Beneath The Longbox Shortbox
My Longbox Shortbox column last month has proven to be one of the most popular posts in Longbox Graveyard history … so I’m back with five more mini-reviews of comics past and present!
#5, August 1972
Maybe it’s cheating to review a one-issue “run,” but I wanted some Ghost Rider content to correspond with the release of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance this week, and my Accumulation and my Marvel Digital sub are both scandalously thin on the flame-headed adventures of Johnny Blaze. I’ll take what I can get!
As a motorcycle stuntman turned unwilling avenging spirit of Satan, Ghost Rider is a C-list Marvel character, and he hasn’t been helped much by the attentions of fallen A-lister Nicholas Cage, who seems as least as motivated by his tax problems as his genuine love of comics in bringing Ghost Rider to the silver screen. Cage’s first Ghost Rider picture was a guilty pleasure — I’m nostalgic for it because it was one of the first “scary” movies I shared with my son. My hopes are muted for the sequel, but I’m sure we’ll go see it. No matter how poor the movie might be, it shares the same advantage as the comic — a shit-hot character design of an awesome flame-headed skeleton dude on a motorcycle, man! I’m the guy who conceived of Trucks & Skulls — there’s no way I can resist this stuff!
Ghost Rider was introduced in Marvel Spotlight #5, illustrated by Mike Ploog and conceived and written by Gary Friedrich (who then signed away the rights in some kind of alcoholic haze). Ghost Rider’s origin is effective, if a bit muddled — as an orphan with two dead stepparents to grieve, motorcycle stunt man Johnny Blaze labors under four times the blood guilt of Spider-Man alter ego Peter Parker. Where Blaze takes it to the next level is in summoning Satan to solve his troubles! Contracts with the devil are rarely a good idea.
actually, Johnny, it’s not “the only way” … in fact, it’s pretty much the WORST way!
For awhile, Ghost Rider’s Satan was retconned as Mephisto (maybe he still is), but I don’t care — that panel doesn’t lie. Johnny Blaze summoned Satan, in the matter-of-fact way that only a 1970s Marvel Comic could allow! And, of course, that was just the start of his problems, as Satan double-crosses Blaze (duh!), claiming our hero’s soul even as Blaze’s stepfather still dies (though not from the disease that Blaze called upon the Prince of Lies to cure).
I can’t pretend that I really liked this “run” or even the character all that much, but a flaming skull head forgives many sins. I’d give the character more of a look if the books were more readily available. Here’s hoping Marvel releases more classic Ghost Riders in digital format soon.
And finally, because there’s some ridiculous judgment that’s been handed down prohibiting Mr. Friedrich from claiming that he conceived this character …
(You can read more about this latest creator/publisher death spiral and kick Mr. Friedrich a dollar or two at this link).
LBG Letter Grade For This Run: C
Read The Reprint: Essential Ghost Rider Volume 1.
Strange Tales (Dr. Strange)
#130-146, November 1963-July 1966
Though not as celebrated as their run on Amazing Spider-Man, the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko collaboration on Doctor Strange is in places just as wonderful. While lacking the rich characterization and supporting cast of Spider-Man, there is still much to like in this tale of the disgraced, worldly doctor who discovers his destiny in the study of sorcery. Stan Lee’s bombastic writing style suits the series well (as would also be the case with The Silver Surfer); we get some great names (the dread Dormammu!) and greater faces (about which more in this Panel Gallery). Most memorably, Ditko channels Salvador Dali to create the comic-book standard for weird, extra-dimensional space that persists to this day.
the Strange vistas of Ditko Space!
Debuting as the back-up feature to a not-very-good Human Torch book, Dr. Strange endures some turgid single-issue stories to open the run, before the series really takes off with issue #130, beginning a seventeen-part tale pitting our supreme sorcerer against Baron Mordo and the Dread Dormammu that would introduce Eternity and be Steve Ditko’s swan song at Marvel. If Wikipedia is to be trusted, Ditko took over more plotting and storytelling duties in this part of the run, and the book really does kick it up a gear, with the action ever-more bizarre and visual, and Dr. Strange himself receiving some (minimal) characterization as a resourceful mage ready for adventure even when his Cloak of Levitation isn’t close at hand.
