Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Marvel and DC: Side-by-Side in 1979


Doug: The year 1979 saw this blogger enter the 8th grade and begin the process of leaving the comics buying hobby for a period of five years. Yep -- from some time in the spring of 1980 until 1985 (specifically, the month The Dark Knight Returns was released (EDIT: Nope, I'm wrong. First off, DKR didn't come out until 1986, and having looked ahead in the DC book I know I bought several offerings in 1985. So my DKR memory is faulty)), I was out of comics. So for me, many of things that will be covered in this post will be the last I have first-hand, "current" knowledge of until we are at the end of our series. Even though some of the books in the next six installments were eventually bought by me as back issues, I'll be coming to them as will some of you -- a tabula rasa. What else was happening in '79, you ask? Philips publicly demonstrated the compact disc, Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of Great Britain, the government of Iran became an Islamic Republic, Pope John Paul II visited his native Poland; he was the first pope to enter a communist nation. Michael Jackson released Off the Wall (going 7x platinum in the USA), Alien was at the movies, ESPN debuted on American airwaves, and the Iran Hostage Crisis began in November (as did ABC's Nightline).

Karen: I was still going strong on comics at this point, and wouldn't drop out until around 1986 or so. Boy, what a year. I clearly recall seeing Alien, and I remember the frustration and angst the whole country seemed to feel over the Iranian hostages. I also remember 1979 as the year John Wayne died. It was a depressing time in many ways.

Doug: DC was still reeling from the DC Implosion of the previous summer. In January, Hanna-Barbera created a live-action version of the Super Friends comic called Legends of the Super-Heroes, starring Adam West and Burt Ward in their most famous roles. I recall seeing this on the telly -- do any of you recall it, too? Back Issue ran a feature on this many months ago, and the recollections were truly as bad as I recall. Campy, campy. In March, DC attempted to capitalize on the success of Superman: The Movie with the final issue of All New Collectors' Edition C-62. Rather than a treasury-sized comic, this was instead a magazine that tied directly into the film, with actor bios, comic-to-film comparisons, etc.

Karen: I recall tuning in to both those live action specials, knowing in my heart they would be terrible -and they were -but it was all we had back then! So good or bad, I was going to watch it.

Doug: Somehow I missed both of the superhero shows, but you know the previous year I was tuned in to KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park! Ugh -- was that bad telly...

Doug: So you got that output from DC. Harumph, I say! How about a tale of Professor X in the years before he lost his legs, in
X-Men #117, or the return of Sunfire and the introduction of Wolverine's love Mariko in X-Men #118? James Rhodes taking a bow in Iron Man #118 by Michelinie, Byrne, and Layton? No? Well what of a couple of more licensed comics with Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden on Micronauts and Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe on Shogun Warriors? Oh, yeah, and speaking of Shellhead, makes me think of Justin Hammer -- Iron Man #120, March 1979. But DC put out that Superman treasury, mind you...

Karen: I know we're big Marvel fans, but I don't think we're being biased on this. If you look at the two books and see what they have to say, Marvel is really coming out ahead. At least for the 70s!

Doug: Yes, for the '70's. I've worked ahead a bit on these posts, and I can tell you that DC will have their share of glory as we move into the '80's. It may, however, be short-lived.

Doug: In April the Batman of Earth-2 died in the pages of
Adventure Comics #462, at the pen of Paul Levitz and the pencils of Joe Staton. After the JSA had been canceled in All-Star Comics, they moved into Adventure. Levitz's and Staton's creation the Huntress witnessed the demise of her father. May saw the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Detective Comics with a giant Batman Family issue. April at Marvel gave us the premiere of Alpha Flight in X-Men #120. In May Frank Miller's pencils debuted in Daredevil #158 (which was a welcome relief from Gene Colan's second major stint on the book -- at this point I wasn't as much a fan of Colan's work as I am now) and in June Thor met the Eternals in Thor #284; yep, Roy Thomas began to integrate Kirby's last major creation into the Marvel Universe.

Karen: Levitz was doing some good stuff over at DC, which I've mostly become aware of in recent years. I absolutely loved what Roy Thomas was doing with Kirby's Eternals in Thor- until it veered off into a comics version of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung for something like 8 issues. Man, that was just weird.

Doug: In the summer months, DC released its first mini-series in July with World of Krypton #1. Again, hoping to capitalize on the movie, DC rushed out a number of Superman-related projects. The story was written by Paul Kupperberg with art by Howard Chaykin. In The Flash #275, Iris West Allen was murdered by Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash. And Superman #338 liberated the bottle city of Kandor and restored its denizens to their normal height.

