Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Question of the Week: What’s your favorite ‘1970s’ comic?

I had things a-going on over the past few days, so I didn’t get a chance to post this Question yesterday, but the great thing about the Question of the Week is that it’s for the “week,” so I can post it a day late and we’re still good! (Also: I don’t think anyone would care if I skipped a week, but let’s not destroy my ego too much, shall we?)

You’ll note the quotation marks in the Question this week. That’s because I want to know what your favorite comic that has a “Seventies” vibe is. This could, of course, be your favorite comic that was published in the 1970s. That’s easy! I’m not going to do that, though, because my favorite comic published in the 1970s (maybe the early part of the Dark Phoenix Saga?) doesn’t really have a “Seventies” vibe – it’s pretty timeless. You don’t even have to pick one published in the 1970s, as long as it has a “Seventies” vibe to it. You can define “Seventies vibe” how you like, but I think you know what I mean. Is your favorite “1970s” comic Bay City Jive by John Layman? Fine with me. Is it the final volume of American Vampire, which is set in 1976? Feel free!

So now that we’ve established the (admittedly very loose) ground rules, I’ll tell you mine. My favorite “1970s” comics are the cosmic ones done by Jim Starlin. Either his work with Captain Marvel or Adam Warlock – they’re very similar to each other. Starlin is quite possibly the most “1970s” comics creator ever (although Gerber might be, too), and with the cosmic stuff he did, he really leaned into the Seventies aesthetic. The comics are pure blasts of weirdo awesomeness, and they’re just so much fun to read and look at. Starlin isn’t the greatest writer, but he’s a pretty good plotter, and he’s a terrific artist, so when he cuts loose, watch out. The peak “1970s Awesomeness” might be this sequence, from Captain Marvel #28 in 1973. You know the one!

I mean, forget most “1970s” comic – these might be five of the coolest comic book pages ever printed. You know a 13-year-old Grant Morrison was reading this somewhere in Glasgow thinking, “Well, shit, I can do that!” I mean, you got your time-mind sync-warp. I mean, really. Then you get Drax being “assaulted by fists of shattered illusions and broken promises!” That has to suck. Then Thanos eats you. He’s sure to have bad breath, right? Then you’re insane, and we get that glorious page 4, which Starlin had to have drawn while on acid, right? (Starlin could have been stone cold sober throughout the 1970s, which would make this even more impressive.) Then Thanos gets the Cosmic Cube. Dang, let’s hope he doesn’t do anything mean with that!

I love this sequence, and Starlin did a lot of this kind of shit in his two cosmic comics of the 1970s. They’re just so much fun to read, and they feel like comics that could not have been done in the same way in any other decade. Sure, we have weird comics from other eras, but these feel so very “Seventies,” don’t they? That’s why they’re my favorites. What are yours?!?!?


  1. tomfitz1

    BURGAS: You must be trippin’ !!! You could hardly ever remember the ’70’s, now, could you, man?

    I mean, dude, how old were you back then? Lol

    I’d go with Warlock by Starlin. Maybe Starman by Robinson. (Depending on the story arc, the book always gave me the vibes of Times Past)

  2. Peter

    While Starlin’s ouvre is certainly a good pick, I’m going to go with the other 70s guy in Steve Gerber and his Defenders run. Really, I like all of the Defenders run from Gerber through Kraft has a big 70s vibe – the very concept of the “non-team” reflects the growing skepticism of institutions during that decade and yet the book was always lightheartedly anarchic rather than darkly nihilistic. It was groovy, in other words.

    1. Greg Burgas

      I own all of Gerber’s Defenders, but I haven’t read them yet. I had to pick them up over time, and as I was getting done, Marvel started collecting them, because of course they did. I’ll get to them, though!

  3. Edo Bosnar

    Man, the ’70s (and early ’80s) are where I live as far as comics go and even with the flexible criteria you’ve specified, I’m finding it difficult to narrow it down. Starlin’s Warlock, but also Captain Marvel, definitely come to mind, as do some of the others mentioned here, like Gerber on Defenders, Man-Thing and also Guardians of the Galaxy…
    Ultimately, I think it comes down to two, which both sort of have that timeless quality you mentioned but are still steeped in the aesthetic of their era of creation, i.e., the 1970s:
    Killraven by McGregor and Russell – the lovely art is timeless, but the occasionally overwrought and slightly pretentious writing puts them squarely in the ’70s.
    E-man (the original Charlton run) by Cuti and Staton – in some ways, it’s like an all-ages ’70s indie comic.

  4. Gerber was one of the reasons I started blogging. https://www.rogerogreen.com/2008/02/12/steve-gerber/

    But I’d pick any of the ones suggested. Steve’s Defenders, Man-Thing, and also Howard.
    Starlin’s Captain Marvel more than Warlock.
    Englehart’s Captain America

    But I gotta mention the first issues of Luke Cage, Hero for Hire before he met the FF or changed to Powerman. #1 was the first comic I bought as an adult. Also, I had great affection for Bill Everett returning, for too short a time, on Sub-Mariner starting at #50, which my GF at the time loved.

