Friday, March 20, 2020

A Dizzying Display of Dy-no-mite Doings to Dispel Dejection and Deliver Delight!

Hey, Kids! Comics from 50 Years Ago!
March 15, 17, & 19, 1970

Groovy Age Splash Page of the Week

Question of the Week...

What Five Groovy Age Collections Would You Share With Your Non-Comics Reading Family Members to Get Them Into Reading Comics?

You know that Ol' Groove has always worked hard to make the Diversions a haven from The Real World of Right Now, but this is one of those rare times when I just wouldn't feel right not mentioning what's happening out there right now. With the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, the best-case scenario (and that's what we're hoping and praying for all of our pals and gals) is that we're stuck at home with our loved ones for a while. So, besides using common sense so we can stay safe and healthy (and practicing being kind to each other while we're out getting what we need to eat and stay healthy), it's likely that we're going to have to hang at home with our families for a while. Maybe we can share our favorite diversions with our families to help get our minds off the madness outside our doors for a while? That's our hope with today's post, and we hope y'all take it in that spirit.

Now, we denizens of Groove City have our comics, so boredom as we safely sequester shouldn't be a problem. But what about when boredom sets in...for them? You know, those family members who still don't get how cool comicbooks are? What if they start nagging us about why we still read those... funnybooks? Instead of berating them for their misguided concerns, we should use the opportunity to educate them--and, mayhap, to convert them to the cause of comicdom! Which leads us to the question of the week: If you could choose only five collections of Groovy Age comics to show said family member(s) why they should be reading comics, which five would you choose to help you recruit them into the ranks of Groovy Age comicdom assembled? And why those particular collections? (I'm choosing collections over single issues, 'cause, let's be realistic...we have to walk before we can run, Groove-ophiles!)

Here are my top choices, in no particular order:

Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 3: Most everyone knows who Batman is, and most everyone has seen some or all of the movies and are familiar with his rogues gallery. That makes the Caped Crusader the gateway character to get non-comics folks into comics. This particular collection, besides being loaded with incredible Neal Adams art (often inked by the amazing Dick Giordano and written by the equally incredible Denny O'Neil), features the debut saga of Ra's al Gul, plus the Groovy Age debuts of both Two-Face and the Joker. It is zero jive to say that these stories are the definition of iconic, baby! There are a lot of great Batman collections, but this is the one I'd save from a burning building! (And if they dig this one, slip 'em Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams Volume 2, Englehart/Rogers' Batman: Strange Apparitions, Tales of the Batman: Archie Goodwin, and Legends of the Dark Knight: Michael Golden!)

Captain America and the Falcon: The Secret Empire: If you have family members who don't like comics but love the MCU, then you have a real shot with this one (especially if they're fans of the Winter Soldier flick!) With the Secret Empire Saga, Steve Englehart, Sal Buscema, and friends gave us the Marvel Universe version of Watergate. In true Marvel style, though, we got plenty of action, super-villains, and super-heroic guest stars (including the X-Men, Nick Fury, Black Panther, the Avengers, Hawkeye, and I probably forgot someone...). I don't talk politics here on Diversions, but I know a lot of folks who dig the intrigue. If the non-comics fan in your fam is into that bag, then this Cap saga should really turn them on! (And if they groove to it, get 'em Captain America: Hero or Hoax The Epic Collection!)

Showcase Presents: Warlord: Science fiction and fantasy combine with flat-out high adventure making for some of the most fun and unique comics ever. Edgar Rice Burroughs and his peers might have inspired creator Mike Grell, but Iron Mike made Warlord a comic like no other of it's time. His mature characterizations, thought-provoking plots, terse captions, realistic dialogue, large (and often full page) panels were a couple decades before their time. It's no wonder that Warlord was one of DC's best-selling comics of the Groovy Age--and probably the most long-lived title to debut during that era. It's also no wonder that Mike Grell's writing and art inspired generations of comicbook creators that came after him. Still does! Plus, it stands alone in its own universe, and is decidedly "uncomicbook-y" enough to be cool to non-fans. You know. Back in the day we called 'em "casual readers."

E-Man: The Early Years: Another comic that stands out from everything else is Nick Cuti and Joe Staton's E-Man. Published by Charlton Comics, a company that rarely published super-heroes, E-Man was a breath of fresh air. A throwback to heroes like Plastic Man and The Spirit, but totally 1970s and original. It's the story of a sentient blob of energy with a fun-loving-yet heroic personality who befriends a liberated 70s young woman working her way through college as an exotic dancer. The adventures are fanciful and fun, but grounded in the realities of the 1970s without being preachy like the "relevant" comics that were in vogue a couple years before its debut. Cuti's characters were loaded with personality, his scripts were crisp and loaded with character bits (and ladled with just the right amount of puns), his plots imaginative,  and just complex enough to allow us to enjoy the underlying silliness without it being farce. Staton's art was joyous, filled to the brim with action, power, and some of the funniest sight-gags ever. If E-Man had been a comic strip it'd probably have lasted for decades!

