Tuesday 2 April 2024

Fifty years ago today - April 1974.

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

April Fools' Day is come and gone but what fools we would be to not investigate what our favourite Marvel heroes were up to in magazines whose cover date is exactly fifty years ago.

Avengers #122

The Avengers are still having ludicrous amounts of difficulty defeating Zodiac, despite the bad guys barely being able to muster a super-power between them.

However, I'm sure the good guys will triumph eventually.

But what's this? I do believe the cover image was also used on the front of one of Marvel UK's 1970s annuals.

Conan the Barbarian #37

Do I detect the hand of Neal Adams on this cover?

Of course I do.

Sadly, I also detect that it's an oddly static one, lacking our hero's usual eagerness to leap into the fray.

I've never read the tale inside but it would appear Conan and someone called Juma fight a giant slug and rescue someone called Yolinda from someone called Rotath.

Captain America and the Falcon #172, the Banshee

It's time to stare up nostrils, as Gil Kane gives us Cap and Falc vs the Banshee.

Sadly, apart from that, I've no knowledge of what happens in this one.

Fantastic Four #145, Ternak

And I must confess to knowing nothing about the contents of this one too.

But it seems the villain of the piece is called Ternak.

Incredible Hulk #174, the Cobalt Man

Hooray! The Cobalt Man's still causing trouble for the Hulk!

And for the city of Sydney, thanks to his bizarre bid to destroy it in order to show mankind the perils of atomic power.

Fortunately, as so often with nuclear scientists, his genius plan is thwarted when he explodes in the upper atmosphere.

Iron Man #67, the Freak

The Freak is back!

But not the same one as before.

This time, it isn't Happy Hogan who becomes the unstoppable, mindless monster. It's Eddie March.

The injured man must have emergency surgery at the hands of Don Blake. To help the patient survive, Tony Stark recommends the use of his Enervator.

And it does exactly the same thing to Eddie that it previously did to Happy.

You have to hand it to Tony Stark, he's never encountered a mistake he doesn't want to repeat.

Amazing Spider-Man #131, Dr Octopus marries Aunt May

It's the story you never thought you'd see!

Mostly because it's ridiculous.

Aunt May's IQ drops so low you'd have to pull up the floorboards to find it, as she decides it'd be a good idea to marry Dr Octopus.

And Hammerhead demonstrates that he's even stupider than Aunt May.

By headbutting a nuclear reactor!

Thor #222, Hercules

My knowledge of this one is limited but it's clear to me that it involves Hercules and Ares.

X-Men #87

My memories of this issue are likewise vague. Is it the one in which the Mutant Master's revealed to be no mutant but an octopus from outer space who's then killed when his wheelchair blows up?

I do, however, know plenty about the backup strip in which the winner of the Mr Earth contest is contacted by aliens who want him to enter the Mister Universe competition.

Naturally, he agrees 

And that turns out to be a bad idea.

Batman #255, Moon of the Wolf
That's Marvel's big hitters all accounted for.

But what of its rival? Just how does a random sample of DC comics which also bear that cover date look?

It's one of everybody's favourites, as Neal Adams returns and a bat man must confront a wolf man when Anthony Lupus gets pressured into killing the detective in exchange for a cure for his condition.

It has struck me, many times, that this tale has the same ending as Hammer's Scars of Dracula and I've always wondered if the similarity is coincidence or homage.

We also get a tale in which Bruce Wayne discovers his own father once adopted the guise of Batman before his murder.

Following that is an adventure in which Alfred tries to convince his girlfriend he's secretly Batman.

Only to discover his girlfriend is secretly Catwoman!

Next, we're told the history of the Batmobile.

Then we're supplied with a tale called The True-False Face of Batman!

After that, Crazy-Quilt returns.

And, in our final yarn, the Outsider strikes again!

Justice League of America #110, the murder of Santa Claus

It's not just Batman who's getting a hundred pages dedicated to him, this month. So are the entire Justice League of America.

And they do it in style by investigating the murder of Santa Claus!

I don't recall the exact details of what happens but I know it involves the villainous Key and the not-so-villainous Phantom Stranger.

I think this might also be the first time the JLA meet the new Green Lantern.

And they also try to sort out some poverty, while they're at it.

That's followed by a veritable epic, The Plight of a Nation in which our heroes tackle juvenile delinquency in the United States, as well as someone called The Crimson Claw Gang who seem to be taking advantage of it for their own ends.

We finish off with a Zatanna reprint, as the mistress of the mystic arts enlists the aid of the Justice League in her latest attempt to locate her father.

