Markley’s Fevered Brain: The Grooving Seventies


Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


A few years ago, Marvel issued a series of thick, full color trade paperbacks called Marvel Firsts. There are single volumes of WWII Super Heroes and the 1960s, three volumes of the 1970s, and three volumes of the 1980s. There is also an Omnibus coming covering the 1990s. These collections reprint the first appearance or first issue of all of Marvel’s major characters and a number of lesser ones as well. The Sixties volume is great as you see the beginnings of Marvel Comics (at least the modern version) with the Fantastic Four, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, Hulk, etc. The Seventies volumes are something quite different and while there is a lot of experimentation, some better than others. Also, part of this huge explosion of titles had to do with changes in distribution that took place in the late 1960s that allowed Marvel much more freedom to publish more books.

Marvel Firsts: The 1970s Vol. 1

Marvel Firsts: The 1970s Vol. 1


A quick note about the Firsts series overall. They’re very comprehensive in mentioning everything, but not reprinting everything. For a number of reasons there are numerous titles mentioned and shown only with a cover image, without the actual story being reprinted. For example, Conan the Barbarian. There are other examples where due to licensing issues, they could not reprint a whole story but could show the cover with a note. Also, there is very little to no historical context to these stories. There are one or two lines of intro with the cover or with the issues that are reprinted but a few pages of historical analysis would have been nice. Overall though, these are very nice packages and are a great historical overview of Marvel’s publishing history. In this blog I am going to only look at the first volume of the Marvel 70s Firsts as there is so much material I am going to devote a blog to each of the three volumes. This first volume looks at the early 1970s and has some very important debuts and series that would later greatly impact the Marvel Universe. It is notable how many of the current Secret Wars spin-offs are inspired by these 1970 series. Each brief review only looks at books where the complete story is reprinted and I do not address the pages with just covers and historical facts. Each story is reviewed in the order it is printed in each volume. And away we go.

Amazing Adventures #1

Amazing Adventures #1


Amazing Adventures #1 featured two stories every month, the first being the Inhumans by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. This was the Inhumans’ first solo series and the first story is basically a set up for the series. It is classic Stan and Jack as it is a quick, fast paced 10 page story.

This is followed by Black Widow. Another 10 page story by Gary Friedrich and John Buscema. Again, this is the Widow’s first solo series and it moves her to New Your City and establishes the Black Widow we have all come to know.

Man-Thing, from Savage Tales #1, is a black and white origin story written by Roy Thomas & Gerry Conway with art by Gray Morrow. The art is great by the late Gray Morrow and the story really does not seem to be set up as an ongoing series, it is more or less written as a one-shot. No hint of the great Man-Thing stories that would come later with writer Steve Gerber.

Marvel Spotlight #1

Marvel Spotlight #1


Marvel Spotlight #1 is next and it featured the debut of Red Wolf. Written by long time DC writer Gardner Fox and drawn by Syd Shores and Wally Wood, making a great art team. A mediocre story about an American Indian who gains mystical powers and fights crime. It ends asking readers if they wanted more of Red Wolf. He did have his own title briefly after this but it did not last.

Marvel Feature #1 was an over-sized issue and featured the debut of the Defenders. The story introduces the three many characters, Dr. Strange, Hulk and Sub-Mariner, and is basically the re-introduction of Dr. Strange since his own book was cancelled. I thought this story was great in 1971 and it is just as good today. The story is by Roy Thomas and the art is by Ross Andru and the always amazing Bill Everett. The story also nicely ties all of the previous stories with all the characters together to explain the reason for the Defenders.

Marvel Spotlight #2 was a giant sized issue that introduced Jack Russell, the Werewolf by Night. A typical set up explaining the supporting cast and the three nights of the month where Jack is the Werewolf. What made this story a classic to me is the art by Mike Ploog. Ploog was a Marvel mainstay in the early 70s and his work shows up a lot in these books. The story is by Gerry Conway and plot by Roy Thomas. If you enjoy this (and how can you not?), there is a Werewolf by Night Omnibus coming soon.

Amazing Adventures #11

Amazing Adventures #11


Amazing Adventures #11 features the first story with the new (then) blue and furry Beast from the X-Men. This reads as an attempt to modernize an old character but it is fun and entertaining and does briefly feature his fellow X-Men. It was written by Gerry Conway with art by Tom Sutton and Syd Shores (who penciled Red Wolf). Here they explain why he mutated to a furry Beast and set up his new life away from the X-Men. It is interesting to note that the Beast was more of a dark gray, almost purple in this first issue more than blue.

Marvel Premiere #1 was the first appearance of Warlock by Roy Thomas, Gil Kane and Dan Adkins. These stories were far less cosmic than Jim Starlin’s later material and were much closer to Jesus Christ Superstar. The character had previously appeared as Him in the Fantastic Four and Thor and this story picks up from there. This early issue (and his original series) was the telling of a messiah on Counter-Earth. A story very reflective of the times (1972) and it features the High Evolutionary!

