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SUPER SPECIAL

December 2005

No.13 $5.95

ULTIMATE

COMICS

1970s KUNG-FU COMICS!

© 2005 NICK CUTI AND JOE STATON.

© 2005 MARVEL CHARACTERS, INC.

THE

EXPERIENCE!

STATON & CUTI’S E-MAN!


The Ultimate Comics Experience!

We’re stuck in the ’70s and proud of it in our THAT ’70s ISSUE!

Volume 1, Number 13 December 2005 Celebrating the Best Comics of the '70s, '80s, and Today!

INTERVIEW: Nick Cardy: Man and Super Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 DC’s king of ’70s covers relives his days in the House that Carmine built

EDITOR Michael Eury

ART GALLERY: Nick Cardy’s Cover Story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13 From Aquaman to Witching Hour, a dozen dazzling DC covers

PUBLISHER John Morrow

BEYOND CAPES: The Terrible, Tragic (>Sob!<) Death of Romance (Comics) . . .16 Last Kiss’ John Lustig examines why this once-popular genre went bust

DESIGNER Rich J. Fowlks PROOFREADERS John Morrow and Eric Nolen-Weathington COVER ARTISTS Nick Cardy and Scott Hanna COVER DESIGNER AND COLORIST Robert Clark SPECIAL THANKS Michael Ambrose Brian K. Morris Terry Austin Stuart Neft Dick Ayers Al Nickerson Spencer Beck Michelle Nolan Rod Bleck Trina Robbins Jerry Boyd John Romita, Sr. Mike Burkey Rose Rummel-Eury John Byrne Diana Schutz Nick Cardy Joe Simon Dewey Cassell Joe Staton Scott Cates Aaron Sultan Roger Clark Joel Thingvall John Cogan Roy Thomas Gerry Conway Lance Tooks Nicola Cuti Jaume Vauquer Eric Delos Santos Irene Vartanoff Steve Englehart Jim Warden John Eury Greg Wilson Bob Frongillo Ray Wong Dick Giordano Grand Comic-Book Database Scott Hanna Russ Heath Heritage Comics Richard Howell Greg Huneryager Dan Johnson Nick Katradis Michael Kelly Wilf King David Anthony Kraft Ron Lantz Denis Kitchen Shannon Landano Stan Lee Steve Lipsky John Lustig Don Mangus Rome Maynard Bob McLeod Liriel McMahon Doug Moench Steve Morger

BEYOND CAPES BONUS: Bullpen Romances: Marvel’s ’70s Love Comics . . . . . .24 Stan Lee, John Romita, Sr., and others take a look at love FLASHBACK: Will Eisner’s A Contract with God . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29 Behind the scenes of the birth of the graphic novel, with Denis Kitchen and Diana Schutz PRO2PRO: Nick Cuti and Joe Staton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 The writer and artist revisit E-Man, Cosmic Hero for the ’70s, with lots of Staton art ROUGH STUFF: The ’70s Greatest Hits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .48 Pencil and sketch artwork by Adams, Buckler, Cockrum, Colan, Giordano, Kane, Kubert, Miller, Newton, Romita, Severin, Swan, and Weiss ’70s FLASHBACK: Behind the Scenes at the BACK ISSUE Bullpen . . . . . . . . . . . .59 Funky photos of BI’s superbad staff FLASHBACK: Marvel Fan Mail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60 David Anthony Kraft and Willie Lumpkin salute the Quite ’Nuff Sayers! WHAT THE--?!: Up Your Nose and Out Your Ear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .64 The story behind Ross Andru and Mike Esposito’s ill-fated humor magazine FLASHBACK: Aurora Comic Scenes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .70 Made-for-models super-hero art by Adams, Giordano, Kane, Romita, Swan, and Trimpe BEYOND CAPES: In the Kung-Fu Grip . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .74 From Master of Kung Fu to Karate Kid, a history of comics’ high-kickin’ fad BEYOND CAPES SIDEBAR: A Page of Kindness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .81 A Paul Gulacy-drawn Master of Kung Fu page has great meaning to one collector SPECIAL FEATURE: Comics on DVD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 The latest DVD releases of interest to the ’70s comics fan BACK TALK. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86 Reader and creator feedback on issue #11 BACK ISSUE™ is published bimonthly by TwoMorrows Publishing, 10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614. Michael Eury, Editor. John Morrow, Publisher. Editorial Office: BACK ISSUE, c/o Michael Eury, Editor, 5060A Foothills Dr., Lake Oswego, OR 97034. Email: euryman@msn.com. Six-issue subscriptions: $30 Standard US, $48 First Class US, $60 Canada, $66 Surface International, $90 Airmail International. Please send subscription orders and funds to TwoMorrows, NOT to the editorial office. “Romance girl” cover recreation of cover to Falling in Love #119 TM & © 2005 DC Comics. Master of Kung Fu TM & © 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc. E-Man TM & © 2005 Joe Staton. All Rights Reserved. All characters are © their respective companies. All material © their creators unless otherwise noted. All editorial matter © 2005 Michael Eury and TwoMorrows Publishing. BACK ISSUE is a TM of TwoMorrows Publishing. Printed in Canada. FIRST PRINTING.

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interview

Conducted July 8, 2005 and transcribed by Brian K. Morris

Interview by Spencer Beck

Welcome to Cardy City While the photostatted Black Canary logo on the original cover art of

SPENCER BECK: In the early and mid-’70s, after decades of doing interior and cover art, you were primarily known as the DC Comics cover artist. Were you specifically chosen by [then-publisher] Carmine Infantino for the cover assignments, or did this grow out of multiple editors assigning covers to you one at a time to where you just kind of, through attrition, became the cover artist? NICK CARDY: Well, Teen Titans was handed over to someone else, and I had been doing Bat Lash, but after seven issues, Bat Lash didn’t sell. I was doing maybe one or two little short stories for Plop! or something like that, four-page jobs. So Carmine had me on his hands and there was no book he could put me on, so he put me on the covers. BECK: Did you enjoy doing covers? CARDY: Yeah, I enjoyed the covers. Sometimes I’d sit with Carmine and he would lay out a little design and say, “Try this.” I tried to design those [his way, but sometimes] I said, “You know, just to get a little more action, if we moved it over this way or that way...”. He always respected me and he let me go my way, and he usually liked anything I did. But a good part of the time it was his conception, then I would tell him [what I thought should be changed,] and then we would change it. BECK: But he allowed you freedom. It wasn’t, “Do this drawing—”

1970’s The Brave and the

CARDY: Oh, yeah, because he

Bold #91 (the issue

always respected my work. He

number’s second digit

told me that he liked my work and

fallen off the original) has yellowed with age, Nick

he respected me. He trusted my judgment in design.

