The Phantom Stranger 19, 1972 “Return to the Tomb of the Ice Giants!”

Welcome, to week four of the Halloween siege! In this week’s post, I’ll be spotlighting one of my favorite characters from DC comics, The Phantom Stranger! This character has been a favorite of mine ever since I began diving into the supernatural universe of DC comics. I talked about a story starring him on a podcast for Halloween in 2019 (click here to listen in!), and that is probably my favorite story about this enigmatic entity! But now, on to this story!

Our tale begins with the Phantom Stranger giving a monologue to us about the follies of mankind. We then see two men searching for something in the Arctic Circle. They have some machinery working to pump oil out of the ice, but then the pressure decreases rapidly. When they check the line, they’re stunned to see a sword the size of a Cadillac cutting through the line! We see a giant hand reaching out for them, and then they are gone. Back at the main office, two more men talk about how many have gone missing up here and they aim to find out why. A man named Blake then takes a jeep out to the work site, but an earthquake opens up a hole in the ice, and it looks like he’s a goner. A hand reaches out to save him, and it is none other than the Phantom Stranger that comes to his aid. The man in charge still wants to proceed with pipeline, though, but the Phantom Stranger and Blake try to talk him out of it. His greed will not allow him to stop, and it might just be his undoing!

This morality play by Len Wein (writer) and Jim Aparo (art) is not only a good one, but still holds relevancy in 2020. It doesn’t feel like you’re being force-fed their opinion or nonsense either. The story works well in all phases and truly shows the ability of both creators to tell a good story. The dialogue and visuals are both on par with anything of its time.

There’s also a backup story about Dr. 13, by Steve Skeates (writer) and Tony DeZuniga (art). This one involves a man that is being haunted by a ghostly voice that sounds like his dead father!

A bonus feature of Mark Merlin, Sleuth of the Supernatural closes out the issue nicely. This reprint stars the talents of Arnold Drake (story), and the art team of Mort Meskin and George Roussos!

This incredible issue is kicked off by the talents of Neal Adams! The cover is spectacular!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tower of Shadows 8, 1970 “They Lurk Within the Tomb!”

Rolling into week three of my Halloween coverage, this book is an interesting one. First and foremost because the lead story isn’t even (really) horror. But that’s getting ahead of things. The first five issues of this series were all new material, but then it changed to a mixed bag including reprints after that until the last issue (9). This specific issue has only one new story, but it’s a good one! And the reprints are nothing to scoff at either. The creators in this book are outstanding, real storytellers that have a track record for awesome output. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the cover is by a master like Bernie Wrightson either!

The first story is called “Sanctuary.” It’s about a warrior king named Hamand, who has just conquered a mystical land known as Cybernia (an REH reference?). He seems to have overtaken all the foreign forces, but there is one thing he didn’t count on, and that is sorcery! This crazy sword and sorcery yarn was written, penciled and inked by Wally Wood! He does an excellent job with this quasi-Arthurian tale, and I feel as though the story and art jump off of the page and right into my mind. This is definitely one of my favorite stories by Wood. Letters by Artie Simek.

The next story is one of those quirky stories from the Atlas Age (pre-Marvel Age, 1961). In “Behold! I Am the Master of Time!,” a antique shop owner decides to use an ancient book of black magic to build an occult time machine! He’s going to try and steal antiquities from centuries past to keep his business afloat, but he didn’t count on his machine running on electricity, which doesn’t exist in the 18th century! Art by Steve Ditko (no writer credits found).

Next up is “I Found the Hidden World!” A man awakens from a nightmare, then thinks to himself about a horrible day he had recently when he discovered a portal to another world that’s inhabited by monstrous looking creatures! Written by Stan Lee (or Larry Lieber) with art by Don Heck!

Lastly we get “My Touch Means Doom!” A young man needs to scare up some cash quickly for an operation for his wife. He devises a plan to rob a bank. He evades the police but crashes near a radioactive test site. He begins to glow and anything he touches immediately dies! Can he escape the authorities and get the money to the hospital? Or does he even need to? Written by Stan Lee (or possibly Larry Lieber), with art by Don Heck!

