Bronze Age Beginnings

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The Incredible Hulk #148

Cover date: February 1972

Writer: Archie Goodwin (plot assist Chris Claremont)

Artist: Herb Trimpe

Inker: John Severin

Sometimes, the cover blurbs on Marvel comics of the Seventies are pure poetry and ‘THE GIRL IN THE EMERALD ATOM!’ certainly fits that bill.

The story opens in the desert at Project: Greenskin, with General Ross, his daughter Betty, Major Talbot and Peter Corbeau, doctor of physics, Nobel Prize winner and builder of Starcore One (note the plot assist from Chris Claremont?) as they discuss Corbeau’s plan to cure Bruce Banner.

Basically, the Hulk is captured and reverted-permanently, supposedly - by bombarding Banner with solar energy relayed back by Starcore One. Whatever works to get the plot underway, I assume.....

Anyway, at the same time this is going on, Jarella (Hulk’s sweetheart within an atom) is fighting off assailants, and making a decision to find her beloved Banner; a feat she manages by the use of magic, and is closely followed by an assassin.

Long story short, Jarella’s (and her assassin) arrival on Earth causes some problems - solar flares from the sun that threaten all life-setting up the issue’s dilemma (as well as Bruce Banner’s emotional conflict between Betty and Jarella), resulting in Bruce once more becoming the Hulk, and Jarella’s return to her own atom sized dimension.

Archie Goodwin was one of the best writers in comics during this period, but despite some good dialogue and characterisation, the story here is slight. Herb Trimpe was the consummate Bronze Age Hulk artist, and John Severin’s inks add a suitably textured nuance to his pencils.

Buy The Incredible Hulk #148 at My Comic Shop

Fantastic Four #119

Cover date: February 1972

Writer: Roy Thomas

Artist: John Buscema

Inker: Joe Sinnott

Curiously, the Black Panther appears on the cover, but is referred to by his civilian name T’Challa. I wonder if there’s a reason behind that. Let’s see, shall we....

The story opens with a typical bickering scenario between the Human Torch and the Thing. Johnny Storm is still on a downer about Crystal, his one true love, having to remain in the Great Refuge (home to The Inhumans) because of her allergy to air-pollutants, and it doesn’t take much to rile up blue-eyed Ben Grimm. Their irresponsible fighting is broken up by Mr Fantastic and the Invisible Girl, and then we’re introduced to the issue’s plot.

It appears T’Challa, the Fantastic Four’s old friend and ally the Black Panther, has gone after some crooks and entered into the only remaining white supremacist nation left on the African continent – Rudyarda.

Yes, it’s the Seventies, and comics are relevant.

Reed Richards asks the Thing and the Human Torch to go on a rescue mission while he and Sue stay behind (Reed’s working on a doohickey to help Crystal), and after preventing a plane hijacking Ben and Johnny arrive in Rudyarda where the people are separated into Europeans and Coloreds. They track down one of the crooks, and discover that T’Challa has been imprisoned.

We now learn why the Black Panther was referred to as T’Challa on the cover; he’s taken on a new name - The Black Leopard – to dispel any connection to the Black Panther Party in the USA

Eventually Klaw shows up for a fight, our heroes win, and everyone goes home after making a symbolic gesture towards bringing down the walls of apartheid.

This was an enjoyable example of an early Seventies Marvel comic, with all the elements you might expect from a Fantastic Four story from this period. Guest writer Roy Thomas captures the voices of the Fantastic Four well, and John Buscema and Joe Sinnott’s art is solid craftsmanship.

Buy Fantastic Four #119 at My Comic Shop

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Growing up the Marvel way!

This month marked my last purchase of a new Marvel comic. After the cancellation of Ms Marvel - the last Marvel title I was buying regularly - I no longer have any reason to buy comics from what was once affectionately known as the House of Ideas; the rot set in with Avengers: Disassembled, and I don't feel like continuing anymore.

And yet.....

Marvel was my introduction to comics. Growing up in the UK, my voracious appetite for reading was met by the launch of Marvel’s UK line in September 1972. The Mighty World of Marvel, Spider-Man Comics Weekly and, most importantly, The Avengers in September 1973.

The Avengers was my first love super-hero team.

It wasn’t long before I was searching out those mysterious American versions, and my first purchase was The Avengers #114 (cover date August 1973), the introduction of Mantis, Steve Englehart writing, and a cover that has remained a firm favourite.

I was hooked, but with the introduction of Marvel UK The Avengers, the American version soon became non-distributed (to save confusion!), and it wasn’t until I was introduced to the joys of comic shops that I was able to glimpse the covers of my much missed The Avengers (my pocket money at that time didn’t stretch to buying new comics at import prices). This sad state of affairs lasted until early 1976 when The Avengers started appearing in the local newsagents again – I never missed another issue until the mid-Eighties.

With all that in mind, I’ve gradually formulated a plan to revisit what is termed the Marvel Bronze Age.

The first decision to make was where to start, and that led to some serious thought about how I define Marvel’s Bronze Age. The only conclusion I came to was the cover design, and more specifically, the logos.

This logo defines The Avengers for me, and when I did a little research it turned out that The Avengers logo and the definitive 1970’s Fantastic Four logo both appeared in the same month – cover date February 1972.

It all ties back to the year 1972, when I was seven years old.

The second decision was when to end this particular experiment. When did Marvel’s Bronze Age end? I was tempted to go with the appointment of Jim Shooter to editor-in-chief in 1978, but that seemed just a little petty and would have stopped short of one of my favourite The Avengers runs. So I went with the only sensible decision – when The Avengers stopped being fun.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was The Avengers #200, cover date October 1980. The infamous Rape of Ms Marvel. I was fifteen by then, and I knew that was a bad thing.

I have no doubts this will be a huge undertaking, and there is no guarantee I will ever finish it; but it will be fun trying, and revisiting those eight formative years.

I will, of course, have to purchase a lot of these comics for the first time, so the reading experience will be like new. I realise I could just go and buy all the various Essentials that are now available, but I want the reading experience to be as authentic as possible – letter pages, house ads, and editorial pages included. It will also include a lot of drudgery – I never particularly warmed to certain characters (Spider-Man, Thor, Dr Strange to name a few), but I may also learn to, if not love them, at least appreciate them.

First up – Fantastic Four #119
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