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

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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

X-Men #45 (June, 1968)

Last week I blogged about Avengers #53, a classic comic book featuring the titular super-team in battle with a second band of costumed heroes whom I hadn’t previously encountered as of April, 1968 — namely, the X-Men.  That issue was actually the concluding chapter of a story that was continued from X-Men #45, making it the first comics crossover I ever experienced*.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the Avengers book was the second part of the crossover until after I’d already bought it and brought it home.  That didn’t stop me from going ahead and reading the book — but as soon as I got the chance, I headed back to the convenience store to see if I could score a copy of the first part.  Even though I already knew how the story ended, obviously, I still wanted to know how the heroes of both groups got themselves into the situation in which they found themselves at the beginning of Avengers #53 in the first place.  Read More

Avengers #53 (June, 1968)

The first Marvel comic book I ever bought was Avengers #45, back in August, 1967, but even though I enjoyed that issue, I wouldn’t get around to trying another Avengers comic for another eight months.  By April, 1968, however, I’d begun buying both Amazing Spider-Man and Daredevil regularly, and I was ready to expand my Marvel-reading horizons a little further.  Avengers was already a known quantity, obviously, and issue #53 clearly had something else going for it, as well — the appearance of a whole other super-group, the X-Men.

I’m honestly not 100% certain that I even knew whether the X-Men were supposed to be heroes or villains at this point, though it seems likely I would have noticed their book on the stands at some point.  Assuming I did know that the X-Men were good guys, that would have been another strong selling point, as my younger self appears to have loved the idea of getting double the heroes (in this case, two hero teams) for the price of one — as attested to by the fact that in my first couple of years of comic book consumption, the only title I bought almost as regularly as Justice League of America was The Brave and the Bold, (which, of course, featured DC’s heroes teaming up with one another).  And the fact that the cover heralded a “vs.” situation wouldn’t have thrown me, either — even as a mostly-DC reader up to 1968, I knew that heroes fought each other sometimes.  After all, I was the proud owner of JLA #56, which featured what’s probably the first instance of the battle-lines-of-heroes-charging-each-other motif that informs Avengers #53’s cover (as it would many another cover through the years).  Read More

Atom #36 (Apr.-May, 1968)

What defines a comic book superhero as a unique character?  Is it a name, or a costume, or a power set?  What about a hero’s “secret identity”?  Does it even matter who’s wearing the costume?

For what it’s worth, I suspect that the majority of people reading this post have a general conception of “Superman” as a single, unique character, albeit one with multiple versions — “pre-Crisis”, “New 52”, “Golden Age”, and so on.  It’s probably the same with Batman, or Wonder Woman — or with Captain America, Iron Man, or the Mighty Thor, for that matter.  Even if these heroes undergo occasional costume modifications or power fluctuations — and even if someone else steps into their heroic role for a time in the service of a storyline — there’s still a sense of a core character underneath it all — an “ur-Superman”, an “ur-Batman”, and so forth.  Read More

Amazing Spider-Man #59 (April, 1968)

As regular readers of this blog may recall, I purchased my very first Marvel comic book, Avengers #45, in August, 1967.  That book was the one with which I finally expanded my comics consumption beyond what had been, for the full first two years that I’d been buying and reading the things, a diet consisting almost exclusively of DC comics.  Still, as I wrote in my post about that issue, five months ago, that first, single excursion into Marvel territory wouldn’t be followed by another one until the fateful day in January, 1968, that I picked up the subject of today’s post, Amazing Spider-Man #59.

I’m not exactly sure why it took me that long to buy my second Marvel book — I do remember liking that Avengers issue, so it wasn’t as though I’d tested the waters and found them wanting.  Probably, it was just a reluctance to change my ingrained buying habits.  But even if I’m not certain why I dragged my feet for another five months, I have little doubt that it would have taken me even longer, if not for this:  Read More

Avengers #45 (October, 1967)

By August, 1967, I’d been buying and reading comic books for two years — and the books that I had bought had almost exclusively been those published by DC Comics, with an occasional Gold Key issue for variety.  But in that month, as the Summer of Love (or the Long Hot Summer, take your pick) wound down — I finally broke down and bought my first Marvel Comics Group comic book.

So what the hell took me so long?

It’s entirely possible that I just didn’t see that many Marvel comics on the spinner racks in those first two years of comic-book buying.  Prior to 1968, the publisher’s newsstand distribution was controlled by Independent News (a company owned by National Periodical Publications, aka DC Comics — and no, that doesn’t sound like an ideal competitive situation, does it?), which restricted the number of titles that Marvel could release per month.  That restriction would be all but completely lifted by early 1968, but in the summer of 1967, it was still in place.  Read More

Flash #160 (April, 1966)

Once upon a time, in the long-distant, antediluvian past, comic books were a lot like movies, or television shows.  You caught them when they first came out (or on), or you were out of luck.  Eventually, as we all know, the advent of consumer videotape technology changed everything for TV and film.  Similarly, the gradual development of the comics collectors’ market ultimately made it economically feasible to reprint old, ephemeral newsprint periodicals in brand new, designed-to-last, real-book editions, and then to keep them in print for, if not ever, then a lot longer than a month or two.  These days, in fact, you can even download a digital copy of a fifty-year-old comic book for less than the cost of a new one.  (What a world we live in.  You kids today, you just don’t know.)  Read More