“Of Star-Gods And Sales Figures”: The Short-Lived Comic Books That Live Long In The Memory

Another Frenetic Excursion Through Bronze Age Awesomeness. 

creatures-on-the-loose-37

“Easy with that pig-sticker! You and your buddy ought to be more discreet about where you have spats…” – E. Hammond Preiss.

“Not quite a year ago, I composed a brief text feature on the letters page as an introduction and I’m writing what amounts to an epilogue.”

So wrote David Kraft, in an Editorial, snazzily titled: “Of Star-Gods And Sales Figures,” effectively announcing that this: Creatures On The Loose Featuring Man-Wolf #37 (June 1975), would be the final ish.

He explained how: “Sales, of course, are generally the deciding factor. But not totally.”

Apparently, despite “doing well on the newsstands,” it hadn’t been doing well enough. Kraft explained that granting J. Jonah Jameson’s hairy star-cursed son his own book was given “very serious consideration,” but at that time, Marvel had already laid extensive plans to launch a variety of new series.

Wonder if any of them reached the heights of Man-Wolf?

With Kraft‘s script and George Perez’s art, the final ish of Creatures On The Loose is a rip-roaring yarn.

It’s only fault?

Who knows if the savage progeny of the moon managed to land the spacecraft and save his friends on the last page…?

And now, we take a rare venture into DC territory – from Man-Wolf to Ironwolf – hey, get that symmetry!

“You’re no better than the Empress – you’re worse! At least she doesn’t hide her evil behind fine words and gracious hospitality!” – Ironwolf.

The tenth and final ish of DC’s Weird Worlds: Ironwolf #10 (November 1974), features an Editorial called: “Weird Words.” It states that despite being both a critical and commercial success, this title has to close – why?

“In a word: Ecology.

“For years, we’ve been publishing stories in the comics, warning of impending shortages of vital materials… The problem is real. One proof is that there will me no more Weird Worlds. We can’t get enough paper to publish it. Simple as that.”

Hmm… your correspondent is NOT convinced.

This “serious paper shortage” does not appear to have affected all the poor and underwhelming titles churned out – by both DC and Marvel, not to mention other indie publishing houses – during the intervening four decades (thus justifying my love and belief in Bronze Age books).

This particular ish – featuring Ironwolf: a sword-wielding adventurer in the John Carter of Mars mould – has lots to commend it, especially lively art by Howard Chaykin. The story is pleasing galactic fun, enticing enough to make me hunt down further ishs – there are only nine of them, so it shouldn’t be an extensve hunt…

“Fool! My defensive screens can easily neutralize your pathetic attack. Can you do as well against my ionic sword?” – Salia Petrie.

“She’s forcing me into a corner and if her sword punctures the copper foil skinsuit under my costume, I’ll age a thousand years in a second!” – Vance Astro.

The third selection in this eclectic mix also happens to be the final ish of a classic title unfairly terminated much too soon.

Three reasons drew me to Ms. Marvel: a woman as the central character; news of her own forthcoming movie; and perhaps the most obvious excuse: it was written by Chris Claremont – the same auteur responsible for making The Uncanny X-Men such a stupendous – and enduring – series.

After acquiring both impressive and disappointing mags in this series, this ish: #23 (April 1979) is one of the best in the series. Abducted by The Faceless One and taken to the space station known as Drydock, she finds Salia Petrie – a fellow NASA colleague whose mind is being controlled by the cosmic villain.

And there is a cameo appearance by Vance Astro, leader of the Guardians of the Galaxywho will be all the rage in cinemas again next month!

Actually, it is not that difficult to see why the fate of this particular series was sealed: apart from the constant change of artist – always not a good sign Carol Danvers’ drastic change in costume appears to have been a desperate misjudgment. Moreover, being terminated in 1979, alas, meant that female-led series still had a long way to go before achieving mainstream acceptance…

“You people kidnapped me, you seek to destroy our planet… Do you expect me to show you mercy? If so, forget it, fiends. There’s nothing I won’t do to stop you. Nothing!” – Dejah Thoris.

“I have never been one write letters to the editor. However, something has come up that I cannot let pass. Simply put, the termination of John Carter of Mars, Warlord of Mars is an injustice,” stated one disgruntled reader, printed in #26 (August 1979) – the penultimate ish.

On the strength of this exciting – and yet moving – mag, other copies have been sought this past few months. It was truly a great expedition when #7 (Decemper 1977) came into my possession, and at a reduced sale price too. A keen John Carter fan for most of my life, Marvel did a fine job on this series.

This particular ish just happens to be blessed with the pulsating pencils of Gil Kane. And its title: Dejah Thoris Lives promises a suitably feisty appearance by one of science-fantasy’s most iconic princesses. In the hands of that other exceptional Wolf: Marv Wolfman, this ish does not disappoint!

Again, it is such a shame that this brand of awesomeness was ultimately defeated by the crass excuse of “poor sales.”

1979 was one of my favourite years; and yet it seems to have been less than favourable as far as comic books are concerned…

“Awwright, ya flap-eared yahoos! Everybody git your tails inside an’ git them fishbowls off!” – Nick Fury.

Know you this: Nick Fury is one of my all-time fave Marvel characters. It has been an absolute pleasure tracking down the work of the legendary Jim Steranko, arguably the greatest artist to bring this deadly Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. to bold and wise-crackin’ life. You’d think that he would have no trouble saving an experimental title like What If? from the dreaded sales figures curse, but no…

Stan Lee presents: A Stunning Saga Of An Alternate Reality, indeed!