Tomb of Dracula #1

Tomb of Dracula #1


Tomb of Dracula #1 is the next book reprinted. This first issue is by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan. It is not as good as the Wolfman/Colan/Palmer issues that are to come but it lays the groundwork for one of the best series Marvel ever did.

Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 is a typical Blaxploitation story of a wrongly convicted man sent to prison where he is used as a genuine pig for an experiment that gives him super strength. A strong story by Archie Goodwin lifts this book above the typical fair but mediocre art by George Tuska brings it down a bit.

Combat Kelly and the Deadly Dozen #1 was a Sgt Fury spin-off by Gray Friedrich, Dick Ayers and Jim Mooney. There was really nothing remarkable about this book. It introduced the Deadly Dozen and explained why they were with Combat Kelly and, of course, had a female add on and a traitor. It was sort of Marvel’s take of the big war movies such as Kelly’s Hero’s and the Dirty Dozen.

Outlaw Kid #10

Outlaw Kid #10


Outlaw Kid #10 was a revival of an old Stan Lee and Doug Wildey character. This time it was written by Mike Friedrich and drawn by Dick Ayers and George Roussos. This was a standard western which really was not as good as the originals by Lee and Wildey.

Marvel Spotlight #5 follows next and it is the introduction of Ghost Rider by Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog. This is another book I loved back in the 70s and I think still holds up today. There have been a number of changes and different Ghost Riders over the years but to me this was the best. The art by Ploog is top notch and the story is as originally today as it was then. The basic story is about a stunt motorcyclist who makes a deal with the devil. Just great material.

Gunhawks is another western by Gary Freidrich and Syd Shores this time inked by Sol Brodsky. It is the story of two young guys, one white and one black, heading out to the Wild West fleeing the Civil War. Of course they find conflict everywhere they turn and have to fight for their lives. A decent story but it’s not great. As you can see by what Marvel was publishing at the time, westerns were making a comeback based on the success of Alias Smith and Jones which was a popular western TV show in the early 1970s. (It holds up really well and is a very good TV show worth checking out.) and the spaghetti western movie explosion out of Italy.

The Cat #1

The Cat #1


The Cat #1 was written by Linda Fite and had art by the great team of Marie Serverin and Wally Wood. The story is a bit dated but it has become a cult hit over the years. The story is not great and does not really stand out, but it is fun from a historical perspective. The Cat would later appear again as she was transformed into Tigra.

Shanna the She-Devil #1 introduced the character that would later become the wife of Ka-Zar. This first issue is pretty typical jungle girl fair with art by George Tuska which is brought down by the inking of Vince Colletta. The story by Carole Sterling and Steve Gerber brings the book up a notch or two but it still does not stand out as great work. Like the Cat, the character herself has become a cult hit over the years.

Monster of Frankenstein #1

Monster of Frankenstein #1


Monster of Frankenstein was a fairly faithful telling of Mary Shelly’s classic novel. Once again it was by Gary Freidrich and Mike Ploog (back for a third time). Like Werewolf by Night, I loved this book. The main reason is again Mike Ploog’s art. It is so atmospheric and moody it is perfect for the story. The first six issues basically told the story from the book but it moved into a new direction after that. For those interested, Marvel is releasing a trade collection of all 18 issues of this series later this year.

Amazing Adventures #18 is the last story in this first volume. It starts a new series replacing the Beast series with one called “War of the Worlds” by Gerry Conway, Neal Adams, Howard Chaykin and Frank Chiaramonte. This first issue introduces us to Killraven and sets the stage for the classic stories to come by Don McGregor and P. Craig Russell. The story is inspired by H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds and is a fast paced adventure story telling the tale of humanity struggling to survive under a Martian invasion. This issue is probably the closet to modern (2015 comics) in terms of looks and style.

This wraps up my look at the first volume of Marvel Firsts: The 70s. In the near future I will revisit this topic and look at Volumes two and three which span the Mid-70s to the late 70s. As you can see, the seventies were a time of great creativity as Marvel was trying all sorts of new things in numerous directions. Some of these experiments worked well and became classics, such as the Tomb of Dracula, and some, such as Red Wolf would have been better if they never saw the light of day. Overall this volume is worth checking out as there is a little bit for everybody and you get to see the seeds of much of what is being done today, particularly in the Secret Wars spin-off titles.

Marvel Firsts: The 1970s Vol. 2

Marvel Firsts: The 1970s Vol. 2


Everything written here reflects my opinions and in no way reflects the thoughts or opinions of the Westfield Company of their employees. Have you read these volumes of Marvel Firsts? What do you think? Are you as surprised as I am at how many of the characters and concepts from this time period are showing up in Marvel’s continuity today? I would like to know what you think. I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM where I welcome comments or just a friendly hello. As always…

Thank you.

Classic comic cover from the Grand Comics Database.