Captain Marvel #29, 1973, Marvel Comics, Cover by Jim Starlin.
The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its celebration and examination of iconic comic covers from the 1970s through the 2000s, this week returning to the Seventies, the tail end of the Silver Age of Comics, when a new wave of comic writers and artists were making exciting changes to many titles, including a B-list hero named Mar-Vell.
The history and name-switching of “Captain Marvel” is a long tale destined for an article of its own, but Marvel’s version had his own title that was struggling, and needed a spark to boost readership.
One of the new artists surfing the wave was Jim Starlin, also a very creative writer, who took over writing the title not long after the last attempt to boost sales numbers, when the Kree Captain finally traded in his original white and green uniform for the bolder, red one. But 5 issues into Starlin's run, the title was on the verge of cancellation, despite Starlin's very different direction, visuals, and introduction of a major new villain, Thanos. Starlin convinced editor Roy Thomas that while the original decision to make Mar-Vell’s hair silver did help distinguish him as an alien, it also made him look older, and less appealing to younger readers. A makeover was needed, in several ways, both for the Captain and his comic.
Starlin had established Captain Marvel as a “cosmic book” with Mar-Vell encountering many cosmically powerful beings, including one calling itself Eon. Eon convinced the Captain that he needed to radically change to become a more effective warrior and protector of the universe, and transformed Mar-Vell into a being with enhanced physical and mental abilities, and “cosmic awareness.” The metamorphosis also included an altered uniform…and blonde hair.
Starlin created an appropriately splashy, instantly iconic cover to debut this new look. All of the reds really popped, and it looked like Mar-Vell was flying off the cover and the spinner rack. Starlin ranks right up there with Kirby and Ditko for his trippy outer space vistas, and this cover’s space-scape sparkles, along with Mar-Vell's new cosmic wake.
The only controversy (among fans) was an editorial decision to replace the head Starlin drew with a John Romita, Sr. version. Which is better? You be the judge!
Next week: A cover from the rad ‘80s!