Over on the John Byrne Forum, they have a set of 12 questions for posters to answer. The questions offer a chance to think back to those hazy, crazy first days of comics reading, when everything was new and memorable.

For this group, thinking back that far may take some fog-cutting lamps and heavy machetes to cut through the underbrush. I found some of the questions pretty easy to answer immediately, and others I had to think about and say, "It must've been..."

No doubt, some of the answers might change tomorrow if I have a change of mood, or I think of another example (or someone posts one I forgot).

In any event, I thought it was a fun exercise. Here are the questions you can cut and paste:

1. What was the first comic book you remember reading?

2. What was the first series you tried to follow every month?

3. Who was the first hero to really inspire you?

4. Who was the first villain to give you the creeps or scare you?

5. What was the first story to have a big emotional impact on you?

6. What was the first action scene to really impress you, make you go "Wow!"?

7. Who was the first artist whose style you learned to recognize immediately?

8. What title's cancellation saddened you the most?

9. What title's debut excited you the most?

10. What was the line-up the first time you saw the Avengers? 

11. Who was the first character whose "death" upset you?  (Yes, I've put death in quotes; you aren't responsible if the person didn't actually end up dying.)

12. What was the first back issue you went hunting for? 

In some ways, the questions that were selected are interesting in themselves. Are there others that would be fun to answer? 

If you need some prompts, there's the GCD (www.comics.org) and Mike's Newsstand (http://www.dcindexes.com/timemachine/index.php?site=)

My answers are below. See what you come up with!

-- MSA

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But The Creeper and Hawk & Dove failed with six issues each and were abandoned by Steve Ditko (who, it should be noted, wasn't dialoguing his stories if not outright NOT writing them) before that. DC put out The Secret Six, Swing With Scooter, Brother Power, Metamorpho, Plastic Man, Angel and the Ape, Anthro, The Spectre, The Phantom Stranger, Windy & Willy and The New Blackhawks/Metal Men/Teen Titans, not to mention new characters like Animal Man, Ultra the Multi-Alien, Prince Ra-Man, the Enchantress and the Elongated Man getting their own features. They were trying new ideas, new concepts and new interpretations but none of them worked at the time.

But now a lot of them are fondly remembered but let's face it, today we don't see a new Anthro or Creeper.

Did they fail?  Or were the cancelled?   I was thinking that the colorful, imaginative imagry would be a better gamble than to redesign the faces of your supporting cast.

And, looking at your list...I didn't buy the Secret Six, but I DID read it (on the spinner rack)... I can't imagine buying Swing with Scooter, Brother Power the Geek, and I didn't know who Plastic Man was. Angel and the Ape seemed too silly, along with the Inferior Five.   I'm afraid the Metal Men suffered from too limiting a concept, despite the extremely varied images that the characters could take. At the end of the day, they were still robots who had to return home to Doc's workshop for reassembly.

Well, fail commercially and cancelled are the same thing.

But DC was changing their headliners in that 1968-1972 period as well. With Robin leaving Batman, there was

  • the beginning of the de-emphasizing of the Superman mythos
  • Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen became less silly
  • Supergirl changed costumes and had limits put on her powers
  • Wonder Woman lost her powers
  • Flash got married
  • Green Lantern had his entire supporting cast and enviroment changed several time
  • the alteration of Green Arrow
  • Green Arrow being teamed with Green Lantern
  • Black Canary joining the Justice League
  • Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter out of the JLA
  • Aquaman has his family extended to include a wife, son and evil half-brother
  • Hawkman's status quo was changed (temporarily)
  • Then he got combined with the Atom

But that didn't help them either as Green Lantern/Green Arrow, The Atom & Hawkman and Aquaman were cancelled as well.

This was a very rough time for comics. Luckily (especially for me) they bounced back around the time I started to read them.

That seems so odd to hear that it was a very rough time for comics.

I started buying comics off the rack in summer 1966, and continued until Fall 1972...and while I'll agree that the quality and concept of the (Marvel) comics that I bought dropped off, I didn't feel that it was a bad time for comics...not until after the split books were spun off in about 1968 (Cap, IM, Namor, Hulk, Dr. Strange, SHIELD,) and others launched...NBE, Capt. Marvel, Amazing Adv., Astonishing Tales. .... but within the year, I was feeling that all those books had "lost their way"... with no depth or maturity of artwork or plots.  The exception being the Avengers, the Palmer-Adams-Thomas X-men and the FF.

I've always said that I think the downside of the Silver Age began in 1968, when it became apparent that super-hero comics were not in vogue any more. That's really all Marvel and DC had pinned their success on, and when it went out of style, they were stuck not only with comics touting that but no confidence to leave it behind--much as Stan had held onto his monster concepts early in the SA when he created super-heroes.

Having all the heroes denounce their super-powers and rage against authority didn't work well, but having them be heroes supporting the status quo didn't fit with the times. But DC especially creating hippie characters was laughable, because they didn't like hippies (and had no clue what their readers wanted to read).

DC started flinging all kinds of stuff at the wall with new books, often using second-tier artists, while Marvel had the bad fortune to just then be able to expand its super-hero line. So suddenly it was tough to be a Marvel completist, and buying all those extra super-hero comics right then was less appealing.

