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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World’s Finest 237, 1976 “Intruder from a Dead World”

To those on the east coast, good morning! Magazines and Monsters proudly presents another entry into the Zany Haney Hall of Fame! It’s only been two weeks since I spotlighted a story by him, but you can’t get enough of the Haney-verse in your life. When you have Batman and Superman acting crazy, then throw in giant locusts, you’re bound to have a good time.

The story starts out with Batman in Gotham Park, as he witnesses something resembling an earthquake, but then a metallic objects pushes up through the ground, smashing the stage. Batman, who’s the world’s greatest detective calls Superman for help (for real). The pair of heroes investigate the bizarre structure, but cannot figure it out. Superman remarks that if his strength and X-Ray vision can’t affect this object, that it might be from Krypton! The pair of heroes are in for an even bigger shock, because the creature that resides inside this monolith is near unstoppable!

As usual, any story by Bob “Zany” Haney (writer) finds itself very high on my to be read list. Traditionally, his stories are crazy and so is the dialogue. This is why I adore his work, and yes I realize what that says about me personally. The art in this issue is by Lee Elias and John Calnan. It’s solid for sure, but not quite on the level of Swan or Dillin that did most of the issues from this era. The letters are by Ben Oda, and as usual they’re very good. The crazy cover is by Ernie Chan and John Calnan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.