There are, really, only four silver age comic book titles that hold up today...for me.

 

Carl Barks' Disney work.

Most of the Archie titles.

The Amazing Spider-Man by Lee, Ditko, and Romita, Sr.

The Incredible Hulk by Lee, Kirby, Ditko and friends.

 

I appreciate the rest...but, man, I just can't seem to finish a Showcase or an Essential-type collection of any other comics from that era.

 

What have you read from that era that didn't take superpowers to finish?

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Strange thing about those later X-MEN... I got all the back-issues from #49 to the end in the early 80's, thrilled to get work by Steranko & Adams.  But on repeat reading, what i found was, Don Heck's issues contained vastly-superior storytelling. Steranko's 2 issues were almost incoherent, Smith's even worse, and Adams... well, they look nice, but they seem more flash than substance.  I found myself thinking what a crme it was that, having been kicked off first Iron Man, then Avengers, that Don Heck was repeated kicked off X-Men, coming back a few times as fill-in for the guys who he'd been replaced by.One of my favorite teams on the book these days is Heck & Roth. Heck's layouts were dynamic, Roth's drawings were pretty.  Each made up for the other's weaknesses. Now, if only they had someone BETTER on the inks!!  (Vince, hmm,  grrr...)

 

Of course, there's only one really BAD issue with Adams, and it's the one Denny O'Neil worked on. There's no way that story should have been crammed into a single issue. Plus, bringing back Prof. X from the dead (sort of) sent character development into a backwards tailspin for years...

 

 

Oh, and I would like to mention, I think Arnold Drake has repeatedly gotten a bad rap. He came in in the middle of someone else's mess, and had an uphill battle trying to fix it-- on both X-MEN and CAPTAIN MARVEL.  Part of me wishes he'd have had the chance to really develop what he was starting, if he hadn't been KICKED OFF both books by Stan (who didn't like him on "political" grounds).

Captain Comics said:
As I wrote in a review of War That Time Forgot when the Showcase came out, "How is it even possible to mix World War II and dinosaurs and make it boring? Somehow, Kanigher achieved it."


There are two War That Time Forgot stories that stick in my mind, one because it was so awful, and one because it was so good. Both were written by Bob Kanigher

The awful one was reprinted in "America At War: The Best of DC War Comics," and was drawn by Neal Adams! It featured a bunch of Navy sailors trapped on Monster Island, and there's a lieutenant nagging the captain every step of the way, harping and complaining that the captain doesn't know what he's doing and the lieutenant will have to take over. By the third page, I was hoping somebody would put a cap in him. Kanigher recycled that bit in several of his war and Western tales.

The other story, "The Big House of Monsters," was really cool. (It was reprinted in DC Special #21, DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest (Sgt. Rock's Prize Battle Tales) #7 & Sgt. Rock Special #13.) It featured Russ Heath doing the art honors.

 

It begins with a young police officer on a train, bringing some hood named Nick back to town. Nick declares the cop isn't going to take him to "the Big House." Moments later, the train derails, and one of Nick's goons unhandcuffs him, saying, "You'll be on your feet in a minute, Boss -- the cop's out." Nick sneers at the unconscious officer, for thinking that he was going to take him to the Big House.


Back at the police station, the cop gets a dressing down from his captain: "You let a killer escape. Promotion's out!" Our officer vows to find Nick and bring him in, but has no luck. Then the war came and, as the narrator says, "the young officer switched uniforms," and we see him in training and in combat, still thinking of finding Nick but despairing that he won't.

Then he gets taken prisoner, and finds Nick in the POW camp. They immediately start bickering, with the cop declaring he's going to bring Nick in and Nick still vowing he isn't going to the Big House. After a while, when the camp is attacked, the cop and Nick make a run for it; our cop has stashed away an inflatable raft and some grenades, ammunition, a pistol and a pair of Thompson machine guns.

 

They row out to sea, but, pledging to take turns rowing -- but, of course, you need two hands to row, so Nick, with his free hands, grabs the weapons and takes control, once again saying that he isn't going back to the Big House. They make it to a mysterious island, and encounter a sea monster, which they dispatch by tossing a grenade into its mouth.

