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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Amazing Spider-Man #78 (November, 1969)

By the late summer of 1969, Marvel Comics had been slowly but steadily increasing the number of black characters in its titles for some time.  Having already introduced the first black costumed superhero, the Black Panther, to the world in 1966, Marvel had gone on to develop such non-costumed, supporting cast-type African-American characters as newspaper editor Joe “Robbie” Robertson and his family (in Amazing Spider-Man); while Gabe Jones, who’d been appearing as one of Sgt. Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos in that World War II army unit’s series since 1963, was gaining greater visibility in the present-day Marvel Universe as one of Fury’s agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..  June, 1969, had brought the debut of Marvel’s first African-American hero, the Falcon (the Panther, of course, was African, but not American) — and with August came the first appearance of yet another black costumed character, the Prowler.  This character, however, would be introduced as the world not as a superhero — but as a super-villainRead More

Avengers Annual #3 (September, 1969)

I know there must have been plenty of Marvel Comics fans who were dismayed when, in the summer of 1969, that year’s crop of giant-sized annuals arrived — and they were all 100% reprint material.  And perhaps I was a little disappointed, myself, as I’d very much enjoyed the brand new double-length stories and fun bonus features in the previous year’s Amazing Spider-Man and Avengers annuals (not to mention the same year’s Fantastic Four Annual #6, or 1967’s Avengers Annual #1, both of which I’m pretty sure I’d read by this time, having bought or perhaps borrowed them from a friend). Read More

Captain Marvel #17 (October, 1969)

In the letters column of the comic that’s our main topic today, reader Normand LaBelle of Sherbrooke, Quebec expressed his great displeasure with the Captain Marvel series’ recent turn of direction, finding fault especially with the drastic changes to the titular hero’s powers and mission that had come about in issue #11.  In responding to Mr. LaBelle, the anonymous editorial staffer — probably Marvel Comics associate editor (and, as of this very issue, returning Captain Marvel writer) Roy Thomas — essentially agreed with him:  Read More

Amazing Spider-Man #75 (August, 1969)

Back in October of last year, I wrote a post about Amazing Spider-Man #68, the first installment of the “petrified clay tablet” story arc that would run for a full eight issues (or ten, depending on how you look at it — more about that later).  If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you may remember that I identified this storyline as a major highlight of my early years as a Spider-Man fan, and that I wrote I planned to return to it for at least a couple more posts before we reached the 50th anniversary of its finale.

Well, it’s kind of funny how things go, sometimes.  The fact is, there have been so many other fine comics hitting the half-century mark over the past seven months that Spidey has kept getting squeezed out.  But there’s no way I can let the climactic chapter, issue #75’s “Death Without Warning” pass by without posting about it; and so, here we are.  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

Captain America #116 (August, 1969)

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

Thor #166 (July, 1969)

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 tenure 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

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

Silver Surfer #5 (April, 1969)

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