Corner boxes! Byrne! BULLPEN BULLETINS!

UPDATED 3/3/23: Every once in a while it’s nice to pause and just think about how much we love comics. Well, our pal Anthony Durso did a wonderful job on just that point in 2018 with a quartet of columns about Marvel and DC in the Bronze and Silver Ages. So dig this groovy piece — and check out the links at the bottom for more joyous celebration. We re-present these columns at least once a year and they never fail to entertain. Dig it. — Dan


I really started building my Marvel collection in late 1977. Long story short, but Wednesday nights were a “visitation day” and inevitably my brother and I would end up at Carl’s Drugs where my father was usually good for at least a 3-pack of Marvel Comics.

The spinner rack had DC too but those were of the dreaded (at the time) Whitman label. The collection quickly grew and it seemed like I couldn’t get enough from the House of Ideas. Over the years I’ve gone back and forth between Marvel and DC but Bronze Age Marvel is definitely the sweet spot for me. Ironic, considering the often tense situation, but there’s fond memories in those four-color pages.

13. How to Read Comics the Marvel Way. Reading Marvel Comics during the Bronze Age was an immersive experience. Beyond the normal 17- to 22-page story, there were little gems of wisdom tucked throughout the book. Synopsis header strips on the splash page gave a quick rundown on the character or concept featured. Editor’s notes sprinkled throughout the story clued the casual reader in on what came before. The Bullpen Bulletins page (including Stan’s Soapbox) gave readers a glimpse of what Marvel had in the pipeline, while the Mighty Marvel Checklist provided a look at what was at the newsstand currently. Marvel Value Stamps (found on the letters page) could be counted on to showcase characters you’d never heard of (but were eager to seek out). Who needed the internet, fan press, Google or Wikipedia? Marvel had you covered!

12. Not The Same Old Thing. Who knew that long-term exposure to gamma rays due to countless battles against the Hulk would result in Benjamin J. Grimm losing the power of the Thing? Certainly not big-brain Reed Richards, although he did develop a kick-ass exoskeleton for Ben to use in the interim until he could find a cure to bring back the powers he’d been…trying…to…cure… Huh? I wonder if Ben and Tony Stark ever compared notes?

11. What If… Marvel Comics Invented Elseworlds Before DC Comics? Just imagine, a whole series of done-in-one looks at crucial moments in Marvel history, but as they happened in alternate realities. Narrated by Uatu the Watcher, these tales often had tragic finite endings, NEVER to be referred to again… at least until Marvel decided to incorporate these changes into mainstream Marvel continuity.

10. Marvel Monsters. In the early Silver Age, Marvel side-stepped the Comics Code Authority ban on monsters by pushing BEMs like Groot or Fin Fang Foom. When superheroes came back in vogue, Marvel tweaked these creatures into new-style super-heroes like the Hulk and the Thing. And when the CCA lessened their restrictions on classic monsters like vampires and werewolves in the ’70s, Marvel brought them back, but this time as super-heroes too. Morbius, Ghost Rider, Man-Wolf, Man-Thing and the Son of Satan soon joined the roster. And if you were looking for slightly more traditional fare, there was The Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf By Night, The Monster of Frankenstein and The Living Mummy.

9. The Spider-Mobile. Why does someone who can cling to walls and web-swing above the streets of New York City need a Spider-Mobile? Because Corona Motors asked him to build one. So with the help of ace mechanic Johnny Storm, Spider-Man ended up with this short-lived doozy before he tanked it into the river. That never happened to Batman!

8. Marvel Reprints. Most of DC’s reprints during the Bronze Age were confined to backups in the occasional 80- or 100-Page Giants. Marvel however had a whole series of Amazing and Astonishing adventure tales that helped fill out the spinner rack each month. Often with a fresh coat of paint on the cover, these reprints helped expand and flesh out the history of Marvel to eager young readers trying to fill in the gaps. (We’d be remiss if we didn’t give a Giant-Sized shout out to the reprints in the Marvel Treasury Editions, Marvel Pocket Book Series and Marvel Fireside Books.)

7. Gil “Sugar Lips” Kane. As Carmine Infantino was to the National Periodical Publication covers in the Silver Age, so was Gil Kane to Marvel covers in the Bronze Age. Marvel’s most prominent cover artist for most of the ’70s, Kane’s work was dynamic and bombastic and so enticing on the newsstand or spinner rack you just HAD to pick it up!

6. Marvel Teams. The Fantastic Four! The Avengers! The Uncanny X-Men! The Defenders! The Invaders! (Not to mention the Champions, the Inhumans and, um the Eternals… OK, nobody cares about the Eternals.) Marvel’s teams were unique from each other (the family, the superstars, the outcasts, the “non-team”) and served the greater good (when they weren’t battling each other).

5. Red Sonja. 10-year old boy in the mid 1970s. Scantily clad warrior woman with red hair. You do the math! (Also, this is one of the BEST COMIC PANELS EVER!)

4. Marvel Corner Boxes. With a quick glance at the upper left hand corner it was easy to determine who was in the current issue of your favorite Mighty Marvel Mag. Spoiler!

3. Epic Battles. Before the Crisis on Infinite Earths and the Infinity War, Marvel had the Kree-Skrull War, the Avengers-Defenders War and the Korvac Saga. Epic stories of cosmic battles featuring the Avengers and special guest stars that re-defined the format way beyond that of the JLA/JSA team-ups over at DC.

2. And Then There Was Byrne. John Byrne was the first Marvel artist whose name became a household word for me (besides Jack Kirby — whom, foolish me, I despised through most of the Bronze Age. Apologies, Jack). From Marvel Team-Up to the Uncanny X-Men to the Avengers to the Fantastic Four to Alpha Flight, Byrne’s work was instantly recognizable and I followed him to whatever title he’d wind up at next. In fact, when I was a teen I had plans to be the “next-John Byrne” and signed my name to artwork in similar fashion to his signature, albeit backwards (OSRUD).

1. Still ONLY 35¢! Ahhhh…we can only dream. ’Nuff Said!


13 REASONS to Love DC in the SILVER AGE. Click here.

13 REASONS to Love MARVEL in the SILVER AGE. Click here.

13 REASONS to Love DC in the BRONZE AGE. Click here.

ANTHONY DURSO is the owner of The Toyroom repro and custom packaging company and Retropolis Tees.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Yes, I’m with you Ben. You’d think if Reed could build something as remarkable as the picture perfect Thing exoskeleton he could have put AC in it. I was very intrigued by that as a kid. Silly, but clever and fun.

    The Spider mobile and Son of Origins! Good Lord I loved them. That was the stuff of childhood Christmas break.

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  2. I always loved Jack’s work. I was especially taken in with his Cap. Ditko was the legend I struggled with understanding.

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  3. Technically, DC beat Marvel with their Imaginary Stories, the only difference was there was not continuous series at DC.

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    • Haha. The picture you used of Spider-Man driving the spider-mobile is the splash page from S.M 141 my first issue. Great comic. I live the splash page synopsis on every issue and corner boxes, Ben’s exp skeleton and the Marvel Comics bar on the covers. The 70s were a great time for a kid to get into comics. My First Captain America was 197 , great Kirby cover.

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  4. Only the corner boxes were not updated for months after changes. Kirby Eternals were brilliant

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  5. There are two comics trade dress designs that will forever be the pinnacle… the “Marvel Comics Group” stripe with the corner box, price, etc. – and the DC Dollar Comics “barbell” at the top of the cover. Sheer genius.

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  6. What would you consider the beginning and end of the bronze age, whether it be a year, or certain story lines that transitioned to a new era?

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