Saturday, February 7, 2009

Silver Surfer Saturday: Thor 193 and the 10 cent price hike!

Back in 1971, there was one month where all the Marvel Comics went from an astounding price hike: from 15 cents to 25 cents!  Sheesh, you guys think $2.99 to $3.99 is terrible?  Ten cents was a big deal back then.  Marvel even wrote a special apology to their readers:

Marvel 1971 price hike

Of course, Marvel justified this by telling readers they were getting two comics in one, since all the 25 centers were double sized!  The lead story was increased from 20 to 34 pages and the rest of the mag had a reprint story.  Marvel only did this for one month; with the next issue, all comics went down to 20 cents.  There are two explanations for this.  One was that Stan Lee played a sneaky trick on DC and forced them to put all of their comics at 25 cents a pop, which lasted for a year.  During that time, Marvel gained market share as their comics were 5 cents cheaper.

I tend to think this wasn’t the result of a sneaky Grandmaster chess move.  I think that the artists couldn’t cope with drawing 10 extra pages a month for the lead story!  Which brings us to Thor #193…

Thor 193 1971 with Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer joined Thor for this special 25 cent square-bound issue.  While the cover is not as iconic as Silver Surfer #3, plenty of Marvelites scooped up this comic, hungry for any appearance of Norrin Radd.

Thor 193 1971 Silver Surfer splash

He makes quite an entrance on this splash page!  Note that Sal Buscema inked his brother John on this issue, just as he did on the Silver Surfer series.  In the story, Balder recruits the Surfer to help Thor battle Durok the Demolisher in Washington DC.  The Surfer has just about had it with humanity, but Balder’s selfless devotion to Thor changes his mind.

Whenever I re-read Thor or Conan, I am astounded at the quality of John Buscema’s work.  This man could layout and draw incredible pages on 2-3 series at a monthly rate!  Only people with the work ethic and skill of Kirby, Buscema, Romita, or Kane could produce such pages.  Look at this next splash page…

Thor 193 Sif in wedding gown

Sif is prepared in an Asgardian regal wedding gown, ready to marry…Loki!  Who is of course behind all of the dastardly events in this issue.  Just the composition of this page is astounding.  The angle of the shot, the expression on Sif’s face, how great Sif looks in that dress.  Now, this is something that the Thor movie can capitalize on if Kenneth Branagh is smart…Thor has a lot of babes in his world!  Sif, the Enchantress, Hela, Jane Foster, etc.

Keep in mind that Thor #193 was only one of the Buscema books that appeared that month.  There was also Fantastic Four #116, another 34-page tale that I will revisit soon.  Nuff said.

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