Avengers #69 (October, 1969)

In his Introduction to the 2008 Marvel Masterworks volume reprinting this issue, scripter Roy Thomas compliments his artistic collaborator Sal Buscema for the “dramatic yet difficult cover”, noting that “it’s always hard to have a bunch of little guys fighting one big guy — and Goliath’s in-between size just complicated things further.”  That’s undoubtedly true; but my recent re-reading of Thomas’ words in preparation for writing this post reminded me of another cover that met the very same challenge, with at least a couple of the same characters — namely, Sal’s big brother John’s cover for Avengers #45, which came out almost exactly two years prior to Avengers #69, and which also just so happens to have been not only my first Avengers comic, but my first Marvel comic, period.  There’s no good reason why any of that should be particularly significant to anyone except me, I realize; but I hope you’ll pardon my momentary self-indulgence in deciding to highlight it here anyway.  Read More

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Avengers #68 (September, 1969)

Fifty years (and one month) after the fact, I’m honestly not sure whether, upon first seeing the cover for Avengers #67 back in June, 1969, I had any idea that it hadn’t been pencilled by John Buscema, but rather by his younger brother, Sal.  The look of the featured characters was so close to what I was accustomed to seeing from the elder Buscema that It probably didn’t occur to me to consider that the piece might have been drawn by someone else — and, after all, I only knew Sal Buscema as an inker at this point (and only of his big brother’s work on Silver Surfer, at that).

But I feel fairly confident that a month later, when I first saw the cover of Avengers #68, I realized that something was different about it, even if I can’t claim to have any distinct memory to that effect.  Sure, the Avengers still closely resembled John Buscema’s renditions, but they were “off-model” just enough that I had to know they weren’t quite the same.

And once I’d picked up the book and flipped to the first page, i realized that more than just the cover art had changed…  Read More

Avengers #67 (August, 1969)

Last month, the blog tackled Avengers #66, which featured the first chapter of writer Roy Thomas’ second-ever storyline featuring the super–villainous robot Ultron, as well as the first mention ever of Wolverine’s favorite metal, adamantium.  Today, we’re moving on to the second chapter of this three-part tale, which, like the first, was illustrated by the young British artist Barry Windsor-Smith — save for the cover, that is, which was instead drawn by an American artist, named Buscema.  Unlike with issue #66, however, the Buscema who pencilled #67’s cover (inked, as #66’s had been, by Sam Grainger) wasn’t the veteran John, but rather John’s brother, Sal.

The younger Buscema had been working as an inker for Marvel Comics for a little over half a year — among his first published jobs, he’d embellished his sibling’s pencils for the classic Silver Surfer #4 — but this cover represented his Marvel debut as a penciller.  It would soon prove a harbinger of bigger things to come, as with the very next issue of Avengers, #68, the 33-year-old artist would graduate to becoming the regular artist for its interiors.  Read More

Avengers #66 (July, 1969)

Following Gene Colan’s three-issue stint as penciller on Marvel Comics’ Avengers series, the 66th issue brought yet another artistic change — though not the one that the book’s cover appeared to indicate.  That illustration, which depicted the team of heroes — including, unusually for this era, both Thor and Iron Man — battling one of their own, the Vision, across multiple levels of their mansion HQ — was by John Buscema, who’d been the series’ regular artist for the better part of the two years immediately preceding Colan’s brief tenure.  The interior art, however, was by one of Marvel’s newest (and youngest) artists, the nineteen-year-old British import we’d eventually come to know as Barry Windsor-Smith.  Read More

Avengers #65 (June, 1969)

In last month’s blog post about Avengers #64, we covered how the titular superhero team quashed the villainous scientist Egghead’s attempt to blackmail the governments of Earth using an orbiting death-ray satellite.  Our heroes’ victory, however, was marred by the violent death of their unlikely ally, a mob boss named Barney Barton — who, in an unexpected twist, turned out to be the older brother of the Avenger who, up until issue #63, had been known to one and all only as “Hawkeye”, but had now assumed the identity of Goliath — and who readers now learned had the given name of “Clint”.

Barney’s heroic sacrifice decisively ended the overarching bid for world domination by what had begun as a mad-scientist triumvirate, which consisted of the Mad Thinker and the Puppet Master in addition to Egghead.  The chronicle of this trio’s nefarious doings had actually begun in Captain Marvel #12, of all places, before weaving into Avengers #63, Sub-Mariner #14, and Captain Marvel #14, and then finally returning to Avengers for issue #64’s ultimate battle.  But Egghead had escaped at the end of that issue, meaning that there was at least one loose end left to tie off — a loose end that was given greater urgency by the fact that it involved an Avenger’s need to avenge his own dead brother.  Additionally, the revelation of Hawkeye/Goliath’s “real” name in the context of his previously unknown sibling relationship with a notorious gangster raised at least as many questions as it answered.  It would be the task of the series’ creative team, scripter Roy Thomas and penciller Gene Colan (joined this issue by new inker Sam Grainger), to address most, if not all, of this unfinished business in the pages of Avengers #65.  Read More

Avengers #64 (May, 1969)

Today’s post is the fourth in a series we’ve devoted to chronicling a storyline that ran through a number of Marvel comics in the first few months of 1969 — a sort of “stealth crossover” in which a number of the publisher’s heroes got involved (some without even knowing it) in foiling the dastardly plot of three (allegedly) big-brained super-villains intent on (what else?) taking over the world.  The comics readers of that time (your humble blogger among them) had to be paying close attention to all the editorial footnotes in the comics involved to follow the story (and even then, it was a hit-or-miss affair) — because, in high contrast to today’s multi-title “events”, Marvel’s in-house promotion for the crossover was virtually non-existent.

Things had first gotten rolling in January with Captain Marvel #12, in which the titular hero battled a powerful android, the Man-Slayer, that was trying to wreck a U.S. missile base in Florida called “the Cape” (as in Canaveral).  The Man-Slayer’s rampage was ultimately shut down not by Mar-Vell, however, but rather by S.H.I.E.L.D. operative the Black Widow, who was promptly taken prisoner by the Man-Slayer’s unseen masters.  Moving into February, Avengers #63 revealed the Widow’s captors to be the Mad Thinker, Egghead, and the Puppet Master.  The Widow was rescued by her boyfriend, the Avenging archer known as Hawkeye, though not before he’d downed a vial of Dr. Henry Pym’s growth serum and become the new Goliath.  Read More

Avengers #63 (April, 1969)

For younger readers of current comics, accustomed to publishers trumpeting every single guest appearance or “event” tie-in months in advance, the notion of a “stealth crossover” may seem all but incomprehensible.  Yet, that’s exactly what Marvel Comics did in the first quarter of 1969, as they carried over a plotline from the January-shipping issue of Captain Marvel into February’s Avengers (the subject of today’s post) without even so much as an editorial footnote in the first book to let fans know it was happening.  What the heck were they thinking fifty years ago, there at the “House of Ideas”?

But before we get into all that, we need to acknowledge the other two significant events happening in Avengers this month, one “in-story”, and the other behind the scenes, though both were heralded by the cover: the first, a major change concerning the superhero code-named Goliath; the second, the advent of a new regular artist — for after drawing Avengers for most of the last two years, John Buscema was being pulled off of the title to do layouts for Amazing Spider-Man, while Gene Colan was giving up Daredevil to take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. 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

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 a 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