Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Best Comics Month Ever II: Marvel Boogaloo

Marvel February 1966Stop! Go no further in this post until you read the Dave Ex Machina post for today! Go ahead; it'll be worth it, and I'll be right here when you get back. G'wan...get over there...I'll wait for you here, okay?

Back now? Good! That's my pal, "Dazzling" Dave Lartigue, and I laffed and laffed to see the wild wackiness everybody was getting up to on Earth-1 (DC) in February 1966...The Best Comics Month Ever!! (ever ever ever ever) But what about down the block at the then still-named Atlas Magazines at 625 Madison Avenue...or as we know it, Marvel Earth! (Or, if you're a total fanbull like me, "Earth-616".) What manner of crazy shenanigans were they up to in the shortest month of '66? Let's put on our tin foil radiation suits and hop into the patented Bully Time Machine to head back there...just push that pile of Hardees wrappers out of the way; I kinda live out of my time machine. Spin the dial and prepare to depart for...well, for whatever month it was when the comics that were cover dated "February 1966" were put on the spinner racks at your local Rexall. D'you all have pockets of change to pick some comics...12¢ apiece? Good! Because here we go...forward into the past!



February 1966: a brave new world inside Marvel Comics, in which the villains are startlingly new and original, antagonists bred specially for our fast-paced, charismatic, swinging sixties, brand-spankin' sparklin' new...oh, wait, it's Nazis again:

February 1966 Marvels
from Tales of Suspense #74 (February 1966), script by Stan Lee, layouts by Jack Kirby, pencils and inks by George Tuska, letters by Artie Simek



That's from the Captain America "Sleepers" saga (which you may remember Jane Wiedlin tellin' you all about here). But that was only one-half of Tales of Suspense: the other six-twelfths was taken up with the madcap and ultra-modern adventures of Iron Man and his suave, debonair alter ego Tony Stark, who makes you feel he's a cool exec who...oh, wait, I think this is the story where Tony gets drunk for the very first time:

February 1966 Marvels
from Tales of Suspense #74 (February 1966), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Gene Colan [as Adam Austin], inks by Jack Abel [as Gary Michaels], letters by Artie Simek



Depending on what week you picked up your comics, you might either be in suspense—see above—or astonished, as in another of Marvel double-feature mags, Tales to Astonish. Here, the Incredible, Edible Hulk answers the musical question: "Say Hulk...what's your favorite Buddy Holly song?"

February 1966 Marvels
from Tales to Astonish #76 (February 1966), script by Stan Lee, layouts by Jack Kirby and Gil Kane [as Scott Edward], inks by Mike Esposito [as Mickey Demeo], letters by Artie Simek



And on the flipside, King Namor I shows just how comfortable he is with his new royal position...by receiving an audience in his bathroom. Geez, Subbie, some people just bring in a magazine!

February 1966 Marvels
from Tales to Astonish #76 (February 1966), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Gene Colan [as Adam Austin], inks by Vince Colletta, letters by Sam Rosen



It was an age right on the cusp of the Marvel classic era. For instance, while the world's mightiest heroes fight the world's dastardliest villain in Avengers #25, the day is saved not through a clever fighting maneuver or a deep psychological flaw in Doom's inner being, but thanks to the fact that Hawkeye ordered some tricks and jokes from the Johnson Smith catalogue in the back of a comic book. This is the first time you've ever seen Doctor Doom sneeze...and the last!

February 1966 Marvels
from Avengers #25 (February 1966), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Don Heck, inks by Dick Ayers, letters by Sam Rosen



Yes indeed, as Robert Allen Zimmerman sang about two years previously, "the country and culture are experiencing a dramatic upheaval in social mores and attitudes. Man." Nowhere is that more visible than in FF #47, featuring the Inhumans —what many ffans consider the beginning of Jack "King" Kirby's most powerful work on the title.

February 1966 Marvels
from Fantastic Four #47 (February 1966), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott, letters by Artie Simek



Still, if only we could hang around here another month for March '66...well, you wanna talk about landmark events in the Marvel Universe???

February 1966 Marvels
cover of Fantastic Four #48 (March 1966), art by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott



Proof that we were at a dramatic time of change is evident in this ad published in Marvel's February '66 comics. Don't worry: it requires no frame:

February 1966 Marvels



Your family may have had that photo of Jack Kennedy hanging up on the wall. Mine had this photograph in the kitchen, the hero of the Bull household, as seen on the inside front cover of the debut issue of Marvel's double-sized fat new reprint anthology Fantasy Masterpieces:

February 1966 Marvels
frontispiece from Fantasy Masterpieces #1 (February 1966)



As one of the classic Atlas Monster tales reprinted in FM reminded us: future events such as these will affect you in the future!

