Below you’ll find our reading selections for the year of 1971, and once we’re finished reading, I’ll post the winners for hero, villain, issue, artist, and writer.
Feel free to discuss the comics and any related thoughts below in the comments!
1971 Comic Reading List
|1971||Comic Book Title||Issues|
|2||Incredible Hulk||#137, #140, #141|
|4||Amazing Spider-Man||#96 to #98|
|5||Fantastic Four||#110, #116|
|7||Avengers||#89 to #94|
|8||Amazing Spider-Man||#100 to #102|
Hero of the Year: The Avengers
Villain of the Year: Morbius
Issue of the Year: Amazing Spider-Man #100
Writer of the Year: Roy Thomas
Artist of the Year: Neal Adams
Heroically Support Comic Book Herald!
If you like Comic Book Herald, and are able to donate, any small contribution will help keep CBH alive and full of new comics guides and content. Donate here! Or, support CBH on Patreon for exclusive rewards! Or you can even check out the CBH Merch store and get something nice with a small portion benefiting the site! Thank you for reading!
Hey MMY First time listener, long time commenter. I am here to once again call into the void as I am a solid few years behind the podcast. 1971 was a better effort from Marvel IMO. I’ve had to switch up my reading habits. I actually stopped reading everything and just either skim or go through online plot synopsis for some issues of stuff I am not interested in. I really could not bear sitting through Mr Klines plot to do something to Daredevil or Ironman. Some stuff I didnt love this year but liked aspects of: Thor (I couldn’t get invested in the infinity storyline, Loki as ruler of Asgard story was quite fun though.), Captain America (Some good issues, but a whole lot of filler nonsense).
Okay, stuff I really liked.
Fantastic Four: What appears to be Stan’s last year writing FF was strong. I enjoyed the adventures the team got up to this year. Bens rampage story arc was good fun if a bit over the top. Really enjoying seeing Agatha. Wandavision got me excited for her character, although as of writing (2022), why do we need a spin off show? Excited to see how the team progresses, if Crystal (my fav character so far in FF) comes back up in plot, and what villains we will see next.
Spiderman: You guys know the meme video where the local access cooking tv show kid is losing his mind over his ravioli or pasta or whatever. This kid is really lost in the allure of the perfectly cooked food. This is how I am currently with AMS. The morbius storyline (Its morbin time) was fantastic. Green Goblin coming back, fantastic. Gwen Stacy….. annoying, but whatever Mary Jane is coming soon enough. I wish the writing for Gwen was better, but this is 1971 and writing women hasnt been anyones strong suit. Hoping we get to swarm soon. I dont really know anything about swarm, but bees. Also the Wall? So many spiderman questions.
Avengers: I have officially gotten on board with Roy Thomas. His work on individual hero titles is still so so IMO, but his work on Avengers is great. Kree Skrull war is a ton of fun and good proof that Marvel is ready to start doing big stuff with the lore. I know who joins this decade (no spoilers), and I am excited to see how they integrate with the team. Looking forward to more villains. I really enjoyed Akron and this Skree Krull conflict but I am ready for this Korvac fellow.
I think this year sees the hard shift between the silver age and the bronze age. In October of the year, all the covers switch styles into a sleeker more mature looking structure. It’s darker and it pops out a bit more. Also in November of the year, all books were 32 pages long, which I see as a soft event in Marvel, almost like driving a historical stake into the ground to mark this point. Obviously there is no true beginning to the Bronze age, but the days of Kirby and Stan are lonnnnnnng gone.
I just want my X-Men back :(. Thanks for the content gents, I have no idea if this messages reaches anyone on the other side of the cold dark lonely internet, but you have made my drives to work more enjoyable. See you next year.
PS: Hulk was also so so. Loved some storylines, didn’t love others. Overall I am optimistic for 1972 for greeney.
I had wanted to get my comments in before the voting was done, but such is life…
1971 is, to me, the start of the heyday of Amazing Spider-man. As much as I love the Romita era and of course the Ditko era, with the addition of Gil Kane the series really hit a high point. (Maybe it is because this is the period with which I am most familiar. Marvel Tales was reprinting these issues at about 1977, when me and my grade school buddies were buying comics) The Drug issues had such a buzz around them, that for a bunch of kids in elementary school it was like getting to see your first R rated movie or Playboy. So I had to vote for Lee as writer and issue 98 as issue of the year. And of course hero and villain have to go to Spidey and the Goblin. But then any year that the original Goblin shows up he’s the villain of the year in my mind. But I’ll elaborate more on that in later weeks to avoid spoilers.
The Morbius/six arm story was, at that time, mind blowing; though now it seems a little silly. It should be noted that coming hot on the heels of those were the Savage land adventures with Kazar and Kraven. The art just blew me away. Hence, my vote for Kane as artist of the year.