Cardy’s intoxicatingly

BECK: In the early 1970s you began

designed illustration still

your last regular continuity assignment

2

packs a tremendous

doing a stint on The Brave and the

punch, 35 years later.

Bold, where you did some classic

From the collection

issues. You did issue #91, which is

of Terry Austin.

Batman/Black Canary—of course,

© 2005 DC Comics.

featuring a pretty girl, which you’re

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known for drawing pretty girls. CARDY: Certainly. You know who has the original of that cover? Terry Austin. He’s got it hanging on his wall. BECK: Oh, wow. CARDY: Terry Austin told me that one time in the ’70s, he went to a comicbook store and they had a whole bunch of my art there. And they said, “Nick was here [at the store] and he put it here,” but I don’t remember ever going there—I’ve never been to a New York comic-book store, so I don’t know, it must have been stolen or whatever. So Terry bought a lot of stuff of mine, and I’m the last guy to know. Anyway, but the Brave and Bold series, was some of my best artwork. I mean, that at least I was away from kids in long underwear, you know? [Spencer chuckles] And then I just had one guy to contend with, and the characters like Black Canary . . . she just had an outfit on.

Beginnings:

Eisner/Iger Studio (1939)

Milestones:

Lady Luck newspaper comic / misc . Fiction House series / Congo Bill / Daniel Boone / Aquaman / Teen Titans / Bat Lash / The Brave and the Bold / hundred s of 1960s–1970s DC Comics covers / The Art of Nick Cardy (Vanguard, 199 9)

Work in Progress:

Commissioned art through www.theartistschoice.com

Cyberspace: www.nickcardy.com

BECK: Right. CARDY: When you’re doing something heavy in mystery, you work more on shadows. With The Teen Titans, it’s . . . well, a light subject, so you left issue #94, a Batman/Teen Titans team-up], I put a lot of shadows in that.

Photo by Bob Bailey.

it light. Until, then, when they got into The Brave and Bold [Editor’s note:

NICK CARDY

In fact . . . I don’t know if you remember Denny O’Neil. BECK: Yes. CARDY: He had wild, crazy hair. BECK: Crazy hair? CARDY: And so I made a slight caricature and I put him in that [Batman/Titans] story. (laughs) I hope he doesn’t know this, but anyway— BECK: He will after he reads this interview. [laughter] CARDY: Oh, okay. Well, he was, in fact, he was one of my favorite writers. I really enjoyed working with Denny. [chuckles] And he had a beautiful head to work with—I mean, brains. BECK: Right. Well, he went on to write some of the most legendary stories and create the ultimate Batman villain, Ra’s al Ghul, who is the main villain in the Batman movie that just came out [Batman Begins, Summer 2005]. CARDY: Oh, jeez. Oh, that’s great. No, the last time I saw a picture of him, he didn’t have wild hair and he was a little on the heavier side. [chuckles]

Plopped into Limbo

BECK: Well, we all get older.

Page one of the

CARDY: Oh, yeah. [laughs] Well, I guess we do.

unpublished eight-

BECK: When you worked on Brave and the Bold, one of the

page tale “Nice Kitty,”

things in issue #91, which is with Black Canary, you used a

probably intended for

lot heavier inks, heavier blacks than you normally do, as

DC’s horror/humor

compared to issue #92 where you actually inked with a pen

comic Plop! Courtesy

rather than a brush for your foggier look. Why did you

of Wilf King

change your style for those specific issues?

(www.nickcardy.com).

CARDY: The issue I think you’re referring to is with “the Bat

© 2005 DC Comics.

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Squad.” Now, the Bat Squad story had a villain that was a takeoff of Jack the

sometimes, to make my line, I would go in between the lines to get the line. It’s just a guide. BECK: Sort of an invisible ruler or some such?

Ripper. And so to get

CARDY: When I was under pressure on The Teen Titans,

the real atmosphere of

or especially of the tail end of The Teen Titans, Neal

Jack the Ripper, you

Adams penciled The Teen Titans and I inked his; and Gil

needed a lot of fog,

Kane did one, I inked his. And George Tuska did—

and with that, I used

George Tuska was about the best to ink. He’s very good.

a lot of pen just to

Neal Adams, I didn’t do him any justice because I was in

create that fog, and a

a rush. [laughs] I was very heavy-handed on his work.

little cross-hatching.

BECK: That must have gone over well. [laughter]

When it got to the

CARDY: And Carmine did some of the pencils of Teen

interiors, I put in a lot of

Titans, and so that’s it. But The Brave and Bold, I

heavy blacks, you know. BECK: It was quite a different look for you, that is for sure. CARDY: But the first part was all pen and one part of one cover leads

enjoyed those. BECK: So, when you were the DC cover artist, how many covers did you actually do during that period? CARDY: Well, I must have done about 500 covers, I don’t know. I think it’s close to that.

Con Man

to the next part of one page. There’s a double-page

Cardy convention

spread that shows the Claw waiting, this scarlet

>phew< we’d be rich. [laughter]

sketches are sought-

character carrying the girl off. But it’s a two-page

CARDY: And the only way I have of any covers is

after by collectors; this

spread and the fog follows from one page to the other.

that John Coates, the writer of my biography, has

BECK: Right.

three thick volumes, about three inches at the bind-

Kid Flash sketch was contributed by Jerry Boyd. Art © 2005 Nick Cardy. Kid Flash © 2005 DC Comics.

CARDY: And I try to create that atmosphere of the old

ing— three of those—and he filled them with all of

Dickens-type feeling. You know, that old English thing.

the covers of my work, and he put the years down. So

BECK: Do you have a preference of doing pen or a

that’s the only reference I have to my covers, you see?

brush, or do you like using an amalgam of both?

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But, yeah, some covers I enjoyed more—the big

CARDY: Well, I use both. Mainly, it’s when I do a draw-

covers, when you have a nice splash. But when you get

ing, I have a used brush that used to be my fine brush,

a cover that has maybe three or four little panels that

but lost its point, and so I use that to slap in my blacks.

you have to fill in, that’s sort of taking away from the

BECK: So now it’s a second-string brush . . . it must

design. They have the big figures on the left side of the

feel neglected.

border, then they have the picture, then they have

CARDY: I pencil everything and I slap in the blacks,

maybe two more panels. And when I got to those, it

and then I connect the black. If I do the eyes or some-

started getting tiresome. It wasn’t creative anymore.

thing that needs a fine touch, I’ll just use the pen for

BECK: Probably your most famous cover is the

© 2005 DC Comics.

