Friday, September 11, 2020

The "Little" Comics That Helped Us Survive the "Back-to-School" Blues

 September. When you're a kid, it either means back-to-school or you've been back for a few weeks. It's the month we give up our summer vacations and pick our backpacks back up. (Well, except for this year. But let's not think about 2020 right now...) When Ol' Groove was Li'l/Kid/Teen Groove back during the Groovy Age, comics helped ease the pain from the transition between summer's freedom and our back to school "confinement." No matter how good or bad getting back into the swing of school went, I always knew I'd have my Marvel or DC friends waiting for me at home, or on the spinner rack ready to go home with me, which helped give me something I could look forward to. I don't think Ol' Groove was the only one around here who felt that way, right?

                                                     


Recently, Ol' Groove has been thinking about the comics that "helped me through." Not the biggies. Not the blockbusters that we all know were the best of the best (and September spinner racks were almost always filled to the brim with awesomeness during the Groovy Age). No, Ol' Groove was thinking of the (unjustly) little-remembered mags that just, for some reason, hit me right where I lived. They had that special something that made me wanna read them over and over no matter how good or bad my day at school had been. Here's a sampling of my "comfort" mags from my school days. First grade through twelfth, 1969-1980...


1969 (First Grade): Yeah, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #20 was mostly reprints (and the final ish, to boot!), but man, that Chic Stone cover just screamed at me from off the rack. It was the first issue of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents I'd seen, and did it ever grab me. The art, the characters--the COSTUMES! I'd luck out and find other issues as the years went on, but I read this one until, you guessed it, the covers fell off!


1970 (Second Grade): Li'l Groove liked Supergirl. What can I say. This sports-centric issue was especially cool to me back then, as it was kinda/sorta "relevance-lite"...and Johnny Dee was a GREAT character. Wish they'd done more with him. My favorite part of the issue, though, was the previously-unpublished Golden Age Black Canary tale in the back. It really whetted my appetite for more Golden Age comics!


1971 (Third Grade): Everyone rightfully remembers the far-out Morbius issues of Spidey by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, but their follow-up, this trip to the Savage Land, was a hoot! So much lighter than the previous issues, with some funny scenes--and Groove's always a sucker for jungle heroes and giant monsters!


1972 (Fourth Grade): No way can there be a list of Groove's favorites without a Batman comic in there somewhere, right? This one had two things that I still really, really dig to this day: Man-Bat and Frank Robbins' art on Batman and Man-Bat. Robbins was a superior writer, to boot!


1973 (Fifth Grade): Captain Marvel in a Daredevil comic? A Jim Starlin cover (though it was obviously tinkered with by the Bullpen)? Sal Buscema inking Bob Brown? Young Groove couldn't drop those dimes fast enough. This is the mostly forgotten chapter of the original "Thanos, Mad Titan" saga, by the way. As far as I know, the only time it's been included in a Thanos collection was 2013's Avengers vs. Thanos.


1974 (Sixth Grade): Ol' Groove can remember distinctly buying this one off the shelf at my beloved Mack's superstore on the way home from my first day of 6th grade. It was my first time giving Shang-Chi a try. I wasn't all that interested in kung-fu at the time, and honesly? It was the Captain America vs. Batroc reprint that made me buy this issue. I loved it, though, and kung-fu fighting (comics, anyway) became part of my dna!


1975 (Seventh Grade): See what I mean about kung-fu? Of course, Iron Fist is one of my favorite characters, and nobody did him better than Chris Claremont and John Byrne. This issue gave us a tale of Danny Rand's life in K'un-L'un. Creepy-cool fantasy AND kung-fu action. Whaddya want for a quarter? THIS!


1976 (Eighth Grade): Teen Groove was getting in touch with his "grown up" side by devouring Marvel's black and white mags. My favorite was Doc Savage! I'd been reading the novels, and Doug Moench (who'd evidently never read those novels) was KILLING IT with his take on Doc and his Amazing Five. This particular issue was bee-yoo-tee-fully drawn by Tony DeZuniga and was filled to the brim with action, globe-hopping, sorta-supernatural villains--and featured a gorgeous gal, natch. Those Doc mags are a treasure, Groove-ophiles!


1977 (Ninth Grade): Under this intriguing Jim Aparo cover lies the finale of Paul Kupperberg and Joe Staton's Doom Patrol revival featuring the "all-new, all-different" team. It was a great run of three issues and I could never understand why the DP didn't immediatly get their own series once their Showcase debut was over. 


