Tower of Shadows 1, 1969 “At the Stroke of Midnight!”

After searching far and wide for an affordable copy of this book, I found it at a small show for a few bucks. The guy I bought it from actually gave me a deal on multiple books, so the price was definitely right. I already knew some of the contents, and was pumped to read it. When the first story of the book has work by a legendary creator, you know it’s gonna be a good time. Honestly, the entire book is filled with giants of the industry. The cover is by “Jazzy” John Romita!

Right out of the gate, you get “At the Stroke of Midnight.” This one has been reprinted a couple of times, and once you check it out, you can see why. A creepy tale about a haunted castle, brought to us solely by Jim Steranko! He wrote, drew, and colored this amazing story! As usual, Steranko sets a mood immediately, and this is one of his calling cards when creating a comic book. He knew exactly what he wanted to convey to the reader, and executed it flawlessly.

The second tale in this nightmarish book (“From Beyond the Brink!“) is one by a classic horror artist that worked for the best in the biz at the genre. Johnny Craig was a mainstay at E.C. comics during their heyday (pre-Wertham, and the Senate hearings of the 1950s). What’s astonishing is that not only was he the artist, but also the writer of this one. A story that involves a man that attempts to expose mediums for the fakes they are, but a twist ending is chilling!

Lastly, Digger introduces us to “A Time to Die!” This one brought to you by Stan Lee (script) and “Big” John Buscema (art), and involves an old scientist that wants to find an elixir that will allow him to live forever. The scientist has an assistant that also has eyes on the elixir! No matter what the genre, John Buscema always looks like a pro. His skills are unparalleled in the Bronze Age.

 

 

Tom Sutton- The Charlton years!

There are certain creators that invoke a feeling of excitement for me. One of those names for sure, is Tom Sutton! Of course he’s one of those guys that mainstream comic book fans might not recognize, but the old school/hardcore fans know it well. His work in the horror genre is legendary, and rightly so, but he’s also drawn superheroes, war, westerns, etc., but horror is his forte. At Marvel comics, you saw his excellent version of Ghost Rider, all sorts of horrific scenes in the black and white magazines, and more. The same over at DC, as he did solid work on House of Mystery (I, Vampire) and other titles.

The focus of this week’s post will be not on the work Sutton did for the big two, but for Charlton comics. Some may not recognize the work when compared to what he did at Marvel, but they kept a house style and smooth lines for their artwork. The work is fantastic (see episode 9 of Into the Weird for some thoughts of mine and The Longbox of Darkness), but again, isn’t his developed style. Once he started working at Charlton though, he really brought his own unique work to the horror genre. These images are just a small sample of what Sutton did there, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy them!

 

Tom Sutton

Tom Sutton

Tom Sutton

Tom Sutton

Tom Sutton

Tom Sutton

Tom Sutton

Tom Sutton

Tom Sutton

Tom Sutton

Tom Sutton

Tom Sutton

Tom Sutton

 

Journey Into Mystery 5, 1973 “The Shadow from the Steeple!”

It’s been a little while since I had a blog post showing how much fun the resurgence of horror material was in the Bronze Age for Marvel Comics. Anthology titles were all over the place, but were where a lot of good material can be found for either reprint material or all new stories. Some of the books had incredible stories with big time writers getting credit. Case in point, some of the issues have names such as Robert Bloch (Psycho, The Skull, Asylum), H.P. Lovecraft (The Call of Cthulhu, At the Mountains of Madness, The Shadow Over Innsmouth), and Robert E. Howard (Conan, Red Sonja, Kull). The men scripting these stories/adaptations were no slouches either, but we’ll get to them in a minute.

The first tale in this issue is called “The Shadow from the Steeple!,” and this story has elements from stories by Bloch, and Lovecraft (there were three stories that were parts made by Bloch and Lovecraft). A grimoire, a cult, a mysterious, ancient jewel, and even more ancient evil, named Nyarlathotep! Ron Goulart (script), Rich Buckler and Frank Giacoia (art), George Roussos (colors) and Denise Wohl (letters).

The next story is one that’s been done before, as a young man marries a wealthy nut older woman in hopes of inheriting a large sum of money. There is one room in the home that the help won’t allow the husband access. The husband thinks that the money/jewels etc., is in this room. One day he decides to suffocate his wife, and use a mallet to gain entry to the locked room. What he finds inside isn’t wealth, but his doom. Apparently, there is a curse on the family that the woman will grow old unless she procures a sacrifice for the evil within! Written by Kevin Frost, art by Win Mortimer and Ernie Chan, and letters by Denise Wohl.

