This month's Ask Mr. Silver Age column, in Comics Buyer's Guide  #1678, is a look at the key comics events of 1971, the year CBG started. It helps celebrate the magazine's 40th anniversary issue. To read what I considered the biggest events, go here:

 

http://cbgxtra.com/columnists/craig-shutt-ask-mr-silver-age/1971-a-...

 

See if you agree or think of any that should have been included. Also consider if there was a year in which more major changes were occurring with the impact that some of these had!

 

-- MSA

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"Kryptonite Nevermore" was the attempt to downsize Superman into something writers could actually have dramatic tension about. The Sand Superman, Q-Energy, Billy Anders and his lynx and more magical mayhem were ways to craft a Superman story that didn't logically end on Page 2. It didn't last that long and green kryptonite was gradually reintroduced into the series but with a bit more restraint.

The Kree/Skrull was, in a way, a capstone to Marvel's Silver Age. From the "cows" of Fantastic Four #2 to Ant-Man to the Inhumans, SHIELD and Captain Marvel to Rick Jones and his Golden Agency, it ran the gamut of ideas and concepts that have been brewing for the past decade. Pity that nothing from Spider-Man was used! It also shined a light to the future with a more realistic approach to comics!

Although Amazing Spider-Man was Marvel's top title by the end of the 60s, Fantastic Four wasn't selling too far behind, and Kirby was Marvel's top artist. Moreover, he was a name to readers due to Marvel's use of credits. He'd already been a top creator in the Golden Age.

 

In contrast, Ditko didn't go directly to DC - he went to Charlton first - and he had not been involved in the creation of as many successful features as Kirby.

 

In 1968 DC Special #1 was devoted to the work of Carmine Infantino, and in 1969 #5 to the work of Joe Kubert.

Hmm...

 

I would be hard-pressed to define exactly the impact of Carmine Infantino's reign as top dog at DC.  However, in many of the stories I've read from that period, it seems as if there was less chasing of Marvel's tail during that time.   Less of an attempt to ape the sensibilities and character-driven stories that Marvel was doling out, and more of an attempt to define those characteristics with more forethought.  Obviously, it didn't always work, but a lot did.

 

Of course, I'm more familiar with the time period just prior.

Mr. Silver Age wrote: "O'Neill thought it was great to thumb his nose at The Man, but he mostly dared a major corporation and the judicial system to slam him into the ground, so they did. That left a wake of judicial issues that hurt fair use and made corporations' ownership of characters stronger."

 

Rebellion against the Magic Kingdom seemed to be in the air in those days. There was also the infamous "Disneyland Memorial Orgy" drawn by Wally Wood, which appeared in the satirical magazine The Realist. As you might imagine, it depicted Disney characters engaged in, well, activities not associated with family-friendly animation.

 

My memory is that Disney didn't object until it was turned into a poster and sold in head shops and hippie record stores. Then the lawyers took action.

Randy Jackson wrote: "I would be hard-pressed to define exactly the impact of Carmine Infantino's reign as top dog at DC."

 

Comics historian Gerard Jones gave Infantino a mixed grade, describing his reign as long on innovation but short on follow-through. Carmine would start and cancel titles so quickly -- after 2 or 3 issues, before any reliable sales figures could be compiled -- that some wonder if he intended these comics as a sort of test marketing, or as miniseries a decade before the format took hold.

 

Jones also wrote that DC in the Infantino era seemed to aim its comics at either the fan elite or the youngest and least discriminating customers. They somehow never captured the broad middle ground that Marvel staked out.

Here's a link to an article from 25 (!) years ago, looking back at the "Superman Breaks Loose" saga that was then a mere 15 years old: http://theages.superman.nu/History/SandSaga.php

What a well-written article! I think that the opening bit of the first Cary Bates story was deliberately designed to show that the old Superman was back. It's possible that initial sales reports on the first issues didn't show any big jump, so they switched back.

As you note, it does seem like an awful lot of buildup to give up on it so quickly, given how long it can take to get full sales reports and for word of mouth to get people picking up the title again--at a time when it was a bigger, more expensive package.

I still think it was a big mistake. Admittedly, when I like something it tends to disappear quickly, so I could be in the minority on this one, too. But I think one of Superman's key problems was how difficult it was to challenge him, especially in a period when super-heroes were not well liked and all of them were damping down their powers.

Most of the cartoon shows have cut him way back, so that missiles and hard hits stagger him, at least, and he can't just fly out into outer space without breathing apparatus. I think that's a much more compelling guy than the one that could move the Earth out of orbit just by pushing on it.

-- MSA

Mr. Silver Age said:

Lee, thanks for the long response! Considering some of the ones I've posted, on topics that didn't cover 10 items, I can hardly complain about lengthy replies. I think they give people more jumping-off points to find something to discuss.

George, I'd read that about O'Neill getting in Disney's face, so to speak. He definitely was doing as much as he could to provoke them and the courts, completely defying court orders and being held in contempt. 

O'Neill thought it was great to thumb his nose at The Man, but he mostly dared a major corporation and the judicial system to slam him into the ground, so they did. That left a wake of judicial issues that hurt fair use and made corporations' ownership of characters stronger.

He thought he did great, because they ultimately gave up and didn't force their punishments of him, when he actually did the opposite of what he wanted. Not too many other people were fooled.

-- MSA


I'd never heard of that case before, but all I can say is -- Good Lord! How stunningly stupid can you be?
...Or ~ Odds bodkins !!!!!!!!!!!

Given how regularly creators swap companies these days, I can't fathom how stunning Kirby moving to DC from Marvel must have been back then. Must have seemed like the comic world was turned upside down.

 

The closest I could relate to it was the founding of Image and the departures of Lee, Liefeld, McFarlane and Co. from the Big Two. But somehow I don't think that comes close to Kirby's departure.

 

 

"The closest I could relate to it was the founding of Image and the departures of Lee, Liefeld, McFarlane and Co. from the Big Two. But somehow I don't think that comes close to Kirby's departure."

 

A good comparison would be Milton Caniff quitting the hugely popular "Terry and the Pirates" to create an all-new strip, "Steve Canyon." That was big news, in the real world. I think it made the cover of Time.

Walking up to the drug store spinner rack and seeing Kirby art on the cover of a DC comic book was one of the biggest "What th...?" moments in my comic reading life. There was little or no behind the scenes information available at that time, so the Kirby switch came as a total shock. To me Kirby was Marvel, at least in the visual sense, that he would work elsewhere seemed incomprehensible.

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