4

BECK: Wow, If I only had that art to sell today,

that. And then I’ll use a real fine brush to give my

introduction of the all-new red jumpsuit for Wonder

little nuances and that sort of thing, see?

Girl, Donna Troy [Teen Titans #23].

BECK: You make it sound so easy—you’re a legendary

CARDY: Oh, yeah.

creator, yet you’re just going to “slap it together.”

BECK: Now 25, 30 years later, if you were to draw that

CARDY: Well, I’ll tell you, it took me a long time to

same cover today, would you look at it and say, “I did

know how to slap it together. [laughs] Years ago, I

this wrong, I did that wrong, I’m going to fix it”? Or in

used to pencil very roughly, and then people would

looking at the cover in retrospect, do you think that it’s

try to ink it and nobody ever inked my work [well]—

the way you’d like the cover to look?

in other words, if I make a leg line, there may be three

CARDY: Well, I’ll tell you something, you’re the first—the

or four lines for a leg or so, and the guy that’s going

second person that I’m telling this to. DC had an issue of

to ink it wouldn’t know which line to follow. And

The Teen Titans where they wanted a flashback, so I did,

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The Terrible, Tragic (>Sob!<)

Death of Romance (Comics!! ) by

John Lustig

When I was a kid, I was only dimly aware that romance comics even existed. Generally, if a comic didn’t have a super-hero on the cover, it was invisible to me. And by the late ’70s, romance comics were apparently invisible to everyone else as well. Except for a couple of short-lived reprint titles in the early ’80s, the romance genre was dead . . . with a finality that would’ve baffled any certain-tobe resurrected super-villain. And yet, there was a time when romance comics far outnumbered super-hero comics. It was an era when romance comics were so popular that girls (and women!) were crowding out boys at the

Last Kiss

comic racks. And it was a time when the comics

John Lustig, author of

industry loved love comics with a passion that

this article, paid $400

would have made most fanboys blush.

in 1987 for all rights to

So how could a genre that popular wither

Charlton Comics’ 40-

and die?

issue romance series

Like most love affairs gone wrong, it was a lot

First Kiss (1957–1965).

of little things . . . and you have to go back to the

Using this vintage art,

beginning to understand.

John (who is also a

Young Romance appeared in ’47—the four-

Disney comics writer)

color lovechild of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. It

alters the dialogue in

was a sensation almost equal to the first

his Last Kiss weekly web comics (http://www.lastkissco mics.com), as he’s done here in this heartthrobbing panel drawn

appearance of Superman. According to comics historian Michelle Nolan, “Within two years, over 125 romance titles were on the comic racks.” In her book From Girls to Grrlz, Trina Robbins states that “by 1950, more than one quarter of the comic books published were romance comics. This was the same year that a graph in Newsdealer magazine showed that females ages 17 to 25 were reading more comic books than guys.”

by dashing Dick

“Before romance comics, we never acknowledged that the comics audience was in any part female,”

Giordano. If you’re not

Joe Simon told me in a 2002 interview. “And it turned out to be a huge market. We were all wrong about

yet a fan of Last Kiss—

that. It spanned all ages, too. Simon and Kirby made it clear from the beginning that Young Romance wasn’t just for kids. The first issue’s

you will be! Visit the site and sign up for the free

cover boasted that the series was “for the more adult readers of comics.” With the success of Young Romance, followed by Simon and Kirby’s spin-off series, Young Love, most comic

weekly Last Kiss e-comic! 1 6

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publishers jumped into romance with gusto. So much so that 1950 produced a glut and many publishers subsequently cut back on their love lines. But romance was still a vital and profitable genre through the ’50s and ’60s. But after that things went down hill fast. “When I left DC in the late ’60s, romance titles were among the bestsellers in the DC line-up,” notes Dick Giordano. “When I returned to a DC editorial post in 1980, they were gone. I’m not sure why they went away, but a guess that girls simply outgrew romance comics is probably correct. The harder question then becomes why?” Giordano thinks that the content of the stories in the ’70s was “too tame for the more sophisticated, sexually liberated, women’s libbers that were able to see nudity, strong sexual content, and life the way it really was in other media. “Hand holding and pining after the cute boy on the football team just didn’t do it any more, and the Comics Code wouldn’t pass anything that truly resembled real life relationships.” While the Comics Code devastated the horror and crime genres in the mid-’50s, romance seemed relatively unscathed—at first. In fact, Nolan thinks the Code initially strengthened the romance genre— at least in terms of market share “for a little while.” Compared to other genres, says Nolan, romance comics were only “censored a little bit. You couldn’t show cleavage and you couldn’t have topics that were taboo like interracial marriage. You couldn’t sensationalize topics that way. Some of Simon and

the stove, Pa! If you have to do it, spit on the floor!

Kirby’s comics had to be toned down, for example.”

It won’t splash out and burn me!”

Many romance fans feel that those Simon and

And then there’s Cal’s brother, who demands “a

Kirby stories were the best of the love comics. Certainly,

big kiss” as soon as he meets Marcia: “Cal’s brother

they were among the most interesting, experimental

was full of fun, all right! He was also full of something

and (at times) outrageous. Occasionally, they went

he had been spreading around the field outside!

beyond outrageous and were downright wacky!

When he touched me, I stuck to him!”

The sexual revolution and changing mores of the late 1960s were only hinted at in romance comics of the day. This cover to Secret Hearts #137

For instance, a Young Romance from ’49 features a

Eventually, Marcia flees. (Smart girl!) Later, she

story “Meet the Folks.” In the story, Marcia is horrified

learns not be such a snob and returns to Cal’s family

by Bill Draut, inked

when she goes home with sophisticated Cal

. . . and, presumably, saves them from another

by Dick Giordano,

Anderson and discovers that his family lives in a

generation of inbreeding.

and comes to us

(1969) was penciled

shack and is almost unbearably coarse. For instance,

Even when the Simon and Kirby stories weren’t being

Ma Anderson provides this helpful advice: ”How

(one presumes) deliberately outrageous like this, they

of Terry Austin.

many times have I told you not to spit tobacco on

were almost always colorful, unusual, and interesting.

© 2005 DC Comics.

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from the collection

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Our Love Story #23 is one of the many reasons the

by

Marvel romance books

Jerry Boyd

were winners: a Buscema/ Giacoia cover. This one originally served as the cover for Our Love Story #3 (1970), but was reprinted later with new stats. Still later, Romita took a shot at the same scenario for the My Love

A L ook at M arvel’s ’ 70 s L ove C omics Without the customary fanfare that had become a

female outsider in tearful suffering.

staple of Marvel’s in-house marketing, My Love (ML)

John Romita, Sr.’s later offering for Our Love

#1 appeared quietly on the stands in, appropriately

Story (OLS) #1 was even better. Stan “the Man”

for the genre, the springtime of 1969.

