Comics: Discover Marvel’s bronze-age gold

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Marvel Firsts: The 1970'sThanks to this summer’s Avengers movie, Marvel superheroes are now enjoying more popularity than at any other time in their 50-year history. But the Marvel Universe is vast and rich with myriad characters who are not nearly as well-known as Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor and Captain America.

During the Bronze-Age of comics, roughly 1970-80, Marvel introduced, or reinvented/reintroduced, dozens of incredibly cool heroes and anti-heroes in their ever-expanding world of wonder. Often, new characters would be revealed in ‘spotlight’ titles like Marvel Spotlight, Marvel Feature, Marvel Presents and Marvel Premiere. Sometimes a character would be tested and run for several issues in one of these experimental titles before getting their own book — or sometimes disappear altogether into the back-issue bin of history.

On a recent trip to my local comic store I came across a bounty of Bronze-Age treasures in a relatively new series of paperback bound-collections called Marvel Firsts: The 1970s. The current three volumes contain 15-20 reprints each of Marvel first-appearances or reworked introductions of established characters. Each comic is reproduced in beautiful full-color, except for a couple of instances where the original source material was in a black and white Marvel magazine.

Devil Dinosaur #1Between the stories in each volume, there is also a sampling of other 1970s comic covers that will whet your appetite for additional books you might want to search out at your local comic shop. The comics reprinted in Marvel Firsts: The 1970s are must reads for Marvel fans and anyone interested in comic book history.

Some of my personal favorites that can be found within these riveting volumes include the first appearance of the macabre Man-Thing from Savage Tales #1 (Volume 1),  the first appearance of Luke Cage in Luke Cage: Hero for Hire #1 (Volume 1), the first appearance of the cyborg Deathlok the Demolisher in Astonishing Tales #25 (Volume 2), the first appearance of Iron Fist in Marvel Premiere #15 (Volume 2),  the little known and short-lived Skull the Slayer in Skull the Slayer #1 (Volume 3) and Jack Kirby’s Devil Dinosaur (with Moon-Boy) #1 (both from Volume 3).

It’s not an exaggeration to say that these comic books are national treasures and these awesome reprint collections are must-haves (unless you are fortunate enough to already have the originals that is.) Hit up your local comic shop and grab these highly recommended books before they are out of print – or you might even get lucky and find the original classic issues on their wall.

There is also a Marvel Firsts: The 1960s volume available that reprints the original stories of the better known Marvel characters from the Silver-Age, like Spider-Man and the Avenger primaries. Below is a list of the collection contents from each 1970s volumes.  

Do you have a favorite unsung comic character from the 70s? Join our comments below and tell us who and why!

Marvel Firsts: The 1970s (Volume 1) – Includes reprints of stories with first appearances or reintroductions of Man-Thing, Luke Cage, Dracula, Tigra, Black Widow and the Beast (from X-Men).  Also includes breakout stories in Marvel’s western, war, sci-fi and monster genres.

Actual titles include: Amazing Adventures #1, #11 and #18; Savage Tales #1; Marvel Spotlight #1-2 and #5; Marvel Feature #1; Marvel Premiere #1: Tomb Of Dracula #1; Luke Cage: Hero For Hire #1; Combat Kelly & the Deadly Dozen #1; Outlaw Kid #10; Gunhawks #1; The Cat #1: Shanna The She-Devil #1; and Monster Of Frankenstein #1.

Marvel Firsts: The 1970s (Volume 2) – Includes reprints of stories with first appearances or reintroductions of Brother Voodoo, Deathlok, the then “all-new” X-Men, Iron Fist, the Invaders, Man-Wolf and Howard the Duck (the cool one – not the George Lucas fiasco) and many more.

Actual titles include: Tales Of The Zombie #1; Vampire Tales #1-2; Supernatural Thrillers #5; Strange Tales #169 and #174; Marvel Feature #11; Jungle Action #6; Marvel Spotlight #12; Astonishing Tales #21 and #25; Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu #1; Marvel Premiere #15; Creatures On The Loose #30; Haunt Of Horror #2; War Is Hell #9; Monsters Unleashed #10; Giant-Size Man-Thing #4; Giant-Size Invaders #1; Giant-Size X-Men #1.

Marvel Firsts: The 1970s (Volume 3) – Includes reprints of stories with first appearances or reintroductions of Skull the Slayer, Omega the Unknown, the Champions, Jack Kirby’s The Eternals, Devil Dinosaur and Machine Man and many more.

Actual titles include: Skull the Slayer #1; Champions #1; Marvel Presents #1 and #3; Black Goliath #1; Marvel Preview #4; Omega the Unknown #1; The Eternals #1; Nova #1; Ms. Marvel #1; Marvel Spotlight #32; What If? #1; Marvel Premiere #35; Devil Dinosaur #1; Machine Man #1; Hulk Magazine #11; and Savage She-Hulk #1.

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About the author

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Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.

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