1978 (Tenth Grade): Bam! From out of the blue came David Anthony Kraft and George Perez's long-lost Man-Wolf stories from the cancelled Creatures On the Loose! How did that comic get cancelled right before the most awesome issues went to print? Sheesh! The fantasy/sword-and-sorcery take on Man-Wolf was so freakin' far-out. Had many of us crying for a continuation, but alas, it was all soon forgotten by the powers-that-were. 


1979 (Eleventh Grade): At one time, Marvel Two-In-One's "Pegasus Project" was one of the most well-regarded and remembered storylines of the Groovy age. The inclusion of a ton of cool "B-and-lower-list" characters made this way more than "two-in-one", but none of us cared! This soul-searing conclusion by Mark Gruenwald/Ralph Macchio/George Perez/Gene Day was one of those times when an epic ended in an amazing and satisfactory way thanks to "A+ List" writing and art.


1980 (Twelfth Grade): Marvel was knocking 'em out of the park with their annuals. This is one of the very, very best, thanks to a super-cool story by Denny O'Neil (Doc Doom vs. Doc Strange with Spidey caught in the middle! Take my money, already!) and amaaaaaaaaazing art by Frank Miller and Tom Palmer. (And yeah, the interiors are as sweet as this cover!) It's a classic from start to finish and I read it a gazillion times!

Okay, Groove-ophiles! It's your turn! What "little" comics got you started off on the right foot during your grade school to high school years? Share 'em in the comments! Pax!


8 comments:

  1. Great post, Groove! I'm a year or 2 older than you (I graduated HS in 1979) and was a die-hard DC boy, but the Supergirl & Man-Bat covers took me RIGHT BACK! Back in those 1970 days I loved Supergirl and all her mod costume get-ups, but was too embarrassed to buy them. I had this deal with Tom O'Neill (another DC fanboy in my class) where I would trade him my Justice Leagues for his Supergirls. I can't believe I even remember this but I remember him giving me Adventure comics #400 (Supergirl) and asking him if he was sure he wanted to give it up--the 35th anniversary issue and a sexy cover to boot!

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    1. I was brazen, ApacheDug! I'd buy Adventure and Lois Lane both off the rack, lol! I had a friend who questioned me about the Lois mags, but all I had to do was show him the Rose and Thorn back-ups--he started getting LL, too! Like you, I enjoyed the short era where SG sported different costumes. I totally DID NOT hate the puffy sleeve/hotpants combo she settled on. The artists on SG and LL sure knew how to draw pretty ladies!

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  2. Hey Groove!! I graduated in 1979, only a year ahead of you!! Man, I miss the comics of the 60's and 70's!!

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    1. I have my old comics to look back on, but I dig getting the collections nowadays, too. Scratches the collecting itch and, on the right paper and without recoloring, some of those great Silver and Bronze Age comics look better than ever!

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  3. Batman #248 released February 1973 and in my hands sometime that year. My earliest memory of having a Batman book. It likely got into my hands from my uncle or older cousin who were both readers.

    Superboy and the Legion #204 August 22, 1974 I knew who Superman was, but had never heard of Superboy at this point. I didn't yet understand reprints so there were all those other colorful characters,but why was there 2 of some of them with the same names but different suits?

    Super team Family #1 July 1975 One of the earliest books I remember picking out as a 'Get me this one' A regular comic was only .25, but this .50 had 3 stories and those others only had 1!

    Super team Family #4 on sale January 1976. I was drawn in by this group that I had never heard of. This one is still in my hands but in pretty bad shape now.

    World's Finest Comics #245 March 17, 1977 AND Super Team Family #10 I remember I only had $2 and it was either the treats or these giant comics. My 11 year old mind chose getting the big comics and penny candy instead of the Pop Rocks, Mars bars and soda. My cousin opted for 3 comics and lots of treats. I still have that original cover-less, held together with tape copy of WF.

    June 1978 Action Comics #488, Flash #266, Human Fly #14, Invaders #33, Marvel Preview #15, Steel the Indestructible Man #5, My first summer with my own money, cutting a couple of lawns for $5 each, $10 every week all summer was huge money for a 12 year old and lots of it went to comics of course.

    Invaders #40 February 13, 1979 The last issue of the regular run ends on a cliff hanger. I found out a few years later that there was a #41 and it was nearly the end of the 1980s before I could finally find it.

    1979 Full Blown collecting at this point Adventure Comics, X-men, Micronauts, Shogun Warriors, Rom are all being hunted down every month.

    1980 X-men Micronauts are joined by all those DC books with backups. Warlord, Action Comics, brave and Bold, DC Comics Presents and finally a Marvel Moon Knight series! #1 was a favorite for a long time.

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    1. I remember a bunch of these books, Stephen! Batman, LSH, World's Finest, Invaders, Marvel Preview, Adventure, Micronauts, X-Men, Rom, Warlord, B&B, Moon Knight--those were on my "don't miss an ish" list!

