The Avengers 63, 1969 “And in this Corner…Goliath!”

A recent pick up, this Avengers book brought quite the surprise when I opened it. It has the artwork of my favorite artist! More on that later! I’ve always wanted to at least try and obtain a full run of the Avengers (Silver through Copper), and even though I can count the number of Silver Age issues I own on one hand, reading this book was pure joy even knowing it’ll never happen.

The story basically only serves one purpose, to introduce a new superhero personality for Hawkeye in the form of Goliath! The team gets a call from Nick Fury that the Black Widow is on a mission for SHIELD, but was captured by enemy forces. Black Panther tells Hawkeye he must remain behind because he’s too emotionally involved. Also, we see Pym tell the team that he’ll no longer be using his formula to be a giant, because it’s causing him to have mental problems. After the team leaves, Hawkeye gets a call from Black Widow asking for help, so in his infinite wisdom, he decides to take Pym’s growth formula and go to the rescue!

This issue is one that has so many fun aspects to it. The beginning shows the team flying in a ship that’s out of control, and going to crash, possibly killing them all. Some interesting comic book physics save the day. Later, we see Goliath (Hawkeye) fighting a giant monster, and they’re right by Coney Island. Interesting and fun back drop for sure. Roy Thomas (writer) really knows how to write a great team book. Of course, this isn’t a news flash, it just needed to be reiterated. The art team here is nothing short of phenomenal. Gene Colan (pencils) and George Klein (inks) give us panels and pages chocked full of greatness. The same combo is responsible for the great cover as well, and the letters are by Artie Simek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unknown Soldier 261, 1982 “Hour of the Beast!”

After two weeks of marvel, I decided to swing back to the other side and roll with a weird DC book. Although, this one has me with mixed emotions. For one, it’s really cool, and has everything you could want in a bizarre war story. On the other hand, it drives me crazy when the cover gives away the story (but there is a twist to that statement). Yes, those editors that allow that should be let go. Anyways, on to the book!

The first story, starring The Unknown Soldier, is absolutely nuts. Lady Jade has been captured by the Nazis, and being tortured, and the Unknown Soldier is not happy about it. He then finds out that he’s indirectly responsible for the betrayal that lead to her capture. She’s being held in a castle…in France…by Japanese soldiers (not sure how many Japanese soldiers were in France, but let’s not parse hairs here). His superiors tell him his orders are to stay put, but he knocks out the two MP’s taking him outside, and makes a b-line for Jade. He decides that this time, he must not just use a disguise, but it must be “a complete metamorphosis.” He then disguises himself as a hunchbacked SS torture expert, and heads to the castle. As he attempts to rescue her, his disguise is  removed, and the chase is on. Now, this is where the story gets really crazy. As the pair are running down a hallway, Jade is possessed by a spirit that also changes her appearance. After introducing herself she tells him he must don a suit that’s hanging in the hallway of a demon (resembling a Satanic figure). He puts it on, and they both kill all of the Nazis in brutal fashion. Then they walk away arm in arm, while inside the castle, the woman/ghost that possessed  Jade remarks to the demon that they might be needed again someday.

Written by Bob “Zany” Haney, art by Dick Ayers and Gerry Talaoc, colors by Bob LeRose, and letters by Esphidy Mahilum.

The second story is a very hardcore story about racism. It shows a brutal killing right on the splash page of a racist soldier killing another during the Civil War. I gotta admit, although the story is about revenge against the racist guy, it was still a bit jarring to read in 2020. Written by Bob Haney, art by Ric Estrada (no, not from C.H.I.P.’s), colors by Bob LeRose, and letters by Pierre Bernard Jr.

The final story stars Enemy Ace! Anyone that knows this character knows that a quality story and art always accompanied Enemy Ace! This was a solid story involving an imposter that Von Hammer must deal with in a dogfight! Written by Robert Kanigher with art by John Severin!

Overall a fun issue that is most certainly worth seeking out! Oh and always an incredible cover by Joe Kubert!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost Rider 48, 1980 “Wind of the Undead!”

