Thursday, August 2, 2018

A Decade of Diversions Week! Groove's Favorite Comics from 1976/1977

What "A Decade of Diversions Week" is all about: 

This week, Ol' Groove is sharing lists his favorite comic mag from each year of the 1970s (1970-1979), along with four runners-up. Guess you could actually call that sharing lists of my top five mags of each year, huh?  Two years per day, five days--yep that's ten years! 

Lemme tell ya, it was not easy to make these lists. I had to comb through every comic, each month, each year--okay, Mike's Amazing World of Comics' Newsstand made that mucho easier (thanks, Mike! The Diversions couldn't make it without your site, man!), but still, that's a lot. Then I had to whittle each year's gi-normous list down to five. To keep it from becoming too stressful, I had to make myself a few rules:

1) No reprints (reprints are awesome and some of my fave comics are reprints, but...)

2) Single issues. The mags have to stand (or at least be able to stand) alone. That knocked out a lot of great mags whose best stories were multi-issue epics. (They'll get their own lists someday.) And yes, there are exceptions to this rule. Especially first issues and/or first chapters of sagas.

3) The mag had to be memorable to me. My idea of comicbook perfection (or something close to it). Something I read 'til the cover fell off.

4) I tried (really, really tried) to keep my list free of using the same mag more than once per year. That was TOUGH.

5) The rules were to help me decide, not bind me--so there might be exceptions to any or all of these rules.

Now, this is Ol' Groove's list of faves. I'm not saying these were the best comics of the year (or even the month), but they're my favorites. You have your favorites, too, I'm sure, so you know what I mean. Please comment and leave lists of your faves, but don't knock mine (or anyone else's list), please. After all, if we all loved exactly the same 50 Groovy Age mags, there really wouldn't be a need for this blog, would there?

Ol' Groove's Top 5 of 1976:
1976 kicked off with one of the biggest super-hero team-ups fandom could have ever dreamed of. Naturally, it's Ol' Groove's fave comic of 1976. Marvel and DC didn't skimp on this event, either! 100 tabloid-sized pages featuring not only our beloved heroes, but their supporting cast and arch enemies (Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus), to boot. And in a supremely inspired move, they got Gerry Conway, former Spider-Man and "present" Superman author and Ross Andru, former Superman artist and "present" Spider-Man artist to write and draw it. Add inks by the likes of Dick Giordano and a young Terry Austin and how many more reasons does Ol' Groove have'ta give to explain why I picked Superman vs Spider-Man as my #1 comic of 1976?

My other faves: The final issue of Amazing Adventures, in which Don McGregor and P. Craig Russell wrapped up one of the greatest series of the 1970s, War of the Worlds/Killraven, and left us (almost literally) crying for more; Green Lantern #90 which re-united GL with Green Arrow in fun, sci-fi-centric adventures  by Denny O'Neil and Mike Grell; Marvel Premiere #32 with Howard Chaykin's sublime western/sci-fi/mystery mash-up Monarch Starstalker; and of course (it WAS 1976 after all) Captain America's Bi-Centennial Battles by Jack Kirby and a host of superior inkers that includes John Romita Sr. and Barry Windsor-Smith.

Ol' Groove's Top 5 of 1977:

The best comic mag of 1977? Without a doubt, for Ol' Groove it's Marvel Preview #11, the return of Star-Lord by Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Terry Austin, and Tom Orzechowski. The team that would become the X-Men dream team got it all together right here in a 52 page sci-fi epic (a graphic novel before we knew what a graphic novel was!) that is so action-packed, far-out, and memorable that, not only is it my favorite comic of 1977, it's veeeery close to my favorite comic of all time. And on some days, it IS my favorite comic of all time. (It's even got a Jim Starlin frontispiece, so there's another of my Mt. Rushmore of comicbook creators in this mag!)

Yep, it beat out some heavy, heavy competition. Ol' Groove'll hazard a guess that the other four mags in my Top 5 of 1977 are quite possibly your number ones! DC Special #29 with the awesome (and I do mean awesome) double-length origin of the Justice Society by Paul Levitz, Joe Staton, and Bob Layton (the regular JSA creative team at the time); Five Star Super-Spectacular with stories and art by Adams, O'Neil, Staton, Nasser, Dillin, Conway, and more featuring solo stories of some of our fave JLA members; Ol' Groove's favorite ish of What If...? with a stunning story by Jim Shooter and even more stunning art by Gil Kane and Klaus Janson. It even beat out Marvel Super Special #1 featuring KISS (printed in real KISS blood) with story and art by titans like Steve Gerber, Alan Weiss, and the Brothers Buscema! Five mags to truly treasure, Groove-ophiles!

Tomorrow's the wrap up of our tour of Groove's Fave 1970s comics! See ya then! (But don't forget to rap about your faves in the comments while we're waiting!)