On shore, they meet a brontosaurus apatosaurus! Nick tosses the cop one of the Thompsons: "Here! Looks like you'll need a gun to save your own skin as well as mine! Catch!" "It's caught!" They fire at it, to little effect: "It's eatin' up our lead like it was popcorn!" Nick says. They dispatch it with a grenade or two -- and then immediately draw on each other.

 

Realizing they're evenly matched, they make a wary truce, trudging across the island to seek shelter. They fight off a pterodactyl that picks Nick in his claws, and kill another beast that grabs the cop -- or, rather, the cop saves himself with a grenade while Nick fails to lift a finger to help. "And let you take me back to the Big House?"

 

They find a cave, and sleep "with one eye watching the other." Then, after encountering more dinosaurs, the cop thinks they're better off going back out to sea, in the hope that a plane or ship might spot them. But suddenly, a giant squid grabs the cop out of the raft! "Nick -- Nick! Help me!" he shouts.

 

"Help you to take me back to the Big House! Nix!" Nick says.

 

As the caption reads, "In a moment, it was quiet again ..." 

 

Nick decides, "I'd better get back to the island and wait to be picked up from there -- I wouldn't have a chance out here!" However, back on land, he is greeted by a tyrannosaurus! Nick says, "I'm all alone now ... the copper's gone! And I'm here -- with the monsters!"

 

Indeed he is! He fires a few shots as four dinosaurs surround him, and his last words, as he arms a grenade, are, "I'm in a Big House! A Big House of monsters! And I'm startin' to serve my sentence now! The joke's on me!"

 

 

"Bill also touches on another problem with the 'phonebook' collections.  The temptation is to begin logically at the beginning, but the first volumes of Thor, Green Lantern and many others don't show these runs at their best."

 

Thor was a mediocre Superman imitation for its first 2 years. Even the titles, like "The Day Loki Stole Thor's Magic Hammer," sounded like Weisinger-era Supes stories. Lee farmed out the scripting to his brother Larry Lieber or "R. Berns" (Robert Bernstein, a frequent Superman scripter). It wasn't until 1964 that Lee and Kirby put some effort into the book and it became one of Marvel's best. If sales figures can be believed, Thor was Marvel's No. 3 seller in the late '60s, behind Spider-Man and the FF.  It was a case where quality was rewarded with strong sales.

 

The early issues of most series are rather tentative, as the creators are trying to figure out who the characters are. They're worth having for historical reasons, and the Showcase and Essentials books are a cheap way to get these stories. For me, Daredevil didn't become Daredevil until John Romita began drawing it (with the 12th issue, over Kirby layouts), and it didn't kick into high gear until Gene Colan took over the art with No. 20.

Captain Comics said:

As I wrote in a review of War That Time Forgot when the Showcase came out, "How is it even possible to mix World War II and dinosaurs and make it boring? Somehow, Kanigher achieved it."

 

I see what you're saying, and in that time period, I think you're absolutely right. When those comics came out, there's no reason that comic should have been so boring. What I can't stand is when it's over-used now. I know for a fact that there have been comics featuring "Nazi dinosaurs" and such, but have been attached to not-so-great stories. Josh Flanagan illustrated the point that I have had in the back of my mind for while now, when he said on an iFanboy podcast from March of 2009 (I was listening to it yesterday while working in my classroom):

 

"Right now, there's this thing in comic books that happens, where somebody goes, 'Vampires in the Viet Cong? Sign me up!' And I hate that, because it's so reductive and it does not make a good story."

 

I'm pretty sure that I said out loud, while stapling posters of reading genres to the wall, "AMEN!" I've always hated that attitude myself. Sure, it's eager and positive and enthusiastic, but I think it belittles the reason so many other people read comic book stories--for the stories, not necessarily just the "wacky concept".

Bill also touches on another problem with the 'phonebook' collections. The temptation is to begin logically at the beginning, but the first volumes of Thor, Green Lantern and many others don't show these runs at their best.

I couldn't agree more. That's why I say tell me which characters you're interested in, and I'll recommend the volume with the stories I prefer. That's another advantage Archives and Masterworks have over shoawcases and Essentials (in addition to color): because there are fewer issues (10 or so in comparison to 25 or so), it's easier to find a run of great stories, possibly a complete arc (such as the first three MMW editions I mentioned on the first page).

