So, here we are at the intro column of Make Mine Marvel. My name is Chris Eng and I’m going to read an ungodly amount of Marvel comics starting in 1970; I’m going to do it in chronological order; and I’m going to tell you all about them.
THIS SOUNDS NUTS. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?
I attempted a re-read of the X-Men books of my youth (the 1980s) recently, and in almost every issue there was an editor’s note saying something along the lines of ‘Read all about it in the latest issue of the New Mutants!’ to which I was like, “Okay, but how do I keep up on all this continuity? Do I go back and start reading New Mutants from the beginning? Do I go back further? How far back? The Wolverine miniseries in 1980? The start of Claremont’s X-Men run in 1975?” Or do I go all the way back to the beginning of the Bronze Age and read everything cool that happened in the Marvel Universe from the 1970s onward? And the answer to that final question, dear readers, is YES.
WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT THE BRONZE AGE?
The Silver Age was and is seen by many as the greatest epoch in comics history. Superheroes truly come into their own at the House of Ideas under the guiding hands of creators like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko in the 1960s. But by 1970, Marvel’s parent company had been sold off to a conglomerate that didn’t care about comics, Ditko and Kirby had left the company, and Stan Lee’s ever-present voice disappeared from the majority of Marvel’s titles. Writing responsibilities on the majority of comics had been passed on to Roy Thomas (Stan’s #2) and a new influx of writers. In America, the boundless optimism of the ‘60s had passed—a casualty due in part to the Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy assassinations two years earlier, as well as the Kent State shootings and the Weathermen’s domestic terrorism. The US had invaded Cambodia, the Beatles had broken up, environmentalism was a top-level concern and Nixon was in office. It was a dark time and a sea change was coming for for the world, and that included comic books (even if no one could see it at the start of the decade). In the years to come, the industry would nearly sink, but in spite of all the hardships (or perhaps because of them) a new age of creative expression would dawn. The Bronze Age would truly come into its own.
SO, WHAT WILL YOU BE READING?
Basically whatever appeals to me—and that’s a lot! I won’t (can’t!) read everything, as that would mean would mean I’d be reading these books in damn near real time and I’d like to catch up to the present day before 50 more years pass, but I’ll pick up titles starting at key issues (eg. the death of Captain Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man) or appropriate jumping on points (the addition of Black Widow to Daredevil). I’ll be putting a special emphasis on the weird books with weird heroes (Man-Thing, Howard the Duck, Warlock) as well as all the Englehart/Starlin/Gerber books in the ‘70s that I missed when I was growing up because they were before my time. I’m also looking forward to diving into the one-shots and miniseries that tend to get swept to the side and forgotten about. I won’t, however, be reading any of the romance/western/teen/war books, since by the early ‘70s they felt like holdovers from the Silver Age.
WHAT’S UP NEXT WEEK?
We start at the beginning of Marvel’s Bronze Age… CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1! So stay tuned, True Believers!