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 02: The Unites States wasn't the only country that could turn out fun, unique, off the wall comics back in the Groovy Age! The star of 2000 A.D. was (and still is) one of the coolest, funniest, most gut-wrenching, mind-bending, and breath-taking comics ever conceived. Judge Dredd is Batman, Joe Friday, Dirty Harry, The Lone Ranger, Buck Rogers, and a whole bunch more heroic icons rolled into one and given a bad attitude (minus any sense of humor). He lives in a world that seems insane--until we turn on the news. His future is a glimpse into our day after tomorrow. It's scary, sarcastic, witty, and fun. Do you get the feeling I love Judge Dredd? I'm betting that a LOT of non-comics fans can be won over by the work of guys like John Wagner, Pat Mills, Brian Bolland, John Gibbons, Mike McMahon, and company. And why did Ol' Groove pick this particular volume? Two words: Cursed Earth. It ain't Stallone, baby! Read it yourself if you haven't already! (Then you'll want to read EVERY volume!)

It was a chore to narrow this list down (I wanted to add a bunch of Conan, Red Sonja, Jonah Hex, and Jim Starlin cosmic stuff, f'rinstance), but those are my five picks. What are yours? Please share your choices in the comments section! Stay well, and Pax!


  1. 50 years, man that makes me feel old. If I was going to hand over some series to get family interested I think I would probably choose Conan The Barbarian and Savage Sword, the DC 70's run of The Shadow, Marvel's Doc Savage and DC' s horror mags (House of Mystery, ...Secrets, Ghosts, Witching hour) I think that would give a good overview besides the caped heroes they would automatically assume all comics are.

    1. Excellent choices, Kevin! When I was growing up, my Dad dug DC's Shadow (he'd listened to the radio show as a kid) and my mom loved Doc Savage (especially the b&w mag). I'm pretty sure those elusive "casual readers" (which included a bunch of my cousins and classmates) kept the horror (or as they called 'em then, "mystery") mags on the top sellers list. Of course, Conan is a household word now. Yeah, a lot of those would round out my top 10!

  2. Hi Groove; first day of layoff from the virus so it's an opportunity to go 'visiting'. Lots of good stuff from that great year of 1970. At that time I missed much of it as I was just starting a several-year Archie phase. Must give a shout out to "Archie's TV Laugh Out"; it had some cool Sabrina stories.

    As for my reading recommendations: you and Kevin picked some excellent choices. I might add collections of Byrne's Fantastic Four run, some Kubert DC War stories, Brunner/Englehart Dr. Strange, Shooter/Perez Avengers, and finish off with Eisner's "Contract with God" (does that count?).

    1. Fun choices, Redartz! Byrne's FF was one of my favorite comics ever (though technically it's post Groovy Age--unless you're talking about the issues he did with Marv Wolfman, though I doubt it ;D ), still--who cares, they're definitely high on the list of great comics. If we include 80s comics, I'd definitely toss in Miller's Daredevil and Simonson's Thor!

  3. A good selection of books there that I would agree with, especially E-Man and a shout out to Archie as well. I’m not that up to date with what’s been collected into book form but I would add:

    The Spectre (the Adventure comics run by Jim Aparo)
    Mr Miracle (the Marshall Rogers series)
    Detective/Batman (Marshall Rogers)
    Hulk (Anything by Thomas, Trimpe and Severin and amazing run)
    Defenders (the first 10 issues of the original series)
    Avengers (Skull Kree wars saga – I think just about every comic fan has this)

    Apologies for referring to the artist inmost cases only my memory is shocking for writers.

    I hope you are all keeping well - take care.

    1. All of those you mention are fantastic choices and all are beloved by moi. The Spectre almost made my list, but I wasn't sure if they'd turn on or turn off a prospective new comics fan with their twisted anti-hero antics, but that's what I love about 'em! I'm reading the Englehart/Rogers/Gerber/Golden Mister Miracle collection right now. It is still wonderful! (Wonder why DC didn't brag about the fun Haney/Aparo Brave and Bold Batman/MM team-ups they included in the collection?) And of course, anything by Roy Thomas--especially when artists like Adams, Trimpe, and the Bros. Buscema are in the mix should make anyone a comics fan! (That's what did it for me!)

  4. Hey Groove, it's been a while. As always your choices are superb! I loved the idea so here goes a list that could be your next five:

    Tomb of Dracula Omnibus (adult characterizations with incredible moody art by Colan)
    Master of Kung Fu Omnibus (vol 2 is when the Moench/Gulacy team really hits their stride)
    Swamp Thing Dark Genesis (or any other book that has the Wein/Wrightson issues, man what a run!)
    Kamandi The Last Boy on Earth (vol. 1 or the omnibus-the premise, the out-of-control Kirby imagination gone bonkers, my favorite Kirby at the moment)
    Tarzan by Joe Kubert Omnibus (in my opinion, the ultimate comic book Tarzan run)

    Honorable mentions too numerous to list, but here goes: Starlin's Warlock and Captain Marvel, Englehart's Avengers run (still my favorite), Aquaman and Spectre by Aparo, Savage Sword, Jungle Action with Black Panther, and so much more...

    Thanks for the pleasant distraction.

