Justice League of America 213, 1983 “Into the Microcosmos!”

In light of all the recent DC news (good and bad), I thought it would be appropriate to spotlight one of my favorite books. The last few years I’ve made it a point to grab some Silver and Bronze Age issues of Justice League of America. The animated television shows were such a huge part of my viewing when they came out, I always wanted to check out the comics. The books are definitely worth checking out, as the creative teams over the course of these ages do not disappoint. You do get varying degrees of quality, but they all do present something positive that one can grab on to.

In this story (part one of a multipart story), we see The Atom, as he’s struggling to remember who he is, as he tumbles through the microcosmos. The scene then switches to the Justice League Satellite orbiting the Earth, and Hawkman trying to explain to the other League members what happened. He tells them that Ray’s wife called him to ask for help, because Ray went off the deep end and had a nervous breakdown. Hawkman shows up at his lab to help, but he’s too far gone, and attacks Hawkman. He turns into the Atom, and shrinks into miniature size. He then vanished into this microcosmos (a sub-atomic world). So, Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Hawkman, and Red Tornado all use the machine to shrink down and go after their disturbed comrade. They do not realize though, that the trip messes with ones mind, and basically turns you into an amnesiac. So now not only do they have to find their friend, they need to figure out who they are!

This issue is just the beginning of this wild adventure. There is one thing of note in this issue and that is that it’s a first appearance of a new character. The Wanderer is a very secretive character, and you really don’t find out much about her in this issue. The story by Gerry Conway is pretty good. It definitely is good enough to get me to seek out the rest of this story-line. The interior artwork is by the team of Don Heck and Romeo Tanghal. This team does an admirable job on this one, and really excels with the action scenes. The colors are also quite good by Anthony Tollin, and the letters are by John Costanza. And let us not forget the awesome cover by Mr. George Perez! He was a staple at DC comics in this era and his work is looked back on with a lot of fondness, and rightly so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tales to Astonish 5 and 6, 1980 “Tiger Shark!”

For obvious reasons, I don’t own a lot of first appearances of characters from the Golden and Silver Ages. But, reprints are a good way to get your hands on that material without breaking the bank. Case in point, Tales to Astonish, starring the Sub-Mariner! In these two issues we get the first appearance of one of his greatest foes, Tiger Shark!

In issue five, we catch up with Namor, as he’s trying to find his way to NYC and Reed Richards for help. He barely makes it to land, then is accosted by a robot. He destroys it, but in doing so causes it to explode, and coupled with his fatigue from fight Attuma (in the previous issue, he’s knocked unconscious. He awakens to see a beautiful woman, and then his captor reveals himself. It’s a mad scientist guy named…Dr. Dorcas (yeah, I know). He’s put a metal vest on Subby, that he can use to control him through electrocution. Next, we see his sinister plot, as we meet Todd Arliss, a once promising swimmer that had an accident. He was promised to be healed by Dr. Dorcas, but for a price. The Doctor then straps Subby into a machine, and runs wires to Todd and then a tank full of sharks! The switch is thrown, and Tiger Shark is born!

At the end of issue five, Tiger Shark got the upper hand on Subby, and not only knocked him out for a brief minute, but was also able to kidnap Lady Dorma as well (she appeared out of nowhere near the base, after Subby thought her dead in the previous issue)! Diane Arliss (Tiger Sharks sister), comes to the aid of Subby, but he initially thinks it’s Tiger Shark, and knocks her out. He swims to the surface and finds Dr. Dorcas, head bandaged and looking weary. He tells him to treat her wounds and that he’s know going after her brother. The two then have a showdown in front of all of Atlantis to see who will rule!

