Sub-Mariner 66, 1973 “Rise, Thou Killer Whale!”

Everyone knows there isn’t a more pompous, self-aggrandizing hero than Namor, the Sub-Mariner! It’s part of his charm, apparently. Personally, his exploits on land as an Avenger are much more intriguing to me, but every so often, we get gold in an underwater adventure. As always, the story is lifted up beyond its hero by the proper villain. And Subby doesn’t have a better villain than Orka–The Human Killer Whale! And if he wasn’t enough, throw in Virago as well!

An issue that’s a straight up fight with a villain of the week, for sure, but also an entertaining one. You get Subby with his usual grandstanding, shouting, etc., also a ton of panels featuring Atlantis and it’s inhabitants. Plus, Orka is just a crazy villain (he’s definitely in my top ten), you can’t help but love this issue. There’s also a neat little back-up story (also written by Gerber) “Tales of Atlantis” with an all-star creative cast as well!

Written by Steve “Baby” Gerber, art by “Dashing” Don Heck (pencils) and “Dapper” Don Perlin, colors by Petra Goldberg, letters by Charlotte Jetter, and edited by Roy “The Boy” Thomas! And let us not forget the outstanding cover by Gil “Sugar”  Kane (pencils) and “Mirthful” Mike Esposito (inks, with some slight alterations by John Romita)!

 

Conan The Barbarian King Size 1, 1973 “The Tower of the Elephant!”

Conan, a character that’s been in publication since 1932…think about that for a minute. The Great Depression, angst, suicides by businessmen losing their life savings, five years before Tolkien published The Hobbit, and a lifetime before creators gave us galaxies far, far away, Robert E. Howard created an entire world. The contributions this man gave the world are still terribly underappreciated. Anyone that’s not very familiar with his work, definitely give a look at his biography here.

When Roy Thomas secured the rights to publisher Conan from the REH estate, the greatness was there immediately. With Roy Thomas writing, and Barry (Windsor) Smith (and most notably Sal Buscema inking, with others) on art, the character was off and running! What followed the great run by BWS wasn’t half bad either (some say even better), but that’s a tale for another day. You get material from the second and fourth issues of the series in this book and both are legendary stories by Howard!

 

 

Star-Lord Special Edition 1, 1982

Two names that are synonymous with the Bronze Age are most certainly Chris Claremont and John Byrne (and Terry Austin). Their collaboration on the character Iron Fist was the beginning, but then the real feast came in the X-Men, of course. One lesser known partnership between the two juggernauts was in an issue of the magazine Marvel Preview (#11 to be exact). Claremont would write a few more stories after this one but not with Byrne on art. This special edition reprints that story, plus adds some framing sequences with art by Michael Golden (only posting the Byrne artwork though, as that’s how it was originally released)! And I’ll definitely include the great wrap-around (sort of…first and last images) cover by Terry Austin! Enjoy!

 

Marvel Preview 22, 1980 “The Quest of the King”

The recent search for Marvel black and white magazines from the Bronze Age, has brought some interesting books to the forefront on the blog. The cover, being so awesome and naming the creative team was all it took. There’s also a fascination with Arthurian lore for sure, and quite honestly, isn’t everyone a part of that enthralling genre?

An adventure story involving knights, magic, and everything else you can think of is inside this book! Most mags from this era have multiple stories in them, but not here. This one is so strong it runs fifty-five pages long, and each one is a masterpiece by the creative team.

Speaking of the creative team, the familiar names from the ages are front and center. The artwork is off the charts in this book and we have Big John Buscema (pencils), and the inking team of Tom Palmer and John Tartaglione to thank. The story is by Doug Moench (script) and John Buscema as well! Not to be left off the list, is letterer John Costanza, who does a magnificent job on this one (calligraphy).

 

 

Marvel Treasury Special – Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag (1974)

Is there anything more awesome than the over-sized comic book? Of course not, and Marvel comics lead the way in spectacular fashion in the 1970s in the form of the Treasury Edition! And not only just a Treasury Edition, but a holiday edition! Now, just for the record, only two of the stories inside actually have a Christmas theme, but hey, let’s not get picky!

