Conan the Barbarian 102 and 103, 1979 “The Men Who Drink Blood!”

The character Conan, created by Robert E. Howard, is one that some feel can be a little one note, but Howard and those that followed did a great job in changing the surroundings, supporting cast, and opponents for the Cimmerian brawler. Case in point, these two issues where Conan must fight a vampire and his clan of razor-toothed warriors!

At this point, Conan has lost his love, Bêlit (she died in issue #100), and he has taken up residence with the Bamula Tribe (and become their chieftain), who is at war with the Kungado Tribe. Conan and his mates are viciously attacked by another tribe, called the Drelliks. These men are, in appearance at least, vampires! It’s going to take every ounce of strength and cunning for Conan to defeat these monsters!

One of the best reasons you can find to read these stories is of course, the creative team. Roy Thomas (writer), was the man at Marvel responsible for them acquiring the rights to print these incredible stories. Marvel then made the great decision to have first Barry Windsor-Smith, then ‘Big’ John Buscema create the visuals for these incredible books. His command of anatomy, ability to convey feelings through body language, and settings. His skills as a penciller are right at the top of the all time greats. Inking this legendary man, is Ernie Chan, who was the perfect fit for Buscema’s pencils, and the work shows it. Add George Roussos on colors, and Joe Rosen on letters, and the perfect comic book series is complete! The covers are both penciled by John Buscema, with the first inked by Al Milgrom, and the second by Bob McLeod.

 

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Limited Collectors’ Edition C-32, 1974 “Ghosts”

As October marches on, so do the macabre posts! This time around one of DC comics over-sized books will get the treatment! Limited Collectors Edition ran for 1972-1978, and had all sorts of strange comic book stories attached to it. In this edition, we see reprints from the ongoing series “Ghosts.” You get some pretty good quality in this one, and it’s a perfect book for the special treatment!

The stories are all “ghost” based, but some are just straight up ghosts, some are voodoo, a couple of witches, and more. There are also games, puzzles, a diorama, and other fun surprises inside this great book. This one definitely needs to be in your collection!

Writers include – Murray Boltinoff, Leo Dorfman, and Bob Rozakis! Artists include – Nick Cardy (cover), Art Saaf, Jim Aparo, Gerry Talaoc, John Calnan, Tony DeZuniga, George Tuska, E. R. Cruz, Ernie Chan, Jerry Grandenetti, Frank Redondo, Jack Sparling, and Sam Glanzman (back cover/diorama). Letterers include – Milt Snapinn, John Costanza, Jean Izzo, Ray Holloway, and Ben Oda.

 

The House of Mystery 192, 1971 “Dare You Enter?”

Eight simple words, that’s all it takes to get my blood pumping. Do you dare enter The House of Mystery? An anthology title from DC comics that started in 1951, the book went on for an amazing 321 issues! The stories were all over the place of course, as the times changed (and the comics code), so did the material. Honestly though, it wasn’t until the Bronze Age that the book had some of the best creators on it.

The cover to this book is by none other than Neal Adams (pencils and inks). He proved that no matter the genre, he can produce incredible work. The inside brings three different stories (along with some extras). The first is “The Gardener of Eden” by John Albano (writer) and the exquisite work of Jim Aparo! A doctor learns a new lesson the hard way! “Image of Darkness” brings a tale of terror when a husband and wife are having domestic problems. Written by Robert Kanigher, and art by Gray Morrow! Finally, “Nobody Loves a Lizard!” shows a boy with a pet lizard that has an incredible secret. Writer Virgil North, with art by Don Heck!

 

The Tomb of Dracula 25, 1974 “Night of the Blood Stalker!”

After spotlighting generic vampires, Morbius multiple times, and Dracula in a special issue and magazines, I thought it was well past time to dive into Marvel’s best horror comic of the decade (and all time), The Tomb of Dracula! Most probably know this villain from either the Universal film (starring Bela Lugosi), or the Hammer Studio films (starring the insanely menacing Christopher Lee as the count). The character has been embedded in our culture for a very long time (thanks to Bram Stoker). By the time the 1970s rolled around, and the comics code was loosened, it was high time for this horror giant to get his own series! This issue is a favorite of mine, as it features the first appearance of vampire detective Hannibal King, and my favorite panel of the series of all time (final image at the bottom).

