Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Marvel and DC: Side-by-Side in 1967


1967

Doug: Only three more entries in our second tour through Side-by-Side land, folks. This would be a big year for DC creatively, and we'll see if some new key hires would help them continue to hold off the Marvel juggernaut. As we've gone through, I think the running opinion has been that Marvel's arrival on the scene was just an explosion; then again, when starting from nothing, that freedom to fail can be quite an elixir. Here's an assignment for you, as we finish this: See what elements occur that change/support your previous position on when the Silver Age ended Linkand the Bronze Age began. Frequent commenter and fellow Bronze Age blogger Terence Stewart is running a series of posts in this vein and you can read his POV here. In the 12 months that encompass this post, the first Super Bowl was played, with the Green Bay Packers downing the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs. Israel defeated her Arab neighbors in the 6-Day War. The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Rolling Stone magazine began publication. Toward the end of the year Thurgood Marshall became the first Black justice on the Supreme Court, and revolutionary Che Guevara was executed in Bolivia. In South Africa, the first heart transplant was performed. In December, The Graduate hit theaters; other films of the year included Bonnie and Clyde (a personal fave of mine), Disney's The Jungle Book, and the Bond flick You Only Live Twice. Widely, it was the "Summer of Love".

Doug: Huge introduction to get things rolling -- the Silver Age Batgirl debuted in Detective Comics #359, cover-dated January. This issue came out nine months before her television first appearance. Editor Julius Schwartz claims that the TV execs wanted a character that would appeal to a female audience, and this is what Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino came up with. Although the TV Batgirl lasted only one season, Barbara Gordon and the Silver Age Batgirl continue in their popularity to the present. Another key introduction happened within Adventure Comics #352, when the Legion sought additional aid against the malevolent Sun-Eater. Emptying the prisons of some of the most powerful do-badders of the 30th Century, the Legion unwittingly created a monster when the five super-villains chose to remain together as the Fatal Five. Their origin was written by Jim Shooter and penciled by Curt Swan.

Karen: A few years ago at a convention, I got a fairly nice copy of Detective #359. Although I don't have many DC Silver Age comics, that one was a must. I've always liked the character,as Batgirl seemed to be every bit as sharp as her peer, Robin. Plus, she has a great costume -even if she did sometimes carry a purse! The Fatal Five, I've read, were inspired by the film "The Dirty Dozen". Shooter was told to do something based on that film. He never saw the movie but got the gist of the plot simply by looking at ads for the film, and came up with his own version.

Doug: Marvel's offerings in the first quarter of 1967 were key, but in my opinion not on the scale of DC's above. Here's a short list of introductions, some certainly "more key" than others: Banshee (X-Men #28), Lady Sif (Mighty Thor #136), Mike Murdock (Daredevil #25), the Western Ghost Rider (The Ghost Rider #1), Ulik the troll (Mighty Thor #137), and the Shocker (Amazing Spider-Man #46). Of the above, Banshee would be the most significant in the Bronze Age. An interesting note, too, that both Sean Cassidy as well as Sif made their celluloid debuts this summer in block-buster films from Marvel.

Karen: That's a solid list though as you note, no real block buster characters there. I do wonder why Banshee was not Irish in the film. Seems like it wouldn't have been that hard to do.

Doug: In the Spring, Aqualad was given a love interest when Tula, aka Aquagirl, was introduced in Aquaman #33 by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy. In a nice touch for historians, the DC Comics: Year by Year book also discusses some of the Charlton characters, who licenses DC would of course go on to acquire. In June, Blue Beetle #1 was released, which was actually a two-fer, featuring Ted Kord as the Beetle with a back-up series featuring the Question. Both features were written and drawn by Steve Ditko. Marvel's spring featured the 1st appearance of major Hulk foe the Abomination in Tales to Astonish #90, by Stan Lee and Gil Kane. Blackie Drago became the Vulture in ASM #48; original Vulture Adrian Toomes was convinced he was dying in prison, so told Drago all of his secrets. We reviewed the tale when Toomes decided he wanted his wings back, which would occur in ASM #63. Baron Strucker was revealed as the leader of Hydra in Strange Tales #156, and Blastaar (Fantastic Four #62), the Growing Man (Mighty Thor #140), and the Living Tribunal (Strange Tales #157) all made their first appearances to finish out the quarter.

