Sunday, 4 December 2022

Fifty years ago today - December 1972.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon

As you'd expect, I'm all excited by the ever-nearing approach of Christmas.

But will I be just as excited by the comics below?

Amazing Spider-Man #115, Dr Octopus, Aunt May points a gun at our hero

Spider-Man comes up against his deadliest foe yet - Aunt May; as the wacky widow proves just how completely clueless she is, by siding with her new employer - and boyfriend - Dr Octopus.

Avengers #106, the Space Phantom

I seem to remember this featuring the shocking return of the Space Phantom who's somehow managed to land himself a job as the Supreme Hydra.

Having said that, I can't recall exactly what his scheme is but I'm sure it's suitably nefarious.

I think it also involves flashbacks to the days when Rick Jones was Cap's sidekick.

Captain America #156, Cap vs Captain America

I don't think I've ever read this tale but I'm fairly certain it features the showdown between the real Captain America and the 1950s imposter who likes nothing better than smashing up pinko commies like the real Captain America.

Conan the Barbarian #21, Barry Smith

I'm not sure it's one of Barry Smith's better covers.  Conan's legs look too long for the rest of him, his sword and axe don't seem to be pointing in quite the right directions and the man he's resting his foot on doesn't seem to have a thick enough body to be real.

However, none of that matters. What matters is that, inside, our hero's taken captive in Makkalet and then has to fight his deadliest foe yet.

A big frog!

Daredevil and the Black Widow #94, the Indestructible Man

Daredevil and the Black Widow take on the might of the Indestructible Man but it's poor old Danny French who has to sacrifice himself to stop the villain.

Fantastic Four #129, Medusa and Thundra

The Frightful Four are back!

And, this time, they've got Thundra with them!

But who is this pulchritudinous powerhouse - and will she be too busy trying to snog the Thing to flatten him?

Iron Man #53, Raga

I genuinely have no clue what's going on here. I do know it features the first appearance of the Black Lama and also the death of Raga.

Sadly, I don't know who either of those people is.

Thor #206, the return of the Absorbing Man

The Absorbing Man's back! And Rutland, Vermont, will never be the same again!

I do believe this is another of those stories that features Tom Fagan and his Halloween activities.

And that means it must include a guest appearance from members of the Marvel Bullpen but I'm struggling to remember which ones. Are Len and Glynis Wein among them? And, possibly, Gerry Conway?

X-Men #79, Cobalt Man

Before he goes mad and harasses the Hulk, the Cobalt Man goes mad and tries to make ex-men of the X-Men.

Sadly, his plan all goes wrong when his armour starts to be in danger of blowing up.

With him inside it!

Incredible Hulk #158, the Rhino and Counter Earth

It's another of my Hulk faves as, thanks to the Leader, he and the Rhino get a trip to Counter-Earth where he encounters the alternate Bruce Banner.

Meanwhile, on our Earth, Betty Ross is getting married to Glenn Talbot.

Action Comics #419

But that's enough of Marvel. We should never forget that, big as it is, it's not the only fish in town.

That in mind, let's peruse a random sample of what its closest rival's up to in the mags that bear a December cover date.

Neal Adams gives us a cheery cover but I'm not too sure the tale within is so cheery.

I've never read this one but it would appear that someone called Moe Malloy fishes a glowing gun and a pair of shoes from Metropolis harbour and promptly gains super powers.

Meanwhile, in our backup strip, the Human Target must pose as a business man, in order to prevent an assassination.

Justice League of America #103

What's this? The Phantom Stranger? Confronting the Justice League of America?

It seems he's not just confronting them, he's out to recruit them to battle demons summoned during the Halloween Parade in Rutland, Vermont.

I'm assuming this means Tom Fagan's going to be showing up in this one, as well.

However, I can shed no light upon whether any Marvel or DC creatives enliven this one with a guest appearance.

Batman #246

It's certainly a Batman cover you'll never forget but what of the story within?

Sadly, I cannot answer that, as I've never read it. However, I can say that someone's demonstrating ways to kill Robin, via the medium of dummies.

But who can be behind it all?

And can Batman track them down in time to rescue the boy wonder?

House of Secrets #103

It's a typically striking cover by Bernie Wrightson, although perhaps lacking his usual vigour.

As it turns out, none of the inside stories feature his artwork but we do get tales which boast such chilling titles as Waiting... Waiting... Waiting..., No Bed of Roses and The Village on the Edge of Forever.

The Phantom Stranger #22

Jim Aparo gives us another moody cover; this time, for a tale in which the Dark Circle captures Cassandra Craft, in order to lure the Phantom Stranger into a trap.

Elsewhere, Dr 13 has an encounter with a Creature of the Night.

But will even that be enough to dent his skepticism?

Tarzan #215, Joe Kubert

I know little of the contents of this one but I do know Tarzan frees a group of slaves who've been forced to work in a distinctly menacing mine.