  5. Okay, so the “most 1970s comic” is probably that issue of Captain America (#175?) where the bad guy turns out to be Nixon and he shoots himself.

    But my actual favorite is New Gods #6, “The Glory Boat!” I always wanted to write a book or article about how that might be the single greatest comic book issue of all time, the Rosetta stone to the 20th century, a comic about the then-ongoing Vietnam war and the legacy of WWII, the generational divide, etc. It’s great.

    My runner-ups are New Gods #7 (“The Pact”) and OMAC #1. Kirby’s best work was in the ’70s.

    I haven’t read much of the trippy Marvel stuff from guys like Starlin or Gerber or Englehart, unfortunately (though I do have quite a few digital Masterworks waiting in the cloud for me to read them). But Marvel having series called SON OF SATAN and MASTER OF KUNG FU could only happen in the ’70s.

    1. conrad1970

      Hands down it has to be Master of Kung Fu, overall a fantastic fun by Gulacy, Zeck and the brilliant Gene Day. Sure there were A few dud fill in’s but hey ho.
      A close runner up would be Tomb of Dracula, a 75 issue run by Gene Colon, you can’t whack it.

  6. kdu2814

    Right now my answer is Detective Comics 438-445, the run of 100 page super spectaculars, or Warren’s Creepy, Eerie or Vampirella. The interest in comic book history and the return of the horror/weird/mystery comics genre seem very 70s to me.

    I could maybe go with Starlin’s Marvel work, but I have not reread it enough that it has really stuck with me. I fact I only got the last issue of Warlock Special Edition this past Fall, and still have not read it all. If I had read Starlin’s stuff when I was in my teens I would probably recall it better, but I think I might have only started in my late twenties/thirties (forties if you count my unfinished Warlock ;))

  7. conrad1970

    I’ll give a shout out to Savage Sword of Conan as well.
    I just bought the first two omnibus editions, I could only afford them in digital format though, no way I can spend £100+ on hardback edition, John Busema’s work on this title was just stunning.

    1. Agreed. Though reading some of the earlier collections made me realize how many Howard stories had racist overtones I missed when reading. It’s harder when the black guy is right there on the page. But that’ ain’t Buscema’s fault and his work was indeed amazing.

  8. Chris Schillig

    So many to choose from! Gerber is well-represented by Defenders and Howard the Duck, but I’d also throw Omega the Unknown into the mix. Gerber and Jim Mooney’s depiction of Hell’s Kitchen is quintessential ’70s.

    Maybe also Wolfman and Colan on Tomb of Dracula, which has a Hammer Films feel to it, which is both 1960s and ’70s.

  9. Jeff Nettleton

    Favorites would be Killraven and Master of Kung Fu, though I would say I would have to give the nod to Howard Chaykin and his Cody Starbuck (my screen name, over at the Classic Comics Forum). The character first appears in the debut issue of Star*Reach, from Mike Friedrich, a quintessential 70s comic (not an Underground, not Mainstream; it’s “ground level.”), gets one more story (where he is tweaked a bit), then a solo one-shot (marred by bad printing and then reprinted), which changes him even more, then a story in Heavy Metal, in 1980, which tweaks him even more. To me, Iron Wolf, Cody Starbuck, The Scorpion, Dominic Fortune and Reuben Flagg are kind of Chaykin’s version of Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion, except more cynical. He draws them the same (an idealized version of himself), with much of the same costuming, and definitely the same cynical attitudes and feet of clay. It feels very much like a 1970s reaction to the 60s, Vietnam, the counter-culture, Nixon, the Me Generation and all of that. Really, the 70s were a reaction to the tail end of the 60s and Chaykins heroes, like me, felt that the Hippies were sell-outs, that 70s were about getting wasted so you didn’t have to face reality, and that the 80s was BS nostalgia for a mythical 50s, fueled by a desire to be wealthy and live the high life. American Flagg seemed like the culmination of that vibe and it is really scary, in retrospect, how much of Chaykin’s dystopia came true (though much f it was commentary on the times, like most sci-fi).

  10. HAL 2000

    Egads! I somehow missed this and am late for the weekend… But, anyhoo, it’s funny just reading the phrase “most Seventies comic” led me to think of Starling’s Captain Marvel (or Warlock) so it was amusing – and weirdly gratifying – to scroll down and be greeted by exactly that.
    For me I immediately thought of Steve Gerber’s Defenders (and bam! I see Peter had the same idea with first comment!). Nebuloh and the goofballs in clown masks chanting “we are all bozos!” That was prime 1970s goodness. Funny, strange, satirical, and true. The odd thing is it still has utility now in this Godforsaken age (as does Englehart’s Secret Empire take).
    The “Merry Christmas X-Men, The Sentinels have returned!” (I’m paraphrasing) issue with Scott, Jean, and company out in snowy New York seems very Seventies. The characters feel oddly like real people in a recognizable world (they aren’t a bunch of creepy assholes off on Krakoa palling around with child killers and other loons purely because they are mutants) and they have friends who aren’t superhuman. Imagine that!

