Below you’ll find our reading selections for the year of 1975, 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!
1975 Comic Reading List
|1975||Comic Book Title||Issues|
|1||Giant Size X-Men||#1|
|2||Tomb of Dracula||#26 to #28|
|3||Amazing Spider-Man||#144 to #149|
|5||Giant Size Fantastic Four||#4|
|7||Giant Size Invaders||#1|
|6||Avengers / Giant Size Avengers||#133 to #135 / #4|
|8||Uncanny X-Men||#94, #95|
|10||Strange Tales / Warlock||#178 to #181 / #9 to #11|
Hero of the Year: Adam Warlock
Villain of the Year: Thanos
Issue of the Year: Giant-Size X-Men #1
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Writer of the Year: Jim Starlin
Artist of the Year: Jim Starlin
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Greg Knowler says
Working my way through this excellent series now (thanks Dave), it would appear that Giant Size Invaders isn’t on Marvel Unlimited now. Unless there’s a way to search for it that I’m missing.
Giant-Size X-Men #1
• I see Professor X is still a dick
• How much did Xavier pull strings and warp minds to assemble this team?
• All of them are very much stereotypes – almost painfully so to today’s eye
• The storytelling isn’t grabbing me that much, but Cockrum’s art is lovely. Amazing how well he can get a really crowded fight scene to look good. Great perspective.
• Just like the early X-stories : send the X-Men out to fight something without any useful information; they get into trouble despite their best efforts; Chuck berates them for not knowing what only his omniscient intellect knows, then gives them a new plan that saves the day.
• This is widescreen storytelling. Big panels, big imagination, big booms. So far, though, the characters don’t hold up to the ideas.
Tomb of Dracula #26-28 “Chimera”
• Colan is just one of those artists who I can’t get enough of. Light and shadow, great faces. Palmer’s ink work is a big help, too.
• It’s the 70s, all right. People in comic books have sex.
• I recognize Wolfman’s somewhat overwrought prose and labyrinthine plots from my Teen Titans days. He’s better suited to weird horror.
• The confrontation between Dracula, David, and Sheila was wonderfully done – tense and full of narrative weight. Our characters’ core motives tested.
• A quite satisfying denouement. Glad I finally read some of this story – it was forbidden to 7-year-old Mark for obvious reasons, and I just never got around to it later.
Amazing Spider-Man #139-151 (core #144-149)
• Lots of twists and turns and a ton of Spidey-soap, marred by inconsistent art and iffy pacing. So many continuity threads lead to and from this, though!
• When does the Spider-mobile turn up next?
• Warren’s heel turn as the Jackal comes completely out of left field for the reader. It’s not earned, narratively.
• But Peter is consistently human and believable – the great strength of this comic is the human drama.
Giant-Size Defenders #3
• Yes, those credits ARE ridiculously complicated
• Wow, 10 years of mutual continuity and this is actually the first meeting for DD and the Hulk? Would NOT have guessed it.
• The text + ilo pages are a way of cramming a lot of text in that ought to be terrible, really, but there’s something about them that works for me. Is it Starlin’s clever design, or the echoes of pulp novels, or something else?
• The nobody opponents really dilute the cool factor of the battles.
• I like the panels where the lizard-dude is beating Namor. Nice pairing of visual layout and sound/plot/etc cues.
• Loved the twist ending to the Hulk/Grott fight. *flick*
• The fate of the Earth on a coin-flip. Even if it WAS rigged, that’s a nice thing in a comic book.
Giant-Size Fantastic Four #4
• I had (mercifully) forgotten about the red-Torch era. God, what an eyesore.
• Really, a pretty lackluster issue. Forgettable.
Giant-Size Invaders #1
• Stop trying to make retro WW2 comics happen. They’re not going to happen.
• A fun reminder of the classic-era Timely heroes, but really nothing special as far as I am concerned.