  5. Those are superb choices, John! If I was making my list today, a lot of those would probably be in it, lol! I change my mind a lot. MOKF, Swamp Thing, and Tarzan are especially inspired choices! Man that Tarzan collection is another "save from a burning building" treasure!

  6. Only 5, Groove? Very difficult, but I was able to pare it down to these:

    Tower of Shadows # 1 "At The Stroke of Midnight".
    What Jim Steranko is able to accomplish in this 7 page story using color, captions, and the special effects for which he is famous is nothing short of miraculous. To me this is the greatest comic short story of all time (ok, maybe Krigstein's "Master Race" from Impact # 1 might tie it). I gushed all over Steranko about this story last year and he thanked me for my gushing.

    E-Man # 1 (Charlton)
    [ ] It was really hard to separate any one issue from the whimsical tableau that Cuti (RIP) and Staton created with this short-lived title; especially after Byrne's Rog 2000 became the backup. This series was Jack Cole's Plastic Man for the 70s. On one level it was child-like fantasy. On another, as topical as the issues of the day (the energy shortage) without the heavy-handedness of Green Lantern/Green Arrow. No other iteration of E-Man has captured the perfect balance of these 10 comics (even Joe Staton admitted to me the First issues were a mistake).
    [ ] Avengers Annual # 7
    [ ] Jim Starlin deftly finishes off his first Thanos saga with Adam Warlock paying the price of his life. He is immensely aided by the beautiful inks of a teenaged Joe Rubinstein, one of the best inkers the industry has ever had. This annual bookends with Marvel Two-In-One Annual # 2 by the same creative team. So I might fudge a little a make them both one of my five.
    [ ] Super-Team Family # 11
    [ ] While a competent story by Gerry Conway adorns this comic, it is the 34 pages of Alan Weiss/Joe Rubinstein (him again!) art that raises the issue into the superstar stratosphere. Although Weiss and Rubinstein were supposed to be the regular artists on this title starting with # 11, it turned out to be a one-off, making this comic all the more special. To this day I still drool over the beauty of each page, each panel.
    [ ] Avengers # 93
    [ ] Thomas, Adams, and Palmer were at their peak and they had 34 pages to romp around with; deep into the Kree/Skrull war. To me this is the greatest comic of all time. I told Neal that at one of the conventions he attended and in typical, likable, egomaniac fashion he replied, "I tried to make it that way". The Ant-Man in the Vision sequence is a marvel (no pun intended) of Adams' talent (when you have the greatest penciller of all time teamed with the greatest inker of all time how can you go wrong?). And Roy Thomas' dialogue is as crisp as a head of iceberg lettuce ("This looks like a scene out of Metropolis. Fritz Lang's, not Clark Kent's" and "Backpack. Next to Jan, I love you the most").
    So there you have it, my essential comics. It is issues like this that make me love this hobby. I can return to them again and again with the frozen in time teenaged comic geek enjoying them as much as when I bought them the first time. Along with honorable mentions Giant-Size X-Men # 1, the entire Claremont/Byrne/Austin run of the X-Men and Captain America #110, 111 and 113 I have many memories to wrap myself in as old age approaches. Excelsior.

    1. Sorry. Looks like this should have been in the following week's column. And I don't know what those weird little marks are before each comic. That's what happens when one uses ths default office app that comes with the smart phone.

    2. No harm, keythd23! Those choices of yours are excellent! That Steranko story in Tower of Shadows is beyond classic. Although Marvel didn't put out nearly as many "mystery" titles as other publishers, some of 'em were cover to cover classics. My favorite was Chamber of Chills #2. I'd never have thought of Super-Team Family #11, but I can certainly see why you'd choose it--Weiss and Rubinstein were a killer art team. I always enjoyed Weiss' work and wish there'd been more of it. I think they ROCKED Shazam! #34! I'm like you, any issue of E-Man could have been on my list--that's why I took the coward's way out and chose the collection. ;D Your other choices, are in my top 10. Starlin's finale to the whole Avengers/Captain Marvel/Warlock/Thanos saga is among the best comics of all time, not just the Groovy Age. And Avengers #93 is legendary in the best sense of the word. I got my copy signed by Adams at the one and only comic con I've been fortunate enough to attend. T'was a thrill!

    3. Why only one Convention? I feel for you. Between Portland and Seattle I have options for 6 cons a year. Since my main focus in collecting is the Bronze Age, I try to meet and get signatures from as many talents from that age that guest. Time is not on my side as many are passing away. I met and got autographs from Ernie Chan and Tony DeZuniga (a super nice man)in 2009. 3 years later they both were gone. So there's a sense of urgency meeting these creators, many of whom are in their 70s or older. Was thrilled to finally meet Roy Thomas last year. I told him he had created some of the best memories of my comic book collecting (Kree/Skrull War, Conan and all things REH).



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Special thanks to Mike's Amazing World of Comics and Grand Comics Database for being such fantastic resources for covers, dates, creator info, etc. Thou art treasures true!

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As for the rest of ya, the purpose of this blog is to (re)introduce you to the great comics of the 1970s. If you like what you see, do what I do--go to a comics shop, bookstore, e-Bay or whatever and BUY YOUR OWN!