In 1968 (when these stories were first printed), Roy Thomas (writer) was really cementing himself as the heir apparent to Stan Lee as Marvel’s premiere writer/editor-to-be. This story has a ton of gravitas, and really pulls you into the world of Namor. Yeah, the guy can be a huge, arrogant jerk, but he does have a code of honor, and will fight for his people and justice. He obviously wasn’t written in 1968 to have the best manners towards the ladies, but I think we can all agree it wasn’t written that way with malicious intent. Issue five has art by “Big” John Buscema and Frank Giacoia (inks), and is all sorts of awesome, but in truth, the following issue has Big John penciling again, but Dan Adkins on inks, and looks a good bit superior. Letters by Sam Rosen (5), and Irv Watanabe (6) and colors by Bob Sharen (not originally but in the reprint).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest 26, 1982 “The Brave and the Bold”

Thanks to a podcast (Digestcast on Fire and Water), I discovered this wonderful series of books. I’d never heard of them before, but when I was trolling eBay recently, I saw them at a good price. I snagged this super cool edition of The Brave and the Bold! Other than a slight tear of the cover, the book is on fantastic shape, too! This series was an anthology reprint (most of the time) book that brings some of the best DC had to offer from the Silver Age! Six big stories (part six having three chapters) are encased in this powerful, pint-sized book, and it’s all led off with a great cover by Jim Aparo (framing sequences as well)!

After some framing material, the first tale is from issue 86, 1969. “You can’t Hide from a Deadman!”, brings some incredible action from the Dynamic Duo, as they’re busting up an extortion racket and run into Deadman! Written by Bob “Zany” Haney, and art by Neal Adams!

Next, is “Three Arrows Against Doom!” This fantastic Robin Hood story is from issue 9, 1956/57. In this story, we see how Robin escapes from the sheriff’s men yet again, but this time with only three arrows at his disposal! Written by Bob Haney, with art by Russ Heath!

The third tale is called “Menace of the Mirage People!” It’s from issue number 38 (1961), and involves the Suicide Squad (no, not the lame movie characters from 2016)! Colonel Rick Flag, Jess Bright, Dr. Hugh Evans, and Karin Grace must fight against illusions that seem like reality! Written by Robert Kanigher, and art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. For further reading on this team, click here and here!

The following story, “Threat of the Ice King (issue 18, 1958)” is a tale of the Viking Prince! These ongoing stories were great and not only because they gave you epic fantasy tales, but because they had names like Bob Kanigher (writer) and Joe Kubert (art) behind them!

In the days of Camelot, knights and warriors ruled the day (story from issue 21, 1958/59)! And in “The Sword in the Lake,” we get to see some great action involving the Silent Knight! He’s tricked into the service of Morgan Le Fey, and must retrieve some incredible artifacts for her! Written by Robert Kanigher, with art by Irv Novick!

Lastly, we have some wild adventures of Cave Carson! In three separate chapters, we learn “The Secret Beneath the Earth!” These chapters from issue 31 (1960), show us some crazy adventures involving dinosaurs, lava men, and other shenanigans. Written by Ed Herron, art by Bruno Premiani. For more on Cave Carson, click those links above in the Suicide Squad section!

Do yourself a favor and grab some of these as they are a great way to get some fantastic material from the Silver Age at an affordable price!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moon Knight 2, 1980 “The Slasher”

It has been almost two years since I spotlighted a Moon Knight comic! This cannot stand! I know my podcasting partner on Into the Weird is a huge fan of this character, and rightly so. For anybody that’s looking for a title to start collecting, if you’re into thrillers, horror, action, etc., this is the title for you.

In this specific issue, we see a serial killer loose in the city, and he’s murdering homeless people. But this is no ordinary case, and Moon Knight quickly gets on the killer’s trail. After using his disguise as a cab driver (Lockley) to get some info, he then proceeds to go home and make a gameplan. Meanwhile, a friend of his (a transient) named Crawley gets attacked but not killed. These killings aren’t random, and Moon Knight and Crawley are about to find out why!

Even in this early stage of the title, you can see the beginnings of brilliance from Doug Moench (writer), and Bill Sienkiewicz (interior pencils and cover). Their collaboration on the title lasted quite a long time, and only gets better as you go! With inks by Frank Springer, Carl Gafford colors, Annette Kawecki on letters, and edited by Denny O’Neil!

 

 

 

 

 

Classic X-Men 23, 1988 “Psi War!”

I’ll freely admit that I love origin stories. I see people on social media decry films and comics that recount them, but I just can’t help myself. One of my favorite origin stories, is that of Professor Xavier (and the X-Men). Of course, Spider-Man is the one that gets retold a lot, but I can’t recall this one being retold many times. Honestly though, does anyone not get pumped when they see names like Chris Claremont (writer), John Byrne (pencils), and Terry Austin (inks)?