Well, there you have it! A super cool sword and sorcery story by the legend himself, Woody, a strange tale by Sturdy Steve, and a double dose of Dashing Don Heck (at his best as far as creepiness)! Another week and another horror comic! Stay tuned as next week there shall be even more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvel Movie Premiere 1, 1975 “The Land that Time Forgot”

In week two of my Halloween bonanza, I’m spotlighting a book that isn’t necessarily “horror,” but one that’s more fantasy. Full disclosure, I forgot I had this magazine (plus a few horror books of the historical/biographical genre), as I’d bought it more for my son than for myself (He was a complete dinosaur addict when he was younger). In the last few weeks, I must have seen this book on social media, and it sparked a memory and I thought I had this book. I looked in all the places it should be, but then I remembered my son has a book shelf in his room, and voila, there it was! It was a feeling of joy I can’t really explain other than to say I felt compelled to blog about it.

For those that haven’t seen the film, don’t worry, you’re not missing much, but I’m sure the novel is excellent (no, I haven’t read it). I can however vouch for the awesomeness of this magazine. You get an adventure beyond belief with dinosaurs, cavemen, etc. The first twenty pages or so, involve intrigue aboard a ship, that ends up getting sunk by a submarine! It’s quite a story, and even includes some panels with no dialogue that are fantastic. Once the Submarine reaches the lost island, the action really ramps up. The dinosaurs are in full attack mode, and the natives are more than just restless!

Movie adaptations can be tricky, but as I said earlier, this book is actually way better than the film. Marv Wolfman (writer) does an excellent job with the script, and quite honestly we should expect nothing less from him. Can you remember the last time you picked up a comic written by him and thought it was bad? Me neither. There is nothing to do but praise Sonny Trinidad equally, as his artwork will dazzle you. His people are perfect, his dinosaurs are delineated perfectly, and his natives are noble (as in splendid). There is also a back up feature, written by Lin Carter ( a sci-fi/fantasy writer, and creator of the character Thongor, which Marvel Comics used in Creatures on the Loose), about films that mirrored this one in content. “Lost Races, Forgotten Cities” shows everything from King Kong (1933) to this film (1975).  This wonderfully imaginative magazine has a cover by long time DC Comics artist, Nick Cardy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journey Into Mystery 2, 1972 “Yours Truly…Jack the Ripper!”

September is here, and I couldn’t be happier for a multitude of reasons. First, the temps will be lower, and the colors in nature will turn brown, orange and yellow. Second, it’s getting closer to Halloween! Horror is my friend all year ’round, and a common interest with many of my online friends. The horror community has been nothing but inviting to me (just like the comic book community), and especially the classic horror fans. They’re a warm and welcoming lot, and great for conversation and critical thinking about films. This comic has a few different angles, all of which I’ll explain now!

We all know the story of Jack the Ripper, but this one is slightly different. The scene opens in Greenwich Village (not London), and John Carmody, Sir Guy Hollis, and a beat cop have discovered a young woman, who’s been murdered by “The Slasher.” The police are baffled as to who could be committing these murders, and it looks as though they aren’t going to stop any time soon. Sir Guy has an interesting theory, though. He believes this is the work of Jack the Ripper! Sir Guy believes that Jack is a practitioner of the dark arts, and that’s how he’s still alive today. Written by Ron Goulart(based on a story by Robert Bloch), art by Gil Kane and Ralph Reese, edited by Roy Thomas.

The second story in this issue, “More than Blood,” is about a school that keeps having its sports stars turning up with some affliction no doctor can figure out. In the middle of a sporting event, like a basketball game, for example, two premiere athletes drop over in a vegetative state. By the end of the story, though, we find out exactly why this is happening, and who’s responsible! Written by George Alec Effinger, with art by Billy Graham!

