With Marvel Studios ongoing releases, I thought it would be fun to trace the graphic chronology of “Earth’s Mightiest Super-Heroes.” Next to The Silver Surfer (another character that, like the Avengers, started with Jack Kirby and later fell into the talented hands of John Buscema), The Avengers was my favorite comic book title as a kid. It was also the only comic title that I had every issue of, from #1 through the end of the 1960’s—AND the first comic line that I actually read cover to cover.
For the most part, I was like most of my friends. My comic book interests began with the more innocuous DC Comics (Superman, Batman, The Justice League, etc.) and later transitioned to the output of editors Stan Lee’s Marvel “Bullpen” (The Avengers, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, etc.). In general, Marvel’s galaxy of superheroes had more edge and the writing was also more engaging—and funny! By the time I reached my teens, I was also ready to expand my exposure to more artists, and I basically used comics as a home drawing course. Previously, my DC elementary school “teachers” had been artists like Curt Swan (Superman and Jimmy Olsen), Carmine Infantino (Batman and The Flash), Kurt Schaffenberger (Lois Lane), and Gil Kane (Green Lantern). By the time I was of Middle School age I was learning Marvel’s “curriculum,” introduced to me by Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, The Avengers, etc.), Steve Ditko, (Spider-Man and Dr. Strange), John Buscema (The Silver Surfer and The Avengers), and Gene Colan (Daredevil and Dr. Strange). (I’d always been amazed by Neal Adams’ work and followed the comics he drew no matter what publisher he was doing it for.) My drawing “mentor” during my college career was Will Eisner…
I’ve kept all my comics and use them for reference all the time. Their influence has helped spawn our studio superhero characters like The Ambiguously Gay Duo, Captain Linger, Red Defender, Tek Jansen, The Golf Gods and 2015’s TradeCentre Team…
So, below I present my personal collection of The Avengers. These are the copies I read as a kid and they pretty much show the wear and tear that’s to be expected from years of reading, trading, and studying the drawing from. It should help acquaint those heretical comic book non-believers with the culture that spawned one of the most successful superhero theatrical franchises. And if you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ll appreciate the entertaining graphic impact all these covers present.
Why did I choose issues #1-68 ? Because I wanted to show how the characters and the team evolved over the six years from September 1963 to September 1969—ending with the original Ultron saga that inspired the new film.
In 1967 and 1968 the paperback publisher Bantam Books published two Avenger related novel-like softbound books. The first, “The Avengers Battle The Earth-Wrecker” was penned by comics and science fiction writer Otto Binder with a cover by Robert McGinnis.
The next year Bantam published “The Great Gold Steal” by Ted White, starring Captain America and featuring an appearance by The Avengers. The cover of this novel was painted by Peter Caras and represents what I consider to be a true landmark image when it comes to superhero illustration technique. This looks tame by today’s standards but imagine the reaction this depiction of Cap received when originally released in 1968. As far as I know, there was never a mainstream superhero illustrated so realistically before. There was the H.J. Ward Superman painting and various Fawcett covers portraying characters from their Captain Marvel family, but even they don’t compare in technique to this.
What’s fascinating also (and shows how the outrageous steroid-laden physique has become so commonplace) is how lean he looks. He’s ripped, to be sure, and the veins showing through the material is a bit over the top, but nothing to compare to how the superhero build is treated today. Even Alex Ross’ painted realism shows more exaggerated muscle development than Caras’ Cap.
Finally, in 1975 Marvel published a large format “Marvel Treasury Edition” of The Mighty Avengers. It contained four reprinted stories, one of them being issue #57’s Vision/Ultron saga.
If you’re interested in vintage comics, you’ll find these past Imprint articles interesting:
- Rare Vintage Articles About Comics And The Comic Book Industry
- Mad (Magazine) Crazy…
- R. Crumb’s Sketchbooks
If you’re interested in comic books, chances are you’ve heard the names Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. After all, their partnership paved the way for the Golden Age of comics beginning in the 1940s. With The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio by Mark Evanier, learn more about the duo who invented noteworthy characters like Captain America and Sandman, conceived the idea of romance comics, and created a new standard for the genres of crime, western, and horror comic books. Take a look inside the various aspects of their career, and see some of the works that defined them. Get it here.