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!

 

 

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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)!

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain America – Top 5 Creative Teams

The character Captain America is not only the greatest superhero to ever don the red, white, and blue, but also the only hero from the Golden Age strictly born out of patriotism that survives today. That alone says something about the strength of the character, and in a small way about patriotism in general. That being said, Captain America has had some very thought-provoking story lines over the years, and a select few men have been responsible! Here are my choices for the five best of all time!

 

 

5. Joe Simon (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)

There are two reasons I have these gentleman on this list (and where). First, I don’t believe you can have a list like this without the creators of the character. Not having read very much material from the Golden Age is why this team isn’t higher on the list. The fact that these men created one of the most iconic characters ever, but that they had him punching the ultimate personification of evil (Adolph Hitler) in the face is absolutely fantastic.

 

4. Stan Lee (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)

In his second run with Cap, Kirby really cranked up the visual feasts. He took Cap to new heights that haven’t been reached again and probably never will be. The stories in this era (Silver Age in Tales of Suspense, and then his own title) had more intrigue and spy material than straight up war angles, and that fit perfectly with the Cold War going on at the time.

 

 

3. Roger Stern (writer) and John Byrne (artist)

If you sit back and think how great this run was and that it only encompassed nine issues, that alone tells you how great it truly was to read. Any creative team that can produce a serious story about Cap considering running for the presidency and you believe it, has to be near the top of any list. And just the creepy Baron Blood issues alone are incredibly good!

 

2. Ed Brubaker (writer) and Steve Epting (artist)

To say that Captain America (and a lot of the Marvel Universe) needed updating after the turn of the century is an understatement. The shot in the arm was delivered by this awesome team. And yes, this is a list of Cap creative teams, but this team bringing back Bucky, and turning him into Steve’s worst nightmare was pure genius. No one has come close to this level of writing since.

 

1. Steve Englehart (writer) and Sal Buscema (artist)

From issue #153-181 (with almost no interruptions), Steve and Sal gave the readers everything they could possibly want. The political intrigue, racial bigotry, disturbing truths about a government he trusted, etc. The best part though, was Cap’s friendship with the Falcon. He and Sam Wilson grew to be best of friends, and an awesome crime fighting team! The villains were a big part of this run as well- Dr. Faustus, the 1950s Cap and Bucky (click here for details), Red Skull, Yellow Claw, Serpent Squad, Baron Zemo, Moonstone, and more! All the while having guest stars like the X-Men, S.H.I.E.L.D., Black Panther, Iron Man, you name it. This creative team pulled out all the stops (even Cap quitting!), and that is why they are number one!

 

 

Honorable mentions; first, to the team of Jack Kirby (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)! His return to Marvel in the mid-1970s ushered in some incredible trippy stories starring Cap, and even if the stories don’t grab you, the mind-numbing artwork will! Also, Stan Lee (writer) and Gene Colan (artist). Awesome run with more action than you can ever want, and a signature art style that is absolutely unique!

 

Creatures On The Loose 31, 32, 33 “Man-Wolf”

In the July 1974 issue of Creatures on the Loose, we saw a switch from the Sword and Sandal genre, starring “Thongor, Warrior of Lost Lemuria” to the horror genre starring the Man-Wolf! After the death of Gwen Stacey (and Norman Osborn), John Jameson was brought back into the Spider-realm. Marvel put him in Marvel Premiere as well for a short story-line, but once the horror craze finally died off, so did Wolfy’s career for quite some time. In these issues, we see him battling Simon Stroud, the police, Kraven the Hunter, and his own father, J. Jonah Jameson! Covers by Gil Kane, John Romita, and Rich Buckler (inks by Klaus Janson), respectively.

 

Marvel Treasury Edition 17, 1978 “The Incredible Hulk”

A few years ago, I discovered the awesomeness known as Treasury Editions. I knew of their existence, but never bought one due to the hefty price-tag they usually carry. Being a huge Doctor Strange fan though, I grabbed Marvel Treasury Edition 6, as I just couldn’t pass up the book and the $10 sticker! Back to the matter at hand though. Recently issue 17 popped up in front of me and just from seeing the cover and knowing there would be work by Herb Trimpe, Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Sal Buscema, etc., I couldn’t resist buying it.