  11. HAL 2000

    Part Two!
    I know I’m dull (and out-of-step with the quick read, “let’s make a podcast instead of y’know WRITING something” world!) but I gotta have myself, no matter the cost to my very SOUL! (That’s my homage to Seventies Starlin. Heh) The increasingly ornate Barry Windsor Smith Conans seem very Seventies. The Red Sonja stories in particular. Not to forget Rascally Roy Thomas (or to slight John Buscema) as his run on Conan is suitably Seventies.
    Gerber’s Howard the Duck: “in a world he never made!” As perfectly Seventies as the original NBC’s Saturday Night/Saturday Night Live (Land Shark! The Decabet! Irwin Mainway! Fred Garvin:Male Prostitute! “Gee, that’s some great bass!”), Beverly Switzer, the dreaded deadline doom, DOCTOR BONG!
    Neal Adams on Batman, also Jim Aparo (and even Irv Novick).
    Chris Claremont and John Byrne on Marvel Team-Up.
    Englehart and Gene Colan on Dr Strange (Let’s destroy and remake the world with no one the wiser. Jonathan took an age to do the same thing. There might be a lesson there, somewhere. *cough*)
    Giant-Size X-Men #1. Cockrum’s design prowess. The mix of old and new.
    Claremont and Byrne kicking into high gear (and being very late Seventies while birthing the Eighties) with the World Tour, Proteus Saga, and the whole beginning of the Phoenix (then *Dark* Phoenix) Saga.
    Daredevil in San Francisco!
    The Celestial Madonna Saga.
    “My Ward is a Junkie!”
    Um, that’s enough of that! I hope that all is as well with you as can be expected as regards the reason for you getting delayed. Better fortune for you.

  12. mike loughlin

    My Top Top 12 ’70s Comics:

    12. BWS Conan
    11. Wrightson Swamp Thing
    10. GL/GA
    9. Goodwin & Simonson Manhunter
    8. OMAC #1
    7. 4th World books
    6. Claremont/Byrne/Cockrum X-Men
    5. Master of Kung-Fu
    4. Englehart/Brunner/Colan Dr. Strange
    3. Starlin Thanos Saga
    2. Gerber’s Man-Thing, Howard the Duck, & Defenders


    1. Wolfman/Colan/Palmer Tomb of Dracula: Gene Colan and Tom Palmer produced some of the best art to ever grace a comic book. Gorgeous, atmospheric, and dynamic, ToD is a visual feast for almost 70 straight issues (“almost” because a handful of other inkers didn’t do a good job over Colan’s pencils, bringing the art from fantastic to merely good). Marv Wolfman wrote my favorite version of Dracula, bombastic but still menacing. The supporting cast (some inherited by Wolfman, some co-created) is an eclectic, interesting group. I’m glad ToD is readily available these days, as it deserves to be read and appreciated for years to come.

  13. John King

    re “I don’t think anyone would care if I skipped a week,”
    Did anyone complain about you skipping April 18th ?

    Anyway, Master of Kung Fu would be my choice – due to the writing from Doug Moench and great art from the likes of Paul Gulacy and Gene Day.
    It certainly fits the 70s due to the martial arts craze that followed “Enter the Dragon” and Marvel seemed to be trying to diversify from the more generic Caucasian male superhero at the time

    Gerber’s Howard the Duck (oddly enough, the Master of Quack Fu issue was the first American comic I bought)

    Worthy of mention due to ’70s vibes
    While not published until the early ’80s the early issues of Dazzler tapped into the disco craze of the ’70s (even using a mirror ball in one of the fights) though later issues were more ’80s
    Come to think of it, the 3 parts of the Dark Phoenix saga published in 1979 included the debut of the Dazzler so there is a bit of “seventies vibe” there.

    (Oddly, while published in the ’70s Spiderwoman had terrorists in Britain afraid of the death sentence so that was clearly ’60s or earlier)

    1. Greg Burgas

      John: Oh, you should have seen the emails about my skipping a week! So many insults!!!! 🙂

      Those early Dazzler issues are not a bad choice, although given that Marvel was behind the trends, they kind of feel 1980s, too, as in they’re desperately trying to recreate the 1970s but the ’70s have passed them by. It’s an odd vibe!

  14. Jazzbo

    Totally agree on anything Starlin cosmis. Also Cellestial Madonna.

    Don’t think I’ve seen this mentioned, but Son of Satan was the first thing to come to mind when I saw this post. The SoS Classic collection is a really fun read.

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