Friday, June 19, 2015

The Grooviest Covers of All Time: 35 Years Ago This Month or The End of the Groovy Age (?)

Check it out, Groove-ophiles! Naw, don't let the title scare ya, DotGK isn't going anywhere anytime soon, the truth behind the title is that this week marks what Ol' Groove has most always considered the End (or at least the beginning of the end) of the Groovy Age. That's right, 35 years ago this week, X-Men #137--Death of the Phoenix as we all call it--hit the newsstands and changed the X-Men and Marvel (at least in my eyes) forever. Note that Jean Grey's demise isn't the only milestone for June 1980! Marvel and DC both raised their prices to fifty cents (DC was ready with their new 8 page features and 25 total story pages format that had died a'borning two years earlier; Marvel, evidently, wasn't and all we got was one of the ugliest, most space-taking blurbs/advertisements in the history of comicbook covers). You could feel the "new" coming as you look at these covers (and yeah, there were lots more--these are the covers that SCREAM "June 1980" at Ol' Groove); not much by way of Neal Adams, the Brothers Buscema, Gil Kane, or John Romita, here. Instead there's plenty of John Byrne, George Perez, Frank Miller, Michael Golden, and even a bit of Bill Sienkiewicz...
























...just so ya know "the end" wasn't ALL bad! Soon we'd get Wolfman and Perez's New Teen Titans, a proliferation of both comics shops and independent publishers (with quality comics!), graphic novels, and tons more stuff Ol' Groove'd like to cover one'a these days, should I have time to bring back Blinded Me With Comics.

Fret not, gentle Groove-ophile! Ol' Groove will be back right-chere Monday at 12:02 am with all kinds of Groovy Age goodness comin' at'cha! 'Til then, enjoy the bittersweet memories of June 1980.

16 comments:

  1. You nailed it, Groovy Agent. Every time I look back at some of these covers (DC's only, I was a no-Marvel guy at the time, so sue me!) I just feel like that: "something" was coming to an end. It probably was my age, or the fact that, in Italy, superhero comics were about to disappear, but, yes, the groove was over.

    Thank you for this blog.

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  2. Ya June Friday the 13th 1980 I graduated from high school. It was a ending to my care free youth for me. The end of the 3-D Man & soon the Hulk color magazine too. I think by 82 Marvel was really losing all their top talent. To DC, Hollywood & retirement by 1986/88. The problem was their wasn't much for new talent coming in. That third big wave of talent were all long gone! With the exceptions of John Byrne, Michael Golden, Marshal Rogers, Ron Frenz & John Romita JR. JR really never looked like full finished pencils to me. So he sadly was a huge disappointment to me.

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  3. Agreed as well. I turned 12 in 1980 and, for whatever reason, even at the time, THE 1980s felt different. I graduated elementary school that spring, Empire Strikes Back left me with my first true cliffhanger--where the hero doesn't win at the end--and comics started to get serious. I was a 70/30 DC guy back then and I remember and still have the issues you posted. The older I get, the more I truly enjoy the 1970s comics. Tis why I love this blog so much. I'm going back nowadays and reading material I never go to back in the day. My favorites right now: the discovery of the Marvel/Curtis black-and-white magazines.

    Are you familiar with...let me go find the link: Batman in the 1970s? (http://barebonesez.blogspot.com/2012/01/batman-in-1970s-part-1-dark-knight.html) Those guys read every single Batman comic from the 1970s in order and wrote about it. Fantastic deep, deep dive into my favorite character and my favorite era.

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  4. Oh, yeah. I had a bunch of these. And yes, those unbelievably obnoxious banner ads atop the Marvel covers were a crime against humanity - so many good covers were devastated...
    I definitely agree with you that 1980 is a sort of cut-off point for what we call the Bronze or Groovy Age. Things certainly began to change at that point. However, all of this happened right smack dab in the middle of what I would call my personal Golden Age (late '70s/early '80s), so I didn't mind one bit. I was still loving the heck out of comics at this point and reading them voraciously.

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  5. Funny about historical eras -- usually, the start and end date are murky. But not the groovy age. It was almost as if a bell went off in 1980, signaling the end of something. Was it Reagan (which still gives me shudders), or the change to 'blockbuster' movies only, or the rise of cable...? Who knows, but the zietgiest seemed to change overnight.

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    Replies
    1. I voted for Reagan twice. He was the greatest president of my lifetime (I'm 58).

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    2. Don't make the discussion political. It's about the comics.

