Saturday, August 1, 2015

Would You Rather...? Fill-ins

Doug: So I lied. I think in our inaugural post last Tuesday, I made a comment that we'd be doing this again next week. And we will... But darned if I didn't get into a lengthy exchange on Twitter last night that was just too good not to bring over here for further discussion.

If you follow us on Twitter (@bronzeagebabies), you know I regularly tweet not only publicity for the day's post but also art samples from the classic art teams we often discuss. Well, in readying a Spinner Rack post for upcoming publication I came across the comic you see pictured below. I thought it would make for a fun tweet, so I copy/pasted the cover into a tweet that said, "Raise your hand if your enjoyment of the "Serpent Crown" series was crushed by this 2-parter of Dreaded Deadline Doom". One of our regular readers, Horace Austin, replied shortly with the tweet, "Raises hand". And off we went, into a conversation among five comics fans. As those things do, we twisted and turned through several topics. But the gem of the conversation was a link provided by @CubReporterK (K31th Callbeck) that jumped us over to the message boards hosted by Tales of's Marvel Masterworks Resource Page (linked at the top of this page). I'd encourage you at some point this weekend to check out that thread, because it's a lot of fun.

But, you recall that you have obligations here, right? Of course you do. Here's our discussion prompt --

Would you rather have waited for a delayed comic, or been given a fill-in issue?


Rip Jagger said...

I am definitely in the camp of those who would gladly welcome a fill-in in place of a reprint to stave the "Dreaded Deadline Doom". That those kinds of things came all too frequently during the Bronze Age of Mighty Marvel is one of the many reasons I tend to cut Jim Shooter a lot of slack (maybe too much really) when talk drifts his way and his handling of the talent back in the day. Shooter worked diligently and filed away fill-ins for the comics so that the lackluster feeling a fan got when buying a "new" comic and discovering old material, sometimes with a clever frame perhaps, but a reprint all the same. I always rather imagined that to be a low level fraud which became all too commonplace and spoke of an industry which didn't really behave professionally.

Sadly in the modern day with the direct sales market the fill-in has been replaced with the delay (or "re-solicitation" as it is euphemistically labeled). Some comics are delayed for months, some unbelievably for years. I'm currently annoyed with Dynamite over the King Features event which is still three issues from completion several months after it should all have been completed. As it's set up it's not really possible to read it through as intended until they get them all published so it sits in a box awaiting the final issues whenever they should appear. I will not get anymore Dynamite comics like this again...ever.

Rip Off

Dr. Oyola said...

Currently or back in the Bronze Age?

In the Bronze Age I want the fill-in. I got most of my comics at candy stores and newsstands where you could not rely on regular distribution and a suddenly "missing" issue could mean you might not see another of that title for quite some time. The fill-in was necessary to keep it on the radar of readers and those filling out the order for new comics.

In the contemporary moment I'd rather wait since I have a pull list and am guaranteed to get the next issue whenever it might come out. For example last issue of the last Hawkeye series (great stuff, I think Karen would really like it) just came out a couple of weeks ago. The previous issue? Came out in February. I would not have wanted 4 fill-in issues before the dramatic conclusion.

Martinex1 said...

I prefer fill ins. This is how I rank my preference.

1) Issues on time with no gaps in story. Obviously.
2) Fill ins with new story.
3) Reprints
4) Gaps with no issues at all.

If the story has to get interrupted because of a delay, I prefer some new material. Avengers 169 fell right into the middle of the Korvac story but I still have a fondness for that issue. Captain America 216 fooled me; as a kid I thought it was going to be an epic battle between Cap and Johnny Storm with a great Gil Kane cover and "The Human Torch" even added to the masthead. It was however a reprint. Still enjoyed it though. The worst was going into the store just wondering and wondering when a new issue would arrive.

Wasn't it a great feeling when the opposite occurred and you were hoping to pick up a new issue and not only was it there but also the Annual came out that same week!

Redartz said...

Martinex1- totally agree with your ranking. A fill in beat a reprint, which beat a no-show.
Avengers 150 comes to mind: I was disappointed that the new line-up story was interrupted, but appreciated the effort made to incorporate the reprint with some new material...

Horace said...