Lastly, we get a reprint, but it’s a good one! “The Girl Who Couldn’t Die!” In this mad scientist entry, we see Dr. Lee Fuller, as he’s living a great life. His career is doing well, and he has a beautiful girlfriend named Lisa. Unfortunately, Lisa died unexpectedly on the eve of their wedding. This was too much for Dr. Fuller, so he decided to exhume her corpse, and attempt to reanimate it! He eventually gets the result he’s looking for, but let’s just say that Lisa isn’t quite ready for the current situation. Art by Mort Lawrence (no writer credit given, possibly Stan Lee?). All kicked off with a great cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jungle Action 12, 1974 “Blood Stains on Virgin Snow!”

As I pondered what to blog about this week (I’m behind a bit), I rifled through some boxes. I came upon one of the few issues of Jungle Action that I own. They’ve become a bit expensive since the Black Panther movie hit, and rightly so I guess. It’s just the way the business works these days. Little did I know that the next morning I’d wake up to see that Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa in the Black Panther film, among others) passed away after a four year battle with cancer. One image I saw brought me to tears, and summed up his life beautifully. An image of him at a children’s hospital, visiting sick children. We’ve lost a good man, and that one image (below) tells who he was perfectly. Godspeed, Chadwick Boseman.

 

 

Now, onto the comic. In this issue, T’Challa must face down Killmonger and his minion, King Cadaver! These players are on a collision course, beyond the “mythical mists” of Wakanda. Well, not only does T’Challa have to deal with them, but Sombre as well! Sombre is a supernatural character that has a touch similar to that of the Death-Stalker. It is incredibly painful and corrosive, and he seems to have telepathic powers as well. So you could say that Sombre is one tough hombre (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). As usual, we see some incredible martial arts from Black Panther, as he fights henchmen, Killmonger, and a pack of ravenous wolves!

This is definitely one of those books where I can honestly say the art and writing were on par with each other’s greatness. Don McGregor (writer) and Billy Graham (pencils) were one of those creative teams from the Bronze Age that always delivered. Whether it was in this title or an obscure story in Monsters Unleashed, these two creators gave readers what the wanted then and now in 2020. The inks are by Klaus Janson (interior and cover), colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Dave Hunt, and cover pencils by Rich Buckler!

Do yourself a favor, and seek out the work of these men. Read it, pour over the artwork, and you’ll see how comics made in the 1970s are still as powerful now as they were back then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justice League of America 213, 1983 “Into the Microcosmos!”

In light of all the recent DC news (good and bad), I thought it would be appropriate to spotlight one of my favorite books. The last few years I’ve made it a point to grab some Silver and Bronze Age issues of Justice League of America. The animated television shows were such a huge part of my viewing when they came out, I always wanted to check out the comics. The books are definitely worth checking out, as the creative teams over the course of these ages do not disappoint. You do get varying degrees of quality, but they all do present something positive that one can grab on to.

In this story (part one of a multipart story), we see The Atom, as he’s struggling to remember who he is, as he tumbles through the microcosmos. The scene then switches to the Justice League Satellite orbiting the Earth, and Hawkman trying to explain to the other League members what happened. He tells them that Ray’s wife called him to ask for help, because Ray went off the deep end and had a nervous breakdown. Hawkman shows up at his lab to help, but he’s too far gone, and attacks Hawkman. He turns into the Atom, and shrinks into miniature size. He then vanished into this microcosmos (a sub-atomic world). So, Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Hawkman, and Red Tornado all use the machine to shrink down and go after their disturbed comrade. They do not realize though, that the trip messes with ones mind, and basically turns you into an amnesiac. So now not only do they have to find their friend, they need to figure out who they are!

This issue is just the beginning of this wild adventure. There is one thing of note in this issue and that is that it’s a first appearance of a new character. The Wanderer is a very secretive character, and you really don’t find out much about her in this issue. The story by Gerry Conway is pretty good. It definitely is good enough to get me to seek out the rest of this story-line. The interior artwork is by the team of Don Heck and Romeo Tanghal. This team does an admirable job on this one, and really excels with the action scenes. The colors are also quite good by Anthony Tollin, and the letters are by John Costanza. And let us not forget the awesome cover by Mr. George Perez! He was a staple at DC comics in this era and his work is looked back on with a lot of fondness, and rightly so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tales to Astonish 5 and 6, 1980 “Tiger Shark!”