Looking at how the results came out I guess I am in the minority…I was never all that enamored with the Kree-Skrull War. As a kid I heard about it and read about it, but didn’t get to actually read it until I was an adult (I bought the trade as soon as it came out…about 1999 or 2000?). Maybe it is that I am not a big fan of John Buscema or Roy Thomas, or maybe it is that it is just so long and meandering (as I feel a lot of Thomas’ stuff to be), but either way it was a let-down. Though, I have to admit, upon re-reading my now dog-eared copy, this time around it was better than I had remembered. I still feel that the Neil Adams parts are soooo much better than the Buscema parts, but even those are better than I had remembered.
On a side note I highly recommend that people continue to read all the Amazing Spider-Man issues. Moving beyond the aforementioned Savage Land story, in 1972 there is also a neat Spider Slayer story; then there is a great story arc with Flash Thomson’s return from Vietnam (I read reprinted in Marvel Tales) which introduces a bunch of cool stuff (that just so happened to be going on in Spectacular Spidey in 1977)…it is kind of a last hurrah for Stan and Jazzy John Romita; And the first (if mediocre) Gerry Conway issues.
Just wanted to make known how much I’m enjoying the book club so far. Great idea and execution! Thanks so much for doing this!
Glad you’re enjoying, and thanks for letting me know. Always appreciated!
No Name says
Don’t forget, Stan and Gil broke the comics code in Spider-Man 96-98. Wiki does a better job explaining it than I can
“produced in 1971 a three-issue story arc in The Amazing Spider-Man #96-98 (May–July 1971) that marked the first challenge to the industry’s self-regulating Comics Code Authority since its inception in 1954. The Code forbade mention of drugs, even in a negative context. However, Lee and Kane created an anti-drug storyline conceived at the behest of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and upon not receiving Code Authority approval, Marvel published the issues without the Code seal on their covers. The comics met with such positive reception and high sales that the industry’s self-censorship was undercut, and the Code soon afterward was revamped.”
This influenced my vote for best issue and author.
Great point, this is a particularly huge deal for comics at the time.
Even reading the story again now, it tackles drug use surprisingly openly. Sure it has the trappings of early 70’s social issues, but Spider-Man wrestling with the proliferation of harmful drugs is a bold step forward. Flows within a Green Goblin story without feeling too forced, as well.
The drug storyline is comic book history – I was super surprised to read #99 and find Spidey giving a scathing critique of mass incarceration. Definitely not what I expected to see in a 1971 book!
Quick comments for the year 1971:
Most of this year’s picks are just average stories to me. I will highlight the exceptional ones.
Amazing Spider-Man #100-102: This trio is full of good stuff. I generally do not like later Morbius stories, but this first one with the six arms and Lizard works. (#100 for best issue)
Fantastic Four #116: Doom, Stranger, Over-Mind, Uatu, and more back this issue appealing (read with #115 beforehand for better effect).
Avengers #89-94: Kree-Skrull War is here! This story is quite different from the modern conception of an event comic, but overall, it’s well-written, looks nice, and uses Marvel history to good effect. (Kree for best villain, Avengers for best hero, Roy Thomas for best writer, and Neal Adams for best artist)
Iron Man #38: It is not on the list, but if you want a bit more Iron Man, try this off-beat story. It is much more about street crime than traditional superheroics, and it ended the way I wanted it to end.
I went crazy and read all of this over the weekend. This was much better than 1970 for me, and I think a lot of that was Roy Thomas really starting to come into his own and laying the foundations for the more epic, surreal Marvel Cosmic era that’s about to start. While a lot of the writing is very, very heavy-handed, it still creates this general feel of epic scale and high stakes that is, at least for me, very compelling. They were also clearly experimenting here much more than in the last couple of years, and while some of the experiments didn’t lead to that much (Spidey’s six arms did nothing for me, especially since they were gone after two issues), others, like Harlan Ellison’s Hulk story, were terrific and a lot of fun to read. Overall a very good year.
I had a tough time with my picks for best of the year. I do think the Avengers saga that we’re in the middle of is pretty great though a little bit muddled plot-wise (I’m still trying to figure out how that sudden transition into the jungle happened), enough so that I gave them Hero of the Year, but I had to give my issue of the year vote to Ellison and Thomas’s Hulk 140 for a great story with a truly sci-fi and tragic ending. Major props also to Stan Lee for Spidey 100, which did a great job summing up Spidey in one issue (much better than Fantastic Four’s 100th. IMO). Villain I gave to the Skrulls, but I actually think my favorite villain, though much more inconsequential than the Skrulls or Kree, was Morbius for being a vampire fighting the Lizard and Spidey, making for one of the weirdest battles I’ve seen in Marvel yet. Finally, a shout-out to (the real) Dr. Strange’s triumphant return, which I enjoyed quite a bit.
I’ve really come to appreciate Roy Thomas’ writing from this period, especially on Avengers. I don’t think he punches humorous dialogue quite like Stan, but his captions are gloriously epic poems.
