To continue …I’m still exploring boxes containing some of my old comic collection. it goes back over fifty years so I’m constantly re-discovering old gems in all their first-printing glory.The first lot is a random selection.The first Astonishing Tales issue contains some fine Wally Wood artwork.The X-Men features some later Barry Winsor Smith artwork which I regard as relatively recent ,although in reality it isn’t…..and of course the Thor comic is classic Jack Kirby art effort.
Below ,these are what remains of what was once a once much larger “Daredevil “collection.When many later Johnny Romita and Gene Colan issues were traded away years ago in a periodic cull to gain some space, these few survived because they featured more favourite Wally Wood artwork from that initial run in the mid 1960s.
“Strange Tales” below , in a past guise, was a 1950s Atlas Comics mystery/horror book, before “Atlas Comics ” became “Marvel Comics” but it later became the home of the originally reborn Johnny Storm as the new Human Torch/Thing team – offshoot from the “Fantastic Four” comic ,alongside the then obscure little Steve Ditko feature “Doctor Strange”. Each story shared an equal part of the comic magazine. Later The Human Torch (the original Golden Age Torch character having been an android) and Thing feature was dropped and the comic was joined by the then modern- day Sgt Fury vehicle “Agents of SHIELD”(back in the time when when Fury was still a white man who had survived his Sgt Fury days with the World War Two Howling Commandos, which were also currently running in a 1960s comic , still fighting World War 2 ,(albeit in a parallel 1940s comics’ time -frame) ,also re-introduced Golden Agers Captain America and the Sub Mariner (…..are you still with me?!!!)Steve Ditko left Marvel , suddenly in the comics readers’ eyes ,due to a behind the scenes dispute with Stan Lee as to the direction and plotting of characters such as Spider-man and the exotic Green Goblin, himself dropping both Spider-man and Doctor Strange which were to be consequently continued by both other writers and artists. We comic -fans did not know until much later as to the real reasons for any of this.The “Agents of SHIELD” feature made a splash in the era of the super spies such as “The Man From UNCLE ” and the early James Bond films . The new secret weapon in the artistic mix here was the work of the real-life magician and artist Jim Steranko , who lifted it with his stunning , novel and very modern psychedelic/1940s -inspired graphics.He tapped into the psychedelia of the times and produced poster-like comics’ pages and concepts , with especially stunning covers which harked back to the great comics of the 1940s Golden Age , while adding in Jack Kirby dynamics. Like Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange these fresh and otherworldly visions and concepts appealed to many youthful students already immersed in the hallucinogenic visions of the Summer of Love .
Steve Ditko also had a long -term relationship with Charlton comics and the black and white magazines produced by Jim Warren such as “Eerie” , “Creepy” and “Vampirella”and when he left Marvel after his dispute over creativity, especially on the direction the Spider-man character was taking , he produced still stunning artwork on titles such as “Captain Atom” over at this, albeit less glamorous, competition.Some of his artwork, especially his watercolour black and white wash-work at Warren was exemplorary. He still obviously maintained his original artistic skills.
The then -unknown English artist Barry Smith, later of “The Studio”, began with Marvel Comics in the mid to late 1960s,starting like every other Marvel artist ,initially copying Jack Kirby’s heroic, dynamic style on some super-hero work ,but later made his own unique contribution with the re-invention of the 1930s Robert E. Howard’s ” Conan” pulp-magazine era barbarian ; he gradually managed to develop his own detailed art-style which he parlayed over some twenty issues of this comic into a memorable saga, developing an entirely new detailed comic style in the process.Conan was a step-aside from the super-hero fare that consumed the company, but was welcomed by comic fans with its obvious verve, detailed drawing and excellent storytelling.
Below are two of the original “X-Men” comics and two of the original “Avengers” issues from the 1960s.There was a time when I had long runs of both of these comics, especially “the Avengers” of which subscription copies were sent from America as part of a prize I won with Tony Roche’s Merry Marvel Fanzine in 1967. The X-Men storylines wallowed somewhat after their first year or so until their great 1970s revival with several new additional characters .I had many of these too but sadly I thinned out these collection years ago.The Avengers comic featured here is issue #4 which features a dynamic Jack Kirby cover and inner artwork where he re-introduces his and Joe Simon’s war-time creation Captain America into the growing “Marvel Universe”.The Captain was literally thawed- out of “retirement”from a block of ice where he had lain undisturbed and in timeless suspended animation for some twenty years before it was decided that he might eventually provide a great new leader for a newly stripped-down Avengers.