Avengers #133-135 & Giant-Size Avengers #4
• Clint… nobody wants to know about your sordid tales of sekuhara
• Immortus is one of those great characters who seems to be hard to use well – but Engelhart used him VERY well
• “Staff writer” responsible for captions…?
• SO MUCH CONTINUITY
• How the Skrulls have fallen, and the Kree tempered themselves
• Insecurity is the root of all fascism
• Space hippies invented kung fu. OK.
• It is super, super wordy. Essentially a massive retcon of 40 years of comics history. But pretty! And clever!
Uncanny X-Men #94-95
• NO training wheels here – this is X-Men from practically page 1. Where GSX felt a little clumsy and tentative at spots, this is confident and full of character development, plot thread planting, and lovely, lovely action
• Nefaria & his Ani-Men are so very comic-opera, yet somehow they are a great choice for the shakedown cruise for this new team
• In the next issue, we get the obligatory spotlight sequences for each of the new kids – got to get the readers up to speed on what they can do
• Thunderbird’s death is cheap. Very much a fridge. Boo.
• You’ve really got to wonder what they were thinking. B-listers all, no real common theme… why do it?
• Just. Not. Very. Good. HOW many issues did this actually survive?
Strange Tales #178-181 & Warlock #9-11
• That cover on ST #178 is so very Starlin
• First page of the story, and the fourth wall is smithereens
• This is gorgeous – and incredibly innovative in layout and visual storytelling
• The plot itself is a bit trite – but I suppose that is more or less Warlock for you: old saws dressed up in cosmicism
• I think literally 85% of sentences in this book end with an exclamation point!
• Why did it have to be clowns…
• Engagingly Moorcockian, but I am just not convinced the medium really suits this sort of thing.
• Ah, Thanos. There you are.
• Lovely, engaging, mad-as-cheese
Hero of the Year: X-Men. A rebirth that would take them far beyond their origins.
Villain of the Year: The Magus. How do you top Warlock? Make him his own archenemy.
Issue of the Year: Amazing Spider-Man #146. Hard to pick just one from this storyline, but the shock value of that reveal is thunderous.
Writer of the Year: Marv Wolfman. He had his fingers in a ton of pies, but Tomb of Dracula showcases all his talents.
Artist of the Year: Dave Cockrum. In my mind, possibly more important to selling the new X-Men than anything the writing did early on. WIdescreen action and great composition.
I have to concur with everyone that Starlin’s Walock is a cut above. First read it back when it was reprinted in Warlock Special Edition in 1982. Blew my mind then, read it a few times since, still holds up. Hero of the Year, Villain, Artist and Writer.
Conway’s Jackal War is another classic. Loved it as a kid when it was in Marvel Tales in the 70’s, and have re-read it umpteenth times.
And what can be said about Giant Sized X-men that hasn’t been said before. I have not looked at it in decades, but wow, does it hold up well. I had forgotten just how good Dave Cockrum was on his first run on the X-men…his second run was a little disappointing, but here he is great. He would have gotten artist of the year if it were not for Starlin.
…and as for Avengers, well, it was pretty poor. The combination of Englehart’s weak writing and Don Heck on pencils just made the Giant Sized issue almost unreadable. I know alot of people like the Avengers, but I just cannot stomach Englehart. The plot is a mess and the dialogue does not help.
Looking forward to 1976…
I go back and forth on the Englehart Avengers. There’s a lot I like, but if I’m not in the right head space those Mantis origins are sooooooo out there. I do love the way he brings Kang into the larger arc. Undeniably influential too, as this shapes a TON of Kurt Busiek’s later work on Avengers.
Best issue was easy for me. It’s Giant-Size X-Men #1. Even if all it had was Chapter 1, those introductions to the new characters rock so much that it would still be worthy of note. Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus are all great additions to the comics world, and Wolverine is given much more character and history here than he got in Hulk.
I like the first two Claremont issues, and I do not particularly lament Thunderbird. Things get so much better from here for the X-Men. The first Phoenix story and world tour kick things up a thousand notches.