And that there's a back-up strip called Beyond the Farthest Star which appears to feature both a merman and a script by Marv Wolfman that's adapted from a tale by Edgar Rice Burroughs himself.

And, this time, we get tales that bear such chilling monikers as The Promise, Blood Brothers and The Last Battle, brought to us by the likes of Robert Kanigher, Alfredo Alcala, Gerry Talaoc and Alex Niño.

Wonder Woman #203

It's that legendary Samuel R Delany tale in which Diana Prince sets out to do something about a local businessman who's failed to have a suitable sprinkler system fitted in his factory in defiance of Subsection Something-or-Other of some civic ordinance or other.

I can't help feeling this isn't likely to be the plot of the next Wonder Woman movie.

I do recall that, despite it being a special Women's Lib issue, it's the one in which Diana tells us she can't stand women.

I suppose that would explain why she left Paradise Island, if nothing else.

More importantly, I've just discovered that my review of this issue was posted over ten years ago. What is this madness? Why does it feel like I wrote it just a few weeks ago?


D.D.Degg said...

The benefits of working on staff.
John Romita (and Herb Trimpe too) found ways to escape those gawdawful little square cover boxes that Marvel (Roy Thomas?) was so enthralled with at that time.

Steve W. said...

Hi, DD. I always liked the cover boxes but can imagine they were not popular with the artists.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I don’t hate the cover boxes either. That Big Stack of comics I got from the kid in the neighborhood who didn’t want em anymore were mostly from this era, so I have a slight sentimental attachment to the format.

Speaking of the Big Stack, it contained three different Hulk comics, one of which was 158. So I remember this one pretty well. Amongst all the Hulk Smashing, it also has a two-panel cameo by Warlock and the cast of Godspell which might have confused me if the Big Stack hasn’t also contained a copy of WARLOCK 4 (which I dug like crazy). Also, I think the couple on the far left of the cover are meant to be Bruce and Betty Banner, but the colorist didn’t get the memo and mis-colored their hair.

Agreed, not Barry’s best Conan drawing. But — wasn’t this the pose that was immortalized on the Bronze Conan Medallion? Geez, I wonder what those things are worth now….

Best covers this month: Giordano’s WONDER WOMAN and Aparo’s PHANTOM STRANGER. As a bonus, the coloring is especially nice on both.


Anonymous said...

Theres something not right about those dogs on the Wonder Woman cover b.t., so I'm going to go for Phantom Stranger as cover of the month. Generally Jim Aparo's work seemed thoroughly competent without being anything special to me, but thats a really good one.

Steve, what have you got against fire safety?
Ok, I guess its a fair point that no-one needs super-powers to sort out sprinklers. The problem with Wonder Woman #203 seems to be that Delany was trying to emulate his editor Denny O'Neil's 'relevant' work on Green Lantern/Green Arrow, which was more highly regarded then than it is now.

On the not liking women thing - 'in most cases' iirc - I think Diana is supposed to be a bit up herself. Thats the way I read the issue anyway, that Delany was going for a more thorough consideration of 'women's lib' than was common in early 70s comics, and she's presented as a bourgeois feminist, somewhat smug, congratulating herself on sorting out the exploiter when she's also - life not being that straight forward - put a number of low paid black women out of work.

Its not really in keeping with the Wonder Woman character, but thats the white jumpsuit era for you rather than specifically Delany imo. Perhaps if he'd been able to continue the story arc he had planned, the story might come across better in context.
Or perhaps not. I have to admit that while I find #203 interesting, WW's fight with Catwoman - and bonkers crossover with Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser - in his previous issue is more entertaining.


Anonymous said...

Btw, that is a top issue of Weird War Tales, much better than the cover suggests - Alfredo Alcala draws 13th century Russians fighting the medieval Teutonic knights and, 700 years later, a Panzer division on the eastern front in 1942; and theres some mad apocalyptic science-fiction by the mighty Alex Nino.
Gerry Taloac doesn't embarrass himself in their company either, although his American civil war piece is fairly slight (the story I mean, not his artwork).


Anonymous said...

I remember both Spidey and the FF from their, respective, reprints in Captain Britain and Super Spider-man and the Super Heroes. The Spidey cover was redrawn for the landscape format and improved the original, in my opinion. The Doc Ock, Hammer-head, Aunt May storyline remains warmly nostalgic and I wouldn't want to spoil it with a re-read. The FF was also on a tidy run with Medusa temporarily replacing Sue, and Johnny sporting the red costume.

Funny that DC are playing the women' lib card with Wonder Woman the same month Marvel had Thundra giving Ben Grimm a thick ear.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Good Morning Comic Fans.

Charlie only bought Conan's on an as-needed basis unless the cover was super cool. One such super-cool specimen was King Size Conan #1 $.35 which has a cover date of 1973.

I notice the cover is fairly identical to the Conan 17 above but waaaay cooler.

I think the same cover from King Size ended up on a Conan Treasury Edition as well.

Any one have thoughts on the genesis of that? I assume BWS tweaked it for the King Size and Treasury?

