When I created this blog back in 2008, I needed an idea for a title. My favorite Marvel Comics from the 1970s were always the Giant-Size titles that sold for 35 or 50 cents. Just the thought of extra pages of Marvel-ous content made me heart beat a little faster. Here are some of my favorite titles from this era...
Giant-Size Superstars #1, featuring the Fantastic Four and wildest Thing versus Hulk match ever, was one of the first giant-size titles. The story by Gerry Conway is fun, light-hearted, a done-in-one romp that is perfectly constructed. The artwork by Rich Buckler showcases Marvel over the top action in the best way, with a fight that goes from skyscrapers to the subway system. I first wrote about this comic in 2008.
Giant-Size Superheroes #1 followed a month or so later, with another whopper of a story by Conway, where Spidey's misunderstood monsters teamed up: Morbius and the Man-Wolf. I couldn't imagine how these two got together, but it was an interesting setup. The art by Gil Kane featured some great midnight action in New York City. I mentioned this comic earlier in my look at Morbius' creation.
At this point you may think all my favorites were the first issues of the Giant-Size books. That is true--except in the case of this one. I longed for these Giant-Size comics to somehow tie into the story from the regular monthly titles. Steve Englehart finally broke this barrier with Giant-Size Avengers #2. Kang the Conqueror had attacked the Avengers in the regular monthly title, clobbering Thor, Iron Man, and The Vision into unconsciousness. And kidnapping the Scarlet Witch and Mantis to boot! Kang left the Swordsman behind, because he was a loser. Bad mistake! In this issue, the Swordsman recruits Hawkeye and the two of them start to unravel Kang's plan for world domination. The climax of this story had a big revelation--the Celestial Madonna was actually Mantis--and the Swordsman died trying to save her. One of my favorite Avengers stories of all time. The artwork by Dave Cockrum, who also inked himself on this issue, is one of the best art jobs of his career. I noticed that Doug and Karen mentioned this issue in their recent article on The Vision.
Giant-Size Defenders #1 is an odd choice for a favorite comic--but the Defenders were a very strange team! This particular issue had the least amount of new story content: only 10 pages of new material, used a framing device for a bunch of reprints featuring the Hulk, Doctor Strange, Sub-Mariner, and Silver Surfer. All of those stories were new to me and they were wonderful. It was a great lesson in Marvel history. The cover by Gil Kane, with the heroes crashing out of the comic book page, was so remarkable to me that I made it into a mousepad. I wrote an article about this comic in 2008.
The great thing about Marvel Comics back in the 1970s was that it featured more than just superheroes. A barbarian named Conan was so popular for a while that he outsold most of the other titles. Giant-Size Conan #1 seemed like a blockbuster event, coming off the success of the regular monthly comic, Savage Tales, and the Savage Sword of Conan magazine. To make this series stand out from the rest, Roy Thomas decided to adapt the novel Conan the Conqueror, and tapped artist Gil Kane to work with him. Kane was perfectly suited for fantasy material and he was inked by Tom Sutton, no slouch himself. The backups were earlier Conan stories illustrated by Barry Smith, all new to me at that time. For some other thoughts on this issue and other Kane Conan covers, see this article.
Giant-Size Chillers #1 was the first giant-size title to feature Marvel's #1 horror star, Dracula. Like the Avengers book, it carried over plot lines from the monthly title, since it was written and drawn by the regular team of Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan, and Tom Palmer. It introduced a new character, Lilith the Daughter of Dracula, who was spun off in her own series of stories in the black and white magazines. You have to love the cover by John Romita Sr, who brings a tinge gothic romance to the way that Dracula introduces his daughter to the legions of Marvel. I also wrote a short article about this issue in 2008.
Giant-Size Man-Thing #1 would be on my list just for the title alone! But it also contained a fun story by Steve Gerber about cultists called "The Entropists" who revive the Glob and have him attack the poor mindless Man-Thing. The gloopiest battle of all time was superbly illustrated by Mike Ploog. I wrote about this comic in 2009 and the fact that one of the villains resembles President Nixon, plus a letter from fan Dean Mullaney.
Finally, this list of comics wouldn't be complete without mentioning Giant-Size X-Men #1 from 1975. Not only was it one of the best titles, it was one of the last Giant-Size comics published that featured non-reprint material. My anticipation for the return of the X-Men had been stoked by reading years of reprint material and buying back issues of the Thomas/Adams collaboration. The cover, by Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum, is just superb, and has been homaged several times. The interior story by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum (who managed to surpass his work in Giant-Size Avengers #2) was daringly different than what I expected, but thrilling none the less. I wrote in detail about this issue in 2009.
The Giant-Size comics were a special part of being of Marvel Comics fan back in the 1970s. They were published for a short period of time, from 1974 to 1976. Looking back, my favorites all seem to be characters or titles with short life spans: the Monster characters, the black and white magazine line, Warlock, Captain Marvel, Killraven, Deathlok, Star-Lord, etc. Each of these have had various shots at revival, but nothing matches the original 70s work for Titanic True Believers like you and me. Nuff Said!