In Fantastic Four #179, Reed Richards is stranded by himself in the Negative Zone. He's without his stretching power. At the end of the book, Richards is stunned by the sudden appearance of Annihilus. Great semi-splash page by Ron Wilson and Joe Sinnott capturing the drama. Great cliff hanger. Next issue? A reprint of FF #101. Smack dab in the middle of the Brute saga. That was quite a let down as a young reader.

The explanation for the reprint was that "The old triple-D caught Roy the Boy unawares this month...." Whatever that means. Also, the Kirby cover for the reprint was a cheat. It had nothing to do with the story.

Edo Bosnar said...

I think the triple-D means "dreaded deadline doom."
Anyway, I prefer fill-ins over reprints or gaps, and I also totally agree with the rankings by Martinex.
It's also worth noting that sometimes the fill-ins weren't bad; an example that immediately comes to mind is Amazing Spider-man #187, featuring a nice done-in-one by Wolfman & Starlin and guest-starring Captain America.

Horace said...

ASM #187 is awesome.

But, I never saw it as a fill in or inventory story. Wolfman had been on the title since ish #182.

Dr. Oyola said...

Getting caught unawares by the Triple-D sounds like something featured on a less "family friendly" website. ;)

Edo Bosnar said...

Horace, yes, Wolfman was the regular series writer at the time, but the story just seems so out of place in the context of the surrounding issues (to say nothing of the art by Starlin & McLeod). It was more like an issue of Marvel Team-up.
Just thought of another one (and kicking myself for not thinking of it earlier, since I actually reviewed it here): Star Wars #38, one of my favorite fill-ins ever.

Edo Bosnar said...

You just had to go there, didn't you, Osvaldo? :P

Anonymous said...

Well, either way kinda interrupts the flow of the storyline, but I used to hate fill-ins that had nothing to do with the surrounding story, so I probably wouldn't have minded a reprint (especially if it gave background/context for the ongoing story).

Mike W.

Humanbelly said...

I think Avengers #136, which cover & all was almost entirely a reprint of Amazing Adventures #12, is a SOLID argument for why even substandard filler is preferable over a reprint. It was beyond infuriating.


Anonymous said...

Hated fill-ins! I have posted before that I randomly made it into a town where comics even were available, so I had no concept of when an issue would be "on time". When I did manage to collect a series and there was a filler issue it was beyond frustrating, and when I'd re-read the series I'd always leave out the issue in question. Since I've frequented comic shops, and comics are far more expensive, I'll make sure that an issue is not a fill-in before purchasing. (And even solicits lie about creative teams!)

Doug said...

There may not be a better (worse?) example of the fill-in than the issue that began this whole discussion. I told another Twitter follower that the only thing that saved me from my disappointment when I opened Avengers #145 on Christmas morning, 1975 (I was 9), was that laying right next to it under the tree was a copy of Son of Origins of Marvel Comics.

I also cannot express my excitement a few months later, when upon opening Avengers #147 I noticed that the Serpent Crown/Wild West/Squadron Supreme storylines were finally being continued. Yay!!!

If you went to the link I provided in the body of today's post, you may have read an interesting tidbit about Marvel scheduling fill-ins as a regular "monthly". That way they always had stock material should the Dreaded Deadline Doom strike.

Question #1: Did DC go through this as much as Marvel? I would guess "no".

Question #2: Were you disappointed when issues of Giant-Size Whatever were completely reprints? I'm not going to argue at all the merits of Avengers Annual #1, Daredevil Annual #1, or the Thomas/Adams X-Men. But when those stories made their way into their titles' respective Giant-Size issues that quarter I'd lie if I didn't say I was a bit disappointed.


The Prowler said...

I didn't know, I honestly didn't know. I bought the issue because it was the new Avenger. Once you got home and read the letters page, you knew it was a fill-in because of deadline issues. A more informed me would/could have bought another Marvel title but which ones would have been one and dones? Marvel Two In One, in hindsight, would have filled the bill. Marvel Premiere or Presents? Spotlight? Just imagine this scenario: Buy and non-Marvel Title!?! I know! Right?

Weirdness all around.........I was so lame! LOL.

(I think I'm goin' to Katmandu,
That's really really where I'm going to
If I ever get out of here
That's what I'm gonna do

Kkkkkk, Katmandu
I think it's really where I'm going to
If I ever get out of here
I'm goin to Katmandu)

PS: I got the new Windows 10 update and I CAN'T FIND ANYTHING!!!! And everything is APPS now. I know! Right?

pfgavigan said...