#14 (April 1979) boasts the incredible question: What If Sgt. Fury Had Fought WWII In Outer Space? On the morning of 7 December 1941, the Pearl space station is attacked by a squadron of “crummy Betan lizards.” Such a bizarre premise proved too irresistible; plotted by Gary Friedrich, drawn by Herb Trimpe – and narrated by The Watcher of course! – this special bumper-sized edition is certainly unputdownable stuff!

All the ishs featured here hold reserved places in my ever-expanding Bronze Age collection, although it is a shame that that it is their ephemeral nature that link them together. Ironically, the discontinuation of these titles has bolstered their value – not to mention made them more difficult to come by.

At the end of the day, sales figures proved to be far more effective at crushing heroes than any nefarious plan concocted by the most devious costumed supervillains.

Thankfully, David Kraft and George Perez were allowed to produce the two concluding episodes of the Star-God Saga in a couple of ishs of Marvel Premiere four years later.

Kraft ended that editorial in 1975 by stating: “Doing this series has been a lot of fun for all of us here, especially George and myself, and we hope that you’ve gotten some entertainment out of it along the way.

“We’re only sorry it had to end so soon.”

“I knew one of you super-creeps was responsible for this! Good or bad – you’re all the same…! You’ve got to be stamped out – no matter what the cost! And if J. Jonah Jameson has anything to say about it, you will be!” – J. Jonah Jameson.

 

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18 thoughts on ““Of Star-Gods And Sales Figures”: The Short-Lived Comic Books That Live Long In The Memory

    • It wld appear that nobody knew how long this title wld last – merely a female version of Captain Marvel (same costume but w bare legs). She didn’t get th respect she deserved.
      Kudos to Claremont for sticking w her thro th entire duration of this series – he did provide her w some cracking stories
      Thank u Danica for your Comment!
      Cheers!

      • Interesting history… do spinoff type characters have a harder time gaining momentum? Maybe she was seen as a spinoff and therefore somehow secondary?

      • Yes, unfortunately she was seen as secondary – her character has gradually been improved over th last 20 yrs; her current upgrade (a young Muslim girl) has become quite popular
        Make Mine Marvel!

  1. What If? I loved that comic, it was brilliant, and that issue has to be one of the craziest ever. Wish they’d bring it back, always like how they explored so many different possible storylines.

    • Thanks, Paul!
      I was going to devote more space to Marvel’s Alternate Reality series, but run out of time
      Yes, picked up that Fury ish cos it is so irresistibly crazy!
      So many different possible storylines were experimented w during th Bronze Age – u cld argue that such storylines wld not b tackled these days, but that’s just nostalgic me!
      Cheers!

      • You’re welcome. What If? was always one of my favourite series. The scope for such a series now is huge, especially with all the reboots and relaunches Marvel has done. One of my fave issues from What If was if Phoenix Had Not Died. I think that’s an amazing issue, so powerful and moving, and the ending is genuinely chilling. Yes, there’s certainly a lot of nostalgia to be had revisiting such a classic series as Marvel’s What If? 🙂

      • Thanks again, Paul!
        Yes, wld love to get my hands on that Phoenix ish! Espesh now that u hint @ th genuinely chilling ending!
        Brad doesn’t like to brag, but my shopping list is quite awesome! More comics posts to follow!
        Cheers!

    • Yes, this Ironwolf ish was @th back of a bargain box – never seen/heard of DC’s Weird Worlds before, but when I saw Howard Chaykin’s name I thot: go for it! Goodness knows how/where other ishs in this series can b found.
      I found Ms Marvel’s series patchy – there r some ishs I liked
      Man-Wolf is 1 of th main reasons I started this Bronze age hunt – such a cool character!
      Thank u for your Comment!
      Cheers!

  2. I always enjoy your trips into comics lore! Since I’ve become such a vocal fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve been feeling the urge to start dipping into the original comics. 🙂

    • This is fantastic news, Ash!
      Hope u can find some classic originals!
      Sorry I have fallen behind w these comics Posts of mine, so playing catch up @ th mo!
      U might like to know that I’m working on a Guardians of th Galaxy Post tonight before I go to watch Vol. 2 this weekend!
      Happy dipping!
      Cheers!

      • Hooray, can’t wait to read your Guardians post! I just purchased my ticket for a screening next Thursday; I’m eagerly awaiting the next chapter in this franchise! 🙂

      • It’s amazing: from what I’ve read so far, Vol. 2 is a really entertaining package!
        Looking forward to a superior viewing experience; and don’t forget: 5 – count ’em: FIVE post-cred scenes!!
        Ooga-Chaka! Ooga ooga ooga-chaka!!

  3. You know I always dig your Bronze Age pieces but this one was particularly intriguing – tracing the space trend through unexpected final issues. Some of them – especially Man-Wolf – made me feel bad that they were cancelled simply because you wrote about them with such love!

    • Yes, this BA piece was long overdue – most unfortunate about this theme tho.
      Shame how it’s a matter of business superseding taste but that’s th way th cookie crumbles, man
      Good to havya back, amigo! U have an enjoyable habit of pushing my Likes into double-figures!
      Bless u
      Cheers!

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