Fantastic Four #81 (December, 1968)

Sometimes, it can seem like most of the introductory paragraphs I write for these blog posts are explanations (or apologies) for the posts I’m not writing — i.e., the posts about the classic comic books I can’t write about here (at least not directly), because I didn’t buy them new off the stands fifty years ago.  That’s been especially true for the comics of 1968 — a year seemingly chock full of milestones, of which I seem to have missed at least as many as I caught.  The latest example came just last week, when I had to explain in the introduction to my Avengers #58 post how I’d missed the three issues that led up to that landmark story.  And this week, we have yet another one.

  • If you’re a regular reader, you may recall that my first issue of FF was #78, which featured the first half of a two-part story in which Ben Grimm was cured (again) of being the Thing; unfortunately, I missed the next month’s issue, and by the time I got back on board, with #80,  Ben was all orange ‘n’ rocky again, and he and the other guys were having a brief adventure way out West prior to the birth of Sue and Reed Richards’ child.  But hey, at least I got to witness the return of one-time regular supporting character Wyatt Wingfoot, along with the awesome debut of a brand-new villain, Tomazooma!  Still, that would soon prove small consolation for my missing the next issue of Fantastic Four to hit the stands — namely, the 1968 Annual, which featured not only the debut of a considerably more impressive (and durable) villain, Annihilus, but also the introduction of a brand-new supporting character: none other than Reed and Sue’s bouncing baby boy, Franklin Benjamin Richards.

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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

Thor #158 (November, 1968)

By the time September, 1968 rolled around, I’d been interested in Thor for a while.  I’d been intrigued by the couple of appearances he’d made in in Avengers issues I’d bought, and I was fascinated by the idea that this Marvel Comics superhero was apparently the same guy as the Thunder God from the Norse myths I’d studied in school (even if the Marvel version was blonde and clean-shaven, rather than red-haired and bearded, like in the myths).  I have a distinct memory of gazing at a copy of Thor #152 sitting in the spinner rack at the Short-Stop, and wondering not only who the big ugly bruiser Thor was fighting with was, but all those other strangely garbed characters in the background, as well.  But in February of ’68, when that book came out , I was still feeling my way as a new Marvel reader, and wasn’t quite ready to take the plunge.  I was feeling a lot more comfortable with Marvel by September, though.  And, in fact, I might have sampled Thor even earlier, if I hadn’t been able to tell from the Mighty Marvel Checklist’s monthly issue descriptions that the series was then in the midst of an ongoing storyline, featuring the Mangog, that lasted through the summer.  Read More

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5 (November, 1968)

Marvel Comics’ original summer tradition of publishing “King-Size Special!” annual issues featuring (mostly) new material had a relatively brief heyday in the Sixties — just six years, really.  I’ve known that for decades, but before digging into my collection to do the research or this blog, I hadn’t realized how very few of those annuals I actually bought new off the stands.  While I’d bought my first Marvel comic book in the summer of 1967, I didn’t pick up any annuals until the summer of 1968 — and that was the last year that the specials featured all-new material, at least for a while.  As it turns out, I just managed to catch the very tail end of this golden era of Marvel annuals.  And I’d end up buying all of two off the spinner rack  Read More

Daredevil #43 (August, 1968)

As regular readers of this blog will know, I somehow managed to get through the first five months or so of being a regular buyer and reader of Marvel Comics without picking up a single book featuring the work of perhaps the single most important architect of that publisher’s fictional universe — that would be Jack “King” Kirby, of course  — but, come June, 1968, I went on a Kirby tear, buying not one, not two, but three different comic books that showcased the King’s art.

Of course, Daredevil #43 could only boast a cover by Kirby, as the interior art was by the book’s regular penciler, Gene Colan (with embellishment by inker Vince Coletta).  And since I was by this time a regular purchaser of the Man Without Fear’s title, the fact is that I would have bought this issue even if the cover had been by Colan, rather than Kirby — which, as the penciled art shown to the lower right should indicate, it indeed almost was.  Read More

Fantastic Four #78 (September, 1968)

“The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!”

Honestly, I have no idea why it took so long for me to buy my first issue of Fantastic Four.  After all, I’d been watching their Saturday morning TV cartoon since September, 1967, same as I’d been watching Spider-Man, which had premiered at the same time.  But while I’d started picking up Spidey’s monthly comic in January, 1968, it took me another five months to take the plunge with the FF.

As I speculated in last week’s post about Captain America #105, it may have been that I was a little leery of Jack Kirby’s artwork, which looked different than the art in any other comic I was reading.  Or, possibly, I was waiting for the continued story that, thanks to the issue descriptions featured in the monthly “Mighty Marvel Checklist”, I knew had been running since issue #74 — involving Galactus, the Silver Surfer, and Psycho-Man — to wrap up, so that I wouldn’t be jumping in in the middle of a storyline.  At this late date, I have no way of knowing for sure.  But in any event, when I saw #78 on the spinner rack in June of 1968, I was ready at last to put Marvel’s claim of global preeminence to the test.  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

Silver Surfer #1 (August, 1968)

The subject of today’s post has the distinction of being the first Marvel Comics “first issue” I ever purchased.  That may actually be somewhat less of a big deal than my putting it that way makes it sound, since, way back fifty years ago in May, 1968, I’d only been buying Marvel’s books regularly since the beginning of the year — and also because prior to January, 1968, launches of brand-new Marvel comics were pretty rare birds.  Read More

Not Brand Echh #9 (August, 1968)

I gotta say, I sometimes have a hard time figuring out what was going through my younger self’s mind when I made certain choices at the spinner rack half a century ago.  The subject of today’s post is a case in point.  I mean — why would I put down 25 cents for a giant-size humor comic filled with satirical versions of Marvel characters I was only now getting to know with in their “serious” incarnations?

I’m guessing that it was partly because Not Brand Echh, with its parodies of current movies and TV shows as well as comic books, reminded me of Mad magazine — which was one of my most regular comics purchases in the late Sixties, despite the fact that I haven’t yet devoted a blog post to it (probably because back in my younger days, I didn’t think of Mad as a bona fide “comic book”, due to its black-and-white magazine-size format).  And, hey, my inclination to go for the “bargain” of getting multiple heroes for the price of one (which, in contrast to Mad, I’ve often noted on the blog), may have figured into my purchasing decision as well — even if these were parody version of the heroes, there were still a lot of ’em.  Read More

Amazing Spider-Man #62 (July, 1968)

Fifty years after the fact, it seems a little strange to me that my first exposure to the Inhumans — one of the most memorable creations of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to appear in the latter half of the 1960s — didn’t come by way of Fantastic Four, or from any other Marvel title drawn by Jack Kirby, but rather from an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, as illustrated by John Romita and Don Heck.  But, hey, at least it was written by Stan, right?  Read More