How to Recognize a Comic Series is "Circling the Drain":

In a recent prologue/introduction to an X-Men Marvel Masterworks reprint volume, someone described the early X-men book as floundering, never being a good seller, and in short "circling the drain".

I thought this was a wonderful expression, as it exactly captures what I felt as a young fan who witnessed many of the growing pains that Silver Age Marvel comics were going through as they attempted to expand their line... say from 1968-71.


The glory years *(1964-65-66) never seem to last forever, and by the time we get to 1968, the year of the great expansion in the Marvel line-up, we find a lot of things changing.


For me, one of the most obvious signs that a title is in trouble is a change in artist.  And even worse, a rotating list of artists...

Couple this with a series of one-shots ("Done-in-one" is the current expression), inventory or one-time-only stories, each by a different artist, and the signal sent to the fans is that the Bullpen doesn't care enough to keep the characters consistent.  Inventory stories are being used. X-Men #53


Another red flag for me is the sudden introduction of someone from the character's past, specifically a family member, heretofore unmentioned.  Best example: The surprise introduction of Alex Summers into the X-men title by a speech by Scott saying "You're about to meet the best-kept secret in the Summers family...." (How little he knew at that time!) X-Men #54


A third red flag is a radical redesign in the character's costume.  Example: Captain Mar-Vell's change from Green and White Gene-Colan designed battle suit to Red and Blue/Black with gold Nega-bans in issue #17.Daredevil #7  Captain Marvel 17


Fourth, and most obvious, missing schedule that the monthly book stops coming out or appearing monthly.  Another check mark against Captain Marvel, I'm afraid... with a gap between #21 and 22 that was more than a half year.  And then another gap again.  ( I had to think, "Are these guys serious, or what?")Captain Marvel 21


What signs to you recall that series is in trouble, or looking for a home or new direction?

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Did someone take away your teddy bear? GET LOST. If you don't like my opinions, formed from DECADES of reading articles, interviews, etc. and putting the pieces together as anyone who wasn't blinding themselves the the truth could see clearly, then DON'T REPLY to my posts.

For the most part, CAPTAIN COMICS has proven to be a much friendlier, and more intelligent, message board than most I've frequented over the years. I'd hate for ONE exception to ruin the whole place for me. Especially one who's managing to be as rude and insulting toward others as you're being.

I may be out of line here but to paraphrase the great Charlie Chan, "Opinions like fingerprints, everybody has them."

Like Henry, I think that the conversations here are pretty intelligent and civil (War---What???) but realize that we are an opinionated bunch. That means people can agree or disagree with us. That does not make them wrong or right. They just see the topic of discussion from a different perspective. For the most part, we follow whatever path suits us but we must always have an open mind and a sense of tolerance.

Yes Henry does bring up Stan Lee. A lot. But that is how he feels through his research. He may be overly enthusiastic on his stance but they are valid. I heard a lot of what he has said about Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko's partnerships with The Man but I do feel that Stan had far more to offer than Henry believes. IMO.

Point in Case: Wally Wood. Knowing nothing about the situation, my initial reaction was if during the 70s, Wood takes the assignment from Lee to draw, then as a professional artist, he should draw. Despite what happened on Daredevil in the 60s because that's irrelevant because Wood accepted the gig. My first experience with Wally Wood's work was him inking Keith Giffen in All Star Comics and they were amazing. Then he drew two issues which were very good then vanished. Of course, NOW we know all about his personal demons but from a career standpoint, he seemed unreliable.

And George, you can comment on anything you like but remember you have to be able to take it as well as dish it out in whatever tone you use. I don't feel that they are immature jerks hanging around here or else I would not be here and most of the posters here wouldn't be either. I don't know you, I don't know how long you've been here or at the old site (I wasn't) but respectful debate works better than sarcastic replies. From what I've read of your posts, you have insights that should be shared but we ALL should turn it down a notch especially when we get angry over something.

I had a bad day at work with people arguing with me apparently for the sake of arguing, so I may be venting because of that. But this site is a haven from the "real" world and we shouldn't be against one another here!

I now get off my soapbox.

It's important at this point to remind everyone of the rules of the Captain Comics Message Board:

The Captain Comics Round Table is a comics-oriented website with news, blogs, videos, art and the smartest and most polite discussion board on the Web. Rule No. One:No personal attacks.

Those rules apply to everyone: new members, regular posters, moderators and even those who have administrative functions for the site (such as paying for hosting).  No exceptions. 

By questioning the motives behind someone's opinions, George Poague came close to that line.

By telling another member of the board to "Get Lost," Henry Kujawa, in my judgment, clearly crossed it.  There is no place for that kind of behavior on this board.

Philip Portelli, I appreciate your attempt to enter this conversation in a conciliatory fashion.  However, the axiom that "you have to be able to take it as well as you dish it out in whatever tone you use" may be true in the playground but it is not true on this site.  There are tones that are never permitted and which one should never be expected to take.  And, in this case, while not condoning George's earlier comment, Henry's reply was clearly an aggressive escalation.

Channeling my mom for a moment, it's time for everyone to settle down and be nice.  You may passionately defend your opinion.  You may not insult or attack a comic book creator or a fellow member of this board.

