Marvel Spotlight 7, 1972 “Die, Die My Daughter!”

In the 1970s, there wasn’t a better time for comic book readers. You had Golden and Silver Age creators still pumping out material, but you also had younger writers and artists that had been inspired by those giants, and were determined to leave their own mark on the industry. There’s also another aspect to consider as far as the content, and that is what was in the zeitgeist of the times. One of those things was most certainly the occult. Marvel then decided to re-purpose a character from a western comic that was all but forgotten. His name was the Ghost Rider (later Phantom Rider), and this time around, he wasn’t going to be lassoing people or shooting at them with a six-shooter!

In Marvel Spotlight 5 (a lot of the newer characters started off in books like this one and once they proved themselves, were transitioned to their own book), we see the tragic story of Johnny Blaze. A young kid working at a carnival, and watching his father doing motorcycle stunts. His father ends up getting killed in an accident, and the carnival owners (The Simpsons…no, not Homer and Marge) adopt him. The show becomes a huge success but then his step-mother is killed, but right before she dies, she makes Johnny promise he won’t ride in the show anymore. He doesn’t ride but the show still gets even bigger than it was before. Johnny still practices privately, and becomes an excellent rider. One day, Crash Simpson gets a phone call and he’s made the big time, as his show will be at Madison Square Garden! He seems less than excited and then tells Johnny and Roxanne that he has “the disease” and the doctor told him he only has one month to live.

After thinking about this for thirty seconds, Johnny decides as any normal teenage in the 1970s would, he uses a book to summon “Satan” to grant him a wish to heal Crash Simpson (Satan is in quotes because Marvel would later retcon it wasn’t actually Satan himself, but a demon). Yes, he really did that…so, then “Satan” obliges him and tells him that he’ll be back to collect a fee in the future. We all know that means he’s in big trouble, but Johnny apparently doesn’t care because of dealing with the grief of his own father and step-mother dying. Of course, Crash dies not from cancer, but a motorcycle accident.  Then Johnny makes the jump, but is later confronted by “Satan” and his soul is bonded to a demon, which in-turn is why he changes into the new Ghost Rider!

In this issue, we see Johnny after a man named Curly, but we eventually see it’s actually a reanimated Crash Simpson! Curly is trying to sacrifice Roxanne to his master (again “Satan”), but Johnny will not allow the love of his life to perish! He fights off some occultists, then has a showdown with Crash himself!

The creative team on this issue is the same since the first appearance. Gary Friedrich (writer), Mike Ploog (art), Frank Chiaramonte (inks), Herb Cooper (letters), and Roy Thomas (editor). A few years back, there was a little controversy over who actually created most of the character of Ghost Rider. Friedrich claimed he did, and sued Marvel for creators rights. He lost of course, simply because everything was work for hire back then, and any attempts to seize control of a character simply fell short. Sadly, a lot of these creators have fallen on hard times, and could really use a helping hand from the companies that they helped become so financially robust. There is a great organization called The Hero Initiative, that can help creators in need. Definitely swing by and donate if you can at the next convention you visit.





Thor 229″Where Darkness Dwells, Dwell I!” and 230 “The Sky Above, The Pits Below!” 1974

There are certain quirky characters and areas of the comic book universe that I feel I might be the only fan of, either because they’re so odd or maybe just not well-known. The Fear Lords are one such group! Probably the most popular member of this group is definitely the Dr. Strange nemesis, Nightmare! Another heavyweight that’s a member is D’Spayre (see Fear Lords), and he had a memorable appearance in Marvel Team-Up (during the heralded Claremont/Byrne run), and a few others as well. All that said, in these two issues of Thor, we get to see another member of that group, in the form of the Dweller-in-Darkness!

In these two issues, we see Thor, and his good buddy Hercules! The two heroes are trying to unravel a mystery about why people in New York are going absolutely crazy, with seemingly no explanation. There is murder, robberies, suicide, muggings, etc., the city is in mass hysteria. Hercules tries to help, but is assaulted by a dark, mysterious figure wearing a trench coat. Before he knows what’s going on, he’s dragged into the sewers by a horde of demons! He returns to the surface later, but the son of Zeus is visibly shaken, and in fear for his life!