Searching through my boxes, I came upon my Ghost Rider books. This volume had quite a few different creative teams during its eighty-one issue run (volume 1), but there was always a consistency there for me. The quality of the writing and art never went into a direction that soured me on the title. A lot of title of this length start out like a ball of fire, but then fade away (some rather quickly). Whether it was Roger McKenzie, Jim Shooter, or Roger Stern, the stories were at least serviceable if not very good. Art-wise, you had Jack Sparling, Jim Starlin, and Jim Shooter, graced the pages, and with covers by the likes of Gil Kane! So, yeah, good creators!

In this specific issue, we see Johnny Blaze, tearing down a road in the desert. As he looks skyward, he notices five large bats swooping down in his direction. Just as they’re about to attack him, he transforms into the Ghost Rider! He is more than up to the challenge and fights them off. He eventually makes his way to a farmhouse close by, and gets taken in by a woman that is aware of the bat problem. We then see the bats return to their home. They live in a cave, but another fact about them is quite disturbing. You see, they have a master of sorts or a leader that command them, and this creep has his sights set on annihilating the Ghost Rider!

I’m not sure who would be on my side or not, but Michael Fleisher is the best writer for this character. He really gets Blaze and his fiery-headed alter-ego. The artist, Don Perlin is also the guy I immediately think of when I hear Ghost Rider. Perlin really portrays Blaze as tough but sympathetic as well. No nonsense with this art creative team! The colorist, Rob Carosella does a fine job on this issue as well as the letterer, Jim Novak! And this wild cover is by Bob Budiansky (pencils) and Bob McLeod (inks)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange Tales 171, 1973 “March of the Dead!”

After recently acquiring a few of these issues, I felt compelled to write a blog post about them. Brother Voodoo, zombies, and my all time favorite artist isn’t a tough sell though. This is one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe, and I honestly can’t think of a bad story he was involved in. A voodoo based character is right up my alley, and his frequent guest appearances with the likes of Dr. Strange are cool as well.

This story picks right up with the action, as Brother Voodoo is creeping around a cemetery and gets attacked by a horde of zombies! He kicks the crap out of a few of them, but they’re too high in number to fight off. Jericho then summons the spirit of his dead brother, Daniel, to possess one of them to help. It doesn’t work, as he can’t possess the dead apparently. By the time he gets back to Jericho, they’re both too weak to stop the oncoming blitz. As the zombies are overwhelming him, he looks up to see Baron Samedi, Lord of the Dead! (a dead zombie guy). And if that wasn’t enough, we get guest stars in the form of A.I.M.!

This title is very much an unsung classic from the Bronze Age. The creators behind it are some of the best from this era, and should be lauded for their efforts. Writer Len Wein does a great job of telling this horror story. Everyone that knows his name can attest to the quality you get from him every time he put pen to paper. The art team is just as stellar, as Gene Colan (pencils) and Frank Giacoia (inks) really set the horror tone. Excellent colors by Glynis Wein and letters by Gaspar Saladino! Oh, and let us not forget the awesome cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia!

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Beyond the Unknown 23, 1973 “The Secret of the Man-Ape!”

Sometimes when I see a cover, I know it is going to be absolutely crazy. Honestly, in the last few years, that’s mostly what I’m looking for in a new (to me) comic. A comic with a gorilla holding a librarian at gunpoint? There’s a name for that- pure gold. Three reprint stories from the Silver Age are entombed inside, so let’s get cracking!

The first (and best) tale, is the cover story. We see a scientist using a machine to try and turn a gorilla into a human. The captions and images show us that years ago, a civilization of gorillas dominated the Earth, and that aliens were watching this and wanting to conquer Earth, sent a spy, but not in their more humanoid forms, but as a gorilla. After some miscalculations aboard the spaceship, the “gorilla” alien guy winds up in modern times where man rules, and not gorillas.

Pretty much shenanigans ensue for the rest of the story, but the highlight is or sure the gorilla-alien guy using his telepathy to tell a librarian to give him some classic novels (not at gunpoint as the cover shows). A little bit of a bait and switch there, but still, the story is comical, and extremely strange. Story/script by Otto Binder, art by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.