Karen: I have a question. Where did Superman put all those Kandorians? I'm assuming he found an uninhabited planet for them somewhere? Anybody know?

Doug: I know nothing of it, but I did wonder where they went, too -- wouldn't there have been a whole bunch of super-powered Kryptonians running around on Earth?

Doug: Over at Marvel, the Black Cat made her first appearance as a Spidey villainess in
Amazing Spider-Man #194. Wendell Vaughn changed his name from Marvel Man to Quasar in Marvel Two-In-One #53, which was also the first chapter in the quite-nice "Project Pegasus" storyline. As the summer closed, we got a new origin for Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch in the pages of Avengers #186. Even though this tied the Avengers together with the X-Men, I think I preferred the tie to the Golden Age Whizzer and Miss America better. Love 'im or hate 'im (and I understand he's back these days), H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot saw four-color love in Fantastic Four #209. Originally created by Lee and Kirby for the FF cartoon airing at the same time (the Human Torch was allegedly unavailable due to being in feature film development), the little obnoxious robot nonetheless hung around for several issues. Not one of Reed's finer moments.

Karen: That's funny, I had read that Herbie replaced the Torch because the network was afraid of kids setting themselves on fire! As for Wanda and Pietro, it seemed like their origin has gotten so convoluted over the years. It was interesting for them to have a tie to the High Evolutionary, although probably unnecessary.

Doug: As we headed into winter, DC released the first of many digest-sized comics when Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #1 showed up at the supermarket check-outs. The annual JLA/JSA team-up found both teams hunting amongst themselves for the murderer of Mr. Terrific in Justice League of America #171. Maybe the two biggest events from National Periodical Publications were the "untold tale" of the JSA's demise in the 1950's. In Adventure Comics #466 the Huntress revealed to Power Girl how the Golden Age heroes had fallen victim to the U.S. government's Joint Congressional Un-American Activities Committee. Unwilling to reveal their secret identities to the panel, the JSA were teleported form the room as Hawkman promised they'd not hear from the heroes again. In Green Lantern #123 Hal Jordan took over solo billing of his own book as the magazine moved to a more space-adventure approach that ill-suited Oliver Queen.

Karen: I like the fact that the HUAC debacle was worked into the history of the JSA.

Doug: Marvel closed 1979 with the "Terror of Terrax" storyline in Fantastic Four #211, an epic featuring Galactus during Byrne's first run on the FF. In an odd marriage, Marvel Premiere #50 featured none other than Alice Cooper -- I had it and was weirded out by it, in case anyone cares. Fans of Omega the Unknown saw a sort-of end to the series (that Steve Gerber originally wrote) in Defenders #77 by Steven Grant. "Project Pegasus" wrapped in December, and Mantlo and artist Sal Buscema began a 75-issue series based on the hit toy -- ROM: Spaceknight.

Karen: I liked the work Byrne did as an artist of the FF. Didn't always care for his stint as writer/artist. But he knew how to draw the Thing well! Omega was one of those series/characters that seemed to get no chance to catch on. I do recall reading those Defenders issues but it would have been nice if Steve Gerber had been allowed to end the story. I know he wasn't happy about Steven Grant doing it.

Doug: Looking at this, I find no wonder at all to the query, "So Doug, why were you a Marvel Zombie?" I mean, c'mon -- and maybe it's because I had a bunch of these issues (as I said above, this is the last year I'll be able to say that) and hardly any of the DCs, but the DCs just weren't attractive to me! The Marvel Chronicle makes the claim that Claremont and Byrne were Marvel's second classic teaming, right after Stan and Jack. And I don't think that's just bluster. Their work on Power Man and Iron Fist and Marvel Team-Up is good, but their run on X-Men could probably fall somewhere among the all-time greats: Lee/Kirby on FF and Thor/Tales of Asgard, Thomas/Adams on X-Men, Thomas/Buscema on Avengers... What sayest thou?

Karen: I think I would have to put the Claremont/Byrne run right up there, somewhere below Lee/Kirby but ahead of pretty much everyone else in terms of sheer creativity and excitement. The Avengers may be my all-time favorite team, but when the new X-Men came out, it was the book that I looked forward to like no other. I could relate to that title and those characters in ways I never did with others. Again, it was soap opera, but it was on an epic scale!


dbutler16 said...