Lee handled all of the early writing for both titles,

Its cover was an elegant study in romantic

and with John Buscema, Don Heck, Gene Colan,

yearnings fulfilled and unfulfilled, with its three

and Romita on interiors, it was wonderfully apparent

characters posed under a deep, violet evening sky

that the House of Ideas didn’t separate their talent

romance stories! Copied

perfect for young lovers and drawn in Romita-vision.

pool into those who did love comics and those

for us by Jerry Boyd.

This gorgeous and underappreciated scenario would

who didn’t. It was that major difference that

be typical of later covers—a love triangle with the

made their two books so memorable and special.

#35 cover. The House of Ideas got plenty of mileage from its

© 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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The

Man’s

dialogue,

Jazzy Johnny Romita

though he’d been happily

had already done a

married for years, was hip

ton of DC love comics

and his yarns as vibrant as

by the time he drew

his super-hero material. But

what

got

this one in 1970 for

the

their Marvel-ous

Marvelites back into doing

competitor, but he

romance when their other

outdid his earlier work

stuff was doing so well? Stan

comments,

with a new boldness

“It

indicative of the

never mattered to me

Bullpen’s achievements.

what type of mags we did

Supplied by Jerry Boyd.

as long as they were the

© 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.

type the fans wanted to read at that time.” Romita enjoyed

adds, the

“I

romance

titles as a change from the super-heroes, but we were all too ‘deadline’strapped to enjoy ourselves freely. The first cover (if memory serves) with the big teary-eyed blonde comes to mind. I had a ball doing her long hair. Stan was hoping to inject all the tricks we were employing in the personal lives of our heroes, adding a dimension the earlier romance titles never had. He also hoped to get a little more ‘adult’ storylines in them.” Deadlines and overwork notwithstanding, the collective passion of the Bullpenners showed through in their stories and Stan’s affinity for the “twist endings” (which often resulted) were very seductive. These were books worth reading and better than most in the genre. Marvel ace Dick Ayers liked the experience, also. Dick remembers, “I enjoyed inking John [Buscema] and Gene’s romance pencils very much. They seemed more interesting than the

usual romance stories I was assigned to ink. John’s pencils were ideal for my brushwork. I always liked Gene’s pencils as they were always terrific with dramatic use of blacks.” However, the company’s expanding line-up forced the original crew elsewhere and Vince Colletta’s old ’50s tales were partially redrawn to allow for the newer hairstyles and funkier clothing of the ’70s. For a while, loyal readers had to content themselves with memories of the perfection of the earlier issues, particularly Our Love Story #5—with three stories scribed by Stan, one of Romita’s best covers, and superb renderings by

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Buscema/Frank Giacoia, Colan/Romita, and a tour de force by Jim Steranko! At the time, Jim

(right) John Romita, Sr.’s outasite corner box art,

was seeking to put his unique imprint on as many genres as possible, and he executed the magnificent

courtesy of Mike Burkey

“My Heart Broke in Hollywood!” (with a psychedelic

(www.romitaman.com).

economy-of-line approach that may have inspired

(inset) Jazzy Johnny

Peter Max).

Romita poses for a pic

But by the 12th issues the reprints faded some-

taken in the early

what and new creators made inroads onto Marvel’s

1970s for the cover of

Lovers’ Lane. (Sadly, Kirby, co-creator of the genre,

FOOM #18.

didn’t do a yarn before he headed to DC.) New

© 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.

artists (and a few veterans came in, also) included Alan Weiss, Paty, Sal Buscema, Jack Katz, George Tuska, Jack Abel, and Steve Englehart. That’s right. Steve Englehart, the artist. Steve enjoyed his layouts as well as the overwhelming inking done on his two illustrated tales by Abel and Romita. “And you can look a lot better with those guys helping you out,” he notes. (Englehart’s penciling was in Our Love Story #15, “One Fleeting Moment,” and My Love #16, “Puppet on a String.”) New writers during this period included Holli Resnicoff, Jeanie Thomas, Gary Friedrich (who wrote a tale of heartbreak at Woodstock beautifully realized by the great Gray Morrow: My Love #14, 1971), Anne Spencer, and Steve Englehart. Well, actually . . . Anne Spencer was Steve Englehart. Steve explains, “I used a pseudonym for those stories: ‘Anne Spencer,’ since my sister’s name was Anne and she married a guy from Spencer, Indiana. This writing overlapped my career as an artist, so I also took on the art jobs;

© 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.

A very nice Colan/Ayers sequence

it was probably they that determined the end of said ‘career.’ But there was nothing more exotic to any of this than taking the chance to do anything in comics if I could.

from Our Love Story

“When I was a young writer at Marvel, Marvel

#21 (1970), reprinted

still had a lot of non-super-hero books, so they

from an earlier mag.

could try out young writers off the beaten path,

© 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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The Birth of the Modern Graphic Novel (and the Rebirth of a Legend):

by

Dan Johnson

By the late 1970s, Will Eisner was already a legend in the comics industry. As one of the founders of the Eisner-Iger Studio, and the creator and co-creator of such classic characters as Blackhawk, Doll Man, Uncle Sam, and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, Eisner had already earned a place in the annals of comic-book history. And lest we forget, there was also the Spirit. Through Denny Colt’s alter ego Eisner had obtained an iconic status in the field and a legion of fans. By 1978, Eisner had already done more in the comics industry than most of his peers from the Golden Age. By this time, many of the artists and writers who had come up with Eisner during the 1930s and the 1940s had already left the business, and of the ones who were still working in the field, no one was looking to them to revolutionize the medium. In 1978, though, that was just what Eisner did, producing A Contract with God, the first modern graphic novel. With the release of this work, Eisner reassured his place as comics’ premier artist. He also redefined himself as a storyteller, and forever redefined comics. The story of A Contract with God began in 1971. By that time Eisner had left mainstream comics and was producing educational pamphlets

“And this is what inspired Will to get back into doing comics”. . . . . .says editor Diana Schutz of Eisner’s desire to explore autobiographical material, even heartbreaking personal stories, in the graphic-novel format. © 2005 Will Eisner Estate.

