Monday, March 19, 2012

Marvel Premiere-ing Through the Groovy Age: Why Marvel Premiere Rocked

Hey, hey, hey, Groove-ophiles! Today we're gonna trip through the Groovy Age once more, this time with one of Ol' Groove's fave Marvel mags...Marvel Premiere! MP ran throughout most of the Groovy Age, debuting in January 1972 and lasting until May 1981. That's sixty-one issues in all, a long and successful run considering the high-end life-span of a comic born in the Groovy Age was maybe (maybe) two dozen issues. MP hung on for nearly a decade and probably would have lasted even longer if not for the late-Groovy Age innovation we lovingly call the mini-series

The first two issues of Premiere featured Adam Warlock. Now, right off the bat, Marvel is ignoring their own title, since Warlock isn't technically a premiere but a re-vamp of an old Lee/Kirby character called "Him" (thus you'd think he'd have appeared in MP's sister mag, Marvel Spotlight. But no, Marvel was busy turning out brand new heroes like Werewolf by Night, Ghost Rider, and Son of Satan over there. Go figure...). Young Groove didn't care, though. This was Roy Thomas and Gil Kane at their most marvel-ous, taking Stan and Jack's artificial man, hooking him up with the maddest scientist of 'em all, the High Evolutionary, and sending him on a path not totally unlike that of a certain Man from Galilee.

Warlock quickly graduated to his own mag, which made room for Dr. Strange to make his series comeback in ish #3 (April 1972). Doc's series started out under the very cool but highly unlikely team of Stan Lee and Barry (pre-Windsor-) Smith, bounced through a variety of creative teams (guys like Archie Goodwin, Gardner Fox, Mike Ploog, and Jim Starlin) before settling on Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner, who would bring Doc such heat that he'd graduate to his own mag (again!) after ish #14 (December 1973).

Two "premieres", two successful spin-offs. Was the third time to be the charm? Well, when you consider issue 15 (February 1974) featured an actual, honest-to-Irving debut of a brand new character...a fella known as Iron Fist, I'd say, yeah, third time was the charm. Created by the Warlock team of Roy Thomas and Gil Kane as a combination homage to Bill Everett's Golden Age hero, Amazing Man/jump on the kung-fu craze bandwagon, the saga of Danny Rand proved quite popular. Though his popularity waned a bit as he passed through a variety of creative hands (Len Wein, Doug Moench, Tony Isabella, Larry Hama, and Arvell Jones to name a few), magic happened when two young mavericks by the names of Chris Claremont and John Byrne teamed up to produce Marvel Premiere #25 (July 1975). They clicked with each other and with fandom, carrying Iron Fist to his own mag which ran 15 issues, then combined with Power Man for a run that would last far into the 1980s under a variety of creative teams. Claremont and Byrne? They moved on to some comicbook about a bunch'a mutants...

After that, Marvel Premiere spent most of the rest of its run as the Showcase-style mag it was originally intended to be. There was some good stuff mixed among the clinkers, clunkers, and catastrophes. For every Hercules and Torpedo we got a Woodgod, Monark Starstalker,  Ant-Man, or Alice Cooper. Remember any of these?

The Groovy Age of Marvel Premiere ended with a bang (Caleb Hammer) and a whimper (Wonder Man)...

...then segued into the 1980s with Dominic Fortune, a short run of Dr. Who reprints, and finally, Star-Lord. And yeah, NONE of those were actual debuts, either.


  1. When this book was hot,it was red hot! Some greatkirby covers,butwith second rate art isdie.Loved the first 10 issues,11 was reprints,great 12-14,It took aLONG time for iron fist to catch on,he was dead for many years.Loved 38, the ant man Byrne issues,Perez man wolfs,the dr.who issues.yeah,it should have went 150-200 issues.

  2. Premiere was a great book and a lot of those stories hold up today.

  3. Neat feature this time. I like all three of Marvel's try-out books (Spotlight my fave, but also Premiere and Feature) because it was like watching the MU grow before your eyes. New or as you say new spins on older concepts and many of them catching fire.

    Of the later issues I liked the Liberty Legion stuff a lot. It was neat to see these old Golden Age heroes and no one does that stuff with the fanboy glee that Roy Thomas brought to the table. He was giddy to see them, and that enthusiasm was catching.

    Rip Off

  4. The best thing about these one-off mags (as you say, their intended design) was that the reader was usually given a decent story, for the story's sake. No trade paperback intentions, really not a lot of baggage from other histories. Just a good, clean story!

    That being said, I would like to see these series packaged and made for sale again. The new Marvel Firsts series of trades is wonderful. Man, I wish Marvel had continued to outsource their material to Gitcorp for the DVD-ROMs instead of taking it in-house as a digital subscription service...

    Fun post! Thanks!


  5. Marvel Premiere & Spotlight, 2 of my favorites! Had decent stories & artwork and great characters: Iron Fist,Caleb Hammer,Monark favorites were Paladin,Jack of Hearts,Antman,Solomon Kane + Wood-God!! Of course, some characters were brought in to finish up their storylines after their own books came to an end.Don't forget the B/W magazine Marvel Preview !

  6. MP was such a great series, truly one of the best of the Bronze/Groovy age, because it did so many things - it kept alive or revived interest in existing characters, finished up stories from other series that were axed and, my favorite aspect, introduced new characters and featured cool one-off stories (personal favorites: Monark Starstalker, Seeker 3000, Paladin). I have MP to thank for discovering McGregor's Blank Panther, because the 3-issue conclusion to the Klan story in issues #51-53 made me hunt down the back issues of Jungle Action.

  7. I also miss thess variety mags. I remember finding 3-D Man oddly interesting and I still love Jack of Hearts design.

  8. Woodgod!, Weirdworld!! Seeker3000!!! One child's clunker is another's classic, I guess. I enjoyed how many of these heroes(Jack of Hearts, Torpedo, Tigra, Paladin...) showed up in the classic Defender's-for-a-day storyline in Defenders #63-65...

  9. I really liked the woodgod stuff, also Jack of Hearts and loved the liberty legion (think I still have my copy somewhere.

  10. I have most of these myself. I loved the one shots and the art contributions were usually better than a lot of other regular series. Jim Starlin?!! Frank Brunner!!! Mike Ploog?!! John Byrne and Terry Austin?!!! Woodgod had a Jack Kirby cover for Pete's sakes! This was some of the best stuff to ride under the radar that Marvel ever did!



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