Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Marvel and DC: Side-by-Side in 1966


Doug: As I said on Monday, this was the year I was born, and I think you'll agree that the hits didn't stop coming -- this one's a good one, capped off by the beginning of Marvel's cosmic age with the introductions of the Silver Surfer, the Watcher, and Galactus! Over at DC, the Batman television show made its premiere. Big stuff! And by the time it's over, this might be one of those years that is closer in output between the Big Two than last year was, for example. Outside our doors and windows, Indira Gandhi became prime minister in India, the first spacecraft (albeit unoccupied) landed on the moon, the Miranda rights ("you have the right to remain silent..." -- c'mon, if you've seen a cop show, you know 'em!) became law in the States, and in the realm of entertainment The Doors self-titled debut album and the Beach Boys Pet Sounds were released, Star Trek premiered on American TV in September and How the Grinch Stole Christmas aired in December (natch), and the NFL-AFL merger was finalized in professional football. And now for something you've all been waiting for, the reason you woke up today:

Doug: This year got off to a resounding "Biff! Bam! Pow!" with several key events. In January, not only did the "Dial 'H' for Hero" series debut in House of Mystery #156, but Triplicate Girl was forcibly made into Duo Damsel when one of her selves was killed by the robot Computo in Adventure Comics #340. On January 12th the Batman show first aired on ABC-TV. I would think that comics fans were very excited about this, and there's no doubt that the show became immensely popular very early into its run. Over the 2-year period 1965-66, it ranked 5th (keep in mind, it was only one in '66) behind Bonanza, Gomer Pyle, The Lucy Show, and The Red Skelton Hour. Interestingly, that ranking is for the Thursday installment of the show; you'll recall that each two-part episode played on Wednesday and continued "tomorrow. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel." The Wednesday episodes ranked 10th overall. Hmmm... In February, Teen Titans #1 was the reward for our young heroes after three successful try-outs in The Brave and the Bold. The Titans head to South America to join the Peace Corps, and in the course of their do-gooding are opposed by a super-baddie named El Conquistadore. Showcase #60 featured the Silver Age debut of the Spectre, almost 20 years after his last Golden Age appearance. This time 'round, his adventures were chronicled by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson. And in March, the aptly-named Major Disaster showed up in Green Lantern #43. Whoo-hoo! Lastly, It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Superman! opened on Broadway and lasted 129 performances, closing in July.

Karen: That's a pretty solid start for DC. Of course, I've said it before: whether she's Triplicate Girl or Duo Damsel, she's the most worthless super-hero of all. I mean, I'd take Stone Boy -or any of the Subs -over her! But the high point here is the Batman TV show. It was so huge. I was only a tiny tot but I still recall how much my brother and all his friends loved it (so I loved it too).

Doug: At Marvel, not to be outdone, the House of Ideas unleashed a series of minor characters and storylines, until March... Early on, we were introduced to the Plunderer (DD #12), The Fixer and Mentallo (Strange Tales #141), the origin of Nick Fury's eye patch (Sgt. Fury #27), Maximus the Mad (FF #47), Batroc the Leaper and Sharon Carter (Tales of Suspense #75), and... Yep, and then in March, Fantastic Four #48 hit the stands (so actually January, huh?). Not only did this story finish an epic Inhumans tale (in fact, the 4 1/2 issue debut of our heroes from the Hidden Land), but it began maybe the most important trilogy of the Silver Age (is that a silly thing to say? After all, DC was still publishing done-in-ones at this time). The second half of FF #48 featured the debuts of the Silver Surfer, the Watcher, and Galactus. The story would, interestingly enough, conclude halfway through FF #50, making it in reality only the equivalent of a 2-issue tale. But who's counting? Also of note early in '66 was the change in title of Thor's mag from Journey Into Mystery to The Mighty Thor (#126), and Rick Jones spilling of the secret ID beans when he told the world that Bruce Banner was the Hulk in Tales to Astonish #77.

Karen: That's some heavy hitters there, pal. Was anything better than the FF at that point? or even years later? Between FF and Thor, Lee and Kirby were doing some incredible universe-building: the Inhumans, Galactus, the Silver Surfer, the Black Panther, the Olympian gods, the High Evolutionary, the Colonizers of Rigel...and all in the place of a couple of years. I think the closest anyone's ever come to that was the Claremont-Cockrum/Byrne -Austin X-Men.

Doug: Funny you should mention the fact that the FF was the most stupendous mag on the racks. Readers will want to check back here on Sunday for a little "who's better, who's best" brouhaha...

