Bronze Age Beginnings

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


  1. This should be a fun project. Being a soppy Londoner, you had better access to 'Marvel All-Colour Comics' than me - when I could get them they seemed magical . . .

    . . . apart from the two pages of ad every second spread, and those annoying one-line ads on the actual story pages.

  2. I never minded the one-line ads at the foot of the story pages, though they haven't appeared yet.

  3. Terence --

    Just found you off our Feedgit on the Bronze Age Babies. Best of luck with this blog -- I'll be checking in regularly!

    Check us out Friday -- since you've chosen 1972 as your starting point, I think you'll like our post.



  4. Thanks Doug - just seen the post on Bronze Age Babies, and yes, I liked.
    It was discovering Bronze Age Babies that gave me the impetus to start up this blog; I spent a weekend not long ago going through all the posts and reliving some good memories.

  5. In September 1972 I had just turned 8 but I wouldn't find The Mighty World of Marvel until some weeks later; #11 in fact. I'd had the odd US issue bought for me (most memorably Amazing Spider-Man #76, when I was off from school, sick) but that was really the starting point for my childhood Marvel obsession. I really can't describe my excitement for each and every issue, whether it was a UK weekly or badly distributed US copy. When a friend's mum drove us to a comic mart one Saturday (must have been in '76 as I bought Nova #1 and Hulk #200) it's a wonder I didn't just explode. Anyway, by the end of John Byrne's FF run I was pretty much out of there.

    And yes, I did run around wearing the Spidey paper bag mask.

  6. I made a page on Facebook of the Bronze age. You might find the photo albums interesting.
    1972 was an interesting time for Marvel.
    In March the new blue Beast starting out in Amazing Adventures #11, as well as the new titles, Tomb of Dracula #1 and Marvel Team-Up #1.
    In April they created Warlock in Marvel Premiere #1.
    In May the first black hero to get his own mag started in Hero For Hire #1, and the first American Indian to get his own title started with the short lived Red Wolf #1.
    In June the Avengers celebrated their 100th issue with beautiful Barry Smith art.
    Then there is Ghost Riders first appearance, the 1st Defenders, Man-Thing, The Cat, Shanna, Doc Savage.... Marvel was just exploding with new titles! It was an amazing time. Although I can't help but feel you would be missing some great stuff like Conan #1, the cool series Amazing Adventures and Astonishing Tales as well as Marvel Feature #1 and Marvel Spotlight #1. Yeah it was a pretty hot time at Marvel!

  7. Hi Piperson. I'm a having a bit of a problem accessing your Facebook page, but you're right, 1972 was a very creative year for Marvel. New concepts, new genres, and the start of a very experimental period in Marvel's history.

  8. Hi Terence, I just found your page pretty much by accident, but I've already put it on my favorites toolbar. The thing that hooked me was not only your affection for Bronze Age Marvel (which I share), but also for the fact that my first comics purchase was Avengers #114 in 1973. Engleharts writing drew me in and the stories were a blast, the Zodiak story, the back-to-back-to-back Kang stories that extended to the Giant Size books.
    I also thought Englehart's Cap was great, I started buying that with #169 jan '74, just in time for the Secret Empire storyline, I was stunned with the revelation at the end, being during Watergate as a kid of 9 I was like "Is Nixon really the head of the Secret Empire?" (Ah,the ignorence of youth). You can't read that today and get the same feeling, bad politicians are a dime a dozen in comics now.
    I also agree that the fun was gone by the 80's, it was the shift (thanks to Shooter) from writer driven comics to editor driven.
    It was a great time to collect comics, creativity & experimentation.

  9. Hi Darrell, welcome aboard and pleased to hear you've enjoyed reading the ol' blog. I don't get as much time as I would like to post (let alone read comics)but keep on checking in for my irregular updates.
    I think Marvel would have been a very different place in the 70s without Englehart (and Gerber), and my comics reading would have been poorer without them.

  10. Love your site.

    You may be the only person alive who doesn't love Spider-Man!

  11. Ha! Thanks Anon. Surely, I can't be the only person alive who doesn't love whiny teenagers?

  12. Great site, which I've only just discovered. I re-read all of my old Avengers a couple of years ago, and it was tremendous fun.

    By the way, I love the Spider-Man character (nerd, good sense of humor) but couldn't get into the solo comic too much because of the ridiculous amount of melodrama and bad luck that follows him around, plus I absolutely despise JJJ.


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