May 1971

By | Wednesday, December 06, 2006 2 comments
Let's start our Wednedsay by looking at May 1971. The reasoning why we're looking at May 1971 is because that's the cover date of Amazing Spider-Man #96, which was the first mainstream comic since the advent of the Comics Code to not bear the CCA seal. I won't relay the whole story-behind-the-story (Wikipedia covers all the basics here) but the upshot is that it got the industry to update/revamp the seriously out-dated Code. This "coup" got a fair amount of press, and prompted Joe Quesada's father to buy the comics, unwittingly starting the future editor-in-chief of Marvel down his career path.

Hang on a second, though! We've got other history to cover from this month!

Notice also that we see the debut of Savage Tales, marking the first appearance of the Man-Thing. The Swamp-Thing would debut the following month over at DC, prompting seemingly endless speculation that one was a rip-off of the other.

Speaking of debuts, how about the first issue of Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp? And we're also looking at 400th issue of Action Comics. But these are mere footnotes by comparison to what else we've got!

You might notice that several of Jack Kirby's revolutionary Fourth World titles are still only on issue #2. This stuff was still brand new and no one really knew what to make of it yet. It would take years before the real impact of this period of Kirby's work would be recognized and appreciated for what it was.

Check out the cover to Avengers #88. It's the first instance of a comic book using one of the creators as selling point on the cover of the issue. "The Summons of Psyklop! A Marvel masterpiece by Harlan Ellison!"

Fantastic Four #110: the first (unintentional) variant issue. The cover was printed with the cyan and magenta plates switched, so a full run of issues was published with screwed-up cover colors. The plates were switched back once Marvel noticed the error, but that wasn't before quite a few issues had been sent out. Many of them did get sent back to the printer and were pulped, but many still remained in circulation even after the correctly colored version was sent out.

What's particularly interesting for me is that many of these comics -- especially the DC ones -- were some of the first ones I read. What makes that even more interesting is that I was born in 1972, about a year after these were on the newsstands. The legend is that a friend of my parents used to read comics on his lunch hour at work. A few years later, while my parents were visiting, he gave the comics to me as a means to keep me entertained while the grown-ups all talked about all those things that a small child has no concerns about. I used many of these very comics to help learn to read, at the time not realizing that the comics were actually older than I was!

The by-product of this is that I have a deep affinity for the early 1970s comics like many comic fans born a decade or so before me, and that I had "matured" as a comics reader by the 1980s, so that I don't hold those books with quite the same reverence as other fans my age.

The other by-prodcut is that, thanks to the Supergirl stories in Adventure Comics from that period, I also have an affinity for that mini-skirt/go-go boots look.
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Richard said...

Just seeing this is like pure crack for me. Being elderly, I remember so many of these so well -- even that National Lampoonissue AND the Lancelot Link comic! -- but it's so strange to see that when Kirby was doing the Fourth World, DC was also still publishing a Jerry Lewis comic.

Speaking of which, one small quibble: "Check out the cover to Avengers #88. It's the first instance of a comic book using one of the creators as selling point on the cover of the issue." I would have counted this...

There's a comic shop I stop by infrequently that has almost literally wallpapered their shop with SA comics. (They're all bagged and it's the bags that are actually tacked up. No comics were harmed in the making of this effect.) I walked in and was stunned by the overall impact. Seeing all those old O'Neil/Adams Green Lantern issues, for example, was incredibly impressive. It struck me that I might achieve a similar effect by doing the same type of thing here. Here's everything from one month. Or here's all the FF #1 tributes. Or whatever. Then putting that in context, I think, is fascinating on top of that visual cool factor.

You bring up a good point with New Gods #1, RAB, but I would point out that a) Kirby is not being expressly sold as the book's creator (although that is implied), b) these are only going by cover dates which may or may not be comparable across companies, and c) I know that DC's "Kirby is coming" prelude ads for the series -- and I'm presume the "Kirby is here" line we see here -- confused younger comic readers at the time who were unfamiliar with comic history. I've read accounts that told of people who didn't who or what a Kirby was, so for a decent segment of the audience, "Kirby" was just some big mystery.

In any case, you're right that my wording is a bit inaccurate. But even if it's not officially THE FIRST, it's certainly one of the earliest exampels.