The cover blurb reads…”A Cataclysmic Collection of Classic Confrontations!” That blurb isn’t one of those familiar bait and switch deals, it’s for real. Inside we get four incredible stories, and each one shows the Jade Giant in some wars that he doesn’t necessarily come out of as the winner. Yep, he’s known as the strongest one there is, but it is cool to see even the strong get humbled and beaten once in a while. One of my favorite horror creatures and Hulk antagonists ever is in the first story, too!

 

 

 

Time Warp 1, 1979 “Doomsday Tales and Other Things”

In the late 1970s, DC cut back on their titles, and laid off a ton of employees. The comics just weren’t selling, and they needed to regroup. The early 1980s would bring some new hope in the form of All-Star Squadron, and New Teen Titans, but there were also some additions that are very obscure, but noteworthy for the comic book aficionados out there!

A short series of only five issues, this weird book gave us some rather interesting material. Mostly sci-fi (with a little horror), this first issue is chocked full of creators with a long list of credits, and quite frankly, legends in the business. From aliens to spider-men, you’ll be whisked away to fantasy worlds that will take you back to a time when comics were great!

Cover by Mike Kaluta, interiors stories by Denny O’Neil, Michael Fleischer, George Kashdan, Mike Barr, Jack Harris, Bob Rozakis, and Paul Levitz. The art teams are nothing short of spectacular and include the late, great Rich Buckler, Dick Giordano, Steve Ditko, Tom Sutton, Jerry Grandenetti, Don Newton, Dan Adkins, and Jim Aparo!

 

 

The Man-Thing! by Steve Gerber!

I know the Silver Age was the foundation for just about everything (except most notably Captain America, the Human Torch, and Namor) at Marvel, but the Bronze Age was the age that brought comics into the modern era, because it explored ideas that were previously ignored or even taboo. Drugs, violence, religion, you name it, this time in comics was exactly what the industry needed. One of the creators that helped lead the way with his unique style of storytelling was Steve Gerber. He was a shot in the arm no doubt as the pages were filled with social issues galore, and along with his idiosyncratic style, humor, and tons of off-the-wall stories readers were enthralled with these books!

 

Imagine if you will, trying to write stories in which the main character cannot speak. Taking over the character Man-Thing in only its third appearance, Gerber immediately turned the direction of the book/character from a straight up horror character, to one that is centric to stories with social issues, but you still get the horror angle as well (just not the main point of the story). The issues of (Adventures Into) Fear that featured Gerber’s work did lean slightly more towards more horror than anything, but once Manny transitioned to his own title, the restraints were completely off.

Let me be frank, Gerber could write any kind of story, not just one solely focused on social issues. He actually would write an issue or two with that as the main idea (Fear #12, 16), but then turn around and write a few issues in a row of just straight up horror (Fear #13-15). He wrote superhero stories (check out his trippy Daredevil run, Marvel Two-in-One, Omega the Unknown, and Guardians of the Galaxy!), and everything in between, but what most consider his crowning achievement is Howard the Duck. I’m partial to the Man-Thing  stories though, and if you read them, I guarantee you’ll become a fan!

Check out these images that really drive home how awesome the Gerber Man-Thing is! Enjoy!

 

 

 

Batman Family 4, 1976 “Dangerous Doings for the Dynamite Duo!”

I recently declared in a group on social media that I read the greatest Batman comic of all time, and could now die a happy man. Some thought I was joking…I wasn’t…not one bit. Yeah, I know The Dark Knight, Birth of the Demon, The Killing Joke, The Long Halloween, etc., etc. all get the critical praise, and rightly so, but my tastes are a little different (and I have read most of those stories). Batman meeting Fatman cannot be topped. A cover showing Robin getting the stuffing knocked out of him by a faux Santa Claus is pretty cool as well! The other stories in the book are good stuff and Elongated Man has always been one of my favorite ancillary characters in the DC universe. The Batgirl/Robin story is solid, but the real gem is the ludicrousness of the Batman/Fatman story. It is awesome.

When you see the glorious cover by Ernie Chan (pencils and inks), and Tatjana Wood (Colors), you know how awesome this book is going to be!  The interior pages hold more delight, as Elliot S. Maggin, Pablo Marcos, Vince Colletta, Bob Rozakis, José DelboBill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff, Carmine Infantino, Joe Giella, and more!

 

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