February 1966 Marvels
from Amazing Adult Fantasy #10 (March 1962), script by Stan Lee, pencils and inks by Steve Ditko, reprinted in Fantasy Masterpieces #1



Guest-stars galore galloped across Marvel-Earth in February 1966. Don't remember a Hercules series that far back? That's because this is actually Thor...or rather, the very final issue of Journey Into Mystery before it changed its name to Thor. Nice to know they kept the same characterization of Hercules as a sleepy beefy slacker from those Steve Reeves movies, huh?

February 1966 Marvels
from Journey Into Mystery #125 (February 1966), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Vince Colletta, letters by Artie Simek



While over at Daredevil, you'll be able to see (even though Matt Murdock can't) the most obvious guest-star for a comic set in Manhattan's gritty streets and the lawlessness of Hell's Kitchen: Ka-Zar of the jungle, bellowing so loud that his sound effect breaks the panel border. Ka-Zar, honey, use your inside voice!

February 1966 Marvels
from Daredevil #13 (February 1966), script by Stan Lee, pencils and inks by John Romita, letters by Sam Rosen



Daredevil! The comic where everything happens on a local level, where global events don't come into the story, where the situations are always DD versus the backalley hoodlums and the uptown crime lords...

February 1966 Marvels
from Daredevil #13

Aw, nevermind.

The team-ups continue over in Rawhide Kid #50. As fitting such a monumental anniversary issue, R.K. first fights against and then teams up with Marvel's other big western star El Kabong The Two-Gun Kid, but first there's plenty of what we all came to know the Rawhide Kid for: good old American beefcake!

February 1966 Marvels
from Rawhide Kid #50 (February 1966), script and pencils by Larry Lieber, inks by Carl Hubbell, letters by Sam Rosen



But there's no team-up that can beat the sheer superpower of this clash of the titans: the Hulk versus Doctor Doom...the earth will tremble! Civilizations will crumble to dust! The planet will crack in twain! And you will buy this sweatshirt!

February 1966 Marvels



Classic tales abound in Feb. of Sixty-Six: Strange Tales features the wrap-up of the suspenseful Doc Strange/Dormammu pincers duel:

February 1966 Marvels
from Strange Tales #141 (February 1966), plot, pencils and inks by Steve Ditko ,dialogue by Stan Lee, letters by Artie Simek



And we find out just how Nick Fury lost the use of his eye (preventing him from noticing he's turned into Samuel L. Jackson):

February 1966 Marvels
from Sgt. Fury #27 (February 1966), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Dick Ayers, inks by John Tartaglione, letters by Sam Rosen



Luckily, twenty years after the war, binocular vision isn't needed for Fury as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.* Not to deal with the tech-menace of the vacuum shoes, at least!

February 1966 Marvels
from Strange Tales #141 (February 1966), plot and pencils by Jack Kirby, dialogue by Stan Lee, inks by Frank Giacoia [as Frank Ray], letters by Sam Rosen

*Sucking Heels and Insoles Experience Little Disturbance




Even in the early days, Professor Xavier was screwin' up his kids' heads. Here he is cautioning The Beast to keep his identity secret...while in the next speech bubble he calls him out loud "McCoy." Luckily, Cyclops and Marvel Girl stopped by soon and were able to help Professor X bury the doctor's body. The world would never know.

February 1966 Marvels
from X-Men #17 (February 1966), script by Stan Lee, layouts by Jack Kirby, pencils by Werner Roth [as Jay Gavin], inks by Dick Ayers, letters by Artie Simek



Earlier we saw Strange Tales #141, which is the highest numbered book we'll see today in our tour of Marvel-2/66. What do you think is the second highest run on a Marvel title that month? Go ahead, guess...is it Journey Into Mystery, or Fantastic Four, or any of the other amazing superhero mags from Stan and Co?

No.

February 1966 Marvels
from Millie the Model #135 (February 1966), script by Roy Thomas, pencils and inks by Stan Goldberg

It's Millie Collins, the Wolverine of 1966. It's true! Not only did she have one of the longest-running series, but she also had two magazines, Millie the Model and Modeling with Millie. Yes, the kids couldn't get enough of ginchy Gwen Stacy-lookalike Millie, and not only were her stories available in two mags, true believers...she also hosted crossover events. Before Secret Wars, before Civil War, before The One Where All the Superhero Teams Fought Each Other's Villains Which Meant the Fantastic Four Wound Up with All the Lame Villains*...there was the multi-title crossover saga...Dancing with the Gears!