Doug: As spring arrived, DC offered a few substantial comics.
Detective Comics #351 saw the introduction of the Cluemaster, a villain who sought the secret ID's of our heroes. In a parallel story, Aunt Harriet discovered the Batcave, and began to suspect Bruce and Dick were secretly the Caped Crusaders. Using a doctored film to show Wayne and Grayson in the presence of the Dark Knight and the Boy Wonder, not only was Aunt Harriet fooled, but the Cluemaster as well! Showcase #62 gave us the E. Nelson Bridwell/Joe Orlando creation, The Inferior Five, a team of would-be heroes in the light-hearted spoof of the Teen Titans. And in June, Batman #181 featured the first appearance of Poison Ivy. Pamela Isley was brought to you by Robert Kanigher and Sheldon Moldoff.

Karen: I think the standout there is Poison Ivy, who seemed like a more twisted Catwoman.

Doug: After all of that activity to begin the year, who could blame the Bullpen if they took a bit of a break in the spring? Yeah, I know they didn't, and what had gone down earlier would certainly have been a tough act to follow... Here you are, introduction-wise: Pluto (Thor #127), the Looter (Amazing Spider-Man #36), the John Romita Spidey try-out in Daredevil #16, the Collector in Avengers #28 (you know that's my favorite Avengers ish, if you've been hanging aorund here at all recently), and the premiere of a Golden Age reprint title, Fantasy Masterpieces. And oh yeah -- a cat named Wyatt Wingfoot showed up in FF #51.

Karen: Again - just a tremendous creative burst from Marvel. it just got better and better.

Doug: Summer at the Distinguished Competition featured the first comic book script of 14-year old Jim Shooter from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Shooter spun a yarn of the Khund invasion while introducing four new characters to Legion of Super-Heroes lore: Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Ferro Lad, and Nemesis Kid (guess which one turned out to be a traitor in the next issue?). All of this went down in Adventure Comics #346, cover-dated for July. That same month, the feature-length Batman movie was in theaters; don't forget the Bat Shark Repellant! August's Action Comics #340 saw the bow of the Parasite, by Shooter and artist Al Plastino, and in September Saturday mornings were made all the better with the premieres of The Adventure of Superboy and The New Adventures of Superman.

Karen: I still enjoy those early Shooter Legions. Those are the only Silver Age DCs I can really handle. It's probably because they're somewhat like Marvel comics.

Doug: I will go out on a limb and say that July-dated books were among the most important to Marvel's history, and their significance. Tales of Suspense #79 featured the first Silver Age appearance of the Red Skull; yes, he'd been appearing in flashback stories in TofS as well as Golden Age reprints in the aforementioned Fantasy Masterpieces. Stan and Jack decided to bring him into the present and make him a major player in not only Cap's stories, but also in the greater Marvel Universe. Fantastic Four #52 featured the first appearance of the Black Panther, comics' first Black super-hero. Although an African king and not an American, T'Challa's debut was nonetheless an envelope-pusher; another of Stan's stories of racial injustice involved the Sons of the Serpent the next month in the Avengers #32. In Amazing Spider-Man #39 Jazzy Johnny Romita took over the art chores from Steve Ditko after the latter exited the title due in part to creative differences with Stan over the secret ID of the Green Goblin. Well Stan won out, and in this issue the Goblin was revealed to be Norman Osborn, who also learned Spidey's secret ID. In minor developments, the Gladiator debuted in DD #18 and Lancer Books began to publish reprints of Marvel Comics in trade paperback editions. Klaw became a villain for the Black Panther and we learned of his origin in FF #53. In September, to close the summer months, some biggies were published when the Goblin's origin was revealed in ASM #40, and the Howlers got an origin in Sgt. Fury #34. Maybe the biggest Marvel news, pop culture-wise, though, was the premiere of Marvel Super-Heroes on television. Using art straight from the comics, vignettes featuring Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and Sub-Mariner were brought our heroes to the silver screen. As most of you know, these are readily available on YouTube, but no DVD release has been made available. I've never been able to figure that one out.

Karen: I think the introduction of Black Panther was huge. Here was a black character who was not a side-kick or comic relief, but an actual super-hero, a genius, and a king to boot! The Sons of the Serpent storyline was a significant one, showing the 'realism' of the Marvel Universe, as it dealt with the civil rights issues that were facing the nation. Marvel comics just seemed more relevant. Oh, and I believe we also got introduced to Bill Foster in these issues, who would go on to become Black Goliath.

Doug: In regard to Foster, and the Living Laser (see below) -- I own the original art to Don Heck's 2/3 splash of the first in-comic appearance of the Laser (Avengers #34). It's "twice-up", meaning it's on much larger comic art paper than the now-standard 11x17. Pretty neat, as you can see some white-out from the inks, etc. Hank's pretty heroic on the page, as he's shielding Bill Foster from some blasts. Look it up -- you can see Foster's legs running off panel!

