X-Men #57 (June, 1969)

I first made the acquaintance of Marvel Comics’ X-Men in April, 1968 — one year prior to the publication of the subject of today’s post. — when they made a guest appearance in Avengers #53.  That particular issue turned out to be the last chapter of a crossover story that had begun in the mutant team’s own book; and even though I now knew how everything would turn out, I was still curious enough about the characters and situations to go back and pick up the preceding chapter in that same month’s issue of X-Men (and even to buy the issue before that, when the opportunity presented itself).  But though I enjoyed those two comics well enough, I wasn’t taken enough with either of them to keep following the series.  As I wrote in my X-Men #45 post last year, that may have been partly due to the somewhat atypical circumstances surrounding the book at the time I sampled it.  Marvel had then just recently decided to start downplaying the team concept in the series’ cover designs, in favor of spotlighting the individual members (or, in a few cases, major story events); a decision that was soon mirrored in the stories themselves, as the team actually broke up in the issue immediately following the Avengers crossover, #46.  In addition, I was almost certainly influenced in my decision to pass on X-Men (at least for the time being), by my lack of enthusiasm for the competent but underwhelming art that then filled the title’s pages, by the likes of Don Heck and Werner Roth.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone in my general attitude of indifference to Marvel’s Merry Mutants, as, by virtually all accounts, the title was the publisher’s worst selling at the time — if not yet right on the edge of cancellation, then still uncomfortably close to it.  Which is why, when Neal Adams — the hottest young artist at Marvel’s main competitor, DC Comics — came to Marvel expressing an interest in doing some work for them, and editor-in-chief Stan Lee gave him his choice of assignments… Adams chose to work on X-MenRead More

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Captain Marvel #14 (June, 1969)

When we last left Captain Mar-Vell of the Kree, at the conclusion of our Captain Marvel #12 post back in January, the alien soldier-cum-Earth superhero had just emerged from a battle against a mysterious android, the Man-Slayer, that had been rampaging across “the Cape”, a U.S. missile base in Florida.  Meanwhile, both Mar-Vell’s Earth secret identity of Dr. Walter Lawson and his costumed-adventurer persona of Captain Marvel were now wanted for treason, leaving our protagonist in a bit of a pickle.  All of this was serving to distract Mar-Vell from what should be job number one — using the awesome new powers granted him by the cosmic entity Zo to exact vengeance on his mortal enemy, the Kree colonel named Yon-Rogg, whom Mar-Vell held responsible for the death of his beloved Medic Una.

And while all this was going on on the printed page, Captain Marvel was facing challenges behind the scenes as well — because after already going through three writers and an equal number of artists over its fourteen-issue run (counting two issues of Marvel Super-Heroes), his series was about to welcome aboard yet another writer, Gary Friedrich, and artist, Frank Springer.  With Captain Marvel #13, both of those gentlemen dove right into the ongoing storyline that had been developed over the past couple of issues by the previous scripter (Arnold Drake) and penciller (Dick Ayers) — and then proceeded to tread water for twenty pages.  Read More

Captain Marvel #12 (April, 1969)

Regular readers of this blog will have heard me say this before, but it bears repeating — sometimes, I just have no idea why my younger self chose to buy a particular comic book fifty years ago.

That’s certainly the case with the subject of today’s post.  After passing Captain Marvel by on the stands for almost a year, in January, 1969 I decided to gamble twelve cents on the series’ twelfth issue.  How come?

Was it the cover, by John Romita and Sal Buscema (or maybe George Tuska and Buscema — the usual reference sources differ)?  I suppose it could be.  It’s not a particularly distinguished composition (at least, not to my present-day, 61-year-old eyes), but it’s not what I’d call bad — and those bright, contrasting colors really do pop.  So, maybe.

Perhaps it was the result of a long-simmering curiosity about the character that had been sparked by my reading of the “Captain Marvin” parody in the ninth issue of Marvel’s Not Brand Echh series, back in May of ’68.  That piece, produced by the “real” Captain Marvel’s onetime writer and penciller (Roy Thomas and Gene Colan, respectively) had served as a sort of primer on the origin, powers, and modus operandi of “Marvel’s Space-Born Super-Hero!™” — though one read through a cracked glass, as it were.  It had also been pretty funny to my then ten-year-old sensibilities, even if Thomas’ gags referencing the original Captain Marvel had gone right over my head.  So, maybe I recalled this story when I saw Captain Marvel #12 on the spinner rack, and decided to give the “real thing” a try.  Read More

Thor #161 (February, 1969)

The subject of today’s post was the second issue of Thor that I ever bought, and that’s probably not entirely by happenstance.  Purchased three months after my first foray into the Son of Odin’s solo adventures, #161 was the first issue to come out after Silver Surfer #4 — and as readers of my most recent post know, that particular comic book — an Asgardian extravaganza which featured the titular hero in battle against the Thunder God — did at least as much as Thor #158 had to foster my growing interest in the immortal Avenger and his comic book series.

Although the mythological aspects of Thor held rather more appeal for me than either the hero’s battles against Earthbound super-villains or his outer space adventures (not that I ever disliked any of that stuff, mind you), I don’t think I was fazed by the obviously science-fictional orientation of issue #161’s cover.  In fact, I was probably interested in seeing the world-devouring Galactus in a new story, having only read about him thus far in Silver Surfer #1, where he’d appeared only in flashback.  On the other hand, I didn’t know anything at all about Ego, the Living Planet, but I suspect my eleven-year-old self thought he looked pretty interesting on that striking Jack Kirby – Vince Colletta cover.  Of course, neither of those cosmic titans were actually named on the cover, and I might not have recognized Galactus just from his profile; but since I’d read the issue descriptions in both this and the last month’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins, I knew who Thor was going to be meeting, and presumably fighting, here.  Read More

Thor #158 (November, 1968)

By the time September, 1968 rolled around, I’d been interested in Thor for a while.  I’d been intrigued by the couple of appearances he’d made in in Avengers issues I’d bought, and I was fascinated by the idea that this Marvel Comics superhero was apparently the same guy as the Thunder God from the Norse myths I’d studied in school (even if the Marvel version was blonde and clean-shaven, rather than red-haired and bearded, like in the myths).  I have a distinct memory of gazing at a copy of Thor #152 sitting in the spinner rack at the Short-Stop, and wondering not only who the big ugly bruiser Thor was fighting with was, but all those other strangely garbed characters in the background, as well.  But in February of ’68, when that book came out , I was still feeling my way as a new Marvel reader, and wasn’t quite ready to take the plunge.  I was feeling a lot more comfortable with Marvel by September, though.  And, in fact, I might have sampled Thor even earlier, if I hadn’t been able to tell from the Mighty Marvel Checklist’s monthly issue descriptions that the series was then in the midst of an ongoing storyline, featuring the Mangog, that lasted through the summer.  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

Daredevil #43 (August, 1968)

As regular readers of this blog will know, I somehow managed to get through the first five months or so of being a regular buyer and reader of Marvel Comics without picking up a single book featuring the work of perhaps the single most important architect of that publisher’s fictional universe — that would be Jack “King” Kirby, of course  — but, come June, 1968, I went on a Kirby tear, buying not one, not two, but three different comic books that showcased the King’s art.

Of course, Daredevil #43 could only boast a cover by Kirby, as the interior art was by the book’s regular penciler, Gene Colan (with embellishment by inker Vince Coletta).  And since I was by this time a regular purchaser of the Man Without Fear’s title, the fact is that I would have bought this issue even if the cover had been by Colan, rather than Kirby — which, as the penciled art shown to the lower right should indicate, it indeed almost was.  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