And I have a feeling this might be the journey in which she actually finds him!

The Sandman #1

Jack Kirby's Sandman makes his dream-filled debut!

While monitoring the dreams of humans, he detects a strange nightmare experienced by a boy called Jed. This makes him leap into action.

And into conflict with someone called General Electric who's still miffed about Japan's defeat in World War II.

Superman #274, black hole

It's a dramatic cover for a not-quite-so-dramatic tale when the man of steel must thwart a gang of criminals called Protectors of Earth, Inc.

I seem to recall this involving a raid by the villains, on the S.T.A.R. Laboratory. An act which sees Superman get sucked into a black hole and stretched out like elastic.

Strangely enough, getting stretched out like elastic doesn't seem to do him any harm at all.

Weird War Tales #24, the skeleton beckons

What kind of madman could see that Luis Dominguez cover and not buy this comic?

Not this kind of madman.

Needless to say, I spent my 20 cents on it the moment I clapped eyes on it.

In it, we get just two tales: The Invisible Enemy and The Last Battle.

Despite my love for this issue, I struggle to remember what either of those masterpieces involves. I know the first one stars a German. And, possibly, phantom tigers?

Does the second one centre around a tiny civilisation living on a golf ball?


Anonymous said...

Hey McScotty, look! It’s CONAN 37!!

I know you love this comic as much as I do.


Fantastic Four follower said...

The contrast between Adams and Kirby is extreme.Just 7 years before Jack was at his zenith and Neal was the up and coming kid.Neals Batman issue was his last as he went on strike against DC(I think they lost artwork belonging to him!).The glory days of Batman were over and would not return until Marshall Rodgers arrive.)Majority of Kirbys comics in the 70's were poor.....and I believe he was the greatest.As a side note all the Marvel comics shown were non distributed in UK hence their desirability to me personally.Loved this time period from Marvel with Giant size issues due to be launched.Fantastic memories.Great post my friend.

Anonymous said...

I missed many of these at the time, and only later acquired them as back issues. Some, like AVENGERS 122 and CAPTAIN AMERICA 172, were middle chapters of on-going multi-part storylines — and some were either the first or last part of of a two-part storyline (FF, HULK, IRON MAN). Boy, I hated when that happened! That CAPTAIN AMERICA had an inflated price when I finally bought it years later, because the X-men were newly ‘hot’ at the time. I gritted my teeth as I handed over the cash — over-paying for an issue of Sal Buscema/ Vince Colletta art just because Banshee was in it didn’t sit well.

SPIDEY 131 has that insane climax — Spidey stops Aunt May’s marriage to Doc Ock and as they’re escaping in one of the FF’s jump jets, there’s an honest-to-God Nuclear Explosion. Meanwhile, we find out that Mary Jane is the last person to leave Betty Brant’s Christmas party — she waited all night for Peter to come back, and she hides her disappointment by quoting Scarlett O’Hara. Aww!

The color on the SPIDEY and THOR covers are especially nice.


McSCOTTY said...

LOL I certainly do love that issue of Conan b.t.

I had quite a few of these Marvel and DC comics including the aforementioned Conan #37, Batman #255, JLA #110 , Weird War Tales #24, and Superman #274.

Batman #255 is a cracker (well the main story is) and is one of my all-time favourite comics what more could you want Batman a werewolf and some of Neal Adams best ever artwork - fanboy heaven). And speaking of brilliant comics and Neal Adams, b.t. and myself have spoken and we both love Conan #37 and demand that you all should as well - I think this issue was originally meant to be published in the black and white Savage Sword of Conan magazine. I no longer have my copy of Weird War Tales #24 but the “ghost tiger” story /image rings a bell . The Last Battle” was a great Alex Nino illustrated strip but that’s all I remember I’m afraid.

Shameless plug: Some pages from Conan #37 and Batman 255.



Anonymous said...

Steve, you’ve really never read CONAN 37? That’s like saying you’ve never tasted ice cream! I’m not saying it’s the best comic that Neal Adams ever drew (though it very well COULD be) but it’s my all-time favorite, no joke. If I were stranded on a desert isle and could only have one Neal Adams comic, CONAN 37 would be my choice, without a moment’s hesitation. I love it more than his Batman, Deadman and Green Lantern comics, his X-Men and Avengers, even more than SUPERMAN VS MUHAMMAD ALI. I realize I’m running the risk of wildly over-praising it, to the point that it couldn’t possibly live up to expectations — but trust me, it’s just that good.

