Newly minted columnist Jim Beard recalls a classic comic on the artist/writer’s birthday…
NOTE: Hey, folks! Dan here, with a bit of an intro that puts all this into context:
Longtime readers of 13th Dimension probably know of my deep, abiding love of Batman, going back to my youngest days. By extension, that made me a DC kid through and through. Other than Spider-Man and a bit of Captain America, I didn’t really read much Marvel until I was an adult.
In essence, Marvel is my second language. I know an awful lot about the company and its history but I’m not quite as familiar with the minutiae as I am with DC. The result has been that, on balance, significantly more DC stories have appeared during the site’s eight years than Marvel – and that’s always bugged me.
But now, in addition to our awesome regular columnists Paul Kupperberg and Fred Van Lente, I’m happy to say that writer Jim Beard — who covered the history of Marvel for the publisher’s website for 17 years – is joining 13th Dimension as our resident expert on the House of Ideas.
The great irony is that Jim is best known in these parts as the editor of two Batman ’66 episode guides (with a third in the works, all featuring a line-up of Bat-experts including your humble narrator) and a book that covers various aspects of the show, Gotham City 14 Miles.
He’s contributed stories about the show here already – and in all likelihood will hit on it again, as well as other fave topics like Green Hornet and Planet of the Apes.
But mostly, he’ll be zeroing in on Marvel once or twice a month and I, for one, am over the moon about it. I think you will be too.
After all, it was Jim’s Gotham City 14 Miles that was one of the prime inspirations for 13th Dimension to begin with.
Groovy, right? Right.
So here’s Jim, with a birthday tribute to Jim Starlin (born 72 years ago on Oct. 9, 1949) and 1974’s Captain Marvel #32 — featuring THANOS:
By JIM BEARD
Captain Marvel #32 is not only my very first of the very few issues of the mag I got as a kid (as well as my intro to the works of Jim Starlin), it’s also stood the test of time in my memories. The issue’s iconic imagery has stayed with me all these years, a gateway drug to Marvel’s cosmic landscape.
Here are 13 GROOVY THINGS ABOUT JIM STARLIN’s CAPTAIN MARVEL #32:
That Cover! If you’re suddenly going to have Starlin thrust upon you when you’re 7 years old, you couldn’t do much better than this cover. I’d met the good captain just a few months before in a Marvel Team-Up (why didn’t he say “Shazam”?), but here he was in all his Starlin cosmic superhero glory. Wow!
That First Splash! I was dropped right into the middle of this storyline (the vagaries of early ’70s newsstand distribution), so this first page knocked me for a loop. A clutch of colorful characters? An “insane god”? And Iron Man?!? How do you not turn the page with this one? Luckily, Starlin & co. told me right there at the bottom of the page to hang in there and all would be explained…
That Transition! As a kid, I was fascinated by these two panels and Starlin’s clever transition of those three characters from silhouettes to fully formed flying figures. I had no idea who “Eros” was, but when you’re on the move like this, who cares?
That Face! Every Marvel artist drew Iron Man’s helmet differently, and Starlin was no exception. There’s just something about the way he could make the ol’ Golden Avenger “frown” that really amused me. In many ways, I was glad for Stark’s presence in this issue, a kind of familiar face to help me get through the strange, Starlin starscape I was experiencing.
That Punch! The demons are spooky enough, but when I saw Cap punch right through one like it was made out of papier-mache, well, that was just too wonderfully weird. This entire fight-scene is pure Starlin goodness.
That Cutaway! I need to pause for a moment and say how much I love and have always loved maps and cutaways. As a kid, when I saw this Starlin cross-section of Titan (who knew it was what I always wanted, but was afraid to ask?) in the middle of a lettercol, I was in a happy, happy place. How cool!
That Other Splash! Before this, I may not have seen a double-page splash before, but if this was my first in a comic, I thank Jim Starlin for inaugurating me into the tradition in scintillating style. One funny thing: Back then, I used to wonder why Drax didn’t blast Thanos right between the eyes instead of on his forehead.
That Face—Part Two! By this point in this story, my 7-year-old self had already realized this was not your average mag. In fact, it was downright psychedelic. These three panels of Starlin forcing Drax’s face through a funhouse hall of mirrors is hilarious now, but nearly made me freak out as a kid.
That Origin! I had only just met Drax the Destroyer in this issue, so when I first read Starlin’s origin here, it didn’t make much of an impact on me. Years later, I discovered this was where it was first revealed, as well as Drax’s connection to Moondragon. In retrospect, the idea of the possibility your soul could be captured in a big cosmic fist by some “god” out in space to transform you into a killing machine is kind of spooky.
That Interlude! Look at this: Four-panel interlude of a beautiful woman sighing in the darkness in gorgeous Starlin style. Who is she? Why was she upset? No idea, said little me, but just look at those shadows from the window across her… simply incredible.
That Other Interlude! And then… the Avengers. This tiny little panel has stuck in my brain now for nearly 50 years. The Avengers sitting around gabbing, and then Black Panther suddenly shouting out “ATTENTION, AVENGERS!” Is it any wonder I was a big T’Challa fan back in the day? So commanding, so masterful—he owns that panel.
That Robot! Starlin just had a knack for introducing weird stuff in the middle of scenes that twisted my little noggin to the breaking point. This ISAAC robot was super-creepy, a kind of early, weirdo C-3PO dude with a funky metal plate in his mouth and eyes that bore right through you. Whew! Get me away from this guy!
That Ending! Forget everything I just told you. Forget the whole rest of the issue and the cover. This right here is where it’s all at, bunky. This is Thanos. This is The End. This one damn panel terrified me as a kid, to the point I could barely look at it. Starlin gives Thanos actual weight here, a towering titan of terror in flames ready to squash Rick Jones like a bug. Yow! And y’know something? I never got the next issue until just a few years ago when I read it in a Captain Marvel collection, but for several glorious years, Jim Starlin’s blazing mad god haunted my nightmares…
MORE From JIM BEARD
— 13 COOL THINGS ABOUT BATMAN ’66 SEASON ONE. Click here.
— 13 COOL THINGS ABOUT BATMAN ’66 SEASON TWO. Click here.
Jim Beard has pounded out adventure fiction since he sold a story to DC Comics in 2002. He’s gone on to write official Star Wars and Ghostbusters comics stories and contributed articles and essays to several volumes of comic book history. His prose work includes his own creations, but also licensed properties such as Planet of the Apes, X-Files, Spider-Man, Kolchak the Night Stalker and Captain Action. In addition, Jim provided regular content for Marvel.com, the official Marvel Comics website, for 17 years.
Check out his latest releases, a Green Hornet novella How Sweet the Sting, his first epic fantasy novel The Nine Nations Book One: The Sliding World, and the most recent Batman ’66 books of essays he’s edited: Zlonk! Zok! Zowie! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season One and Biff! Bam! Ee-Yow! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season Two.