Back Issue #86 has been an issue I've hankered to get my greasy mitts on since I first saw it advertised at the Twomorrows website. A companion issue to their extra-large look at DC's magnificent 100-Page Spectaculars, this particular issue shines the light on Marvel's attempts to market its old stories from the warehouse and to up-size its product in various ways during the Bronze Age.
One of my pet theories is that from the very earliest days Marvel was reprinting its stories, making them available to its new fans as they added themselves to the loyal ranks. By the time I arrived on the Marvel scene in late 1967 Steve Ditko was gone, having sequestered himself at Charlton and was dabbling in Randian philosphy at DC. His magnificent Spidey and Doc Strange stories were always only yarns I could get hold of in reprint form.
Thanks to issues of Marvel Tales and Marvel Collectors' Item Classics and suchlike I could get those stories (some of them at least) as well as early tales of Kirby's Thor and early FF, Ayer's Human Torch, and so many more. Today they keep old story lines available in trade, then it was more catch-as-catch-can, but still doable.
Since Marvel was swiftly becoming a saga which expanded beyond any single title, it helped sell the concept that all those stories, each and every one was part of the greater whole, and any true-blue Marvelite should make every effort to snatch them up. With DC it was impossible, their history was too vast. But with Marvel, then, it was just barely possible to have it all. In a world before comic shops and the internet, reprints made that possible or so it seemed.
|(Source for the delightful Back Issue cover by John Romita)|
And then it ended, rather with a whimper. It was indeed a heyday.
This installment of Back Issue also looks back at the Fireside reprints, the later days of Marvel's special deluxe reprints and more. This one is highly recommended.
As is its mate.