In the current age of seemingly endless blockbuster superhero franchises, it’s always fun to look back on some of our favorite superheroes’ retro looks. However, for those interested in American Studies, using comic books and their contents as cultural artifacts gives us snapshots of historical, political, and cultural moments in 20th century America. The advertisements, coupons, and promotional specials found among each comic’s story panels are can give us clues about the interests and consumer habits of the issue’s contemporary readers.
The Burns’ Edward Kane Comics Collection, donated by Boston College Professor of Finance Edward Kane, consists of more than 11,000 issues of comic books. American superhero comics are divided into four eras based on their date of publication: the Golden Age (1938-1956), the Silver Age (1956-1970), the Bronze Age (1970-1985), and the Modern Age (1985-present). With issues ranging from the 1940s-early 2000s, the Edward Kane Comics Collection includes comics from DC, Marvel, and other publishers.
In September 1963, Marvel Comics released The Avengers #1, created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby. Almost 60 years later, the series has generated over 650 issues in eight volumes as well as several spin-off, limited-series, and one-shots, and graphic novels.
The Avengers Annual #7 (1977), is part of the “Final Threat” series that ran from 1976-77. The subheading for this issue reads:“With Special Guest-Stars Warlock and Captain
Marvel Battle Thanos Lord of Evil!” Under editor Archie Goodwin, this issue was completed by Joe Rubinstein, Tom Orzechowski, Petra Goldberg, and Jim Starlin.
[Cover Page of Avengers Annual #7. Editor: Archie Goodwin. Completed by: Joe Rubinstein, Tom Orzechowski, Petra Goldberg, and Jim Starlin.] Burns Library, Edward Kane Collection, Avengers Annual, 1977.
Comics produced in the Bronze Age (1970-1985) retained archetypes and conventions of the previous Silver Age, but gradually shifted into the darker and more complex storylines which eventually defined comics produced in the subsequent Modern Age. Several plots found in Bronze Age comics responded to rapidly changing youth culture, advances in technology, and socio-political and racial tensions increasingly consuming national attention.
America’s rapid interest in science fiction came in the wake of the United States’ success in the Space Race following the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. By the time The Avengers Annual #7 was published in 1977, five of six following Apollo missions successfully placed astronauts on the moon. In 1976, the year the first issue of “Final Threat” was published, NASA’s Viking 1 landed on Mars and one month following The Avengers Annual #7’s release, NASA’s shuttle prototype Enterprise flew for the first time. Reminiscent of popular science fiction television series such as Star Trek and Star Trek: The Animated Series and films such as The Andromeda Strain and 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Avengers Annual #7 features superheroes like Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America traveling in a chromatic spaceship preparing for an explosion-filled battle with their intergalactic enemy, Thanos. Continue reading