Your deprivation is making me sad, Steve. This gaping void in your Comics-fan experience. Look, McScotty has nice scans of many of its pages on his site — not the entire story, alas, but enough to give you a good idea of what you’re missing. Check it out, I IMPLORE you….


Anonymous said...

I too feel sorry for Steve being unfamiliar with Conan #37. Although Superman vs Muhammad Ali looks better. C'mon, b.t. - don't get too carried away.

Steve - a leprechaun in the last post, Banshee in this one? I suppose there's not much you could have done about the latter, but still... can you give it a rest next time?

Cover of the month (we haven't done that for a while): Weird War Tales #24, by Luis Dominguez.
The first story in that issue is about a German soldier under Berlin, who believes the war is still going on til some builders convince him otherwise, but his paranoia - represented as phantom tigers (don't ask) - gets the better of him, Steve.

Not sure where you're getting the golf ball thing from - 'The Last Battle' is set in the future, visualized by the mighty Alex Nino, about a dictator who finally conquers the world. To unite the population behind him, he declares war on Mars. Because what could be better than a 'war' against a dead planet to get the people behind him, at no risk?
Only after bombing Mars, it turns out the planet has an ancient automated defence system underground that strikes back...


Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I have to disagree with Fantastic Four follower. Kirby did some of his best comics in the 70s, Jim - New Gods, Kamandi, OMAC...

Although I accept that Sandman #1 isn't one of his finest moments.


Anonymous said...

PS Oops, I forgot to include the Dingbats of Danger Street as a 70s Kirby classic there...


Anonymous said...

Like many commentators here, I found the Conan issue trulyand utterly fantastic...except for the let down cover! Inside no Severin monster re-touches ( a la X-Men 65)....Adams all the way (well almost, seems that a young Rubinstein helped out, and they used Ploog Kull face insert...but otherwise it was Adams all the way!) And another comic I would take to my desert island is JLA 110: some lovely Dillin/Giordano Adams style art, and two really good reprints, the finale of the Zatanna Search storyline from JLA 51, and the sublime post war Plight of a Nation, with early Alex Toth art. The only comic I read and re-read so often that the cover fell off!
Spirit of 64

Colin Jones said...

The FF cover was also the cover of Marvel UK's Complete Fantastic Four #13 dated December 21st 1977. Medusa and the Human Torch are on their way to visit the Inhumans when their plane crashes in the Himalayas and they get captured by Ternak who plans to turn the entire world into a frozen wilderness with his special frozen wilderness-creating machine. Thankfully the Thing arrives and he, Medusa and the Torch thwart Ternak's dastardly plan. This two-part story was printed in Marvel UK's Complete Fantastic Four #13 and #14 in December 1977 and the snow & ice theme felt quite appropriate in the run-up to Christmas.

Anonymous said...

I was a bit of a sucker for the JLA as a kid, and agree that a 100 page giant like #110 was good value. But I don't know about that Zatanna story.
Compared to the Green Lantern/Zatanna crossover reprinted in the 100 pg Superman #272 - included in this feature a couple of months ago - its a bit disappointing. Mike Sekowsky's Zatanna just isn't as fetching as Gil Kane's.
Plus I have to say the way Zatara puts his arm round her and talks about getting reacquainted in the last panel seems a bit creepy.

Other notable comics this month, not counting any from Marvel (I wouldn't want to jump the gun on your upcoming Lucky Bag post, Steve):

Kamandi #16 - Powerful story, summed up by an amazing Kirby double page spread.

Swamp Thing #9 - The one with the alien space lizard.

The Sprit #1 - First issue of the Warren mag reprinting classic Will Eisner stories.

Star*Reach #1 - Early independent, in which Judo Jim Starlin and Happy Howie Chaykin do their thing, without worrying about the Comics Code (which was just as well in Chaykin's case).


Redartz said...

Ahh, my enthusiasm for comics was growing exponentially by that month! I bought that Fantastic Four issue, discovering art by the unusual combination of Ross Andru and Joe Sinnott! I soon learned why, as Rich Buckler was busy doing what would become Giant Size Super Stars (which may show up soon on this noble column).

You may include me among the admirers of Neal's Conan 37. Incidentally, there's an amusing story about the slug monster's ...rather suggestive features. For a clue see one year hence in Conan 45...

Being a huge Spidey fan, I loved this issue; despite the rather preposterous plotline. This tale provides some amusing references several times over the ensuing decades, with May trying to live it down.

That Hulk was my first reading of the Green Goliath. Bought it because it had that sharp space cover...