  1. Don't forget that Neal Adams massaged the Ross Andru Superman figures before Dick Giordano got his brushes on the pages.

  2. There were a serious amount of contenders for these two years. Can I test your patience with a partial list of stuff that didn't make my top five in either one? Warlock, Cap and the Eternals by Kirby, Logun's Run, Green Lantern/Green Arrow by O'Neil and Grell, Ragman, Ditko's cool/weird Shade the Changing Man, Mister Miracle by Englehart and Rogers, Iron Fist and Marvel Team-Up by Claremont and Byrne, Englehart and Perez on the Avengers, Moench and Gulacy's Master of Kung Fu, Wally Wood on JSA, and so on. (Thanks, Mike!) Yep, they're all groovy.
    1976: Superman vs Spider-Man (You said it all; I have vivid memories of practically every page), 2001 A Space Odyssey tabloid (Kirby just absolutely knocked it out of the park), Rampaging Hulk 1 (an incredible marriage of styles between Simonson and Alcala that explodes action on every page), Uncanny X-Men 98 (the first part of the Phoenix saga begins on Christmas Eve in New York and winds up in outer space; Cockrum does all of it well), and a two-way tie for fifth-Doctor Strange 14 and Tomb of Dracula 44 (the two-part clash done by the stellar team of Wolfman and Colan).

    1977: Avengers Annual 7/Marvel Two-In-One Annual 2 (Starlin's two-part conclusion to the Warlock saga is my favorite comic book story), John Carter Warlord of Mars 1 (a unique pairing of Gil Kane on pencils and Dave Cockrum on inks, it has all the best stuff about the concept in one issue!), Adventure 452 (Aquaman and Aqualad fight in an arena for the life of Arthur Jr.; I still can't believe how bold Aparo and Michelinie were), Tarzan Lord of the Jungle 1 (I know, two Burroughs comics? Roy Thomas adapts "Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar" with John Buscema pencils and inks! Come on!). Ask me in a couple of days and I'll probably choose the JSA special, Star-Lord, and 5 Star (man, what a great Batman/Kobra story) to go along with Starlin. All right, bring on the last two Groove!

  3. Wow, Groove. Some superb choices. What If # 3 with great Kane/Janson art (do you get the impression I love Klaus Janson?) also had an ending that never fails to cause a lump in my throat. The splash page alone with the leaping Hulk was enough to assure me I had a great read ahead of me. Jim Shooter outdid himself in the writing. If only the rest of What If had been as good as this issue. I don't know if I was in the minority but Superman Vs The Amazing Spiderman was a profound disappointment to me. Andru and Giordano didn't seem to mesh very well together (funny since they would become such a significant and vastly improved cover team for DC in the 80s). Conway's story just seemed like 76 pages of filler. 5 Star Superhero Spectacular, besides sporting a great Neal Adams cover, had a Nasser/Rubinstein Batman/Kobra story where Nasser was out Adamsing Adams. Marvel Preview 11 took the mediocre premiere of Starlord from issue 4 and by putting together the superstar team of Claremont/Byrne/Austin, who would of course go on to turn the X-Men into Marvel's number one title, created one of the best comics ever. Even today, when I see all the fine line detail Terry Austin put into Byrne's pencils I am awestruck. Work like this is why I consider Austin the second best inker of all time after Tom Palmer. But I found out at a convention telling Joe Rubinstein he was just barely edged out as third best after Austin was not appreciated (I thought for sure he'd admire my honesty). Since I've never been a huge Grell fan GL/GA left me nonplussed. I was so used to the all new/all now GL that a return to his more sci-fi roots seemed a step downward. DC Special with its Adams cover (him again!) and Levitz/Staton/Layton team was a special treat retconning the origin of the Justice Society, clearing up any inconsistencies that had developed over the years. Staton/Layton are one of what I consider teams supreme in comics, a teaming of two talents that produced superior work than any team up before, others being Byrne/Austin, Kirby/Sinnott, Weiss/Rubinstein, Adams/Palmer and Colan/Palmer. The only thing I liked about Captain America's Bicentennial Battles was the 11 pages inked by Barry Smith. How great they looked. Too bad deadline pressures forced other inkers to finish the book with the end result being an inconsistent look not helped by Kirby's rambling, unfocused storytelling. Well since I don't intend on writing an essay I'll close off here. This has been so much fun. Can't wait to see what you close out the decade with tomorrow.

  4. 1976 was still early in my comics-reading career, but in hindsight, I think I would pick the Monark Starstalker issue of Marvel Premiere. So much excellence in that little book.
    1977 - that's getting close to my sweet spot. I had three of those 'big' books you pictured: What If? # 3, 5-Star Superhero Spectacular and the JSA origin special. Back then, I would have said the 5-Star Spectacular was the best of the lot, now I'd probably give that issue of What If? the nod.



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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!