1968 - the year Marvel sold out??
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1968 is often considered the year in which Marvel exploded, and laid the ground work for more long-format storytelling for individual characters who had until that point been supporting players (Silver Surfer, Cap, Iron Man, Subby). The year also provided the springboard for what was to arrive in the Bronze Age, when different genres would be reintroduced after being almost completely absent since the arrival of the code.

 

It not only meant that Marvel had arrived, but that it had superseded DC - after seven years, it had indeed achieved pre-eminence in the marketplace.

 

However this article on zak-site posits that 1968 was the year in which Marvel's creative dynamism began its downturn into repetition, the illusion of change and loss of direction, not to mention forcing individualists like Ditko and Steranko to leave. I can't say that I entirely agree with everything in the article, in that the changes and developments in the Bronze Age were necessary in order to ensure that Marvel as a company simply wasn't treading water, but the point that its properties and merchandising took precedence over the characters and their evolution from this point onwards is impressive. Even more interesting is the notion that Kirby deliberately stopped creating worthwhile new characters for Marvel for his last two years there, while using less panels in his art.

 

And the author's dislike of picture frame covers may not be greeted with enthusiasm here...

 

I never thought of drawing a parallel between Ackerman and Perelman's corporate antics. Interesting to see what other boardies think about whether the article is on the money or unfairly polemical.

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I think we want our articles to be mostly on the money so when it's grasping or saying even a few things that seem wrong, it weakens the argument quite a bit.

 

The piece is worth reading, for sure, but I don't buy a lot of it. It's interesting that they want to sell the company and expand the titles, maybe too far, but then again, after being so constrained for so long and also fighting for market share, aren't there other reasons to expand the line? Also, the price increases really seem based on inflation and industry trends, which is different from Perelman who had a consultant tell him he could raise prices substantially and it wouldn't hurt sales because sales were so strong. Ie, I feel the price increases in the 60s and 70s were forced, but not so in the late 80s early 90s.

 

Using an anecdote of an older fan (even while admitting he's an older fan who might be outgrowing comics) saying he didn't know what the price would be when it was solidly 15 cents, 25 cents for one month, then 20 cents, is just hazy recollection that weakens the point.

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You can also say that if you have less Lee and Kirby, that Marvel is changing. Is that selling out? Is it just forced dilution? Can we admit that no matter how much one loved Lee/Kirby, it couldn't continue forever?

 

 

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I think we want our articles to be mostly on the money so when it's grasping or saying even a few things that seem wrong, it weakens the argument quite a bit.

 

The piece is worth reading, for sure, but I don't buy a lot of it. It's interesting that they want to sell the company and expand the titles, maybe too far, but then again, after being so constrained for so long and also fighting for market share, aren't there other reasons to expand the line? Also, the price increases really seem based on inflation and industry trends, which is different from Perelman who had a consultant tell him he could raise prices substantially and it wouldn't hurt sales because sales were so strong. Ie, I feel the price increases in the 60s and 70s were forced, but not so in the late 80s early 90s.

 

Using an anecdote of an older fan (even while admitting he's an older fan who might be outgrowing comics) saying he didn't know what the price would be when it was solidly 15 cents, 25 cents for one month, then 20 cents, is just hazy recollection that weakens the point.

 

Can't argue with any of that. Although such price rises were unheard of prior to the early 60s...

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You can also say that if you have less Lee and Kirby, that Marvel is changing. Is that selling out? Is it just forced dilution? Can we admit that no matter how much one loved Lee/Kirby, it couldn't continue forever?

 

 

The article was claiming that with Kirby gone, the architect of Marvel's development was ousted in favour of company stability, and the properties took precedence over their creators.

 

It's true, with the 60s over Marvel had to move on, Kirby or no Kirby.

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Can't argue with any of that. Although such price rises were unheard of prior to the early 60s...

 

Well, the shadow price increases before the early 60s were just cutting page count again and again, plus making the books less wide and tall. Clearly if they could've kept doing that, they would've.

 

Dell raised prices first!

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DC was probably the better for all the new talent rushing in, late 60s, early 70s. Marvel had been smaller and had some real giants, so if you have less Kirby, Lee, Ditko, and Steranko, it's probably going to hurt.

 

As we know, the industry had gotten really old by the mid-60s. There are great stories about Neal Adams trying to break in and finding resistance and getting lots of friendly advice that comics were dying.

 

 

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A lot was going on in 1968. I was just showing a customer a Batman 205 yesterday, which is part two of what I believe is the first continued story in Batman. So, for 200 issues and over 25 years they did it one way (partly due to bigger page count) with multiple stories per issue. And then bam, a two-parter.

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Can't argue with any of that. Although such price rises were unheard of prior to the early 60s...

 

Well, the shadow price increases before the early 60s were just cutting page count again and again, plus making the books less wide and tall. Clearly if they could've kept doing that, they would've.

 

Dell raised prices first!