For obvious reasons, I don’t own a lot of first appearances of characters from the Golden and Silver Ages. But, reprints are a good way to get your hands on that material without breaking the bank. Case in point, Tales to Astonish, starring the Sub-Mariner! In these two issues we get the first appearance of one of his greatest foes, Tiger Shark!

In issue five, we catch up with Namor, as he’s trying to find his way to NYC and Reed Richards for help. He barely makes it to land, then is accosted by a robot. He destroys it, but in doing so causes it to explode, and coupled with his fatigue from fight Attuma (in the previous issue, he’s knocked unconscious. He awakens to see a beautiful woman, and then his captor reveals himself. It’s a mad scientist guy named…Dr. Dorcas (yeah, I know). He’s put a metal vest on Subby, that he can use to control him through electrocution. Next, we see his sinister plot, as we meet Todd Arliss, a once promising swimmer that had an accident. He was promised to be healed by Dr. Dorcas, but for a price. The Doctor then straps Subby into a machine, and runs wires to Todd and then a tank full of sharks! The switch is thrown, and Tiger Shark is born!

At the end of issue five, Tiger Shark got the upper hand on Subby, and not only knocked him out for a brief minute, but was also able to kidnap Lady Dorma as well (she appeared out of nowhere near the base, after Subby thought her dead in the previous issue)! Diane Arliss (Tiger Sharks sister), comes to the aid of Subby, but he initially thinks it’s Tiger Shark, and knocks her out. He swims to the surface and finds Dr. Dorcas, head bandaged and looking weary. He tells him to treat her wounds and that he’s know going after her brother. The two then have a showdown in front of all of Atlantis to see who will rule!

In 1968 (when these stories were first printed), Roy Thomas (writer) was really cementing himself as the heir apparent to Stan Lee as Marvel’s premiere writer/editor-to-be. This story has a ton of gravitas, and really pulls you into the world of Namor. Yeah, the guy can be a huge, arrogant jerk, but he does have a code of honor, and will fight for his people and justice. He obviously wasn’t written in 1968 to have the best manners towards the ladies, but I think we can all agree it wasn’t written that way with malicious intent. Issue five has art by “Big” John Buscema and Frank Giacoia (inks), and is all sorts of awesome, but in truth, the following issue has Big John penciling again, but Dan Adkins on inks, and looks a good bit superior. Letters by Sam Rosen (5), and Irv Watanabe (6) and colors by Bob Sharen (not originally but in the reprint).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Savage Sword of Conan 39, 1979 “The Legions of the Dead!”

I feel it’s been a while since my last Conan magazine post, so why not spotlight one! This issue is more of a recent grab, and part of a lot if I remember correctly. There was a bit of a surprise inside, but I’ll get to that later. In this story we see an ancient evil in Hyboria, and it’s one that Conan must destroy! Also,a super cool chapter in the life of Solomon Kane!

In “Legions of the Dead (an adaptation of a story by L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter),” we see Conan ans his friend, Njal, as they hunted for some supper. They eat some freshly carved venison, along with the other tribesmen, when Njal decides to divide the troops, Conan questions if that’s a good move. Njal tells him to keep quiet and the other part of the  tribe heads out. Hours pass, and they do not return. They set out to search for them and find something horrific. The men are inside a castle of the Hyperboreans, hanging and being sliced to ribbons! Conan decides to take matters into his own hands and take action!

This story by De Camp and Carter reads somewhat like a Howard story, and does show a cool little story from Conan’s youth. Some people are mixed on their work, as they took some liberties with the character and his history. Overall they did bring Conan back into prominence, so even if you don’t like their writing or how they adapted/re-imagined some parts of his history, you still should give them credit for helping Conan become a household name in the Bronze Age.

In the middle of this magazine, you get a real treat, as there a few pinups by Rudy Nebres! He is one of those fantastic artists you rarely hear about anymore, which is sad. He didn’t do as much work for Marvel as some, but the work he did was a lot of fun.