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Comix intrigued Eisner, but what really caught the Golden Age artist’s attention at this show was the freedom the Underground artists had to create the kind of stories that they wanted to. “Will always told the same joke about [this particular convention],” Diana Schutz, Eisner’s Dark Horse editor, tells BACK ISSUE. “At the show he met all these guys with long hair, they all smelled a little funny, and they always laughed at the wrong times! But he was very interested in the work that they were doing. [He liked] that their comics dealt with real-life issues. The undergrounds were rife with sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but that was the life these cartoonists were dealing with at the time. It made Will realize that comics could shift into the area of literature. They were no longer dealing with simple entertainment, they were encompassing autobiographical stories. And this is what inspired Will to get back into doing comics.” A Contract with God broke the rules for comics. Eisner not only chose to tell his story, but he chose to tell it his way. Instead of breaking pages down into the usual six to eight panels, Eisner’s graphic novel sometimes devoted an entire page to one panel. Besides breaking the boundaries of how Eisner told his story, A Contract with God dealt with more adult fare than the traditional four-color adventures of costumed super-heroes and the comical antics of talking animals. “Throughout Will’s entire career, he was an innovator,” Denis Kitchen says. “As he was drawn back into the comics industry, Will didn’t want to repeat what he had done before with things like The Spirit. He

“It was that rage which fueled A Contract with God,” Diana Schutz reveals. © 2005 Will Eisner Estate.

for the government. During one of Phil Seuling’s comic-book conventions at the Statler Hilton Hotel in New York that year, Eisner first met Denis Kitchen, the founder and president of Kitchen Sink, the legendary underground comics company that would go on to release A Contract With God seven years later. At this show, Kitchen learned that Eisner was eager to discuss the distribution system that Kitchen had set up for his Krupp Comics Works (the forerunner of Kitchen Sink). The distribution system of various underground

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had been there and done that. What he wanted to do was material that was autobiographical and which dealt with the human condition and philosophical issues. When he did The Spirit originally, he was a much younger man. It was something he had to do to earn a living. By the time he created A Contract with God, he had made enough money already and it was an imperative to get a steady gig. With Will, it was all about the art.” In the graphic novel, divided up into four stories, Eisner explored very personal tales of the human


TM & © Joe Staton.

Cosmic Hero for the ’70s

interview

by Michael Ambrose

conducted May 14, 2005 and transcribed by Brian K. Morris

E-Man burst onto the comics scene in the summer of 1973 from, of all places, Charlton—that third-tier publisher

known for comics in every genre except super-heroes. Charlton had last published “action heroes” (Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, the Question, et al.) in 1968. But when George Wildman took over the editing reins in 1972, Charlton expanded, adding original adventure fare to its all-genres menu. One new title was a real anomaly for both the publisher and the neighborhood spinner rack: E-Man. If ever there was a super-hero for the ’70s, E-Man was it. Literally cosmic, with near-unlimited powers, he also had a beautiful (and liberated) girlfriend. No mere alien like Superman, E-Man was a pure energy being who came to Earth, liked it, and chose human form. But most of all, E-Man was just plain, pure fun. Writer Nick Cuti and artist Joe Staton brought whimsy and lightheartedness to E-Man, qualities missing from super-hero comics of the time, and fans reacted enthusiastically. The original series ran for ten issues from 1973 to 1975, and Charlton imploded in 1976. But E-Man was too special to stay in comics limbo for long. First Comics acquired E-Man rights and did 25 issues from 1983 to 1985, plus seven issues reprinting the original Charlton run (including the Mike Mauser stories). Comico produced a one-shot in 1989 and a three-issue miniseries in 1990; Alpha Productions issued further one-shots in 1993 and 1994. Sooner or later, E-Man is bound to pop up again in

Jazzy Joe Staton’s E-Man and Nova Kane From CPL Special Double-Issue #9 and 10 . . . Presents the Charlton Portfolio (1974), page 31. All art scans accompanying this interview are courtesy of Michael Ambrose, unless otherwise noted. E-Man TM & © Joe Staton.

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comics pages, smiling from within a light bulb or zipping along the telephone line. Join us as we explore E-Man’s ’70s origins in an exclusive visit with his co-creators, Nick Cuti and Joe Staton. —Michael Ambrose


MICHAEL AMBROSE: Charlton’s original E-Man run ended 30 years ago, and a whole generation is alive that never saw the comics when they NICOLA CUTI: Luckily, First Comics reprinted a lot of the issues and so there are a few around that had been unavailable for people, and there’s always the conventions. But you’re right, there’s an awful lot of people who’ve never seen or heard of E-Man because when somebody says, “Oh, what super-hero did you do?” and I say, “E-Man,” they look at me kind of odd and they say, “He-Man?” And I say, “No, E-Man,” [Joe laughs] and I have to explain the whole thing to them. Once I explain it, they’re usually pretty interested because he’s such a weird, unusual character. JOE STATON: What strikes me is that was at least a generation at doing comics, maybe two or three, actually. They used to say the readership changed every ten years, but it was like a whole different world then. I mean, you shipped stuff in, the best thing you had was

Beginnings:

“Grub,” Creepy #28 (1969); Tom Sutton, artist

Milestones:

E-Man / Captain Cosmos, the Last Starveyer / Moonie: Moonchild the Starbabe / Michael Mauser, Priv ate Eye

Work in Progress:

Grub, sci-fi movie which I wro te and produced / Captain Cosmos Chri stmas Special (tentative title: "Sta r of Wonder") written with Kevin Glov er / Moonie: Moonchild the Star babe comic book, with background s by Henry Kujawa and figures by Sally Reynolds

Cyberspace:

Special Delivery, and there was certainly nothing done by computers,

Photo by Shannon Landano.

were new. How does that strike you?

there was no FedEx. CUTI: Well, for example, I wanted to title the letter page “E-Mail,”

NICOLA CUTI

and Joe pointed out that that was already a term that was being used, and I said, “I never heard of it.” STATON: That seems a long time ago for that to actually be used, but—well, I thought you were the first. CUTI: No. [laughs] Maybe. AMBROSE: It’s too bad you didn’t trademark it. AMBROSE: Marvel and DC owned the super-hero market in 1973. Did Charlton have reservations about launching E-Man? CUTI: I kept trying to talk George Wildman, our brand-new editor, into doing super-heroes because I thought that would be a good addition to the Charlton lineup. And everyone pointed out, including George, that Marvel and DC pretty much had it locked up. Then one day, he came back from a meeting with the publishers and he said, “Okay, Nick. You’ve got your super-heroes. I talked them into it so now we’ve got to come up with some super-heroes.” At the time, there was a show on television that was very popular, Kung Fu, and so Joe Gill came up with Yang, and I wanted to come up with something very different. I didn’t want your average super-hero with just a few different powers. My favorite when I was a kid was Plastic Man. I always thought that was such an unusual and bizarre super-hero, so I wanted to come up with something like Plastic Man that wasn’t Plastic Man. As a child, I was always a great admirer of Einstein and

