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By Bronze Oldie
I came into to comics at the point of transition from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age. At the Time, Marvel was publishing a lot of re-prints of classic Silver age material, most notably Marvel tales (re-printing Spider-man) Marvels Greatest Comics (re-printing Fantastic Four) Marvel Triple Action (re-printing Avengers) and X-men (reprinting X-men). So I am something of an authority on Silver Age Marvel, as well as Bronze Age.
During the actual Silver Age, I was too young to read. But I was already into superheroes through the medium of television. There was a Batman series on TV at the time starring Adam West that I loved and had toys of and the show still shares a cult status among fans and marks a specific time in American Television. The DC cartoons were in my opinion were much superior to the Marvel ones. Most of the Marvel cartoons consisted of someone waving panels of Jack Kirby art while someone narrated and fell short of translating the excited from the page. The DC cartoons where much better animated, the exception being the Spiderman cartoon. So when I started learning how to read, I came into comics with a bias in favor of DC.
Unfortunately, DC squandered this advantage with comics that were so much lower in quality than the Marvel ones, even to a 6-year-old’s eyes and that is saying something. In the Early DC comics I first read, Batman was fighting ordinary criminals with no costumes or powers, Superman was fighting Terra Man (the space cowboy), Clark Kent had a new co-worker, Guy Lombardo, a sportscaster who would bully Clark (while Clark pretended to be bullied), Wonder Woman had no powers and was a Kung Fu Fighting Private Detective, The Metal Men all got melted, and the Justice League teamed up with the Justice Society to search for the Seven Soldiers of Victory.
The first Marvel comic I read, in contrast, features the climax of the Skrull/Kree War, a reprint of the Fantastic Four defeating Galactus, Ragnarok, the Mimic (with the combined powers of the X-men) fighting the Super Adaptoid (with the combined powers of the Avengers), MODOK and Dr Doom fighting over the Cosmic Cube, and in the same issue: Captain America vs Nick Fury and the Falcon vs. the Captain America and Bucky from the 1950’s. With that beginning, although I occasionally bought DC comics, I was mostly a Marvelite from then on.
Comics in those days were $0.20 each. I’m pretty certain that they were deliberately priced at double the cost of a chocolate bar, which costed $0.10 in those days. At 20 cents per comic, that should have meant, if I got hold of a dollar, that I should have been able to get 5 comics for a dollar. It should have been that way. . . . But Americans like to make tax paying as painful a process as possible. Every Spring Americans get super stressed trying to fill out the income tax form and I am sure many have seen this play out in sitcoms through the years. But unlike other countries, in the States, sales tax is tacked on on top of the labeled price, not included in it. So a dollar bought me 4 comics and some change. Then a period of inflation began under president Nixon. Chocolate bars became slightly larger and rose to $0.15 and comics added a couple of pages and rose to $0.25 each. Again, this should have been 4 for a dollar. Instead, it was 3 for a dollar and some change leftover.
Every pharmacy, or 7-11 small store had a rotating rack that would hold more than 50 different comics within its thin frame. And I was very dependent on the good will of parents to buy me that comic I wanted so bad. Often I had to choose one over the other as was the case for most kids growing up. So I chose not to find out what happened with the Avengers and the Space Phantom, because I wanted to see Quicksilver and the Human Torch fight over Crystal. Most comics stories were two of three issues long and I would often miss the beginning or conclusion of a story, after all it is hard to develop consistent buying patterns as an infant with no disposable income! There were a few instances where I was able to get every issue of a particular comic for several months in a row. Because if a story lasted longer than one issue, it would be a whole month before I got to see what happened next.
I was just the right age to be coming in at the very beginning of a lot of Bronze Age things. My very second Avengers story was based on a idea suggested by an intern named Chris Claremont, in which the Avengers fought the Sentinels. I came in at the beginning of the Defenders, and just before Steve Englehart began writing the Avengers and Captain America. I was there for the beginning of Jim Starlin’s run on Captain Marvel and Roy Thomas’ run on Fantastic Four.
I thought I liked particular characters. I didn’t realize that I actually like particular writers, including: Stan Lee (Fantastic Four, Avengers), Roy Thomas (Avengers, X-men, Fantastic Four), Steve Englehart (Defenders, Avengers, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Amazing Adventures featuring: the Beast), Steve Gerber (Defenders), and Jim Starlin (Captain Marvel). Because of this I missed things I would have liked and later discovered like Warlock (Jim Starlin), early issues of Master of Kung Fu (Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart), Guardians of the Galaxy (Steve Gerber) and Man Thing (Steve Gerber).
The Marvel Universe was much more coherent back then. It was only ten years old at that point and several writers had very long runs in the Silver age. Most notably Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who did more than a hundred issues of Fantastic Four, as well as a long run on Thor and Roy Thomas who had very long runs on both Avengers and X-men. Comics would often reference events in past issues, and would often include a panel showing the events they were talking about with a footnote, indicating which issue they were referring to. Writers would spin very long subplots and then tell the next writer what they had been doing. So, for example, Roy Thomas had been laying clues for years that something was strange about the Vision. And it was years more before Steve Englehart finally revealed that the vision had been built from the android body of the original Human Torch.
Also, the Comics Code was loosening its’ grip a bit, allowing horror comics to be produced. DC mostly did anthology horror comics. (Swamp Thing was an exception) But Marvel was doing ongoing series featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, the Living Mummy, Werewolf by Night, Man Thing and the Ghost Rider. And Western and War comics were still around too.
But then, this era of my comics fandom came to an end, when I moved to a place where comics were not available. As a result, I missed things. But when I moved back, I returned to comics. Again, just in time.
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