Fave Silver Age runs? The ones already mentioned - Ditko's Spidey (Romita was ok too, for awhile) & Dr. Strange, Kirby's FF & Thor, Weisinger's nutty Superman family, Barks' ducks, Archie by DeCarlo/Lucey & Little Archie by Bolling, Legion of Superheroes (the only Archive I have a full set of) and Adam Strange (& other stories in DC's MIS & SA - more Showcases, please).

 

Not mentioned? Kirby's Challengers of the Unknown. Lee & Kirby/Ditko's monster stories for early Marvel. Schwartz & Infantino's Flash. The pre-Detective 327 Batman stories drawn by Dick Sprang. Yeah, they were nutty too. But fun as all get out. I am currently reading for the first time and really enjoying the John Stanley Little Lulu reprints from Dark Horse. I don't think comics get any better than that.

Call it personal taste... I liked Bill Everett's one DAREDEVIL issue, felt Joe Orlando's 3 were 3 of the worst comics ever published by Marvel in the 60's, and absolutely LOVE Wally Wood's brief run.  But then Romita came along, and I could not believe how disappointed I was by those issues.  It got much better when Gene Colan took over. How ironic is it that, supposedly, Gene was supposed to "fill in" for Romita while Romita worked on the ASM ANNUAL ?  (Or is that all retroactive B.S. from someone who got his time-lines wrong?)  The strange thing is, in the Bullpen page (I think), Gene is ALSO referred to as "filling in" for Don Heck on IRON MAN while Don took a short break to "spend more time with his beloved ponies".  (So, Don lost his BEST gig at Marvel, from spending too much time at the RACE TRACK???)
Huh! Those Joe Orlando Daredevils remain some of my all-time favorites, at least the "Owl" issue and the "Purple Man" issue, but I bought them off the rack and they were my first Daredevils. (My first Joe Orlando comics, too!) I can still visualize the scene where DD slips out of his ropes because the Owl was unaware his billy club was jointed; takes the cotter pin out of his cane to pick the lock of his cage, swings the cage across the room to rescue Karen, etc. Those issues are branded in my head. I kept looking through Marvel issues for more by Joe Orlando, but couldn't find any. Finally his art turned up in the Adam Link series in Creepy (or Eerie?) magazine, but the style didn't look the same & I was disappointed.
I always thought it strange that Daredevil, always described as a second-tier book and a little "brother" to Spider-Man, had such a diverse and excellant range of artists: Everett, Orlando, Wood, Romita and Colan. It speaks volumes that Kirby and Dikto never worked on this title in the 60s and they did contribute to most of the other Marvel series, sometimes on the same ones at different times.

"Huh! Those Joe Orlando Daredevils remain some of my all-time favorites, at least the "Owl" issue and the "Purple Man" issue, but I bought them off the rack and they were my first Daredevils."

 

I like those issues, too. I discovered them in reprints (in "Marvel Super-Heroes") circa '69 or '70, so they've been branded into my mind for 40-plus years.

 

Granted, DD No. 2 was fairly lousy -- Stan went overboard in explaining how DD's radar sense and super hearing worked, and the wordy captions and thought balloons dragged it down. But it wasn't a total loss, thanks to the Thing's funny cameo.

 

"It speaks volumes that Kirby and Dikto never worked on this title in the 60s and they did contribute to most of the other Marvel series, sometimes on the same ones at different times."

 

I understand that Ditko finished the art in DD No. 1 without credit. Everett was very late in turning in the pages (he had "personal problems," i.e. alcoholism). The issue apparently missed its print date. Which probably explains why Everett never penciled another DD story.

 

Kirby did the layouts for DD Nos. 12 and 13. Romita finished the art. Stan liked to "break in" new superhero artists (excepting Colan) by having them draw over Kirby layouts, so they could understand the sort of dynamic art he wanted.

Bill Everett was working full-time for an ad agency when he did DAREDEVIL #1. 

 

John Romita totally disregarded Kirby's layouts for those D.D. issues.  Photocopies of a few of Jack's layouts have turned up, and they don't correspond in any way to the finished books. Romita did take Kirby's loose story, but redid it his way. The main reason Lee had Kirby do so many "layouts" was so he'd get Kirby's WRITING without having to pay for it.

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