Sunday, 1 March 2020

Fifty years ago this month - March 1970.

Like a bus that I urgently need, March has arrived a day late.

That must mean we're behind schedule.

That means I must dive straight into my look at the Marvel comics which bore the month of March 1970 upon their front covers.

Avengers #74, the Black Panther

The Black Panther's been kidnapped by the Sons of the Serpent, while one of their operatives runs around town committing crimes, in order to make him look bad in the eyes of the nation.

Obviously, that's all well and good but what's even more important is I believe this is the first issue to feature the artistic team of John Buscema and Tom Palmer which became positively legendary.

Captain America #123, Suprema

From what I can remember, a woman gains the power to control men's minds and, not content with just robbing banks, decides to use it to take over SHIELD.

Quite how Captain America proves to be immune to her charms, I cannot recall.

Then again, how she gets her power in the first place is also a mystery to me.

Daredevil #62, Nighthawk

When we read that Avengers' Grandmaster tale a few months ago, we may have thought we'd never see Nighthawk again but here he is, back in town and trying to steal Daredevil's spotlight.

But - gasp - it turns out the villain has ulterior motives!

Fantastic Four #96, the Mad Thinker

The Mad Thinker decides to defeat the FF by creating robot duplicates of them.

My memories of this issue are fuzzy but I'd assume that, at some point, at least one member of the FF fools the Thinker by pretending to be one of his robots.

Incredible Hulk #125, the Absorbing Man

It's the clash that had to happen!

The Absorbing Man takes on the Hulk - and wins!

He then gets crushed by the mountain he's holding up.

He never was the sharpest knife in the drawer, was he?

Even more excitingly, this issue leads into the introduction of Jack Norriss.

Iron Man #23

I've read this story and have no recollection of what happens in it.

However, I believe the Crimson Dynamo or Titanium Man may be involved.

I also believe this is an experiment which involves the cover acting as the first panel of the story within.

Amazing Spider-Man #82, Electro

Spidey decides to go on a chat show.

And, wouldn't you know it, the studio's resident sparky is Electro who decides the hero's guest slot is the perfect chance to give him a shock.

Thor #174, Crypto-Man

I must confess I'm having trouble distinguishing between Crypto-Man and Thermal Man.

Isn't Crypto-Man created by a scientist who sets it loose in New York and then realises it might kill his mother, or something?

Then again, I might be mixing it up with Replicus, and Slugger Sykes' concern for Granny Gardenia.

X-Men #66, the Hulk

In their last appearance for several months, the X-Men take on the Incredible Hulk!

Apparently, our heroes seek out the aid of Bruce Banner to help them treat Professor X who's feeling under the weather at the moment.

I think we can all guess how long it takes for a fight to break out.


dangermash said...

Interesting lineup this month. Even those with naff villains (Avengers and Daredevil) have some pretty good covers.

But no X-Men though, Steve? Was it back to being bimonthly or have you relegated them to the second tier to join Doctor Strange and Silver Surfer?

This month's ASM features the first appearance of Mary Jane Watson for a long time. Last time she was in the comic, she had the ginchy hairdo and was hanging around street corners dressed like a prostitute. And now she# back, looking and acting much more like the MJ that popped up in ASM #42. Stan conveniently sidelining her for a year and a half in the hope that we'd all forget this dark chapter in her life.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Dangermash - For those of us who had been reading ASM when Gwen was killed, it was completely/ totally understood that MJ was. and always would be, a hot bimbo at best.

IF Gerry Conway just had a hankering to mess things up a bit, he should have killed MJ. Devasting? Yes for Petey's gang, not Petey in particular, though. I can't imagine any readers had an emotional connection to MJ and besides there's always another bimbo out there you can introduce.

Steve W. said...

Oops! I've made a slight mistake. I thought there wasn't an issue of X-Men for this month but it turns out there was.

However, nine months will pass before the issue after it hits the spinner racks - and the next one after that won't appear until 1971! Truly it was a comic on the verge of death.

I shall add this month's X-Men to the post ASAP.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Perhaps someone out there can help ole Charlie out. He's owned that Cap comic for nearly 45 years and it never made sense as to what was happening. Not sure why. Charlie would always get confused initially: is Cap falling, is he jumping, is he flying?

And, are these other folks after him? Trying to catch him? Simply watching?

Charlie thinks some gun shots and nearby bullet impacts / explosions are missing?


After looking yet again, Charlie thinks he gets the visual impression that somehow Cap has raised his hand / arm and is elevating himself?

Anonymous said...

Steve, I think in Cap #123 our hero was immune to Suprema's charms because of the way some light reflected off his shield while she tried to hypnotize him. Something like that.
I believe she'd originally been a circus performer, but don't recall how she got the machine that increased her power. From AIM maybe? They were giving Cap trouble at that point.

