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Super Tuesday: Super-Hero Explosion!

This week we look at a 1978 Marvel Comics house ad spotlighting an unlikely quintet of superheroes.

I’ve always wondered what criteria Marvel used in throwing characters together for these kinds of ads. Did Marvel think a kid would notice Iron Man and then abruptly decide he wanted to read Thor?

Chances are the answer is simple expedience — doubtless some or all of these titles were experiencing flagging sales in 1978. Jack Kirby’s Black Panther run was a sales disappointment, and the costume sported by the “all-new” Ms. Marvel wouldn’t be enough to forestall that title’s immanent cancellation.

Plus, by 1978, terms like “Blockbuster,” “All-Out Action” and “Marvel Age of Comics” had become code words for “please buy this failing comic.”

Longbox Graveyard no-prizes go to readers Dave B, Jim Kosmicki, Rabensam, and Horace “Doctor Marvel” Austin for helping to identify the original sources of these images!

TOMORROW AT LONGBOX GRAVEYARD: Dredd 2D

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Posted on September 18, 2012, in Super Tuesday and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. I love those silly old Bronze Age ads.
    I’m pretty sure the Black Panther is Kirby but I’m stumped on the others. Not really in my wheelhouse.

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    • Panther is clearly a Kirby, but from which issue?

      That Iron Man is from the cover of Iron Man #100. I recognize the Thor but can’t conjure the issue number off the top of my head. The Ms. Marvel looks like a publicity image to me — I certainly don’t recognize it from a cover. Same with Cap.

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  2. I really like the Bronze Age adverts, too. They’re very cheesy and fun.

    Hope you have a great day! đź’‹

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  3. I’m pretty certain the Black Panther is right off of issue #7 by Kirby – which, according to the GCD, came out in 78, so it’s the right timeframe. I loved the Kirby Black Panther series, but could rarely find it on the local newsstands. I know that it’s seen as a failure, but either there were distributor problems, or it was more popular in my neck of the woods than elsewhere!

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    • Good call on Black Panther #7, Jim, that’s another image accounted for.

      I read Kirby’s Panther (and reviewed it) earlier this year. I thought it was imaginative and charming, in that hermetically-sealed, late-1970s Kirby way. Clearly the King was charting his own path at that point and not everyone got what he was on about. It took me years to warm to this particular period.

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  4. what I find most interesting about the hermetically-sealed Kirby approach is that I’m pretty sure that it actually fits most of the early Marvel books that Kirby worked on as well. The FF might have crossed over with the Hulk, but that was clearly the front office requiring it. Heck, Galactus almost eats the world, and where are the other heroes? The books that did the most crossover always seemed to be the non-Kirby books. The early Kirby SHIELD didn’t deal with superheroes much, if at all – they were a spy book that made reference to Stark technology, but again, that’s in the dialogue added by the writers, not Kirby. Thor worked best under Kirby when it was Asgard based, not when it was on Earth.

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    • Interesting observation. I think it was always Kirby’s tendency to go his own way on things. In Sean Howe’s “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story” (review here on 10/10/12), Howe describes the Lee/Kirby collaboration as the two men discussing plot, Kirby sometimes taking notes, Kirby doing the pages at home, and then Kirby turning in a complete work with margin notes that frequently had little to do with the (loosely-defined) original plot. That those books have any connection at all to the rest of the line is probably down to Lee, who recognized that cross-title continuity was helping to sell his full line of books (and that mania for continuity would only accelerate when Roy Thomas took over for Lee, at least on the best-selling books).

      But even a passing acknowledgment of other Marvel Universe events is missing from books like Panther. Because Kirby effectively created his mid-70s Marvel books (Cap, Black Panther, Eternals, 2001, Machine Man) entirely on his own in California, there’s even less of a sense of those books inhabiting the “Marvel Universe.” Eternals was dragged kicking and screaming into the MU (to its detriment I think), and that run on Panther and Cap is miles removed from anything else Marvel did before or since.

      All these years later, I value these Kirby books for their vertical isolation from the rest of the Marvel line, but buying them off the rack in the 1970s I remember experiencing some cognitive dissonance, particularly with what was happening in Cap.

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      • of course the biggest problem that Kirby had (besides editorial interference from the young turks who didn’t respect him) was coming on to Cap and the Panther after very acclaimed runs by younger writers. I’ve just re-read the Essential Black Panther volume, and I’ll take the Kirby version any day, but at the time, the fact that someone was trying to write more evocative, lush work in comics was inspirational. And Englehart hit the political elements of Cap better than any author since Joe Simon in 1940. Kirby’s Cap was full of ideas – who today would believe that Arnim Zola didn’t exist before this run? But as you said – it was so different than what came before that it seemed old-fashioned and corny at the time. (I still bought it – I liked old-fashioned and corny, having read lots of DC 100 page reprints in my formative youth!).

        I have the Marvel book on order from my mailorder outfit – should have it at the end of the month – I look forward to see if it adds anything to what we already have from other books, including the Ronin Ro book from a few years ago (or Comic Wars). I’m a bit of a comics scholar when it comes to the business side of comics, so a new book with potential new insights is a must-buy and must-read for me.

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        • I liked Howe’s book quite a bit (and I accidentally published a rough draft of my review here a couple days ago — d’oh!), but as (will be? was?) noted in that review, your enjoyment of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story will probably have a lot to do with your familiarity with the book’s extensive reference list. Most of it was new to me, but I haven’t read a lot in the business side of the comics field, so new-to-me might be old-to-you. For me, it was a page-turner.

          I bought about half of the Kirby run on Cap in the 1970s — that I abandoned it must betoken strong feelings from my young teen self, as Cap was my favorite hero, then and now. I filled in the run with back issue purchases last year and need to give the whole run a read sometime soon. Right now it is just a vague, swirling memory of Madbombs, Kill-Derbies, and ol’ TV-Faced Dr. Zola.

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  5. The Thor image is from the cover of Thor Annual #6, a team-up with the Guardians of the Galaxy also introducing a villain named Korvac, subsequently reused to greater effect by Jim Shooter in The Avengers.

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  6. You rang?

    The Cap image is from the cover to Captain America #218 by Sal Buscema.

    The Ms. Marvel image is the corner symbol used on the later issues of the run. Drawn just for that purpose. Looks like Cockrum to me.

    – Horace

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    • Nailed it in one, Horace, you truly are “Doctor Marvel!”

      I’ve updated the post to include all the original source images (though it looks like Ms. Marvel got retouched on her way to the masthead).

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