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  4. I will take this challenge, Groove! I appear to be four years younger than you, but I will still cover the years you did, plus the extra four at the end. I tried to stick to one key rule: I had to have purchased the comic that year off the newsstand, or I had it because my older brother gave it to me at about that time.
    1969: Fantastic Four 93-"At the Mercy of Torgo" is a great tale of Ben Grimm on an alien planet being forced to fight in a gladiatorial arena. The earliest comic book I remember looking at as a kid, and one of the ways I learned to read!

    1970: Aquaman 54-The cover freaked out young John (Aquaman being pulled into a mirror by an evil version of himself), and the story and art by Aparo is legendary.

    1971: Thor 194-the first comic I ever bought off the newsstand, purchased in a bus station as I was travelling with my brother on an inter-state trip. I loved the evil wedding Loki had planned with Sif and Thor destroying the nuptuals.

    1972: Fantastic Four 127-another bus station purchase, somewhere in Nevada, I think. The FF in the Mole Man's kingdom, Johnny hypnotized into trying to kill Ben, high drama for a 6 year old kid!

    1973: The Demon 15-Now, I am starting to get used to the weekly trips to the newsstand to get comics with my Mom, and was blown away by two Etrigans fighting each other while Klarion the Witch Boy goads them on. I had no idea what this book was, but recognized the art as familiar.

    1974: Fantastic Four Treasury Edition-the Holy Grail of my collection at the time! The Galactus trilogy, plus an Impossible Man story and the first team-up of Namor and Dr. Doom, and all at huge scale!

    1975: Giant-Size Captain America 1-my introduction to Cap's WW2 adventures from the sixties, a great selection of stories, including the origin of Cap and the Red Skull!

    1976: Superboy 222-Mike Grell's Legion is a passionate favorite of mine, and this one with Tyroc really interested me. The back-up story features Mike Netzer, who was definitely channeling Adams with his style.

    1977: Tarzan Lord of the Jungle 7-"Tarzan Lassos the Moon" was a Jungle Tales of Tarzan story that I dug for its great Buscema art. Man, it really is amazing how many great artists have worked on the Ape-Man!

    1978: Flash Gordon 20-I love this book, especially the Carlos Garzon art that is so reminiscent of Alex Raymond. I think I always have a place in my heart for Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers stories because of the Buster Crabbe serials that I used to watch on local tv at the time.

    1979: Rom 1 and Micronauts 12-two comics based on toys that both stood on their own merits. Rom had terrific Sal Buscema art and a surprisingly intense, violent edge; Micronauts had its own edge-Michael Golden! That issue is great for its telling of Acroyear's home planet and its culture.

    1980: Marvel Team-Up 100-I could have chosen your pick (Spider-man Annual 14), but I remember loving this one because of getting to see the Fantastic Four done by Frank Miller.

    1981: DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest, Green Lantern-My introduction to the other O'Neil/Adams GL/GA stories besides the first ones.

    1982: Warlock 1 Baxter reprint-my introduction to all of the story, instead of the few that I had with gaps in between. Still my favorite reprint series.

    1983: Blackhawk 265-Dan Spiegle's art on Blackhawk just thrilled me at the time and still does. I met the man at a convention years later, and he was such a gentleman and was very appreciative of my admiration of his work. I have a bound book of all of these tales that he autographed for me, joining Jack Kirby as the only two autographs I have ever collected (i got lucky on the Kirby one-bought a Thor back issue for cheap and there it was on the bottom of the splash page!)

    1984: Jemm Son of Saturn 4-Gene Colan drawing Superman? They had me with the cover. I loved Colan's DC work from the 80's-some great stuff there!

    Whew, that's a lot. Thanks for letting me take this walk to the past. Let me know what you think!

    Best,
    John

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    1. What a great list of comics and cool memories, John! I have all but two of those (Flash Gordon and Blackhawk--I did read friends' copies of 'em, though!). I'm glad you moved into the 80s books. I started college in '81, so I have some cool memories there, too. MTU 100 almost made my list (it has that awesome Storm/Black Panther team-up by Claremont and Byrne in the back, too!). I remember getting that GL Blue Ribbon Digest at a drugstore walking distance from the college campus. It was my favorite digest ever--and I still have it! Warlock's a fave, so I have the originals--but I also have the tpb collections, too. I should get those Baxter books just for the covers and new splashes!

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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!


Note to "The Man": All images are presumed copyright by the respective copyright holders and are presented here as fair use under applicable laws, man! If you hold the copyright to a work I've posted and would like me to remove it, just drop me an e-mail and it's gone, baby, gone.


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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!