Below you’ll find our reading selections for the year of 1968, and at the end of our reading, you’ll find my thoughts on the year and our winners for hero and villain of the year.
Feel free to discuss the comics and any related thoughts below in the comments!
1968 Comic Reading List
|1968||Comic Book Title||Issues|
|2||Thor||#148, #149, #150, #151|
|4||Tales to Astonish, Incredible Hulk||#101, #102|
|5||Avengers||#52, #53, #57, #58|
|6||Captain Marvel||#1, #3|
|7||Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD||#1 to #3|
|8||Silver Surfer||#1 to #3|
|9||Amazing Spider-Man Annual||#5|
|10||Fantastic Four Annual||#6|
The Voting – 1968
The Marvel Hero of the Year: 1968
Another heated battle raging this week for 1968’s hero of the year, although for the first time in the 1960’s it was between some newer Marvel players. The Vision’s Avengers debut, and the Silver Surfer’s first solo ongoing series led the two in a head to clash, just narrowly won by…
1968 Hero of the Year: Silver Surfer
The Marvel Villain of the Year: 1968
We also had one of our closer villain of the year votes, with Ultron and Mephisto debuting in Avengers and Silver Surfer, respectively.
While Mephisto’s first appearance is an epic, capturing Silver Surfer’s Shalla-Bal and tempting the Surfer with all manner of earthly pleasure, Ultron really owned the year in The Avengers.
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1968 is a particularly interesting year for the Avengers, as Roy Thomas and John Buscema really begin to carve out the look and feel of the Marvel supergroup in a post-Stan an Jack era. Sure, Roy Thomas had been on the title for a bit, but it’s the sequence of Ultron and Vision stories (Avengers #54, #55, #57, and #58 for those keeping track) that really cement much of what is to come in Avengers.
Ultron himself is a menacing, maniacally murderous villain from his first appearance, and is unquestionably one of the most important additions to the Avengers rogues gallery in the entire decade.
1968 Villain of the Year: Ultron
The Marvel Comic Issue of The Year: 1968
There were a lot of votes for the likes of Silver Surfer #1 and #3, as well as a variety of Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD issues.
Nonetheless, it’s Avengers #58, “Even an Android Can Cry,” that ran away with the 1968 title.
1968 Issue of the Year: Avengers #58
The Marvel Artist of the Year: 1968
I mean, just look at this… just one of many beatiful, innovative designs on Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #1.
1968 Artist of the Year: Jim Steranko
The Marvel Writer of the Year: 1968
Writer of the year was a bit tougher than artist, with Roy Thomas growing stronger on Avengers, and Steranko showcasing some really fun spy story instincts on Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD.
Nonetheless, the de facto winner of this award from 1961 to 1967 defends his title in 1968. Our winner is, of course, Stan Lee.
1968 Writer of the Year: Stanly the Manly
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Mark Kausch says
Got about halfway through this time – dang sickness! Missed the vote again but here’s what I got:
Avengers: #49: I found the Herc part more interesting than the X-Men/Avengers/Brotherhood of Evil Mutants part. #52: Yeah, the Grim Reaper. Not one of the better Marvel villains. And it’s hard to believe that Panther would give up his kingdom even if it means saving the world…over and over and… #53: Another hero vs hero battle – but this one doesn’t seem as contrived as others. #58: Love that splash page! As well as full-page #8! And Buscema artwork on all issues. Yay! PS – #56 has another awesome Buscema splash page.
Thor: #148: Love Dr Blake’s office hours. He evidently doesn’t work on Thursday. Get it? #149: Wait. A soundproof chamber protects everyone from Black Bolt’s talking? I don’t THINK so! This ish’s Thor tale almost seemed like a rerun of the previous one. #150: Hey! A rerun of a rerun. And then – it just ends. Love me some Lee and Kirby, so I’m gonna blame it on Colletta. #151: And the plot is twisty enough on this one for me to like it the best of this foursome. Now I gotta read #152 to find out what happens to Sif though of course I know she survives. #152: Sif lives.
FF: This Psycho-Man is a lot better than the one who used a psycho-keyboard.