Oh, and great work, Sean! You noted that excellent Warren Spirit magazine; another book I nabbed in those early heady days. It was my first introduction to the brilliant Will Eisner.

And there was that Kirby Sandman book. What a month for a novice: Kirby, Adams and Eisner...

Anonymous said...

IIRC, ‘Curse of the Golden Skull’ was originally meant for the b/w SAVAGE TALES magazine, but then Roy Thomas decided it should go in the color comic instead (I don’t recall why). The original plan had been for the story to run longer, so Adams had to squeeze 30 pages worth of story into only 20. But the pages were drawn for color comic proportions (taller and less wide than magazine dimensions).

When the story was later reprinted in the b/w CONAN SAGA magazine, they didn’t bother to adjust the artwork for the magazine format, they just allowed for wider margins on either side. The story looks AMAZING in that printing by the way, the larger format, lack of color and sharper reproduction quality giving the reader a much better look at the art. In fact, that whole issue (#8) is a real stunner — in addition to ‘The Curse of the Golden Skull’, it also contains Barry Smith’s ‘The Song of Red Sonja’ from CONAN 24 and John Buscema’s debut ‘The Mirrors of Kharam Akkad’ from CONAN 25. All that for a measly two bucks, that was a hell of a bargain back in 1987!


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Charlie has a strong, though vague, recollection of December 2023 / January 1974.

Unfortunately for Marvel his impression was DC and Warren offered more joy this month… much more.

Charlie scored:
- Adventure 432 (that’s one amazing Spectre cover!)
- JLA 110 (JSA reprint!)
- Shadow #4 (Kaluta – say no more!)
- The Spirit #1 by Warren. (Eisner – say no more!)

Charlie surmises that b/c Spirit $1 and JLA $.50 he probably spent his normal monthly amount. For sure there were a few Marvel in the bunch (FF) but Charlie recalls his heart hurting, fearing that the love affair with Marvel had forever burned out.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Social commentary:

Charlie recalls reading the 1948 JSA story reprinted in JLA 110. It had to do with a kid going bad by joining a gang.

IIRC, the editor had commented on the increasing problems of juvenile delinquency affecting the USA.

The Great Depression and WW2 had left a fair number of orphans.

Seems consistent if one considers that some of the popular serials in the movie houses, in the 1940s, were Bowery Boys / Dead End kids which I quite enjoyed watching 50 years ago but on TV.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Social Commentary:

My FB is on fire with posts about how to vote / not vote for Disney's Board of Directors.

Woke vs. Non Woke

Quite pathetic really...

Colin Jones said...

As Redartz mentioned (and I forgot to) the two-part Himalayas-set FF story was drawn by Ross Andru which was, I think, the only time he ever drew the Fantastic Four and an excellent job he made of it - much better than Rich Buckler's Kirby pastiche.

Anonymous said...

Redartz, when you say your enthusiasm for comics was growing exponentially at the time, I know just what you mean. I was still going through that same ‘puppy love’ stage around this time — something like CONAN 37 was obviously extra special, but even workmanlike comics like a Steve Englehart/Bob Brown/Don Heck AVENGERS or a Len Wein/Sal Buscema/Frank Giacoia MARVEL TEAM-UP could spark real joy.

Come to think of it, I was such a Comics Newbie that CONAN 37 may have been the first full-length Neal Adams comic I’d ever seen. Before then, I think I’d only seen one of his GL/GA backup strips in THE FLASH.

Sounds like Charlie was a bit ahead of us, starting to enter that ‘The Honeymoon’s Over’ stage. I know that feeling well, too — I was starting to feel that way towards the end of ‘74.


Steve W. said...

I can announce that I've now looked at that Conan #37 artwork on Paul's site and it is indeed suitably Neal Adamsy.

Sean, thanks for The Last Battle clarification.

Anonymous said...

As regards Ross Andru's FF, furious because Pietro & Crystal were an item, a relentless Human Torch was angrily ascending a vertical shaft, ready to kick some butt in Attilan! Ross Andru's art actually portrayed the Torch as appearing genuinely formidable, rather than just a character everybody defeats with water.


Anonymous said...

Human Torch on a rampage in the Land of the Inhumans because of Crystal. What a novel idea.

Anonymous said...

Well Steve, I’m glad that you at least got a glimpse of CONAN 37 :)

Also, I’m always pleased when you give Luis Dominguez’ excellent covers for DC’s Weird/Horror comics an appreciative nod. I think he’s ridiculously under-rated. That WEIRD WAR cover is a grabber, for sure.