published since 1964’s Detective Comics #327, the issue in which editor Julius Schwartz and artist Carmine Infantino debuted a “New Look” for the Caped Crusader — and I think that a strong case can be made that there wouldn’t be another single Bat-book quite so significant until the publication of the first installment of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight, in 1986.

That’s because “The Track of the Hook”, written by Bob Haney and illustrated by Neal Adams, serves as the clearest point of origin for the most thorough overhaul ever of one of comics’ most iconic heroes — an overhaul that has often been called a return to the character’s original 1939 roots, but is probably more accurately viewed as an approach based on what comics writer Denny O’Neil once described as “remembering how we thought it should have been” [emphasis mine].  It was an approach which returned an air of mystery, a touch of noir, to Batman and his milieu — one which did indeed recover visual and thematic elements that had been present, or at least implicit, in the character’s earliest published adventures, but which explored and elaborated on those elements in a more sophisticated fashion than readers had ever seen before.  And it all started with Brave and the Bold #79, and the art of Neal Adams.  Read More

World’s Finest Comics #176 (June, 1968)

Back in 1967, when DC Comics’ newly-promoted Art Director, Carmine Infantino, discovered Neal Adams toiling away in a production room on one of the company’s “third-string” (Infantino’s words) titles — The Adventures of Jerry Lewis, perhaps — and determined that the young artist’s talents could and should be put to better use, one of the first better uses he put them to was to produce covers for DC’s “Superman family” books.  These comics had been under the editorship of Mort Weisinger for a long, long time — decades, in some cases — and their covers all had a particular “look”, typified by the style of artist Curt Swan.  The advent of Adams’ more dynamic style represented a sea-change for the Superman books, and, by extension — given the Man of Steel’s flagship status — the rest of DC’s line, as well.  Read More