Beginnings:

Creepy stories, early 1970s / “Cu rse of the Hanging Man,” Ghost Man or #3 (1972); Joe Gill, script

Milestones:

E-Man / Michael Mauser, Private Eye / Batman / Plastic Man in Adv enture Comics / Green Lantern / Scooby-D oo / 1983 Inkpot Award / 1998 Eisner Award for Batman & Superman Adv entures: World’s Finest (Best New Graphic Album)

Work in Progress:

Scooby-Doo (currently working on my 100th issue) / Jane Fisher’s WJHC teen ager stories for Wilson Place Comics (www.wjhc.com) / Teen Titans and The Bat man (an ima ted ) licensing work / Chris Mills’ webstrip Femme N o i r

his formula, E=MC2. It’s such simplicity, yet saying so much that I decided, well, there was my super-hero. He’s energy, but he can

JOE STATON

transform into any form of matter. So I called up Joe [Staton], and I told him about it, and he said, “Well, what about an origin?” I said,

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Photo by Scott Cates.

STATON: One of our lost opportunities.

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Header for the E-Man letters page. E-Man TM & © Joe Staton.

“Oh, he’s a factory worker that gets blown up in an accident and he recreates himself as energy.” And Joe says, “No, I don’t think so,” or something to that effect. STATON: That sounds about right. As I recall that sounded too much like Captain Atom, just reassembling atoms and the like. And also the thing with the atomic origin of powers, Stan Lee kind of had the lock on that with Spider-Man, and it was a little too familiar. CUTI: Right. So Joe sent me back to the drawing board. I had to come up with a different origin. I was reading an Arthur C. Clarke book on the planets and the stars, and he talked about novas, about a star erupting and then cooling back down again. And there was, of course, a great deal of energy given off when the star novas, and I thought, “Well, there you go. He was created when a star novaed by—” STATON: Why didn’t you call the character “Nova”? CUTI: Because I always considered “Nova” a feminine name. STATON: Oh, that makes sense. CUTI: Well, he had a girlfriend, as you well know, by the name of Nova Kane. STATON: An excellent name. CUTI: Oh, thank you, thank you very much. But that’s basically how he started. He was a burst of energy that was created in the nova of a star and he went wandering through the universe in search of whatever his purpose was in the great cosmic scheme of things. He just happened to eventually get to the Earth, and liked the Earth very much, and took on human form, mostly human form. STATON: When he felt like it. CUTI: Whenever he felt like it, right. And he wanted to look nice for Nova. STATON: That’s a good motivation. I remember he was born and thought, “I think, therefore I am,” and, “What am I?” CUTI: He has no idea what he is or why he’s there or anything. He’s wandering through the universe, trying to find some sort of a purpose for himself.

B&W line repro of cover to E-Man #1 (Oct. 1973), from Cartoonist PROfiles #20 (Dec. 1973).

CUTI: Well, that’s good. At least we got something original there. [Joe and Mike

E-Man TM & © Joe Staton.

laugh] Anyway, I asked Joe to come up with some sort of a costume for him and

AMBROSE: He’s already thousands of years old by the time he arrives. CUTI: Exactly. He himself doesn’t even know how old he is. STATON: It’s a totally original origin. I don’t think anybody’s really done anything like that, certainly not before and I can’t think of anything since.

I said, “The only two things I want for the costume are no cape and E=MC2 on his chest.” You know, the magical formula. Besides that, I said do whatever you want. © 1973 Charlton Comics. E-Man TM & © Joe Staton.

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Joe sent in a black-and-white drawing of E-Man, and I put an overlay on top of it,


The ’70s Greatest Hits A Groovy Graphite Salute to Some of the Decade’s Finest Artists Michael Eury

Neal Adams was one of the 1970s’ movers and shakers, and while this unused penciled cover to Challengers of the Unknown #67 hails from 1969, it’s an Adams rarity that we couldn’t resist sharing with you. Courtesy of Heritage Comics (www.heritagecomic s.com). The published version of the cover appears in the inset.

© 2005 DC Comics.

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NEAL ADAMS

captions by


Behind the Scenes at the BACK ISSUE Bullpen To date, we’ve received a total of zero letters asking us to print 1970s’ photos of the BACK ISSUE staff—but we suspect that after this, we’ll be flooded with mail demanding we never do it again!

Holy Moley! From his fateful 1977 meeting with Shazam! artist C. C. Beck (right), John Morrow’s destiny as a comics publisher was preordained.

Make no bones about it, BI editor Michael (“Mickey”) Eury was a band geek. Guess the total number of zits on his face and win a prize!

Former BI designer Robert Clark graced us with this issue’s cover design and colors, and as a thank you we won’t mock his school picture.

Writer Adam “Captain America” McGovern is joined by his kid sis as Space Giants’ Silvar and his neighbor Mark, whose mask looks a bit like Madman (wonder if Mike Allred lived in their neighborhood?).

Writer/transcriber Brian K. “Jack Black” Morris, as seen in a 1976 Danville (IL) CommercialNews article about comic collecting that had the effect of forever drying up the availability of comic

No, Bobby Brady doesn’t work for BACK ISSUE—this is a ’70s photo of BI writer Tom “beat me up after school” Stewart.

Rich Fowlks, BI’s new designer, is getting hitched next summer, which leads us to believe the bride-to-be has never seen this embarrassing photo of “Robot Boy.”

books at garage sales throughout Vermilion County.