Issue #131’s “Hunter And The Hunted” might be my favorite tale of the whole run, as the otherworldly battlegrounds of previous issues are discarded for the streets of Hong Kong, where Doctor Strange must elude the agents of Baron Mordo. Steve Ditko proves he can draw a mean-looking Asian mystery strip in a tale that concludes with a battle aboard an airplane, where earthly passengers are oblivious to the mystical battle that rages all about them.
the captain has turned off the “no extoplasm” sign; your astral selves are now free to move about the cabin
Much as I like that story, it might be topped by the terrific battle between Strange and Mordo in issue #132, where Ditko lets fly with beautiful spell-slinging action, and Mordo surrenders his body to become a conduit for the power of Dormamu!
As a kid I didn’t care for Steve Ditko — I knew his work only through reprints, and he drew in a strange, reedy style out of step with the Marvel superhero house look of the mid-1970s. A fresh appreciation for Ditko has been a primary benefit of my Marvel Digital Unlimited subscription, where the detail, character, and characterization that Ditko packed into every panel shows especially well when blown up to fill my computer screen. Thanks to these superior reproductions, I’ve come to appreciate Ditko as a master cartoonist, who placed detail exactly where he wanted the reader’s eye to go, telling stories and setting mood in ways that few pencillers have equaled.
Ditko has been a revelation for me, and now I can’t get enough of his work!
Ditko departs the book with #146, and with him departed my interest in the series, but man, what a ride while it lasted. Ditko goes out in style, too, with a battle between Eternity and Dormammu, blown out with shots like this …
By the Vishanti — you win, Ditko! You win! I’m a fan!
LBG Letter Grade For This Run: B
Read The Reprints: Longbox Graveyard Store
#135-136, March-April 1971
I’ve already enthused about my love for Captain America comics, both old and new, and to be honest this little two-issue run is far from classic, but I still like it.
You can sum up the appeal of these issues in two words: Gene Colan (with a helpful assist from Gene’s soul mate inker, Tom Palmer, in the first of this two-part story). Gene is wrapping up a not-quite two-year run on Cap with these issues, which have been largely forgotten, and not just because it followed Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko on the title. Gene’s pencils are strong throughout, but the scripts are kind of goofy, especially an extended storyline where Cap and the Red Skull switch bodies thanks to the Cosmic Cube.
This story shoots the moon for goofy — it’s like Stan isn’t even trying any more. The villain of the piece is S.H.I.E.L.D. biochemist Dr. Gorbo, who just getting out of bed already looks like a crazy ape, and his loopy serum doesn’t help any, transforming him into the genuine article. The highlight of these issues are the Jeckyl-and-Hyde-like transformations of the not-so-good doctor, which Gene gets to draw three times, and they’re all very strong.
Through a plot contrivance, Cap and the transformed Dr. Gorbo wind up at the site of some crazy dig that has created a bottomless pit, so of course our characters fall into it …
now THAT’S what I call a cliffhanger!
… which gives us an excuse to run into Mole Man in the second half of the story, who is always welcome in my book, not least of which because I’ve adopted his image as my Longbox Graveyard Twitter avatar.
The story only gets sillier from there, but there is some decent action, and we also get to see an early, pre-flying version of the Falcon in his green costume trying on a jet pack for size.
An indulgence to be sure, but for me the combination of Gene Colan, Cap, the Falcon, a superintelligent gorilla, S.H.I.E.L.D., Mole Man, and a bottomless pit are pure Silver Age magic.
LBG Letter Grade For This Run: C
Sgt. Fury And His Howling Commandos
#1-7, May 1963-May 1964
I love war movies. Always have. Lately I’ve been on a tour of them with my oldest boy, Miles. In the last couple years we’ve soldiered through classic and not-so-classic films like The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far, The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape, Kelly’s Heroes, The Sands of Iwo Jima, Full Metal Jacket, Saving Private Ryan, Battleground, and Band of Brothers. And one of the things I most love about war movies are the cliches of the form — the stereotypes that make up the guys in the squad, the sentimentality and pathos, the patriotism, the crucible of war that transforms our heroes for better or worse.
Sgt. Fury takes all those cliches (absent the more recent and cynical ones), tosses them in a blender, and brings them to the comic book page courtesy of everyone’s favorite penciller (and World War II combat veteran) Jack Kirby. With that kind of DNA the question isn’t if I’d like the book or not (I do), but rather why I don’t like it more.
