I'm continuing my project to read the Marvel comics of the Silver Age in the order they were published and I'm still discovering "new" things. For instance, when I started reading them in the mid-1960s, continued stories were the norm and part of their appeal. Early Marvel Age stories were all done-in-one, which made them perfect for the casual reader who often couldn't find the rest of the story.

So, what was Marvel's first continued story?

Unless I missed something earlier, it is the Giant-Man story in Tales to Astonish #50 and #51. Each chapter is 13 pages, as was standard in the anthology books. Apparently Stan, who had just taken over as full writer on the series the previous issue, decided that the introduction of arch-foe The Human Top was worthy of the extra pages. Despite the turnip-shaped helmet,Top was a good villain for Giant-Man. Hank had just taken on the identity and found it difficult to adjust from fighting at ant-size to tackling foes in a giant form. Top was fast and continually taunted his large, slow, clumsy opponent. This forced Hank to train to become a better fighter and was an important progression of his character.

Anyway, I just thought it was interesting that my favorite SA Marvel character gets the distinction of setting the trend for continued stories at Marvel.

Hoy

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I find that to be true of so many comics writers from that time, actually.

Touche. I also find this to be a big problem, honestly. And what's ironic is that either: 1.) People do realize this and just don't care, or 2.) They don't realize it because of limited or complete lack of self-monitoring.

And truly, I'm not sure which is more scary.



George Poague said:

'I find that to be true of so many comics writers from that time, actually."

As compared to the brilliant geniuses of today? They've largely given up writing in favor of presenting big boobs and things blowing up really good.

 I don't know what that term is, though, so all I can do instead is enable your dysfunctional psyche by giving you what you ask for.

The term for someone who gives a person what they want (even when they protest too much that they don't want it) when it is clearly the WRONG THING TO DO is "enabler." Don't be that guy!

Since you profess to liking Kirby's SA stuff more thank his SPJO, couldn't we substitute FF #51 for SPJO when things come up? Although I frankly don't even know HOW SPJO comes up so often, and I don't want to go find out. It was just a thought, although I realize I'm asking, even though SPJO clearly tells me not to.

I've read that when Jack was returning to Marvel in the mid-'70s, Roy Thomas gave Stan one piece of advice: "Don't let him write." But Stan let Jack write.

That's often happened--it's still happening today, with Neal Adams' "Blood" story in Dark Horse Presents. On occasion it works out, but not very often. Lots of artists think writing is easy, since everyone can type and talk, and they have story ideas.

Artists tend to like telling stories in pictures and writers like telling stories in words, and that conflict usually produces something pretty good. But take one away, and it veers too far away from the combination that the best comics are.

The best results come when a writer can think in pictures and direct the action that way or explains a scene and leaves it open to an artist who can really tell the story in pictures.

Image's early days were the classic example of artists thinking they understood writing and storytelling and really having no idea. I don't know how much today's writers say "Draw her with big boobs" or the artist just flips open to his favorite magazine to find a pose and body type to draw a scene the writer described.

OTOH, "big boobs and things blowing up" apparently isn't seen as a criticism by a lot of comics readers today. So the rest of us will go away, and they'll have to hope they can keep attracting that audience with bigger boobs and bigger explosions.

-- MSA 

George Poague said:

'I find that to be true of so many comics writers from that time, actually."

 

As compared to the brilliant geniuses of today? They've largely given up writing in favor of presenting big boobs and things blowing up really good.

George, really -- that ain't fair. Take a step back and get some perspective, please.

Since you profess to liking Kirby's SA stuff more thank his SPJO, couldn't we substitute FF #51 for SPJO when things come up?

You're confusing a couple things in your usually fertile mind, Mr. Age. SPJO # 141 has my all-time favorite comic book cover, but it's not my all-time favorite comic. It also has two of the greatest lines ever used on a comic book: "Don't Ask! Just Buy It!" has to be the best line ever, while "Racing toward the greatest climax ever seen in comics" when read at the same time as you're seeing Superman and the Guardian nobly carrying a shield with Don Rickles' face on it, while Jimmy and Goody flail away in the background -- well, to this day I still don't know exactly what that "greatest climax" was all about since it clearly didn't occur in this particular issue, but it sure was a great way to tease two-bits out of my grubby paws. Anyway, I use the cover of SPJO # 141 as a shorthand gag for whatever point I might be making at any given time.

 

The cover of SPJO # 141 evokes the kind of sheer nutty brilliance that the Silver Age is known for, and even though SPJO # 141 is most assuredly not a Silver Age comic book (and really, the story itself isn't all that much to crow about), the cover is so over-the-top awesome that I like to remind people that comic books aren't just about superheroes battling supervillains or "This Man... This Monster" type angst or other typical superhero comic book genre tropes. Sometimes... well, sometimes they're just about goofiness.

George Poague said:

Clark Kent DC: "George, really -- that ain't fair. Take a step back and get some perspective, please.'

 

I'm afraid that you, Clark Kent DC, are too close to this material. You're so immersed in it, you can't see how bizarre and grotesque it looks to people who aren't superhero addicts.

