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Monday, March 14, 2011

The 1970's - A Great Decade For Comics!

Wolverine, Darkseid, Black Lightning, Black Panther, Luke Cage, Sabretooth, Patsy Walker, Etragan, Ghost Rider and myself all have something in common. We are are tied to the comic book industry and we were all produced in the 1970's.

The 70's were a cool decade that brought us Saturday Night Fever, Kojack, Superman The Movie, Star Wars, and Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. It was time unlike any other as unrest on the world scene increased. Terrorism beginning to show its ugly face, an oil crisis plagued the world, the US Presidency was in turmoil and inflation was through the roof! Yet, out of the ashes of world turbulence, new heroes arose that led the comic book industry back into an industry of demand and want.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby continued to produce great stories and art but the art of such individuals like Neal Adams and Jim Aparo helped take the industry to a new level. The stories of the 70's took on real life issues of the day such as teenage drug abuse, domestic violence, terrorism, pollution, cold war and other similar topics. Governmental corruption became more dominate in the news and likewise showed up in the pages of comics. The world increased in more turmoil following the Vietnam War and what it needed was a new breed of heroes and villains. Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze) and Wolverine serve as an example of the type of anti-typical heroes that arose to take on issues that called for more than simply a 'feel good' solution. Readers wanted retribution and such heroes delivered it.

Horror comics also took on greater roles and increased in popularity during the 1970's. Werewolf by Night, Dracula, Morbius, Blade, Swamp Thing and similar titles/characters became a mainstay during a period of what seemed to be a dark hopelessness. The darker, edgier characters were fitting for the time. Blood, gore and the occult ruled the era that was already ransacked with it.

Long time heroes such as Batman and Green Lantern also took on edgier roles during this period which led them to the kind of characters they still are today. The 1970's blurred the line between heroism and villainy and it made right vs. wrong more difficult to distinguish. Violence grew darker in comics as it also grew darker in the real world.

The 1970's produced an age of comics that certainly was not 'golden'. Yet the demand for Bronze Age issues increases as the nostalgia of such issues are a favorite among modern collectors. It is certainly one of my favorite decades for comics, not because of the darkness, but because of the willingness of the industry to change, the manner in which real problems were addressed, and because of the evident demonstration that answers to problems among humans and heroes is not always as clear cut as we might like them to be. The struggle of heroes helped readers relate to their own issues.

To celebrate the 70's, we have decided to make our contest this week (week of 03-14-2011) 1970's Week. Watch for our contests on Facebook, Twitter or join our email list.

What are you favorite story lines, heroes, villains, artists, etc for the 1970's? We would love to know. Leave a comment and we will give you 20 points per word toward our weekly contest.

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  1. i agree the 70's were a great time for comics i have a good size chunk of my comics from the 70's and they are awesome in art, in writing ,and story ive got comics from the 80's and you can see the 70's vibe just melt away kind of in the 80' issues of both marvel and dc and even indies...

  2. he 1970s era of comics constitutes a special time, bridging the gap between the Silver Age revival of the late '50s (at least at DC) and the '60s and the deconstructionism (typified by DC's Watchmen) of the '80s. In his insightful column about the '70s, Carroll refers to "the willingness of the industry to change." To me that idea best sums up the essence of what that decade represents in the evolution of the comics industry.

    Comics took a quantum leap forward in the '70s, building on the foundations of the Silver Age to show the scope of subject matter, approaches and formats possible even in mainstream publications. At Marvel alone, you had the psychological and character-based horror of Tomb of Dracula; the philosophical (and later espionage-oriented) martial-acts action of Master of Kung Fu; the political, social and even religious commentary of the Black Panther in Jungle Action; the scathing social satire of Howard the Duck; thoughtful explorations of patriotism in Captain America; metaphysical musings in Doctor Strange; the grim depictions of futuristic cyborg life in Deathlok; the religious allegory and commentary of Warlock; the wide-ranging, off-the-wall tales of the Man-Thing; the moving anti-war adventures in "War Is Hell"; the poetic presentation of sword-and-sorcery stories in "Conan the Barbarian"; the adventurous "pulp fiction" of Doc Savage; the mythic science fiction of "Star Wars"; a new take on classic science fiction in "War of the Worlds"; and a new group of X-Men who would dominate superhero comics for decades to come.

    Minorities began appearing in starring roles in the '70s, and female characters regularly started headlining prominent dramatic series. Characterization became sharper; themes became more sophisticated; and stories became more complex.

    Traditional four-color comics benefited from a liberalization of the Comics Code and were allowed to portray drug use (in a negative light), as well as vampires and werewolves. Zombies were still not allowed, although Marvel Comics circumvented that restriction by referring to zombie-like creatures as "zuvembies."

    Simon Garth did appear as a bona fide zombie in a large-format black-and-white magazine not subject to Comics Code approval. Marvel's "mature" black-and-white line was just one example of experimentation in different formats; giant color "treasury"-size editions were also produced, as were various sizes of regular comics.

    The two mainstream giants, Marvel and DC, even used the treasury format to start joining forces with special publications--first a "Wizard of Oz" adaptation and then a team-up of Superman and Spider-Man as the first in an irregular series of such inter-company encounters.

    Many of these developments were made possible by a new generation of talented creators that brought a new sensibility to mainstream comics. Their work served as a springboard for all of the exciting developments that have taken place in comics in the past three decades.

    The comics of the '70s took the best of comics' already-rich history and pointed the way toward the future realization of the medium's full potential. It was a fantastic time to be reading comic books.

    (By the way, as much as I hate to quibble with such a genial and knowledgeable columnist as Carroll Emerson--especially since he awards me my game points--I do feel obliged to take issue with two minor references he made. Although the Black Panther first appeared in a starring role in the '70s, the character was actually "produced" in the '60s. Likewise, though Patsy Walker first appeared as the Hellcat in the '70s, the character's original incarnation was first seen in the '40s.)

  3. @ Drew Davis - Thanks drew for your commentary. I enjoyed it. I also appreciate the correction on the Black Panther and Patsy Walker Hellcat. While I realized they were 'produced' in prior decades, I guess I had them in mind as part of the change that the 1970's produced. There being brought to the forefront in comics helped bring about that change.
    BTW - This weekend someone bought that Avengers issue where Patsy Walker became Hellcat. They picked it up for just $7.