The first story is probably the best “holiday” centered of the entire book. We see Spidey and the Human Torch take on the Sandman! It’s Christmas time, and the Sandman is looking to wrap up the two heroes…or is he (Roy Thomas, writer – Ross Andru, pencils – Mike Esposito, inks – and Artie Simek, letters)? Next, a classic tale from the Silver Age, as the arrogant Submariner decides to go to the surface world. Once there, he speaks with a lawyer about wanting to sue the entire human race. Too bad for him that lawyer is none other than Matt Murdoch, A.K.A. Daredevil (story by Stan Lee, art by Wally Wood, and letters by Artie Simek). The third tale is the other holiday adjacent one in the book. It’s all about the Black Widow, and her man-servant, Ivan! They’re here to help a young man that tried to commit suicide, and then see if they can get him help (written by Roy Thomas, art by Gene Colan and Bill Everett, letters by Artie Simek). The last two issues are from the Fantastic Four and a crossover with the Avengers! Not much along the lines of holiday cheer, but a cool story nonetheless (of course, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby!)!

 

 

DC comics: The Sandman (Wesley Dodds)

Being a little green yet with my DC comics and their characters, I decided to grab this trade and single issue out of pure curiosity, but make no mistake, the names Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (definitely check out the Kirby Museum for a ton of facts, pages, and excellent insight to Kirby!) had a lot to do with the purchase as well! This incredible duo didn’t create the Sandman (Gardner Fox and Bert Christman did), but not long after a revamp by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris (Adventure Comics #69), Joe and Jack took over the reigns, and really created some fantastic adventures for this crazy character and his new sidekick (Sandy)!

The stories varied from heavy subjects like slavery and suicide, to the more usual tales of war and the mob! Mostly though, they had a strange vibe or a villain that was downright bizarre. People like NightShade (later known as Ramulus), Thor, and Noah…Barton, who has an Ark full of animals. No joke folks, it’s all right here in these pages. From Nazis to Santa Claus, anything you can think of Simon and Kirby already have, and more than likely before you or your parents were even born.

The second part of this post is to spotlight an issue of DC Comics Presents (#42, written by Mike Barr and artwork by Jose Delbo and Joe Giella), as it was the first time I’d ever read a story about the Sandman! Reading this cool story about where the character went after the Golden Age (a back up as the main story was one that featured Superman and the Unknown Soldier, which is just OK), really had me thinking about this character I’d heard of but never really knew anything about, other than he was created in the Golden Age, and was later (in name) drastically changed for a Vertigo title by Neil Gaiman (I’ve read absolutely none of those – not my thing). There was another story in JLA 113, 19974, that showed what happened to Sandy, and featured Dodds (I don’t own that one yet!).

Whether you’re a fan of Golden Age characters or haven’t really read much of them, definitely give the Sandman a try!

 

 

Action Comics 440, 1974 “The Man Who Betrayed Krypton!”

As December rolls around, the holidays are upon us, and what better superhero to spotlight in the first week than the man of steel himself, Superman! The cover on this one really stands out, and we have long time DC artist Nick Cardy (colors by Tatjana Wood) to thank for it (although it looks very different from his typical work).

Inside we are treated to a very interesting story that involves a gentleman in a cape named Michael J. Coram, as he attempts to recruit two boys for some mysterious means. As Superman is taking care of some villains, we see a flashback of this Coram, as he approaches a man named Woodrow, about to join the Army. The man is a brilliant scientist, and Corman knows he can use this man’s intelligence for nefarious means! What are those means? Why to destroy Superman of course!

If you’ve ever the read the Superman story “For the Man Who has Everything”, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, this story will make you think of that one immediately. Not because they’re exactly the same, but they do have a bit of a parallel theme between them. At least as far as the villain and his method for antagonizing Superman is similar. I won’t spoil it but attacking someone who has an invulnerable physique isn’t easy. Writer Elliot S! Maggin does a great job at giving the Man of Steel a moment of real weakness in this book. The art team of Curt Swan (pencils) and Bob Oksner (inks) deliver a solid visual story for sure!

Nestled in the last few pages, is a really cool back-up story starring the emerald archer himself, Green Arrow! This strange story shows us a cute little dog named Krypto, a bunch of skeevy smugglers, and if that wasn’t enough, we see an out of control Black Canary karate chop Krypto on the neck! Elliot S! Maggin again scripting, and Mike Grell on art is a real treat!

 

 

SGT Fury Annual 7, 1971 “Armageddon!”