Wow, I collected comics faithfully through junior high and high school, and gradually phased it out in college. I’m glad I did, as that allowed me to read “first hand” all through the wonderful 80’s, and miss out on most of the weak 90’s.
I have never heard of Legends of the Super-Heroes! I will have to check it out. It looks like the campy 60’s Batman show, but with tons of cool superheroes! I see (the other) Captain Marvel in that photo, and I vaguely remember a Shazam TV show from the 70’s and wonder if that’s the same actor.
X-Men #117 was the first X-Men I ever bought! Ah, memories. They didn’t carry X-Men at the local Convenient store, so I couldn’t get into them until I made my first trip to my LCS. I’ve also got every issue of Micronauts, and after having re-read them all last year, I think they hold up pretty well. I also think I bought that Iron Man 118 at the newsstand, though I didn’t often buy solo mags, as I’ve always been more of a team guy. I’ve also got the Adventure Comics pictured. A death that actually stuck, fancy that!
Year, the Avengers #186 changed Wanda & Pietro’s origin but, but I thought it was really well done, plus the art by John Byrne was excellent – this was back when he could really draw!
As far as the Human Torch not being in the cartoon, I do believe it was because of the feature film conflict that Doug mentioned. The Human Torch had already appeared in a Fantastic Four cartoon previously, so it would have been goofy (though not unprecedentedly goofy) to all of a sudden have concerns about him appearing in a cartoon.
I loved those DC Blue Ribbon Digests! I still have all of mine. Mr. Terrific dying of panel has to be one of the more shameful superhero deaths in comicdom. Sort of like Cyclops dying off screen in X-Men: the Last Stand. The JSA origin tale was indeed nicely done. Levitz definitely was one of the things DC had goin’ on at this time!

Inkstained Wretch said...

"Karen: That's funny, I had read that Herbie replaced the Torch because the network was afraid of kids setting themselves on fire!"

Though a great story, it is a urban myth. The real reason was that Marvel had tried to create a Human Torch solo TV series earlier. The rights to the character were tied up in that deal, so he wasn't available for the FF series.

See here:

Edo Bosnar said...

Wow, until reading this post, I didn't realize what a milestone year 1979 was for me in terms of comics-reading: it's when I started reading X-men (just as the Claremont/Byrne run really started cooking), Iron Man (ditto with the Michelanie/Layton run), Micronauts, Rom, etc. In fact, I think I had just about everything you mention in this post. It's also when I really, really started paying attention to the credits, just because I had to know the name of that artist doing such a bang-up job in X-men, Avengers, Fantastic Four...
And DC wasn't doing too bad, either: I actually liked the Green Lantern series at the time, and Adventure and World's Finest were still those awesome dollar comics, and, like dbutler, I absolutely loved the DC digests (and I wish I could say I still have all of mine).
Karen, good point about the live action specials (or even the Saturday morning cartoons in some cases, i.e., FF with Herbie): they may not have been very good, or were in fact bad, but all of us comic fans watched them almost out of a sense of duty - I know that was the case for me as far as that Nicholas Hammond Spider-man show was concerned.
By the way (& I apologize for the lengthy comment), Superman and Supergirl liberated Kandor from its bottle on an inhabitable planet in a red sun system - they flew there by spaceship. As I recall, the device Supes used to enlarge the size of the city and its people was faulty, so most of the buildings crumbled into dust not long after being restored.

Daniel Graves said...

I remember the legends of the superheroes show, but no one else I knew did, leading me to think I had dreamt it until the days of the internet when I was able to affirm that such a thing had, in fact existed. For some reason, Adam West forgot to tuck in his cowl under his cape. Good grief. It was bad... but a thrill to me in 1979 when I was 9!

J.A. Morris said...

I hate to pick nits here,but,in re Claremont & Byrne:
"their run on X-Men could probably fall somewhere among the all-time greats"
Nothing against those guys, but I don't think you can talk about their run on X-men without discussing Terry Austin's contributions. I was a big "Byrne Victim" for years, I like most of the art & stories from his FF run, I used to track down every back issue he penciled early in his career.
But Austin was the best inker Byrne ever had. He was Sinnott to Byrne's Kirby,Palmer to Byrne's Adams,etc.

I know Karen & Doug didn't mean any disrespect to Austin,but classic X-men creative team will always be Claremont/Byrne/Austin in my book.

Karen said...

J.A. -it's funny you bring up Austin because -at least in our private communications- Doug and I both have discussed our admiration for Austin's work and that he must be included in any discussion of the X-men success. I can't seem to recall any post where we actually mention that -Doug, can you? I did find Doug's praise of Austin in this post:

But I agree with you completely. I never thought Byrne looked as good as when he had Austin inking him. And Austin's own pencil art is quite good! The first time I saw it I realized just how much he contributed to X-Men.


Doug said...