This reprint book gives us a tale from the youth of Professor Charles Xavier. But first, he’s talking with Lilandra in his office. You see, the X-Men are missing and presumed dead (after an altercation in the Savage Land). He then begins to think that maybe he should never have recruited them for his cause. His mind drifts back to a trip he made to Cairo years ago. As he was walking through the city, a girl (a young Ororo Monroe, A.K.A. Storm!) stole his wallet. He chased the girl down, and retrieved his wallet, but was struck down by a mental attack. He then makes his way inside a cafe to meet the person responsible. He then comes face to face with Amahl Farouk. He is a mutant, and a very powerful telepath, just like Xavier. The difference is that he’s evil, and uses his powers for personal gain. After a quick introduction, they meet on the Astral Plane for combat. The battle is fierce, but eventually, Xavier proves to be the superior combatant!

This story isn’t one filled with action, but it does show you not only the origin of Xavier but his first encounter with another mutant. Seeing Xavier in this different light (pre-X-Men) is quite a thrill and I can only imagine how much bigger of one it was for readers back in 1979. There’s also a back up story by Claremont and John Bolton. A neat little story involving Nightcrawler! And to top it all off, we get a cover (and pinup) by Art Adams! The original cover is by Dave Cockrum (X-Men 117, the last image).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bizarre Adventures 34, 1982 “Special Hate-The-Holidays Issue!”

In this, the final holiday post of 2019, I give to you one of the weirdest books ever! These strange stories all revolve around the holidays, but each one with a different cast of characters. The awesome cover is by Joe Jusko!

In the first odd tale (“Son of Santa“), we see a little person who convinces a total stranger to come with him on a flight to Tokyo. He agrees, but half way through the flight, the little guy hijacks the plane, and then forces the kid to jump out of the plane with him (using parachutes). They descend, and find an unusual building. It’s the HQ of none other than Santa Claus himself! The jolly old guy has been killed, frozen solid by someone called…the Anti-Claus! Written by Mark Gruenwald and art by Alan Kupperberg.

The second story is a bit of a parody of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring Howard the Duck (“Howard the Duck’s Christmas“)! As usual, it’s a crazy story, but not the best of the book for sure. Written by Steven Grant, art by Paul Smith.

Next is “Dr. Deth, Not to Mention Kip and Morty.” This one is by Larry Hama (script and layouts) and Bob Camp (pencils and inks). This one is very weird, and really not about Christmas except in a  very ancillary way.

In “Slay Bells,” we see what looks like a deranged, small man, acting like a boy to get close to Santa Claus’s around town so he can kill them! This one is super crazy, and violent. Story and art by Mike Carlin.

The next to last story is called “Santa Bites the Big Apple!” Santa arrives to give out presents in Manhattan, but finds out it isn’t easy doing anything in NYC! He gets thrown in the slammer, then must improvise on how to distribute his presents. Writing and art by Al Milgrom.

Lastly, we get a chapter in the life of Bucky Bizarre! An alien character that appeared in previous issues. He’s a humorous character that stumbles upon a girl selling matches on a street corner. The story takes place in the times of Charles Dickens, but this girl is not what you’d think! Written by Steve Skeates, art by Steve Smallwood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvel Two-in-One 74, 1981 “A Christmas Peril!”

Merry Christmas to everyone out there! This week I’ll keep with the theme of anthology books, but with a holiday story! One of Marvel’s most beloved characters is definitely Ben Grimm. His kind heart and love for his friends is one of legend, his fights with Johnny notwithstanding! This story opens up with a gorgeous splash page that really sets the holiday mood. This wild tale involves the Puppet Master, Ben, and Alicia. You see, the Puppet Master is fresh out of prison, and the shenanigans must ensue. He convinces Alicia that he’s no longer evil, and then the two of them, plus The Thing head to his homeland (Transia) as a Christmas present from the FF. It doesn’t take long for the trio to get into trouble, as Bova and Modred the Mystic join the cast in this crazy holiday issue!

Written by Mark Gruenwald, art by Frank Springer (pencils and cover) and Chic Stone (inks), colors by George Roussos, letters by Michael Higgins, and edited by Jim Salicrup! This is a very wacky issue, but so much fun. The holiday backdrop is perfect for this story and for today’s post! Merry Christmas!