Friday, June 21, 2019

Groovin' Back In the Summertime: June/July 1980

Summertime, summertime, sum, sum, summertiIIIime! Greetings, Groove-ophiles! Ol' Groove couldn't let any lazy, hazy, or crazy days go by without a pithy post about summer times past! Hope you dig it! Of course, this post is pretty bittersweet for your's truly--and more than likely 'tis bittersweet for most all of you Groove-ophiles who lived and spun comicbook racks during that fateful summer. Ol' Groove's not gonna cover all the mighty mags that came out in June/July 1980, but I am gonna hit the highlights--and lowlights. (Is that even a word?) Lots of changes happened in the summer of 1980. Some good, some bad, but all of them helped close the book on the Groovy Age and opened the door to the 1980s. Let's take a look...

 ADVENTURE COMICS #475: DC was trying the 25 page, fifty cent route again, just as they had done with the infamous DC Ex(im)plosion back in the summer of 1978. This time, though, the time was right, as the direct sales industry was just a-borning and could help pick up any slack that might come from newsstand sales. The only real drawback as far as Teen Groove was concerned was that DC's beloved Dollar Comics would disappear and revert to "mere" 25 page mags. Adventure Comics, though, showed how cool the 25 page format could be for an anthology, keeping the great Martin Pasko/Joe Staton Plastic Man and Paul Levitz/Steve Ditko Starman, while returning Aquaman (courtesy writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Dick Giordano). The cool Brian Bolland cover made the deal even sweeter!

 DC COMICS PRESENTS #26: Jim Starlin was at DC! if that wasn't pulse-pounding enough, we also got the debut of the very first DC's 16 page preview. But even that isn't the biggest deal. No THE big deal was the contents of that immortal insert: a sneak preview of Marv Wolfman and George Perez's New Teen Titans! That comic, to Teen Groove, was the turning point. THE moment when the Groovy Age was replaced by a brand new, super-cool, era.  The actual END of the Groovy Age? Keep reading, Pilgrim...

 FLASH #289: Now, Ol' Groove will be honest. I don't recall much about the lead Flash feature. My sole reason for buying this mag was for the Gerry Conway/George Perez back-up featuring the return of Firestorm! Marvel's loss was truly DC's gain!

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #183: A Jim Starling cover, a JLA/JSA cross-over, and our heroes meet the major players of Kirby's Fourth World. A cause for celebration for sure, but sadly, the fun was marred by the discover that this was the last issue of JLA to come from the talented pencil of long-time artist Dick Dillin who had passed away in March. Sigh. Another Groovy Age mainstay gone.

 MYSTERY IN SPACE #111: The Dollar Comic, Time Warp, was replaced with the return of the Silver Age staple. A solid, fun anthology loaded with cool stories and fantastic art. It should have made it, but, alas, MIS lasted only 7 issues. But what a cool seven issues it was! Stories and art by guys like Kubert, Ditko, Rogers, Barr, Sutton, Weiss, DeMatteis, Austin, Bingham, Kashdan, Von Eeden--well, you get the idea!

MARVEL SPOTLIGHT Vol. 2, #8: The good Kree Captain Marvel's last solo tale before his Death a couple years later in the first Marvel Graphic Novel. We didn't know at the time that this was truly and finally the end, but had we known, we couldn't have asked for a much better send off than this gem by Mike W. Barr, Frank Miller (!), and Bruce Patterson!

 X-MEN #137: Yep, this one closed the door to the Groovy Age. The Dark Phoenix Saga was a masterpiece of comicbook magnificence. Years in the making, the Greatest X-Men Story lived up to, nay, surpassed our expectations of what the team of Claremmont/Byrne/Austin/Orzechowski/G. Wein could do. It was heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time. While the above named creative dream-team would stay together for a few more issues, the Death of Phoenix signaled a definite end of an era. The End of the Groovy Age. Little did we know that the team it would inspire, the team that would start the new era of comics was hidden snugly in the middle of the latest issue of DC Comics Presents? (I'm talkin' 'bout The New Teen Titans, natch!)

 CAPTAIN AMERICA #250: We're in the middle of Roger Stern and John Byrne's magnificent-but-too-short-lived Captain America run. The story of Captain America seriously thinking about running for President of the United States was brilliant in every way. One of the best Captain America comics ever, because it not only explored Cap/Steve Rogers' ideals, but forced him to stand on them. And what a stand it was!