 

The publishers got to the point where comics couldn't get any thinner, although there was a period in the late 70s (post Implosion?) where standard DCs only had 17 or 18 pages.

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I was jist reading a Showcase last night,first Specter :headbang: and was really annoyed

at the several half pafes and continued after third,fourth pages...

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It seems a bit of a stretch to single out 1968 as the beginning of the end. Ditko was gone since '66 and Kirby was still working on the FF and Thor until 1970, plus advancing his backup characters and villains as lead-book features. The Surfer got his own title, and although it couldn't generate enough sales it was a cool run starting with extended 30+ page single issue stories.

 

I do agree that the long-running spandex heroes were losing some of their freshness and originality by '68.

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OTOH, Avengers was getting better, not worse, the X-Men were improving off the lows, and if you liked Iron Man or Sub-Mariner or Silver Surfer, you were getting a lot more...

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OTOH, Avengers was getting better, not worse, the X-Men were improving off the lows, and if you liked Iron Man or Sub-Mariner or Silver Surfer, you were getting a lot more...

 

The X-Men were approaching cancellation. I would say that Iron Man didn't really break out as a character until the late 70s. And the Surfer series started off superbly but did lose its way in the second half of its run before it was axed.

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I just spent a couple hours looking at the website; it's a rabbit hole - lots of stuff there.

The guy has spent weeks & weeks doing this stuff.

Subjects like real time vs Marvel time and the Lee-Kirby debate, and esoteric stuff such as the Frankilinverse and Reed Richards being a Skrull since the beginning.

 

The guy ( Chris Tolworthy ) really likes the Fantastic Four!

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OTOH, Avengers was getting better, not worse, the X-Men were improving off the lows, and if you liked Iron Man or Sub-Mariner or Silver Surfer, you were getting a lot more...

 

The X-Men were approaching cancellation. I would say that Iron Man didn't really break out as a character until the late 70s. And the Surfer series started off superbly but did lose its way in the second half of its run before it was axed.

 

Exactly. I would argue X-Men starting being forced in the 20s, and steadily went downhill until the revamp in the late 40s.

 

The Silver Surfer was great for the first 6 issues and was very weak after this.

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And the same was true for Captain Marvel. Good for the 2 MSH issues and the first 8 or so of his own title, then blah. rantrant

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The Silver Surfer was great for the first 6 issues and was very weak after this.

 

One-note, angst-ridden whinging, sorry, philosophising. Switches me off very quickly when I attempt to re-read them.

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Lee's Surfer missed for me, too.

Kirby's intention, that the Surfer be an alien/god learning the nobility of humanity (a Kirby theme), was replaced by Lee's "man sacrificing all for his people".

 

IMO, Lee's version fares much better in the context of its era. The folks who read them at the time they were published adore them! The Lee/Buscema Silver Surfer is one of the very earliest "relevant" comic runs, but it may not hold up for everyone.

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I just spent a couple hours looking at the website; it's a rabbit hole - lots of stuff there.

The guy has spent weeks & weeks doing this stuff.

Subjects like real time vs Marvel time and the Lee-Kirby debate, and esoteric stuff such as the Frankilinverse and Reed Richards being a Skrull since the beginning.

 

The guy ( Chris Tolworthy ) really likes the Fantastic Four!

That’s the point. I haven’t read the 1968 article in full as the whole site premise is important.

As Goldie (which I cannot thank enough for showing it: thank you!) said, you can disagree on many points, but most of the overall observations he makes are precise, relevant, they go to the core: the meaning of the stories, the value of the characters.

 

This site is a great starting point to consider and analyze better and better what made Marvel great and why they ended up trashing themselves. I will use it for sure. Thanks much! :)

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Lee's Surfer missed for me, too.

Kirby's intention, that the Surfer be an alien/god learning the nobility of humanity (a Kirby theme), was replaced by Lee's "man sacrificing all for his people".

 

IMO, Lee's version fares much better in the context of its era. The folks who read them at the time they were published adore them! The Lee/Buscema Silver Surfer is one of the very earliest "relevant" comic runs, but it may not hold up for everyone.

 

It's very much of its time - an earnest, angsty, quasi-polemical work aimed squarely at the college crowd with some career-best art from John Buscema. The first issue is one of the best comics ever published - it's more story - driven, obviously, detailing the Surfer's origin, and very ambitious for Lee. The Badoon and Mephisto issues (2 and 3) are tour de forces with palpable, worthwhile adversaries. Issue 4 is considered a high point but the plot (Loki deceives the Surfer into battling Thor) is Marvel Method 101.

 

Issue 6, when the Surfer succeeds in escaping Galactus's space / time barrier but ends up being trapped inside it at the end of the story (never adequately explained, that) has some superlative psychedelic art from Buscema. It's all downhill from that point however, apart from when Mephisto reappears later in the series.

 

Lee's attempt to connect with an older readership in the early issues is obviously contrived but it still plays, as you mentioned, in context.

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