Ruminations on the Cusp of a Decade
By Professor Matthew R. Bradley
Note: As we slide gracefully from the swingin' sixties into the sensational seventies, we'll offer "Sunday Specials" now and then, thoughts on what the decade means (or meant) to us, notes on the fads, and some surprises still to be mapped out. Enjoy! -Professor Pete
Since joining the faculty here at Marvel University, I have echoed several colleagues in sometimes expressing impatience to get through the 1960s and into the ’70s. This by no means indicates any lack of love for those Silver-Age classics (and not-so-classics) over which we have labored these many months, rather that—being Men of a Certain Age—we have a shared frame of reference that locates our seminal Marvel experiences in the ’70s. Now, however, as paradoxical as it may seem, I am trying to dampen expectations in myself, my colleagues, and our readers for the very beginning of that magical decade.
Due to The Professor Matthew Time Paradox, I am currently working on the MU post for December ’69 as I write this, but have already drafted the following pre-emptive strike to go into my review of the January 1970 issue of The Silver Surfer: “The odometer merely ticking over into a new decade did not kick off our beloved Bronze Age, which arguably begins with Kirby’s departure [c. September]; even then, many developments this writer reveres were still more than a year away. Much of 1970 sees the continuing contraction that leaves X-Men in reprints, Captain Marvel on hiatus (twice), and this title cancelled.”
The first sign of new growth is the somewhat inexplicable second attempts at split books, Amazing Adventures and Astonishing Tales, in August 1970. My recollection/impression after many years is that the Widow, Inhumans, and Doom series were not that great (Ka-Zar is, naturally, beneath my notice, although like a pro, I will soldier through his half of those issues I do have). But love them or hate them, the fact that Marvel abandoned this revived format after only eight issues apiece in favor of more conventional try-out books (Beast! Deathlok!) means that, at least at the outset, they constituted a failed experiment.
However, when those aforementioned “developments” start kicking in at the very end of 1971, we get—in quick succession—Marvel Feature (Defenders! Ant-Man [for anyone who cares]! Marvel Two-in-One prototype!), …Team-Up (’Nuff said!), and …Premiere (Warlock! Dr. Strange! Iron Fist!). Actually, …Spotlight precedes them all, but doesn’t come onto my personal radar until the advent of Ghost Rider in #5, simultaneous with the debuts of the solo Defenders and Warlock books. Per Emeril, “BAM!” So, I’m thinking my personal Golden Age is 1972-76 (just one year behind Dean Enfantino with 1971-75).
This encompasses the wonderment wrought by Englehart, Starlin, Conway, Wein, et alia in some of the more established books, the sheer quantity and quality of new creators and creations, and—to a lesser but fun degree—the short-lived juggernaut of Giant-Size titles (morphing into Annuals Mark II). Yet I also think, despite our broad-brush adulation for “the ’70s,” that 1970-71 might be very slow going, only partly due to the aforementioned contraction. I prophesy, for example, that the decision to stop running continued stories, however temporary, is going to drag things down considerably, but only time will tell…
As for 1977 on, well, that’s another story.
Extra! Extra! Be sure to tune in on Christmas Day for Professor Matthew's dissertation on the musical chairs known as the editor's job at Marvel in the early 1970s.