Colin: Welcome to a guest review of the second annual Marvel-Con ’76 Program!
This in-house Marvel convention was held at the Hotel Commodore between April 23 and 25. At the time I was a five year-old Londoner so picked up my program copy a little late at a London convention back in 2002 or so.
The program itself is fascinating, being 48 pages in length - and card covers aside - printed wholly in black and white. The contributing artists are listed as Neal Adams, John Buscema, Tony DeZuniga, Frank Giacoia, Al Milgrom and Mike Nasser.
Intriguingly the program is not published by Marvel comics but rather by Vince Colletta directly. I would be interested to know how and why that publishing deal came about, it seems quite unusual.
The contents page can be seen below, including a nice variety of blue-chip Bronze Age themes and material, from Conan to martial arts to the bicentennial focus on Cap. Beyond this, Marvel are clearly using the program to appeal to both fan and trade markets as this review will make clear.
Enough with the preamble let’s look at the features of particular interest, starting with those aimed at the trade market. I am curious about this emphasis because with no direct market in ’76 who was Marvel talking at precisely?
Statement of Market Share
So, the Curtis Circulation figures show that in 1975 Marvel sold 41.9% of comics in the market, and by 1976 this went up to 45.6%. The latter figure is nearly double the DC share of 23.4%. Surprisingly, at least to me, Archie had 13.8%, Harvey 10.5% and Gold Key 6.7%.
Marvel liked this data so much that they triumphantly repeat it elsewhere in the program with Cap declaring that ‘we’re number one!’
Marvel Comic Advertising Rates
This is a lot of fun – for $182.00 you could purchase one-half inch in the entire Marvel Comics group (“11,000,000 ABC circulation”). All you needed to is submit a “camera-ready” ad. The page gives copy deadlines and closes with – ‘think of the incredible return on your investment.’ Indeed.
The program includes adverts for the Aaron Banks New York Karate Academy (I believe they laid on a demo at the Con), John Buscema’s Art School, Ivy Film 16 (film distributor) and both large/small ads for then-current Marvel comic titles.
Reprint of the first Cap story – Case No.1 Meet Captain America (1941)
Clearly reprinted to tie into the bicentennial, this black and white reprint is a somewhat tough read due to the demands of the small A5 format shrinking the original 40s art. But it must have seemed cool to an audience starved of GA reprints.
Spidey at the Marvel Comics Convention ’76
This is a two-page curio, in which Spidey attempts to sneak into the convention (for reasons unknown) only to be scared off by ‘too many spirited fans’. Odd. Art by Thomas Sciacca and Frank Giacoia, Letters by ‘P.C.C’er’. I’m guessing the writer and letterer didn’t care enough to be identified with the strip.
Jack Kirby – The Man Who Is King
Written by Thomas Sciacca, this two-page article coincides with Kirby’s return to Marvel and must have been an attempt to connect Kirby with all the super-young fans at the convention. Not at all interested in raking up old controversies, I’m still struck by the claim that:
‘there was a time that only Stan, Jack, Sol Brodsky and the late Art Simek were Marvel comics, with Jack drawing almost every feature, occasionally helped by Sol and Larry Lieber.’
Why wasn’t Ditko on that list?
Saving America in 15 Chapters
This is a review of the 1944 Captain America serial and accompanies a showing at the convention. Interesting personally because I previously didn’t even know the serial existed, and more generally because this is no whitewash piece. The writer (‘James Glen’) pretty much dismantles the series for contemporary fans, criticising in particular the way the series deviated from its comic book origins. A familiar lament until the modern Marvel Studios. An aside – the series can be found in its entirety on YouTube.
A photo-heavy piece about a 1974 16mm student film based on Spidey that was also shown at the convention. The article includes several stills but little other useful info.
After a bit of digging I discovered the film was called ‘Spider-Man Versus Kraven The Hunter’,based on Amazing #15 and was apparently pretty well-made. However, the film has apparently never been seen online because the producer, Bruce Cardozo, refuses to release it. So if you were at the ’76 Convention you remain in select company…
For reasons of space, the following pieces aren’t reviewed here:
Introduction to Kung Fu (written by Thomas Sciacca)
Captain America: Great Symbol of America (written by Jim Burns)
Conan the Barbarian: A Profile (a Buscema art page)
A Day with Stan Lee (not as interesting as it sounds)
Roy Thomas Profile (ditto)
Comic Collecting Article (written by Dominick Corrado)
Autograph Page (sadly, in my copy this page is empty)
Photos from the convention are surprisingly difficult to find but a good selection can be seen here
While some of the content in this ‘76 program is slight, taken as a whole it is a fine emblem of the High Bronze Age. I’m gripped by the themes, the creators, the picture of fandom and most of all how Marvel sought to portray itself, on the cusp between the super-creative, but sometimes chaotic early 70s and the gradual transition to Jim Shooter and a more corporate approach as the 70s became the 80s.
Were any Bronze Age Babies at this convention or own this program - or indeed, know anything about the first, 1975 Con?
And can any good people here add to our knowledge of its occasionally obscure content?