Karen: Already we are starting to move out of the great Marvel explosion of creativity. Not that some of these characters or stories weren't great or enduring, but I wouldn't put Blastaar or the Growing Man up there with Black Bolt or Ego, for example.

Doug: I mentioned at the top that this would be big year creatively for DC, in large part to some personnel changes. Carmine Infantino was named editorial director, and as part of a shake-up brought on board "artist-editors" Joe Kubert, Joe Orlando, and Dick Giordano to give DC a more updated look -- in no small part to compete with Marvel's Jack Kirby, John Buscema, and John Romita. Perhaps Infantino's best move was hiring Neal Adams, whose style no doubt heavily influenced the segue toward the Bronze Age. At Marvel, 1967 saw the first Bullpen Bulletins, where Stan explained how long it took to make a comic book: what was written in July would go on sale in October and actually be cover-dated for January of the following year! Marvel's popularity was only growing in this period, as Stars and Stripes did a major feature on the company and over 100 college campuses in the States adopted chapters of the Merry Marvel Marching Society; of course, Mark Evanier very famously suggested that members be able to achieve the rank of officers and submitted a list of such titles, such as K.O.F. (Keeper of the Flame). The June books for 1967 featured the first Stan's Soapbox.

Karen: I know I've heard people claim that DC had better artists than Marvel in the 60s, but I've never felt that way. I do think that getting Neal Adams was a huge move, but of course, he wound up doing a lot of work for Marvel too.

Doug: And speaking of Neal Adams, he made his DC debut with two comics cover-dated July and August. And you couldn't find two more different genres to feature his work -- neither of which you'd suspect. His nine-page back-up in Our Army at War #182 is his official debut, followed up by the first full-length story in Jerry Lewis #101! Fans of the JLA/JSA team-ups may recall another on again/off again treat in the Superman-Flash races... Superman #199, by Jim Shooter and Curt Swan was the first one. In September, The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure debuted on CBS Saturday mornings and ran through the next year.

Karen: I can't help but think of Ted Knight when you mention those cartoons. He had such a huge, over the top voice when he did the narrative work!

Doug: The Kingpin of Crime, Wilson Fisk, first menaced our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man in ASM #50 (July 1967). Predating Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather by two years, Fisk no doubt would have fit into that tale of organized crime. Stan Lee and John Romita crafted a very complex character who would later go on to have key storylines involving Daredevil. Additionally, that same issue of ASM featured the iconic "Spider-Man No More" story that was a major part of the Spider-Man 2 film As Marvel's universe continued to get more cosmic, the Sentry was introduced in FF #64, which predated Erich von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods by a year. Were Stan and Jack (and others in the Bullpen) visionaries, or what? In August the Changeling appeared in X-Men #35 and Joe Robertson was introduced in ASM #51 -- Robbie's one of my favorite Spider-Man characters! Wrapping up the summer months, Marvel's version of MAD magazine debuted when Not Brand Echh #1 went on sale. Warlock, or Him, was introduced in FF #66, and two of the funnest summer annuals hit the stands: Avengers Annual #1 was a 49-page extravaganza featuring all of the Avengers (sans the Hulk) against their major super-baddies to that point. Over in Daredevil Annual #1, Electro assembled his Emissaries of Evil.

Karen: I've always been very fond of Joe Robertson too. He brought a nice grounded aspect to counter-balance the antics of J. Jonah Jameson. Lee and Romita didn't have to make him African American; they chose to, and I am sure were making their own statement with that decision. As for the Sentry, let's be clear: this is the original, Kree Sentry we're talking about here, not that terrible character that polluted the Marvel Universe later on! Regarding Him and his origin, you can read a lot of interviews and articles which make it clear that this was another story where Lee and Kirby went in different directions, with Kirby intending one thing with his art and Lee writing a somewhat different story via his dialogue. All part of why Kirby would depart in a few years.

Doug: Oh, good lord -- it didn't even cross my mind when I typed that above that a reader might think of that doofus you refer to. Seriously, I'm not a big fan of retcons, but the Sentry as we've seen him over the past decade or so has to be one of the worst ideas in Marvel history.

Doug: Maybe Marvel's biggest news of the summer months was the release of their second and third animated programs:
Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. While neither featured animation that could be compared to today's programs, both were a step up from the Marvel Super-Heroes cartoon. Spider-Man was admittedly better in the 1968 season when Ralph Bakshi took the reins of the shows, and featured more comic book-like stories. Fantastic Four, however, was good from the outset, adapting many storylines from the comics.

