Sunday, 1 April 2018

Fifty years ago this month - April 1968.

April of 1968 was a big month for more people than you can shake a stick at.

For a start, it was a big one for those of us who have ten fingers and not twelve, as it was the month in which five and ten pence coins were introduced in the run-up to Decimalisation. Soon would the nightmare curse of Old Money be eradicated from our society.

It was also a big month for Arizonans who like to cross bodies of water without getting their feet wet, as London Bridge was sold to American entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch who rebuilt it in that very state. Popular mythology has it that he thought he was buying Tower Bridge and only discovered his mistake after it was too late. However, there appears to be nothing to back up that particular piece of mythology.

It was also a big month for people who don't like to be shot by gorillas, as it was the month in which Planet of the Apes was released.

It was an even bigger month for those who don't like songs with lots of words in them, as La La La by Massiel won the Eurovision Song Contest, for Spain, in London.

It was also a big month for May Parker, as her favourite musical Hair opened on Broadway.

But what about people who loved comics that bore that cover date? Did they have grounds for excitement too?

Too right they did - because, freed from its previous distribution deal, the House of Ideas had been able to launch two brand-new super-hero comics upon the world.

Avengers #51, Goliath

Hooray! Goliath gets his powers back.

Even more thrillingly, Thor and Iron Man make their senses-shattering return to the comic, if only for one issue.

If I remember rightly, it has something to do with the Collector gaining control of Thor and making him do bad things, including beating up Iron Man.

I don't recall what the Collector's actual plan was but I suspect it might have had something to do with collecting things.

Captain America #100

Cap gets his own mag at last, as the Marvel Explosion gets into full swing.

I say that but, as far as I can make out, the company actually produced less titles this month than they had the month before.

Still, in a major shock, this issue retells Captain America's origin.

Well, you can't blame them. It must be all of three issues since they last retold it.

Dartedevil #39, the Unholy Three

From the depths of Daredevil history, the Unholy Three return, although I prefer to know them as, "The Ani-Men."

I seem to recall that, this time, the perpetual stooges are working for a criminal mastermind who owns a gun that can send people out of sync with everyone else, which must play havoc with your social life.

But does the Unholy Three's return mean that this is the issue in which we get the return of Debbie Harris? Or had she already been back for a while by this point?

Fantastic Four #73, FF vs Daredevil, Spider-Man and Thor

The Daredevil/Doc Doom body-swap drama gets its epilogue, as, thanks to their own stupidity, the FF find themselves tangling with not only DD but also Thor and Spider-Man. If only Marvel heroes were in the habit of actually talking to each other.

Incredible Hulk #102

Clearly determined to not be outdone by Captain America, the Hulk also gets his own comic.

In this one, he comes up against the High Evolutionary who's created a new Wundagore in space, in order to continue his previously disastrous genetic experiments.

Needless to say, it all goes just as wrong this time round as it did last time. You do get the feeling he's a man who never learns from experience.

Amazing Spider-Man #59, the first ever Mary Jane cover

Mary Jane gets her first ever cover appearance.

And what a thrilling appearance it is, as she becomes an unknowing employee of the Kingpin and causes all kinds of trouble with her brainwashing camera.

Strange Tales #167, Nick Fury agent of SHIELD

Others may be getting their own comic this month but Nick Fury is going to have to wait a little while longer.

Interesting to see Clay Quartemain on the cover. I really did hate him.

Thor #151, the Destroyer

I suspect this might be the one in which, in order to help Thor, Sif does a deal with Karnilla and takes possession of the Destroyer, in order to dispatch the Wrecker but then finds she can't prevent her new body from attacking Thor.

In retrospect, unleashing an unstoppable destructive force upon the planet Earth wasn't the best thought-out rescue plan of all time.

X-Men #43, Magneto

A very dramatic John Buscema cover hints that we're heading towards an Avengers/X-Men crossover, as Magneto turns up at Professor X's funeral, in order to initiate all kinds of mischief.

More interestingly for me, the issue also features that back-up feature in which Cyclops explains his powers and we're officially told that, despite appearances, his eye blasts give off no heat.


dangermash said...

Oh wowzers! That is a pretty amazing set of covers. Kicking Gil Kane off the Avengers covers is paying huge dividends already.

Anonymous said...

Hello there and Happy Birthday to you. Tried to call you but there was no answer and my email crashed when I tried to send it to you. Had a lovely birthday card attached, too....but you will never see it now. How very like life....Hope you have a good day, sorry not to have caught up with you in person but will try again later. Meanwhile, I wanted to make sure you know that I am thinking of

Steve W. said...

Thank you, mystery anonymous person.

Anonymous said...

Is it your birthday today, Steve?
If so, happy birthday (and as a mark of appreciation for the blog, I'll resist any obvious comment on the date).


Steve W. said...

I don't have birthdays, Colin. I was created in a laboratory, from all the finest qualities of humanity.

At least, that's what I was told.

Steve W. said...

Why did I just type, "Colin," when I meant, "Sean?"

Clearly, reading wasn't one of the qualities that that lab gave me.