Marv Wolfman (writer) has gone on record saying he really had no interest in writing this book, but as fortune would have it, he did anyway (starting with issue #7). He and artist Gene Colan (pencils) would work very close together on this title, and for seventy issues, they knocked it out of the park. Another reason the book succeeded was inker Tom Palmer. Colan has very intricate pencils, and quite a few inkers have had a tough time not drowning the pencils out, but Palmer was perfect for the job. Palmer also colored quite a few issues as well (including this one), and again you get a quality and consistency from a tight-knit team working hand in hand. The letters were provided by John Costanza. A lot of the covers were provided by the comic book giant, Gil Kane (Palmer on inks here as well). Kane’s incredible covers carried Marvel through most of the decade, and it just adds to his enormous breadth of work.

 

 

Spectacular Spider-Man 7 and 8, 1977 “Menace is the Man Called Morbius!”

Two enemies, that have seemingly forever been locked in combat. One, a science geek barely out of high school, that was endowed with spider-like powers due to the bite of a radioactive spider. The other is a scientist that was a victim of his own experiments, and through them turned into a vampire like creature that feeds on human blood. Spider-Man and Morbius. Both men with their own problems, and no solutions other than to do what they must. In these two issues, you get to see a fierce battle between these two, but also some interesting moments with MJ and Aunt May.

I’m not a big fan of the surprise “villain” or the deus ex machina in this one. That being said, I am a big fan of Archie Goodwin (writer/editor), and all the work he’s done over the decades. Whether it was his work for Warren Publishing, DC, or Marvel, he was always a reliable scripter. Next we have penciler Sal Buscema. Most people probably think of his run on Spectacular Spider-Man (with J.M. DeMatteis, and rightly so), but definitely seek out his work on The Defenders. His style fit that strange book perfectly. Inkers Jim Mooney (7), and Mike Esposito (8), are both a good fit for Sal’s pencils as neither takes away from them but adds their own touch. Letters on both issues were by John Costanza, and colors by Don Warfield (7) and Marie Severin (8), all add their usual talents to the books. The covers are both very good, as number seven has Dave Cockrum and Al Milgrom show the absolute ferocity of Morbius. The next issue has a young artist you should recognize in Paul Gulacy. He’s mostly heralded for his Master of Kung Fu work.

 

Spider-Man vs Dracula (Giant-Size Spider-Man 1, 1974)!

Back in the 1990s, there was still a good bit of material being reprinted from decades earlier. Case in point, Marvel Tales ran until 1994 (starting in 1966)! Almost thirty years of reprinted material, and that feat is nothing short of…dare I say spectacular? There were also one-shots, oversized books, etc., including this one from 1993/4. “The Spider and the Bat” recounts the first ever meeting between the 1970s king of monsters, Dracula, and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!

The cover for the original book is pretty good (John Romita, cover at the very bottom, borrowed from the interwebs), but the reprint isn’t the greatest. I’m not the biggest Joe Mad fan, (so keep that in mind) but I can’t imagine too many people thinking this is one of his (or anyone else) best. The story is by perennial comic book great, the late Len Wein. The man was seemingly one of the nicest men to ever grace the industry ( I met him once at a NYCC and he was cool), and created some very good content in his day, plus was editor on some of the best works in the industry. For the artistic duties, we have the team of Ross Andru (pencils) and Don Heck (inks). A solid team as far as this book goes for sure, and they tell a great visual story together.  John Kalisz (colors) John Costanza (letters), and Roy Thomas (editor) round out the creative force behind this cool book! There are also two reprints from the Silver Age in the back as well and both are about vampires!

 

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 142, 1971 “The Man from Transilvane!”

If you would’ve told a comic book reader in the 1960s that Jack Kirby would soon be working for DC comics, and writing/drawing/editing a story about Superman vs a vampire, I’m sure there would’ve been some laughs. Well, welcome to 1971, where Kirby has again returned to DC and was given the freedom to create with very little oversight (other than DC being fools and redrawing his faces). He took over the lowly title of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, as to not bump another creator off of a good book. Yeah, that’s the kind of guy he was!

Inside we see the normal bombastic Kirby images that are larger than life, and exploding off of the page. A vampire, a werewolf (type creature), and of course the regulars from Metropolis. Clark and Jimmy need to find out why Laura Conway is acting strangely and why she has two puncture wounds on her neck! It doesn’t take long for the perpetrator to rear his sinister head, and the action is full on!

The cover has inks by Mike Royer, and his work with Kirby in this era is great (more of their work coming soon!). The interiors were inked by the oft maligned Vince Colletta, but honestly, they look fine in this issue. There are also a few pages of bonus material by the King, and a Newsboy Legion reprint with Joe Simon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvel Comics: Thongor Warrior of Lost Lemuria!