The next two stories are from the mind of Gardner Fox. First, “Language-Master of Space” is a story that still makes my head explode just trying to figure out what the point was, but it also left me laughingly entertained. The art by Sid Greene helped, as his renditions of the different aliens was great.The second story, “World of Doomed Spacemen” is another crazy one. It’s one that shows life in the 25th century, and a time of giants! Art by Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs. The magnificent cover is by none other than Nick Cardy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hawkman 9, 1965 “Master Trap of the Matter Master!”

After searching through my boxes for source material, I came upon this issue of Hawkman! A recent acquisition, as I’ve made it a point to read more DC comics from the Silver and Bronze Ages in recent years, this one fits the bill perfectly for my weird tastes. A villain called the Matter Master, Hawkman and Hawkgirl trapped in a diamond, with the Atom in the corner with a pink burst of energy behind him, all show exactly why this appeals to me!

The story begins with Matter Master (Mark Mandrill) in prison. He’s slowly finding elements in the prison yard to try and construct a smaller version of his wand (it was taken from him by the Justice League, and resides in their trophy room). He succeeds, but the smaller wand isn’t powerful enough to do his bidding. He then asserts that it might be able to draw his original wand to him though, and it works! He then busts out of prison and heads straight for his abode. He immediately hatches a plan to get revenge of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and hopefully the Justice League as well!

This story by Gardner Fox, is a lot of fun. Just a superhero versus villain tale that doesn’t have much depth. It is however entertaining and of course with great characters like Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and a crazy villain like this, you can’t help but have fun. I’ll always give Fox credit for that fact. The art is very good, and we have Murphy Anderson (cover as well) to thank for that. He draws a very sinister looking villain here, and even though he’s not the most threatening guy ever, he still poses a real threat to society. The letters are by another standout, Gaspar Saladino! His lettering is legendary, check out his credits!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dynamic Classics 1, 1978 “Starring Batman”

The more I read Bronze Age Batman, the more I look forward to the next time I buy and read another story! In this superb reprint issue, we see a Batman story (originally Detective Comics 395, 1970), and a back up featuring Manhunter (Paul Kirk). We also get this super creepy and cool cover by Dick Giordano!

In the first tale, Bruce Wayne has been invited to a party in Mexico, by a normally reclusive, but wealthy couple. He realizes something must be up, so he begins investigating immediately. He foils a murder attempt, and starts to piece things together. Before he can dig any deeper, he’s in fight for his life against armed thugs, then a pack of wolves! He eventually conquers those obstacles and comes face to face with the real masterminds, but as he’s about to put a stop to their plans, he’s rendered helpless by an unforeseen power they possess!

This story was a good one and really resonates with the other stories of Batman in the Bronze Age. It shows him first and foremost as a detective, then a superhero in a cape (or sometimes not at all). Moody, atmospheric, and a slight touch of horror all bring this story together. It’s not simplistic, but it’s certainly not overly complicated either. A good mix of both, to be honest. Writer, Denny O’Neil, art by Neal Adams (pencils) and Dick Giordano (inks), with letters by Ben Oda.

The second story is one I’m not familiar with, as it involves a character I’ve heard of but never read before in Manhunter (originally created by Jack Kirby in the Golden Age). This version of the character has two legendary creators behind him in Archie Goodwin (writer), and Walt Simonson (art)! Just quickly breezing through the story, it’s definitely something I’ll be looking into in the future! Definitely look for this book in the bargain bins, as that’s where I found it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvel Fanfare 8, 1983 “The Light That Never Was!”

Being a huge Doctor Strange fan, I’m always reading his material, especially from the Bronze Age (and Copper Age, too). The title Marvel Fanfare seems to get mixed reviews from most people. It’s an enjoyable book for the most part, but like any other, it has it’s ups and downs. The issues with Doctor Strange, the Black Knight, The Hulk, and the X-Men really stand out for me. Captain America, Daredevil, you name the character, they’re all in this run.