I'll kill those scientists when I get my hands on them.

Steve W. said...

Regardless, thank you, Sean.

dangermash said...

You seem to be a big April 68 fan Steve. I'm starting to wonder whether it was a big month for you in non comic ways.

Still, happy birthday to you, whichever birthday it is.

Steve W. said...

Thanks, Dangermash.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Steve - Happy Birthday!

I can't speak for the 1980s Bronze Age dudes, since I had stopped looking at comics by then, but for us guys who got to experience this stuff from the late 60s to early 70s, am I biased saying that this is the most incredible stable of artists in one location at one time? Buscema, Colan, Kirby, Steranko, et al. Un believable!!!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Stev - In fact this time is soooo glorious, that may I request you have a 56 years ago, 57 years ago, 58 years ago! Would ya?! Could ya?! I'll gladly buy you a shot and a beer when you come to Chicago to show my unlimitless gratitude!

Steve W. said...

Thanks for the birthday wishes, Charlie.

Don't forget that I started this feature way back in 2011, so if you track down the earliest posts that I did for it, those posts cover Marvel comics from what is now 57 years ago.

In fact, here's the post I did for November 1961, featuring the very first issue of Fantastic Four :

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Thanks for the link.

1) Did you ever end up ripping a hole in the comic book space-time fabric such that parts of the internet got sucked in?

2) So I am curious when I look at older posts from your blog and a few others... where do the old guys who posted go? You don't see their names anymore. Did they lose interest in comics? Die? Get sucked into the space-time fabric?

3) While I could go back and look at old posts it's all about the surprise and anticipation of what may be shown next in the blog! Yep, I've seen all these covers from 50 years ago but it is still "fresh" to me to see them together, suddenly, in your blog! I mean, it is the closest thing that approximates the joy I felt going into my local corner store that had two (!) spinner racks back in the 60s and being "wowed" by what was on display!

Never mind that where I grew up is now a ghetto - Gary, Indiana - unlike Sheffield which seems to be thriving metropolis! I mean, no new-wave rocker ever was quoted as saying Gary, Indiana was a great place to be poor b/c the transit system was basically free!


cerebus660 said...

Belated birthday wishes! Hope you had a great day, Steve. And thanks for this post - so many amazing covers!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TC said...

It is still Sunday here, so happy birthday to Steve and happy Easter to all.

I had Fantastic Four #73. When I was nine, I thought it was cool having all those guest stars. Now, as a cantankerous old fart, I think the story was silly and contrived.

When I was six, I had Daffy Duck #36, in which he and Bugs Bunny competed to see who could pester Elmer Fudd the worst. And it was more logical than FF #73, or just about any of Marvel's hero vs. hero battles.

In the 1980s, there was a parody comic called Megaton Man, published by Kitchen Sink. In #1, he fought the Megatropolis Quartet, who assumed (for no reason whatsoever) that he was an impostor. It was a devastatingly accurate satire of comics like FF #73.

I read the Avengers story when it was reprinted in Marvel Triple Action, and the Captain America when it was reprinted in Marvel Double Feature or Marvel Super Action.

The Hulk had his own self-titled solo comic before; it ran for (IIRC) six issues in the early 1960s before being cancelled. Then the second (1968) series continued the numbering from Tales to Astonish. Which makes it confusing for someone looking up the title in a price guide and seeing that gap between #6 and #102.

Anonymous said...

Happy belated birthday, Steve, and thanks, as always, for a great blog.
Regarding that F.F. issue, yeah, the story is a bit contrived, with most of the major Marvel heroes managing to fight each other for no doggone good reason. Can't we get along? But that beautiful Kirby cover is indeed something to behold. I actually had that one framed and displayed at my last place, but I had to leave there because of a sagging foundation and a spider infestation. Also, there might have been a ghost in there. It was like the House of Usher.


Steve W. said...

Charlie, I don't have a clue where the people who used to post comments on blogs years ago have disappeared to. It happens to bloggers too. A number of the people who used to run blogs when I first started have disappeared without trace and I do often fear that some of them may no longer be with us.

Cerebus, TC, MP and Colin, thanks for the birthday wishes.

Colin, it's even worse for me. I keep finding entire posts that I have no memory of ever having written.

MP, it sounds like the kind of house that is always described by estate agents as having, "Character."

Anonymous said...

Charlie, got to agree with you on the impressive array of artists.
Marvel was fortunate to boom at a time when plenty of artists were still out of work as a result of the slump following the introduction of the comic code, so they really had a wide choice.

Although I have to say most of those geezers were better served by Marvel's 70s output - Gene Colan and John Buscema were much more suited to Tomb of Dracula or Conan respectively than post-Kirby superheroics.
And Kirby himself did his best work at DC.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Hi Sean! By "time at D.C." you mean "The Guardian and the Newsboy Legion " era or "The Dingbats" era?

Anonymous said...

Ha, very good Charlie - personally, I wouldn't say the Dingbats was one of Kirby's greatest achievements either, but its not exactly typical, is it?
I would use terms more like Fourth World era, or Kamandi and OMAC era. This kind of thing -


Charlie Horse 47 said...