The Avengers quartet of issues is also quite strong, giving us a fascinating history of the Kree and the Skrulls while connecting story points from throughout Marvel history.
The Amazing Spider-Man arc is one of my favorites of all time and my favorite of 1975. The story and art are great throughout, and part of what elevates it for me is the involvement of the Scorpion and the best supporting cast in comics. #143 has that kiss with MJ bumping it up to five stars, and five of the other issues in the arc are also worth five stars (two with four stars and one with three stars to round it out to #151).
Totally agree with the Giant-Size X-Men #1 pick. Wolverine gets rounded out as the angry wild card much earlier in the Uncanny run than I remember, too. Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Storm are remarkably well put together right out of the gate.
Believe it or not, this was my first time reading the Jackal War all the way through, and it worked very well. I may have written this elsewhere, but the impact of Gwen is powerful, so relatively soon after AMS #121 when you’re reading straight through like this.
My vote for Hero/Villain went to Adam Warlock. More enigma than man in his previous Marvel appearances, Adam Warlock takes his turn as the classic Marvel tragic hero/anti-hero under the creative pen and pencil of Jim Starlin, and the reward is a richer and vastly more colorful Marvel Cosmic Universe. Literally and figuratively at war with himself, Adam Warlock careens through a psychedelic quixotic quest to topple the vast Universal Church of Truth and its powerful god, Adam Warlock. And he leads a motley crew of unsavory saviors of the galaxy to boot!
The Warlock/Magus Saga by Jim Starlin is clearly superior to anything else Marvel published in 1975, and for his effort Mr. Starlin received my vote for both best writer and best artist. Starlin takes us deep into Warlock’s psyche as he traverses an existential quandary of purpose, meanwhile we get introduced to so many vivid characters, starting with the spacesuit girl, then there’s Pip, Autolycus, and of course, Gamora. We are introduced to another Infinity Gem. Then there’s Thanos, fighting alongside our hero, and it is no longer clear if our hero is fighting for the greater good at all. The story is tight, I really appreciated how well the time travel element was internally consistent and well-illustrated within the story.
I’m disappointed that this storyline is not included in Dave’s top 25 storylines of all time (although I would be hard pressed to suggest what would come off the list). I think it is the best fully contained storyarc so far (since 1961) published by Marvel. It’s got it all: great tragic anti-hero, wide open world for the hero to explore with colorful characters to interact with, tight story with building tension and lots at stake, tier 1 (and unusual for Marvel) consistent throughout artwork. Although I have always regarded this storyarc among my favorites, it’s quality stands out, especially highlighted in the method in which we have reviewed and critiqued the Marvel Universe here. It’s also remarkable because it exceeded the previous best storyarc in my mind, Thanos War, also by Starlin.
One note, again, it’s just too bad that Rich Buckler’s Deathlok storyline in Astonishing Tales is not available on Marvel Unlimited. It’s not as good as the Warlock Saga, but it’s in that league, also above anything else Marvel published in 1975. Steve Engelhart again deserves tremendous credit for outstanding work on multiple titles, and of course Gerry Conway continues to keep Spider-man amazing.
With all my praise of Jim Starlin’s work in Strange Tales and Power of Warlock, it’s “Second Genesis,” Giant Size X-Men 1 that got my vote for issue of the year. I thoroughly enjoy the Avengers Celestial Madonna storyline, and Giant Size Avengers 1 would have been a stronger candidate except for tier 3 art. Steve Gerber and Jim Starlin’s collaboration in the Giant Size Defenders issue was also very entertaining, as well, surprisingly, was Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan’s Tomb of Dracula issues. I especially liked Marv Wolfman’s dark and gritty dialogue, it read very much like a modern comic. Giant Size X-Men 1 is simply too important to not be recognized. Len Wein and Dave Cockrum combine to introduce more new essential Marvel characters in one comic since Jack Kirby and Stan Lee had done it a decade earlier. And it’s just a beautiful comic. No doubt we will be reading a lot more Uncanny X-Men over the next several weeks!
