Blah Blah Blog – Bad Comics I Bought, Part One

A post from my old Marvel blog detailing early Marvel comics I sampled that didn’t hook me.

Bad Comics I Bought pt. 1

April 28, 2007 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

This is looking to be a busy week, so I need to do something a little bit easier for the blog this time out. And so, I thought I’d delve back into history, and talk about the books that didn’t make me a Marvel fan.

I started reading comics in 1973, primarily the DC titles edited by Julie Schwartz. I liked the fact that they were very basic, told-in-one kinds of tales, with clean, open artwork. Consequently, I found all of the Marvel comics of the era I sampled to be harsh and off-putting–partially because they were aiming at an older reader than my seven-year-old self, and partially because most of the best stuff at Marvel during this period was happening around the outer fringes, with a certain amount of stagnation taking place within the core titles themselves.

So this week, we’ll be studying some of the comics that made me a Marvel nay-sayer for most of my early comic book buying years.

Here’s what I wrote about our first entry, CAPTAIN AMERICA #183, a couple of years ago:

Captain America #183 is a great comic book, the concluding chapter in Steve Englehart’s Nomad saga. But when it was first published, it was one of a couple of comics that completely put me off Marvel as a company. (Thor #233 and Marvel Team-Up #16 were two others…)

As a new, young reader coming in, I was totally confused. In the course of the story, Captain America is killed and crucified, and then this Nomad guy becomes Cap. I didn’t have the background with the character to understand that Roscoe, the guy in the Cap costume who’s killed by the Red Skull, was only a substitute. The book utterly baffled me.

On top of that, the artwork by Frank Robbins and Frank Giacoia was scratchy and harsh, so unlike the clean, friendly style I was used to in the Schwartz-edited DC books. And worst of all, the story was continued next issue (which was a major concern at a time when I could never be assured of getting the following issue.)

For years thereafter, I actively denounced Marvel Comics as being lousy.

But it really is a very good comic book…

This particular issue is a good place to start, as it was recently reprinted as part of the CAPTAIN AMERICA: NOMAD trade paperback, so it’s readily available for any interested party to check out.

More later.

Tom B

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4 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – Bad Comics I Bought, Part One

  1. Weird timing for me for this to come up right now. Less than a week ago I brought up Roscoe when someone used USAgent as the first published Cap replacement and I reminded them of this poor doomed character…


  2. I stopped buying Captain America for a few issues because of the Robbins marionette poses and Caniff style (though nowhere near as good as Caniff) faces. After the long run of Sal Buscema on the book Robbins was too much of a change for my teenage sensibilities. I said as much to Archie Goodwin at one of the local conventions and suggested John Byrne to replace him. This was before Iron fist w as released.

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  3. My introduction to Captain America were the cartoons back in the mid-60s, which I’m sure I saw after I turned 4 in 1966. My family moved to Japan the next year and didn’t return until December 1969, and no Marvel Superheroes cartoons on tv there, to my recall, at least, but I did read at least one issue of Tales of Suspense featuring Cap & Iron Man at the base barbershop while awaiting my turn to get my hair cut. The Iron Man story was actually the very same one featured in Sons of Origins and actually it stuck in my memory due to what struck my young mind as the sort of creepy suspense of the art & story — Colan’s art had a moodiness that somehow struck a chord with me. For whatever reason, however, the Cap story didn’t stick in my memory at all. Much later, in 1972, I purchased an issue of Captain America & the Falcon for the first time — it happened to be Steve Englehart’s first issue on the series, #153, and my barely 10 year old self loved it, despite that I was coming in on a personal dispute between Cap & Nick Fury (of whom that issue was my introduction) and later on a fake Cap shows up with Cap’s old supposedly dead teen-aged partner Bucky, who was also an entirely new character to me. For whatever reason, I enjoyed the inter-connectiveness of the story with previous stories that hinted of a much larger canvass of stories, some of which I’d just barely missed from a month or two ago, others from a decade or more ago. At the time, it seemed likely I’d never obtain those old stories, that there would always be gaps in the my having the complete story. That just piqued my imagination, however, and I actually tended to enjoy those stories more than the fully done-in-ones, which usually tended to bore me. But that was only with comics starring characters in ongoing series. I did enjoy many of the short suspense/horror tales with characters who were unlikely to ever appear anywhere again, although at least a few did.
    Anyhow, although I got and enjoyed CA&TF 153, I happened to miss the next several issues and next thing I knew, Cap & Falc were fighting Dr. Faustus, and Bucky happens to show up again — but this time just as a mask in an attempt to freak out Cap. Later, got the entire Secret Empire story, but still every so often, the Navy Exchange where I got my comics for a period in 1974 – ’76, just didn’t stock the latest. I got 180, wherein Steve Rogers becomes Nomad but I missed issues 181-183, and in the next issue I did get, “Cap’s Back”, now drawn by Trimpe rather than Our Pal Sal Buscema (I didn’t yet know Sal had left the mag and Frank Robbins was the new regular penciler but Trimpe just happened to be filling in on # 184). Much later, a decade or so, I filled in most of the gaps in the Englehart-era CA&TF, including 183. I loved the story, overall, but Robbins’ art didn’t appeal to me as either a kid in the ’70s or an adult in later decades, although I didn’t mind it too much in the Invaders. Still a rather stirring, however touched by tragedy, resolution to the Steve Rogers’ quits being Cap storyline.
    Of course, I couldn’t help but wonder how Rogers just happened to have his Cap costume and shield available on that rooftop so he could switch costumes! Well, I already knew the answer to that — artistic license!. With much of our “four-color fantasies”, fans have learned to grant some license for truly implausible aspects, even beyond the fantastic premises — such as Batman or Daredevil getting around town and up to rooftops with their trusty little hooks and wires which look great in the comics but I don’t recall yet seeing in any live-action tv show or film because it’s not plausible that any one could actually do that. Spider-Man get a pass because he’s using pseudo-scientific webbing he can shoot from gizmos on both wrists and has “spider-strength”. DD with his line in his billyclub/cane and normal human strength? Not even a top acrobat/athlete in the real world could pull off what DD (or Black Widow, Batman, etc.) does in the comics. Most of those, I’d guess most fans don’t think about too much, but every so often one comes up that clearly makes no sense in the way that it is presented, as in that conclusion to CA&TF #183, but most of us will just grin & bear it, just accepting it for the symbolism as it would break the mood to have Nomad — after coming upon Roscoe beaten to death and crucified while wearing a Cap costume, and finding the Falcon also beaten but still alive to reveal what had happened — to give cry to his despair and acknowledge his mistakes but then run off back to his apartment to change costumes. Nope, we just had to accept that his Cap costume and shield just happened to be there waiting for him on that rooftop, to put on as he finished his speech.
    Just a few musings prompted when I came across this page. Much enjoy reading your own comics-related reminiscences, Tom.

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