I'm just kiddIn, lol. There is a lot of Kirby DC work in the 70s that is good stuff. But though I enjoyed Kamandi and it seems you too, I've met too many folks not to appreciativof it. :(

Killdumpster said...

In my opinion Gil Kane ruled, as long as the upper nostril shots where kept to a minimum. Never understood that. He must have had a sinus fetish.

Killdumpster said...


Happy belated birthday. And at least a couple dozen more to come.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I appreciate Kirby solo isn't everyone's cup of awesome brilliance, but I'm not going to let that put me off.
On the subject of the Newsboy Legion, have you read the recent one-off revival by the mighty Howard Chaykin? Its a crossover with the Boy Commandos :)...


Killdumpster said...

I don't know why I said that. You're probably immortal anyway.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

No Sean! Did not know about it! Is it "Sean recommended?"

I understand that Golden Age comics are not everyone's cup of tea b/c the art and plots are wanting. BUT - there is a great hard cover archive of the Newsboy Legion, printed on paper that looks / feels like newsprint. It's quite nice and the art and stories are actually pretty decent by Kirby and Simon! NO shiny white pages with garish colors that require sun glasses to read, LOL.

I did google Newsboy Legion to see what they've been up to since WW 2. The wiki article started talking about their clones, post-Crisis, etc. and... well... I could only mutter "same sh*t, different heroes."

Anonymous said...

Charlie, it was ok but to be honest "recommended" is a bit of a stretch once you get past the novelty value of Chaykin doing the Newsboy Legion (er... so to speak).
His reworked Buck Rogers from a few years back is a better bet if you're after a decent read.
Although sometimes his modern digital art does make my eyesight go a bit funny.


Steve W. said...

Thanks for the birthday wishes, Killdumpster. :)

Mike Davies said...

Belated Birthday greetings Steve. I have to agree with many comments to this post in that this is (in the main) a great set of covers by some of the greatest artists. I particularly love the Avengers, Cap and Xmen covers.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Just my personal opinion that the next 10 or so issues of Captain America are Kirby's bets ever art? Thoughts???

Anonymous said...

Charlie, even though obviously I prefer the DC work, if we put that to one side for the sake of argument... I'm mad enough for Kirby to love his mid to late 70's Cap too, so probably not the best person to ask.

Just kidding - you may well be on to something there, because that run just after #100 is very good (its more Jack's writing that was the strong point of his post-DC Cap(:...)
One thought I do have is that inkers are a big factor in the quality of Kirby's art - the FF benefits from Sinnott, while Thor doesn't from Vince Coletta (I am a controversialist!)

I forget who inked the Caps - Dan Adkins or someone like that? - but they were definitely competent. One or two were inked by Steranko I think... (The issues just after are definitely his best Marvel artwork)


Anonymous said...

Oh, PS -
Don't recall any Kirby collages in those Cap issues, which is a mark in the column against.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

It wasn't until I started this blog and a few others a few years ago that I learned about the role and impact of inkers from you guys so I opine from a layman's perspective! I just know when I see those 10 or so issues of Captain America I am awed. I mean kirby made a fight with paste pot Pete look out of this world!

Steve W. said...

Thanks, Mike. :)

Charlie and Sean, I'd say my favourite Kirby artwork is the first few issues of the Eternals.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

I don't know the Eternals :( But it will give me a good reason to visit the library and check them out there by getting something from my property taxes lol! I just hope they're not on the shiny white paper!

Anonymous said...

I liked the Eternals too, Steve, especially the double page spreads of Celestials. But it was a bit up and down - Kirby did some great stuff during his late 70s return to Marvel, but perhaps understandably given the circumstances it didn't always have the wild-eyed enthusiasm of his DC period.

Having said that, Devil Dinosaur was brilliant!


Dougie said...

The only US edition I owned here was Thor.
I got it in June 1972, with TOS 99, when I was in hospital as a wee lad. I wonder how four- year old comics got to the hospital shop in the first place. However, that seemed to be not-uncommon in 1970s South Lanarkshire.(During that same stay, I also got Green Lantern/Green Arrow 86, from the late autumn of 1971.)

Anyway, at that age. I was perplexed by the cover of CA 100 which was apparently a premiere issue!

Steve W. said...

I first started buying Marvel comics in 1972 and a number of them were from 1968. The four year limbo between publishing and sale seems to have been a common thing.

Timothy Field said...

Happy even more belated birthday Steve.
Can I just say how much I disliked the X-Men costumes of this period. Sure, the original uniforms were dull but at least they were, you know, uniforms. The altered costumes are just as bland but without the benefit of making the X-Men look like a team. I wonder if it was a forced redesign that the artist didn't want to do?

Steve W. said...

Thanks for the birthday wishes, Timothy.

I prefer the original costumes as well. I've always assumed the new ones were done in response to the comic's poor sales. It may have been felt that making the characters less anonymous-looking and more colourful would make them more appealing to readers.

Justin said...

On Wundagore Mountain?

Steve W. said...

I'm afraid so. That's why I'm slowly degenerating into a beast-like state.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...