Comics
Published April 29, 2019

How 1970s Marvel Comics Shaped the Career of Artist JH Williams III

Find out more about off-the-wall Marvel cult classics like 'Micronauts'!

80th

Each week, the Best of the Decade column honors 80 years of comic book excellence by spotlighting a single issue from the House of Ideas beloved by the best in the business!

One of the most respected artists in all of comics, JH Williams has only dabbled in the Marvel Universe professionally—a WOLVERINE ANNUAL here, a cover for INCREDIBLE HULK there—but the content created by the House of Ideas over four decades ago played an important role in refining the way he works.

Incredible Hulk #28 cover by JH Williams III

“[It] doesn’t show much in the evolution of my work, but I can recognize Michael Golden influence creeping into my art in subtle ways often,” Williams says, citing the artist who made a momentous mark on Marvel via MICRONAUTS. “Mostly on things that are not so obvious to anyone else.”

We conversed with Williams about his other favorites from 1970s Marvel and how these building blocks forged a creative force.

Marvel.com: When did you read your first Marvel comic and what were the circumstances?

JH Williams III: That is kind of tough to pin down, because I was reading comics, especially Marvel comics, from a very young age. It had to be before I was 8. So I don’t have any distinct memory of a specific first time I read a Marvel book. But I do remember that it seemed that I always had them around.

Marvel.com: What were the titles, characters, and creators that introduced you to Marvel?

Williams III: My earliest memories are [of] some of the core characters [in] Marvel’s stable: Spider-Man. Captain America. Iron Man. Fantastic Four. Oh, and Ant-Man, can’t forget Ant-Man.

Marvel.com: What about the '70s era of Marvel made it stand out as a distinct time period?

Williams III: Comics [from that time] began to have a deeper impact on me, I began to retain the stories at a more sophisticated level. This was around the time I started getting exposed to Marvel’s cosmic stories more. That’s around the time Marvel really pushed on the cosmic stuff. Stories surrounding characters like Captain Marvel, Warlock, and the Eternals reached for bigger themes, ideas that brought bigger questions about humanity and our possible role in the universe. Those stories seeped into my consciousness and took root profoundly.

Man-Thing (1979) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Also during that time Marvel seemed to engage [in] weirder stuff. You had things like HOWARD THE DUCK, MAN-THING, WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, TOMB OF DRACULA, GHOST RIDER, SON OF SATAN [and] OMEGA THE UNKNOWN coming along, sitting alongside those cosmic stories. I feel like there was a subversive aspect beyond what Marvel had been previously known for; much of the content moving into more distinct social and political commentary or subtext—although, Marvel always had that in varying degrees. I loved that Marvel could have that kind of subtext rooted inside strange adventurous titles like Killraven or Deathlok. The original Guardians Of The Galaxy also has this weird vibe to it.

Marvel had always tried to push on expectations, so I guess you could say there was always a weirdness to be mined. But it seemed to me that during the 1970s Marvel really began to push on what they were known for. There’s also an ethical application underlying those subversive and sometimes surreal presentations of bigger themes, while maintaining a sense of adventure and wonder that is almost unmatched. A lot of those attitudes I think fed into the later '70s successes like the resurgence of UNCANNY X-MEN and MICRONAUTS.

Ghost Rider (1973) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Marvel.com: If you had to choose one Marvel comic from the '70s as your favorite or the most influential on you personally, what would it be?

Williams III: Oh, that is easy. It didn’t start until 1979, but definitely MICRONAUTS from Bill Mantlo, Michael Golden, and Al Milgrom! As much as I love comics and the comics from the '70s, it was MICRONAUTS that sent things over the top for me. That series impacted me more than any other. It’s what made me want to work in comics.

Read these issues on Marvel Unlimited now! Then visit Marvel.com's 80th anniversary hub page for more from the hallowed Halls of the House of Ideas!

Related

3:08

This Week in Marvel5 X-Men Comics from the 1980’s! | This Week in Marvel

Ryan Penagos and Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski are back to continue the celebration of Marvel’s 80th anniversary by discussing five iconic X-Men issues from the 1980’s including UNCANNY X-MEN #143, #168, #181, #186 and #242.

Comics

Pro Wrestler Christopher Daniels on His Favorite Marvel Comics

Celebrate Marvel's 80th anniversary with a look back at the incredible '80s!

Comics

Didja Know... Rob Liefeld's Hallowed History at the House of Ideas

Didja Know digs into downright delightful details from across the merry Marvel Multiverse!

Comics

Marvel's Pull List 80th Anniversary Special: The 1980s

Celebrate the 80th with a look back at some of the greatest comics in Marvel history!