 DAREDEVIL #166: Frank Miller (with Klaus Janson) was killing it in the art department. My buddy Roger McKenzie was turning out some amazingly fun stories, too. Didn't know this was Rog's final ish of DD at the time. He'd been on the title since issue #151. Over two years! Ya done a good job, Rog!
AVENGERS #200: This beautifully drawn ish (with art by George Perez) has become known as a huge stinker of a comic and a blight on the Avengers due to the horrible mishandling of the Ms. Marvel subplot featuring a time traveler named Marcus, son of Immortus...sort of. I won't go into details here (you can read about it all over the Interwebs), but it was bad. Very, very bad. And as much as I love the Avengers, the comics didn't really recover until well into Roger Stern's run in the mid-80s.

As you can see, the summer of 1980 was filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It was a time of change and renewal. Most of all, it was an exciting time! Long live the Groovy Age!

15 comments:

  1. I'm so happy to see you posting again, Lloyd!

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    1. Thanks, Loston! I won't be posting regularly, but when the muse hits, there'll be new posts from time to time. Still concentrating on making my own comics for the most part. Thanks for reading and commenting! :D

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  2. Made my day to read another of your reviews. And I remember that summer quite well.

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  3. Thanks for posting! This era marked an end for me, fittingly: The end of high school. It would be harder to get comics, I would lose interest in some that had been the center of my world for years, and in a few years, I'd be completely done.

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  4. Great to see you back!

    I've shared this before, but by 1980 I had largely moved on to the Warren mags and Heavy Metal because the flexographic printing with plastic plates had rendered so much art murky in mainstream comics, especially the interiors, until the Baxter paper came along a few years later. I also didn't like the garish colour choices on most of these. Many of the early Bronze Age titles had gorgeous hues on the covers, & the printing on metal plates made *such* a difference.

    Regards,
    Chris A.

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  5. I became a collector about a year later (starting with DC's The Warlord #50 and X-Men #149). So I missed this era, but as I collected in the 80s I realized something had been lost. Much of the originality and soul I found in the '60s and '70s comics seemed to have been replaced with revisited storylines, lower quality art, and scheme after scheme of ginned up stories to induce sales. The '80s definitely produced some fine and memorable books (e.g. Batman: The Killing Joke), but today, I pretty much seek out just the "Groovy Age" books.

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    1. The best '80s comics in the US tended to be in the indie titles in what came to be known as the (short-lived) black-and-white boom. Scott McCloud laments its end in UNDERSTANDING COMICS.

      I did like a lot of the magazine fare like Warren's final days of Creepy and Eerie, & Heavy Metal & its Marvel counterpart Epic Illustrated. But the early '70s seemed to be that special time, sort of like "magic hour" (what Hollywood filmmakers call that beautiful, late afternoon sunlight when the trees cast long shadows across the roads for an hour before sunset). It was, in a way, the last hurrah and the synthesis of the golden and silver ages which precedes it, and a time when the Comics Code loosened up just enough so that all-ages comics,could address more adult themes and yet not be crass or vulgar.

      Regards,
      Chris A.

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  6. Thanks for posting this Groove!

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  7. Awesome! Another Groovy post, and that's nice to see. This was a cool feature and a fitting analysis. Thanks for a fun read!

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  8. Twice yearly posts Groove?
    Hey, I'll take what I can get. Enjoyed the covers and - as ever - your commentary. Thanks, hope to see more soon. Or Christmas. Whenever you have the time.

    -sean

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    1. No schedule, sean, just whenever I feels like it. ;D Got a lotta irons in the comicbook making fire, but I haven't forgotten my Groove-ophiles. In fact, you can expect a new post July 3...

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  9. Great to see a new post Groovy! I was in a Marvel over DC phase during this time. I have all of the Marvels in this post and only one DC (The Flash). And yeah, Avengers #200. This was when the century marks of titles were supposed to be something special. What makes it worse is that Avengers had been putting out great comics with some of the best stories and artwork for over 40 issues before this. I had been a big fan of Ms. Marvel and I think this was the first example of a comics company taking a character I really liked and dumping them into a trash fire. I wish it had been the last.

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  10. Hey, glad to see you post! Great article, Groove. And great to see your coverage of "Mystery in Space". An often overlooked little gem. Love those anthologies!

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