Monday, December 17, 2012

What Does The Beetle See In Aunt May?

In the early 1970s, Marvel wanted you to know something:

One of the nice perks about getting to the end of a Marvel comic was that, even though the story was over, you were still drawn into the world of Marvel through the pages they padded the end of the issue with. Mostly you were interested in reading the issue's letters page, which had feedback from readers on the story that came out four issues ago. But you also got to sift through Marvel's promotional material--whether that took the form of a Bullpen "bulletins page," a checklist of comics currently on sale, or of course those splashy ads that either beckoned you to try other comics you weren't reading, or let you know that an issue you were waiting for was available in all its glory.

And in the '70s, that promotional machine kicked into high gear, seemingly giving the "all clear" that Marvel had filled the vacuum left by Jack Kirby's departure and the talent shuffling was settling down into some measure of stability.  And we started to see those cool ads that made us want to see what else was going on with other Marvel characters.

I wasn't an Avengers reader at the time, but ads like this one made me curious about the book:

Curious, but admittedly not very motivated to read the issue--at least with a pretty tame ad like this one. It looks like the ad is counting on two things to sell it: the image of the Valkyrie, and the issue's title, neither of which makes me want to read about a group called the Avengers. "The Revolution's Fine!"--so? What does that mean to me? Why not go with an image from the cover itself? Something that gives me more of an idea of what to expect?

Now we're cookin'!

It would take awhile for me to pick up my first issue of The Avengers, but I did go back and eventually read the "Lady Liberators" story. Enticing or not, though, I still liked finding these ads tucked away in an issue. And this one did offer the first peek at what would be Marvel's first all-female super-group. (You'd think the ad would use that as a hook, no?) It looks like there was some considerable artistic tinkering going on in the ad, with different artists adjusting the images or the images themselves being taken from other stories. If I had to guess, I'd say the Wasp, for instance, is from a prior story drawn by Don Heck; Medusa looks distinctly in Jack Kirby's style; the Black Widow pic looks like it has John Romita's touches; and it's anyone's guess who touched up the Scarlet Witch. As for the Valkyrie, I'd say it's Sal Buscema's work, modelled after John Buscema's title page pose in the issue.

Many of the ads stayed true to their respective cover art, like this one for an issue of Fantastic Four:

"The Living Death Who Walks--and he's walking your way!" I love that! Now that's the way to sell a comic book in the limited space of a 6" x 3.5" box--a big caption over a dramatic scene. What's so exciting about the Valkyrie striking a pose next to the story's title?

And though you'd think an ad featuring Dr. Doom with his back turned to us is the wrong approach when he looks so great with that menacing, deadly metal mask of his, I think we're more likely to be focused on that caption that promises a "battle of the eons" between Doom and Thor:

 Though maybe it wasn't the battle of the eons--more like a fierce scuffle of about ten minutes.

Finally, how could you not want to know how this came about?

You just know people were picking up the book to see if Aunt May finally had that fatal heart attack. I mean, how could she not?? Come on, the Beetle flying off with her as a hostage, Spider-Man engaging him in battle in mid-air, and then the Beetle dropping her. That's an ambulance call waiting to happen.  Think how disappointed we were when we were greeted with this scene at the end:

Aunt May seems to be a babe magnet for super-villains.  It's no wonder the Beetle got word that Forest Hills was the place to go to make heists.  What do you want to bet Doc Ock puts the moves on her sometime?


Rusty said...

Yeah, I agree that these mini-ads for other comics were pretty cool. During the mid to late 1970s I was a little kid and I mostly read Harvey comics - titles like Richie Rich, Casper and Hot Stuff. They had some of these types of ads in all their issues too. True, they weren't as cool looking, and they didn't draw you in as much, but they did advertise all the other Harvey comics that were on sale during any given month and made me want to buy even more comics!

I think it would be cool if current comic books tried this, even if just for a while. I'd much rather see a mini-ad for another cool comic than a 2 page car spread!

Comicsfan said...

Jeez, I guess kids are getting bigger allowances these days! =:O