Lots of drama involving Sharon Carter in that issue too. Women, eh?
Still, as this is apparently a nostalgia site I won't go into it. And don't get me started on the Sons of the Serpent either...


Steve W. said...

The X-Men have now been added to the post.

Sean, that thing about light glinting off Cap's shield does ring a bell.

Charlie, Cap would appear to be leaping to grab a bar, in order to achieve a quick escape from the forces of SHIELD who are out to kill him at the behest of Suprema.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, re that Cap cover - he's obviously jumping, reachiing for that girder.
I would suggest any confusion is the result of Gene Colan being paired with Joe Sinnott. Sinnott was obviously a great inker, but I don't think his precision worked was a good fit with Gene the Dean's pencils.

To be fair Steve, it was easy to forget the X-Men this time round (fwiw I'd always assumed that last Neal Adams issue from February was the final one before reprints).


Anonymous said...

*don't think his precision was a good fit...
Duh - sorry about the typos.


Darren Clayton said...

Are all this month’s issues from the period where Stan decreed stories had to be done in one with no “Continued Next Ish!” allowed?

Steve W. said...

Someone did indeed decree it around this time, Darren. I'm not sure if it was Stan or if it was Martin Goodman.

Fantastic Four follower said...

Fond memories of this months issues. The Fantastic Four issue is one of my favourites(I can sense the stunned amazement of all those Marvelites who dismiss Kirbys last year on the title!) Obviously it is all relative as the younger you are,the more impressionable you are! Merely my opinion. The Avengers were on an all time high with Buscema/Palmer producing hit after hit:Thor stories at this time were hugely enjoyable but valid point of Steve that those 2 issues he referred to, #170 Thermal man and #174 Crypto man are similar:Cap and DD were simply amazing due entirely to Colan,s artwork with mediocre stories(but at the time I loved them). Spiderman #82 was a great issue which Marvel have reprinted on numerous occasions so they must have liked it. It was during that period when Marvel basically cancelled all continued stories for about 6 months...... before they wised up! Hulk was a title I actually like more now than then and Ironman, despite odd issues I liked #14, 18,21,35 were some of the poorest issues in Marvels early history and was not revived until Conway turned up in late #30's! Sounds harsh but remember by #43(double sized Nov 1971) it was scheduled for cancellation and was only reprieved by a proposed amalgamation with Daredevil! This was subsequently changed but it does show it was not selling. Regardless, truly a golden era!

dangermash said...

In an editorial In ASM, Stan talks about going back to "original style story picturisation", Romita artwork and more attention on the supporting cast. I don't notice the artwork style change and Buscema is back for Romita in two months time. But, I'll give him the mark 9n supporting cast now MJ is back.

And, Darren, I did see something (can't remember where) about moving to one-and-dones. And, while this is the third successive one-and-done in ASM (after Chameleon and Kangaroo), this goes out the window next month when we start on the last of the four great Kingpin trilogies.

dangermash said...

I see you've put up X-Men now Steve. When the next issue comes out in nine months time, it will be a reprint of X-Men #12, the first appearance of The Juggernaut, no more original X-Men stories until the big relaunch and team change in Giant Size X-Men. Until then, people will need to get their X-Men fix in the Beast's solo strip in Amazing Adnventures.

Redartz said...

Regarding the one-and-dones: I seem to recall (like dangermash stated) an editorial by Stan. Seems the change to one-parters started with the finale to the Prowler story. The Prowler tale was intended as a 3 part story but was shaved down to complete it in two. The next 3 issues were 1 partners, but they abandoned the policy thereafter with the Kingpin/Schemer arc...

dangermash said...

Found it, Red. The announcement you refer to was in ASM #77. And then in ASM #80 there's another announcement that talks about a big backlash from fans and backtracks a bit, saying that they won't be cutting back the supporting soap opera stuff, that a villain can return the following issue in a separate story without a cliffhanger (which sounds to me like Doc Ock in ASM #11-12) and that they may at some point go back to allowing continued stories if that's what readers want.

I also remember reading somewhere that the Prowler story was originally going to be a three parter but had forgotten all about it. Looking back at ASM #79 with this in mind, it's suddenly clear that the fight at the end was wrapped up in double quick time. When they turned it into a two-parter, I suspect they kept most of part 2 and only changed the last couple of pages.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I think Cap is leaping out of danger and is trying to grab a crossbeam. The lines coming out from behind him suggest forward movement.
Wow, that is surprisingly coherent of me. I'm rarely that linear.
Red, I dug the Prowler. He had a cool costume, and those whacky claws he used to climb up buildings were nifty.
Still, it's hard to imagine a teenage kid, funky claws or no, giving Spider-Man a hard time.
Can you imagine climbing up the side of a building with claws?
I'm scared of heights and the image of it gives me the willies. I couldn't even watch the end of King Kong.
Did it turn out okay? Did the ape and the chick get married and go back to Skull Island?
I'm keeping my fingers crossed.