Be it a fill in or a reprint it stayed on the rack unless I wanted it. Having an complete run of a comic was never all that important to me.

I would like to add that there was one time that I was delighted to see a reprint instead of a new story. Right after Kirby left Captain America after his solo stint on the book Marvel ran the Human Torch vs. The Tumbler disguised as Captain America story, the one that Shooter uses in his 'how to' lecture on story telling. Since this issue wound up in the Remainders box it became a very cheap means of getting a very good learning aid.

As to the DC side of reprints, I think the talent there tended to be a bit older at this time and, perhaps, a bit more professional when it came to meeting deadlines. Those who lived through the Great Depression knew the value of keeping a job.

As to Giant-Sized books that were almost entirely reprints, these were mostly disappointments to me. Although the Defenders book that had original material framing the reprints in such a way as to tell a story was a delight.


Graham said...

I can remember wondering what the heck was going on when I saw Avengers 145 was not the continuation of the Serpent Crown saga, but I had just started reading Marvel and didn't realize what was going on. Later on, the same thing happened with multiple issues of the Invaders, but those were Golden Age reprints, so I thought that was cool. As pfgavigan pointed out, this rarely happened with DC, and most of my early reading was DC. Since I was catching up with Marvel when I started, I didn't mind the reprints so much, but the new stores plugged in the middle of multi-parters was a big frustrating.

Humanbelly said...

And oddly enough, pfg, that was GSDefenders#1.
(Oh my golly, and was that Jim Starlin drawing that framing sequence? His rendering of Clea and Val in those pages still remain strongly etched in the adolescent memory-bank of mine labeled "Holy Hoppin' Hormones!")

But when the Giant Size quarterlies went, at their brief end, over to all-reprint they really weren't setting a new precedent, 'cause wasn't that largely the case a few years prior with several Marvel Special Editions and King-Size Editions? Some format, just a different name.

Hey, does anyone know if any of the GS books went any higher than #6? I don't have a single one, myself.


The Prowler said...

HB, the Giant Size line as gleaned from Mike's Amazing Newsstand (that guy/site is awesome)!

It's gonna be long cause I'm transferring it from a sticky note (and yes, Dr O, we're all gonna giggle at Giant Size Man-Thing!!!)

GS Super Stars 1 5/74
GS Chillers 1
GS Super Heroes 1 6/74
GS Creature 1
GS Defenders 1
GS Spider-Man 1 7/74
GS Avengers 1
GS Man-Thing 1 8/74
GS Conan
GS Dracula 2
GS MOKF 1 9/74
GS Defenders 2
GS Spider-Man 2
GS Werewolf 2 10/74
GS Avengers 2
GS Man Thing 2 11/74
GS Conan
GS Dracula
GS MOKF 2 12/74
GS Defenders 3
GS Kid Colt 1
GS Spider-Man 3
GS Werewolf 3 1/75
GS Avengers 3
GS Chillers 1
GS Man-Thing 3 2/75
GS Dracula 4
GS SVTU 1 3/75
GS Defenders 4
GS Kid Colt 2
GS Spider-Man 4
GS Werewolf 4 4/75
GS Chillers 2
GS Man-Thing 4
GS X-Men 1 5/75
GS Avengers 4
GS Conan 4
GS Dracula 4
GS Invaders 1
GS SVTU 2 6/75
GS Defenders 5
GS Kid Colt 3
GS Spider-Man 5
GS Werewolf 5 7/75
GS Chillers 3
GS Doc Savage 1
GS Man-Thing 5 8/75
GS Thor 1 9/75
GS Daredevil 1
GS Hulk 1
GS Iron Man 1
GS Power Man 1
GS Spider-Man 6 10/75
GS Conan 5
GS Dr Strange 1
GS X-Men 2 11/75
GS Avengers 5
GS Cap America 1
GS Cap Marvel 1 12/75

A few notes....GS Super Heroes became GS Fantastic Four, GS Chillers became Dracula and then reemerged as Chillers.

pfgavigan said...


Hey Humanbelly, you're quite right, that was Jim Starlin on pencils very ably assisted by, I believe, Al Milgrom on inks. Milgrom's abilities as a penciller aside, as an inker at this stage in his career he was definitely a power to be considered.