Kirk, a lot of our perceptions of comics have to do with how old we are or what was going on in our own lives. I think things started changing in 1968 and really stopped in 1970, but that corresponds with my Golden Age. I know people (hi, Dave!) who love those early 1970s comics, because they were the right age. I used to argue with a guy on CompuServe who believed Captain Comet started the SA and it ended with Go-Go Checks, because that's what his Golden Age coincided with, so those were the best comics.

It's easy to think any comics are cool when you first pick them up when you're young. But if you've been reading for awhile, seeing Infantino's Flash become A&E's Flash, Swan's Jimmy Olsen become Costanza's Jimbo or Kirby FF become Romita FF makes you think something's missing. But if you never saw those earlier ones, those titles could still be cool.

Some of us see those Secret Six-type titles as a last, desperate attempt to find something that worked. But I've heard from guys who started reading then, and they were excited by all the creativity and variety and thought it was a Renaissance for comics.

There's no question it was a tough time for comics, though. The sad secret of the SA is that, except for that 1966-1967 blip for Batman comics, sales pretty consistently dropped throughout the period. I think you're right that many more distractions came along that earlier generations didn't have.

At least you didn't start reading in 1972 and suffer through the mid-1970s! The guys who claim THOSE comics are the best because they correspond with their GA really have a rough row to hoe!

-- MSA

To this day, the biggest gaps in my Marvel collections tend to be from 1968-73.  I think this is because around 1972 I started buying reprints from the 60's, and around 1973 I started buying the new comics as well.  For decades, many of the stories from 1968-73 were never reprinted. And I had less urge to go after many of them, since the quality apparently plummeted.  I did get every issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA in the late 70's, but the FF's took a LOT longer, and series like IRON MAN, THOR, etc., I still have years worth of stories from that period missing.  I remember when I got all those missing CAPs, being shocked at just HOW BAD the writing was in the long, long stretch in between Jim Steranko and Steve Englehart.

To me, the BEST comics from the early 70's were the NEW ones-- GHOST RIDER, HERO FOR HIRE, JUNGLE ACTION, MASTER OF KUNG FU, IRON FIST, and CAPTAIN MARVEL when Jim Starlin was doing it.  The books that were NEW in the 60's... those that were still around... were pretty much surviving on their earlier reputations alone. Which is basically how almost everything being put out by Marvel & DC has been for the last decade or two.

Mister Silver Age said:

At least you didn't start reading in 1972 and suffer through the mid-1970s! The guys who claim THOSE comics are the best because they correspond with their GA really have a tough roe to how!

Billy Joel said:

They say that these are not the best of times but they're the only times I've ever known!

As someone who started reading comics in 1972, let me say that I love the comics from the 1970s. I loved the Silver Age reprints I read. I loved the Golden Age reprints I read. In fact, until I started perusing fanzines and magazines, I never really differeniated between the terms "Silver" and "Bronze" Age Comics. They were COMICS. To this day, I never understood, and I may be overstating this, the resentment over change in comics.

Did you really think that Jack Kirby was going to draw Fantastic Four forever? Or that it would have stopped when he stopped drawing it?

Or that Carmine Infantino would never leave The Flash?

Marvel changed art teams in the Silver Age all the time. Many agree that they prefer John Romita over Steve Ditko on Amazing Spider-Man. Or that Kirby's work improved when he was paired with Joe Sinnott.

At DC, Murphy Anderson took over Hawkman from Joe Kubert. Nick Cardy made his mark on Aquaman. Does anyone like John Forte or Jim Mooney better than Curt Swan on Legion of Super-Heroes?

As for me personally, and this is MHO only, I would pick Dick Dillin as THE Justice League artist.

O'Neil and Adams/Novick/Giordano's Batman beats the New Look Batman in every way.

Dave Cockrum brought new life into the Legion and Mike Grell surpassed him!

Grell also helped make Green Lantern and Green Arrow stars again.

Cary Bates, Elliot S! Maggin, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz and others made their comics fun and poignant and, sometimes made you think. And they didn't write down to their audience.

'70s comics? They're great. They matter. They are just as important as their Silver Age counterparts.

 

"Dave Cockrum brought new life into the Legion and Mike Grell surpassed him!"

I wouldn't say that, but I do have the impression Grell benefitted from better writers than Cockrum worked with. (I'd have to double-check, though, it's been ages since I read any of those.)

"Did you really think that Jack Kirby was going to draw Fantastic Four forever?"

It would have been a better book if he'd kept writing it...

I tend to agree with all your points, Mr. S.A.     Most fans consider the period where they started reading comics to be the best.  It may be rose colored glasses, but : "nobody cooks like Mama could cook".

When Jack moved to DC you could sometimes see a glimmer of 'Reed Richards' in one of his characters, or 'Sue Storm'. I remember thinking he's go back to Marvel and that he should never have left. When he did return he would draw the Fantastic Four again (if only on the covers), but I had moved on by then and preferred the John Buscema and Joe Sinnott model.

Joe Sinnott was the FF saviour as far as I was concerned and as long as he was on that title it was always my favourite Marvel. It didn't really matter who the penciller was.

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