Anonymous said...

Stick with Kong: Skull Island M.P.

FF follower, do many readers actually dismiss the latter part of Kirby's run on the FF? I can only speak for myself (obviously) and sure, it did seem like the quality fell off a little. However, it was still pretty good! Just not quite as good as it had been.
As you say, its a relative judgement. But I don't know about being less impressionable... thats true about comics generally of course, but in this instance I absolutely loved Kirby's DC stuff (his first Jimmy Olsen was cover dated the month after FF #102).


Anonymous said...

A month? That's a short amount of time. But from what I've read about Kirby, his brain was always racing forward.
Any writer or artist is gonna get burned out on a title after a while, and then it's time to pass the baton.
Still, the F.F. was frigging incredible for several years. Like the Beatles.


Fantastic Four follower said...

The comparison with the Lee Kirby team on the FF and Lennon McCartney in the Beatles has been made before and curiously they existed at basically the same time, 1960-1970.The 60s has retained its position as The decade of the 20th century.

Killdumpster said...

While the latter Kirby FF's may have seemed lackluster, it was still Kirby. Boy, how I miss him. The great thing is the guy did volumes of work, so there's always something new to read.

I agree with Dangermash on the Sons of the Serpent. Those guys were so lame and tired. Fighting "Earth's Mightiest Heroes"? They should have been pummeled.

I disagree about Nighthawk, though. He was a good adversary for DD. He was much better than the Jester, Stunt Master, or many other Hornhead foes.

(Thanks again Charlie, oh my brother.)

Colan's Cap was always a treat.

As I've mentioned before, Spidey books were next to impossible for me to get. I think I only got one issue that year. Any Sinster Six villain was a must-read to me.

Sean, I dug Kong:Skull Island. Even though it screwed the traditional story. I think of it as an "alternate universe" Kong.

Too bad even the Hulk couldn't save the X-Men, but with the reprints I was able to read the stories I missed. Definitely a plus for me.

That was a horrible buffalo-shot cover for Shellhead. If I had to do a hurry-grab of the rack, I would have bypassed that. No villains on the cover, and I don't have time usually to leaf through books.

Same as the Thor issue. They really needed to feature the villains on the cover. Some of us had toe-tapping parents.

Anonymous said...

I dunno, those Colan / Sinnott CAP issues look pretty amazing to me. It's always seemed to me that Colan's pencils would be REALLY hard to ink properly -- you'd want to tighten them up a bit so that they're not just smeary and distorted and mushy but not tighten them up TOO much so that they lose their energy and spontaneity. I think Sinnott threads that needle expertly. Those 9 CAPs are some of my favorite Colan superhero comics, ever.

- b.t.

Killdumpster said...

Like I said, b.t., Colan's Cap was a treat.

My favorite book on his run was the issue where Cap fought the Hulk, which turned out to be a movie (a bit of premonition?), saved a college dean from protesters, then faced off against Batroc, Whirlwind (in Human Top costume), & Porcupine.

All that action for 15 cents? To a little kid who's comics money came from hunted returnable soda-pop bottles & couch cushions? Priceless!!!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

IMHO - Lee / Kirby had pretty much mined the useful concepts and constructs for heroes and villains with great effectiveness. I.e., I don't think Jack "quit trying" due to $ / ownership issues with Marvel. I felt his art at Marvel was top shelf to the end!

Although I guess he could've still milked the Periodic Table of elements for ideas? Look out! It’s Meitnerium Man and Bohrium Boy!!! I mean, there was nothing more to really be added... but for a few winners like Wolverine, Spawn at Image...

On the other hand, Sir Paul did continue with a bunch of post-Beatle hits and Band on the Run has been considered the best rock album of all time by Rolling Stone?

Well, to be fair, Kirby gave us the Dingbats and Dinosaur Boy post-Marvel!

And that’s my truth and I’m sticking to it!

Anonymous said...

One guy who inked Gene the Dean Colan well was Tom Palmer, in Tomb of Dracula. I dunno if he inked him on Doc Strange or not, but I think maybe so. It really hung together.
Coincidentally, over on the Peerless Power of Comics blog C.F. is reviewing some Colan stuff inked by the great Wally Wood. Nice. It's worth a gander.


Killdumpster said...

Paul McCartney & Wings had a load of hits, all of which bring great memories to me.

Killdumpster said...

As far as DC Kirby goes, I've only read a few Mister Miracle, Kamandi, and Omac books. I did enjoy them though.

Devil Dinosaur & Machine Man are probably not on my list of Kirby creations to immerse myself in.