Doug: To close out the year, Barry Allen wed Iris West in November's
Flash #165. He almost didn't pull it off, as Professor Zoom had imprisoned our hero -- it all worked out, and the wedding came off with Iris still not knowing Barry was the Flash. Lastly, in December Plastic Man #1 featured the DC debut of the former Quality Comics superstar. Interestingly, Plas had a try-out in House of Mystery #160 in the "Dial 'H'..." feature.

Karen: I've never gotten Plastic Man, or any of the stretchy heroes. My uncle had a few issues of Dial H for Hero which I read as a youngster and I really enjoyed the concept. What kid wouldn't like to have a magic dial that turns you into a super-hero?

Doug: And wrapping it up from Marvel, the Super-Adaptoid first menaced Cap in Tales of Suspense #82, while the Rhino crashed onto the scene in ASM #41. However, it was the very next issue of Spidey's mag that featured one of the most important character introductions when Mary Jane Watson was first shown. Of course, she'd appeared partially obstructed in previous issues, but John Romita gave us a last panel worthy of almost any surprise super-villain's last panel appearance (OK, not Galactus earlier this year). In FF Annual #4, Johnny Storm fought the Original Human Torch in a story involving the Mad Thinker. The Living Laser first fought the Avengers in Avengers #34 (see above), and Spidey tried to join that same team in ASM Annual #3.

Karen: That shot of Mary Jane has got to be one of the most famous comics shots ever. John Romita still strikes me as the best Silver Age cheesecake artist -his women are just gorgeous.


William Preston said...

Lightning Lad has a metal arm? I don't recall that from when I read the comic . . .


dbutler16 said...

Yeah, I remember that Lightning Lad had a metal arm for a while after it go eaten by a space whale, and he wanted revenge against the "Moby Dick of Outer Space!".
I need to pick up Essential Fantastic Four!
Yes, this year seems more even between Marvel and DC (especially with the introduction of Jim Shooter) but I'd still give the edge to the House of Ideas. Still, I have a fond childhood memory of being sick and my father bringing me home some comics (something he rarely did) including and issue of Adventure Comics with Dial H for Hero and yes, as a kid I thought it was great that I could dial myself into a superhero!

Aaron said...

Dial H for Hero rules!

In general I think 1966 was perhaps the greatest year in pop culture history.

david_b said...


I'd agree with you on '66. It was to me the pinnacle of '60s Pop culture coolness. I loved the 'POP ART' boxes on the Marvel issues during this era.

Not much else to comment on here, folks, since I think most of it's already covered. I cite the first glimpses of the Skrull and Kree races, and FF# 51's introduction to the wonderous 'Negative Zone', June 1966.

Kirby flexes his creativity to even greater lengths! I somewhat compare that to Paul McCartney's comments about the musical advances of the just-released 'Revolver' and hoping to bring their fans along to the 'limits of Pop Music'.

Further extraordinary and surreal events in Comicdom in '67 and '68 (LOVE those Strange Tales covers and Steranko-drawn Fury stories..), but it all started HERE.

Dougie said...

One of the things that strikes me about the Legion in those days is the motif of tragedy. On the one hand, we have a gang of teenagers who enjoy new dance crazes (like the Shurg!) and use computers to assess who likes kising whom best. On the other, they go on missions where they can be mutilated or killed. It's a really potent blend of melodrama and wackiness. I think it was Gerard Jones who described the streak of masochism in Shooter's Bronze Age run as "devilish".

Edo Bosnar said...

Definitely agree with you about '66 - quite a few milestones. I suppose we could get into arguments about which is more important: the Lee/Kirby run on FF hitting what is arguably its peak, or the Batman TV show.
Just a minor quibble about Romita: he certainly drew beautiful women, but does he qualify as a "cheesecake" artist? I always that referred more to (comic book) artists who really went overboard in drawing overly well-endowed women, often in suggestive poses. To me, Romita's rendering of women, like his art in general, is always classy.

Doug said...

As long as Dougie brought it up, I'd highly recommend Gerard Jones and Will Jacobs The Comic Book Heroes. Here's a link to Amazon's solicitation -- this is a different cover than I have, but then I've had this book for over 20 years (I think).


Inkstained Wretch said...

Those Marvel Super Hero episodes are really fascinating. On the one hand they are as primitive as animation gets. Heck, to even call them animated is kind of a stretch. It's basically just scans of the original comic panels with voice-overs.

And yet it preserves the original stories in a way that is really unique. Most animated shows dumb-down or otherwise alter the original conceptions (Hi, FF's Herbie the Robot) for reasons that make little sense to me.

These episodes are the one time that the original stories are mostly faithfully translated and with the original art to boot!

There is a weird, old-time charm to the skimpy animation too. It's almost like watching a silent movie.

The episodes did come out on VHS in the 1980s. I remember my local video store had them at the time. I am guessing that Marvel isn't releasing them because they find them kind of embarassing compared with today's animation. Pity. These are actually a lot of fun.

Doug said...