Not so, friend. Not so. Not that I have any need to establish my bona fides, but take a look over here: "What's a Must-Read in 'The New 52'?". I note that I had recently acquired several of the New 52 first issues, and proceeded to offer capsule reviews of same, starting with this one. I offered honest and what I believe were fair assessments of the titles, which were ostensibly introductory issues for uninitiated readers, and came away appalled at the preponderance of violence and gore, as well as critical of how several failed to appeal to the non-superhero addict reader. My critical faculties are not dulled, nor am I blinded by the love of what I choose to read.

I made the remark I did because your remark, George, was a blanket, unfair slam against a whole group of comics professionals and the work they do. Like it, don't like it, fine -- but be fair. 

Gee, I wonder what would have happened in Captain America and Marvel, had Jack Kirby NOT written and draw the series.  It's an unanswerable question, since it didn't happen... but I do think that Jack's creativity might have still found a way to express itself, even if he was not the sole writer.  He may have had great ideas, creativity and innovative concepts, but IMHO, he was always best when collaborating.


George Poague said:

Kirby's strange dialogue worked (for me) when the speaker was a god, an alien or a demon. But when the speaker was human, it was utterly unbelievable. Check out his Capt. America issues from '76 and '77. Nicely drawn, and the plots aren't that bad (though not as good as Englehart's), but when a character opens his mouth and speaks ... hoo boy.

I've read that when Jack was returning to Marvel in the mid-'70s, Roy Thomas gave Stan one piece of advice: "Don't let him write." But Stan let Jack write. And by 1979, Kirby was out of the comics industry for all practical purposes.

I have no problem with Kirby's 70s Captain America. I even have the Madbomb TPB. Despite Kirby having no idea what to do with the Falcon, it had a lot of creativity and energy.

Really?  You're the first person I've run into who has said they enjoyed or appreciated Kirby's 70s Cap.  Most tell me that it's unreadable... and though I admit I wasn't around when it came out, the few issues that I picked up used didn't thrill me. I'd be willing to try the tpb, if it was discounted enough.  Do you feel the story hangs together well enough to complete an arc? Would you recommend it?

Philip Portelli said:

I have no problem with Kirby's 70s Captain America. I even have the Madbomb TPB. Despite Kirby having no idea what to do with the Falcon, it had a lot of creativity and energy.

I've declared a fondness for Kirby's writing in the Madbomb phase myself.  Last year I said:

 

...I like to think that Kirby's dialogue has a poetic truth to it, and is more suited to the tales he tells than mere naturalism.

I first noticed this when I read the Madbomb episode in Captain America where Cap shows the (fatally-?) ill young woman his real face. There was poetry in that, even though neither character spoke in a very natural sounding way.

From here.  It's years since I read my Kirby 1970s Cap comics, but I know I enjoyed them.  Kirby is simply one of the great artists of the 20th Century, and as such is always worth reading.  He's someone who'd lived an amazing life and strived to communicate his ideas honestly and in good faith with his audience. 

 

Andrew Rilstone has an excellent and even-handed analysis of the strengths of Kirby and Lee respectively here.

I remember reading Kirby's 1970s Marvel stories as they came out and not liking them much. They were just so different from the type of stories being produced by the next generation of hip writers like Englehart, Gerber, Moench, McGregor, Starlin, etc.

However, in recent years nearly all of those stories have been collected. I've been reading them as they come out and they are a lot of fun! Madbomb is a wonderful story when read all at once instead of one installment monthly. Same with Eternals, Devil Dinosaur, and even Black Panther.

The stories are so distinctly Kirby that I can't imagine reading them with someone else's scripting and dialogue. The only exception might have been Stan, but he wasn't writing comics at the time.

Hoy

I wrote about this a while ago... might have been so long ago that it was on the old CBGxtra site... but I read the Kirby 1970s CAPs the way I recommend everybody read them: via the ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA volume. Yeah, you'll miss the color, and that's a big loss, but what you'll gain is an appreciation for how good those Kirby stories were within the context of the stories that preceded and followed it. The idea that Kirby came along and "ruined" a great comic that up till then had been a work of brilliance under Steve Englehart is just plain wrong. Englehart's run was good, no denying that, but not only had he left the title before Kirby came along, it had become darn near unreadable, under the likes of John Warner, Frank Robbins and others. There was no energy -- CAP had become a paint-by-numbers generic Marvel comic. Whatever else you want to say about those Kirby CAPs, there was undeniable passion and enthusiasm behind them. Yeah, they were way over-the-top in sheer wonkiness, but sometimes that can be a good thing, especially compared to the passionless stuff that immediately preceded Kirby's run.

 

After several years of Kirby's one-man show, Marvel attempted to reboot CAP and brought in the big guns, including Roy Thomas, Steve Gerber and John Buscema. But nobody stuck around for more than a couple issues, and the title was beseiged by comics-by-committee storytelling, reprints, back-up stories and other face-saving measures to keep the title on a monthly schedule. It's amazing that one man could do what about a dozen others after him couldn't -- stay committed to the title month after month.

 

The Kirby CAPs weren't great comics, not by a long run, but for its time period, they were a rare example of consistent, dedicated craftsmanship.

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