The second story, “Moon of Skulls,” is actually part three of a story that took place in two other issues, so I won’t go into detail on that one. Let’s just say Solomon Kane is in big trouble and is at the mercy of a vampire queen! Script by Don Glut, art by David Wenzel.

All in all a great issue. Two solid stories, pinups galore, and a great cover by Earl Norem!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 125, 1969 “Superman’s Saddest Day!”

Alright, look, I’m gonna be straight with you. I might just turn this blog into a crazy Superman blog. OK, I’m not going to do that, but insane Superman stories have become my new obsession. While Marvel was publishing stories about social inequality and Charlton had cool stories of Science Fiction, war, and the Warren magazines were top of the food chain with their edgy, horror stories, then you had DC, on the cusp of a completely new universe thanks to Jack “King” Kirby and his Fourth World (among other ideas), but then still putting out crazy books like this one. Oh don’t get me wrong, I love this type of comic book now (2020), but as a kid, I would’ve thought it was the dumbest book on the rack. Most probably thought so too, as the numbers show people had flocked to Marvel. But, looking back, these silly adventures are a lot of fun and definitely will entertain you!

In the lead story, Jimmy is up to his old shenanigans. He’s on vacation in the Caribbean, and how he can afford a vacation like that nobody knows. He’s scuba diving, and gets caught in some kind of whirlpool that drags him into the depths of the ocean. He sees a sunken ship and a book laying inside it. It’s a book written by Nostradamus, but since its been underwater for so long, almost all of the predictions are faded. He can read one though, and it exclaims that if you can obtain tears from a clown, a king, a criminal, and wait for it…a Kryptonian, you can get an unknown power! So, Jimmy sets out to achieve this goal! An absolutely crazy tale by Leo Dorfman (writer) and Pete Costanza (art)!

The second story “The Spendthrift and the Miser,” shows an out of control Jimmy, spending money like crazy during the day, but then acting like he’s broke at night. At one point, he walks out into the street to pick up a penny and almost gets run over by a car! Superman intervenes and eventually finds out that some crooks have Jimmy hypnotized into doing these insane things. Written by Otto Binder, with art by Curt Swan and Ray Burnley.

Get out there and find a copy of this book (and any of these Silver Age Superman comics), because even if it’s a reader copy, it’ll be worth your time for sure! Cover  by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daredevil 61, 1969 “Trapped by the Trio of Doom!”

I feel like its been quite a long time since I spotlighted a Daredevil book. I grabbed this one recently, and of course it features art by a certain favorite artist of mine! Not only that, but the villain in this issue are off the chain! The cool cover is by none other than Marie Severin and Joe Sinnott!

The story begins with Cobra and Hyde as they’re committing a robbery at the Guggenheim Museum! They mention a partner that is also doing the same on the other side of town. The scene switches to Daredevil, as he’s calling it a night from superheroing, to spend some time with his lady, Karen. The two go out to a club, but Karen isn’t having a good time, as she’s recently learned about Matt’s secret alter-ego, and can’t deal with it. The waiter tells them about the excitement at the museum, so Matt tells Karen it’s time for the date to end. He swings into action, and quickly tracks down the thieving duo. He’s caught off guard though, as their partner, The Jester is there as well!

The story by Roy Thomas isn’t the deepest one he’s ever written, but it is a good bit of fun, and the pathos is there as well with the scene between Karen and Matt. The relationship that exists with Cobra and Hyde is an interesting one. Early on, it seems as though Hyde is the boss, but later on Cobra takes the lead as Hyde’s intelligence seems to waver. Either way they make a good villainous pair. Throw in a crazy character like the Jester, and you’ve got a very fun Silver Age book. The art team is one that most don’t talk about, but was an awesome combination. Gene Colan (pencils) and Syd Shores (inks), were paired together a few times, and probably because of Shores’ ability to ink the pencils of Colan. Toss in the lettering of reliable Sam Rosen, and the book is complete.