This little tale shows an man (James Mandarin, he also appeared in Doctor Strange 15, 1976) that has a fascination with the occult. The man’s girlfriend is an artist, and has a fascination with Dr. Strange! The two seem to live a rather normal life, until one night, James Mandarin uses a tome he found to summon a demon (using a spell calling on Dormammu). Before he can do anything, he’s attacked, and pulled into another dimension. His girlfriend runs to the nearest magical source, Dr. Strange himself! The Doc immediately knows he’s dealing with an old adversary know as the Slitherer in Shadow!

This series typically featured two stories. A main story, then a back up. Sometimes they’d also have some pin ups as well (bottom image), and this one has a few from Bill Sienkiewicz! I’m only going to include the Doctor Strange image, as this post is all about him! The story is written by Peter Gillis, with art by Carmine Infantino (interior and cover pencils, inks by Terry Austin on cover) and P. Craig Russell (interior inks). The colors by are by Ben Sean, letters by ” Many Hands,” and edited by Al Milgrom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iron Man Annual 3, 1976 “More or Less…The Return of the Molecule Man!”

After more than a month of nothing but DC comics, I figured it was time to give a Marvel book some love. This one came into my possession not too long ago, and of course it had to eventually, being a Man-Thing appearance! Of course, by this time Manny’s first solo book had been cancelled, but maybe his fans were screaming for more! And look at this cover by Rich Buckler and Frank Giacoia!

As with any story written by Steve Gerber, it starts out bizarre, then settles in and stays that way until its completion. Most people might not enjoy that, and argue that his storytelling wasn’t coherent or anything more than nonsensical. But, if you dig deeper, you’ll see his feelings, thoughts, and emotions on paper, along with his opinions on social issues. When he wrote Man-Thing, it seemed easy for him to write this non-speaking character. Of course other characters did the heavy lifting with the dialogue, but Gerber still maintained having the Man-Thing be either the focus or at least a very relevant part of the story.

In this story, we get to see not only the macabre Man-Thing, but the playboy Tony Stark, and the villainous Molecule Man! Without going into a heavy amount of detail about this insane story, Tony Stark is in the Everglades to possibly finance a project (the rebuilding of Omegaville). We then see some kids playing in the swamp, and one them falls victim to the essence of the Molecule Man! A battle between Iron Man and Man-Thing breaks out, then one with all three characters ensues. Cameos by Reed Richards, the Vision, Richard Rory, and an animated skeleton all await inside this glorious book!

Some might like me to stop singing the praises of Steve Gerber (writer), but I can’t. The man had a knack for writing bizarre stories that were very good (if not excellent). The interior art by Sal Buscema (pencils) and Jack Abel (inks), is superb. Irv Watanabe on letters, Janice Cohen colors, and Marv Wolfman editing, round out the creative team in this fun annual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghostly Tales 109, 1974 “From the Haunted House”

The name Steve Ditko is known for his co-creations Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, and rightly so, but if you dig deeper, you’ll find an entire separate world of work by this man. One of the biggest contributions he made, is his work for Charlton comics. In the past, I’d been dismissive of this company simply because their books don’t have the shine and attractiveness Marvel and DC had during this time period. Well, after finally giving them a try, I was astounded to find the awesome artwork of Pat Boyette, Tom Sutton, and Steve Ditko, to name a few.

In this issue, there are three stories that all have something to offer. The first, “Hocus Pocus,” shows a stage magician named Zarko, as he obtains an ancient book of spells and incantations that will make him the real deal! He finds out it’s not all it’s cracked up to be though! Written by Steve Morisi, art by Pete Morisi

The Man Who was Twins,” is the second story. This one is centered around a devious man that had a twin brother, but now he lives the lives of himself and the dead brother! He even marries his brother’s fiancee’! This scoundrel knows no limits! Written (possibly) by Joe Gill (unconfirmed), with art by Charles Nicholas and Vince Alascia.

Lastly, we have the gem of the book. “The 3RD Victim” shows one of the most creepy things ever in horror comics or cinema – a ventriloquist dummy! The puppet maker gets killed by a greedy man, and at first, it seems as if the dummy is helping this murderer. But as the story moves along, it is the murderer who will pay for his crimes! Writer (again, unconfirmed) Joe Gill, art by Steve Ditko (cover art as well), and letters by Charlotte Jetter. The fantastic cover is also by Ditko, and is really something else!