The creative forces behind these two issues are incredible but in two ways. The cover of the first issue is by Ron Wilson and Mike Esposito. Both men were awesome but vastly underappreciated. Do yourself a favor, and go to one of the many database websites and check out these two creators. Again with the same theme of being underappreciated, we have Rich Buckler (interior pencils on both issues, and cover pencils on #230). After his recent passing (May 2017), I really felt terrible because I’d only met him one time, and was sorry I didn’t talk to him more often, as he seemed like a great guy. The interior inkers are an interesting contrast. In #229, we have Chic Stone, whose style is a bit cartoony over Buckler’s pencils (see the splash/first page). Not bad, but definitely not the best either. The next issue sees Joe Sinnott inking (cover and interiors), and you can clearly see the detail and high level this man brought to the industry. The Bronze Age stalwart, Gerry Conway, is the writer for both issues. He had a pretty long run on the title (#193-238), following Stan Lee. Linda Lessmann, Stan Goldberg, and John Costanza round out the creative team.


Giant Size Man-Thing 3 and 4, 1975

The character Man-Thing is not only one of the best from the Bronze Age, but also for all time in the horror genre. Yes, the Heap predates him (also  another character called “IT” from the pulp era in a sci-fi story by Theodore Sturgeon predates The Heap) but his staying power wasn’t so great for one reason or another. Manny has been around since the early 1970s, and still going to this day. A lot of horror characters (other than the public domain ones), fizzled out and all but disappeared after the  Bronze Age came to a close, but not Man-Thing. One of the reasons is because he had great creators behind him virtually all of the time.

You may ask yourself, what does a wizard, a viking, a barbarian, a high school full of kids, and a duck have in common? Nothing, and that’s the sheer brilliance of Steve Gerber (writer, both issues, the Man-Thing stories plus Howard the Duck). He can take these random things and deliver a great story using a swamp monster that can’t even speak. On the surface, most Man-Thing stories just appear as action/adventure stories, but there is usually an underlying message that is/was very relevant.

The artwork in these two books is nothing short of excellent. In issue three, you get Alfredo Alcala (pencils/inks), Petra Goldberg (colors), and Marcos Pelayo (letters) on the interiors. The cover is by Gil Kane (pencils) and Klaus Janson (inks, with alterations by John Romita). There are two back-ups that feature work by Paul Reinman, Don Heck, Dick Ayers, and Jack “King” Kirby!

The following issue contains more incredible work, starting with an amazing cover by Frank Brunner! Ed Hannigan, Ron Wilson, Frank Springer, Phil Rachelson, Tom Orzechowski, round out the creative team, and a back-up story by Gerber and Brunner to top it all off!



Doctor Strange Master of the Mystic Arts!

As we march forward to another season of Marvel movies (Black Panther is here, and The Avengers in May, followed by Ant-Man and Wasp), it’s a good time to put the spotlight on my favorite sorcerer, Dr. Strange! It seems he’ll be quite a big part of The Avengers film (and hopefully others!), and you never know what time period of the comics the creative team will pluck ideas from to insert in the films. One thing is for sure, in the late 1960s, Marvel released volume one of the good Doctor’s stand-alone series (after Strange Tales concluded), and it was fantastic!

Roy Thomas (writer) had already been at Marvel for a couple of years, and proved himself on the X-Men, The Avengers, and so on. His work here is just as powerful as it was on those titles. Artistically, the first few issues were drawn by Dan Adkins. Not a household name for those on the outside looking in at comics, but for those on the inside, he’s known as an excellent artist. He was then followed by Gene “The Dean” Colan (pencils) and Tom Palmer (inks)! These two gentlemen would go on to do many great issues together on several different titles (most notably The Tomb of Dracula).


The Avengers 131, 1974 “A quiet half hour in Saigon!”

It’s no secret that Stainless Steve Englehart is one of the best comic book writers from the Bronze Age (and maybe of all time?). One of his most important legacies is his work on The Avengers. Being only the third person to write that title (Lee and Thomas preceded him), is quite an honor in and of itself, but Englehart took what was there and built a mansion on top of that foundation. He took the team to new heights with his reality spanning story, The Celestial Madonna.

Kang, the main antagonist of the story, was elevated from a more simplified villain, to a complex character that had many layers. In this issue, we see him overpower not only another version of himself (Rama-Tut) but a third version (Immortus) all within mere pages! As if that wasn’t enough, Kang then summons (using the technology of the master of time, Immortus), six characters from the past- Midnight (from Shang-Chi), Wonder Man, Baron Zemo, The Ghost (from Silver Surfer), and Frankenstein’s Monster! He uses them as pawns to attack The Avengers inside a castle!

Top to bottom, Englehart, Sal Buscema and Joe Staton (artists), Tom Orzechowski (letters) and Phil Rachelson (colors), did a magnificent job on this book!



