Mystery Fiction

Well, yesterday, I enjoyed posting about the proposed -but-never-published 1970-71 Marvel comic shared by Iceman and Doctor Strange. In musing about that, I suddenly had strong visual impressions of other titles that could have been on sale on spinner racks in Scotland in the early years of comics’ Bronze Age.

(What halcyon days! Especially now that I have to travel about sixty miles to get them. But I digress…)

Cap117panel-600x630

The images I had most clearly of these “imaginary stories” were of the Falcon, who received shared billing with Cap and guest starred with the Avengers in the spring of ’71. It might have been time to try him in a solo strip, perhaps contrasted -and in conflict- with the angry, young Prowler from Spider-Man. A very young Gerry Conway scripting for Gene Colan seemed to fit the bill as a creative team.

Prowler

I’m sure the House of Ideas would want to discuss race issues and the protest movement at this point in history. However, Black Panther in this period was another “ghetto” hero like Falcon, in his guise as school teacher Luke Charles. But he also had the option of sci-fi and jungle milieus and a sleek, mysterious visual, so I think T’Challa would have been a better fit for a regular series. Here, the creators might be Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema, with Modok and AIM as the baddies.

Black panther

Given that I had thought of a revived Journey Into Mystery as the comic’s title, I thought the “journey” part might come from space opera adventures with the Sensational Captain Marvel. The Kree hero was reduced to guest-star roles at that time but I could see him in combat with the reptilian Baneful Brotherhood of the Badoon,  in a Roy Thomas/Sal Buscema series.

Captain Mar-vell

However, would we then ever have had the Kree-Skrull War, probably the mainstream titles’ finest hour in the segue between the Silver and Bronze Ages? Would we have had the introspective and complex Panther’s Rage serial in Jungle Action?

Astonishing Tales served up jungle adventure and anti-hero intrigue with Ka-Zar and Doc Doom, where the early issues of Amazing Adventure sci-fi team action and glamorous noir, er, adventure with the Inhumans and the Black Widow. Which pop culture trends could Marvel have exploited in the early 70s?

Well, one such trend which Marvel explored to rapid critical acclaim was  heroic fantasy or “Sword and Sorcery”. Marvel’s proto-Cimmerians Arkon; Val-Larr in Iron Man; Starr the Slayer and to an extent, even the Sub-mariner had been (pardon the pun) testing the waters.

Wood Tower Shadows

What if Roy Thomas returned to his own revived, medieval Avenger, the Black Knight? And what if Wally Wood, who had drawn some S&S shorts printed in Tower of Shadows ( a Marvel version of the Orlando “mystery” books at DC), was the penciller?

Black Knight

Perhaps transported by his old ally Doc Strange, Dane Whitman could have had some adventures with Wood’s wizards and gargoyles although I could see Sal Buscema taking over from Wood in short order.

For a contrasting second feature, I  returned to 1969’s Marvel Super Heroes, the Showcase-style title where BK, Dr. Doom and Ka-Zar all made their solo debut. Submitted for your approval: Starhawk!

starhawk1

A dystopian futuristic tale by Dan Adkins, who had worked for Wally Wood and RT, Starhawk never saw print outside Marvelmania magazine.

starhawk2

 Looking like a futuristic Phantom Eagle, Starhawk’s premiere was cancelled because, according to Roy Thomas, publisher Martin Goodman felt “rockets, robots and rayguns… never sold comics”. Hmm. Star Wars by Thomas and Chaykin, in 1977, put paid to that idea. I imagine Marv Wolfman and Herb Trimpe, who collaborated a couple of years later on Killraven, might have worked on a Starhawk strip. (The Black Knight might have to don his ancestor’s armour to differentiate the two leads, however!)

I tried applying the same formula to DC but wasn’t very convinced by the results. In the “52 BIG pages- don’t take less!” era of 1971-72, most comics had back-ups, some new, some Golden Age. Most of the characters who seemed like fan-favourites- Black Canary and Metamorpho, for example- got their own back-up series in Adventure and Action. The Hawkman/Atom team-up was cancelled and the Winged Wonder was pretty much moribund until ’75.

Metal Men 48

Eclipso

The Metal Men and Eclipso were Sixties stars who were quirky enough to be supporting features but if any new/old series were to be launched in ’70-71, I think they might have featured E-2’s Wildcat or Dr. Fate, probably by O’Neill, Dillin, Wein and Aparo. It didn’t seem like DC was very interested in the Marvel-style super-hero at that point- I doubt even a “Go-go” title with Black Canary and the Enchantress would have sold.

Again, any comments on split-books or team-ups that might have been are welcome.

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners

 

 

 

 

 

 

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