Led Zeppelin once famously said…”in the days of my youth I was told what it means to be a man.” Apparently the boys from England had a run in with Thongor Warrior of Lost Lemuria! He’s all man with his big muscles and sword (insert laughter here)! Overall, I find the possibilities of such theories fascinating, and its super cool that there are scientists out there today trying to find some facts to certain oddities and inconsistencies that exist in the world.

OK, back to facts! This character was created by sci-fi/fantasy writer Lin Carter in the 1960s. Carter wrote quite a bit of material, and was a colleague of L. Sprague de Camp (another huge name in sci-fi/fantasy). Both men (and countless others) were influenced by the giants Robert E. Howard and Howard Phillips Lovecraft. The character is very Conan-esque, but the setting really sets it apart from that other barbarian.

These stories were written by George Alec Effinger (issue 23), Gardner Fox (issue 26), and Steve Gerber (issue 28), respectively. Effinger was a sci-fi novelist that wrote only a few comics in his abbreviated life (he passed away at only 55 yrs old). Most will recognize the name of legend Fox, who wrote in the comic book industry from the 1940s into the 1970s, co-creating The Flash, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, and the JSA, and creating the DC multiverse in his story “Flash of Two Worlds!” The man is a giant, nuff said. Lastly, we have the extremely eclectic and influential Steve Gerber. Not going into the myriad of things he created and influenced, suffice to say he still doesn’t get the credit he deserves and was a renaissance man for sure. His ability to write stories with societal issues and the like, but was able to do it while forcing the reader to look at said issues without forcing an opinion on to them. A rare talent indeed.

Artistically, these books all have covers by ‘Jazzy Johnny Romita, and interiors by Val Mayerik (with inks by Vince Colletta on issue 23, and Wayne Howard on 26), and Vicente Alcazar (issue 28). Glynis Wein, George Roussos, Petra Goldberg (colorists), John Costanza, Tom Orzechowski, Charlotte Jetter (letters), and Roy Thomas (editor), round out the creative teams! There a repints in the back of each issue as well, so that just adds to the cool content you already get in this title (Ditko and Heck to name a couple of names)!

 

 

Creatures on the Loose 18, 1972 “The Fury of Phra!”

The titles of horror comics Marvel produced in the late Silver and early Bronze Age (and everyone else mainstream) were pretty tame, thanks (no thanks really) to the Comics Code Authority. Some good material for sure, just nothing cutting edge until the CCA was toned down. One of those titles was Tower of Shadows, but that was later changed to Creatures on the Loose. At first it served as just another vehicle to reprint older stories, but in issue sixteen, we saw a character called Gullivar Jones Warrior of Mars take over. The run of stories for this character didn’t last long, but they were pretty cool. Basically a clone of John Carter, Jones fought on other worlds against fantastical beasts and despots, often with no real agenda. Alas, the stories aren’t Earth-shattering, but the visuals definitely make them worth checking out.

Written by George Alec Effinger and Gerry Conway, with at by Ross Andru (pencils) and Sam Grainger (inks), and letters by Jean Izzo. There are also two back up stories in this issue, and both are reprints and quite good. The first one is “Under the Knife” has art by Tony DiPreta, while the second “What Lurks in the Mountain” is a Steve Ditko and Stan Lee production! And the cover to this one is by the artistic machine of Gil Kane (pencils) and Joe Sinnott (inks)!

 

The Frankenstein Monster 6, 1973 “In Search of the Last Frankenstein!”

There is probably not a more iconic of a monster than the Monster of Frankenstein! The 1931 classic film (and the first sequel) is undoubtedly in the pantheon of great films because of its significance, and because it was great with excellent performance by Colin Clive and of course, Boris Karloff. Fast forward to the 1970s, and we were presented with an adaptation of sorts for the first few issues by Mike Ploog (the artwork is excellent) and Gary Friedrich (good script by Gary as usual). These two creators were perfect for the book and the time in comics. Both men have left a lasting impression on the industry for sure.

In this issue, you get some really great material, as the Monster fights knights, an angry mob of mutants, and even a giant spider! The story is one right out of a fantasy novel, and it suits the Monster perfectly. There is always that feeling of sorrow for him, but seeing him perform acts of heroism is also refreshing. At this point, he’s not just a mindless beast, but sentient. Definitely pick this series up as it’s one of a kind. John Costanza (letters), Glynis Wein (colors), and Roy Thomas (editor), round out the creative team.