Anonymous said...

I liked some of the stuff McCartney and Wings put out, but some of it makes me cringe. Being whimsical is one thing, I'm sometimes whimsical as hell, I've even bought Yes albums, but there's gotta be a limit.
I dunno what grass he was smoking, but that sh*t must've been fantastic.

Who the hell was Uncle Albert?


Anonymous said...

Charlie, its not so much about Kirby's art - which was always great - on the later part of his FF run, but rather he held back ideas. Because why hand over all those IPs when you weren't even getting the credit for them, let alone payment?
Not to get too much into the Marvel authorship debate, but by that classic '65 - '67 era Lee acknowledged at the time he used to let Kirby just get on with it. "Jack used to surprise Stan with new characters almost every time he turned in a story" - John Romita.

The FF really needed new ideas - Inhumans, Galactus, Surfer, Panther etc - to work well. Once Kirby stopped coming out with them (even though he had a fair bit of the Fourth World on paper in '68) it still looked good and was readable, but wasn't the worlds greatest comic mag anymore imo.


Anonymous said...

It's my understanding that the Silver Surfer came outta left field, because Kirby maybe heard the Beach Boys on the radio and decide to stick a surfer from outer space into the comic.
Lee saw this and was perplexed. It wasn't his idea. But he eventually took over the character and turned him into something Kirby hadn't intended, sort of a martyr on a cosmic surfboard.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Sean - I do['t have any way of knowing if Jack held back any ideas that would have been as commercially successful had he remained at Marvel. Truth be told, his post Marvel work never achieved the same level of commercial success.

Were the new ideas just not as interesting? Were the ideas just variations on a theme? Was it his changing style of art? The absence of Stan Lee?

If Kirby had plopped he Forever People into the FF (Thor?) would they have become big hits like the Inhumans? I mean, the Inhumans are going to be in a Marvel movie, if not already. Forever People...? Darkesid...???

All of life's imponderables here in Steve's Blog! Gottta love it!!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

M.P. - don't even start dissing McCartney's Uncle Albert or more broadly the Ram album.

Charlie really, really digs it... especially the first side!

And as an aspiring Ukulele musician Ram On lends itself to Charlie's repertoire! People get up and start dancing on tables when Charlie mouths those eternal words, "Ram on!"

So you better take it back because Charlie is going to be really sore at you!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Sean - that is a very, very interesting point! Did the FF need those continuing "great ideas" to remain great?

FF probably was the best of all Marvel's when Lee/Kirby were cranking out all those new characters.

On a relative scale they were always top shelf.

Perhaps that is true of all of Marvel's mags though? Perhaps I, Charlie, et al. kind of stopped reading after a good 5 - 10 year run b/c it they all become "more of the same?"

I don't know... just musing aloud.

But why else would we get nostalgic about something new though not particularly genius, like the Atlas line?

Anonymous said...

Well Charlie, considering the Fourth World basically became the basis of the DC universe I don't think you can really say it wasn't successful.
Of course Kirby's work at DC didn't sell like the FF earlier... but with circulations in decline throughout the 70s thats not really comparing like with like.
Kirby actually had one of the very few hits of that decade with Kamandi. How many other titles based on a new character - ie not public domain or licensed from other media - lasted much more than a couple of years? Luke Cage, Howard the Duck and er... uh...

Not really sure what happened to all Stan Lee's great ideas after Kirby left.
Maybe thats being unfair - there was She Hulk in 1980, right?


Anonymous said...

M.P. —

Yep, Palmer did ink a bunch of Colan’s Dr. Strange comics, in ‘68 / ‘69 (including that handful of issues when he looked his most “superhero-y”, with skintight outfit and face mask) and again in ‘74. Also, he inked about 10 issues of Colan’s Daredevils towards the end of his run. They all look fab!

Charlie, Sean and others —

Not to totally re-litigate the Stan v Jack thing again, but I’ve always thought that all you really have to do is look at the characters that were co-created by Stan’s OTHER collaborators. With Ditko, you get fascinating weirdos like Doc Ock, Mysterio, The Lizard, Dormammu. With Romita, you get relatively basic street-level criminals : The Kingpin, The Smasher, The Shocker, Man Mountain Marko. With Colan, you get The Melter. With Kirby, you get Dr. Doom, Modok, Galactus, Silver Surfer, Black Panther, The Inhumans, Annihilus, The DestroyerThe High Evolutionary, The Skrulls, The Kree — modernized mythology and crazy super-science.

— b.t.

Anonymous said...

And with Wally Wood you get Stilt-Man b.t., lets not forget that!


Anonymous said...


Yep, and The Matador, too! :)

(i do like that silly ol' Stilt-Man tho)

- b.t.

Anonymous said...

Everyone likes Stilty, don't they?