Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Those Distinctive Marvel Elements of the Bronze Age

Doug: Yesterday we took a look at the origin paragraphs that Marvel ran at the top of their Bronze Age splash pages. Below are several other wonderful characteristics of Marvels back in those days:

  • Corner boxes.
  • Bullpen Bulletins.
  • Cover logos.
  • Letter columns.
  • Marvel Value Stamps.
  • House ads at the bottom of each story page.

So today's Open Forum simply asks for some reflection from you -- which of the above, including the splash tops, were your favorites? Which of these do you think most represented Marvel in the Bronze Age? Were there any elements here that you didn't care for? What's a fond memory that you have? And as always, thanks in advance for the conversation!


HannibalCat said...

The things I love the most when rereading my bronze age Marvels are the ads at the bottom of every other page. They were like Marvel's 1970s equivalent of a tweet - short, pithy, and filled with hyperbole. And they always make me want to read the comic they are extolling the virtues of.

david_b said...

Doug: Great Topic, once again...

What drew me in to Marvel was that it seemed like, with the Bullpen page and letters column, a universe that was inviting you in (well, ok, "sucking you in.." more like it..), like it was 'the in-group' you just HAD to be part of. Charisma basically spewing out of the paper fiber pore that made each issue vivid and come alive.

In contrast.., when I read vintage DC issues from the 60s, I read a lot of more polite letters, with little if any personality from the editors in providing responses. Obviously the editorial staff chose letters more for bland affirmations, general inquiries, fan requests. Lee really made the whole MMMS rank structure fun.

david_b said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention those Marvel 'House Ads'..

Darn them.., I'm STILL hunting down some of those issues, small pictures of covers which I brushed past as a kid, yet find myself still curious as to who they featured and the stories.

For instance, I remember the 1973 house ad for both King-Size Spiderman and FF (reprinting "The Goblin Lives" and the Reed and Sue wedding, respectively..). I remember seeing both at the drug store one morning, and only having money for one. I chose Spidey, but for years wanted to grab that FF reprint, even MORE so than finding the original ish.

Doug said...

I also really liked the one-line house ads at the bottom of the pages. Distribution was so spotty back then, however -- I don't know how anyone could have a "complete set" of Marvel's offerings in any given month.

And, I loved the Marvel Value Stamps -- it was always a treat when I could identify who the artist was and even what issue the art had come from.

Really, any of the things on the list are treasures to me.


Dougie said...

One distinctively Marvel element of the Bronze Age was Foom. I got the first four magazines as a kid, complete with poster and membership card. I think it made British kids feel very special and part of something grand, exciting and exotically American.
For reasons relating to distribution and household budgets, I only got issues 6,7 and 8 and then 12 onwards. But they seemed such adult, transgressive publications; by comparison, decades later, Amazing World of DC is a sweet but rather juvenile newsletter.

Dougie said...

Just a thought: someone really needs to write a piece on Stan Lee's promotional visit to the UK in the mid-70s and the development and launch of Captain Britain Mk 1.

Doug said...

Dougie --

I think we have enough British readers who would enjoy such a thing. Personally I know nothing about it, so that writer isn't going to be me. How about some of our British Bronze Age bloggers out there? Can you help a brother out?


Inkstained Wretch said...

To add a note of discord here, one thing I disliked about Bronze Age Marvels was the the placing of ads or other promotions across the top of the magazine.

I mean some of the classic John Byrne issues of X-Men have banner ads for Toys R US and the like on the covers. This really intrudes on the art.

I know it was a business and they had to make money and all, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

J.A. Morris said...

Instained, are you talking about ads like the ones on these covers?:





starfoxxx said...

My favorites are team books, so I REALLY miss the corner boxes with the head-shots, esp. Byrnes's Avengers.

I have thought about a tattoo of an Avengers corner box, and my choices would be Cap, IronMan, Thor, Hawkeye, Vision, Beast,and Tigra. Maybe Hercules, too.

Doug said...

Well, Starfoxxx, hopefully you're just thinking about it... :)

And you couldn't add Herc anyway. Gyrich only allows 7 members.


Inkstained Wretch said...

J.A., yup, that's what I'm talking about. If only my death of Phoenix issue was worth $2,500 ...

david_b said...

Oh, I HATED those cover banners selling bicycles.. THAT is the bane of the Bronze Age, by far.

Please, tell me, anyone..: Tell me there's a classic Bronze cover that was improved by this ad placement..

Definitely a low-point for Marvel.

William said...

It's hard to pick just one of those things. They all combined to make up the total flavor of Bronze Age Marvel. I miss them all and comics are the worse for their absence.

Of things you listed, I probably miss the corner boxes most. They were just so uniquely Marvel. But I loved the adds and the letters and all the rest of it as well. Comics were just so much fun back then. What happened???

When it comes down to it though, you know what I really really miss about comics these days? The colors. What happened to the awesome brightly colored covers that practically leaped off the spinner rack right into your brain? Nowadays comic covers are dull, over rendered, muddy colored pin-ups that usually have nothing to do with the story on the inside. Just because we now have computers that enable a colorist to make a comic book panel or cover look like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, doesn't mean it's a good idea. In other words - just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should.

Comic books were a unique form of art and a big part of the charm and appeal (at least for me anyway) was the fun ink outlined art and colors. Even though there are more efficient methods of doing things now, I miss the overall "look" of comics and with todays technology, it wouldn't be hard to replicate that.

