Buy these issues here:
Buy these issues here:
I stumbled across this relatively recent podcast today. An entire podcast dedicated to the works, the oeuvre, of one of the most influential artists, and later writer/artist, of the 1970s and 1980s… John Byrne.
As a kid of the 70s and 80s, I very much grew up on the artwork and collaborations and stories of John Byrne, so I still hold that work as formative and really ground breaking. And really his body of work remains a large part of the cultural storyboards that power today’s billion dollar comic films.
So this podcast that discusses his work, rather than the politics or quirks or controversy of Byrne the man, I find of great interest.
This 1st episode covers a classic three part story by Jim Shooter (writer), John Byrne(artist) and George Perez (cover artist).
For my money this is, in addition to visuals being borrowed liberally for for the 2nd Marvel Studios AVENGERS film, it is one of the best Avengers stories.
I’ve sold most of my comics from yesteryear keeping only those that wowed me as a kid, and that still impress me as an adult, books that remain quintessentially the best examples of Superhero Blockbuster action. These 1970s AVENGERS books, 164, 165,166 remain the impetus and heart and idea space for what now 40 years later, have become multi-billion dollar cinematic mythologies… for new generations.
For my money nothing surpasses those three books, and it would be decades before Kurt Busiek in his wonderful 4 part Ultron Story-line in the AVENGERS (vol III from 1999 – 19,20,21,22) wrote anything as iconic as those three Shooter/Byrne images. The 90s Busiek/Perez run being very much a homage to those 70s Shooter/Byrne issues. Shooter and Byrne telling in 3 perfect packed issues, what lesser creators would have ruined by trying to stretch to 4, 5, or 6 issues.
It is no mistake that those two disparate stories were mashed together to make the plot for AVENGERS II AGE OF ULTRON. A movie I liked quite a bit, it is a solid B/B+, but it is not as successful as the two story-lines that inspired it. Whereas the beauty of most of the Marvel Studios output is they are actually superior to the story-lines that inspired them; the movies written to be more sophisticated, and appeal to a very savvy adult audience. The first AVENGERS movie is better than the books that inspired it, as is the 3 CAPTAIN AMERICA movies, as is the GUARDIAN OF THE GALAXY movies, and the IRON MAN movies (the first two Thor movies, not so much 🙂 ).
Jim Shooter was a boy genius who understood hyperbole and the dream of the mythic and heroic, and arguably there is no better example of that than in AVENGERS 164, 165, and 166. These issues are relatively still very affordable as 1st printings, and recently have been reprinted along with other essential issues in a very affordable collection.
You can get the issues here:
This collection is close to going out of print and covers issues #150 to #166, which is really the very best issues of the run. Pick them up at the link above while they are in stock.
Once you have read them, or if you have already read them, check out the podcast below. I disagree with them on some points but overall an interesting listen, and an interesting idea for a podcast. And I have to thank their podcast for spurring this blog post.
And wrapping up my favorite AVENGERS covers from the original series, is pretty easy. Because after 1977, with very few exceptions the covers are just uninteresting at best and plain awful at worst. Much like the book itself, it was just stumbling from weakness to weakness.
Here then are the best covers in the last 20+ years of the books original run:
It says a lot that the numbers jump over a hundred issues, before I list another cover. And this is gimmicky mess, but it was better than all the previous 100 covers. It just clarifies how bad the book got.
So needless to say you want great AVENGERS covers (and comics) stick to issues #181 and before. At least for the first Volume.
In 1998 creators Kurt Busiek and George Perez would launch a new AVENGERS series that largely just pays homage to the great years of the series, You can look at them almost as a remake of the Jim Shooter and George Perez run, that I mentioned in the previous post. But it’s done well enough by Busiek and Perez to be entertaining in its own right.
And then later would come the Bendis’ years, But that is a story for another installment. 🙂
Revisit the earlier posts here:
Okay I had intended to tackle all the great covers in the 2nd decade of AVENGERS comics, however that’s not going to happen, there are just too many great covers. So this post will cover the first five years of the 2nd decade of AVENGERS comics. The years from 1973 to 1977.
AVENGERS 136- The floating heads is always a nice touch. And even without Gil Kane signing his work, those elbows at jaunty fighting angles even in repose, screams Gil Kane. 🙂 (turns out the floating heads are done by a different artist, John Romita, and that’s what was making some of these covers hard to call as completely Gil Kane)
AVENGERS 139- Here’s another example, the main drawing with that exagerrated action (somebody gets hit and their knees fly into their chest, and elbows shoot out)is vintage, powerful Gil Kane. But those floating heads are by Spiderman artist John Romita. A favorite comic as a kid, so that may be swaying my appreciation for the cover, which is not Kane’s best. I’m going to have to start grading harder or I’m going to end up listing every cover Gil Kane does. 🙂
AVENGERS 142- I promise you I’m grading harder, but what can I tell you, 1975 and Gil Kane was just knocking these covers out of the park. Add cowboys to it, or people in normal clothes and Gil was in his element. Notice the difference between this cover and the previous. The inker here was more faithful to Gil Kane’s hard angles and musculature, which I think looks more striking. Great cover.
