Sunday, October 23, 2011

King-Size Special! Marvel Collector's Item #3!

Marvel Snapshot: 1975
by Matthew R. Bradley

Steve Englehart continued to shine among Marvel’s writing staff in 1975, with a solid year each on The Avengers, which cross-cut between its monthly regular and quarterly giant-size formats, and the alternating bimonthlies Captain Marvel and Dr. Strange. After probing the Vision’s true origin, the Assemblers welcomed Moondragon and ex-X-Man the Beast, while Mar-Vell and Doc encountered the Watcher and Dormammu, respectively. In June, Englehart ended his long run on Captain America, collaborating on #186 with John Warner, who joined Tony Isabella, Bill Mantlo, and Marv Wolfman in the revolving door through the end of the year, with Sal Buscema and the Red Skull providing much-needed continuity.

Gerry Conway was once again another mainstay, albeit one who appears to have begun a year-long hiatus in the fall, leaving Marvel Team-Up in the more than capable hands of Mantlo and Buscema. Conway was succeeded by Len Wein in his long runs on both Amazing Spider-Man, following a fill-in by Archie Goodwin on #150, and Thor, after some pinch-hitting by Roy Thomas and Mantlo. In between return engagements by Mysterio, the Scorpion, and the Tarantula—lovingly rendered, I believe, by Ross Andru—Spidey faced clones of himself and lost love Gwen Stacy; meanwhile, the Thunder God tangled with Loki, the Absorbing Man, and Ulik, among others, and met the pantheon of Ancient Egypt.

Following Wein’s swan song on The Defenders in #19 (with Chris Claremont), Steve Gerber began his long and memorable tenure, highlighted by the Headmen and the Guardians of the Galaxy, and broken only by a Mantlo fill-in on #30. Taken off his plate in July was Marvel Two-in-One, but not before a Defenders cross-over, after which Claremont and Thomas assisted in the transition to Mantlo as its more or less regular scripter. And, according to my incomplete records, Gerber wrote at least some of that year’s Son of Satan stories in Marvel Spotlight, ending with a Claremont entry in #24 and giving way in December to a solo book written by Warner; significantly, Buscema’s work was represented on all three strips.

Gerber stayed with Daredevil just long enough to collaborate with Claremont on #117 before a fill-in by Conway and a five-issue run by Isabella, after which Wolfman settled in as the regular scripter. A similar stability descended on Fantastic Four when, following three issues written or co-written by Wein, Thomas hunkered down for a two-year stint, much of it in collaboration with Rich Buckler. With Bob Brown on pencils, as I recall, DD battled Hydra beside longtime co-star the Black Widow, then went it alone against the Copperhead and the Torpedo, while the FF were embroiled in complex storylines involving the Silver Surfer, Dr. Doom, the Inhumans, Arkon, various other dimensions, and the Crusader ( Marvel Boy).

Early in his long run on Incredible Hulk, the seemingly omnipresent Wein stayed the course throughout 1975 (illustrated mostly by Herb Trimpe), as did Isabella on the bimonthly Ghost Rider, featuring a Hulk two-parter. In August, however, Isabella was replaced by Claremont on the Iron Fist strip that moved in November from Marvel Premiere—which, like Spotlight, thereafter eschewed continuing characters—to its own short-lived book, acquiring artist John Byrne along the way. Once again, Mike Friedrich and Don McGregor hung in there all year on, respectively, Iron Man (excepting a Mantlo fill-in on #78), where the War of the Super-Villains was in full swing, and the bimonthly Black Panther strip in Jungle Action.

Launched that year were the revamped X-Men, created by Wein but taken over by Claremont in one of the longest unbroken runs of the post-Stan Lee era; several new titles similarly morphed from giant-size to standard format. These included two BOF favorites from Thomas: The Invaders (WW II exploits of Captain America, the original Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner) and Super-Villain Team-Up, pairing the modern-day Namor with Dr. Doom, on which Thomas was soon supplanted by Isabella and Jim Shooter. In October, The Inhumans got their own book, scripted by Doug Moench, and The Champions—ex-X-men Angel and Iceman, former Avenger Hercules, the Black Widow, and Ghost Rider—were created by Isabella.

Fighting the good fight, Moench, Mantlo, and Buckler kept the ill-starred Deathlok strip (and character) on life-support into the beginning of 1976 in Astonishing Tales. And, moving from strength to strength, writer-artist Jim Starlin followed his classic Captain Marvel epic by launching the second Thanos War, chronicled in the Warlock strip that moved in October from Strange Tales to Warlock’s own book, briefly revived with #9. Ironically, I came late to the Warlock party, and only read those issues (in which Warlock allied himself with Thanos against his demented future self, the Magus) in high-quality special editions in the early ’80s, which will bring us to a somewhat embarrassing story in our next installment.

Matthew R. Bradley is the author of Richard Matheson on Screen , now in its third printing, and the co-editor—with Stanley Wiater and Paul Stuve—of The Richard Matheson Companion (Gauntlet, 2008), revised and updated as The Twilight and Other Zones: The Dark Worlds of Richard Matheson (Citadel, 2009).  Check out his blog, Bradley on Film


  1. WOW! Now I know what my favorite Marvel year was. I turned 12 in 1975 and I guess that was the prime age for loving these comics. One series after another was at the top of its form. The only thing I never liked was the Frank Robbins art on The Invaders--he always drew series I loved (Red Sonja, too) but his art just seemed awful!

  2. I've read several writers (and fans) rave about Robbins' work. I always hated it, even as a kid. His art on Captain America just before Kirby came back in 76 killed that strip for me and, yep, don't get me started on The Invaders. I loved loved loved the concept and hated the art.

  3. Wow indeed--reading these comments is like listening to myself talk! Jack, you certainly set me off on a fun tangent over at Bradley on Film. Hope you'll check it out.

  4. Actually the Joker started as a homicidal maniac, became a clown, then a homicidal maniac again.. not sure there was much "evolution" involved there either, he just switched back and forth.

  5. how cool i used to have that Marvel Spotlight issue with The Son of Satan and Satana.