Astonish, Hulk: And, in the gap between TtA and Incredible Hulk, lies a serious gap in logic – at least, it seems that way to me. While jumping over the gap, Hulk’s leap should have carried him to the other side even if he were transformed into RB Banner. And, at this point, did we really need another origin retelling? I say thee NAY!
And, uh, that’s it for now. I keep saying I’m going to the doctor and then keep not doing it. Oh, well, way too early today and yesterday WAS Thorsday.
This was a really wonderful year in general; lots of variety and mostly high quality. Spider-Man continues to be incredibly good and compelling, even with a lengthy amnesia storyline, and while FF is starting to feel the strain of repetition of ideas with 80+ issues, it’s still very good and Kirby’s artwork somehow gets even better with each year.
It was really the spin-offs that impressed me though; Silver Surfer’s origin was excellent and really powerful, and I’m in love with both the writing and the astonishing artwork of the first two Nick Fury issues (the ghost story one had wonderful artwork but was really weird and out of place to me story-wise). Captain Marvel fell a little flat for me, but I’ve never been a huge Captain Marvel fan, so not surprising.
I’m glad I asked above about the Spider-Man magazines, as I enjoyed both of them a lot, especially the second one (thanks BrandonH for the recommendation). Not only did each have interesting features (the first was just pencils, the second had some of the best storytelling I’ve seen from this era), but they both featured something monumental; the (first we’ve seen in the reading club) use of periods to end sentences!!!!!!!!!!
Overall, I had to vote for Ultron as the villain just for how sinister he was from the very beginning (I’m in love with how he goes from a loving “son” to pure evil in roughly ten seconds), and it was close for me, but I went with the Silver Surfer for hero because of how his goodness was so powerful he was even able to survive becoming part of Mephisto’s mind! Writer had to go to Stan the Man for keeping Spidey and FF solid, and artwork is a tie for me between Kirby and Steranko.
Can’t wait for 1969!
For me, the Silver Surfer issues really struck a chord. I know he flew off the rails there for a minute, but his perspective of the human race and how petty we are in letting our emotions dictate our actions was a unique perspective that caused some personal introspection (isn’t that what comics sometimes should do?!). I did start to think the sentry of the skies was a heartless, emotionless dolt, but then I was reminded of how “human” he really is through Mephisto’s malevolent machinations. His is truly a tragic tale. This was some great storytelling.
I did enjoy many of the issues this week, but nothing stuck with me like the Surfer, well, that and Steranko’s covers, layouts and art. Wow!
What a great year for Marvel! What a joy to revisit these gems, teasing out the truly memorable parts that we all fell in love with the first time. Still thrilled even after many visits.
Artist of the year: hands down, Jim Steranko. His work on Strange Tales in 1968 stands out above all other artists at Marvel. I would have given my vote to Jack Kirby, if not for such a breakout performance by Mr. Steranko.
Writer of the year: Stan the Man. Writing 5 full titles and two half split titles a month. His collaboration with John Buscema on Amazing Spider-man during this period consistently delivered top notch comic stories. He maintained the level of legendary in his work with Jack Kirby on Fantastic Four and Thor. He knows the formula, even if he always has the heroes fight too often for no reason. A few years back, once Marvel Unlimited provided the opportunity, I began to re-read these comics in publication order, and was surprised to find Journey into Mystery and Thor perhaps the most entertaining of all. Prior to that I had really only been exposed to Thor in Avengers comics, and I always thought he was a bit hokey, and the mix of mythological universes odd, but in his own comic, for me, the Norse myths came to life from Stan and Jack’s wonderfully creative minds.
Hero of the year: Vision. Again a breakout! Immaculately conceived by a feverishly insane artificial intelligence with a raging oedipal complex!
Villain of the year: Ultron! Feverishly insane artificial intelligence with a raging oedipal complex!