Karen: And of course, Spider-Man had one of the best theme songs ever!

Doug: DC would not go quietly this year. In October, Aquaman faced his two deadliest adversaries at the same time, when Black Manta and Ocean Master attacked him in Aquaman #35. Strange Adventures #205 featured the debut of Deadman, by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino; Adams would shortly make the character his own. The Spectre received his own title with The Spectre #1, cover-dated December, by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson. These latter two magazines could have had so much more potential had they been published as the Comics Code Authority relaxed in the early 1970's. And lastly, DC hoped to capitalize on teen music lovers with a 12c comic-sized magazine called Teen Beat. The first issue (there ended up only being two) featured gossip on the Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, and The Mamas and the Papas. Those of us who grew up in the 1970's may recall a magazine called Teen Beat; this wasn't it, but the idea was the same.

Karen: I'm always amazed by the variety of titles these companies put out through the 60s and 70s. In some ways, it's sad that super-heroes have come to dominate Marvel and DC, but I guess the millions of independent comics now fill that 'variety' niche.

Doug: At the House of Ideas, October gave us the return of the Yellow Claw in Strange Tales #161 to menace Nick Fury, and the 1st appearance of MODOK in Tales of Suspense #94, who would later gain control of AIM. The Psycho Man debuted in FF Annual #5 (I love that issue) in November, and the Avengers took on Magneto in Avengers #47, cover-dated December. But the biggest intro. of the year may have been right at the end, when Captain Marvel surfaced in Marvel Super-Heroes #12, by Stan Lee and Gene Colan. The cosmic landscape was expanding once again.

Karen: It's funny to think that the primary reason for the existence of Marvel's Captain Marvel was to use that name and prevent DC from using it. When I complain about how market-driven and written by committee comics are today, it's worth recalling that this has occurred to some degree since comics began. However, Captain Mar-Vell turned out to be a very different character from the Big Red Cheese, and once Jim Starlin got a hold on him, he became Marvel's first truly cosmic hero.

14 comments:

The Groovy Agent said...

Jim Steranko also started took over the creative reins of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Strange Tales in 1967. It's because of the twin creative explosions of Steranko and Adams that I set the birth year of the Groovy Age at 1967. Your post certainly proves that 67 was a truly groovy year!! Wonderful job!

david_b said...

I'd whole-heartedly agree on the arrivals of both Steranko and Adams this year.

While I'd agree there were no HUGE new characters from Marvel ('cept Mar-vell), they really didn't need any with all the other developments still brewing from the year before. I'd say the FF and Spidey cartoons REALLY broadened and solidified the broad appeal.

And I shudder to think just how influential Ted Knights voice was, resonating through an entire generation of super-hero cartoon watchers.

dbutler16 said...

Banshee’s not Irish in the film? I still haven’t seen it, but am looking forward to it. That’s rather disappointing. Even though I’ve enjoyed the X-Men movies for the most part, they sure have butchered most of the characters.

I used to have a big crush on Batgirl from the Batman TV show. Perhaps it was my first comics related crush. I agree that with Batgirl and the Fatal Five, perhaps the Legion’s best archenemies, DC takes a strong early lead for 1967. However, Marvel did have its strong intros. I’ve always liked Blastaar. Maybe it’s his leonine appearance and his overweening arrogance. Also, Banshee would become one of my favorite X-Men in the Silver Age. He always seemed like the level headed voice of reason in that crazy group. The Kingpin is a pretty big debut, too. The Changeling seemed like such a minor character at the time, but actually played a huge role in X-Men history. Yes, Joe Robertson is great. JJJ is so obnoxious that we need a Robbie to keep Mr. Parker from being too miserable. I hate to say it, but when you mentioned the Sentry, my first thought was indeed of that awful modern character. Modok is a reasonably significant debut, as well. I like the fact that Marvel was en vogue among college students at the time. I think DC was still writing for 10 year olds at this time.

Oh, now I’ve got the Spider-Man theme song in my head!

Kevin Fermoyle said...

Love your "Side by Side" comparisons!
My personal Golden Age was 1964 to 1967, so these articles really hit home. For me, 1966-67 was the peak of the Silver Age. Besides the comics themselves, we had live action and animated TV shows, the Batman feature film, revivals of the super hero serials from the '40's and for the first time publishers began issuing paperback reprint collections. Great stuff

J.A. Morris said...