It was a familiar trope for Captain America to get all bent out of shape because he’d fallen into suspended animation in 1945, and woken up in 1961 — “a man out of time.” But really — how out of time could he be? That would be like someone falling asleep in the Clinton Administration and waking up today. World War II cast a long shadow, and when Sgt. Fury launched in 1963, the war was anything but a distant memory. The readers of Marvel’s new war book would certainly be the children of veterans, and a few would be veterans themselves. And while there were plenty of contemporary war dramas that took an insightful view of the conflict (the television drama Combat comes quickly to mind), for these first seven issues, at least, Sgt. Fury was just a boy’s war adventure book.
The book gives you exactly what you’d expect. Stereotypes are happily embraced — you’ve got your Southern Guy, your Black Guy, your Jewish Guy, your Italian Guy all thrown together in a war that feels familiar but never-was. This multi-ethnic reimagining of World War II was ground-breaking for it’s day, and would be mined for last Summer’s Captain America: The First Avenger. Our heroes do the things that war movie soldiers do — they make light of danger, talk about anything other than death, hang around the barracks and gripe when they aren’t in action, and bust on each other with brotherly insults. There are plenty of little details that ground the stories in reality, but once the action starts it’s clear that Sgt. Fury and his Commandos are essentially superheros without superpowers. Basically bullet-proof, it’s hard to understand why the boys don’t just howl their way straight to Berlin and hang Hitler from a lamp post.
Nearly every war movie makes superheroes of its soldiers, but Sgt. Fury goes beyond gung-ho and into a cartoonish realm of it’s own. In the first issue, Dum Dum Dugan takes out a ME-109 … while drifting in a parachute … by using a hand grenade. Yep, it’s going to be that kind of war.
It’s not that the series ducks the realities of war. In issue #2, the Howlers liberate a concentration camp. Stories deal with collaborators, racism, class warfare, and good old fashioned army chickenshit, too. Squad members are killed, and replaced.
These are welcome and honest touches that add weight to the series but they are more than counteracted by German foes whistled up out of central casting, who pronounce all their “W’s” as “V’s,” can’t shoot straight, and get blown up by the bucket load when a Howler so much as looks at them. Neither the humanized Germans of Das Boot nor the satire of Inglorious Basterds could be expected of a 1960s Marvel war comic, but this aspect of the series still hasn’t aged well.
To it’s credit, the book does develop some depth as it moves along, and the series did enjoy a long run beyond the broad strokes start of these first seven issues. I know I’m not seeing this book at it’s best here. Kirby left the book after issue #7, so that is where this review ends, but the series was starting to find its footing a little bit and I’d like to get back to it, to watch the Howlers meet Captain America, and to see Nick Fury’s doomed romance with a British nurse develop (and meet its tragic end).
I love Jack Kirby’s work, but Sgt. Fury isn’t the King’s finest hour. I suspect he rushed these pages — his action lacks its characteristic crackle, and (most peculiarly) his draftsmanship is sometimes poor. Several issues featured reference sheets where Kirby drew the guns and weapons of the war — and drew them well — but these models didn’t always make it into the stories themselves, which sometimes feature some strange-looking planes and tanks. Because Kirby has been canonized by Longbox Graveyard I will blame this on Dick Ayer’s inks, which didn’t do Kirby any favors (although Ayers would go on to become the definitive penciller of this series).
So … second-rate Kirby, cliched stories, poor villains. Sgt. Fury is worth reading for historical value, but only just (aside from a cameo appearance by Reed Richards, there isn’t anything in this run to anchor the books into our beloved Marvel Universe). But there is a silver lining! Because if not for Sgt. Fury, we never would have had Colonel Nick Fury, one of Marvel’s greatest characters, about which read on for more!
LBG Letter Grade For This Run: C-
Read The Reprint: Marvel Masterworks: Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos, Vol. 1
Strange Tales (Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
#135-150, August 1965-November 1966
And since I’ve looked at his Howling Commandos days, it’s only fair that I heap some praise on Nick Fury’s (comparatively) more modern adventures as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. I opened this column praising the Doctor Strange backup feature in Strange Tales, and so long as the headliner in that book was the Human Torch, the smart play was to skip to the back of the issue and begin your read with the Sorcerer Supreme. But starting in issue #135, there’s was a new lead feature for Strange Tales. I love, love, absolutely love this fast-paced and weird mid-60s Marvel Comics answer to James Bond and the Man From U.N.C.L.E.
The series brings old war horse Fury back into action to head up Marvel’s secret agent organization with a breathless first issue that sees Nick Fury (and his many Life Model Decoy clones) on the run from the forces of evil, then never lifts off the gas in a sixteen issue wild ride of espionage, gadgets, super science, and non-stop action. The Brainosaur! The Betatron Bomb! Nick Fury’s rear-view mirror hat, burning tie, and exploding dress shirt!
explosive shirt, cigar, and flammable tie — who thought this was a good combination?