February 1966 Marvels
from Modeling with Millie #45 (February 1966), script by Roy Thomas, pencils and inks by Stan Goldberg



Of course, the Millie books weren't the only Marvel comics for "your kid sister" in '66. (Hey, we know why you read 'em, tiger.) There was also Patsy and Hedy—hey, how come you don't have parents naming their daughters "Hedy" anymore? Hmmm. Anyway, to separate this mag from the Millie books, Marvel made sure to feature entirely different and unique plotlines, stories and characters every month from Millie:

February 1966 Marvels
from Patsy and Hedy #104 (February 1966), script by Roy Thomas, pencils by Al Hartley, inks by John Tartaglione



Huh. Well, that's pretty much everything from Marvel '66. And you know...I think Dave wins. Sure, there's some pretty nutty stuff going on inside Marvel Comics that month, but there's nothing to beat the sheer lunacy and gleeful adventure in those DC books of the same month. I bow my little hornéd head to you, Mister Lartigue, and hereby obligingly surrend...

Oh, wait a minute.

I also got this:

February 1966 Marvels
February 1966 Marvels
February 1966 Marvels
February 1966 Marvels
from Amazing Spider-Man #33 (February 1966), plot, pencils and inks by Steve Ditko, dialogue by Stan Lee, letters by Artie Simek



That's just one of the most acclaimed visual dramatic sequences in the entire history of superhero comics right there for ya in February 1966, then. Hmmm, Dave? You may have the Weirdo Legionnaire...Skeleton Lois Lane...and The Spectre with Comet-Smashin' action...but I've got Spider-Man greatly and responsibly powering.

Aw, heck, Dave...let's not fight about it. Unlike 60s icons Ike and Tina Turner, we can agree to disagree, but I think we both gotta shake on this:

February 1966: The Greatest Month in Comics. Ever.







EXTRA!: You know, I very nearly ended this post with the words "Now, somebody do Charlton!" I wish I had...because my good pal Acerbic Andrew Weiss over at Armageidon Time has contributed a magnificently bombastic post about yet another "giant of comics" from those days...and I ain't talkin' Archie! Read Andrew's Best Comics Month Ever: Straight outta Connecticut for what was going on in February 1966...at Charlton Comics!





EXTRA II: THE EXTRAING!: We miss him now that he's passed onto the afterlife, but the Estate of the Late Great Tim O'Neil contributes to February '66 fun with a look at the Greatest Month in Comics in the Greatest Comic Strip of them all! Take it away, Late Tim!


10 comments:

-Peder said...

Bravo!

Jayunderscorezero said...

Bravo indeed. Also, I think I need that awesome anti-Nazi thought bubble on a t-shirt.

Dave Lartigue said...

Awesome! Can you imagine standing in front of a newsstand with your allowance quarter trying to figure out which TWO books to buy this month?

Isaac said...

I am left with one thought: What is on the other side of that sweatshirt?!

Jack said...

Nice trump card you had there Bully. To have been a comics reader in 1966 must have been amazing.

Evan Waters said...

The mid-60s was really when both of the big two were hitting their stride. They'd spent the early decade sort of figuring out what their styles were and developing and refining that, so now they could cut loose- Marvel with the drama, DC with the big ideas. It's always a few volumes into the Showcases and Essentials that things really get interesting.

Joseph said...

Great post, Bully, and a great complimentary article at Dave Ex Mach. I think you have settled the 'Best Month Ever' argument once and for all.

Not to nitpick, but I think you have your dates and issue numbers mixed up on the Fantastic Four, though. Your image shows #48, but you refer to #49 (though the description would be appropriate for either).

Thanks for your hard work every day and every week.

--Joseph

Phillip said...

Isaac- it said "There Goes The Hulk" and showed the Hulk's back and the toy duck on wheels that he was pulling on that rope. Man, I want a shirt like that so bad.

'sharpyoungbull' said...

I loved seeing Doom and the Hulk shill, and talking like characters from Pokey the Penguin

SteveM said...

I have that Hulk sweatshirt!
I always favored Dec.'64 or Mar.'65.
Jack- It WAS amazing!