Agree with your take on the Ellison Hulk issue – this was my first read, and it finally explains all the microverse and Jarella talk that will continue to pop up in Hulk stories.
From what I’ve read of Roy Thomas – mostly Avengers stuff, including Kree-Skrull War, and then some Conan stuff – it really seems to me like he’s a great pastiche man. His early Avengers stuff is a pretty damned good approximation of Stan Lee, both in terms of dialogue and narration. His Conan stuff does a perfect job capturing the tone of a Robert E. Howard story. I’m not sure I have a sense what Thomas’s own voice is, though.
Hero of the Year: Originally my vote in this category reflected my evaluation of how “good” of a year the hero had, in terms of universes saved, moral dilemmas overcome, nemeses defeated. That was getting to be difficult. It turns out that all of the heroes are always doing those things, in their own ways. I’ve had to adjust my evaluation criteria in order to have any hope of reaching a winner for my vote each week. I’m looking at candidates for this category in terms of how interesting and enjoyable are the books in which they are featured. During this period, I found Daredevil and Sub-mariner the least interesting and enjoyable. It is a bit of a chore for me to read through a year of those titles. The books that I ravenously consume are Spider-man and the Avengers. It was tough this year, but I voted again with the Avengers. The introduction of the Squadron Supreme and then the Kree-Skrull Wars made for quick reading. The Kree-Skrull Wars arc is essential foundational material for greater Marvel Cosmic stories to come.
Issue of the Year: Six books were candidates for my vote. Fantastic Four 110 was solid. Stan Lee shows that he can still write a tight, gripping comic. Reed had quite a dilemma in choice of demise, faced with destruction in the exploding atmosphere of the negative zone, or fleeing that, certain death at the hands of Annihilus and his hordes of nasties. The tension was raised as his wife Sue powerlessly watched what appeared to be her husband’s imminent death unfold on a monitor. Stan also wrote Amazing Spider-man 100, famous for Peter’s new arms. What dropped this issue in standing for me was Peter’s amazingly poor decision to drink his own untested concoction, self-initiating the horrible transition. I thought Stan could have devised some other (less deserving) means for Peter to find himself so deformed. Fantastic Four 116 sees Archie Goodwin’s writing chops on display, as the Fantastic Four were hopelessly overwhelmed by the power of the Overmind, and Sue was forced to turn to Doctor Doom to save her husband, her family, the world, and maybe even the universe. Hulk 140 was the best portrayal I’ve read of Marvel’s most tragic hero. I could feel Jarella’s loss, and the thought that Hulk would inevitably lose the memory of Jarella in the end was heartbreaking. I love how Harlan Ellis out-deus ex machina’d his own deus ex machina in the end, it was an amusing touch. This came in second to my favorite issue of the year, Avengers 93. It took years from when I first read my first Marvel comics and saw my first reference to this famous issue to when I was actually able to obtain the issue and read it. Since then, I have never been disappointed by it. Neal Adam’s art was phenomenal. Roy Thomas’ story was epic and personal at the same time. Finally, I considered Captain America 144. I wanted to feel better about this comic, but for one thing, the art disappoints. The subject matter was controversial for a comic, which isn’t necessarily bad, and Gary Freidrich did an admirable job of introducing the ideas and fashioning an entertaining story, but it just seemed a bit too heavy handed. Too bad, I understand what he was trying to do, and agree with the cause, but the challenge was too great and the issue falls somewhat short of best of year.
Villain of the Year: I just couldn’t resist writing in Doctor Doom as villain of the year, when his highest profile appearance was as a hero in the fantastic Fantastic Four 116. Less prominent were his ongoing appearances in his own ½ title Astonishing Tales, where he was largely up to his usual villainous self. Signifies that Doctor Doom had fully migrated from role of prominent villain to the very Marvelous role of anti-hero where he would flourish in years to come.
Artist of the Year: Neal Adams. Qualifies because in addition to his work on Avengers, which was only a partial year, he had another partial year of work penciling Inhumans stories in Amazing Adventures vol 2. It is all top-notch.
Writer of the Year: I still have to vote for Stan Lee. He was still performing at the top of the profession on three of Marvel’s top books, Amazing Spider-man, Fantastic Four and Thor. He had two books in consideration for best of year in my evaluation. It will be his last year to be considered, however!
Great year for Marvel! On the horizon though – cinders of new creative directions for Marvel spark up again in the next year before flames erupt in the year following! Can’t wait!
I second the Avengers nomination, which is the first year I’ve felt they earned the top hero of the year slot.
I was impressed reading the Kree Skrull War again – When I was first getting into comics this collection was underwhelming to me. With more background, and this year to year progression we’ve been doing, I feel like these issues really stand out, especially when Neal Adams drops that Avengers #93 Vision on us.
You’re right, a whole lotta new creative directions and number one issues next year, it should be fun!