Brain Blasters and Scramble Helmets! Jericho Tubes! Satan Eggs! Radar Crabs! Even Nick Fury’s telephone is a contraption from a mad scientist’s laboratory!
sure, it’s JUST as good as an iPhone!
And that is to say nothing of the iconic S.H.I.E.L.D. Heli-Carrier or the greatest crime cult in the history of Marvel Comics — HYDRA, with their signature cry: “Hail HYDRA! Cut off a limb and two more shall take its place!”
With his stubbly chin, eye patch, omnipresent cigar, and casual disregard for danger, Nick Fury is unquestionably Marvel’s manliest hero (sorry, Wolverine, but lacking superpowers, Nick gets the nod in a photo finish). Nick’s non-super superhuman heroics felt out of place in the more grounded Sgt. Fury series, but here Nick is a normal guy in a world full of superheroes, and it never gives him pause. His exaggerated, square-jawed heroism feels more at home in this full-blown Marvel age. The character we got to know in Sgt. Fury — the “dumb” guy with more on the ball than any room full of brass hats — is fully unleashed here. Nick is always a jump ahead, always barking orders, always impatient with politics and the eggheads and footsoldiers at his command; but he also leads with his chin, takes more risks than any of his men, and barely conceals his affection for his fellow agents beneath his gruff, abusive facade.
Just don’t call him a traitor. Because then Nick will call you a pompous fop.
There’s also a sense that Fury is playing with house money — that some strange fate has plucked him out of the ranks and entrusted him with an awesome responsibility. I don’t think Fury thinks himself unworthy of his job, but he does attack a task like a guy who figures he should have been killed a long time ago. In any case, he’s going to do things his way and not apologize for it, come what may.
To be fair, this run is probably a C series, but for a Kirby nut like me, it gets bumped a full letter grade. Sadly, for most of this series, Kirby is restricted to “layouts,” with pencils from a revolving door of Marvel artists (including some nice work from the recently-departed John Severin; unfortunately there’s a LOT of Don Heck here too). But that Kirby power still comes through, especially in the crazy gadgets and wild machines that seem to lurk on every other page. It is astonishing the level of imagination displayed by Jack Kirby in this series — he creates insane engines that live just for a panel or two, and then he is on to the next thing. I’m convinced a gadget plucked from the King’s sketch wastebasket would be better than half the stuff today’s finest artists could conceive on their Elvis day.
And sometimes … sometimes those creations are just utterly out of left field. Like the giant rotary telephone display that HYDRA uses to ring up its divisional staff chiefs. How would you feel if you graduated with a degree in super-villainy, landed a job with HYDRA, and were assigned to the … Beaver Division? Would you tell your mom? Would you put it on your LinkedIn Profile?
Jim Steranko comes aboard with issue #151, which is a whole ‘nother topic, and this early run of S.H.I.E.L.D. is in some ways overshadowed by the karate chop Steranko would apply to the 1960s Marvel Comics aesthetic. But, darn, this is a fine run of books — fun, action-filled, imaginative, broad-shouldered, and relentlessly, even fearlessly creative. Don’t Yield, Back SHIELD!
(And for a full review of Nick Fury’s origin issue — “The Man For The Job” — check out my Dollar Box column over at StashMyComics.com!)
LBG Letter Grade For This Run: B
Read The Reprint: Marvel Masterworks: Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, Volume 1
NEXT WEDNESDAY: #36 Longbox Bulletin
Posted on February 15, 2012, in Reviews and tagged Captain America, Doctor Strange, Falcon, Gary Friedrich, Gene Colan, Ghost Rider, GhostRider, Howling Commandos, HYDRA, Jack Kirby, Johnny Blaze, Marvel Comics, Marvel Spotlight, Nic Cage, Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D., Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Strange Tales. Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.
A brutal bouillabaisse of rampaging reviews! The best part of Dr. Strange has always been the amazing light show of mystic powers; your Ditko samples make us want to relocate to that dimension promptly. Thank you for spotlighting early Fury; we haven’t seen inside those books before. Exploding shirts for smokers gets our vote for dumbest idea of all time. Ghost Rider? Our favorite is the two Ennis/Crain limited series from 2005 & 2007. Demons and skulls galore with mostly awesome stories.