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Marvel Fan Mail by

Within this envelope, the author “received” a legendary Marvel No-Prize. © 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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Dewey Cassell

When comic books first hit the newsstands, reader reaction was gauged largely by circulation. By the

from the period of May 9th to May 22nd provides

1950s, some publishers began including a letters page

some wonderful insight into the fan mail Marvel

in their comic books, although some of the letters were

Comics was receiving at the time. The survey included

fictitious. In the 1960s, letters pages in comic books

the following introductory comments:

became commonplace as fans and editors carried on a

“Most of the general comments this time were

dialogue about the characters and the stories. Letters

from kids who wanted their favorite characters brought

pages frequently had a catchy title, like “The Spider’s

back to television, and several of these fans also wanted

Web” or “Who Speaks for the Surfer?” Marvel Comics

to know which of their favorite heroes were stronger

encouraged fans to write, branding fans who had

than others. Another fan wrote a letter that went into

succeeded in getting their letters published with the

great length speculating on the digestive abilities of

designation “Quite ’Nuff Sayer.” By the 1970s, fan mail

most of the major super-heroes at Marvel. Thirteen kids

had become an integral part of comic books. It was

sent in new character ideas, and several other kids

considered to be a critical barometer of the “prevailing

asked for autographed pictures of various super-heroes

winds” of fandom. In 1974, Marvel Comics was

. . . eleven fans wrote in specifically to protest the word

receiving over a thousand letters a month. A survey

balloons on the covers of the books. Eighteen readers

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© 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.

wrote to bring the Silver Surfer and the X-Men back.” The survey goes on to analyze in detail the letters received about each of the titles in the entire Marvel line. Reflected in the letters is a surprisingly high degree of sophistication and insight, as well as a keen awareness of the creators. Regarding issue #148 of the Fantastic Four, one reader said, “[Rich] Buckler does a better imitation of Jack Kirby than Kirby does.” Fans also caught various factual errors. Regarding Daredevil #112, “Three readers mentioned that the position of the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial to the White House was incorrect.” The letters were also not without controversy. “In regard to the nudity issue (in Hulk #178), most fans were in favor of it and reminded Marvel that nude people are not vulgar.” About the Son of Satan storyline in Marvel Spotlight, one woman wrote, “I pray that you will discontinue this corruption of impressionable young minds. . .” The comic books evoked many emotions. Issue #29 of Captain Marvel reportedly “made a few fans cry.” Many of the comments received were humorous, although not always intentionally. One fan, somewhat younger, remarked that he “didn’t quite understand the words Thor used.” Some of the letters received were quite unusual. One letter was written in invisible ink. Another fan submitted his praise on a computer punch card. The comic book that received the most letters during that time period was The Amazing Spider-Man, to which one fan remarked, “I feel that Spider-Man is getting in a slump. For instance, Cap just stopped the Secret Empire from taking over the U.S. and DD just stopped the Black Spectre from taking over the U.S. What did Spidey do?

Page one of the Marvel survey.

He stopped the Tarantula from taking over a ferry boat.” The character Deathlok had just debuted in issue #25 of Astonishing Tales and received 61 letters, largely praising the “most unusual” book.

© 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.

One fan stated, “Don’t cancel it or I will be forced to bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate myself in protest.”

© 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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by

Daniel Best

As the 1970s rolled around, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito were well established in the comic-book industry both alone and as a team. As a duo they’d been handed some of the biggest titles at DC, and Mike was a fixture at Marvel, despite a failed attempt by Ross. However, they began to feel stifled both as artists and writers, and as a result they began to look toward the future. Realizing that in order to reach their goals—to create a MAD-style satire book and a saleable syndicate strip—the pair would have to look further than the comfort that the Big Two offered them. Into this climate entered old friend Sol Brodsky. Brodsky had recently teamed up again with odd-job publisher Israel Waldman. Instead of Brodsky merely working for Waldman, this time the pair would form a whole new company titled Skywald. Brodsky realized that he’d need dependable artists and writers at the new company and approached Ross and Mike to be art directors, with the opportunity to write and draw whatever projects that they might be assigned. As an extra carrot, Waldman promised them that, in time, he would print and publish a new satire magazine created by the pair. It didn’t take much to convince Ross and Mike, and they duly signed on. While fulfilling their duties as Skywald’s art directors,

Andru and Esposito began to map out the new magazine. First they established what the book would be: satire, a shared interest since Get Lost [the short-lived 1954 satire comic they co-published as “Mikeross Publications”]. This time instead of a comic book, they wanted a magazine format. As Skywald was publishing magazines, this was easily done.

A Ross Andru sketch of Up Your Nose’s Count Varicose. © Klevart Enterprises.

The magazine format would also allow the pair to avoid any [censorship] problems with the Comics Code, a fact that would come in very handy as work progressed. As their excitement grew, the pair talked about a name for the new book. Mike had some ideas, but Ross, as was his wont, didn’t have many ideas for a name other than he wanted the new book to have nothing to do with anything they’d produced previously. Mike’s wife Irene floated the idea of naming the book Get Lost II. Ross was against this, as he’d always felt that Get Lost was a failure (lasting only three issues), and that the name also reminded him of a past he’d have preferred to forget. More than

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once he’d told people that if given the chance to relive his youth, he’d pass. Mike Esposito recalls: “My wife was mad at me.

Ross created Count Varicose in the 1950s. As work progressed on the book, Andru and Esposito found themselves overcommitted, so they passed

She wanted to call it Get Lost, like the book we did

the baton to one of their recruits: letterer and

in 1954, and she was right. There was no reason

more-than-capable artist John Costanza.

why we couldn’t call it Get Lost, or Get Lost II: The Comeback of Get Lost. One morning Ross called and said that we were going to work on this new idea and he asked, ‘What are we gonna call it?’ and I said, ‘Let’s call it Up Your Nose And Out Your Ear,’ only because of Johnny Carson, who used to say, ‘May the bird of paradise fly up your nose.’ So Ross said, ‘Yeah, why not?’” The next issue to be resolved was the book’s contents. Although Ross had no great love for past events, he wasn’t above using art that had previously appeared in other books, or, in the case of the bulk of the contents of Up Your Nose, art that had been prepared for elsewhere but had yet to be published. Some of their characters from unrealized earlier storylines and proposals included Garlic Man, Thelma of the Apes, Greta Garish, and Count Varicose, amongst many others. Revisiting and touching up previously completed art to Thelma, Ross went all out and created a more adult strip than he’d previously done, complete with panels depicting nudity, being free of the Comics Code’s censorship. However, at the last minute Mike got cold feet and refused to ink in the racier parts of Thelma’s anatomy, such as her nipples. Garlic Man was another personal favorite. Created in the mid-1960s as a proposed syndicated

new secret government weapon: a Garlic Bomb.

job. Ross was editing the book and he went over

The result of this exposure was that each time

John’s pencils, and then John inked it himself. I

Klutz came into contact with any form of garlic,

didn’t touch it because I was involved with the

he’d hulk out. The results were as funny as anything

business end. I liked John’s stuff, and once Ross

And you thought Frank Cho’s Shanna had nothing to hide! Andru and Esposito’s she-devil, Thelma of the Apes.

on the market. Ross and Mike took their existing,

did the layouts for him it was kind of cute.”

