Avengers #61 (February, 1969)

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

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Silver Surfer #4 (February, 1969)

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

Avengers #60 (January, 1969)

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

Fantastic Four #82 (January, 1969)

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

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

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

Avengers #56 (September, 1968)

By July, 1968, my eleven-year-old self had decided he liked the Avengers, but, apparently, not quite enough yet to commit to buying their book every single month.  I’d bought my first Avengers comic (which also happened to be my very first Marvel comic), issue #45, almost a whole year previously, but had then waited until the following April to pick up my second, #53 (which also featured the X-Men, making it a bargain from a “more heroes for the money” perspective).  But even though I was already a regular buyer of two other Marvel comics (Amazing Spider-Man and Daredevil) by that time, I continued to hedge my bets on Avengers, for whatever reason.

Probably, it’s because neither of those Avengers issues had featured a story that continued into the following issue, as both Amazing Spider-Man #59 and Daredevil #39 — my first issues of those two series — had done.  By the time those two latter titles had each wrapped up three-issue story arcs in their respective issues #61 and #41, I was hooked enough on the main characters, and the subplots involving them and their supporting casts, to want to see what happened in their next issues.  In contrast, neither of the Avengers comics I’d bought thus far, as enjoyable as they’d been, had provided a compelling hook to bring me back for the next one.  It’s possible, of course, that I simply never saw copies of Avengers #54 or #555 for sale — as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I didn’t necessarily get to the Tote-Sum, or one of my other comics outlets, every single week — but since I was managing to score my copies of Spidey’s and DD’s books every month, it seems more likely that I did see ’em, and simply opted to pass.  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

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