I don't understand what was wrong with comics being FUN! It seems that today they go out of there way to try as hard as they can to make comic books NOT look like comic books.

Scott Edelman said...

Since you want to know who write some of that anonymous material:


As usual, great blog!

Doug said...

Scott --

Don't stop now, man! Keep it coming! You should go back through our Side-by-Side feature -- I'll bet you'd have a ton of inside info. to toss our way. Oh, the scandals!


Fred W. Hill said...

I actually was able to get both of those King-Size issues you mentioned, David B. I'd like to get the complete version of that Goblin epic -- anyone know if it's been reprinted in any of the Essentials? Ya think they purposely reprinted those particular stories to tie in with the then current FF & Spidey continuity, with Reed & Sue separated and the Gwen recently slain by the Goblin, who at least appeared to have bitten the dust as well?
Anyhow, my favorite features of the Silver & Bronze age Marvels were the Bullpen Bulletins (along with Stan's Soapbox) and the letters pages. Great point too about the differences between the letters pages of DC & Marvel -- Marvel's were just a lot more fun to read. At some point in the late '60s, Marvel tried a policy of just running the letters without responses -- big mistake! They worked much better as a sort of dialogue between the fans and the company. Steve Gerber did the writing on many of those letters pages in the early '70s, albeit mostly uncredited, and his responses to the fans were the funniest and most heartfelt. All just part of what made me love Marvel Comics in those days. I also enjoyed it in the latter years of the Bronze Age when some titles did a bit of playing around with those images in the corner box, as in the Hulk and Byrne's FF, and even that sad-looking Man-Thing on the last issue of the 2nd series.

Edo Bosnar said...

I agree with William that it's hard to nail down just one thing - I just remember at the time reading Marvel books felt like belonging to a club. I suppose if forced to say something specific, it would be the letters pages and the corner boxes - like many others, I loved the Byrne-drawn team boxes for both the Avengers and X-men.
And yes, I absolutely, utterly despised those obnoxious banner ads on the covers in 1980/81...

HannibalCat said...

I do remember Marvel hyping up Stan's 70's UK visit, though his profile over here wasn't what it is now, so there was no media coverage. As for the original Captain Britain, I bought every single issue. Colour printing was a novelty for English comics in the 70's, so seeing Nick Fury in all his Steranko glory and in colour was mind blowing. As for the Captain himself, I now have the graphic novel collections of all those early stories.

Rip Jagger said...

The essential Bronze Age elements are the bottom-of-the-page-ad-blurbs and the Marvel Value Stamps! They mark a book instantly as from the 70's like nothing else.

Rip Off

Anonymous said...

Totally agree about the corner logos.

The house ads were great and like David B I still come across comics I wanted 35 years ago and can’t believe I never got them. There’s an ad for a Doc Strange special by Frank Miller that I wanted for years until someone (on here, I think) told me that it never happened.

Really, really hate Marvel Value Stamps. I couldn’t believe they were encouraging people to mutilate comics. Cut out posters were bad enough. I was even more incensed when I found out that Marvel themselves didn’t know what they were for and made it up afterwards.

Inkstained.....totally agree about the top banners. My personal bête noir was ...”this Marvel comic could be worth $2500 to you” ...or at least it could until we ruined it with this stupid banner. Xmen 137 for God’s sake!!!

Hannibal - those early Captain Britains are actually written by Claremont, aren’t they?

My absolute favourite thing was reading an old back issue and finding a letter from someone who later worked for Marvel. Dave Cockrum, Dave Michelinie, Jo Duffy and several others wrote great letters, and there’s a long, long letter from Kurt Busiek somewhere in a late 70’s / early 80’s Avengers. Little did we (or he) know that while he & his college buddies were spitballing ideas to Marvel, he had actually stumbled on the only formula for resurrecting Jean Grey that Shooter would allow. I think he was actually credited for it years later.

J.A. Morris said...

Fred W. Hill wrote:
"I'd like to get the complete version of that Goblin epic -- anyone know if it's been reprinted in any of the Essentials?"

Fred, you can find the whole thing here, in color:


Dougie said...

HannibalCat, I believe around 74 or 75, Stan -and maybe Herb Trimpe -appeared on BBC1's Pebble Mill at One (US readers- a lunchtime magazine show from Birmingham watched in the main by the retired or kids skipping school, like me.) Not the most high-profile media coverage, admittedly.
On the trip, Stan also met my best friend's dad- the Sensational Alex Harvey, who recorded a track entitled " Give my regards to Sgt. Fury"

Fred W. Hill said...

Ah, thanks for the tip, J.A.

Redartz said...

There was a lot of fun to be had in comics of bronze age vintage. The corner boxes really looked sharp,although the early 70's Marvel circle oorners have a terrific nostalgic appeal too.
Among the memorable ads were the Spiderman record album (standing before a mirror, the lp cover by Romita). Also, the Spiderman, Hulk and Conan coins; these goodies still have a spot on my shelf.
As many have commented, the letter columns really made you feel a part of the group. A big "thumbs up" to Marvel for reviving these recently in Amazing Spiderman and Fantastic Four...

Joseph said...

Oh my God, those cover banner ads were the worst! The only silver lining is the fact that they remind me the era (kind of like hearing the worst song from your favorite album).

The corner boxes and logos were some of my favorite touches of that time.

Thanks for the wonderful blog and what great, insightful comments from these readers! This is quickly becoming one of my favorite sites around.

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