Bronze Age Beginnings

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Summer of '76

The Summer of ’76 was notable for many things. The UK was roasting in a heat-wave;  ABBA  was camping up the charts with Dancing Queen and Rod Stewart was singing about The Killing of Georgie. I was 11 years old; I’d moved up to big school, AND started my first job as a Paperboy. Things were good; school holidays seemed endless and I had my own money to spend on comics.

So what was I spending that hard-earned (dragging the Sunday papers around Highbury Hill at 7AM was hard labour!) cash on? What Bronze Age Marvel comics caught my eye in July 1976?

The Avengers #149

Steve Englehart was only two issues away from ending his era-defining run on The Avengers (and his time at Marvel during the Bronze Age) but before then he had to finish up a memorable multipart storyline in which The Avengers came into conflict with The Squadron Supreme, The Brand Corporation, Roxxon Oil, and The Serpent Crown. Oh, and he introduced Patsy Walker as The Hellcat.

The Defenders #37

Steve Gerber was spinning a lot of plates during the final stretch of his run on The Defenders. While Dr. Strange and Red Guardian were fighting off Plantman’s giant dandelion puffs, Kyle (Nighthawk) Richmond was still suffering an existential crisis from having his brain removed earlier, and Valkyrie was incarcerated in a women’s prison. Meanwhile, Nebulon was recruiting more costumed crazies to his Bozo cult…

The Fantastic Four #172

Bill Mantlo had the Fantastic Four battling a giant golden gorilla called Gorr, from Counter-Earth; a world created by the High Evolutionary, which was now under threat from Galactus and his new Herald, the Asgardian Destroyer armour.

Howard the Duck #4

Steve Gerber again, on his most personal series; the tale of Paul (Winky Man) Same, a man with a sleeping disorder and the inability to confront those who push him around.

The Invaders #7

Roy Thomas introduces us to the Falsworth’s; an upper-class family that includes World War I hero Union Jack, his daughter Jacqueline (who would later become the plucky heroine Spitfire after a blood transfusion from the android Human Torch) and nephew John, the Nazi vampire Baron Blood.

Obviously team books were what caught my eye during that blazing hot month; more heroes for my pennies, but also some exemplary comics. Steve Englehart’s Avengers (drawn by George Perez) never failed to entertain, and Steve Gerber’s comics left an indelible impact on my early teen self. I personally consider Englehart and Gerber to be the two pillars of Marvel’s Bronze Age, defining the era with their creativity and individual insight.

The Fantastic Four cover had floating heads which was always a must buy, and how could I resist that funky looking vampire on the cover of The Invaders? I don’t recall much of that period of the Fantastic Four - was this when the evil Reed (Brute) Richards from Counter Earth trapped the good one and replaced him on the team? - but I absolutely loved these early issues of The Invaders with art by Frank Robbins.

July ’76 filled my head with alternative Earths, Counter-Earths, giant golden gorillas and dandelion puffs, Bozos and Nazi Vampires, and taught me to stand up for myself for fear of running around at night wearing a night-shirt and cap! It was truly a Bronze Age smorgasbord.


  1. Certainly a great batch, none of which I was reading at the time - I think I was imports for DC, weekly prints for Marvels. If only today's Marvel allowed comics to be as individually creative as Gerber's Defenders.

  2. I'm not even sure that it is today's Marvel not allowing creator's to go full out crazy; it is most likely a readership that prefers recycled concepts and one-note ideas as evident in Marvel's latest blockbuster.If that is what sells...
    Of DC's output that month I purchased Action Comics #461, All-Star Comics #61, Batman #277, Justice League of America #132, Plastic Man #13, Super-Team Family #5 and Wonder Woman #224. More titles than Marvel, but the only ones that really left an impression were All-Star Comics and Plastic Man.

  3. Thanks for the memories, Terence -- I had the first four on your list, and could just about tell you where I bought each one! Good stuff, and no -- they don't make 'em like they used to!


  4. Remind me, what's the name of that website that lists every cover for every comic of every month ...

  5. I thought the Gorr/HE story was by Roy Thomas.The Brute storyline was still to come. Only the Defenders issue made it to my local shop; we didn't get any Englehart Avengers, more's the pity.

    I also love Frank Robbins on Invaders and Kirby-esque floating heads!

    I wrote about my July 1976 today on my Materioptikon blog: a week's holiday in Galloway, in a remote fishing village. I was reading Killraven and Kamandi.

  6. Martin: I think these are the websites you mean -

    Both are a great resource and hours of fun!

    Dougie: I too thought that Gorr storyline was all Roy Thomas until I checked the credits, and it turns out that Roy only plotted this issue and Mantlo scripted.

  7. Cool! I bought every single one of those babies right off of the stands.


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