Friday, August 5, 2011

Famous First Fridays: The Debut of Marvel's Banner-style Masthead

What it is, Groove-ophiles! We're picking up from where we left off with yesterday's post on the big changes that came to Marvel during their tenth anniversary month of August 1971! As Ol' Groove mentioned yesterday, this was the month Marvel did their 52-page-for-a-quarter switcheroo (though Conan got a head start on the party the month before for some reason!). Stan and Roy rap quite a bit about the twenty-five cent/tenth anniversary celebration on the Bullpen Page for that month. Here--you can check it out for yourself!

You'll notice that they didn't mention the changes to their covers! How strange is that, doc? Gone was the (Ditko-designed) corner box, replaced by the banner/strip that would proudly proclaim each publication of the Marvel Comics Group from August 1971 through July 1983! Yep, without fanfare, Marvel rolled out the trade dress that would define their mags' look for a dozen years. Who designed it? Ol' Groove's done some digging, but come up with nada.  I'm pretty sure that I've read that publisher Martin Goodman decided the new trade dress was necessary--Marvel was about to pass DC in sales, and he wanted Marvel to look modern and slick. I've also read that Stan dug the design...but nothing on who actually created it. Anyone "in the know" care to enlighten us?

Regardless of which Bullpen genius came up with it, here's how it looked when it made its debut on most (not all, hmmmm...) of the Marvel mags cover-dated November 1971. Check 'em out!

It would be a couple more months before all the mags ran the new banner-masthead, with the reprint mags and annuals being the last hold-outs.

You'll notice, too, that most of the mags had the cover art boxed into one area with a catchy blurb emblazoned beneath it. That look didn't grab Marveldom assembled, so it was gone in less than a year.

Another cool aspect of the tenth anniversary trade dress was the figure in the upper-left corner. That was the coolest aspect of the older corner boxes, so we were especially pleased to see that stay around. The spotlight behind the figure was soon added, but eventually replaced by a box in the late 70s, combining both the old and new designs.

DC tried their own banner-style logo in the mid-70s. Young Groove dug it, but it was short-lived...

We spend a lot of time looking at the characters and creators who defined the Groovy Age. For Marvel, though, nothing topped the banner-logo for instant recognition! (Oooooooh, I just realized what a bad pun that was!) Pax, baby!


  1. I think it was a way of updating the brand for the 1970s. DC had already done it a year before when they got rid of the old 'Superman DC National' bullet. Perhaps Marvel thought they looked tired by comparison.

  2. I have two questions: One, were the folks at Marvel hoping kids would assume their teen humor books were actually Archie comics? and two, How many times did "It happened at Woodstock" get reprinted? It made the cover at least twice!

  3. The magazines all ran the new masthead in the same month, but they weren't all cover-dated the same. The annuals and quarterly titles (like Marvel Spotlight) were dated ahead of the monthly mags, so their November issues hit the stands a month or two before the new trade dress.

    This "November" was the month, though, where books like Daredevil, that had always been dated a month behind ones like Fantastic Four, skipped a cover-date month to catch up.

    The Mighty Marvel Checklist and the house ads, barring a few mistakes, show which comics came out in a particular month—the cover dates, not so much.

  4. I look at these covers and wonder -- what the heck has happened to comics? At one time, kids and adults could read them with satisfaction ... now, frankly, I wouldn't want my children to read most comics. And comics were once everywhere ... and affordable! I love this site and visit every day, but I always have a sense of deminished greatness.

  5. The reason for the top masthead was clear-comics then were displayed in spinner racks, and that top 1/3 of the cover was seen as the most important in that arrangement!
    I was SO shaken when they dropped the top banner in '83! Marvels had ALWAYS had that banner to me, a guy who read his first Marvel in '72!

    Al Bigley

  6. That banner was the coolest thing. I get the warm fuzzies just looking at it.

    It reminds me of standing at the spinner rack at the drug store, with comics sorted into piles of "must have", "would like to have" etc, while I try to figure out how many 35 cent comics I can get for $11.00. I wasn't that great at math.

    I'm with Bob above... even if I could afford new comics, I wouldn't let my kids near them.

  7. 70's Marvel masthead=fond memories!!!!!

  8. I like the boxed-off covers; I think they look stylish. That issue of Thor has the most astounding Buscema art! Neal Adams is justly celebrated for anticipating the contemporary "naturalism" look of comics but no-one did barbaric splendour like Big John.



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