The last story is quite a treat, as a mad scientist that has been experimenting with transplants wants to be left alone. We see that he has a pack of mad dogs patrolling his estate, to keep out unwanted visitors. The first thing our eyes see is the pack of dogs kill an insurance salesman that was just trying to do his job. The scientist’s wife is shocked at far gone his sense of right and wrong has gone, so she picks up the phone to dial the police. He hits her over the head with a shovel, knocking her out. After some thought, he removes her brain, and replaces it with a dogs brain! Let’s just say in the end, the mad scientist ends up dog-meat! Story/script by John Albano and Marv Wolfman, art by Paul Reinman (pencils) with Mike Esposito and George Roussos (inks), and Artie Simek (on letters).

Overall a very good book with a great cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia!

 

 

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 98, 1966 “The Bride of Jungle Jimmy!”

I felt it was long overdue for a blog post nothing short of ridiculous. Jimmy Olsen marrying a gorilla seemed quite apropos. This story isn’t actually the first one in the book believe it or not. That honor belongs to “The Four Clocks of Doom!” in which Jimmy and Superman must deal with Tempus, and his Doom Clock! Yeah, it’s not that scary, but it is a lot of fun. Jimmy gets a tour of Tempus’s home and it’s hilarious. But lets get back to Jungle Jimmy! Of course the cover doesn’t exactly match the interior story, but Jimmy, Clark, and Lucy Lane find themselves in the jungle while a sleazy movie producer/director (von Spitz) takes advantage of the indigenous peoples naivety. No, Superman doesn’t marry Jimmy and the ape, and in the end, he actually saves him from her (as she’s making advances on him).

The Jungle Jimmy story was written by long time Supes scribe, Leo Dorfman. He wrote a ton of stories during the Silver Age about the boy scout. The artwork is by Pete Costanza, and to be honest, I don’t think I’d ever heard his name before. Looking into his past, he started out at Fawcett, and became an assistant to C.C. Beck. Remarkably, he taught himself to paint left-handed after losing the use of his right arm from a stroke. The Tempus story was written by Otto Binder art by Costanza again. The crazy cover is by Curt Swan and George Klein!

 

 

The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor 21, 1976 “A Lurker Stalks the Swamp”

Sometimes you just have to take a look at something off the beaten path. Even if it’s in an ancillary way, like in this case. Anyone that’s a fan of this blog knows how I feel about swamp monsters. I prefer the Marvel version but also like the DC counterpart. One other version is The Lurker of the Swamp! In his Gold Key issue of Dr. Spektor, we see not only a crazy swamp monster, but a meteorite that can hypnotize people, and of course a fight between said monster and an alligator. Few know this comic book fact, but every time a swamp monster crosses paths with an alligator, they must fight.

In 1976, Swamp Thing and Man-Thing were both already a big deal. So, it was a no-brainer for other companies to try to create a knock-off. The visuals of this beast are certainly different enough than the other two, and Jesse Santos (art, interiors and cover) is the reason why. A cross between the two more popular creatures, this one has a little bit of a difference not only stylistically, but also in the way it behaves as well. The other characters in this story seem kind of bland, but there definitely enough action and intrigue thanks to Don Glut (writer). Definitely grab this book if you see at a decent cost, even if for nothing more than the awesome cover!

 

Justice League of America 154, 1978 “I’ll Kill You in Your Dreams!”

My first encounter with the JLA, was in the form of television and the Superfriends. The stories weren’t anything heavy, but they were fun to watch and kept me entertained. I didn’t buy my first JLA comic though until just a few years ago. This wasn’t the first issue I bought, but it’s a good one! A story is only as good as its villain (just my two cents). Back to animation for a minute…The Justice League television show from the early 2000s was  a fantastic show, and the episode with Doctor Destiny was incredible (they haven’t yet reached that specific episode, but the JLUcast is a great podcast about that show)!

Back to this book. Like the TV show, we see Dr. Destiny control the dreams of the League, in an attempt to kill them (it’s obvious the show lifted its premise from here), but of course, good guys beat bad guy. Not that it’s boring mind you, the villain really makes the heroes look pretty pathetic for a while. We also get to see the heroes as their civilian alter egos, and normal everyday stuff. It was quit refreshing.

As expected, the names in the credits are absolute staples of the Bronze Age. Writer Gerry Conway does a fine job with the script/story, and does insert some of his personal beliefs/social commentary in the issue as well. He, along with a lot of the other writers of the time were very good at sending messages without being overt or preachy about it (kudos).  The artistic chores fell on the shoulders of another pair of names synonymous with the age. Dick Dillin (pencils) and Frank McLaughlin (inks) were both on point here and did a fine job with a lot going on in this issue. Two more names in Jerry Serpe (colors) and Ben Oda (letters) round out the interior art team. The cover is by Mike Kaluta and Al Milgrom, and although it is pretty good, it’s also not quite what you’d expect. Not sure if it’s the team up of these two guys or just not the greatest layout or composition.