It's been reported that the main purpose of the Giant Size line was to provide some very needed extra work for the Marvel staffers and I can easily believe that. The was something perfunctory about the books, with the exception of Steve Gerber's works, that made them seem somehow divorced from the universe that they allegedly were part of.


Redartz said...

Wow, that's quite a list of Giants, Prowl!

I got a big kick out of the Giant-Size issues, collecting many of them off the stands (they did seem to have a lot of physical flaws: off-center, weird spine shapes, but fun nonetheless). It was a disappointment when they went all-reprint towards the end of their publishing run in later 1975. At the time, I figured they were just using the last Giants as 'holdovers' of a sort, until the return of the new Annuals several months later in Spring 1976 (that brought excitement anew to this teenager)...

Ewan said...

Edo, Star Wars 38 is a great call-out...I remember as a kid I was filled beyond excitement for the Empire Strikes Back adaptation to start that month, and can remember the day I saw the #38 on the rack and was in utter disbelief at what I saw on the cover. Bought it anyway, and it definitely was a good fill-in, think I'll re-read that one today.

Ward Hill Terry said...

There were some re-prints for which I was grateful. I read Avengers #136 before I knew anything about the Beast. It was easier for me to follow the stories with his tryout for the Avengers. Likewise, I read Avengers #150 early on in my collecting career, and got the background on the significance of the first big line-up change. A great re-print issue was Superboy and The Legion of Super-Heroes #238. No ads, a new wraparound cover by Jim Starlin, and a classic Jim Shooter/Curt Swan story. My first time reading one. That is still one of my favorite Legion stories. There are a lot of potential future topics in this post! 1. Marvel's attempt to flood the market in the mid-seventies. This might have eaten up a lot of inventory and started the chain reaction of lateness. 2. Editorial policy at Marvel. DC had editors who were editors; Schwartz, Bolitnoff, Kanigher. Marvel had writer/editors, and short-tenured Editors-in-Chief. Perhaps the writers were spread too thin? Were they not able to convince the artists of their authority? 3. What else was on sale? Pick some egregious fill-in issues that you bought back then, and find out what else was on the stands that you didn't buy. How could you have spent that quarter, thirty, or thirty-five cents?

pfgavigan said...


To Ward Hill Terry,

As I understand it there were several reasons behind the Marvel expansion of the early Seventies;

1.) Marvel and their parent company had been sold to the Candence Company by founder Martin Goodman. Previously the Magazine Management Company was the property of one man, now it had a corporation to support.

2.) Sales had plateaued. A lot of the new comics were trying to find the next wave to ride, such as monsters or Kung-Fu.

3.) There were more writers and artists that needed work, page rates had stagnated and the number of pages fell to a low of seventeen. Some books had a twelve page original story and a five page reprint. More books, more pages, more money. Even if they were drowning the market.

4.) Inventory stories were another way to get a paycheck.

5.) Lying your butt off to John Verpoorten was another.

6.) Being a writer-editor meant another four hundred dollars a month. It also meant that if you were editing your own work, and the editor-in-chiefs after Lee were either overwhelmed with the amount of material or simply not up to the task, you could get away with putting less than your best in the marketplace.

As I've said in the past, this is as I understand the situation. This may not be an accurate summation of the events, but it is my best understanding of them.



Humanbelly said...


I would NOT want to be the artist/writer who at some point HAD to be standing in front of the Behemoth Verpoorten after he discovered he'd been lied to-! Ohhhh, the heartfelt regret---

Prowl, PFG, thanks for the informative and very interesting responses, btw-- you guys're aces!
(OMG, what a lot of Giant-Size comics. And it looks like 6 was the absolute highest-- so it really was a less-than-two-year phenomenon, wasn't it? GSHulk #1, btw, was a dandy reprint of Hulk Annual #1, featuring the Inhumans. Not nearly as great a cover, tho.)


pfgavigan said...


Humanbelly, I don't know if anyone got caught by Verpoorten, but several, including someone who should have known much better tried to pull it on Shooter.

By the way, does anybody else think that Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios is Jim Shooter's spiritual heir?


BK said...

Funny that Horace has a bad memory of FF 180. It has one of my fave Kirby Marvel covers of the 70s and at the time was one of the first older FF stories by Kirby I ever encountered. It was a White Elephant issue and why I got it in a trade.

Howard the Duck #16 is a classic and, while not quite a fill-in, certainly a different format from previous issues.

Let's hear it for Deadline Doom!

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