Doug wrote:
"Spider-Man was admittedly better in the 1968 season when Ralph Bakshi took the reins of the shows, and featured more comic book-like stories."
Doug, are you sure you're not confusing Seasons 1 & 2? Season 1 featured Spidey's Rogues Gallery in almost every episode, the Bakshi episodes featured megalomaniacal "original" villains like Kotep, Pardo, Radiation Specialist, etc. Here's the definitive Spider-man episode guide by Kevin McCorry:
http://kevinmccorrytv.webs.com/spidey.htm

I love the Spider-man series, even though it's corny by today's standards. To this day, when I read a Spider-man comic, I "hear" the voices from this cartoon in my head. Same goes for voices on the 1967 FF cartoon. I wish Marvel/Disney and Hanna-Barbera/Time Warner could come to an agreement and release the FF series on dvd(then I could throw out my bootleg copy!)

"Over in Daredevil Annual #1, Electro assembled his Emissaries of Evil."
Another favorite of mine,one the first back issues I ever bought. Highly recommended, it features 5 villains & 39 pages of Colan-drawn excitement. Plus, there's a humorous short in the back depicting a Lee-Colan story conference.

david_b said...

Dbutler16: Totally agreed on your points.. I always loved Blastaar's arrival, on the heels of FF at their peak with both Galactus and the 'Negative Zonek introduction.

Crushes on Batgirl..? Jeez, mine's been healthy for decades. DC really scored a homerun with her for exposure and merchandising, although the 3rd year of the show was by far its weakest.

Joe Robertson was SO essential for balance at the Bugle staff, and great kudos for his character being written so carefully, not coming off as a token or 2- dimensional. Funny you should mention the Spidey cartoon - I've been watching it during my off time all this week here while on military duty. As a guitar player, its got a great jazzy theme song to play at gigs..

Dougie said...

Doug. Doug! "Funnest"?! I've been working hard to stop my kids writing that dreadful neologism in class!
I'm glad to say I pictured the "correct" Sentry first time.
The TOS cover amuses me because Modok's such a tiny figure by comparison. He's not unlike Quasimodo the Living Computer in his debut story- a patthetic and self-destructive figure.
I'm sure Movie Banshee kisses a crucifix in one scene in First Class, so he might be considered Irish Cathoilic by inference.

Doug said...

J.A. --

Wow, you are sure right on that. I was lazy and didn't do any research, but based my statement on the fact that everyone always makes a big deal about Bakshi working on that show. My assumption was that he did the shorts with the comic book's rogues gallery, which for my money are the most entertaining of the series. Guess not...

Thanks for the correction!

Doug

Sean Strange said...

Personally I divide the timeline of the Marvel universe into B.M. and A.M. – "Before Modok" and "After Modok" – so I would have to rate 1967 as the most important year of all time for the House of Ideas.

Redartz said...

Kevin- I'm right with you on the enthusiasm for 1967; that was the year I was introduced to comics!

J.A.- It is interesting comparing the first and second seasons of Spiderman. Overall, the first season seems more satisfying (albeit with a few clunkers; "The Sinister Prime Minister"?). The show had great incidental music as well as the famous theme song. The second season appeared moodier, possibly due to Gray Morrow's visuals.

Doug said...

Dougie --

If you've read those Annuals, then you know they were indeed the funnest.

And of course my original use of the term was tongue in cheek; that being said, with my students I'd be less angry (although still perturbed, no doubt) with "funnest" than when they slide that "text lingo" into their writings. Egad, language as we knew it has ceased to exist!

Doug

Dougie said...

Oh, "I would of" and "I could of " are worse!
Anyway, I'm looking forward to the 1969 post, which was when I first became a Real Frantic One for Marvel.

vancouver mark said...

It was a wonderful year to be seven, the second half of grade one and the start of grade two.
I didn't buy any Marvels, I just looked at the covers sometimes and hesitated to even touch them, alarmed by the bombast and the visceral power of the images. It would be another five years before I would discover Marvel and the wonders of Kirby.

In 1967 I was all about Adventure Comics and the Legion, along with Aquaman and some other DCs, and was madly passionate for the Hanna-Barbera super-heroes.
Actually my maddest passions that year were for Mera and Phantom Girl...

dbutler16 said...

Oh, don't get me started on people's grammar. Anyway, I think that annuals in general are great fun. They're usually one-and-done, with lots of heroes and villains. What's not to love?

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