 

 

Kull the Destroyer 11, 1973 “King Kull Must Die!”

Certain names in the comic book industry invoke thoughts of titles. Any classic comic book reader will tell you this is true. A character like Kull will always make me think of Robert E. Howard. This man had a very short time on Earth, but the impact he left is still being felt today. But I digress…King Kull is a pre-Conan era (or Pre-cataclysmic Age) character that ruled the kingdom of Valusia. He’s sort of like Conan in the fact that he loves battle, but he’s also more intelligent about when there is a need for battle and how to strategize for it as well. He also has a confidant named Brule. Brule is a member of the Pict society, and a fierce warrior that will do anything for his friends. In this issue, Kull is about to be attacked by his own people, who are under the influence of an ages old foe…Thulsa Doom!

Mike Ploog is one of those creators that has done such incredible work during the Bronze Age, that his name will carry on for decades. Of course, Werewolf by Night, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Ghost Rider are the big names, but don’t sleep on his other work for Marvel comics. A short run on this title is all the proof you need to realize there is more out there! Writer/editor Roy Thomas (original story by REH), art by Mike Ploog, colors by Linda Lessman, and letters by Artie Simek!

 

Man-Thing 1, 1979 “Regeneration…and Rebirth!”

Once again, I feel forced to spotlight my favorite swamp monster, Man-Thing! Swamp Thing, The Heap, and IT!, are all pretty cool, heck, I even like the Atlas Comics Bog Beast (more on these others, plus more Manny in the future). It’s true that all of these monsters owe their basics to Theodore Sturgeon, as he wrote a prose story (IT!), back in 1940. Personally, the mute Man-Thing stands tall above the others, though, and a man named Steve Gerber is the reason. But back to this comic!

In this first issue of the second series, a scientist is on the verge of discovering the secret to the work Ted Sallis was doing before the accident. Next, we still get a story that has some familiar tropes (Manny gator wrasslin’, super science, and an origin flashback). Throw in a secret base, seedy individuals, and the FBI, and you get another great story revolving around the premiere muck monster on the planet!

Cover by Bob Wiacek, written by Michael Fleisher, art by Jim Mooney (pencils) and Bob Wiacek (inks), colors by Carl Gafford, and letters by John Costanza! Definitely check out this series, as it’s pretty solid and fun.

 

 

The Brave and the Bold 95, 1971 “C.O.D. Corpse on Delivery”

The simple formula of Batman plus another hero and let them solve of mystery/beat down some villains sounds kind of dry, but wait, don’t despair, when you get a creative team like this one, it’s all good. Before we get to that though, this issue did show a female antagonist for Batman, and not Catwoman, so that was refreshing. In this her first appearance, Ruby Ryder is shown as extremely ruthless, and willing to do whatever it takes to get what she wants. And don’t be mistaken, as she does hire muscle but she’s also not afraid to get the job done herself!

A story this wild (and believe me, it is) could only be written by “Zany” Bob Haney. I’m quite sure no one else could’ve written this one, as it requires a touch only he could apply. The artist, Nick Cardy, was his usual reliable self in this issue. He understands completely how to relay a story visually, especially Batman. And yes, spoiler alert, the surprise guest is none other than Plastic Man! There is a great quiet moment between the two heroes at the end, and really tops off the story nicely. The awesome cover is by Neal Adams!

 

 

Teen Titans 43, 1973 “Inherit the Howling Night!”

A Teen Titans lover I am not, but when I see a cover with demons beating up on superheroes, It’s mine. This bizarre story is the stuff of legend, as the team must help an old man and his grandson as they’re plagued by a horde of demons. It’s going tot take the entire team and some extra help from Lilith Clay, to get to the bottom of this creepy caper!

If there is one name from the DC past that I love as much as any name at Marvel during the same period, it’s “Zany” Bob Haney (writer). His work reminds me more of the Marvel Bronze Age than anything going on at DC ever. His writing reminds me a little of Steve Gerber. He can write stories that have plot holes or just don’t seem to make a lot of sense, but they’re extremely entertaining, and so strange anyone that has whatever disease it is I have, gets instantly memorized. The art team of Art Saaf (pencils) and Nick Cardy (inks) does the story complete justice. The demons are freaky looking and fit in perfectly with the early 1970s craziness. All of the Titans look great as well, and everything in the backgrounds is on point. The letters are by Ben Oda, and although most don’t really give this job much credit, his story name on the splash page is excellent! The cover is of course by long time DC stalwart, Nick Cardy. People probably mostly recognize his name for his superhero work, but don’t sleep on his horror efforts, because they are great!