I also knew/know nothing about the Wally Wood work assignment in Astonishing Tales...circa 1970... except that I remember reading it, and thinking the artwork was unique and that I really didn't know where it was going. The plot twist or two that I recall really caught me off guard in each installment. Astonishing Tales #3 Cover, Big Reveal!

So, if that wasn't Wally Wood artwork that was coming down in the Doctor Doom storyline, I was fooled.  I know it's been reprinted in a separate hardbound volume that I WISH I had bought when I saw it years ago in a discount shelf at a now-defunct comic shop, but WOW!  It was good art, as far as I was concerned.  Too bad it was my only crack at Wally Wood art or stories as they came out.

I wasn't so much as condoning the responses as to point out that if you give a snide reply, you can't be that offended when you get a snide answer. I much prefer that the issue need not be brought up at all!

Chris Fruit:

"Henry's reply was clearly an aggressive escalation."

In whose mind?

I was trying my best to be POLITE. I am not the one who has been REPEATEDLY making snide, sarcastic comments directed at one other person here. But this sort of behavior has been quite common at other boards I've been a member at.

For the most part, CAPTAIN COMICS has proven to be a much friendlier, and more intelligent, message board than most I've frequented over the years. I'd hate for ONE exception to ruin the whole place for me.

Given that Xavier was shown as a young soldier during the Korean War, which ended in 1953, in the first Juggernaut story from 1965 or so, I'd have thought Professor X would have had to be 28 at the very youngest in 1963 and more likely 30 or older.  Of course, 50 years later it's all moot because any connections Silver or Bronze Age era characters had to real events is totally shot to hell.  Otherwise, Xavier would have to be about 80 years old now and Jean Grey and Scott Summers, not to mention Peter Parker and Johnny Storm, all in their late 60s, instead of perpetual late 20-somethings, alive or dead.
Captain Comics said:

Coming to this thread late, I'd vote for the Xavier-loves-Jean thought balloon as a throwaway idea, which Stan did in fact throw away. I don't have time to look it up, but I seem to remember Xavier thinking it on the deck of a ship as they searched for Sub-Mariner (whom they decided was NOT a mutant, until 30 years later, when he needed a sales boost). That would put it around issue #7 or so. And, as others have noted, it was never brought up again in the original run.


Decades later, Chris Claremont decided to address it, instead of letting a sleeping dog lie, which would have been my preference. He had Xavier think to himself that he loved Jean as a father, which he once mistook for romantic love long ago. And it WAS long ago -- I don't remember the exact time and issue, but though the characters had barely aged, I had gone from elementary school to my 40s!


Speaking of age, does anyone have a guess how old Professor X was in the original run? When I was a kid, of course, he seemed OLD, because all adults seem ancient to an elementary school student. But in retrospect, the Lucifer story would imply that he was not too far removed from his own adventuring days, which were prematurely cut short. If you look to Kirby's career for clues, most of his "mentor" characters (Rip Kirby, The Guardian, etc.) were roughly mid-20s. I'm guessing Xavier was probably meant to be 25 to 30, which would make his mooning for Jean in The X-Men #7 (maybe) SLIGHTLY less creepy, as he's at least in a more appropriate age range (especially if she were late teens and he was 25-ish). I'm not letting him off the hook, though -- a teacher lusting after a student is morally and ethically perverse. But if he were more age appropriate, it would at least be explained if not excused. 

They seemed to be winning in their first meetin with the Fantastic Four when the fight was called off. And that was in the FF's title.
Philip Portelli said:

Except they were being beaten up in their own book!! Not the best way to drum up sales!

Randy Jackson said:

I didn't think it was that farfetched (although I have to admit I haven't read that story in awhile). Outside of Cyclops (who wasn't as powerful as he would later become), the X-Men weren't exactly heavy hitters. Given that Spider-Man was experienced at fighting multiple foes at the time, I could see that being a fairly even match.

Now if you want to talk about him beating the X-Men in< i> Secret Wars</ i>...

Philip Portelli said:

And talking about needing a sales boost, the X-Men "thought" the Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel's most popular hero may have been a mutant!! So they go after him and are nearly beaten, despite the four-on-one advantage!

Fantasy Masterpieces stopped at #14, leaving just four issues unreprinted. For some reason the series had backup reprints of Warlock vs. Magus. 
Kirk G said:

I'm pretty sure that the Silver Surfer reprints in Fantasy masterpieces completed all 18 issues of the SS before ending.

I also know for a fact that pages were removed from the FF reprints and Thor reprints in Marvel Spectacular, with the Thor reprints stopping near issue #18 as well.

Whenever I've seen these various reprint books, I always get a shudder, because they frequently would have inferior cover art, and combined different issue stories with other stories... and they were all just so strange.
Still, if they are the only way that you got to see classic silver age stories, they're great.

For my era, Marvel Collector Item's Classics reprinting the first forty or so FF stories were the best that we could do.

I eagerly plunked down my quarter to get each of the squarebound reprint volumes for as long as I could, even when they reprinted the ocassional FF story that I had the original for.  It's then that I realized how different an inker or colorist could make the feel of the book, by altering the background of "blank background panels" with a different tint!

The one issue of Foom I still have states Professor X is in his mid 30s and supposed to be Leslie Howard without his British accent. Cyclops is Anthony Perkins and the Beast is Tony Randall. I think the others were supposed to be just typical teenagers.

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