Below are featured some random copies of Tales to Astonish as it transitioned from it’s original Atlas Comics horror/sci-fi comic origins to feature more super-heroes from the growing Marvel Universe. They needed more space for all these heroes but had only a limited number of registered comic titles for immediate placement.Thus the featured “Ant-Man ” quickly became “Giant-Man” ( because there is only so much an ant-sized man can do and there are only so many storylines where a tiny hero can make his mark visually in a super-hero storyline….so why not make him grow bigger instead of smaller?!)… and eventually becoming “Goliath” in the evolving , ever-changing Avengers. Then the Hulk who had been one of the very earliest Marvel Comics creations with his own comic title before that lapsed ,continued the fun and games and his own Marvel Universe continuity in this half -and -half comic format for a time before being featured in his own title once again in a sort of Marvel Comics relaunch . Giant Man was discontinued eventually to make room for the revived SubMariner who would eventually have his own title too (as previously mentioned ,a Golden Age character which was revived in a very early Fantastic Four story in issue #4) He was given his own half-feature in the Two- For- The -Price -Of- One format, before virtually every Marvel character was given their own complete comic book later on in the late 1960s /early 1970s.
One of those characters was Doctor Strange who after his time as a backup feature in Strange Tales ,had several re-launches .Initially a wholly Steve Ditko creation , artistic input then came variously from Dan Atkins ,Marie Severin , Gene Colan and one of my later favourites , John Brunner., some of whose comics are featured below.He managed to re-create and continue some of the other-worldly psychedelic flavour of the original Ditko creation.
“Howard the Duck” featured below ,was something of a Marvel Comics anomoly at the time of its launch. It was oddball and crazily quixotic, mining a little of Marvel’s laugh- at -itself pomposity as did the earlier “Not Brand Echh”. The artwork was rendered in marvel’s superheroic style instead of the cartoony “funny animals “bigfoot” style which may have been expected.It even became a very poor film -vehicle at a later date.
I bought the featured “Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos” Annual #1 , like most of the other Marvel Comics I purchased as a thirteen -year old comics fan , on my way home from grammar school.Marvel comics usually arrived in Ireland as ship ballast , a few months after their initial American appearance.If memory serves this issue came into McCollums little newsagents’ shop in my hometown, in the same batch that provided me with Spiderman Annual #2 and Fantastic Four Annual #3.The procedure was to shuffle through all the new comics that arrived on a specific tuesday and then ask at the counter for them to be kept aside .I would then beg , steal or borrow the funds required to finish the transaction , worrying all the time that these precious “one-off” comics would find another purchaser with readily vailable funds before I had a chance to return. There was only ever one chance and no possible way to buy back-issues.That made the purchase all the sweeter.
Below are a cross-section of titles; the first “Darevil Annual”, “Tales of Suspense” which feature both Iron Man and Captain America, now well-known through their much -repeated film appearances; the aforementioned “Tales to Astonish” and “Strange Tales”
My comics collection and comics related material is very diverse.The comics themselves also spawned an industry of books, magazines, fanzines and then the comics themselves began to be reprinted in well-made hard-bound books as collectors’ items in their own right.I think it might have been the EC line which mined this territory first. The entire line of 1950s EC comics was reprinted directly from the original artwork in beautifully made boxed sets aimed at collectors. These were printed on acid -free paper unlike the original pulpy stockon which they originally appeared. The idea was to preserve the artwork and stories much longer than would be the case on what was originally regarded as a throwaway item which was as here today and gone tomorrow as any daily newspaper. They were expensive of course because quality was the standard on these beautifully saddle-stitched art quality books.. This set the tone for future publications.Comics as a viable medium , at last ,were beginning to be treated with some degree of respect after around one hundred years of disregard.The world was at last beginning to catch up with the fans like us who back in the mid-1960s saw something more in these creations.They were the direct result of comic fans creation comics fandom.
See more connections from this series below.