AVENGERS 145- What?! Do you see this cover? I’m trying to avoid anymore Gil kane covers but that’s like trying not to give the MVP to Michael Jordan when he’s playing. It can’t be done. Great Kane cover, inked by Dan Adkins. Wonderful use of word balloons and typography. Something you don’t see too much in modern comics.
AVENGERS 146- Tell me this cover doesn’t have ‘buy me’ all over it? It’s a great design. However you notice how it’s rounded a bit, inked by Al Milgrom, you lose some of the angularity and power that Kane’s pencils are full of. But even subdued Kane is great.
Don’t worry Gil stops doing covers with this issue, so we should be able to jump ahead a few years before we get any more covers this good right? WRRRRRROOOOONNNGGGGG!! Cause the artist they bring in to replace him on covers is…..
AVENGERS 147-148 Last time he made this list was all the way back in issue #20, Jack the King Kirby is back doing the covers! Definitely with 148! 147 however is attributed to Buckler and Adkins, but what I’m seeing in 147 is Kirby and Milgrom.
So I’m going with my gut and attribute the penciling on both of these to Jack the King Kirby. He’s not as sophisticated as Gil Kane or John Buscema, but there is just so much life and energy in these covers, so much going on, that they are just a joy to a young kid stumbling across these issues in the libraries back issue bins or on newsstands.
And the interiors were done by Steve Englehart and Jim Shooter on scripts and George Perez and John Byrne on pencils, from this point till issue 166, almost twenty issues, they are mostly home-runs. I guess the best way to put it in perspective is… all of the comics I’ve mentioned previously… I’ve sold. This run from 147 to 166, are not for sale. In the age of digital these are the comics that are worth having as paper. 🙂
I won’t list all those covers here are the standouts:
As mentioned 147-148 are great, we bypass 149-150 (these are credited to George Perez, possibly George Perez’s earliest work. Look nothing like his great work now, quite frankly they are not good) and from 151-158 we get great Jack Kirby Covers. The best being the following:
159 So Kirby leaves or is let go, it’s unclear which, who the heck can they bring in till a new regular cover artist is chosen. Who else but the best? Gil Kane returns, and like he always does… he blows the doors off the place! Look at what he’s doing in this cover. It’s just a clinic on great art. Add to that the interior art by George Perez and story by Jim Shooter and you have… classic defined.
164-166 There’s a lot of nonsense about great comics out there. Here’s the straight dope… this three part storyline, issues 164-166, is the best AVENGERS storyline. Full stop. With Jim Shooter as writer, George Perez on covers, and John Byrne on interior art, they together created the throwdown for the ages. People like to use the term wide-screen entertainment to define something blockbuster in scope, these three issues from the summer of 1977… were wide-screen entertainment before the term existed. If you own only three Avengers comics… make them these three. Highest recommendation. Now that said, while all three of the covers are at least good, only one is great. This one:
AVENGERS 164- And with that cover the legendary John Byrne created the last great AVENGERS cover of 1977!
Come back next time as we finish off the 2nd decade of AVENGERS comics. the years from 1977-1983, and we also tackle the third decade, the years from 1983 to 1993.
Ya’ll come back now ya here!
p.s. As far as purchasing issues, per my previous post (scroll down) Marvel has the first 30 issues available in their oversized hardcover format they call an omnibus. It’s a good deal. However they don’t have omnibuses out for issues 31-164, so getting these issues is a little more difficult. You would think with Marvel’s AVENGERS movie due out this year they would capitalize on interest and release Omnibuses for most of these early issues. But… Noooooo. So failing that look at the links in the first post and this:
The above two are black and white collections, which is just about sacrilege, the color being such a part of these issues, but if you can’t afford the original issues, and can’t wait for the expensive hardcovers or omnibuses… they are a cheap way to read a bunch of issues.
Hold the presses!!! Here are some better color options to read these issues:
If you do choose to buy, please support this blog by using the links provided. This blog generates a couple dimes from each sale, so you guys using the links is definitely appreciated and definitely necessary to keep the blog going. Thanks!
It has to be years since I’ve looked through some of these books, but some of the images and lines are ever quotable in my head.
But Byrne’s run, beyond the sound-bytes in my head, not only holds up, but reread it remains just fantastic comics (no pun intended).
John Byrne will be the first to praise Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s seminal run on the Fantastic Four, and I am a huge fan of that run, but John Byrne’s FF is all that magic just polished a bit, and is my personal favorite. It’s a phenomenal body of work with Byrne both penciling and writing. It does peter out a bit in his last couple years on the book, but those first 3 years from issue 232 to roughly issue 270, are just essential comics.
And all the more impressive because this was one man, writing, penciling, and often inking these comics, a crushing workload to try and do monthly… any one of those things, how he managed to do all three for YEARS, (and do all three brilliantly, this wasn’t today’s hack artist or writer just throwing anything at the wall. Byrne was bringing his A game every issue) is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Whatever you think of Byrne the man, for his often abrasive opinions, Byrne the creator is the real friggin deal. He’s the Iron Man (As in Cal Ripken, not Tony Stark) of comics, and Fantastic Four is the best of a lauded and laudable body of work.
If you’ve never read the issues, I highly recommend picking up the recently released John Byrne FANTASTIC FOUR OMNIBUS here!
A look back at some really old comics by an even older comics fan
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