I do love me some Warlock War, and really all things Starlin. I couldn’t bring myself to place these Warlock issues above The Life and Death of Captain Marvel on the fast track, though. I think maybe if we’re just looking at the Captain Marvel issues we read leading up to this, Warlock is an improvement. Which is pretty darn astonishing given that Thanos uses the cosmic cube to imprison Eternity and become god. But when I factor in The Death of Captain Marvel, Starlin’s CM run gets the nod. We’ll get there of course 🙂
I had forgotten just how good Giant-Size X-Men #1 was. Claremont gets all the credit – and understandably so – but Len Wein and Dave Cockrum knock this launch issue out of the park. Imagine a creative team today trapping the Avengers on an island and launching a WHOLE new international team to take over for them. It’s such an ambitious concept and the payoff speaks for itself. Cockrum’s art gets a bit overshadowed by the Byrne to come, but I love his early work so much. That’s my Cyclops, plain and simple.
Hi Dave – your reasoning is sound. The problem is that Marvel has not properly packaged the entirety of Starlin’s early work, and this Warlock Saga is the piece that suffers because it lies a bit outside the main continuity of the storyline. In the trade paperback you highlight, the Captain Marvel issues of the Thanos War dovetail naturally with the Death of Captain Marvel GN, but many of those issues overlap with the contents of the trade Thanos War, but not all. That book in turn overlaps with the Power of Warlock issues that we read here, but not all. It’s a shame, the work deserves an Omnibus edition that ties it all together chronologically, everything up to Infinity Gauntlet. Perhaps they may do that in the lead up to the Avengers Infinity movie.
Very strong year, with really nothing I would consider bad at all. Tomb of Dracula is the only one I’d consider to be not at the same level as the others we read due to the monotony (we got it after the first three pages of the first issue guys, the Chimera is evil and no one man or undead creature of the night should have all that power) and somewhat anti-climactic though appropriate ending. OK, I guess Nomad was pretty rough too.
There were three big standouts to me, two of which I’d never read before:
1. The Jackal War, which I read the entirety of, was awesome, and featured some really sharp and smart dialogue for Spidey. I love the first kiss between MJ and Parker, and the intensity of Gwen and the insanity of the Jackal made for a very compelling and readable story. My only complaint is that it was incredibly obvious who the Jackal was, even with the red herring of Professor Warren’s assistant, since what other character featured in the story could it possibly be? It’s certainly not going to be a classic character, and the assistant never even had dialogue before he was introduced by Warren. It didn’t detract much from the story, but it stood out to me as not particularly sophisticated plotting. Still, Peter not being sure if he was killing his clone or if he was the clone killing the original until realizing his love for MJ meant it was really himself? Brilliant.
2. Avengers/Giant Size Avengers was terrific, even if Mantis and Moondragon’s origin stories made very, very little sense (mainly because of the tree people). I just love the emotion that came out of Mantis and the Swordsman being together in the end, and the double wedding was so satisfying for everyone involved. A rare happy ending for The Avengers!
3. My Issue of the Year has to go to the Warlock War though. I’d read it before, and it’s an extraordinary display of imagination and character development from Starlin that worked just as well for me the second time around. I also find the artwork spectacular throughout, and I love that in the end it turns out that the Magus should have been allowed to live in order to defeat Thanos.
I also need to give a shoutout to Claremont’s start on the X-Men. I always forget how excellent his dialogue is, and how well the stories are crafted. It must have been pretty bold at the time to kill off a character two issues into his run!
One final note: Gerry Conway has to win for best caption writer in Marvel so far for his work on the captions in the Jackal War. They were clever, funny, engaging, and helped a lot with the readability of the story. Great stuff.
Definitely read Amazing Spider-Man #143 and #150 as part of the #3 story above. They are fantastic, five-star issues! That story arc is one of the best of the entire 1970s.