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
After having bought Captain America for five months straight (or almost straight, as I somehow managed to miss issue #111), in early 1969 I took a couple of months off from reading the Star-Spangled Avenger’s adventures. Five decades later, I can’t quite remember why I did so. Obviously, beginning with #114 there was a considerable stylistic shift in the look of the book, which had just seen the end of Jim Steranko’s brief but epochal run as the series’ artist — but it seems unlikely that I would have turned up my nose at the work of either John Romita (who drew both the cover and interiors of #114) or John Buscema (who contributed the interior art for #115, behind a Marie Severin cover), considering how much I enjoyed their work on other titles. Admittedly, the Romita cover is a little dull, at least in comparison to the Steranko (and Jack Kirby) jobs that immediately preceded it, but it’s hard for me to believe I would have passed on Severin’s dramatic rendition of a shrunk-down Cap being held prisoner within a transparent cube by the Red Skull, while Sharon Carter looks on helplessly. Perhaps I never actually saw that issue on the stands (or the one preceding it, for that matter). Read More
There’s a case to be made that the God of Thunder’s adversary in the issue of his comic we’re discussing today — the being known at this point only as “Him”, though he’d later pick up the less confusing appellation “Adam Warlock” — was the last major character creation of artist/storyteller Jack Kirby during his most important and productive stint at Marvel Comics. As recalled by comics writer and historian — and longtime Kirby associate — Mark Evanier (and reported by numerous writers, including Mike Gartland in The Jack Kirby Collector #24), the story that Kirby plotted and drew for Fantastic Four #66 – 67 was a tale of well-intentioned scientists who create an ultimate human being, an entity who’s not only physically perfect but also possesses godlike powers, only to have this being, once it’s emerged from gestation within its cocoon, turn on them and destroy them, simply because they don’t meet his standards of perfection. However, when it came time to script the story, Kirby’s collaborator (and editor), Stan Lee, jettisoned this theme — intended as Kirby’s ironic commentary on Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy — possibly because it didn’t present a clear-cut “bad guy”. In Lee’s version of the story — which was the one that saw print, of course — the scientists wanted to use their creation to dominate the world; “Him” realized this, and destroyed the would-be despots before taking his leave of humanity. Already disgruntled with Lee (and with Marvel Comics, generally) over a number of matters — including the way that Lee had appropriated and reinterpreted an earlier Kirby creation for FF, the Silver Surfer — Kirby may have seen this latest alteration of his creative vision to be, in Gartland’s words, “the last straw”. From this time on, the theory goes, the “King” would refrain from bringing his full creative powers to bear on the work he did for Marvel, with the result that he would introduce few, if any, truly significant new characters in his last couple of years before jumping ship for DC Comics. Read More
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
My interest in Marvel Comics’ Silver Surfer series seems to have been somewhat sporadic in the first half-year or so of its original run. As I’ve written in earlier posts, I bought the first issue in May, 1968, and though I liked that book a lot (at least, that’s how I remember things), I opted to pass on both the second and third issues (unless, of course, I never saw either of them on the stands, which is quite possible). Issue #4, however, was most likely a no-brainer purchase decision for my eleven-year-old self, what with its absolutely iconic cover (by John and Sal Buscema) depicting the Surfer and the mighty Thor about to come to blows. And considering how spectacularly that book delivered on its cover’s promise, my picking up the following issue when I saw it was probably a given, as well –even though its cover (by John Romita, according to the Grand Comics Database), while good, wasn’t quite in the same exalted class. Read More
The subject of today’s post, in addition to being another fine installment in writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema’s original run on The Avengers, also happens to have been my first real encounter (outside of a couple of cameos) with Marvel Comics’ Master of the Mystic Arts, Doctor Strange — or, at least, I think it was.
The problem here is that I know that, once upon a time, I owned a copy of Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics #19 — a terrific, double-sized reprint book that not only included a classic early Doctor Strange tale (from Strange Tales #128), but also an equally-classic Fantastic Four story (from the 27th issue of that team’s title) that guest-starred the good Doctor. A double dose of Doc, if you will. And since that book would have been on sale in November, 1968, it would necessarily have been my first Strange-featuring comic — if I’d bought it new off the stands, that is. Which I have no truly compelling reason to believe I didn’t.
Still — and allowing for how vague many of my comics-buying memories are after half a century’s passage — I somehow don’t believe that was the case. When I reread both these books now, Avengers #61 simply feels like it was my first Dr. Strange comic, and MCIC #19 … doesn’t. So I’ve decided, for the purposes of this blog, that I probably came into possession of my copy of the reprint book some time later, probably via trade with (or sale by) a friend. If I’m wrong — well, we’ll never know, right? (Besides which, nobody but me likely cares all that much.)
But even if Avengers #61 wasn’t the first comic book I ever read that featured Dr. Strange, it was certainly the first non-reprint book to include the hero that I ever picked up. Without it, I might well not have taken to the character as much (and almost certainly not as quickly) as I did; for, immediately following my reading this issue, I became a regular purchaser of the Doctor Strange series — and I’d remain a faithful reader of the title for years to come, sticking around through its rather frequent cancellations and revivals, with its star ultimately becoming my second favorite Marvel character (right after Thor).
Which is pretty much just what Roy Thomas and his colleagues at Marvel hoped would happen, when they decided to guest-star Doctor Strange in Avengers back in late 1968. Read More
The Mighty Thor has been my favorite Marvel Comics character for the better part of the last half-century. The subject of today’s post is as responsible for that fact as much as is any other single comic book — even though it’s not “really” a Thor comic.
As I’ve recounted in previous posts, I first made the acquaintance of Marvel’s take on the Norse god of thunder in the summer of 1967, via Avengers #45 (which also happened to be my very first Marvel comic), in which he appeared in only the first few pages. I didn’t encounter him again until almost a year later — this time in the pages of Avengers Annual #2, in which he played a somewhat more substantial role — but I didn’t get around to buying an issue of Thor itself until September, when the cover of #158 caught my eye. That turned out to be a pretty good first issue to purchase, since it reprinted in full Thor’s origin story from Journey into Mystery #83, and its new-material framing sequence by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby also introduced me to a number of the settings and characters that had been brought into the series post-origin, such as Asgard, Odin, the Lady Sif, and so forth. I enjoyed that comic book quite a bit, but for whatever reason, I didn’t pick up another issue of Thor for several months. Read More
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
As I’ve related in previous posts on this blog, my introduction to Marvel Comics’ Inhumans came not by way of their usual stomping grounds in Fantastic Four, but rather via an issue of Amazing Spider-Man that featured Medusa. Soon afterwards, I encountered Medusa’s little sister Crystal as a supporting character in FF — but all I knew about her at first was that she was the Human Torch’s girlfriend, and that she had a weird pattern in her hair. It wasn’t until issue #81, in which Crys suited up in blue to become the Invisible Girl’s temporary replacement on the team, that I even learned that she had superpowers, let alone that she was a member of the mysterious Inhumans’ royal house.
And then, just one month later, it was at last time to meet the rest of the family… Read More
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