The problem with Dr. Strange is that he’s a stiff, a terrible character really … dull, remote, like your dad in a flying bathrobe. (Actually that would be pretty cool.) I love the adventures of Dr. Strange, and the worlds he visits, the villains, but the character is flat without a meaningful arc aside from his initial transformation from worldly hack to sorcerer supreme. I expect what will happen is that Dr. Strange will get a movie with some brilliant bit of casting that will retroactively afford him a personality and and we’ll all come to believe that he’s this vibrant, multidimensional character (as has been the case with Tony Stark). In the meantime (fortunately) we have Ditko!
I will check and see if those Ghost Rider series you mention are on my Marvel Digital sub — all they have is newer stuff, and I don’t know any of it.
Doubt I will go back to Sgt. Fury any time soon but I want to get a Panel Gallery up here in a couple weeks devoted to Kirby’s crazy S.H.I.E.L.D. gadgets from this early Strange Tales run. The stuff The King creates and then throws away after a panel or two reminds of his casual genius.
Nice hearing from you, Mars!
Synchronicity: I read the Dr Strange story from Strange Tales 133 last night. Unfortunately I only have a few issues of that vintage. I like Dr Strange very much, and you are quite correct, Ditko draws the magic/dimensional stuff brilliantly. That Strange Tales run from 101 to 181 is full of an amazing selection of characters and creators… Ditko, Kirby, Dr Strange, Nick Fury, Fantastic Four, Adam Warlock. I wonder why ST is not valued more highly by collectors? Love it – I can still afford to buy the back issues! Just. :))
Nice to hear from you again, Adrian!
I expect that “Strange Tales” just doesn’t resonate with collectors … and it is hard to keep them straight. I always confused Strange Tales with Tales of Suspense and Astonishing Tales. Those tryout/split books just don’t have much brand value, although as you note there were a great run of stories in Strange Tales in particular.
The rotating cast of characters didn’t help. At DC you always knew that Action = Superman, Detective = Batman, and Adventure = Aquaman (usually). On the marvel side I still couldn’t tell you which book had Cap and Iron Man versus which book had Hulk and Subby.
These anthology books and branded tryout books like Marvel Spotlight and Marvel Premiere have gone the way of the dodo since the direct market opened up a channel for mini-series and non-returnable books. The reason you used to have characters like Ghost Rider debuting in Marvel Premiere instead of a “Ghost Rider #1” was because the title Marvel Premiere had its own built in pre-order news stand number that game the book critical mass. News stands didn’t really care what character was in the book — if it sold, great, but if it didn’t, then tear off that cover and get some credit for the next crazy book. I’d be curious to know how Marvel evaluated the success of these “tryout book” performances because I can’t imagine books like Marvel Spotlight were re-ordered in meaningful numbers. The circulation must have looked about the same regardless of the content unless a popular character had been in residence for several issues leading to a gradual rise in sales.
Dec 1980 average print run 269,621; average paid circulation 131,264
April 1981 average print run 254,611; average paid circulation 124,852.
April 1981 average print run 350,171; average paid circulation 188,930.
So in this case, Marvel were printing about 30% more of the established Iron Man title and selling just over half of them. Compared to the tryout book, which was in decline I guess by then and selling through just under 50%. Canceled soon after – used to be around 100,000 per month min to survive at Marvel I think.
Who was getting the part of the print run that wasn’t paid circulation? Never understood that huge difference in figures.
I think the average print run is all the copies that were printed and shipped in to retail, and the average paid circulation is the number that were actually sold, with the balance being destroyed after having the covers stripped and returned to Marvel for credit on future orders. Before the direct market, books were sold on a returnable basis, and always overprinted versus demand — but printing was dirt cheap and it was no big deal to return/destroy books. It was the churn (and the circulation numbers that drove advertising) that most counted.
But I could be wrong …
Thanks for the numbers, Adrian. Are you getting these from the yearly publishers’ statement they used to print in the books? I remember that they used to post yearly numbers (I think because it had something to do with postal regulations, given that the books qualified for some kind of bulk mail discount).
Thanks for re-visiting Marvel Spotlight #5.
Last night, I went into my longbox and pulled out my copy of the comic.
Marvel Spotlight #5 is a keeper. I still find it a good, entertaining read. Pencils AND inks by Mike Ploog don’t hurt. Actually, I really dig his panel work here. He’s the definitive Ghost Rider artist.