On this Veterans Day, I thought it fitting for #WarComicsMonth I’d spotlight Marvel Comic’s greatest military man, Sgt. Fury! Yes, kids, before he was a super spy, and head of S.H.I.E.L.D., he was a bad man serving in the United States military! Now he’s portrayed as more of a thinker that’s reserved and doesn’t soil his hands in physical combat, but back in WWII, he could kick butt like no other (well, except maybe Captain America of course).

In this over-sized issue, we get two stories to sink our teeth into! The first, “Armageddon (from Sgt. Fury 29, 1966),” shows our man Fury, and his seemingly never-ending battle with his arch nemesis Baron Strucker! These two men have been all but equals over the years (with Fury almost always getting the upper hand of course), and the disdain for each other is at full capacity! Written by Roy Thomas, with art by Dick Ayers (pencils), and John Tartaglione (inks). Then, Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos must face “The Incident in Italy!” This one must’ve been a fan favorite, as it’s been reprinted at least twice (originally published in Sgt. Fury 30, 1966)! The same creative team brought that one to life as the previous issue (and the cover to this issue as well!). Both tales were edited by Stan Lee and lettered by Sam Rosen!

 

Our Fighting Forces 126, 1970 “Losers in a Lost Town!”

For November, its been brought to my attention (via Twitter), that there is a hashtag (#warcomicsmonth) spotlighting military comics such as Our Fighting Forces and the entire genre! This is a genre that I didn’t really get into until the last decade, but it’s one that is chocked full of brilliant work by some of the best creators in comic book history!

In the Marvel vs. DC debate, there is a lot of room for speculation and conversation on which company is best as far as content over the years. If you look at each genre, rather than overall, you can see a pretty wide gap in a the war/military comics corner. DC comics had several great titles, and certainly the better between the two comic book giants.

This book contains three stories (plus some extras), and the first stars that lovable group, The Losers! Captain Storm, Johnny Cloud, Gunner, and Sarge, are always finding themselves in situations with seemingly no way out, but always manage to find a way to survive and get to the next mission alive! Written by Robert Kanigher, with art by Ross Andru (pencils) and Mike Esposito (inks). The second story gives us perennial war comics giant Sam Glanzman (script, pencils, inks)! If you’ve never seen one of his stories before, definitely grab some of his material. A one page story/pinup by Ken Barr (script by Raymond Marais) about Atilla the Hun, is a cool piece for sure. Another one page story, this one by John Costanza, brings some humor to the book for a slight change of pace. And lastly, Great Battles of History brings us The Fall of Constantinople! Art by Ric Estrada! All of this is hidden beneath a wonderful cover by the master himself, Joe Kubert! You’ll be seeing a lot of his covers in these war books, as he was a machine at pumping out very high quality work for DC comics for decades.

 

Weird Wonder Tales 6, 1974 “The Man Who Owned a Ghost?”

As the 1970s progressed, Marvel went full on crazy with the reprints. Some were of recent material (Spider-Man, The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, etc.), and others were from as far back as the Atom Age (post Golden Age but pre-Silver Age). Flooding the market was nothing new for them, but it is still astonishing to look back on. Not that you can blame them, after all they were under the constraints of the publisher that was their rival for many years. Once they got out from under those shackles, they went hog-wild, and who could blame them.

The book is all reprints, but don’t discount it on that accord. The first story alone is worth its weight in gold, as Bill Everett is the mastermind behind “The Man Who Owned a Ghost!” Some artists have their work deteriorate as they age, but Everett’s work got stronger, just look! The second story, “Was He Just Seeing Things?,” has art by Manny Stallman, and this is a creator that I’m not very familiar with to be honest (here’s a link to Mark Evanier’s blog from 1997, talking a bit about him). Neat little sci-fi story including dinosaurs! “Homicide” follows and brings an axe murderer! Nothing here you didn’t already see from a publisher like EC comics, but still pretty jarring. The art in that one is by Harry Anderson. Again, a relative unknown today, but I found some info here. The last installment in the book is called “The Man in the Crazy Maze.” A treat for sure, as this has art by Jack Kirby (pencils) and Dick Ayers (inks)! It’s always a treat to see some Kirby! The cover is by Larry Lieber (probably pencils/layouts) and Mike Esposito (inks).