Sunday, December 23, 2012

Marvel Collectors' Item Classic #13

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.


  1. A very nice intro to the new decade! And Natasha finally gets her new look!

    1. Thanks, Jack! Natasha's slinky new suit gets a preview in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #86, just one month before her solo strip begins. The funny thing is that as short-lived as that series was, her co-starring status afterwards in DAREDEVIL and THE CHAMPIONS means that she never went more than a month without a book for seven and half years...

  2. Fabulous job, Prof. Matthew! I can't wait to read your next thesis. Oh wait! I have read it and it's equally great. Everyone else has to wait for Christmas Day!

    1. Thanks, Dean Enfantino. Of course, this is a mere bagatelle compared to the more scholarly piece running on Christmas. Despite how close together the posts are running, I wrote them several months apart, so I hope I haven't unwittingly repeated or contradicted myself!

  3. A few months ago, A question popped up on a message board I visit ... "When did Marvel jump the shark?"

    Apart from a couple of people who thought Marvel didn't jump the shark, the answer was usually the same. The vast majority thought the shark was jumped when they were about 15 to 16 years old.

    I turned 15 in September 1969, so my memories of Marvel in the first half of the 70s are not going to be as glowing as the other regulars on this blog. That's not to say I didn't enjoy some of the books, but in future installments of MU I'm looking forward to everyone's recollections of where they were, and how they came to read Marvel books for the first time.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

    1. I think you're right on the money with your comment, Glenn. I was 15 in 1976 and that's when the big fish done got jumped! I'm looking forward to seeing whether my memories of the 1970s (lots of very vivid, fond nostalgia swimming in my aged brain) hold up or not and whether the post-1976 Marvel is the apocalyptic landscape I suspect it to be.

    2. Well said, gentlemen. Of course, unlike the nuclear sort, this type of apocalypse (or, as I said in my Christmas post, "Shötterdämmerung") doesn't happen all at once, so it will be tough to pinpoint a specific shark-jumping moment. I just remember that when doing some research for future posts, I was looking through the covers for each month until the end of the 1970s, and noticed that it was around '77 when I started to feel little or no excitement as I looked at an increasing majority of them. We shall see.

      Anyway, Glenn, we won't expect you to agree with everything we say (nor do we ever), but we hope our enthusiasm will at least entertain you! I have always felt that the anecdotal stuff is one of the blog's greatest strengths.