RE: Marvel Super-Heroes

There are companies on the web that sell bootleg copies of the entire series. I've stayed away from them due to concerns about quality (well, and I guess moral considerations, if I could be so high and mighty) -- it's my fear that I'd lay out some hard-earned pence and get back swipes from the YouTube "broadcasts". And yes, Inkstained, I'd welcome a restored collection of these on DVD.


Inkstained Wretch said...

They didn't look like bootlegs to me, but then again what did I know at that age ...

The Wikipedia entry confirms they were released back then and indicates it was FOX but doesn't really clarify things.

Doug said...


I'm sorry -- I wasn't clear in my previous comment. I am referring to DVD versions of the series, which as you've said has never been officially issued. I've seen the VHS versions you mentioned in video stores -- I'm not disputing the validity of those. I meant to point the finger at those companies selling unauthorized DVD copies of the series.

Here's an example, and I'm not endorsing this in any way by providing the link; it looks "official", but it's not. Hence, my reservations about quality.

Sorry for the confusion,


david_b said...


Quite agree on your enjoyment of the '66 MSH series.. If you didn't mention it, I would have ignored what got me collecting all things Marvel in the first place. I succinctly remember being mesmerized in front of the TV watching the Captain America episodes.

There was a guy on one of my Yahoo Forums selling 2-disk DVD sets of the entire series for each of the heroes separately years ago for like $15 each. All had beautiful covers and menuing, and I still enjoy them immensely today.

Like the rest, I'm hoping on an official release someday, because they were perfect in capturing the essence of the old tales, with perfectly done cliff-hangers.

My very young nephew loves watching them more than today's cartoons, especially for the animation style. I actually like them over the 60s Spiderman and FF cartoon series (I have them all too..).

The video quality is only so-so, but hey, all I had was fuzzy B&W back in the day, so this is STILL a dream come true. Who needs Blu-Ray..??

david_b said...


Yep, we seemed to post at the same time. Sorry 'bout that.

Yeah, I'm not typically into endorsing bootlegs of current artists. But without VCRs anymore, and easily accessible youtube access to these (and software to download youtube onto my iPod), I'm still loving these sets.

When they're released officially, I will gladly pluck down my $$ to purchase, and dispose of these privately-owned copies I've enjoyed so much for revisiting my childhood joys.

Great points!

J.A. Morris said...

The 'Marvel Superheroes' series will be streaming on Netflix later this Summer. I prefer dvds, but this is better than not having them at all. They should look better than the clips on youtube. More info here:

The Super-Adaptoid story in 'Tales of Suspense' has long been a favorite of mine. #84 has one of my favorite Kirby covers, and the Adaptoid was one of my favorite villains:

Doug said...

Guys --

I don't want to seem to come off "holier than thou" -- I've got plenty of bootlegs in my skeleton-closet. My main point is quality, and worrying about being "taken" by a seller whose reputation I don't know anything about.

I do recall, J.A., hearing about those cartoons coming to Netflix. Perhaps it was you who mentioned it earlier around here!

Thanks, all -- good conversation as always!


starfoxxx said...

Is that Lightning Lad with the blue(?) and orange(pants) costume on that Adventure cover? I like the boots with the white trim. Whoever it is, cool costume.

Doug said...

Starfoxxx, that is indeed Lightning Lad. Personally, I always wondered what was up with those shorts...


William Preston said...

Shadow Lass was wondering the same thing . . .

William Preston said...

Oh, also: Both Ditko and Lee deny that Ditko's departure had anything to do with Gobby's identity. Hardly seems like a thing they'd bother denying if it were true.

Redartz said...

What a year in comics, music, television, etc...!

Edo- You're quite right about John Romita Sr. and his artwork. His characters always seemed mature, polished; as you said, classy. Not to mention, he always could draw that strange Osborn hairsyle well...

Karen said...

OK, cheesecake is not the best way to describe Romita's women. I guess I was just being lazy. They're all very beautiful and sleek -like everything else he drew!


Steve Pick said...

In 1966, I was 7 years old (until November), and my comic book obsession was born. I got Batman 181 (first Poison Ivy), Justice League 45, Metal Men 20, and World's Finest 158 in a 4-pack thing that DC was selling at the time. I didn't move on to Marvel until later that year, with Avengers 34 being my ticket into that world. I talked my dad into buying it for me by lying and telling him it was like the TV show he liked at the time.

As for the Batman TV show being more popular on Thursday than Wednesday - well, my brothers and I stayed loyal to Lost in Space on Wednesday. We never saw the first half of those Batman shows until a few years later when they were on in syndicated reruns.

Anonymous said...

Lightning Lad's arm was restored in Adventure Comics #351. At the same time, Bouncing Boy got fat and regained his bouncing power and Matter Eater Lad got thin again. Yeah, that was one weird issue.

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