Marvel Triple Action 17, 1974 “Once an Avenger”

Let’s face it, villains are much cooler than heroes. Their ability to make us think, to challenge the hero, to explore boundaries, etc., is way beyond that of their counterparts. Take Kang the Conqueror for instance. He’s without a doubt a top-tier villain in any universe, and has proved that since 1964 (Avengers 8). This mag is a reprint of The Avengers 23, 1965, and the fourth appearance of the character in under two years! For any era, that’s pretty good, and shows what kind of staying power Kang would have for years to come!

In this issue, we see Cap leaves the team after some turmoil (he was a bit temperamental back then!), and attempts to take a job as a sparring partner for a boxing champion. That lasts about two seconds, and he returns to the team afterward. Just in time, as the rest of the team has been subdued by Kang! And immediately after taking down Earth’s Mightiest Heroes…Kang attempts to take Ravonna out on a date but her dad says no (panel below). No joke!

This epic tale was brought to you by Dashing Don Heck (pencils), Jazzy John Romita (cover and interior inks), Stan “the man” Lee (writer), Artie Simek (letters), and Jack “King” Kirby (cover pencils)!



DC Archive Editions: World’s Finest Comics vol. 3

Thanks to a discount store (Ollie’s Bargain Outlet), I grabbed several great trade paperbacks of DC comics’ greatest characters! My library is very much dominated by Marvel Comics (the first 20+ years of reading/collecting I was a marvel Zombie for the most part), so any time I get the chance to grab some DC material from the Bronze Age (or earlier), I waste no time!

A team up book starring two of the greatest heroes ever in comics (maybe the best ever?) during an era that saw comic books under fire from the U.S. government (the misguided buffoons) gave us some of the most ludicrous stories ever. These stories are still very high in entertainment value, and are incredibly well drawn. Aliens are the big threat throughout this beautiful hardcover but also crooks, magicians, a Bat-Jester, Bat-Mite, Mr. Mxyzptlk, and more! Credits include- Curt Swan, Bill Finger, Dick Sprang, Jerry Coleman, Sheldon Moldoff, and Stan Kaye.



Adventure Into Fear 10, 1972 “Cry Monster”

After getting an incredible deal on this comic, I figured I’d share this gem from the Bronze Age. This book contains the fourth appearance of the muck monster from the Florida Everglades! In this early appearance, Manny is caring for a baby that some animal threw over a bridge! After taking the child to a doctor’s home, he seeks revenge against the heartless man. We also get a quick two page recap of Manny’s origin. Gerry Conway (writer), and the art team of Howard Chaykin and Gray Morrow (cover art by Morrow as well) bring us this gruesome tale!

There are also two awesome back-up stories in this one too! “The Spell of the Sea Witch” (Allyn Brodsky writer, art by Jack Katz and Bill Everett!) is a tale about a crook that commandeers a boat that two young lovers are aboard. They run into some ghost pirates and then things really get crazy! Then we take a trip down to Davey Jones’ Locker, brought to you by Stan Lee and Don Heck!


Atlas/Seaboard Comics!

One might get a bit confused when they see the name “Atlas Comics.” For most, it means Marvel Comics between the Timely comics era (1930s-early 1950s) and the most notable Marvel Comics era (1961-present). But after leaving Marvel Comics in 1972, Martin Goodman soon after started a rival company called Atlas Comics in NYC. He would pay better, return artwork, and in doing so, attract some of the industry’s top talent to this upstart company. A few problems arose quickly though: first, the industry was beginning to sag and the big two were having sales problems, so imagine being the new kid on the block, trying to compete with two giants. Secondly, the staff was ill-equipped to handle the assignments in front of them (Goodman made some bad decisions that put his top two employees Larry Lieber and Jeff Rovin in a tough spot- per The Comic Book Journal and Comic Book Artists mags).

Atlas may have only been in business for a couple of years, but they did produce some interesting books. I’ve got a few horror titles they released but they also had crime, military, superheroes, etc. Wonderful work by people like Neal Adams, Russ Heath, Rich Buckler, Howard Chaykin, Steve Mitchell, Steve Ditko, Gary Friedrich, Frank Thorne, and Wally Wood! Take a look!














Marvel Collectors Item Classics 6 and 11, 1966/67

The Silver Age is when it all turned around for Marvel comics. The company went from vanilla books starring monsters, western heroes, and cheesy romance characters, to exciting titles like the Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, The Amazing Spider-Man, etc. After just a few short years, Marvel had bona-fide hits on their hands, so they began to issue reprints of these stories (just 4 years after they were first printed!). These books are great, and you get four stories in each one! Classics starring the Fantastic Four, Iron Man (Tales of Suspense), The Incredible Hulk, and Dr. Strange (Strange Tales)! You get the best from Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Stan Lee, and more! Rather than droning on about how great these books are, I’ll just let the images do the talking for me!