J.A. --

No disrespect meant at all towards the totally-awesome Terry Austin. Remember, the information we are providing in these posts is exclusively from the two books we are using as our resources. I basically re-typed the notion that Claremont/Byrne's X-Men run was among the all-time greats -- straight from the Marvel book. As you stated, it would be tough to mention the Lee/Kirby run on FF without Joe Sinnott or the Lee/Kirby run on Thor without Vinnie Colletta.

And you're right, by the way -- it really was a 3-headed monster.

Each week I really enjoy all of your comments, reminiscences, etc. There has been a bit of worry on our part that a 16-part series is going to at some point boring or dragging-on. But I think as we've soldiered on, it's been really cool to see you "hit your stride" as a collector -- each year seems to hold a dear memory for some of you.

Thanks for sharing!


dbutler16 said...

Don't worry - this hasn't gotten boring at all! Though I started collecting in 1976, I really "hit my stride" as a collector probably around 1978-79. So, this is exciting stuff. Like Edo Bosnar, I've got most of the comics mentioned today.

Redartz said...

Really enjoying this series of discussions; looking forward to entering the 80's as well!
As for 1979, I remember the Spiderman Annual with Doc Ock, featuring some more artwork from Mr. Byrne. Loved the Micronauts; currently trying to pick them up again.

J.A. Morris said...

Redartz wrote:
"I remember the Spiderman Annual with Doc Ock, featuring some more artwork from Mr. Byrne."
Yes,that Annual is a great story,with inks by...Terry Austin!

Forgot to mention earlier,I'm loving this side-by-side series,good stuff!

Fred W. Hill said...

I got into the Micronauts series a bit late, about the 7th issue, with the Man-Thing, but once i read it, I loved it -- Michael Golden's art certainly helped! Despite it's derivative storyline, clearly inspired by Star Wars, I much preferred the Micronauts to the Star Wars comics. Of course, the X-Men were becoming an ever bigger deal, but Iron Man was also starting a good run. As for the Defenders, it had once been one of my favorite titles, but by this point it was increasingly lackluster, a pale shadow of its former glory.
Music-wise, I most associate 1979, or more to the point, the 1979-80 school year, with Supertramp's Breakfast in America and Pink Floyd's The Wall. As an alienated geek, I really got into the latter lp during my senior year of high school.

dbutler16 said...

I'm so glad to find some fellow Micronauts fans! Fred, liked Michael Golden's art, but Pat Broderick was my favorite Micronauts artist. Yes, the series was somewhat derivative of Star Wars, but how could a Sci-fi series of that era not be derivative of Star Wars?
As far as music, I had not gotten into music yet. I guess I was too busy reading comics!

Doug said...

Edo --

My apologies for not thanking you earlier for the information regarding the Bottle City of Kandor -- so THANKS!!


Anonymous said...

Firstly - first time commenter: Doug/Karen - love this concept and now read your blog regularly. And you both do a great job.

Doug, I wanted to respond to your comment that you worried about a 16 part series becoming boring - quite the contrary - I am enjoying reminiscing about my collecting time (for me mainly the 70's) and then hearing from others about the time I dropped out after that. For example, Edo's comments about Claremont/Byrne Xmen and Micheline/Layton Iron Man are things that I missed out on but can now delve into on the GIT DVDs.

So, thanks all for the memories - both reliving old ones and creating new ones.


Garett said...

I remember seeing Legends of the Superheroes as a kid! I was very excited to see them all in live action, and thought the costumes actually looked really good. The writing was so cheesy I couldn't believe it. Cool choices though to have the Huntress, who was a very new character, and Captain Marvel. I remember some bad joke by the Captain about Burma Shave. Also awesome to see Mordru in there--not a typical villain you'd expect for this special, like the Joker. I just wish they'd made a real story out of it. : )

Abe Lucas said...

Sorry to chime in on this ancient post, but 1979 was a huge year for me in both my life (which I won't get into) and my comic-reading life, too. I was a mere eight years old that year and that summer saw me fully enthralled by...Harvey Comics. Yep. I adored Richie Rich, Casper, and Hot Stuff comics and read them incessantly during the summer of '79.

I also found myself laughing uproariously at Cracked "Mazagine", which always had M*A*S*H, Mork & Mindy, and Diff'rent Strokes parodies every month or so.

However, by September of that year, i discovered super-hero comics in a major way. I fondly remember FF #213 (Terrax the Tamer impressed the heck out of me, as did the Galactus-Sphinx fight; still my favorite battle of all time), Avengers #190, Green Lantern #123 (the DC house ad blew me away), and Superman #342. My then-favorite thing, though, was Star Wars--including Marvel's delightful but largely unloved series. I absolutely loved it, even with the Carmine Infantino artwork.

I also have a ton of warm childhood memories from that summer of '79, which I should save for another comment when BAB's post warrants it.

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