      Delete
  6. Wow, Shang-Chi wore white pants into a sewer! Who does his laundry?

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  7. I read some of those books (FF, X-Men in particular), but I notice, too, Groove, you're avoiding Super Friends, which used to be an in-continuity book, but not by 1980. I was collecting that and JLA at the time, just getting back into comics before my senior year in high school.

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  8. For me the groovy age continued a few more years as I still enjoyed Marvel till probably 83-84, though I agree in 1980 'something' changed and this was the beginning of the end. Could you bend the rules a little and post more ROM? I think you stopped at 9.

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  9. Sorry to diverge... But the world became "rich" by "massive borrowing" at all levels, which started in the 1980s. Once we realized we could borrow, borrow, borrow... That may have been the biggest catalyst to so many changes we've seen. E.g., we went from $.12 comics to $.50 in about 10 years (a 400% increase), free TV to paying for cable TV, no VCR to paying for a VCR, etc. Thus Shang-chi could afford to wear white pants into a sewer,for battle. Anyhow, I blame all the bad in comics, from the Groove Age onward, on Gerry Conway. Surely he had a plot where a wholesome family went from paying cash to getting one of those new-fangled plastic credit cards and suddenly start living rich and beyond their means, thus turning everyone into alcoholics or something? LOL.

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  10. Ohhh, and before I forget... In 1970 I remeber my dad giving me the "evil eye balls" for thinking I could spend $.24 and buy two differnet comics (a green captain marvel and a spider man). 20 years later "everyone" is buying multiple copies of the SAME comic and not even reading them. Lots of money out there... money changes things... Look how many times Marvel changed ownership and can afford to cancel Fantastic Four so as to lend no support to Fox releasing an FF movie this summer, etc. Even Conway could not have dreamt up these scenarios.

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  11. "This Marvel comic could be worth $2500 to you?' Dammit, that inane splash on what would otherwise be great covers definitely was a major turnoff for me. Give me 1970s/Bronze Age stuff anyday!

    - Mike from Trinidad & Tobago.

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  12. This period definitely represents the end of an era for me for a variety of reasons. Just to mention a couple:

    The Death of The Phoenix storyline made a huge impact on me as an adolescent Marvel / X-Men fan. I thought it was beautifully illustrated and highly emotional ( although Claremont's writing now seems overwrought and - here's that word again - adolescent ) and very brave in its controversial ending. I was very moved by the death of such a beloved character as Jean Grey... but... Marvel brought her back from the dead ( again! ) a few years later, totally devaluing the impact of the story. And, as we all know, this kind of cheap trick has been pulled time and again since with Superman, Cap, the Human Torch etc etc. It's "the illusion of change" as a marketing device.

    The other factor for me was the continuing lack of American comics in British shops. Specialist comic shops were still relatively rare and local newsagents that still stocked Marvel, DC etc were getting harder to find. I only bought two of the issues listed above at the time and would surely have bought more if I could have found them. The '80s were dawning and I would soon be buying most of my faves by mail order because I couldn't easily get them any other way...

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  13. Part of the thrill of buying comics back in the 70's was the fact that you bought them at the newsstand. There was always the worry that this month's comic might not show up--or that someone else would get the lone copy before you got there. If you missed an issue you were just out of luck. Especially in the little town where I lived. No Back back issue bins to dig through back then. I can recall the particular thrill, each Thursday, at the local drug store when I dashed in and quickly flipped through that single stack of new comics on the bottom right hand corner of the magazine stand. I bought every Marvel title back then (no DC for me). I didn't even look at the covers until I got home--just grabbed them and zipped up to the cash register. A tremendously exciting feeling though. Hard even to describe. The excitement of following a serial story--not knowing where the story was going-- and being young enough to not recognize any of the cliches of the genre yet. The pure pleasure of the crisp fresh copies and the shiny covers. The fetish quality of the big Marvel universe--figuring out its history and the arcane complexities of all the different characters. No Wikipedia entries to explain things. Just read the comics and try and guess what the references to old stories meant. All very pleasing to a young adolescent. Its hard to argue for a culture of less information but there was something exciting about not knowing things and having to piece them together for yourself

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  14. I guess Charlie horse is right, the 90's were surprisingly horrible. The speculation bubble, the variant covers, the death of many independent publishers (I was an Eclipse fan). Image Comics... and those swimsuit specials...
    The Eighties were kinda cool, mostly for Indie comics to me.

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