Charlie will hang up here and listen to your reply off line to save on telecomm fees!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Charlie kind of thought there'd be a crap ton of discussion on the 1950s Captain America since it opened the door to Winter Soldier being possible?

SEAN, et al. - did Rascally Roy then ever address the conundrum of the Cap who appears between the 1940s Cap and 1950s Cap 1945 to 1947/48 but prior to Commie-busting Cap?

Charlie Horse 47 said...


Charlie was looking at Mike's Amazing World of Comics. ON the NEWSSTANDS in August 1972 there are about 60 comics. In September about 30 are on the stand.

The covers above appeared on the news stands over those two months.

What if anything was going on at Marvel? That's a dramatic drop in out put, roughly half.

Colin Jones said...

None of those who left comments in 2012 are still around today...Boston Bill?

Anonymous said...

Charlie - My memory's hazy, but in my first & favourite Cap ( # 215) - a Roy Thomas one, I think - in a flasback/retrospective of Cap's career, fake Cap was crushed to death by a robot!


Anonymous said...


There are dogs on the WONDER WOMAN cover?


Anonymous said...



Steve W. said...

Bt and Sean, I'll go for Wonder Woman as my cover of the month, even if I've only just discovered it wasn't pencilled by Gene Colan but was entirely the work of Giordano.

DW, I bet Thundra would have sorted out that factory owner who had the dodgy sprinkler system.

Charlie, I can only assume Marvel had tried to flood the market in an effort to get one over on DC and had then been forced, by economics, to cutback their output.

Colin, I do often wonder about commenters from the blog's earlier days who no longer appear, and fear that something untoward has happened to them.

Phillip, thanks for the fake Cap info.

Anonymous said...

Well quite, b.t.
Other than that, I do like the cover - a bit of bondage is probably the only real Wonder Woman trope in the whole comic. Theres nothing that says 'Special! Women's Lib Issue' quite like a bound and gagged woman.

Charlie - I think Phillip must be right, as I do recall some inane Cap story in the immediate post-Kirby era involving yet another fake Cap to explain some point of continuity. Inevitably it was by Roy Thomas.


Anonymous said...

You're right Charlie, the King-Size Conan #1 cover is much better than the issue here. Although the only Treasury I recall with a Barry Smith cover - the one with 'Red Nails' - used a print from his 'Tupenny Conan' that he did early in his Gorblimey Press era.

Actually, now I think about it, that cover from Conan #21 was used again for a one-shot reprint of 'Red Nails' in the early '80s.


dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

That Captain America cover looks like it used to be a great one until someone cut out the figures and moved them around to fit onto a landscape format Titans comic.

Anonymous said...

Steve-any chance to show JLA,
Action, and Adventure too? The Adventure cover is a classic!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

SEAN - you are correct! My memory was playing tricks on me! The Conan #4 Treasury is not the same as above or King Size Conan #1 though it does have a lot of the fine detailing like KS Conan... beads of sweat, moodier coloring...


Anonymous said...

This was a pretty good month for comics. That F.F. issue is a favorite of mine. Ben Grimm taking out the entire Frightful Four on his lonesome, at least until their mysterious new member shows up: Thundra, in her devasting debut.
What Marvel fan doesn't like Thundra? I sure do. She reminds me of my second cousin, who's about 6'3'. Blonde. Rancher's daughter.
I hadda tell my goofball brother, "Don't even think about it. She'll kill you if you look at her funny."
I could never figure out why Medusa showed up here. Does she hang around deserted construction sites in NYC at night?
I'm not as familiar with the D.C. comics up there. There are big gaps in my knowledge of Bronze Age D.C. But those covers, man, I mean, wow. That was a great idea you had to include the D.C. stuff in these posts, Steve. that Phantom Stranger cover is incredibly eerie. My curiosity is piqued: I'm gonna hafta check some of this stuff out online.
Particularly that issue of Weird War Tales, from Sean's description. I'm a history geek.
Great post! Cheers!


Charlie Horse 47 said...

WONDER WOMAN - featuring bound and gagged... been that way since day 1 with her. Well at least the ladies weren't getting spanked anymore?

SPIDER MAN - may sound strange but I was unable to find this issue on the news stand. Despite access to the infinite internet and having all 4 volumes of Gerbers Comic Book Covers from 1938 to 1980 (?) I've never seen the cover until now (I think?)

LUKE CAGE - Nothing screams HERO FOR HIRE like Billy Graham? Best Luke Cage artist ever? Just loved this series until he became POWER MAN.

GIL KANE on how many covers now? KANE fatigue was setting in on Charlie's skinny white ass by this time.

STERANKO - so why the decidedly pedestrian covers now? Wasn't he concurrently putting out some top-drawer covers to Doc Savage and the Shadow (?) paper backs at this time? No time for comics? Then again... why'd Marvel assign him such lower-tier comics? I can easily envision an out of this world cover with 2 Caps fighting, far more sensational than Sal's cover.