I’m still struck by the protagonist’s relationship with Satan here. This isn’t like the TWILIGHT ZONE episode “Escape Clause” where the Devil appears out of nowhere to help Walter Bedeker. Johnny Blaze summons Satan, LOL! But, hey, this was the early 1970’s. This was a few years after ROSEMARY’S BABY. THE EXORCIST was right around the corner.
Also interesting is Blaze’s girlfriend, Rocky. She starts out as a generic, romantic interest. But, by the end, she’s standing up to Satan to save Blaze! Whoa. This is 1972! You go, girl!
I followed up my reading of Mavel Spotlight #5 with Ghost Rider #1 (vol. 1). Story is rather forgettable. Pencils by Sutton, not Ploog.
As to the film GHOST RIDER, I hated it. The direction was terrible. After that experience, I’m gonna pass on GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE.
Nice to hear from you, Horace, thanks for posting.
There’s probably a whole column to be written about the Devil in Marvel Comics. Johnny Blaze flipping his soul to the Devil as easy as kiss-your-hand probably doesn’t rate in an era that had Son of Satan as a headline hero. It WAS a different time … the relaxation of the Comics Code had Marvel swarming with vampire, zombie, and monster books in the early 1970s, and the Exorcist was a social phenomenon (even when it was just a novel, before release of the still-scary-as-all-get-out film in 1973).
I’d actually like to go back and read more of this original series but it hasn’t yet shown up on my Marvel Digital sub. Even with the movie coming out Marvel is treating Ghost Rider as a second class citizen — probably they know the movie is a stinker, and they don’t want it to dilute the brand equity of Marvel Studios in the run-up to Avengers later this year. I guess the best result for Marvel would be for Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance to make a quick entry and exit from the theaters, then have the producers give up on the property so it reverts directly to Marvel Studios and they can do something better with it down the line. Rotten Tomatoes has Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance at 12% right now (ouch!).
Yes, those figures are from the publisher’s statement printed periodically on the letters page. I used mycomicshop.com to find them, just flicked through their back issue stock–they include that sort of detail with issue notes. (Their service is *highly* recommended if you wish buy comics, btw. Apparently, their consignment selling system is pretty fantastic too.)
In terms of the paid/unpaid circulation figures, you are correct. In the early 1980’s my mother had a small stationer’s shop. (You american types would call it a newsagency I think.) Each month distributors would send the shop a bundle of comics to go on the rack. Remember the old spinners? Also each month the unsold comics would be returned to the distributor. The shop was only invoiced for sold, unreturned comics. As I recall, our little store actually only ever sold a handful and 75% or more would be returned every month. The really, really cool thing was… actually only the torn off covers needed to be returned. Meaning every month I got to read a huge selection of coverless comics. Thus my comics addiction was born.
I, too, am quite fond of My Comicshop.com (and I have an affiliate link to them in my sidebar). I have some credit with them that I’ve been meaning to spend.
And that story of spinners in your mother’s shop has a bit of magic to it … I can see how that would start you on a life of loving comics, even if you rarely saw a cover! It’s amazing how many of those returnable books wound up getting pulped, though …
Overall there’s no doubt that the print quality and (probably) artistic quality of comics, overall, is superior to the 1970s, but man … there’s nothing today that can compare with a spinner rack full of .25 cent books. You could buy a stack of books for next to nothing and just read and read and read, and you could browse on the rack, too, without feeling that you’d soiled the Mona Lisa when you crammed a book back onto the shelf. I think I liked comics better as disposables than collectables.
Super-intelligent gorillas is usually a DC thing, but I’m glad to see that Marvel wasn’t above that concept.
The guys that I traded comics back and forth with in the mid-1970s had a lot of Cap from this era, and so I always associated him with Falcon. Bucky was never an important part of “my” version of Cap until I read older books, and then again when I read more modern books. But I think the Falcon era of Cap gets overlooked.
The Super-Intelligent Gorilla thing seems a necessary compulsion at DC, a kind of public exhibition they need to put on once every couple years whether they want to or not. It’s like … we’re doing a line-wide reboot, to bring our sprawling comics continuity into a comprehensible whole, it is the world next door, it’s all planned out for the next five years, it makes perfect sense, and it has a SECRET CITY OF SUPERINTELLIGENT GORILLAS IN AFRICA AND WE JUST CAN’T HELP OURSELVES OOK OOK OOK AGG AGG AGG!!
The Falcon will appear on-screen in the next Captain America movie so he won’t be overlooked much longer. I just spotlighted the Falcon’s origin issues from Cap in my Dollar Box column over at StashMyComics.com.
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