Comic Issue of the year: Revisiting Steranko’s breakout performance in 1968 inspired me to inspect thoroughly all the books for the year, looking for the one issue that stood out among all the other great stories. Marvel comics in 1968 were consistently fantastic. But the characters we all know and love had been well established, and although there were enough new characters and villains joining the scene to keep it fresh, little was really straying from established formulas – except Steranko’s art, and then Ultron and the Vision. I gave my vote to “Even an Android Can Cry,” Avengers 58. Roy Thomas and John Buscema, in this one issue, usurped the title of most tragic hero from Stan, Jack and Silver Surfer. Anyone else notice how unsympathetic Surfer was in a couple issues in 1968, venting his wrath destructively upon the human race? Opens with a clearly Steranko-inspired splash page. The Vision remained humble as his ignoble, (and thoroughly Marvel) origins were revealed. What made the difference for me was the emotion in the end, as Vision is touched by the warmth of his acceptance from the other heroes, despite his strange existence. Hokey, yes. However, it contrasts so sharply with the highly masculine, classically-heroic Marvel Universe mythology of the time. And what a great twist to have in displayed by a machine! Brilliant.
Honorable mention goes to Gary Friedrich, whose poetic retelling of Hulk’s origin in Hulk 102 was also outside normal bounds, but lacked the excitement of a fresh new hero and villain that Avengers 58 had.
There’s a lot more to think about with the addition of writer and artist categories, plus the Marvel Universe and the amount of people working on it is expanding fast.
All of the issues chosen have something to recommend them to those trying to learn the history of the Marvel universe. With the exception of the Hulk stories, all of them are at least readable and decently entertaining, to boot.
Thor: I typically like both the design and stories featuring Destroyer and Hela. Keep an eye on those two.
Fantastic Four: We get Franklin and Annihilus, both of whom go on to some great things. Surfer and Galactus are used better elsewhere; their appearance here is just okay.
Avengers: This series shuffles members around a lot. One longtime member is introduced in this batch: the Vision! He is a good character from the start, and he has some super compelling stories to come in the Marvel Universe.
Captain Marvel: His adventures are fine, but his series gave us Carol Danvers, which I am grateful for.
Nick Fury: These stories are just okay, but the Steranko art and covers are fabulous.
Silver Surfer: He has a pretty good start, and his first issue with Galactus is a highlight of Marvel comics. (Best issue=#1, best villain=Galactus)
Spider-Man: We get some history on his parents, and it’s a good story. Things involving his parents get weird in the 1990s, so I cannot remember if what is revealed in this story still stands or not.
Hulk: Hulk’s speech and Asgardian speech together? Ugh.
For all that the above contain essential elements and building blocks of Marvel, I would like to recommend some other issues on the basis of their storytelling quality.
Fantastic Four #81: This is close to the year boundary, so maybe it comes up in 1969. Crystal of the Inhumans joins the team and helps defeat the Wizard. The artwork and characterization are both well done.
Doctor Strange #169 and #170: These two issues tell about Strange’s early days with the Ancient One.
Iron Man #5: Archie Goodwin wrote this, and he is one of my favorite Marvel writers. This one-off time travel story contains elements that are similar to classic Star Trek, The Terminator, and the Multivac stories of Isaac Asimov.
Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2: As I noted in another reply, this is a great Spider-Man/Green Goblin story, and it is a lot like the 2002 movie. Goblin is still used sparingly, and that makes him an even more effective villain.
Amazing Spider-Man #63-65: The “Wings in the Night” storyline features two Vultures. These issues have great action, the subplots are kept in motion, the consequences of actions are immediate and personal, and Spidey’s supporting cast continues to be phenomenal. (Best writer=Stan Lee for these issues and other titles) (Best artist=John Romita Sr. for the Spider-Man work) (Best hero=Spider-Man)
Do you recommend reading the Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine issues that start appearing this year? I’ve been reading every Spidey like you recommended (and have not regretted it) and was wondering if it was worth it to include the magazines too. Thanks!
I haven’t read these from the 60s. Apparently it’s just 2 issues. The ongoing series doesn’t start until 76
Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1 eventually gets re-tooled as three regular issues later on. #2 is a return of the Green Goblin, and it is a great story. It has a lot of similarities to the first Maguire/Raimi Spider-Man movie.