© Klevart Enterprises.

strip, it revolved around the trials and tribulations

“John was a letterer at Marvel, but he could

of Wilford Klutz, a man who’d been exposed to a

design and draw as well, and he did a pretty good

unpublished Garlic Man strips and adapted them

Varicose featured some amazing ink wash

for the new magazine. Toward the latter part of

effects. The existing original art for the strip is more

the story they merely lifted panels from the strips

impressive than the printed product, and marks

and touched them up. Both men were happy

one of the few times, if not the only time, that John

that Garlic Man was finally seeing print in the

Costanza would ink Ross Andru.

manner that they wanted.

Greta Garish was a personal favorite of Ross’ and

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by

Collect ’em all—an Aurora Comic Scenes product list, courtesy of Bob Frongillo. Ad © Aurora Plastics Corp. Characters © 2005 their respective copyright holders.

Michael Eury

American boys in the 1970s were model citizens, attentively assembling plastic model kits of cool cars, creepy creatures, and caped crusaders, with the “aroma” of glue offering an added rush to this exhilarating hands-on experience. In the mid-1970s, the Aurora Plastics Corp., one of the major model manufacturers, cleverly repackaged many of their super-hero kits from the 1960s in a new line called “Aurora Comic Scenes.” Inserted into each box was an “instructional booklet” in the four-color comic-book format; each Comic Scene comic opened with an all-new cover (reprising the box-top art, which re-created in line art the mostly painted box tops from the originals), told an original comics story starring the hero, included an illustrated diorama (usually a splash page) that served as a backdrop for the assembled model, and provided hand-drawn, step-by-step assembling instructions. Many

of

the

1970s’

top

comics writers and artists were hired to produce Comic Scenes material. In 2005 a collection of original

art

(and

some

Photostats) from this series was auctioned by Heritage Comics (www.heritagecomics.com)—and thanks to the good folks there, we’re happy to share some of this rare art with BACK ISSUE’s readers. Incidentally,

Aurora

had

planned to expand their Comic Scenes line. Their efforts to license

the

molds

for

King

Features’ Phantom and Flash Gordon kits from the 1960s failed, and as a result Aurora commissioned their own molds for those heroes. Dave Cockrum illustrated some Comic Scenes art for the Phantom project, but the line was cancelled before either the Phantom or Flash Gordon models could be issued. 7 0

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John Romita, Sr. and Len Wein teamed up for the Captain America Comic Scenes; the Red Skull gets what’s comin’ to him on powerful page 8. © 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.

John Romita, Sr. drew the Amazing SpiderMan Comic Scenes (from Wein’s script), pitting the web-slinger against Kraven the Hunter. © 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.

The Aurora Incredible Hulk Comic Scenes was drawn by the artist of the Hulk comic during the day, Herb Trimpe, as seen in this cover and story page 5. © 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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In The Kung Fu Grip In the ’70s, Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting! by

Tom “The Comics Sava nt” Stewart

In 1973, Bruce Lee was the coolest man on the face of the earth. He had the look, the style, the ability, the genius, and the fans. Lots of fans. He became a one-man industry of posters, books, T-shirts (you could get your very own iron-on through the comics! That and a “Mickey the Rat” or “Keep On Truckin’” would make you the king of the playground), velvet posters, blacklight posters, and, of course, movies. Bruce was breaking big, with his most popular movie, Enter the Dragon, coming out in theaters that year, scoring $11 1/2 million in box office, more than any other kung-fu film. Way more. Kung fu was hot! Like any hot genre, people were looking for a way to jump on before it cooled. Besides the Bruce Lee explosion, there were the “near-Lees”: Any Chinese actor that vaguely resembled Lee and could do any sort of martial art was given a movie and a lot of hype as the “new Bruce Lee.” Sonny Chiba, Tom Laughlin (Billy Jack), and Jim Kelly briefly became sought-after stars in America. Older movies were re-titled and thrown out into the ’70s grind houses to play 24-hour shows, or sold outright to local stations to play in the wee hours of the morning. It was a fun time for movies, comics, and insomniacs.

MASTER OF KUNG FU TV didn’t have Bruce Lee (not since his stint as Kato, the most interesting element in the Green Hornet series), but it had non-Asian actor David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine, ex-monk on a mission in the immensely popular series Kung Fu. Kung Fu had every grade-school kid in the country thinking they knew

Mike Frigon was kind enough to share this vintage (circa 1973) John Byrne pencil commission featuring Shang-Chi and friend saving Iron Man’s can from battling Byrne-bots (note the Armored Avenger’s ’70sera faceplate nose)! Special thanks to Mr. Byrne and Jim Warden. Art © 2005 John Byrne. Characters © 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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karate, and humming Carl Douglas’ huge hit, that guilty pleasure of a song, Kung Fu Fighting (you’re humming it right now, aren’t you?). The series was popular enough to have its own comic book.


A Jim Starlin-drawn Shang-Chi page from the black-andwhite Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1 (1974), courtesy of Jaume Vaquer. © 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.

The back cover to Marvel’s one-shot magazine The Deadliest Heroes of Kung Fu #1 (1975) featured these photos of Bruce Lee and other kung-fu fighters. Scan courtesy of Heritage Comics. © 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc. © 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.

But it didn’t. Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin wanted to change that. I’ll let Steve tell you more: “I had a few friends up to my place in Connecticut for a weekend, and we were about to go out and get some dinner when Steve Harper, the artist, said he’d stick around to watch the second episode of a TV show he liked called Kung Fu. We were dubious but we put off dinner for an hour, and I totally fell in love with that show—as did Jim Starlin, who was also there. When the third episode came around, Jim and I were down in New York, and I guess Jim didn’t have a TV, so we asked Roy Thomas if we could watch it at his house. Roy was dubious, and remained so, but we remained enthralled, so without any pretense whatsoever, Jim and I created our own version of what we liked. (Then Roy, who loved old pulp [as did I], had us add Fu Manchu to the mix.)” Warners owned Kung Fu, and owned DC Comics, but DC never acted to adapt the series. Marvel, not wanting to pay a license fee (and probably thinking it couldn’t get it anyway) started its own title instead, throwing in Fu Manchu, which it did have the rights to. The series was Master of Kung Fu (the last two words of the title were the largest part of the logo, probably hoping to catch the eye of those interested in the show, and in martial-art butt-kicking in general). Its hero was Shang-Chi, a living weapon, raised

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Back Issue #13  

BACK ISSUE #13 is stuck in the ’70s—and proud of it—in ‘That ’70s Issue’! NICK CARDY relives his days as THE DC Comics cover artist in an ex...

Back Issue #13  

BACK ISSUE #13 is stuck in the ’70s—and proud of it—in ‘That ’70s Issue’! NICK CARDY relives his days as THE DC Comics cover artist in an ex...

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