Justice League of America #71 (May, 1969)

For the first year or so of the Justice League of America’s existence, the stories of DC’s premier superteam followed a fairly strict formula.  Beginning with the team’s three tryout issues of The Brave and the Bold in 1959 and 1960, the tales told by writer Gardner Fox, penciller Mike Sekowsky, and editor Julius Schwartz played out according to a prescribed pattern; the team members (Aquaman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, Superman, and Wonder Woman — and, from JLA #4 on, Green Arrow) would come together at (or at least near) the beginning of the story; then they’d encounter or discover a menace; then they’d split into teams to battle different aspects of said menace; and then, finally, they’d come together at the end to secure their ultimate victory over the menace.  Also as part of the formula, at least for the earliest adventures, Superman and Batman took no active role in the central team-up chapters, and sometimes didn’t even show up for the group scenes at the beginning or end; this was due to editor Schwartz deferring to the preferences of editors responsible for those heroes’ own titles, Mort Weisinger and Jack Schiff, who didn’t want DC’s two marquee characters overexposed.  Even after the restrictions on using the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader eased up somewhat, there were issues when they were entirely absent (“on assignment” in Dimension X, or something else of that sort), and neither of them appeared on a cover until JLA #10 (March, 1962).  Read More

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Captain Action #4 (Apr.-May, 1969)

I never owned a “Captain Action” doll action figure as a kid, and to the best of my recollection, I never wanted one all that much.

Not that I had anything against dolls action figures as a class, you understand.  Indeed, I was a proud owner of a “G.I. Joe” (the real one, mind you), and I also had a “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” that the box claimed was Napoleon Solo (though if that were actually true, it was the worst likeness of actor Robert Vaughn ever).  But the concept behind Captain Action didn’t have all that much appeal for me, apparently — even though I think I could still appreciate how clever it was, even as a child.  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

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

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

Justice League of America #65 (September, 1968)

When last we left the non-costumed, non-codenamed, but nonetheless quite formidable supervillain T.O. Morrow — at the conclusion of the first half of 1968’s Justice League of America-Justice Society of America summer team-up extravaganza — he’d just managed to kill all the current members of Earth-Two’s JSA (some of them for the second time that issue), and was preparing to head back to his home world of Earth-One to similarly wipe out the JLA — secure in the knowledge provided by his future-predicting computer that the only way he could be stopped was if the Red Tornado intervened; and since the Red Tornado was 1) his own android creation, and 2) also dead, he was sitting in clover, as the saying goes.  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

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

Spectre #5 (Jul.-Aug., 1968)

In May, 1968, I was a regular buyer and reader of The Spectre — or at least as regular as I could be, short of shelling out for a year’s subscription by mail, considering the state of comic book distribution at the time (as well as my ten-year-old self’s lack of reliable weekly transportation to a comics-selling outlet).  I had first come on board in 1966, with the Ghostly Guardian’s third and final tryout appearance in Showcase, and had bought the first issue of his own self-titled series when it finally appeared over a year later.  I’d failed to score issue #2 (the first drawn by new regular artist Neal Adams), but otherwise, I had ’em all.  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