After doing the Ant-Man entry last time, and having been so buried in recent months in putting together novel #3, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? — which is a dual homage to 1930s-40s noir and 1960s comicbooks (chiefly produced by Marvel), I decided to place a quick spotlight on some of the key comic issues from that decade (alternately called the silver age of comics and/or the pop art period) that have meant most most to me… and probably had some influence in the creation of Heropa.
To start the balling rolling, there was Fantastic Four #27 (June, 1964), with story and art by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, inks by George Roussos (as George Bell), and lettering by Sam Rosen. This was the first Fantastic Four comic I ever read, part of my older half-brother’s stash at my grandparents’ place back in Duke Street, Richmond, in Melbourne. Minus the front cover, looking just like this…
Discovered it when I was about 6, fell in love with the quartet (and Jack Kirby), and never looked back. While the Human Torch always appealed to me, it was Benjamin J. Grimm, a.k.a the unfortunate-looking, orange-skinned Thing, that won me over. He’s remained one of my preferred characters ever since. Lee and Kirby had him pushing perfection from about #21 onwards.
Which brings us to the next cab(s) off the rank: Fantastic Four #25-#26, a double-issue yarn pushed through by the same Marvel team in mid-1964 and the enormous tussle between the Thing and the Hulk.
While carnage ensues, there’s high drama (Reed and the Torch are hospitalized) and some hilarious quips from our boy Benjamin in between fisticuffs.
Plus the Avengers.
I’ve probably read these two comics at least a hundred times and together they rate as perhaps my favourite Fantastic Four comics, and that’s saying something since I adore the entire Lee/Kirby run.
If you really pushed me and I had to pick one of the duo, #25 definitely pips #26.
Last comicbook I’ll insert here, until a later stage when I have more time to think things through and write with worthier finesse, is actually another double-issue run: Avengers #21-#22, published at the tail-end of 1965.
Another discovery in the Richmond treasure-trove in a box in a spider-ridden shed, this time we had Stan Lee (writer), Don Heck (pencils) and Wally Wood (inks) relating the break-up of a superteam I hadn’t encountered previously.
Even so, the sense of pathos was fascinating here and the part where the Avengers disband rocked the pre-adolescent me — even if I wondered why Captain America had fish-scales on his costume.
I only later realized the scales in fact represented chain-mail.
Anyway, I’ll have a look another time at other Marvel comics from the 1960s, esp. the latter half of the decade, but will wrap up this entry with other news — namely re: writing.
I signed the contract with Perfect Edge Books for my anthology The Condimental Op, and it’s now in production. This should be published in 4-5 months and is going to be including noir, surrealism, comicbook asides and dystopian, hardboiled moments colliding with snapshots of contemporary culture.
We just got a great review for the last novel One Hundred Years of Vicissitude, thanks to Dan Wright @ Pandragon Reviews.
And I’ve received some more fantastic artwork for Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? from Canadian artist Fred Rambaud (see here, with Southern Cross on the motorbike) while Mexican artist Rodolpho Reyes is putting together still more. If you’re curious, you can stay abreast of things here.
Till next time, mates… 😉
Have you ever read or heard of a book called The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon? It is a story that spans from the 1930s all the way to the 50s about these two comics makers that attempt to make their epics and also experience those very turbulent decades. I am also not doing this book any justice. Basically Chabon makes these two fictional characters and great human characters during the “Golden Age” of comics and along side actual history and strange and beautiful elements of culture and mythology. It is definitely worth reading.
Actually, funny that you should ask, Matthew — I hadn’t heard of this tome (one of the drawbacks of being a gaijin hermit in Tokyo), but I knew about Michael Chabon… and discovered The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay earlier this year in a bargain bin for ¥200, straight after I finished writing Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? Of course I had to pick it up… and loved it.